Looking to discover the best things to do in Stratford Ontario? Our comprehensive guide will help you navigate Perth County’s beating heart. Explore Stratford’s finest locally sourced restaurants, artisan markets, historical landmarks and enjoy a stroll along the Avon River.
Located two hours west of Toronto, take the short drive to Stratford and enjoy some of Ontario’s best restaurants, iconic Justin Beiber exhibit and gorgeous gardens. For theatre fans who descend on Stratford, Ontario for the annual festival, there are plenty of things to do on a weekend getaway.
Best Things To Do In Stratford Ontario
Looking for the best things to do in Stratford on a weekend getaway? Dobbernationloves chatted with Lori DeGraw, Executive Director of the Stratford Tourism Alliance to learn more about what makes the Ontario theatre town so special.
“Stratford will surprise you. While most know us for great theatre, there is a vibrant visual arts and music culture throughout the year. Pop into a local pub for an indy music night or book tickets to a Stratford Summer Music jazz concert. Our culinary scene delivers exciting options for dining from casual shared plates to haute cuisine. Strong sustainable relationships between chefs and local farmers are reflected in seasonal menus. Taking cooking classes at the Stratford Chefs School, exploring new flavours in craft beers and spirits, and meeting culinary artisans on self-directed trails are just a few of the experiences we offer. Visitors will love the cosmopolitan atmosphere and personalized shopping and dining,” says DeGraw.
Best Festivals in Stratford Ontario
Stratford is an all-seasons destination, a perfect place to visit outside of the traditional Stratford Festival theatre season.
- Stratford Theatre Festival, April to October
- Stratford Christmas Trail, November 1 to December 20
- Stratford Writers Festival, October
- Outdoor Christmas Market, November
- Stratford Craft Beer Festival, hosted by Revival House in February and August
- Trashion Week, during Earth Week
- Stratford Summer Music, mid-July to end of August
- Puppetworks Minifest, July
- Movies Under the Stars, outdoor screenings in Summer and Fall
- Stratford Garlic Festival, first weekend after Labour Day
Best Hotels in Stratford Ontario
Stratford is a year-round travel destination with its busiest season correlating to the theatre festival’s performance dates, which run between April and December. There are plenty of accommodation options for those looking to enjoy a weekend getaway. You’ll find a mix of affordable hotels, luxurious boutique properties and friendly B&Bs.
- Rosehurst Bed and Breakfast: ranked as one of the best B&Bs in Stratford, Ontario, Rosehurst is owned and managed by Food Network personality Theresa Albert. Rosehurst Bed and Breakfast features four well-appointed suites and a tranquil backyard garden where Albert sources fresh produce and herbs for her breakfast menu.
- Mercer Hotel: this heritage hotel features rooms attached to one of Stratford’s most celebrated fine dining restaurants. The nearby Plum Suites offer the comfort of home and feature a kitchenette and plush queen bed.
- Queens Inn: this quirky pet-friendly hotel in Stratford is just 3 minutes walk from the Avon Theatre. All 12 rooms boast fireplaces, flat-screen TVs and free WIFI.
55 Queen St, 1-800-567-1600
Every year, the Stratford Festival features, alongside classic works of Shakespeare, a slate of modern, irreverent plays, which are performed on the stages of the Avon Theatre, the Tom Patterson Theatre, The Studio Theatre and The Stratford Festival Theatre. In the Spring of 2020, the Tom Patterson Theatre will open its doors for the first time, with Colm Feore taking on the lead in Richard III.
Founded in 1952 by local journalist Tom Patterson, the Stratford Festival runs a wide variety of theatre from Greek tragedy to Broadway-style musicals and contemporary works. The first performances (as well as the first four seasons) took place in a concrete amphitheater covered by a giant tent on the banks of The River Avon. The first season of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production history kicked off in 1953 with Richard III and then All’s Well That Ends Well both starring Alec Guinness.
For a rather small town in Ontario, the Stratford Festival has enticed plenty of bold faced names to take the stage. Christopher Plummer has played numerous roles over the years, beginning with the title role in Henry V in 1956 and Hamlet in 1957, as well as the title roles in Cyrano de Bergerac and Macbeth and King Lear. Other A-list actors who have graced the Stratford Festival stages include William Shatner, Maggie Smith, Andrea Martin and Eric McCormack.
If you’ve ever wanted to know how one of Stratford’s larger than life theatre productions comes together, book yourself a spot on the Festival Theatre Tour. You’ll walk beneath the stage and behind the round – explore the different changing rooms, see how props are stored and eye the mechanical lift that brings actors up and down from the stage.
Guests then take a tour of the production room, where hundreds of costumes hang and are actively worked on by seasoned staff. You’ll also get a chance to walk around the prop production facility while receiving interesting backstories and lore about how the technical theatre staff bring Stratford’s award-winning productions to life.
From the rehearsal space, which is a 1:1 recreation of the actual stage, to the armoury where you can take a look at the various prop weapons used over the years, the Stratford Festival Theatre Tour is one of the best things to do in Stratford Ontario for theatre geeks.
If you’re going to spend even one afternoon in Stratford, eating at one of the city’s many fantastic restaurants is a must. Widely known for its local first culinary philosophy, the Stratford food scene is veritable foodie heaven.
Versatile, fresh and inspired by a multitude of influences, Stratford restaurants have everything you could want in great cuisine – including passionate people at the heart of each establishment.
Visit the best Stratford restaurants and you’ll find everything from fancy French fine dining to cute cafes, pizza loving craft breweries and a popular brunch menu served inside an old church.
Savour Stratford Food Trails
Stratford, Ontario is dubbed the pork capital of Canada and plays home to a slew of award winning restaurants and a celebrated chefs school. Ranked as one of Ontario’s best culinary destinations, Savour Stratford offers two unique food trails for those looking to explore the town’s best sips and nibbles.
The Bacon & Ale Trail and Chocolate Trail are Stratford Tourism initiatives that encourage visitors to taste their way through local gourmet shops, bars and restaurants. Purchase one of Stratford’s culinary trail passports at the local tourism office and enjoy a tasty self guided tour.
Savour Stratford’s Bacon & Ale Trail is $30 and features pork and craft beer pairings at popular spots such as Shakespeare Brewing Company, Best Little Pork Shoppe, and Soup Surreal.
Savour Stratford’s Chocolate Trail is $30 and features stops at bakeries and sweet shops such as Black Angus Bakery, Board’s Head Pub and Chocolate Barr’s Candies.
35 York Street in Stratford, 519-276-7777
This Scandinavian inspired spa is a Stratford safe-haven that focuses on natural and organically sourced treatments. Owner Elsa Fähraeus wanted to create an environment that resonated with her Scandinavian heritage, which meant creating a space that is natural, green and clean.
Treatments provided at Illume Wellness Spa are focused on creating a nourishing experience with intimate care by centring the body and mind. Be sure to try out their signature Salt Therapy Room, featuring a lit up five-foot thick salt wall imported from Egypt. The salt particles purify the air, promoting lung capacity and decreasing inflammation. This treatment also promotes the body to relax by providing comfortable chairs, lavender infused eye masks and blankets.
Illume Wellness Spa also carries locally made, green makeup and beauty products that can be enjoyed at home.
45 Cambria Street in Stratford, 519-305-5535
If you want to quench your thirst on local liquor, check out Stratford’s rustic distillery. Junction 56 Distillery sits on a 100-year-old lumber yard just behind the city’s most notable railway. It was founded by Mike Heisz in 2012, who later launched the distillery in the Fall of 2015.
Inspired after attending a whiskey tasting event, Mike’s infatuation with what he had tasted launched an idea in his head, “We should make a barrel of whiskey in my garage!” Mike’s passion for the history and pride of Stratford combined with his new love for making craft spirits, forged this much-loved Perth County distillery.
Junction 56 Distillery uses 100% Ontario grains and produces a variety of notable craft spirits such as moonshine, vodka, gin and whisky. Stratford’s distillery also collaborates with local businesses to incorporate distinct flavours for their spirits, such as their best-selling vodka, Mint Smoothie Liqueur. The mint-chocolate flavoured vodka was created in collaboration with Rhéo Thompson Candies (a sweet Stratford staple) that highlights the amalgamation of unsweetened melted chocolate with Rhéo’s mint.
Public tours of the distillery are offered on Saturdays and private tours are also available if you call in advance.
45 Cambria Street in Stratford, 519-305-3335
Behind Junction 56 Distillery you’ll find Jobsite Brewing Co. Owned by two former construction workers, Dave Oldenburger and Phil Buhler, Jobsite Brewing Co’s space pays homage to their work. Skip inside the Stratford craft brewery and you’ll find an all-concrete space decorated with tools and reclaimed lumber materials. They’ve also designed the breweries beer flights to include sanded nails to denote each beer.
Dave and Phil were quite humble in their beginnings. They’re brainstormers, curious about the types of beers they could create to cater to all beer lovers. From classic brews like amber ales, IPAs and smoky stouts, Jobsite Brewing Co looks above and beyond to create seasonal beers that feature locally sourced ingredients.
Not only do they knock-out delicious beers but the popular Stratford brewery serves thin-crust pizzas, blistered in a wood-stone oven. Free popcorn is offered to those sipping at the bar, while a retail store allows guests to take a few bottles of their new favourite beers home.
357 McCarthy Road in Stratford, 519-271-5130
Appreciate locally grown fresh produce and like to support Ontario farmers? Stratford Farmers Market is located off of McCarthy Road just behind the skating arena. The market is open year round every Saturday from 7am to 12pm. Stratford Farmers Market has been operating since 1855 and is considered one of the oldest markets in the province.
If you’re visiting Stratford on a weekend we suggest visiting the Farmers Market for a casual brunch and foodie shopping spree. You’ll find mountains of fresh veggies and fruits, locally made cheese, cured meats, mouth-watering baked goods, fresh flowers, handmade crafts and a parade of pretty preserve jars.
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5 Huron Street in Stratford, 1-800-561-7926
Located behind the Perth County Courthouse, visiting the Shakespearean Gardens is one of the best things to do in Stratford for horticulture fans. There’s something magical about Stratford’s gorgeous gardens that makes you want to write a sonnet on the bridge, or repeat lines from Romeo and Juliet under the gazebo.
Stratford’s Shakespearean Gardens are worthy of a visit year round but they show off best during the Spring and Summer months when flowers are in full bloom. We also enjoy strolling here in Autumn as the foliage transforms into a cavalcade of colours.
Framed by a pergola and the oldest double-arch stone bridge in Ontario, Stratford’s little jewel contains over 60 varieties of herbs, flowers, and shrubs, all familiar to Shakespeare’s contemporaries, and mentioned in his plays. Wander through knots of blooms bordered by thrift and boxwood and along the stone walls among fragrant rose gardens, and then rest on iron benches in this sanctuary along the Avon River.
62 Wellington Street in Stratford, 519-271-0676
If you’re looking for notable designs that are relevant to pop culture and often times will supply in season theatrical souvenirs, Meet Your Maker Gallery is a boutique that sells cute Stratford gems. Located close to Allen’s Alley, this Stratford gift shop sells a variety of artisanal items and art inspired by pop culture, many of which are produced by local artists.
So why do we think Meet Your Maker Gallery is so cool? It has a tiny cinema called the Little Prince in the back of the store with just 13 seats. Saddle up with a bag of popcorn, check out some unique art and enjoy an intimate experience at this iconic Stratford arts and culture establishment.
29 Ontario Street in Stratford, 519-273-2001
Family owned and operated, Totally Spoke’d is the perfect place to book a bike rental if you’re visiting Stratford on vacation. The owner is very knowledgeable when it comes to the best local riding trails and the immediate surroundings of Stratford offer a ton of great scenic views.
Ranging from short jaunts to full-on 25 kilometers treks, the biking and hiking trails around Stratford are numerous and vast. If you’re feeling super adventurous, there’s even a 60km on-road loop that extends out to the town of St. Marys.
For all of you hiking enthusiasts, The Avon Trail offers a 110 km path between St. Marys and Conestogo connecting the Thames Valley and Grand River Trails. The popular Stratford bike shop also sells a variety of skateboards, scooters and clothing.
192 Ontario Street in Stratford, 519-271-1414
On top of training some of Ontario’s most talented cooks, the Stratford Chefs School features classes for people of all skill levels. We enjoyed a cooking class in late September, which trained students on how to bake the perfect Thanksgiving pie.
Chef Eli Silverthorne helms the open kitchen cooking classes and carries a lighthearted and fun touch to his teaching method. An afternoon spent at the city’s acclaimed chefs school is one of the best things to do in Stratford Ontario for foodies.
We recommend SCS Cooking Fundamentals, a series of 10 workshops that teach you about the basics such as boiling, poaching, pan-frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, braising & stewing, roasting, baking, steaming and grilling.
There are also workshops like How Do I Use That? which teaches students how to use some of the more complicated or unusual tools found in a professional kitchen. It’s here you’ll master gadgets such as pressure cookers, immersion circulators, spiral slicers and mandolins.
4275 Huron Street in Stratford, 519- 393-5311
Featuring a now iconic Justin Beiber exhibit, the Stratford Perth Museum sits on a seven-acre property inside a 1870s Victorian buff brick home. Focusing on storytelling rather than just historical facts, the Stratford Perth Museum tells the stories of the people who helped settle the townsite of Stratford in 1832.
The Museum explores the early days of Stratford as a busy hub for the Grand Trunk Railroad, before the general strike of 1933 marked the beginnings of a significant decline in the industrial sector of Stratford.
You’ll learn about Stratford’s musical history and how ingrained the town is within the history of rock and roll. You’ll also gain insight into Stratford’s presence during the Great War, where an estimated 4,000 men from Perth County fought during the war. The 110th Regiment was awarded a primary battle honour for their role in the Battle of Ypres when poison gas was used in a surprise attack.
A visit to the museum is one of the best things to do in Stratford Ontario for history buffs and Beliebers.
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