Here’s a sweet experience you can enjoy all year long: check out the Stratford Chocolate Trail! This program is a fun hands-on way to explore this unique city, whether or not you’re a certified chocoholic. Bring your best walking shoes and get ready to find out just how much chocolate (and more!) Stratford has to offer.

What is the Stratford Chocolate Trail?

For $39.55 tax in, you’ll receive six vouchers redeemable for chocolatey goodness in Stratford and beyond. My partner and I visited together and had six vouchers each. This is a fantastic approach since together you can explore more of the 25 participating businesses. Each person can use one voucher per stop. How you tailor the program to your own interests is entirely up to you!

Our favourite stops on the Stratford Chocolate Trail

Stratford is a very walkable city! If you’re taking part in any of the tourist trails, it makes sense to plan at least part of your visit around staying downtown. Most of the retailers there are within easy strolling distance of one other.

We chose to stay entirely downtown during our visit. Check out the highlights from the locations we visited.

Rheo Thompson Candies

If there’s one stop on the Stratford Chocolate Trail you absolutely cannot miss, it’s Rheo Thompson Candies. Generations of Stratford visitors and locals alike have been making this popular chocolate shop a tradition since 1969. One Stratford Chocolate Trail voucher is good for four handmade pieces of chocolate from their enormous a la carte display case, from creams and caramels to barks or specialty chocolates. Opt for their famous Mint Smoothie, or pick your favourites from the dozens of other selections!

Poppin Kettle Corn

We first encountered Poppin Kettle Corn during our summer visit to Stratford for the seasonal Savour and Sip Trail. Their hand-popped kettle corn is so good we couldn’t help but come back for seconds! We each picked up a bag of their Stratford Chocolate Trail offerings, Decadent Chocolate Cherry and Chocolate Banana. (But if there’s another flavour in the same size that appeals to you, it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can make a switch!)

Blowes Cards and Gifts

Picture the most traditional small-town Ontario gift shop you can think of, and you’ll have an image of Blowes Cards and Gifts. This family-owned store has been operating in downtown Stratford since 1949 and offers a variety of giftable items, along with cards and wrapping paper to complete the package. With our Stratford Chocolate Trail voucher, we picked up four packages of Gourmet Village hot chocolate to take home.

Distinctly Tea

Distinctly Tea claims to have the freshest and most extensive collection of teas in all of North America. Having visited ourselves, we believe it! There are shelves upon shelves of premium teas in all sorts of flavours and varieties. For the Stratford Chocolate Trail, there are three different chocolate teas available: black, rooibos (caffeine-free, from the leaves of a South African shrub), or yerba maté (a caffeinated tea made from a plant native to South America). We found a small bag of black tea and took it to the counter with our voucher, only to find to our surprise the product we’d chosen was too small! Instead, you’ll receive a full 50-gram bag of looseleaf tea when you visit.

Olive Your Favourites

When you first walk into this unique shop, you’ll be surrounded by carafes full of exotic olive oils and vinegars from around the world. The friendly staff will be more than happy to guide you through some samples and help you find your ideal products. Located on picturesque York Street next to the Avon River, Olive Your Favourites is in the process of being transferred to a second generation of family ownership. Stop in with a Stratford Chocolate Trail voucher and you’ll receive a bottle of chocolate balsamic vinegar. We can’t wait to follow their advice and try it drizzled over ice cream!

Kandy Cakes

This fun bakery recently moved a few doors down from its former digs on York Street. We love Kandy Cakes for its colourful and delicious variety of meringues. For the Stratford Chocolate Trail, though, you’ll be invited to select a cookie from one of their pedestal displays. My partner went for this one and devoured his cookie before we even had a chance to take a photo!

neōb lavender

The alluring aroma of neōb lavender will lure you in off the street even if you’re not in search of chocolate. As a satellite location of the Niagara-on-the-Lake based producer of essential oils and personal care products, there’s plenty of beautiful and fragrant products to explore. If it’s chocolate you’re searching for, this one’s for the white chocolate lovers. Present your Stratford Chocolate Trail voucher and you’ll receive a bar of premium white chocolate infused with lavender and lemon.

Small-Mart

If you’re into all things retro, kitsch, and novelty, you need to visit Small-Mart General Mercantile. Created by the people behind Bradshaws—which itself is a Stratford institution—a browse through this shop may tickle a memory of walking through a store that was considered “it” during the 1990s. This is one of those places to start your gift buying search for the person who has everything. If you visit with a Stratford Chocolate Trail voucher, you’ll get to select two retro chocolate bars from the special stash they keep behind the cash register.

Boar’s Head Pub

You’ve spent an afternoon strolling through downtown and your bags are packed with goodies. Don’t forget to save one more Stratford Chocolate Trail voucher and stop in at the Boar’s Head Pub for a special treat! Here, your voucher is good for a very generous serving of gluten-free brownie served with fudge sauce, berries, and vanilla ice cream. If you’ve got the time, enjoy it with a freshly poured pint or other adult beverage. Or you can do what we did and take it to go. On a beautiful day, this would be perfect to enjoy at a picnic table overlooking the river!

You’ll see Christmas decorations in some of the pictures above. Our visit happened to take place in December, but this trail and its counterpart, the Bacon and Ale Trail, both operate year-round. Some people choose to buy one of each trail so there’s even more to sample!

It’s also not necessary to stay in Stratford. If you’d like to hop in the car and explore the surrounding region, there are retailers in St. Mary’s and the town of Shakespeare that participate as well. The vouchers can be used on different days and don’t expire, so you can save some to use on your way home. (And if you forget, no worries—keep it for your next visit!)

The Stratford tourist trails such as the Chocolate Trail and Bacon and Ale Trail are definitely worth exploring and provide outstanding value for money.

Make a weekend of your visit to the Stratford Chocolate Trail

While you’re stuffing your face with chocolate, there’s plenty more to check out in Stratford! Here are some great reasons to extend your stay into a weekend visit.

Catch a flick at the Little Prince Micro-cinema

The Little Prince Micro-cinema is a 12-seat theatre that holds the Guiness world record for being the smallest operating movie theatre on the planet! You can book a private showing for your family or group, or plan a romantic movie night for two. If booking in advance isn’t your thing, the theatre sometimes hosts public showings in between its private events. You can find out what’s on during your visit at their website. Leave room for the fresh movie theatre popcorn, multiple flavours of cotton candy, and retro snacks and treats!

Explore the bar and restaurant scene

Stratford is packed with great places to enjoy a delicious meal, a microbrew, or a cocktail. Whether you need to eat gluten-free or not, our guide to eating gluten-free in Stratford can provide some inspiration!

Check out Lights On Stratford

If you’re reading this on or before January 13, 2024, you still have time to take in Lights On Stratford, the city’s winter festival of lights. Read more about the 2023-2024 edition of Lights On Stratford here.

Try your luck at finding Stratford’s speakeasy

Full disclosure: we haven’t yet done this successfully. We’ve only heard a rumour that if you’re in downtown Stratford and spot an unassuming-looking door with an orange light on next to it, you should knock and see what happens. Apparently, they’re slinging some fantastic cocktails in there. If we ever solve this mystery, we’ll report back here!

Make your visit special with a stay at the Parlour Inn

A stay at the Parlour Inn will transport you back in time: it’s been a mainstay of downtown Stratford since 1871. Its central location is reason enough to choose it, but the boutique atmosphere, warm and cozy guest rooms, and premium-level amenities will keep you coming back. And you might be pleasantly surprised, as we were, to find very reasonable rates during the off-season.

2024 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

For this Ontario weekend getaway, our vehicle of choice was the 2024 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, seen here in its new blackout-look Noir trim.

There are plenty of drivers out there who care a lot more about how well a car performs and how simple it is to operate than they do about the latest flashy technology. If that sounds like you, you may appreciate details like Mitsubishi’s excellent Super All-wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system and 10-year powertrain warranty, the longest offered by any manufacturer in Canada. In exchange, you’ll need to overlook factors like the dated interior design and infotainment system. For a conservative driver who keeps vehicles for a long time, this could definitely be a fair trade.

Watch the full review from Modern Motoring >

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