You may go there for the plays, but it’s the little extras that can make your visit to Stratford one to remember. Actor Roberta Maxwell and a few of her local theatre friends shared their tips on the best places to eat, stay and play. Maxwell started her career in Stratford in 1956. While she says a lot has changed since that first play, one thing has remained the same: families may be drawn to Stratford for the theatre, but the town itself makes it a trip everyone will remember. Here’s their suggestions on creating lasting family memories on your next visit.
The Three Houses is a bed-and-breakfast that’s been welcoming guests since 1980. The 1870’s Italianate house, two Edwardian townhouses, and a carriage Garden House are ideally situated in the centre of town, a stone’s throw away from theatres and restaurants — you’ll never have to drive unless you want to, plus it wins points for ambiance and host David James Lester. For a more traditional stay, try the Stratford Hotel for an excellent location with old world charm. If you like a more modern room, Edison’s Inn updates the B&B theme with great success. No two rooms are the same so you get a ton of personality. The Parlour Inn is another idyllic vintage location (and as a bonus has a fabulous brunch).
Revival House, formerly known as The Church, it is aptly housed in an old church, with new chef Loreena Miller focusing on innovative local and seasonal fare. Sunday brunch is a winner for families, with chef’s special french toast creations, eggs Benedict with local peameal bacon and a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich with house ketchup that’s popular with the locals.
Monforte Dairy on Wellington
For warm days, you can’t beat the patio at Monforte on Wellington, also known as Osteria. This premiere artisanal cheese company uses only seasonal milk from sustainable farms. Stay for a meal or buy some cheese and accompaniments for an impromptu family picnic.
While their butter tarts are a bit of a Stratford legend, Madelyn’s is a great place for casual family meal. Kid-friendly, the diner made Stratford native Justin Bieber’s list of favourite places due to the many times he and his mother dined here. On weekends Madelyn’s serves breakfast and fish and chips only.
Actor Seana McKenna, who stars in “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” loves to grab a slice at Pizza Bistro. Popular pizzas include: “The Smoking Pit,” with mesquite barbecue sauce, pulled pork and chorizo and the “Quatro Fromage” with feta, parmesan, provolone and mozzarella. And it’s just steps to the Avon Theatre.
When it’s time for coffee, try local favorites Balzac’s (this is the original), Edison’s and Revel Caffe. With a bohemian, family-friendly atmosphere, Revel is beloved for their pastries and savouries. “Wonderful local baking – great for Saturday morning donuts which come in around 9:30a.m.” says McKenna.
You can’t go to Stratford without taking in at least one play at the Festival. “Treasure Island,” is a great family option for younger patrons, while, “Romeo and Juliet,” can be a great way to introduce teens and tweens to Shakespeare. Also, if you’re looking for a laugh be sure to check out Guys and Dolls, considered by critics to be the perfect musical comedy, this classic show sings and dances from Time Square to Havana, Cuba. To make the theatre more affordable for families, there are reduced price tickets for kids 18 and under.
Relax on the River
“A river cruise on the S.S. Juliet III is a delight,” says David Lester. “People don’t think to do it.” A peaceful cruise down the Avon River can be a great way to spend the day, or your crew can rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboat.
Visit the Galleries
“Gallery Stratford is a must,” says Lester. “The location is idyllic.” Check the website for Family Art Sundays, a popular program where parents and their children are led through different art activities by a gallery educator. Also worth checking out are Village Studios, to see local artists, and Indigena for Inuit and First Nations art.
Enjoy a Family Walk
Stratford is full of wonderful walks, not just through town and along the river, but all along the T.J. Dolan trail – a 4.4-kilometer loop that surrounds the Festival Theatre and the Avon River. Or try the Stratford Farmer’s Market, one of the oldest farmers markets in Ontario. Dating back to 1855, the market is open every Saturday from seven until noon, and features local farms, bakeries and artists.
Take in Summer Music
Musicians from all over the world unite at the Stratford Music Festival from July 17 to August 27. With 100 events and concerts, the festival includes more than 350 artists at both indoor and outdoor venues, with music to suit the tastes of every family member.
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