Welcoming Winter in Stratford, Ontario
Best known for its annual summer festivities, Stratford is also a joy to behold in winter.
Stratford in Winter: A City With Small-Town Charm
After growing up in and then living in Toronto for many years, my wife Audrey and I moved to Stratford, Ontario. Both cities are great but Stratford in winter has a completely different look and feel than a big city like Toronto. You will find a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere here. There are many older heritage homes and buildings that were constructed in a variety of architectural styles, and when they are covered in snow during winter, it makes the city look less modern, almost as if a small town has blended together with a big city.
The Perth County Courthouse (above) was opened in 1887 on the site of the first permanent home built in Stratford, and offers a unique winter scene when viewed in the early morning after a fresh snowfall.
The architecture of Stratford, Ontario
Stratford’s downtown city hall was built in 1899 in a Queen Anne architectural style. At Christmastime, the building is beautifully decorated, and with its large festive tree out front, it almost looks like something from an older Hollywood movie set. The Stratford train station (above), built in 1913, likewise has an old-time appearance in winter. Regular VIA Rail service makes it an effortless day trip from Toronto.
Downtown shopping in Stratford
The river park near Stratford’s downtown is adorned with Victorian-style lamp posts. When walking or driving through this park, especially in the early morning or evening when the lamps are lit, the inherent feeling of winter or Christmases past, is hard to miss. When shopping downtown (above), there are many small stores and unique boutiques that are tucked inside these old Victorian buildings, which is a welcome change from city shopping malls and “big box” stores.
Find out more of the best places to spend Christmas in Canada.
Embracing the great outdoors
As well as the buildings, Stratford has many great nature areas to enjoy during winter. The T.J. Dolan Trail is a very popular area for dog walking and some people cross-country ski here. The variety of trees and branches in the forest creates a myriad of patterns after a snowfall. A short distance from downtown, you’ll find a walker’s paradise known locally as the Avon River Trail. Set amid scenic woods and offering conveniently placed memorial benches, the trail winds around Lake Victoria and passes by the Festival Theatre. It also features a walking bridge to Tom Patterson Island, where you can view Canada geese and mallards, and if the sky is right, you can take in a colourful sunset over the west side of the city. When Lake Victoria freezes over, many games of pick-up hockey can be seen throughout the winter, a wonderful reminder of my youth!
Stratford in winter also means Winterfest. Hosted one weekend each year, it’s a family-friendly festival with plenty of free outdoor activities for young children. It’s enjoyable for older folk to watch kids having outdoor fun.
If you enjoyed this tour of Stratford in winter, be sure to check out this stunning gallery of the best Canadian winter photography.