How To Spend 48 Hours in Stratford, Ontario (From a Local)
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
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Stratford is well known for being Canada’s premier arts town. As well as being home to the world-famous Stratford Festival, Stratford also boasts galleries, popular music events, and festivals such as the World in a Weekend Festival which has giant puppets walking along the streets and is a lot of fun for people of all ages. If the arts really aren’t your thing though, maybe food is. Stratford’s popular Bacon & Ale Trail and the Stratford Chocolate Trail are both great ways to discover the various culinary points of interest in the downtown area, and you’ll find plenty of unique restaurants in Stratford along the routes to make a note of for later.
Being one of the best small towns in Ontario means that you’ll probably need more than a day in Stratford. If it’s your first time visiting Stratford, I would recommend staying for at least one night, if not two, so you have enough time to explore the downtown area, the various parks in the city, and visit a few places outside of the main touristy spots too. There is definitely a lot to see if you’re spending 48 hours in Stratford, Ontario so be prepared to have a great time. Here are my recommendations for your itinerary, minus the Stratford Festival because I’m sure you already have that on your list.
Stratford Market Square
One of the best things to do in Stratford is to explore the downtown area. To start things off, I’d suggest beginning your tour in Market Square, which is located behind the City Hall. In recent years the pedestrianized part of the square has been expanded so there are plenty of places to sit and relax for a bit or eat your lunch if you’ve ordered a takeaway. Some of the best food in Stratford is located around this area too, on nearby Wellington Street and Downie Street. That's right - the map of Stratford extends past Ontario Street and the Avon River!
Grab some gelato from Angela’s Gelato
Located on Downie Street, just next to Market Square and opposite the Avon Theatre, is Angela’s Gelato. I can honestly say that this is one of my new favourite spots in town so I’m glad I stumbled upon it. They serve up traditional artisanal gelato that’s locally sourced, and you can expect new flavours regularly too. Don’t forget to try out the freshly squeezed old-fashioned lemonade which is very refreshing on a warm day. Angela’s Gelato is the perfect place to stop in the afternoon as you make your way around Stratford’s downtown area.
Little Prince Micro-Cinema & Lounge
Ever wondered what the world’s smallest cinema looks like? The Little Prince Micro-Cinema & Lounge is located on Wellington Street, next to the Market Square, and holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s smallest purpose built cinema, seating only 13 people. They have movies and short films playing throughout the day, but if you’re travelling with a large group and want the cinema all to yourself you can book it out in its entirety as well.
If you find yourself struggling with where to eat in Stratford, The HUB is a fantastic option and is home to Stratford’s only three season rooftop patio. They have a great selection of pub food, cocktails, and local craft beers on the menu and on certain nights they have live music too, so check out their website before planning your visit. I would recommend trying their Crispy Chicken Burger or the Falafel Wrap, and kicking things off with the Garlic Cheese Bread. If it’s a clear day, make sure you sit out on the rooftop patio which has a very unique industrial vibe to it. The HUB is one of the best bars in Stratford, so you can always pop in for a few drinks if you’re not feeling overly hungry.
Heritage Hops Brew Co.
Located next to The HUB is Stratford’s own heritage-inspired brewery who have created an amazing mixture of traditional and unique tasting beers that are enjoyed by both locals and tourists throughout the year. The best way to get a taste of the most popular beers at Heritage Hops Brew Co. is to order one of their beer flights which includes 4 different beers to try. You can pair these beers up with their Meat and Cheese Platter which is massive and includes Ontario cheeses, pickled vegetables, local artisanal meats, and some fresh slices of bread. Make sure you check out the interior of the brewery too, which has a traditional yet modern feel to it, and grab your favourite beers to take home with you from the fridges.
Find some street art
Stratford is known as an arts destination in Canada, but it’s not really known for its street art appeal - until now. One thing that’s changed about Stratford over the past decade is the amount of unique street art that you’ll come across, in both the downtown area as well as Upper Queen’s Park. There’s a lot of street art in Stratford around Gallery Stratford, and some unique sculptures, but Market Square and The Revival House are now home to some bright and colourful art pieces as well!
If doughnuts are your thing, you can’t leave Stratford without grabbing at least one gourmet doughnut from Lady Glaze. These are not your regular Tim Horton’s doughnuts - they’re so much better! Lady Glaze Stratford is located just off of Erie Street, and has a crazy selection of doughnut flavours to choose from. They try to source as many products as possible from local producers, and offer customers traditional flavours as well as seasonal ones such as Sangria, Raspberry Fudge, and S’mores. Believe me when I say you’ll have a hard time choosing just one flavour. If this is your last stop during your 48 hours in Stratford then make sure you grab a tasty milkshake to drink on the ride home as well.
Walk around the Avon River
One of the best free things to do in Stratford is to walk around the Avon River. Lower Queen’s Park is a very tranquil setting, and is perfect for a leisurely stroll or bike ride. In the summer months you can expect a lot of ducks, Canadian geese, and swans with their babies. They regularly decide to walk into the middle of the road, so make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. The main street along the river, Lakeside Drive, is where the popular Stratford Art in the Park takes place, where you can browse a selection of Canadian arts and crafts from local artists. From the Avon River you have easy access to Upper Queen’s Park as well as Gallery Stratford too, and there is a lot of free parking in the area which is a bonus.
Rent a paddleboat
Hopefully you have nice weather when you visit Stratford, because in the warmer months you can take full advantage of the Avon River and rent a paddleboat for an hour at The Boathouse. This family-run business has been around since I was a child, so I have fond memories of both the paddleboats and the River Tour. You have the option to rent either a paddleboat, canoe, or kayak for an hour, or you can join a scenic 30 minute River Tour where you can just sit back, relax, and take in the views of Stratford from a different perspective. Whichever option you choose, The Boathouse is a must-visit in Stratford, Ontario.
Stratford is quickly becoming a popular destination for day trippers looking to do some shopping. Ontario Street is the main street in Stratford, offering a good selection of shops and places to eat. Some of the longest serving shops in Stratford are located here, such as Bradshaws and Watson’s, but there are some new shops such as Stilettos & Sawdust that are definitely worth visiting as well. Ontario Street isn’t the only place to shop though. Downie Street, York Street, and Wellington Street all offer something a little different, and are all great alternative options for shopping in Stratford.
Dinner at Rockwell Lounge
Rockwell Lounge is one of the best restaurants in Stratford, and is tucked away near Rheo Thompson on Albert Street. This upscale lounge and wine bar is unlike any other restaurant you’ll find in Stratford, and the food is just as impressive as the décor. What you notice immediately about this restaurant is how involved all of the staff are with their customers, from the waiters to the mixologist to the chef. If you want a really unique cocktail experience then you have to order the Paperback Writer - just a tip!
The menu is based around local seasonal produce, and all of the dishes have a modern and tasty twist to them. The Wild Mushroom flatbread is a great choice for a starter, and either the Pappardelle or the Cornish Hen are perfect main choices. The desserts can vary, so your waiter will let you know on the day which options you can choose from. I personally can’t wait to come back to Rockwell Lounge and see what other seasonal dishes they have next.
Where To Stay in Stratford
For a small city, there are quite a few options for places to stay in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford Suites is located above Rockwell Lounge, making it the perfect place to base yourself during your 48 hours in Stratford. Our modern King Deluxe Room featured a large king bed, a very spacious living room area, and a bathroom that had both a jacuzzi tub and a walk-in shower. Everything was spotlessly clean and we had all of the amenities and toiletries that we needed. We had dinner at Rockwell Lounge so we only had to head upstairs to get to our room which was ideal. Many of the best things to see in Stratford are located within a short walking distance of Stratford Suites, so you really can’t beat it.
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This is just a small glimpse into all of the amazing things to do in Stratford, Ontario but from a local’s perspective these are some of the better and more unique options. Many tourists end up going to the same places to eat in Stratford and visiting the same shops and points of interest, without exploring more of what the city has to offer. Hopefully this gives you some food for thought as you start planning your next trip to Stratford, whether that’s a day trip to Stratford or you’re thinking of spending a little bit longer in Canada’s premier arts town.
Have you visited this small town in Ontario before? I’d love to hear your thoughts about Stratford and what your favourite parts of your trip were. Don’t forget to follow my travels on Instagram too - and feel free to get in touch!