ARTS INSPIRE OUR CITY
‘‘We are all incredibly proud of Stratford and its unique appeal to visitors from all over the world. Local businesses, events, and cultural institutions set a high bar in special experiences, customer service, and entrepreneurial ingenuity that results in huge benefits to the local economy, jobs, and the social fabric of our city.”
Carrie Wreford, Co-Owner Bradshaws & Kitchen Detail | Past Board Chair, Stratford Tourism Alliance
Stratford is a small city of 32,000 about an hour and a half west of Toronto, best known for its four cultural pillars; theatre, food, art and music.
Situated in Perth County, Stratford is surrounded by some of Canada’s most productive farmland. Crowned in 1997 by Nations in Bloom as ‘the prettiest city in the world,’ Stratford straddles the Avon River and is named for Stratford-upon-Avon, England, birthplace of William Shakespeare. In the winter the city is just as pretty, with snow glittering from church spires and treetops.
The Stratford Festival, established in 1953, transformed the former railway town into a magnet for artists, writers and musicians.
A cultural haven, Stratford was an obvious place to establish the Stratford Chefs School in 1983, which in turn attracted, and graduated, some of the country’s best chefs and hospitality professionals.
It is no surprise that a large number of visitors make an annual pilgrimage to Stratford for theatre and culinary experiences that rival the best on the continent.
One of the city’s greatest charms is its leisurely pace. Stratford is a city in name only – in truth it’s a rarity: a rural town with a vibrant cultural core. Its historic downtown, organized around a Victorian City Hall, offers a surprising array of unique boutiques, book stores, a public library, banks, galleries, spas, cafes, breweries and, of course, restaurants and food shops.
For art aficionados, the city offers a number of commercial galleries and studios. Gallery Stratford, Shane Norrie Gallery, Agora and Gallery 96 exhibit works year-round by visiting and local artists. During the theatre season Art-in-the-Park is a regular feature adjacent to the Avon River.
Stratford’s historic neighbourhoods feature numerous well-preserved Victorian houses, many of which become winter residences for Chefs School students and Bed & Breakfasts during the theatre season in the summer.
Perth County is home to a wide variety of farmers’ markets and artisan food producers, many of whom have long-standing relationships with the Chefs School.
Stratford restaurants are popular spots for winding down after a long day, or for rubbing shoulders with the theatre community after a performance.
For music fans, a variety of live concert events, from large to small, happen throughout the year. Stratford is home to Stratford Summer Music, a 6-week summer festival and the Stratford Symphony Orchestra, which performs an annual season of concerts from fall through early spring. As well, Stratford has an active chamber music group called InnerChamber, a Music and Opera Appreciation Society, and the Stratford Concert Choir, among others.
Stratford is also the home of pop star Justin Bieber; the Stratford-Perth Museum offers an exhibit that highlights his ‘steps to stardom.’
A highlight of the winter season in Stratford is the Chefs School student-led Dinner Series for the public that runs Tuesday through Saturday evening from late October through late February.