Welcome to Oxford County and Woodstock. If you’re thinking of Woodstock, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair held August 15–18, 1969, featured loads of amazing musicians performing for 3 Days of Peace & Music. No, it’s not that Woodstock. The only similarity besides the name is that the Woodstock Music festival took place on a dairy farm, and Woodstock, Ontario, is the “the Dairy Capital of Canada.”
However, when it comes to fun things to do in Woodstock Ontario, the city holds several events to pay tribute to its bovine histories, such as the annual Dairy Capital Stampede, Cowapolooza, and Cheese Fest, and the Dairy Capital Run.
It is a perfect day or half-day trip from Stratford, Ontario and a great day trip destination from Toronto if you are incorporating shopping at the One-of-a-kind-Antique Mall, purchasing some quality cheese at Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese or picking your own fruits and veggies at Thames River Melons.
The town is also famous for the Woodstock Museum National Historic Site, the Woodstock Art Gallery, Upper Thames Brewing Company, Pittock Conservation Area, and many other places worth visiting.
The History Of Woodstock ON
- Europeans settled it in 1800 when Zacharias Burtcher and Levi Luddington founded the community. It became an official town in 1851.
- Located in southern Ontario, Woodstock is one of the few remaining towns in Canada where all of its original administrative buildings remain intact.
- The death mask at Woodstock County Jail is of blind Thomas Cook, who was hung in 1862 for murdering his pregnant wife. His head rolled into the crowd, and afterwards, public hangings were discontinued because they were too painful.
- The 1890 Birchall Murder Trial began with the arrest and incarceration of Reginald Birchall, who was held at the Oxford County Jail for seven months before his murder trial began in September of that year at the Woodstock Town Hall. The trial received worldwide media attention receiving worldwide media coverage, with reporters camping out in front of the courthouse in the Oxford Hotel.
Where Is Woodstock Ontario?
Woodstock ON, is approximately 43 kilometres north of London, Ontario, and 127 kilometres south of Toronto. It is a well-connected city with routes from many different types of transportation.
By car, directions to Woodstock, Ontario, from Toronto are pretty straightforward. Head west along the 401, aka the Trans-Canada Highway. It should take an hour and a half to reach Woodstock from Toronto.
You can opt to take a train ride to the city via VIA Rail. Prices vary depending on when you’re taking the trip, the class (Escape vs Business Plus) and the train schedule. If you take a train from Toronto, tickets can be as low as 40 CAD, and the journey takes less than two hours. VIA Rail runs about four trains daily.
The Top 22 Things To Do In Woodstock Ontario
Early Bird Coffee
But first coffee.
Start your day by having a delicious cup of coffee at Early Bird Coffee. Better yet, order their coffee-tasting flight, and you’ll be able to try three of Early Bird’s signature roasts in small sizes.
Early Bird Coffee also offers a wide variety of hot and cold beverages, including its cappuccino and latte, cold brew tonics and a rotating list of seasonal offerings. It’s important to note that Early Bird is the only place micro-roastery in Oxford County that roasts fresh beans on-site daily.
Early Bird Coffee was founded by Kate & Elia in 2018, combining their passions for local business with their experiences in the specialty coffee industry.
You had us at Chocolate.
Habitual Chocolate specializes in creating bean-to-bar chocolates and offers an assortment of delicious treats, including dipped fruits, homemade ice cream and a variety of local goods. Owner, Swiss chocoholic Philippe Lehner, started his company in 2010. He sources cocoa beans from small, family-run farms worldwide and handcrafts all their chocolate in-house.
Habitual Chocolate is a fantastic place to experience chocolate in its truest form. You can watch chocolate made and try samples of any of the bars. They have Canada’s largest selection of bean-to-bar chocolate and house-made ice cream made with Ontario milk and ingredients from farms here in Oxford county.
Jarful Local Refillery
Reduce, Reuse, Refill.
The first time we ever heard of the concept of a refillery was during a weekend trip to Oakville. It is a great way to reduce your plastic consumption and household waste.
Bring in your own mason jars, empty detergent, shampoo, hand soap and dish soap bottles and refill them with Jarful’s product. If you have your own containers, you can always buy glass bottles on-site and bring them back when it’s time to refill them.
Jarful Refillery has a wide range of products, including bathroom, cleaning, personal care, skincare, etc.
Ontario Court of Justice
This is a typical courthouse; however, it has some great architectural features and stonework. It’s next door to the Woodstock library, so it’s worth checking out. Built in 1892, the courthouse replaced an earlier structure built in 1839. It was designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the Richardsonian Romaneusque style.
At the entrance to the building there’s a monkey head carved into one of the marble columns. It was carved by the contractor who built the building after a dispute over payment for the job.
Woodstock County Gaol
The old jail was constructed in 1854 by Hamilton architects Clark and Murray in the Italianate style.
Four men and one woman were hanged in the yard, including the notorious Birchall, who posed as Lord Somerset and tricked the whole town into believing he had killed his gentleman farm apprentice.
After years of neglect, architect Carlos Ventin of The Vintin Group Architects of Simcoe, Ontario, has beautifully restored the old jail. It is now occupied by Oxford county public health.
Woodstock Public Library
The history of a Library in Woodstock dates back as far as 1835. However, the History of the Building dates back to 1909. The City of Woodstock passed a by-law allowing a Public Library in 1904 and donated land at Northeast Corner of Hunter & Graham Sts. for a Library Building. In 1905 the Carnegie foundation awarded the city of Woodstock a grant for constructing a Library Building. In 1909 the Library opened.
Thousands of Woodstock residents use this library today.
Woodstock Art Gallery
The Woodstock Art Galleries showcases artworks created by local, regional and national artists. The gallery features works by Florence Carlyle and contemporary artists who were influenced by her style. The first floor exhibits artworks by Florencia Carlyle and her contemporaries. Historical items from the famed Florence Carlyle collection are displayed.
The Main Gallery and Second Floor Community Gallery show travelling exhibitions by both emerging and established artists. The Woodstock Art Museum offers volunteer opportunities, membership benefits, and facility rental discounts to adults, teenagers, and children, as well as adult, teenage, and child classes, workshops, and events.
Woodstock Museum National Historic Site
Once the nationally designated old town hall, at Woodstock Museum, you can see the historic council chamber and the victorian architecture of the grand hall. They also have galleries depicting Woodstock’s history dating from the 1700s to the present day. Over 40,000 objects are divided into history and culture, agriculture and industry, and arts and crafts.
It was built in 1853 and has been used for various events and services. Between 1993 and 1995 it was completely renovated and now houses a variety of events and services.
This building was initially built with the post office on the first floor, the customs offices on the second, and the caretaker’s apartment on the third. Built in 1901, when Alex McCleneghan was the postal clerk, he was the sixth postal worker for Woodstock and worked there for thirty years.
The Woodstock Post office was located in this building until 1963. A new post office was constructed on 480 Peel Street. This caused debate about what would happen to the old post office. Around this time, city officials searched for a new location for the city’s administrative offices.
After this, the city negotiated with the federal government for the former post office building in exchange for maintaining the old town hall (now Woodstock museum). By 1968, the buildings were in use again, this time as the municipal offices for Woodstock. It continues to serve these purposes today, and the magnificent clocktower still stands and keeps perfect time.
Southside Park Lake is a great place to do so if you’re looking for an outdoor space where you can enjoy a packed lunch or takeaway meal. It’s perfect for families who want somewhere quiet to sit together and enjoy a meal. The park is near the banks of the Thames River and has been around since the mid-1800s. It offers many activities including a swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball courts and playground.
If you love antiques, then this is the place for you. It’s nuts.
This Antique Mall in Woodstock, Ontario, has three floors, 80,000 square and more than 500 booths with collectibles, top-quality furniture, toys, old electronics, paintings, tea cups, video games and consoles, old electronic devices, memorabilia, vintage items and so forth.
It’s located near the 401 and most communities in Southwestern Ontario.
Old St. Paul’s Church
The Old Saint Paul’s Church was built in 1834, designed with classical and gothic architectural styles and is considered one of the historic buildings here in Woodstock and an early example of the Gothic revival church architecture.
Upper Thames Brewing Company
We at RTO love our beer and seek out breweries on every road trip.
The Upper Thames Brewing Company is the only brewery in Oxford County, Ontario, Canada. They’re known not just for their excellent craft beer but also for their live music and tasty food.
They offer a wide variety of craft beers, including some of their brews like their Dead Reckoning IPA or Take A Hike Double Dry Hop IPA. Important to note that they won Best Ale in 2019 for their beer, but they also took home a bronze medal in the category of Sweet Stout or Creamy Stouts at the 2019 Canadian Beer awards.
Springbank Snow Countess Monument
If you’re looking for a bit of history or a roadside photo opportunity…this would be it.
The Springbank Snow Countess monument is a life-sized statue of a famous Holsteins-Friesians cow. She set the world records for butterfat production in 1933 and held them for the next 21 years. In 1937, the figure was unveiled, and she has remained a popular attraction ever since.
Hey, we did mention off the top that Woodstock is the Dairy Capital of Canada!
Woodstock’s Farmers Market
First coffee, then beer, then the Farmer Markets. Road Trip Ontario is based in Toronto. While we love our local St. Lawrence Market, we love visiting local farmer’s markets in the towns we visit on the road.
The first farmers’ markets in Woodstock were held at the old town hall in 1853 and then moved to the fairgrounds in 1993. They are currently run by the Woodstock agricultural society and feature fresh local produce, bakeries, butcher shops, maple syrup producers, fish and seafood vendors, dairies, cheesemakers, chocolate makers, flower growers, and artists.
Gateway Casinos Woodstock
Located near the Farmers Market is Gateway Casinos Woodstock.
Owned and run under the name Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd., Gateway Casino Woodstock offers a wide range of slots and table games. Among these are Bonnie and Clyde, Five Dragons, Golds/Reds, Quick Hit, Gold Harvest, Hot Shot, and more. In addition, they also provide an express buffet restaurant and bar.
The Best Restaurants In Woodstock Ontario
Sixththirtynine opened in downtown Woodstock in February 2005. Chef/owner Eric Boyar has served his take on American cuisine for the past eight years. His menu changes regularly, depending on what he finds fresh and available. He also sources ingredients from local farms and abattoirs whenever possible. A large selection of wines complements the food.
In addition to the main dining room, there is a smaller private dining area where six people can dine together. The atmosphere is casual yet sophisticated.
At IRONWORKs, we offer casual bistro dining at affordable prices in a family-friendly environment. We source our ingredients locally and partner with your neighbours to provide delicious farm-fresh dishes. Our culinary team will delight you with their creative menu options!
In the kitchen, the old world meets the new. The industrial design pays homage to the town’s history – Woodstock Iron Works (1842).
Who can say no to Naan Breads?
Tandoori Knight has all your delicious Indian food options. If you’re a fan of Indian food, then you know all their dishes come in a vegetarian option. Indian food menus can get overwhelming with so many delicious options, so we opted for the “Set Meal For Two” – Appetizers (Chicken tikka, vegetable Samosa), any chicken or lamb curry, chana masala, pulao rice, naan and dessert ( Gulab jamun)
Charles Dickens Pub
The Charles Dickens Pub is great for enjoying a meal and drinks. They offer a variety of menu items such as Southern Fried Chicken Tenders, Nachos, Soup, Curry Bowls, Burgers, Sandwiches, and much more!
Pittock Conservation Area
Pittock Conservation Area is a 2,000-acre, multi-use conservation area that’s part of The Upper Thames River watershed. Here you can rent a canoe or kayak, play a round of disc golf or take the kids to the playground and splash pad. Fishing, boating, camping, swimming, hiking, picnics, mountain biking, and bird watching are all available. For more information, their website.
Thames River Melons
Nothing like the smell of manure in the morning!
If you love picking your own apples or picking your own pumpkins, then Thames River Melons is the place for you! One of the most fun things to do in Woodstock is to bring home your very own fresh fruits and vegetables picked by you.
Thames River Farm is a family-owned and run farm that grows various fruits and veggies. Everything from asparagus, pumpkins, squash, berries, potatoes, onions, broccoli, rhubarb, tomatoes, garlic, zucchinis, sweet corn, cucumber, peppers, beans, and of course, melons. BTW we heard that they would be offering Apples soon.
Affordable and well worth the trip!
Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese
If you are not a fan of the taste and sound cheese curds make, then I’m not sure we could be friends. As mentioned above, Oxford County is the Dairy Capital of Canada, so this is the ideal place to visit.
Gunn’s Hill Artisans’ Cheese is a specialty cheese produced in Oxford County. Its unique taste comes from the extensive training Shep Ysselstein, the cheesemaker, received in one of the top cheese-making countries in the world, Switzerland. They spent months learning about the art of cheese making and how to make the best tasting product possible. Gunn’s Hill Artisans’ Cheese is a leader in producing handmade artisan cheeses with over 15 diverse and delicious cheeses. Once home to 100 small cheese makers a century ago, there is only a handful left today, and you can learn all about Canada’s dairy and cheese production culture on the Oxford County Cheese Trail.
Final Thoughts Of Woodstock ON
The next time you’re on route to London, spending a weekend in Stratford, or looking for antique bargains, artisan cheese or picking fresh fruit and vegetables, Woodstock is worth the trip. Head into town, eat lunch in Southside Park, take a hike in Pittock Conservation Area, grab a beer at Upper Thames Brewing Company, and dine at one of the best restaurants in Woodstock, Ontario.
Monday 19th of December 2022
Small but important detail. Correct spelling of the old jail, using the English format is Gaol. Hopefully it is not a Goal for any traveller to be incarcerated! Iva
Wednesday 21st of December 2022
HAHA yes, you are right!! Thank you for pointing that out!!