Stratford may be known as a summer destination for most in Ontario and the Toronto area. With their acclaimed theatres and plays during the summer season it’s not hard to see why people flock to the charming streets for a weekend. But a winter weekend in Stratford is just as quaint, just as charmed and just as fun, especially leading up to the holiday season. One of the best things about Stratford during the beginning of winter has to be the shopping for the the holidays. With their Christmas Trail you can hit up so many local shops, picking up gifts for everyone on your list, from artsy finds to jewellery, yummy treats and festive trinkets. A Christmas Trail pass (for $30 that you can pick up at the local tourist office) also gives you 6 tickets to get free samples or goodies at different locations (ideal for stocking stuffers, or even a little treat for you!). Here are some of our favourite places to hit up and start shopping.
Shop the Christmas Trail
This store is a dream for anyone who loves jewellery, eclectic, hand-made pieces, art, and more. One thing that makes it a joy to shop at Distill is that everything is Canadian made. Items in the shop are unique, ethically made and sourced, and curated to look pretty much like a chic art gallery. You could easily spend an hour looking at every piece, but some of the highlights include the clay work by owner Alli Skinner, the rows and rows of necklaces, earrings and bracelets in the cabinets, the fashion with a contemporary spin, and flipping through greeting cards. Your takeaway from Distill for the Christmas trail is a one-of-a-kind clay dish, perfect for rings, and also the perfect gift.
Also on the list of 30+ shops you can visit on the Christmas Trail are coffee and tea shops (both of which I will never pass up!). I swung by Distinctly Tea to pick up a festive Christmas blend tea as a gift, but you can also find beautiful teapots, cups and saucers, and basically anything you could ever want to do with tea. Most of the tea selections are fruity, scented and come from Germany, but you can literally find any type of tea to tickle your fancy here. Don’t forget to test out some tea too before you head out with your little tea sample for a gift.
Another foodie stop that can’t be missed along the Christmas trail is this quaint olive shop. Who knew there would be so many variations on olive oil and vinegar? You can spark your tastebuds by sampling different flavour combos and then make a selection for the chef in your life.
Filled to the brim with so many local finds, you can get lost in all there is to see in this tiny shop. Every inch of wall space is used to show off the designs (all made in the local Stratford area), tables are decked out with trinkets, odds and ends and jewellery. Bath and beauty products, pottery, plants, notebooks, candles and more line the shelves. It’s truly a one-stop shop to find something for ANYONE on your list. And your fun takeaway for the Christmas Trail is a pepperminty, candy cane-inspired bath scrub.
If you’re lucky enough to be in town during this iconic store’s holiday open house, you’ll be in luck. Samples of cheese, sweets, meats and more are throughout the shop, and the entire space is totally decked out in everything Christmas. It’s perfect for finding your next holiday decor items, anything and everything you didn’t even know you needed in your kitchen, plus local finds. It’s a one-of-a-kind spot that is so well known in Stratford (it’s been around since 1895), and a tradition no matter what time of year you visit, but during the holidays, it’s extra special.
The Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast might be one of the chicest bnbs we’ve stayed at in a while. As one of Stratford’s newest additions, it’s only a few short blocks to the theatres, and downtown shopping. The exterior has that old Edwardian home charm, with a wrap around veranda, but inside it’s modern, cleanly designed and so practical. We’re talking about heated floors in the rooms and bathroom, a cozy fireplace common area, plus the food is scrumptious in the morning (french toast, eggs, bacon and local maple syrup).
In between shopping, browsing and gifting, you’ll need a nibble or two to keep going.
The local hot spot to grab your caffeine fix in any form is revel. Get warm and cozy with an Americano and a slice of lemon meringue pie that’s too enticing to pass up.
For a healthy, not-too-heavy lunch option, grabbing a bowl or salad at The Pulp is satisfying, easy and definitely tasty. Also, the decor inside just looks and feels fresh too, with watermelons, pineapples and brick — you’ll feel like you’re taking a mini tropical break from the winter weather.
Top off your weekend with an ultra elegant, very Canadian experience at The Bruce Restaurant. Every dish here is prepared using local and Canadian found ingredients. If it’s not from Canada, it won’t be on the menu, which changes frequently to stay in season. You will be amazed at the chef’s creations, from roasted celeriac and grains, to braised beef and sinful ice cream. It’s a place to see and be seen, and, if you can, request the high-back chairs in the corner to get the best seats in the house.
Perfectly located next to so many theatres and the main street for shopping, you cannot go wrong with this mainstay in Stratford. Known for doing farm-to-table for nearly 20 years (long before it became a trendy thing for restaurants to do), you can see listed on a large chalkboard where all the ingredients have been sourced. A comforting thought to know as you tuck into hearty soups, sharing plates of roasted beet salad, roasted meats and so much more.