Stratford was founded in 1832, and much of its historic heart has been preserved. Wandering through its pristine residential street -- lined with historic homes decorated with turrets, wraparound verandas, and stained-glass windows -- is a little like stepping back in time. The Visitors' Information Centre by the Avon River has maps for self-guided tours. You can also download several free audio-tour podcasts about Stratford's gardens, landmarks, and downtown from www.welcometostratford.com.
Paddleboat, kayak, and canoe rentals are available at the Boathouse, behind the information center. In summer, it's open daily from 9am until dusk. Contact Avon Boat Rentals (40 York St.; tel. 519/271-7739). There's also a boat, the Juliet III, that offers scenic half-hour tours.
The Shakespearean Gardens -- a pretty, formal English garden -- is a great place to relax and contemplate the flowerbeds and tranquil river lagoon, and muse on a bust of Shakespeare by Toronto sculptor Cleeve Horne. For a picnic-friendly patch of green, visit Queen's Park, a stone's throw from the Festival Theatre.
And speaking of picnics, Stratford is in the heart of an agricultural belt, and the abundant food options reflect the city's pride in its regional culinary riches. There are farmers markets; big seasonal food fares such as Savour Stratford in September; loads of restaurant, farm, and dairy tours; and more. Check out www.welcometostratford.com/savour-stratford.php.
Stratford also has a good art museum, the Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo St.; tel. 519/271-5271; www.gallerystratford.on.ca). Located in an historic building on the fringes of Confederation Park, the museum exhibits contemporary and historical works by Canadian artists. Its hours change with the seasons, but mid-May through late September, it's open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm (call ahead for hours Oct to mid-May).
An Open-Air Art Gallery -- Museums are grand, but who wants to spend a glorious summer day indoors? Thanks to the Art in the Park (www.artintheparkstratford.com), you can have both. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June to September, regional artists gather at Lakeside Drive and Front Street, and put on a show from 9am to 5pm, weather permitting. The artists and artisans work in various media, so you'll find paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, and glass, among other things. While many of the works are for sale, this isn't just a market: The artists are selected through a juried process.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.