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Stratford’s garden of hope

Stratford―home to theatre and festivals, the Chocolate Trail, Justin Bieber’s childhood house, and a lot of hope. 

This city is on the Avon River within Perth County in southwestern Ontario. The swan has become a symbol of the city. Each year twenty-four white swans are released into the Avon River. And yes, we saw a pair of swans resting on the side of the road near the Avon River during our visit. The town is most recognized for the Stratford Festival, which performs Shakespearean plays and other genres from May to October. In 2003, the Stratford Festival of Canada celebrated its 50th season, welcoming 672,924 patrons to 18 plays (a record number of playgoers during the 50 seasons). 

Although we did not catch a play while in town, we did enjoy the beautiful scenery at Avon River and walked through Shakespeare Gardens. The flowers in the gardens were beautiful, though, the sprinkler was placed exactly at the entrance to the gardens, so we had a slight sprinkling to welcome us in. Sometimes I wonder why people put things where they do.

Before entering Shakespeare Gardens, we drove by Willow St. to check out Justin Bieber’s childhood home. Apparently, back in 2014, this home was put up on the market with the note that Justin’s Toronto Maple Leafs-themed bedroom was still intact this three-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalow. Shh, Justin Bieber fanatics, visit 288 Willow St. in Stratford to see the neighbourhood Justin grew up in if you ever get a chance. 

Stratford is also known for their Chocolate Trail and we had a chance to explore the town while indulging in some delectable sweets. I love their slogan on Stratford’s website for the event: ‘The Chocolate Trail. It burns calories. Good thing.’

For all chocolate lovers, this is a great adventure waiting for you. This is a self-guided tour, introducing you to delicious chocolate-inspired treats while visiting a variety of unique stores in Stratford. There are 20 stops in total and you can choose from a map which six places you want to redeem your passes. 

Although the trail is available year-round, it’s a great in the warmer months or in fall. I would definitely suggest Stratford as a great place to visit with family and friends as a daytrip.

To purchase your Chocolate Trail Pass, visit the Stratford Tourism office, Bradshaws, MacLeods Scottish Shop, or even Small Mart on Sundays to purchase it for $30 CAD + HST. While engaging on this trail, it reminded me a bit of Halloween. It felt like I was trick-or-treating, but without a costume. 

The unique chocolate treats we discovered during this visit was the homemade chocolate-shaped masks (typical Stratford theatre-style) from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, chocolate shortbread from MacLeods Scottish Shop, and truffles from Rheo Thompson Candies. You can check out the full list here

While exploring the town and picking up chocolate treats, we discovered this amazing HOPE sign depicted above. Stratford also joined the ‘Hope is Growing‘ garden initiative across Canada where they plant seeds of hope (yellow flowers) to paint the nation with the international colour of hope. It was a nice surprise seeing this sign and garden as it serves as a friendly reminder that hope really is all around us.

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