You know it’s officially the holiday season as soon as Stratford, Ontario flicks on its holiday lights and ushers in all things festive with their annual Christmas Trail. And 2020 may be a different year for the trail, but you can still do it safely.
A recap on what the Stratford Christmas Trail is all about if you haven’t visited yet. Each year a group of shops (ranging from home decor stores to vintage shops to distilleries, bakeries and more) take part in the Christmas Trail, where they give gifts to those shoppers participating. All you need to do is stop by the Destination Stratford Office and pick up your Christmas Trail package. It’s $30 (+hst) and you’ll get 6 tickets along with a map of shop locations. Each ticket will get you a festive gift from each location you visit. With over 20 shops to pick from, you will definitely be able to find exactly what you’re looking for… and maybe a bit more! Trust me, Stratford is a true shopping destination, so you will be picking up gifts for everyone, including yourself.
Here’s why Stratford’s Christmas Trail is better than ever this year. And why you really need to make sure to visit local shops.
STRATFORD CHRISTMAS TRAIL: SHOP & BE SAFE
This year it’s all about safety when it comes to the Christmas Trail. Given the current COVID-restrictions, and the fact that they are always changing, each shop along the trail has taken extra precautions to make sure you can shop local, while being safe. You’ll find hand sanitizer in each store, masks are required, and you may find a limited number of customers are in the store at any given time.
STRATFORD CHRISTMAS TRAIL: CHECK OFF YOUR LIST!
With over 20 locations listed on the Stratford Christmas Trail, you will definitely power through that holiday shopping list. You could do that with just the little gifts, but also with any of the amazing products you can find in the shops, too. And trust me, you’ll find so much more to browse and get as gifts.
A little snippet of what you can get for your Christmas Trail tickets:
A full-sized box of chocolate chunk shortbread cookies from MacLeod’s Scottish Shop (yes, I said FULL-SIZED!).
Pup-approved dog treats from The Barkery (all made with dog-friendly, organic ingredients).
Foamy botanical bath bombs that will be perfect for the pandemic baths from La Osa.
An eco-friendly Swedish dish cloth from Bradshaws that has festive prints right on them (how could I say no to one with scarf-wearing llamas?!).
Funny, funky, festive socks from the eclectic shop Small-Mart (I got ones with sloths!).
But there’s so much more too. Grab a bag of coffee beans from Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters in nearby St. Marys (because we all need a caffeine boost during the holidays!). Swing by Stilettos & Sawdust for a merry little Christmas ornament. Feel festive with Christmas spice tea at Distinctly Tea. And add some holiday decor with a Christmas-scented candle from Village Craft & Candle. Those are just a few more options!
STRATFORD CHRISTMAS TRAIL: SHOP LOCAL
Stratford is one city that truly embodies the shop local vibe–business support each other constantly. You’ll always have a shop owner suggesting another spot you need to check out for a drink, dinner or something else on your holiday shopping list. And during the pandemic, it’s never been more important to shop local and really support those small businesses that make cities and towns so vibrant. So you can even venture off the Christmas Trail to find even more great gifting options. Here are some of my faves NOT on the trail, but still worthy of a visit.
Home decor store Wills & Prior is known in Stratford and beyond for amazing items for the home–and it’s always a must-stop during the holiday season (don’t forget to snap a pic outside the main entrance!).
Got It Made is one of those shops that has so many unique finds you could easily spend an hour in there discovering all the locally-made jewellery.
The Green Room is another eclectic shop that is like a treasure trove–you’ll find totally unique gifts here for your totally unique family member or friend!
And finally, Distill Gallery is a great artsy little shop filled with locally-made items–from art to clothing to jewellery, it’s a great place to finish off your Christmas list.
STRATFORD CHRISTMAS TRAIL: IT’S THE START OF LIGHTS ON
New this year will be Stratford’s light festival, Lights On Stratford. Since Stratford is home to some of the best artists in the country, the city has partnered with them and local store fronts and different locations around the city to bring light installations to life. Each installation keeps social distancing in mind and new exhibits are unveiled each week from November 19th until January 2nd (with all installations remaining until February 14th) every Thursday-Sunday evening from 6-9pm. So make sure to factor this into part of your Christmas Trail/shopping plan!
Shopping, dinner, drinks and festive lights seems like the perfect winter day to me!