For our Anniversary last summer, my husband and I spent a weekend in Stratford Ontario, taking in the famous Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
The Shakespeare Festival runs every season from spring until fall, offering theatrical productions in a variety of genres. It boasts four different stages in the city, each running three or more plays each throughout the summer. The highlight, of course, being full Shakespearian plays.
We took in two plays during our weekend. Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet. Both were incredibly well done and brought us to our feet for a standing ovation. If you have never done so, I highly recommend going to see a Shakespeare play live. Even if you find reading the plays difficult, you will find yourself understanding and enjoying these masterpieces. Everything, from the props, to the costumes, to the stage (The Festival Theatre stage is a replica of the one used by Shakespeare himself), to the actual reciting of dialogue, is done in such a way as to draw you into the story and help you understand the wealth of moods, feelings, and humour present in the original scripts.
All the information you need to plan your Stratford holiday can be found on the Festival Website. The site also offers special prices and offers for various ages. In addition to student and seniors rates, there is also a "club" for people under 35, that offers special discounts and gives notices of last-minute seat sales. We booked our tickets to Hamlet at the club rate, and then, two days before our holiday, we received notice that the showing of Romeo and Juliet was not yet full, and they were selling the remaining tickets for $5 each! Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity and lengthed our holiday by one more day to take in this performance!
Even though this site does not offer tours and packages, it does an excellent job of helping you plan your own unique holiday. (This is why I rated Accomidations and Meals a 3). The site lists hotels and motels in the area, linking to their sites and giving contact information. It does the same with restaurants. It also rates each restaurant on a $-$$$$ scale, allowing you to budget your meals out as well.
In addition to the Festival, the Stratford area provides many opportunities for a relaxing holiday. The city has a historic downtown area full of quaint shops for clothing, old-fashioned candy, and oddities. The surrounding area is naturally beautiful with its lakes and farm country. And if you are willing to drive 30 min, several of the surrounding cities have attractions of their own, including farmers markets, craft markets, handmade mennonite furniture, and more. If you take the drive, expect to see horses and buggys along the road.
It was a wonderful experience, and we hope to go again soon. Stratford makes for a romantic and relaxing grown-up holiday--I cannot recommend it enough.
Update On Oct 16, 2009: A great way to get deals on tickets is to join the Stratford Festival Facebook Group HERE. They frequently post Facebook-Exclusive sales in addition to festival news and beautiful sneak-peek photos of the the plays.