Side Trips from Toronto – Stratford, Ontario

Stratford Festival stageStratford, Ontario, is a Victorian town full of history: it started out as a railway junction, became an important centre for furniture manufacturing, then started declining following the demise of these two industries.  Thanks to Tom Patterson, a journalist with a grand vision, in the early 50’s Stratford became home to the Stratford Festival, the largest classical repertory theatre in North America. Celebrities such as Alec Guinness, Christopher Plummer, William Hutt, Dame Maggie Smith, Paul Gross and William Shatner have graced the Festival stage. The world-renowned festival takes place during the summer in four theatres throughout the city: the Festival Theatre, the Avon Theatre, Tom Patterson Theatre and the Studio Theatre.  During the Festival season, Stratford welcomes upwards of half a million visitors.

Stratford is an ideal setting for a get-away: it is a lively city to visit, full of attractions year round.  Strolling around town you will see some of the finest 19th century homes, churches, commercial and civic buildings in Canada.  Shopping is an adventure too: there are many shops offering an incredible array of goods. There is an elaborate parks system: part of it meanders the path of the Avon River, offering romantic spots and picnic opportunities.  Many ‘out-of-towners’ tie the knot at the picturesque Tom Patterson Island. Swans, which are the symbol of Stratford, can be seen and fed, both from the banks of the river or from a paddle boat you can rent at Avon Boat Rental.  Throughout the summer, guided bike tours are offered as well as free carriage rides.

The Stratford Summer Music Festival, mid-July to late August, brings incredible music acts to town.  The Savour Stratford Culinary Festival, happening July 19 and 20, 2014, attracts famous chefs and about 30,000 foodies from all over.

The restaurant scene is exciting as well.  There is quite a variety of restaurants catering to our visitors.  Many of the chefs are graduates of the Stratford Chef School and, making a choice on where to eat at times is daunting, but exciting!

Stratford is also home to Canadian Celtic musician, composer, harpist, accordionist and pianist Loreena McKennitt, who will be visiting in January 2015, at the local Knox Church. Winter time is also a great time to come to Stratford. It is a Victorian town which loves tinsel and lights and offers great concerts, Christmas tours and independent theatre. The Chocolate, Bacon and Ale, and Maple Trails are available year round.  These “trails” are a fun way to discover shops in town and sample products.

Stratford Bed and BreakfastWhile you are in Stratford we recommend you stay at the award-winning Birmingham Manor which was built in 1904 by J. L. Youngs, the Mayor of Stratford in 1919.  The original wood work is intact and enhances the warm character of this lovely home.  The rooms are spacious and well appointed; the bathrooms have recently been renovated and modernized.  The home is surrounded by inviting gardens, and a wrap-around verandah which is the favorite spot for guests to enjoy coffee or a glass of wine with the owners Elena and Dom and other guests.

Breakfast is an important part of the service provided at the Manor this is where Bed and Breakfast owners Elena and Dom’s passion shines through. They prepare a gourmet, three course breakfast made from fresh local and homemade foods every morning.  The Birmingham Manor has been rated number 1 out of 88 Bed and Breakfast in Stratford, Ontario on TripAdvisor for the last three years and also received the distinguished 2014 Traveler’s Choice Award as one of the 12 best places to stay in Canada.

Traveller Tip: Stratford is 146 km or 90 miles from the Boatel, North West of Toronto which will take about 1 hour 45 minutes along the Highway 401. The summertime is a popular time for the Stratford Festival to be sure to book your B & B reservations early.

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About Diane Greene

Diane Greene stepped off the corporate treadmill in 2004 for pursue a life of traveling and adventure. 10 years later she is still operating Toronto's only Boat Bed and Breakfast and travelling with her husband on Boatel, their 65 foot trawler in the US and Bahamas during the winter. Diane has three wonderful children and 3 grandbabies. Diane loves photography, travel and scuba diving.

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