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Life in Stratford, Ontario, revolves around the Festival, Avon, Tom Patterson and Studio Theatres, between April and November. Less than two hours west of Toronto, the city is ideal for a long weekend of good theater, food and shopping.

Stratford Festival Theatre
Stratford Festival Theatre
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Canada's Stratford, like Stratford-on-Avon, England, is famous for its Shakespearean theater. It even features streets named Shakespeare, Falstaff and Romeo.

Besides Shakespearean, classical and modern plays, dramas, musicals and comedies, the theaters also offer tours and The Forum activities.

Costumes and props

On Warehouse Tours, you'll find costumes, furniture, and ersatz foods, animals, statues — even corpses. Participants can peek into jewelry workshops, filled with crowns, pearls and gems, and watch designers fashion garments ranging from royal robes to nun's habits.

In the Stage Combat Forum Workshop, guides explain the intricacies of armor-making and on-stage fights.

The Forum program includes workshops and Table Talk, which features a buffet lunch followed by a lecture on one of the year's shows.

Free things to do

While there are fees for Forum speakers, showcases, music and warehouse events, other activities are free, including lectures, book club and question-and-answer sessions with the actors.

Avon Theatre on right, Stratford City Hall on left
Avon Theatre on right, Stratford City Hall on left
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Avon River is also a magnet for visitors and residents. Tree-shaded paths, along both sides of the river, are ideal for strolling and cycling. Feed some bread to the swans, fish for trout in the river, or check out the wooden barrels, bedded with straw, for nesting ducks.

Stratford boasts one of the largest park systems per capita in Canada. Strategically placed benches and picnic tables invite relaxed conversation and al fresco dining.

Several restaurants offer takeout menus. Visitors can enjoy their picnics by the river or aboard the colorful pedal boats. Canoes and a pontoon boat, Juliet III, offer delightful views of swans drifting under graceful arched stone and wooden bridges, meticulously kept historical homes and gardens, and the towering spires of Perth County Courthouse.

Walking tours

It's not only the scenery that leaves visitors smitten with Stratford's charm — it's also the sounds. Birds chirping in the trees. The resonant tolling of bells from St. James Church. The laughter of children in the riverside playground.

To further explore Stratford, take a guided walking tour. Guides point out architectural and historical details that are easy to miss when you're on your own. (Did you know, for example, that the sapphire blue carpet in front of the St. James Church altar came from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II?)

Rheo Thompson Candies shop
Rheo Thompson Candies shop
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Participants see an eclectic collection of homes, from Tudor Revival to Italianate styles. Several are bed and breakfasts.

Chocolate mint smoothies

For a small city, Stratford has an amazing number of top-quality restaurants. Consider Rundle's for cold-poached lobster with fresh red pepper cream, and The Prune for baked salmon strudel in an aromatic carrot-ginger broth, followed by raspberry crème brûlée.

With numerous stores and a farmers' market, Stratford offers shoppers everything from antiques to original watercolors of theatrical costumes. Don't miss Rheo Thompson Candies, where you'll find more than 100 varieties of caramels, pecan patties, chocolate-covered ginger, nuts and the store's famous chocolate mint smoothies.

The theaters may initially lure visitors to Stratford, but the city's many attractions keep people happy, entertained and well-fed between and after the performances.


Tourism Stratford: www.visitstratford.ca

Stratford Festival of Canada: www.stratfordfestival.ca

More things to see and do in Ontario:

Ontario Summer Theatres Have Former Lives

Kingsville Ontario - Jack Miner Birds and Colasanti Gardens

Ontario Feast of Fields - Food, Wine and Sustainable Living

Ottawa - Things to Do in Canada's Capital City

Meaford Hall Ontario Theatre