Why Visit Stratford in the Fall?

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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Are you considering a fall getaway in Ontario?

You want Stratford.

It’s the ideal spot to plant yourself and maximize your fall vacation. There are countless things to do in Stratford in the fall, from celebrating its diverse culinary scene to enjoying the great outdoors. Plus, Stratford is surrounded by some of Ontario’s most captivating small towns, making it the gateway to epic fall road trips. So let’s get planning!

Why visit Stratford, Ontario, in the fall? There's so much to do!

Things to do in Stratford in the Fall

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The humidity of summer is gone, pumpkin flavoured treats are all a rage, and the Stratford Festival is still pumping out outstanding performances. Most Festival plays run right into November and if you’re looking to expand your theatre experience there’s an array of tours, exhibits, and more to add to your itinerary. You can take a tour of the warehouse where all of the incredible costumes and props are stored and even have a shot at trying one on. There’s tours of the Festival Theatre and be sure to take in The Tom Patterson Theatre exhibit during an Archives tours.

The Stratford Perth Museum is a great stop during your Stratford fall visit, with exhibits on the Stratford Festival and more. If you want to get a little more in depth then check out The Forum. The Forum runs special events, performances, panel discussions, and interactive workshops all season long, right through the fall. Attending a workshop will truly make your visit a memorable one. You can try your hand at a dance sequence or attempt to tackle acting in a Shakespearean role.

Beyond the theatre you’ll find something to satisfy everyone’s palate in Stratford, from adventures with food to art in all mediums and outdoor adventures on foot or two wheels. If you’re planning on staying a few days in Stratford, plot what to do in between shows with our list of Stratford adventures.

Things to do for Foodies

Enjoying the Best Brunch at Stratford Chefs School

Are you a foodie looking to advance your skills in the kitchen? Or maybe you love indulging in great food, beer, and spirits. Stratford has a celebrated culinary scene that pairs the perfect blend of locally sourced food and a variety of ways to enjoy it.

Rock an apron and try your hand at one of Stratford Chefs School’s Open Kitchen Classes. The Stratford Chefs School runs workshops where you can get hands on experience that will be sure to impress your significant other or your friends at your next dinner party. Workshops range from how to make the most mouth-watering Thanksgiving pie to tasty international dishes.

A great way to explore Stratford is indulging in their Bacon & Ale Trail. The trail is a self-guided romp around Stratford where your $30 trail pass gives you five vouchers to test out the offerings at over fifteen locations around town. Could there be a better combination than sizzling bacon served along with a pint of Ontario craft beer? Go hog wild with Madelyn's Diner’s 1/2 pound butter tart, filled with finely chopped local bacon. Another great stop is The Boar’s Head Pub where you’ll salivate over caramelized red onion bacon marmalade layered over jalapeno poppers and served with a half pint of Creemore Springs Beer.

Don’t forget to check out the talented local craft brewers and distillery during your Stratford fall getaway. Head to Black Swan Brewery for a tour of their microbrewery and sampling in their taproom. If dinner and drinks is what you’re looking for then Jobsite Brewing Co. is the perfect place to savour local craft brews with a wood fired pizza. If you’re looking to learn more about what happens behind the scenes of your favourite distillery, visit Junction 56. You can take part in one of their distillery tours or a guided sampling. And if you’re a fan of Rhéo Thompson Candies, who isn’t, then you must try their mint smoothie liqueur inspired by the Stratford chocolate staple.

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Before you leave to head home, be sure to stop in at one of Stratford’s farmers markets to stock up on delicious local farm fresh vegetables, meats, baked goods and even handmade gifts from local artisans. The Stratford Farmers Market can be found at the Stratford Agriplex, where you’ll also find the Fall Fair. Right in the heart of downtown, in Market Square, you’ll discover Stratford’s Slow Food Market. It opens at 10am on Sundays through the middle of October, but get there early for the best local produce, freshest baked breads and best donuts in Ontario from revel.

Things to do for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Avon Trail through Stratford

Stratford is located in Perth County which is home to unbelievably beautiful trails and parks; great fun to be had for outdoor enthusiasts. Be sure to pack your hiking boots, water bottle and sense of adventure when you visit Stratford this fall.

For the foodie and nature lover you’ll love an excursion with Puck’s Plenty. They offer foraging tours where you’ll not only get outdoors but learn about the wild things to eat that can be found in your own backyard like plants and mushrooms. Puck’s Plenty also hosts special events where you can enjoy a wonderful two and a half hour hike through nearby forests and afterward return to Stratford for a scrumptious feast of in season wild edibles.

Lace up your boots and get out on the Avon Trail during your stay in Stratford this fall. Stretching 110 kilometres from St. Marys to Conestogo, the Avon Trail takes you past rivers, over charming country roads, and there’s even a side trail that runs straight though Stratford. The Stratford Side Trail is roughly 13 kilometres and will take you along the idyllic Avon River, cross bridges, and through the T.J. Dolan Natural Area. It’s a great way to spend a crisp fall morning in Stratford.

If you’re feeling adventurous and looking to burn off some steam, consider renting a bike from Avon Boat Rentals or Totally Spoke’d and set off to bike a portion of the G2G Trail. While the Guelph to Goderich Trail (G2G), that runs along the old CPR line, spans 127 kilometres you can easily bike a portion of it that lies just north of Stratford. Along the way you’ll see the leaves start to transform, remarkable farmlands that surround Stratford and experience how it’s Ontario’s richest agricultural region.

Things to do for Art Lovers

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If there is one place in Ontario that knows how to celebrate art, it’s Stratford. Art comes in all sorts of forms: theatre, music, literature and visual. When it comes to art, Stratford has a stacked deck for things to do. Beyond the theatre you’ll find tons of art galleries, street art and even a literary festival!

As Canada’s premier arts town, a great way to spend a gorgeous fall day is wandering through all of the art galleries throughout Stratford. There are around a half a dozen galleries in Stratford, most of which are located right downtown. This fall you’ll find a few new ones like Mountain Galleries East that promotes Canadian Artists. But don’t forget to also visit Agora Gallery, An Artist’s Cottage, Koolen Fine Arts, and Meet Your Maker. Located on Wellington Street, Meet Your Maker is a gem of a shop selling unique artisan goods, from jewelry to Shakespeare inspired merchandise with a twist. Be sure to wander into the back to discover Canada’s smallest movie theatre.

Every October, Stratford welcomes authors, songwriters, readers, and more for the Stratford Writers Festival. Across Stratford you’ll find a diverse array of events, from workshops, readings, performances from Canada’s best songwriters, and writer’s retreats. Whether you love reading, especially Canadian writing, or have been known to type away at the keys yourself, you’ll be inspired by this festival.

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Fall in Stratford isn’t complete, especially if you’re obsessed with Halloween, without a Ghosts of Stratford tour. Put on by the Playmakers Theatre School, the Ghosts of Stratford ghost walks run through the fall with special Halloween tours. When night descends, meet your gaunt and spirited guides for a candlelit walking tour of Stratford where you’ll learn of its ghastly past and maybe even meet a ghost or two.

10 Day Trips from Stratford

Early morning fog, fields littered with straw bales, and the shades of autumn making their appearance all scream Ontario fall road trips. And if you’re keen on adding some iconic day trips during your stay in Stratford then we’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up ten amazing day trips from Stratford that will put your fall escape in the record books. Take your pick from one or a handful of these awesome day trips that are all within a sixty minute drive from Stratford.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare antiques

Want to be transported a half a world away to a little village in England? You’ll save on air fare and jetlag as the hamlet of Shakespeare is only a five minute drive east of Stratford. Shakespeare may be a small hamlet but it makes up for it with a generous amount of things to keep you busy for the afternoon.

Shakespeare has been dubbed the Antiques Capital of Ontario, with treasures ranging from statement furniture pieces with a story to tell to industrial antiques in the scattering of shops. Be sure to pop into The British Touch to browse their assortment of tasty and wacky treats, along with British merchandise like Dr. Who memorabilia and of course boat loads of English teas.

After a little shopping you’ll need to whet your whistle and Shakespeare has you covered. If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy spot, pop into Harry Ten Shilling Tearoom. Enjoy a spot of tea and a tower of irresistible desserts. Perhaps it’s a pint you’re after. Shakespeare Brewing Company will fill you up and entertain you with their Shakespeare inspired beers, like The Grumpy Goat and The Heavy Horse. Even their industrial space exudes a Shakespearean man cave feel, with quirky antiques and plush red wingback chairs.Shakespeare antique shops

Before you head back to Stratford for the night, stop at Shakespeare Conservation Area. Take a wander along its trails and soak in the shades of autumn as the large pond mirrors the fall foliage. You’ll swoon over this off-the-radar gem of a park.

St. Marys

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Nicknamed the Stone Town, for its incredible limestone buildings, St. Marys is great for the day tripper who loves history and picture-perfect small towns. Only a 20 minute drive from Stratford, St. Marys is home to museums, like the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, fun shops like Village Craft and Candle Inc., and Little Falls Crafters Markets, and even a few hiking trails serving up impressive views.

The Riverview Walkway trail runs through town and along the Thames River, making for a peaceful stroll. Another great trail is the Grand Trunk Trail which follows the old Grand Trunk Railway line. This trail has some cool features, like limestone cliffs and panoramic views over town.

Between hikes and museum visits pop into one of the many fun and eclectic coffee shops, a couple of favourites include Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters and Stonetown Coffee Co. For lunch head to the new Harris Electric Eatery, blending casual dining with international inspired dishes from a proud local chef.

Mitchell

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Along with scenic drives, fall isn’t complete without attending a few fall fairs and the one in Mitchell is tagged the “Biggest Little Fair in Ontario”. Full of fun to be had with a midway, demolition derby, live music and more, the Mitchell Fall Fair is a great way to get in the fall spirit.

Take a stroll and grab a bite to eat at Hicks Café, a cozy spot full of character and run by a pair that are committed to good food and helping those in need. It’s located in what was once the Hick’s House, an inn built over 150 years ago. Afterward, head on down to the Thames River for a walk along the river and over the dam.

If you’re looking to spend more time outdoors, there’s a gem of a park just south of town. The West Perth Wetlands are home to ten kilometres of hiking trails, both rugged and groomed, three large ponds, and in the fall you can find some of the over 200 rare species of birds that live and migrate through the wetlands every year.

Millbank

Fresh pies at Anna Maes

It’s all about the food in Millbank! Known for its authentic Mennonite cooking, Anna Mae’s Bakery & Restaurant has people coming back again and again for her homemade pies and broasted chicken. You won’t leave without a clean plate and full belly. Another staple is the Millbank Cheese Factory serving up artisan cheeses for over 100 years. Don’t forget to bring a cooler with you so you can stock up at the Zehr’s Country Market. This family run business has been feeding locals and visitors alike for over 30 years. You’ll want to grab some of their Farmer’s Pork Sausage, smoked pork chops, and in season farm fresh produce from local farmers.

Millbank is also the end of the Kissing Bridge Trailway, a rural trail linking a handful of small towns in the area. The highlight of the trail is the West Montrose Covered Bridge, painted red and stretching over a river filled with waterfowl, it’s one of the oldest wooden covered bridges in Canada. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can hike the trail to the bridge from Millbank in six hours, or two hours by bike.

Castle Killbride

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Castle Killbride is one of the area’s most unique attractions. Located in the small town of Baden, a half hour east of Stratford, this grand estate is dripping with Victorian charm, stunning art, and interesting artifacts from the family’s daily lives and travels.

One of the most mesmerising features of Castle Killbride is the Trompe l’oeil wall and ceiling murals. French for ‘deceive the eye’, theses 3D- like murals have hidden images within and is part of the reason Castle Killbride was named a National Historic Site. Test your skills and look deep into the flower bouquet in the grand hallway. Can you spot the serpent or the face leering back?

If its charm, history, and art doesn’t entice you then how about a good old fashioned ghost tour? New this fall, experience the eerie side of Castle Killbride, learn about the resident spirit that lurks the hallways, wonder over haunted antiques, and dare to enter the Widow’s Walk.

Blyth

Blyth

It doesn’t get more proudly Canadian than the small village of Blyth. Home to the Blyth Festival, where plays focus on themes of rural Ontario and are not only full of wit and heart but also written by Canadians. With a season spanning from May through to the end of September, if you’re fall visit to Stratford is early you could still catch a show.

The main street of Blyth is lined with fun shops, like Maple and Moose that sells strictly Canadian goods and Wonky Frog showcasing unique gift ideas from local artisans. You’ll have your pick of places to eat, like the Queens Bakery offering light fare, great coffee and delicious desserts in a cozy atmosphere and Cowbell Brewing Company. This brewery is an experience in itself. You can take a tour of their state-of-the-art facility that focuses on great beer and a green process.

Running right through town is the Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail. If you’ve rented bikes to tackle part of the G2G Trail then Blyth is a great place to stop along the trail for a bite to eat or to browse the shops.

Bayfield

Bayfield - Huron County Ontario

Just under an hour from Stratford is Bayfield, the prettiest little village in Ontario. Set on the shores of the mighty Lake Huron, Pioneer Park is the one of the best spots to catch the sunset in Ontario. In late fall you’ll be able to soak in that breathtaking sunset and still make it back to Stratford in time for an eight o’clock show.

Bayfield even has a Heritage Trail. This self-guided walking trail takes you around the village and by eight historical storyboards that share each location’s significance, including old photos and paintings. It’s only a two kilometre walk and is the perfect way to get to know this little gem on a warm fall day.

The main street is lined with colourful shops, many of which are rich in history, and lining the shelves you find books, clothing and fun gift ideas. Enjoy a late lunch while stepping back in time at The Little Inn of Bayfield, an 1830’s inn that offers fine-dining. Need a sweet treat? Stop into The Pink Flamingo Bakery and be sure to grab one of their signature flavoured Pink Lemonade cupcakes.

Dark Horse Estate Winery

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Looking for a relaxing day trip from Stratford that pairs fine wine, brilliant views, and all on a magnificent estate? Then a visit to Dark Horse Estate Winery is in line. This 85 acre winery and vineyard in Grand Bend, a stone’s throw from Lake Huron, is the first of its kind in the area.

In the striking countryside of Huron County you’ll revel in a guided tour of their sweeping vineyards and get a behind the scenes look at the winemaking process. Afterward, relax and unwind with a wine tasting, how else are you going to choose which bottle to take home. While you’re indulging in wine order the charcuterie board or one of their incredible wood fired pizzas, and soak in the views from the patio overlooking the vineyard.

Wildwood Conservation Area

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Between Stratford and St. Marys is a sprawling park that will keep you busy all day. Wildwood Conservation Area covers over 3000 acres and is home to 30 kilometres of trails, you can rent canoes and kayaks to cruise along the Wildwood Reservoir, or try your hand at geocaching, with GPS units available for free at the gatehouse.

If you’re visiting Stratford at the end of September head over to Wildwood Conservation Area for their Autumn Open House. You can enjoy free admission to the park and take part in all the fun fall activities: cider, wagon rides, campfires, and of course fabulous fall hiking.

St. Jacobs

St. Jacobs

If shopping with a side of adventure is what you’re seeking, St. Jacobs is where you should head on a day trip. Less than an hour outside Stratford is the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market, Canada’s largest year-round farmers market. Home to over 300 local vendors, you’ll find everything you could possibly want and need at the market. Along with the fresh local produce there’s meats, cheeses, local crafters, and even antiques. Browsing the food stands you’ll work up quite the appetite so head on over to the food court to refuel. If you leave with only one thing make sure it’s the famous apple fritters.

A trip to St. Jacobs isn’t complete without a scenic train ride aboard the Waterloo Central Railway. The historic train, one of the last stream trains in Canada, travels from Waterloo, with stops in St. Jacobs and Elmira. You can even hop off and on depending on where you’d like to explore. During fall, join one of their themed train rides, like the picture-perfect Fall Colours Train where you’ll be glued to the window with your cell phone capturing the brilliant fall colours racing by. Or if you dare, throw on a stellar costume and board the Halloween Train.

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Pack your sweaters, order your Stratford Festival tickets, book your extended stay and get planning your fall adventure in Stratford today. Make sure you set aside time to not only explore Stratford, but also to jump in the car and hit up one or all of the epic road trips to be had in the region. And don’t forget, whether you’re traveling solo or would love to meet others, Stratford Road Trips has you covered. Grab a seat in their twelve seat Safari van and let them take you on an adventure. Let Stratford show you: it’s the place to be this fall.

 

 

Note: this article was originally published at https://blog.visitstratford.ca/why-visit-stratford-in-the-fall, and republished with permission. Pinnable word photo copyright Wandering Educators.

 

 

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