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The Perfect Stratford Shakespeare Festival Itinerary

A perfect four-day weekend in Stratford, Ontario.


the festival theater at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Stratford is home to one of the most amazing theatre festivals in North America. Located in southern Ontario west of Toronto, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is home to amazing theatre, excellent food, and a truly charming atmosphere. I keep returning to this beautiful place year after year.


Not sure if you’d like a theatre festival vacation? Start here to find all the reasons why you should check it out.


You in? Great! Here’s a perfect itinerary for an amazing four days in Stratford.



Friday


Arrive at Stratford and Check In

However you decide to travel to Stratford, you’ll probably spend a decent piece of Friday on the road. Whether you drove the whole way, or if you flew into Toronto, you’ll have to take a car into Stratford itself. (Or if you flew into Toronto, check out the Stratford direct bus!)


Regardless, you should aim to arrive in Stratford in late afternoon. Check into your hotel, and take a moment to freshen up for your first night on the town. Take your show tickets with you when you leave!


a plate of pasta and a glass of wine at Fellinis in Stratford Ontario

Dinner at Fellini’s

For your first meal in Stratford, look no further than Fellini’s Italian Restaurant. 


Fellini’s is right on Stratford’s main street, so if you drove in, I recommend walking. Stratford is incredibly walkable and parking in town can be a challenging and/or expensive. Leaving your car at your hotel is the best way to go.


If the weather is on your side, opt for patio seating at Fellini’s. They’ll bring you a beautiful basket of bread with oil and vinegar to dip them in while you peruse the menu. Fellini’s has a lot of options, but I recommend you go straight for the pastas. The combinations are beautifully crafted and delicious, and when paired with a glass of wine from their excellent but accessible wine list, you can’t go wrong! 


Friday Evening Show

After dinner, it’s time for your first show! All the restaurants are adept at getting their diners out in time to make their shows, so there’s no need to worry. Depending on what you’re seeing, there’s at least a 50% chance that you’ll be walking along the river to get to your theater, so try to leave a little time to savor the walk and take photos in the beautiful evening light.


Enjoy your first show to the fullest! Preorder a drink for intermission if that’s your jam! Soak up the magic of the Stratford Festival and know that this is only the beginning!



Check out Stratford’s upcoming season here. 



Saturday


Coffee at Balzacs

Time for breakfast! There are several beautiful coffee shops in Stratford, but the creme de la creme is Balzacs. This is the unofficial artists’ hangout of Stratford, so there’s a chance that the patrons at the table next to you are Festival artists! 


Balzacs has an extensive coffee menu and a truly massive selection of pastries and baked goods. It’s the perfect place to grab a drink and a bite before you explore the town.


a traveler in a fun hat in Stratford Ontario

Shopping on the High Street

Stratford’s main streets have a proper high street feel, lined with beautiful and unique shops. You’ll see artisan creations, charming home and clothing boutiques, cozy indie bookstores, specialty food shops, and so much more! Spend your morning ducking in and out of the shops looking for treasures.


Make sure you don’t miss these highlights:


Fanfare books: a charming independent bookstore

Gallery Indigena: a shop full of Native-made art and products

Olive Your Favorites: for artisan olive oils and vinegars


Lunch at Lovage

Lovage is a true gem of the Stratford culinary scene. This charming and cozy cafe has an amazing atmosphere and a menu that changes with the seasons. But regardless of the

mushroom french toast and a cocktail in Stratford Ontario

ingredients, the menu remains packed with creative dishes. They’re usually somewhat French inspired, and technically designed for sharing. But take my word for it: you can have an amazing solo meal here. Treat yourself to one of their stellar cocktails and order something rich and decadent. Top it all off with an espresso so the richness of your meal doesn’t make you fall asleep during your afternoon show!

  

Afternoon Show

Wander your way over to your next theater after lunch. There are four major sites for the Stratford performances, and a good Festival itinerary should take you to all of them! The Festival Theater is the flagship, and it’s modeled after the tent the festival originally performed in. The Avon Theater is a lovely classic old theater. In my opinion, the best seats here are in the balcony. The newly-renovated Tom Patterson theater is what theater-in-the-round dreams are made of. The Studio theater is home to the more avant-garde shows and productions that generally draw smaller crowds, but it’s still a lovely house!


All these are within walking distance of Lovage, so eat up and then run to catch the overture!


a cocktail at Bluebird in Stratford Ontario

Dinner at Bluebird

For dinner between productions, traipse your way over to Bluebird. This is another charming bistro-style space with elevated classics like artisan tacos and lamb chops with summer salads. It also boasts an amazing cocktail menu, so be sure to indulge. Word to the wise: this place gets crowded on theatre nights. Make a reservation, or you’ll end up sitting at the bar!


Given Bluebird’s location on the west side of town, if you have extra time before or after your meal, this is the perfect time to explore the Shakespearean gardens. This manicured space is filled with roses, gazebos, and statuary.


Evening Show

Then it’s back to the theaters for your evening show! Have you hit all three yet? Are you here for the Shakespeares (the Festival classics), or are you drawn to the modern musicals? 


Both? Both. Both is good.



Sunday


Coffee at Revel

Sunday morning! Let’s catch another classic Stratford coffee spot: Revel Coffeehouse. This place is a charming local gem with a diverse menu and a stuffed pastry case. I recommend asking the human behind the counter for recommendations on the pastries. You’ll have a hard time choosing on your own! I also favor the iced chai here. The ice cubes they use are made out of their chai concentrate, so as it melts, it doesn’t water down your drink! 


The atmosphere here is lovely, so feel free to sit and savor it.


Waterfront Adventures

After your caffeine and carb boost, it’s time to take a leisurely walk along Stratford’s waterfront. The river that cuts through town has gorgeous walking paths on both sides. Enjoy the beautiful shade trees and keep an eye out for Stratford’s famous swans.


Or if you’d prefer to experience the river from the water, you can stop in at the Boathouse. You can rent canoes or paddleboats, or buy a ticket for a pontoon boat cruise. All are lovely ways to see Stratford from a new perspective.


And if you happen to still be hungry, doing this whole waterfront routine with a Toasted Coconut Dipped Ice Cream from JENN and Larry's is the icing on the cake.



Brunch at Cafe Buffon

Now, since it’s Sunday, and since it’s your last full day in Stratford, it’s time for brunch! And the best brunch in town is -hands down- the Sunday Brunch at Cafe Bouffon. This French bistro has classic French breakfasts like omelets, crepes, and mimosas. The mimosas aren’t cheap but they will ruin you for mimosas anywhere else.


Your Final Show

Then it’s off to the theater one more time for what is -probably- your final show of the weekend. Soak in the theatre magic! Savor it so it lasts until next year!


gourmet fried chicken at Mercers in Stratford Ontario

Dinner at Mercer’s Beer Hall

After your Sunday matinee, the town will start to empty out. And if you’re in a hurry to return home, you can depart now too. But I find a lot of joy in slowing down at the end of my Stratford weekend, having a quiet dinner and saving my drive home for the following day.


And for that leisurely dinner, there’s no better place than Mercer's Beer Hall. They’ll be open all night, and they serve upscale pub classics with an Asian flair. Try their dumplings or rice bowls, or if you’re feeling more traditional, the fried chicken dinner is out of this world. For dessert, order the carrot cake. I’m real picky when it comes to carrot cake, and Mercers’ version is the bomb.


After dinner, treat yourself to a relaxing evening in your hotel. Or watch the sun go down over the river. Enjoy the pleasure of slowing down.


Monday


Coffee at Livery Yard

Time to check out! Pack up, load up your car, and turn in your hotel keys.


Stratford kind of grinds to a halt on Mondays. It’s the only day that the shows don’t run, so it serves as Stratford’s “weekend” for the folks that live and work there. But the top place that will be open is Livery Yard, the third and final coffee shop on your Stratford adventure. It’s the perfect place to grab a bite before you head home.


Take this Stratford Shakespeare Festival Itinerary and Make it Your Own


I hope you enjoyed your Stratford weekend! I return to this place year after year. The atmosphere and the art and the food fills me with such a feeling of luxury and an amazing sense of peace. Check this place out posthaste!


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Love and Shenanigans,


Andi


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