Known internationally for its Shakespeare Festival and overabundance of Shakespearean influence, chances are you’re familiar with Stratford, as Ontario’s theatre town.
Though there’s no denying that it’s a city full of culture and entertainment, you’ll be amazed at what else it has to offer, just behind the curtain. From kayaking the river to taking a cocktail class, there’s plenty of things to keep you busy. Here’s how to make the most of your day in Stratford:
Explore Stratford's farmers market
If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday, Stratford’s year-round farmers market is the perfect way to spend the morning. Started in 1855, it’s one of Ontario’s oldest markets – and has more than 50 different vendors. There’s no shortage of farm fresh veggies, meats, cheese, baked goods, flowers and handmade gifts.
Located at 353 McCarthy Rd.
Hours: Open Sat. 7 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Check out Canadian art
Stratford’s Shane Norrie Contemporary commercial gallery and working studio focuses on quality fine art and craft. Displaying an excellent selection of oil paintings, ceramics and sculptures, all the art is created by emerging and established Canadian artists. Take your favourite painting home as the perfect souvenir.
Located at 73 Albert St.
Hours: Open Wed. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Sun. 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Smell the roses
Appropriate, considering the town’s heavy art-influence, The Shakespearean Gardens was created and named in honour of William Shakespeare. The diverse flower beds and plants are beautifully maintained, and the gazebo, benches and picnic tables provide plenty of quiet spots to sit and relax.
Located at 5 Huron St.
Hours: Open 24 hours
Satisfy your sweet tooth
A trip to Stratford is not complete without buying a box of chocolates from Rheo Thompson Candies, known for its world-famous creamy milk and dark chocolate mint smoothies. There’s also a selection of more than 100 different speciality chocolates, candies and fresh roasted nuts.
Located at 55 Albert St.
Hours: Open Mon. - Sat. 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. & Sun. 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Discover vintage finds
Think big, shop small: that’s the vision for: Meet Your Maker, a local boutique that supports more than 70 independent designers and craftspeople, and is full of unusual, quirky finds and edgy pop-culture references. Looking for earrings with Ryan Gosling’s face on them? Or a beautifully designed plate with hilarious slogans inscribed? This is the spot. There’s also an art gallery at the back of the shop, which could very easily be Canada’s smallest.
Located at 62 Wellington St.
Hours: Open Tues. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Sun. 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Be a mixologist for a day
Stratford Chefs School, a renowned culinary college, offers cooking and kitchen classes for aspiring chefs and food-lovers alike; if you can hold a knife, you can take a class! Learn how to whip up delicious patio cocktails to impress your friends this summer or with the help of culinary experts, make your own lunch and enjoy it with a perfectly paired glass of wine. Classes range from $45 - $85.
Located at 136 Ontario St.
Hours: Open Mon. - Fri. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Sat. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Go with the flow of the Avon River
Paddle alongside the resident swans on the picturesque Avon River, which flows slowly past the town. There’s many riverbank grass areas and parks to rest at along the way. Canoe, kayak, rowboat and paddleboat rentals are all available at Avon Boat Rentals for $35-$18/hr. Or, enjoy a guided riverboat tour on the Juliet III for only $8.50.
Located at 30 York St.
Hours: Open daily from May - Oct. 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Boat Rentals: Open daily from May - Oct. 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Boat Tours: Leave every half hour each day
Take a distillery tour
Named after two major railways built in Stratford in 1856, Junction 56 is a small craft distillery focused on creating high-quality spirits, with all local ingredients. Vodka, gin, moonshine, barrel-aged whisky and liqueurs are all available for tasting. Make sure to try their latest mint and chocolate liqueurs, made using Rheo Thompsons’ very own signature chocolate or their new black raspberry gin. Trust us: it’s as tasty as it sounds. Tours are available for $15/person if you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look.
Located at 45 Cambria St.
Hours: Open Tues., Wed. 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Thurs., Fri. 10:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Sun. 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Tours: From May - Sept., Tues. - Sat. at 11 a.m.
Taste the flavours of the world
New to Stratford, The Common opened its doors in December 2017. Chef Tim Otsuki incorporates global food and flavours into the menu, from Hong Kong to the Caribbean to Toronto.
Located at 80 Wellington St.
Hours: Open Mon. - Sun. 11:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. & closed on Tuesdays
Enjoy world-class live theatre
Although there’s much more to Stratford than its theatre, you absolutely cannot miss out on a visit to Stratford Festival while you’re in town. The Festival runs annually from April to October. With Shakespearean classics, comedies and musicals all on this season’s playbill, there’s a production for any style or taste.
Located at 55 Queen St.
Hours: Buy your ticket now and choose your show time