Looking to discover some small towns in Ontario? There are so many great towns to visit and Stratford Ontario should be on the top of your list. Stratford Ontario is a city where people visit in the summer and fall mainly for the famous Stratford Theatre Festival. There are some fun things to do in Stratford in the winter months that will have you shopping and strolling in this charming town. This was my first time visiting Stratford and was impressed by all this small town has to offer.
We felt extremely safe and welcomed during our visit. All safety measures were being taken at all of the establishments such as a limited number of people in the stores, sanitizing stations at the entrance, and masks must be worn in all indoor spaces.
Where is Stratford Ontario
Stratford Ontario is located in Perth County in southeastern Ontario. It is just under a two-hour drive from Toronto making it a great day trip or even a weekend getaway. It is set along the Avon River and is full of history, and the ultimate foodie destination.
What is Stratford Ontario Known For
Stratford Ontario is known for it’s yearly Stratford Theater Festival. Stratford is also home to famous pop star Justin Bieber. Also home to Thomas Edison who in 1863 at the age of 16, lived in the top second floor room of Edison’s Inn, then called the Albion Hotel, overlooking Ontario Street.
Things to do in Stratford Ontario in the Winter
I was lucky to visit just as the Christmas Trail started and it was such a wonderful experience. The best thing about the self-guided trail is that you can do it as quick or at a leisurely pace while getting in some Christmas shopping and of course, don’t forget to stop in for lunch and grab a coffee.
Shop at Stratford’s Christmas Trail
Is there a better way to get into the holiday spirit than shopping for the holidays on Stratford’s Christmas Trail?
I loved shopping at Stratford’s artisanal and unique stores. Not only does it help to support small local business owners, but you will also find special and unique gift ideas.
On the self-guided Christmas Trail you will pick six gifts from 24 different stores. I know, it will be hard to choose just six! The way it works is that you purchase a Christmas Trail pass for $30 (+HST) and you will receive six vouchers to use in exchange for six gifts. You will receive a brochure that will showcase all the stops on the trail, what they are offering and a map to help navigate your day.
The Christmas Trail Pass can be purchased in person at the following locations:
- Destination Stratford, 47 Downie Street (Monday to Saturday – 9am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-5pm, Sunday 11am-3pm)
- Bradshaws, 129 Ontario Street (Sunday 11am-5pm)
- MacLeods Scottish Shop, 80 Ontario Street (Sunday 11am-4pm)
- Small Mart, 119 Ontario Street (Sunday 11 am-5 pm)
It was certainly difficult in choosing just six stops on the Christmas Trail. Here are the stops I made:
Junction 56 Distillery for a tasting of Fireshine Cinnamon Moonshine or Chocolate Mint Moonshine and you get a mini bottle to take home.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate to pick up your chocolate santa. He was delicious.
Distinctly Tea for a selection of teas to choose from to take home. I choose the Christmas Cookie Rooibos Tea.
Small Mart General Store for super cute Christmas socks.
La Osa Jewelery & Vintage for mini botanical bath bombs.
Olive Your Favourites for a mini olive oil and balsamic vinegar set.
Don’t forget to take a break in one of the many restaurants and cafes. You will find some of my suggestions below.
Taste the Chocolate Trail
If you know me, you will know that I love anything chocolate. If you are a chocolate lover like me, then you can’t miss Stratford’s Chocolate Trail. Although this trail can be enjoyed all year long, it is a great add-on to the Christmas Trail.
This self-guided Chocolate Trail will have you choosing from 20 stops for chocolate treats. The Chocolate Trail pass is $30 + hst and you will get 6 vouchers to exchange for delicious chocolate treats.
The way it works is that you purchase a Chocolate Trail pass for $30 and you will receive 6 vouchers to use in exchange for delicious chocolate treats. You will receive a brochure that will showcase all the stops on the trail, what they are offering and a map to help navigate your day.
It was hard to choose just 6 stops but here is where we chose to redeem our vouchers:
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
- Buzz Stop
- Black Angus Bakery and Catering
- Black Swan Brewing Co.
- MacLeods Scottish Shop
- Totally Spoke’d
See Stratford in a Different Light With The Lights on Stratford
Stratford’s downtown core will be transformed with luminous art as well as interactive art installations. Stratford will light up the sky this winter season across the downtown core and runs every Thursday to Sunday evenings from 6pm-9pm.
The Lights on Stratford is free to the public and is designated to be enjoyed safely with physical distancing
Enjoy the new winter festival of lights from November 19 with weekly installations until January 2. The festival of lights can be enjoyed outdoors until February 14, 2021.
The main festival locations will be at the following locations:
Market Square will host a gallery of #MadeinStratford outdoor light installations. The historic city hall will be illuminated with projections and light features.
Shakespearean Gardens, Stratford’s prettiest gardens, will be filled with tiny white lights.
Tom Patterson Island already draws people, it was a great stop on my visit to enjoy the sunrise. It will be lit up with dramatic lights and art sculptures.
Tom Patterson Theatre will have lights projected on the lobby’s interior walls and will be visible from the grounds and river path.
After a day of shopping on the Christmas Trail, grab dinner and enjoy the Lights on Stratford.
Pamper Yourself at Illume Wellness Spa
Illume is Stratford’s newest spa. All of their treatments focus on the rejuvenation of the body and mind. They focus on products that are sourced from nature with an emphasis on green and clean beauty. I enjoyed a much-needed spa pedicure followed by relaxation time in the Salt Room.
The Salt Room is a beautiful space where refined Himalayan salt particles are pushed out in the air in the room to breathe in. This helps to detoxify your body and helps to flush internal inflammation naturally. This is also wonderful if you suffer from allergies, sinus congestion, asthma, stress, and more.
Other Things to See While in Stratford Ontario
If you still have time after exploring the Christmas Trail, Chocolate Trail, and the Lights on Stratford then you may enjoy hitting up some insta-worthy spots in Stratford or the new public art walk.
Shakespearean Gardens – is one of Stratford’s most beautiful gardens. During the winter it will be lit up for the Lights on Stratford. If you love flowers then you must return in the summer to see the beautiful flowers in bloom.
Tom Patterson Island – is a small island just off of Shakespearean Gardens that you can access by an arch bridge. It is a wonderful spot to view the morning sunrise.
Gallery Stratford – is one of Ontario’s longest-running art galleries that exhibits contemporary art with regional and Canadian. The Gallery is surrounded by a large park with sculptures scattered throughout.
Stratford City Hall – is a National Historic Site of Canada. It sits in the heart of the city’s business district, on a triangular town square.
Where to Stay in Stratford Ontario
We stayed at a gorgeous Mill Stone – York View Airbnb that was centrally located making it the perfect location to enjoy both the Christmas Trail and the Chocolate Trail and be close to all the great restaurants.
This bright and cozy one-bedroom apartment has a full kitchen if you feel like staying in. There is also a pull out couch for additional sleeping space.
Where to Eat in Stratford
Shopping is tiring so you will need to refuel before continuing on your Stratford adventure. I was impressed with Stratford’s food scene and definitely worth a visit for the restaurants alone. There are so many great restaurants to choose from. Here are some of the places I visited.
Revival House is a popular food, drink, and events venue in the historic McKenzie Memorial Gospel Church downtown Stratford, Ontario. Rob Wigan revived the former Church Restaurant in 2015 and re-launched as Revival House.
There is a wonderful menu selection that focuses on local ingredients. Many of the menu items are Asian inspired like the Tuna Tataki Salad with seared sesame ahi tuna, arugula, radish, scallion, tomato, carrot, cucumber, rice crisp, and a citrus vinaigrette and the Traditional Laotian Nam Khao with crispy red curry coconut rice, house-cured pork, cilantro, mint, green onion with lettuce, lime and toasted chili. You have to try the stuffed mushrooms, a favourite menu item.
The Restaurant at The Bruce
The restaurant at The Bruce is the perfect spot for dinner. The Restaurant at The Bruce is a romantic restaurant decorated in soft airy tones and a vaulted ceiling. The Restaurant is committed to sourcing local ingredients within Canada with an emphasis on local producers.
We started with sunchokes in lardo, cattail and cress and bison tartare. The main courses were Maitake in kale, cabbage and garden pea and duck three ways with blueberry, Foie Gras and Quebec toast.
The desserts were equally delicious and well worth the calories.
If you are a foodie then you will love the dishes prepared by Executive Chef Brandon Clemens who returned to Ontario after spending time at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, The Savoy in London, and many more.
Edison’s Café Bar
Enjoy breakfast at Edison’s Cafe Bar located just steps away from the Airbnb. This cafe is a tribute to Thomas Edison who was a resident of the Inn at the upstairs accommodations in 1863.
The menu is mainly plant-based and the baked goods are dairy, grain, and refined sugar-free. I would highly recommend the avocado toast with smoked salmon and a poached egg. Don’t forget to pick up a cup of coffee to go, their coffee is delicious. I would highly recommend picking up some peanut butter & raspberry chia jam cups and tahini-stuffed dates for the road. They are highly addictive.
The Planet Diner
The Planet Diner is Stratford’s first Vegan focused restaurant and the menu items are absolutely delicious!
This diner has a cool retro vibe and has an incredible vegan comfort food. They also offer a couple of carnivore options. There is something for everyone. The Chick’un Burger is a favourite. Leave room for dessert. They offer a wonderful selection of vegan donuts.
Thank you Stratford Tourism for hosting us and sponsoring this post. As always, all reviews and opinions are my own.