Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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Do you remember when you were a little kid, and the entire holiday season was magical, with delights around every corner? From the brisk air and corresponding outdoor adventures to treats chosen specifically for you to incredible, once-a-year foods, it’s hard recapture that once you’ve grown past that believe-in-magic stage.

Luckily for us, this experience IS able to be recaptured, and makes you believe in the magic of the holidays again.

 

How and where, I hear you ask!

Look no further than one of our very favorite towns at any time of year, Stratford, Ontario

Stratford, home of the Stratford Festival, is a town of many, many cultural, artistic, and culinary riches. During the Christmas holiday season, starting November first each year, Visit Stratford works with local businesses to create a treasure hunt like no other, called the Christmas Trail. (Heading to Stratford at other times of year? Try the Bacon and Ale Trail, and the Chocolate Trail, and other delicious trails.)

Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas

Here’s how it works:

Head to Visit Stratford, located right across from City Hall, at 47 Downie Street. 

Visit Stratford office. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Visit Stratford HQ

Inside, you can purchase the Christmas Trail ($30 + HST for 6 passes). This is where your grownup self squeals a little bit: this is an ENORMOUS bargain, compared to the retail value of the presents you'll be gifting yourself. 

A sample of treats on the Christmas Trail. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
A sample of treats on the Christmas Trail

NOW: THE HARD PART.

There are 25 stops on the Christmas Trail. You can choose 6 (or, buy multiples! I suggest getting a trail for each member of your family, so you can TOTALLY get your top picks; we did this and each of us inspired the others, instead of leading to disappointment).

Stratford Festival Shop. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Stratford Festival Shop

Tip: peruse the Christmas Trail on Stratford’s website, so that you can somewhat have your treats in mind before you come into town. There’s a fantastic map, too, that shows exactly where the businesses are. Leave a few for serendipity, and for discovering new shops amongst your old favorites.

NOW: THE FUN PART

Wander Stratford (most of the treats are located downtown, completely walkable (or wheelchair scooterable). A few of the treats are located in nearby St. Mary’s or Shakespeare (we recommend these, too!).

Each person PICKS their own gifts! It's the best of Christmas but with NO ugly sweaters.

Our daughter's gifts included super cute socks (we all chose these!), tea, and flavored olive oil (she’s a vinaigrette master).

No fighting over the holiday socks from Small-Mart General Mercantile. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
No fighting over the holiday socks from Small-Mart General Mercantile

Olive Your Favourites. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Olive Your Favourites

Distinctly Tea. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Distinctly Tea

My mom’s treasures included knitting/fabric supplies, a stunning walnut charcuterie board, Junction 56 Distillery’s Rheo Thompson mint smoothie vodka, and shortbread.
Hyggeligt Fabrics. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Hyggeligt Fabrics

British Shop. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
At the British Shop

Junction 56 Distillery. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
At Junction 56 Distillery

You won’t be surprised my picks included coffee (!!!!), more shortbread, the same charcuterie board, a gorgeous Christmas ornament from the Festival shop, and art. 
At Zen Woodworking: my mom and I got charcuterie boards that Darrin made! From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
At Zen Woodworking, my mom and I got charcuterie boards that Darrin made!

Most adorable coffee shop sign ever. Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters

Shortbread at Black Angus Bakery & Catering. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Shortbread at Black Angus Bakery & Catering

In addition to the adorable holiday socks, we all concurred on the fantastic present at perennial-favorite Touchmark Shop: a foldable (zippable!) tote to carry all those gifts, selfie-santa style, with a memory in your treasure chest, to boot. 
Smiles all around At Touchmark. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Smiles all around at Touchmark

Besides the treats we found on the Christmas Trail, we found even more treasures: the small business owners who were passionate about their work, their town, and sourcing the very gifts that we chose for ourselves. Thank you!

With my new friend Emily at Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
With my new friend Emily at Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters

We found magic around every corner in Stratford…I’m sure you will, too.

Stratford City Hall. From Travel Tips: The Best Place to Experience the Magic of Christmas
Stratford City Hall

 

Tip: Note the hours of the businesses on the Christmas Trail (easily located on the map). The businesses in this theatre town often are closed on Mondays, etc. 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators

 

 

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