The Stratford, Ontario, Christmas Trail runs from early November until five days before Christmas. It is a fun opportunity to combine holiday shopping with the discovery of the uniqueness of Stratford’s merchants.
After picking up the brochure, map, and vouchers at Stratford Tourism Alliance, we immediately went for coffee to peruse the map and determine where to start. In addition to downtown Stratford, there are participating stores in the nearby towns of St. Marys and Shakespeare.
Christmas Trail retailers offer a holiday gift that reflects the character of their store. Even though we didn’t have sufficient vouchers to receive a gift at all 25 locations, the descriptions in the brochure completely hooked us and we decided to visit every stop. We covered the entire Christmas Trail over three days. By the time we ran out of vouchers, we had accumulated edibles, sippables, personal pampering products, holiday gifts, stocking stuffers, and colourful, scented ways to light up our lives.
This is our experience:
Edibles and Sippables
At Black Angus Bakery & Catering, busy bakers took the time to come to the front counter to say hello.
With holiday entertaining in mind, for the Christmas Trail Black Angus Bakery and Catering offers an assortment of mini shortbreads in festive packaging.
At Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, amid chocolate in every form imaginable, a voucher can be exchanged for a handmade milk chocolate Santa Claus.
The British Touch in Shakespeare specializes in British treats, groceries, and gifts, as well as items from Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
The British Touch trail offering is Scottish Highland Specialty Shortbread, the traditional, buttery, Christmas season cookie.
MacLeods, on Ontario Street in Stratford, similarly shares a shortbread from the Highlands of Scotland.
Surrounded by tams, scarves, kilts, and clan accessories, the shortbreads are MacLeods best sellers.
There are five different blends and roasts of whole bean coffee to choose from at Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters in St. Marys.
On a cool pre-Christmas day, the opportunity for liqueur shots in our coffee or a glass of local libation at Snapping Turtle Coffee Roasters was tempting but we still had other stops on our Christmas Trail schedule.
Appleflats, located next door to the Best Little Pork Shoppe in Shakespeare, is the only commercial crabapple-focused business in North America.
Surrounded by locally produced products, brothers Alex and Glen Smyth proudly share samples of their crabapple and spicy crabapple jellies and their two drink mixers, Sour Apple and Sweet Maple Crabapple. For a voucher at Appleflats we could choose the product we liked best.
A bonus at Appleflats was seeing replicas of Size Eight, an original installation by Ruth Abernethy. Ruth, Canada’s nationally and internationally renowned sculptor, is Alex and Glen’s mother.
Inside Appleflats, we thought of Johnny Appleseed when we saw Abernethy’s bronze bust of Charles Eaves, otherwise known as Dr. Apple.
Of the over 300 teas and herbs available at Distinctly Tea, the trail gift is a choice of a Christmas herbal blend or a Ceylon spicy black tea.
Among the many tea-related items at Distinctly Tea, teapots prove that it is tea time, anytime.
Olive Your Favourites is a true foodie stop. A selection of olive oils, extra virgin and flavoured, and balsamic vinegars lines the walls.
The stocking stuffer offering at Olive Your Favourites is two mini bottles in festive wrapping. Christmas Trail followers get to choose their flavours.
Junction 56 Distillery provides sample tastings of their Fireshine Cinnamon Moonshine and Mint Smoothie Vodka Liqueur. In addition to tastings, Christmas Trailers can take home a mini bottle of the liqueur they like most.
The multi-coloured, assorted scents of hand lotion at The Spa Near the Tracks are a great excuse to check out the esthetics, massage, and hair treatment facilities at this downtown Stratford spa.
At Got It Made, the cozy atmosphere displays every imaginable type of locally and almost locally handcrafted products from jewelry and skin care to fibre and glass art and home décor.
Dana at Got It Made demonstrated the take-away for us, a roller bottle of an allergy blend that naturally relieves allergy discomfort and provides respiratory support.
Treasures is the place for handmade quilts. The store also bursts at the seams with local, Canadian and fair-trade handmade merchandise.
The Christmas Trail voucher at Treasures trades for Kogi Naturals bath salts made with organic Ginger and Wintergreen.
Blowes Cards & Gifts is a staple stop in downtown Stratford for gifts, cards, and office supplies.
The Blowes Cards & Gifts offering is a choice of Canadian made bath bombs.
Hyggeligt Fabrics in St. Marys is a wool and thread emporium where rock star quilters and authors are brought in for demonstrations and classes. We were amazed at the colours of the materials.
The gift-sample bottle of Soak at Hyggeligt Fabrics, a product for modern laundry care, is so mild it can be used to wash the dog.
Knit Stitch in Market Square, Stratford, also offers a Soak product, a handmade luxury hand cream in flight friendly size.
Knit Stitch carries a combination of Canadian and every day quality yarns and craft supplies.
Holiday Gifts & Stocking Stuffers
At Agora Gallery, a contemporary gallery that promotes national and international artists, we said hello to Cindy Hubert.
Cindy presented one of the seasonal cards she is offering. The cards are designed by Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick.
The trail gift at Distill Gallery is a choice of a leather bookmark or a leather cell phone cord clip.
As the name suggests, Small-Mart General Mercantile is loaded with wide-ranging gift ideas.
Socks are really popular so that’s what trail travelers receive. Subsequently, there is a great selection of holiday themes to choose from.
At the Stratford Festival Shop, the thrill of live theatre lives on.
Glass ball tree ornaments at the Stratford Festival Shop are filled with costume remnants. We thought we recognized some of the regal fabric pieces from one of the festival season’s productions.
Touchmark is a good starting place for the Christmas Tour because the offering is a trendy, practical carry bag.
Touchmark’s reusable bag folds into a wallet shape and easily fits in a purse or pocket which makes it perfect for carrying Christmas Trail gifts.
Zen Woodworking is tucked away at the very back of the address on Erie Street but we found it. We stepped into the aroma of wood shavings. Maple, walnut, ash, fir, and hickory boards lean against a wall, ready to be transformed into serving trays, clocks, charcuterie boards, and tables.
Either four wooden coasters or a small charcuterie board that can be finished on the spot are traded for a voucher at Zen Woodworking.
The Samsonite Retail Outlet is another colourful experience with a room chock-full of trendy luggage and accessories. The Christmas Trail gift is a Maple Leaf luggage tag.
Light Up Your Life
At Bradshaws & Kitchen Detail holiday season items are nestled among everything food preparation and food service related.
A Douglas Pine Organic Soy Candle, the trail offering at Bradshaws, will burn for up to twenty hours. The resulting aroma invokes an evergreen forest.
Village Craft and Candle Inc. in the limestone-lined downtown of St. Marys, is a scent smorgasbord. Customers can learn to make their own candles at the store’s candle bar.
A scented candle, poured on location, is the Christmas Trail gift at the Village Craft and Candle. Trailers get to choose their preferred scent.
Wills and Prior, a Stratford destination for home furnishings and décor, continue with the lighting theme by offering a pair of hand-dipped, smokeless, dripless, and unscented Danish tapers in trade for a voucher.
To sum up our shopping adventure, The Christmas Trail is terrific incentive to shop in Stratford, St. Marys, and Shakespeare. It is an opportunity to browse, sample, meet friendly shop owners and managers and go home with bags of unique products.
Trail vouchers can be purchased in person at Stratford Tourism, 47 Downie Street, Stratford, or in Shakespeare at The British Touch or in St. Marys at Village Craft and Candle. Christmas Trail vouchers, 6 for $30, are valid until December 20.
Thank you Stratford Tourism Alliance, for our Christmas Trail experience.