Matt and I recently visited Stratford Ontario for a weekend getaway. It’s close by (only a few hours drive from Windsor, and there’s even a direct bus from Detroit and Toronto), Matt has never been, and we thought it would be a cool place to see.
We spent 2 nights in Stratford at the Forest Motel and were able to keep ourselves relatively busy all weekend with theatre and eating and shopping and swans and yoga and boating and chocolate.
If you’re interested in taking a trip and are not exactly sure how to keep yourself occupied, here’s my recommendation for 6 things to do in Stratford Ontario:
See a Play
Kind of obvious. In fact, that’s probably why you’re planning a visit there in the first place.
And if you’re going to see one, why not see two? The Stratford Festival has a packed schedule of plays and musicals in the summer, up to 5 a day, so there is a lot to choose from.
Matt and I saw Hamlet. Not to be confused with Macbeth which, when we purchased our tickets, is precisely what we did. Imagine our surprise when there were no witches.
I’ve been to the Festival Theatre a few times and never had a bad seat, including that one time I was sitting in the nosebleeds and literally got a nosebleed (but that’s a story for another time). So you can still have an enjoyable experience in the cheap seats.
(Bonus: If you’re under the age of 30 you can score tickets for $15-$35 on the Play On Weekends.)
This time, however, we splurged on front row tickets which were so close to the action that I was afraid of distracting the actors by putting on a sweater when I got chilly.
The candy-making workshop at Chocolate Barr’s was our favourite part of the weekend. Derek, the head candy-maker, taught us how to properly temper chocolate by hand, how not to burn chocolate (which, as I learned, I do all the time), how to make chocolate bark, and how to make truffles.
We came home with everything we made, which was a lot, and consumed it way too quickly to be socially acceptable.
Our truffle making skills were weak and the resulting truffles hideous in comparison to the stuff sold at Chocolate Barr’s, though we could spin it as “rustic, hand-dipped, and artisanal” and the hipsters would love it. They were delicious regardless.
Derek gave us lots of samples of the Chocolate Barr’s products, answered my million and a half questions about his shop, and only made fun of us a handful of times in the process.
Call or e-mail the shop in advance to organize a time. It’s $75 per person and totally worth it.
Stratford is a beautiful place to stroll, particularly along the Avon River. I say stroll because the pace is leisurely: partly to accommodate the abundant waterfowl, partly to observe the beauty, and partly because of the geriatric nature of the patrons.
The river stroll is really quite nice so it’s no wonder it is so popular with tourists and locals.
If you walk far enough west along the river, away from the downtown and the theatres you’ll find the Avondale Cemetery which has some prominent local individuals going back to the late 1800s. You can even take a self-guided heritage walking tour of the cemetery. Or should I say strolling tour?
In Stratford eating is an event in itself. The restaurants definitely cater to the theatre crowd and offer really high calibre meals but I didn’t find the price points totally out of reach. We dined at Mercer Hall, Pazzo Taverna, and Canadian Grub and I didn’t have a meal that I disliked. (Tip: it’s a good idea to make reservations for dinner pretty much everywhere, especially on Saturdays)
My favourite meal was at The Parlour Inn where we had afternoon tea with an abundance of sandwiches and scones and spreads and pastries. But of course I’d say this, being the Anglophile that I am.
The Parlour Inn has afternoon tea service on Sundays from 1-4pm for the very reasonable price of $22 per person. They used to have it posted on their website but don’t appear to list it any more. Either way, you need to call ahead to book a reservation.
Take a Yoga Class
Of course I’d say this. I actually managed to convince Matt to take a yoga class with me while we were in Stratford. We took a Hot Yang/Yin class which was exactly what my body needed though Matt is not a fan of the slow pace of Yin practices.
Downtown Stratford has two studios, Moksha Yoga Stratford, where we took a class, and Yoga Collective.
Drop in rates are $21 and $18 respectively.
The Forest Motel, where we stayed, was on a tiny lake and they had canoes and paddle boats available to use for free to people staying at the hotel so Matt and I took advantage.
You can also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats right on the Avon River in the middle of town at Avon Boat Rentals for $15-$23 per hour depending on the type of vessel. If you don’t want to do the paddling yourself, they offer river cruises for the reasonable price of $7.50.