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Stratford, Ontario: Justin Bieber's Hometown Features Hidden Gems That Go Beyond The Shakespeare Festival

09/25/2012 10:31 EDT | Updated 09/26/2012 10:11 EDT
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Savour Stratford, Perth County's culinary festival, may have wrapped up Sunday evening, but the city of 32,000 still has its fair share of offerings for the traveller looking for more than a showing of 'You're A Good Man Charlie Brown'. The city has a long history of artists and performers, but for those who aren't theatre buffs or are looking for something a bit different when visiting Stratford, here are five hidden gems that are worth checking out.

The 5 hidden gems of Stratford, Ontario. Slideshow text follows below for mobile readers

The Five Hidden Gems Of Stratford

The Avon River

It's hard to imagine how a river can be a hidden gem, but it's all about the timing with the Avon River. On the right day, the river can be be a perfect backdrop for a family photo, a picnic spot or a place to sit for peace and quiet. The river runs through the Shakespearean Gardens for those looking to take in the city's greenery, and those with a yearning to join the ducks and swans on the river can rent paddle boats to explore the areas inaccessible by foot.

The Stratford Chef's School

The city's developed something of a culinary reputation in Canada over the last 40 years. There's no shortage of local food and the farmers that grow them. But another factor in the city's growing rep is due to the Stratford Chefs School. The school has produced some notable alumni like Mark Cutrara from Toronto's Cowbell and Carl Heinrich, the winner of season 2 of Top Chef Canada. But visitors don't have to be aspiring chefs to check out the school. The school offers a lunch and dinner series, where students partner with local restaurant stalwarts like Pazzo and the Prune, starting in October.

Stratford's Music Scene

Google Stratford, Ontario and one of the top hits that'll pop up on the screen is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The city has been a destination for theatre enthusiasts everywhere for years, but lesser known is the city's musical component. Walk along the streets of the downtown core and you'll be greeted with buskers, microphones and guitars (some even with amps). While tourists can get their share of music on the streets, there's also the Stratford Summer Music Festival, a month-and-a-half long fair that fills the city's music halls, churches, bars and pubs with a classical, folk, and jazz.

Revel Caffe

Visitors looking for a caffeinated-kick to start their day can't go wrong with a trip to Revel Caffe — though you might just miss the store unless you're looking for its wooden, screen door. Inside, guests are greeted with a glass display of sweets and baked goods, followed by a line of thirsty patrons that wraps along the cafe's narrow galley-like shop. Chalkboards make up the menu, scrawled with various coffees, teas, and speciality cold drinks. The space is limited — bordering on cramped at times — but the service is friendly and moves with machine-like efficiency that's a sight to behold, as Americanos and a soothing tea lattes are being made to order. The online community has also taken a shine to the place for the same reasons.

The Chocolate Trail

To the disappointment of chocoholics, Stratford's Chocolate Trail isn't actually a trail made of chocolate, despite the name that sounds like it was pulled from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Instead, the trail consists of a self-guided tour for anyone looking to explore the city and satisfy their sweet tooth at the same time. Travellers choose eight shops from a list of 20 stores that range from a kitchen supply shop to an actual candy maker, and sample each place's take on chocolate. Those who aren't busy eating their weight in cocoa can also speak with the chocolate makers and learn more about their techniques.

Got a hidden gem that you think we missed? Let us know in the comment section down below or tweet us your answer @HPCatravel