The Stratford Festival has been providing great reasons to take an Ontario day trip for more than 70 years. This year’s show line-up has plenty of great options with something for everyone. It includes Shakespeare’s King Lear, the musical Rent, Monty Python’s Spamalot, and more. Based an easy 90-minute drive from the west end of Toronto, it’s the perfect distance for a day trip.

Once you have tickets to the show of your choice, you can plan how you’ll spend your day. On our recent visit, my daughter and I planned to see a matinee at the Avon Theatre in downtown Stratford. We decided to arrive early and enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the beautiful parks overlooking the Avon River. This was easy with Stratford’s new Savour and Sip Trail, a unique way to explore the city’s culinary offerings.

How does Stratford’s Savour and Sip Trail work?

Ontario day trip

You can purchase Savour and Sip Trail passes at Destination Stratford’s office at 47 Downie Street, or at Bradshaw’s at 129 Ontario St. For $39.55 (taxes included), you’ll receive six vouchers that are redeemable at 24 locations in and around Stratford. Each participating location has a different food or drink offering, and you can customize your picnic by selecting the ones that appeal most to you.

My daughter and I have celiac disease, so we know navigating programs like this with dietary restrictions can be challenging. Since we needed to call around to find out which locations would work for us, we’ve shared our findings here. These are the locations in Stratford’s Savour and Sip Trail that offer gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and nut-free options (O means some options apply for that category).

Stratford Savour and Sip Trail dietary restrictions

Angela’s Gelato (99 Downie St.)Large old-fashioned lemonadeYYYY
Bake My Day (107 Downie St.)Two tartsNNNN
Bradshaws (129 Ontario St.)250 mL hand-crafted preserveYYYY
The Butcher The Baker (26 Wellington St.)Mennonite summer sausageYYNY
El Cactus Taco Shop (2 Ontario St.)One botana (appetizer)YOYO
Fellini’s (107 Ontario St.)Warm olives and olive breadOOYY
Kandy Cakes (47 York St.)Two giant meringue cookiesYOYO
Little Prince Microcinema (62 Wellington St.)Cotton candyYYYY
The Livery Yard (104 Downie St.)Maple and cinnamon iced coffeeOYYY
Milky Whey Cheese (118 Ontario St.)125 mL Provisions preserveYYYY
neob Lavender (106 Ontario St.)Sweet popcornYNYY
Poppin Kettle Corn (164 Downie St.)Savoury popcornYYYY
Revel (37 Market Pl.)Two sconesNNYY
Treasures (151 Ontario St.)Wellesley apple butterYYYY
Black Angus Bakery (443 Erie St.)Two sausage rollsNNNY
Jobsite Brewing Co. (45 Cambria St.)Two cans of beerNYYY
Junction 56 Distillery (45 Cambria St.)50 mL gin and juiceYYYY
Stratford Country Club (53 Romeo St. N.)53 North house saladYOYY
Wild Hog Country Market (2785 Line 34)Deli sandwichNNNY
Stonetown Artisan Cheese (5081 Perth Line 8)Two cheesesYNYY
Troyer’s Spices (110 Queen St. E.)Dip mix duoYYYY
Best Little Pork Shoppe (2146 Line 34)Kampkreek Dairy PepperettesYYNY
Shakespeare Brewing (2178 Line 34)Two cans of beerNYYY
Shakespeare Pies (2264 Line 34)5-inch fruit pieY*NYY

Note we didn’t include vegan options since opinions on what makes a food vegan can vary. Also, most of the locations that offer nut-free options are not nut-free facilities, so please bear that in mind if you have a severe allergy. Not all locations are open seven days per week, so check your spots ahead of time to avoid disappointment. And Shakespeare Pies does offer a gluten-free option as part of the program, but you’ll receive the pie frozen. (The good news: it’s ready to take home!)

How to use Savour and Sip Trail vouchers

We had two passes, so that gave us 12 vouchers to play with. The program offers great flexibility, with locations both downtown and well outside the city to let you customize based on your plans and interests. Although you can only use one pass per person per location, you don’t need to use them all on the same day. This means you can save some to use on future visits until the program ends on October 31, 2023.

And here’s a fun detail for the beer-loving adults in the room. Stratford has a by-law that allows visitors to consume alcohol in public parks, provided it’s purchased from a participating local business. Jobsite Brewing is one of those, meaning you can exchange your voucher for two beers and enjoy them legally with your picnic lunch!

A popcorn-filled and pup-friendly Ontario day trip

Since we were seeing a matinee and parking can be tricky on weekends, we stayed close to downtown. For our first stop, we visited Poppin Kettle Corn and picked up an enormous bag of all-dressed popcorn. This is enough popcorn to be a meal all on its own!

This is where we first learned how pet-friendly Stratford is. Not only is there a beautiful cat café right downtown (Alley Cat Café, 1 Market Pl.), but the city has a new program for dog owners. Businesses displaying the sticker above on their front doors are dog-friendly, meaning well-behaved four-legged friends are welcome! Poppin Kettle Corn is one of them, and a friendly doggo was enjoying a drink of water on this hot afternoon when we arrived.

Where is the world’s smallest movie theatre?

The Little Prince Microcinema in Stratford, Ontario, holds the Guinness world record for being the smallest purpose-built cinema on the planet. This was the second stop on our Savour and Sip Trail. While we were drawn in by the promise of cotton candy, we didn’t realize we’d have a vast selection. Little Prince Microcinema offers 60 different flavours of cotton candy and changes its options all the time. We picked up some chocolate orange cotton candy and found this flavour to be so interesting and unique!

The cinema has thousands of movies to choose from. There’s seating for 12 inside and a table in the entryway for hosting catered dinners. These features make this a favourite spot for corporate events and birthday parties.

Summer sausage and savoury scents

Further up Wellington St., we made our third stop at The Butcher The Baker to pick up some locally produced Mennonite summer sausage. Because we need to eat gluten-free, we planned ahead and brought our own bread and mustard to make this into sandwiches. If you don’t have the same restrictions, you can select from the shop’s many provisions to build your own sandwich ingredients.

We then turned onto Ontario St. and headed toward neob Lavender. This is an outpost location of the Niagara-on-the-Lake based lavender farm. The shop offers a variety of scented products, from soaps to lotions and sprays and much more. Their Savour and Sip offering is a blueberry and lemongrass flavoured sweet popcorn.

Mexican and meringues in the park

We’re huge fans of authentic Mexican food, so including El Cactus Taco Shop on our list was a given. For the Savour and Sip trail, they’re offering a choice of any of their botanas (small snacks). We went with salsa and guacamole with chips, and we also bought a couple of their refreshing fruit-based agua frescas.

And we rounded out our lunch with a visit to Kandy Cakes, where a voucher is good for two meringue cookies. They offer a fantastic selection, from fruit-topped to cream-filled and more.

There are some beautiful shaded picnic tables right across the street from Kandy Cakes with a view overlooking the Avon River. They made a fantastic spot for our picnic!

Wrapping up an Ontario day trip in Stratford

For our matinee at the Avon Theatre, we saw Monty Python’s Spamalot. It’s a show that pushes far past the limits of political correctness and requests a particular sense of humour. But those who appreciate the Pythons will love it.

After the show, we walked across the street to Angela’s Gelato. Our final voucher went toward a fresh-squeezed old-fashioned lemonade, and then we also purchased some vegan gelato as a treat.

We took our time returning to our car before heading to Annie’s Seafood Restaurant for dinner. This spot is fantastic for anyone who enjoys a classic fish and chip dinner. It’s especially wonderful for those who need to eat gluten-free. Annie’s Seafood Restaurant is the region’s only certified gluten-free eatery and is fantastic at accommodating dietary restrictions, including celiac disease. The Seaside Sampler was a treat the likes of which I haven’t enjoyed in years. They even have mushy peas, a British fish-and-chips classic!

A tasty Ontario day trip

The best part about Stratford’s Savour and Sip Trail is that it encourages you to get out and explore. Because of this program, we enjoyed all sorts of treats we likely would never have sought out on our own. You can stay downtown as we did, or you can head further afield to St. Mary’s or Shakespeare. However you choose to enjoy it, the Savour and Sip Trail is sure to enhance your day trip to Stratford.

Find more Ontario day trips here >

2024 BMW 430i

For this day trip, we drove top-down in the 2024 BMW 430i Cabriolet. This convertible coupe can retract its roof in 20 seconds at speeds below 50 kilometres per hour, and at the push of a button with no clips to disconnect. Our day was occasionally threatened with rain, which proved how important this convenience is to enjoying a convertible. We actually used the roof because we didn’t have to worry about stopping or getting out to put it back in place.

The 430i is the entry-level 4 Series. Its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. New for 2023 is the combined digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen in a single curved housing, controllable by touch or with the iDrive controller. This system improves the car’s functionality considerably. But with the future of gas-only cars hanging in the balance, we’d spend the extra $13,000 and go for the M440i and its 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-6!

Watch the full review at Modern Motoring >

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