Make a Weekend of Shakespeare at the Stratford Festival

The Stratford Festival is one of Canada’s most renowned cultural institutions, attracting theatre lovers from around the world. Founded in 1953, the festival has grown into a prestigious event that celebrates the works of William Shakespeare and a diverse range of classic and contemporary plays. Known for its high-quality productions, talented actors, and unique setting, the Stratford Festival has become a must-visit destination for theatre enthusiasts.

Located in Southern Ontario is the quaint and internationally renowned Shakespearian town of Stratford, welcoming audiences from near and far to enjoy a show or two. Whether you seek a special getaway, an anniversary celebration, a girls’ weekend, or just a little break from your regular routine, a dose of Stratford and all it has to offer may be just what you need!

A Brief History of the Stratford Festival

The Stratford Festival was the brainchild of journalist Tom Patterson, who envisioned a festival that would bring Shakespearean theatre to Canada. His vision became a reality in 1953 when the festival launched with two productions: “Richard III” and “All’s Well That Ends Well.” These early performances were held under a tent in a park, with legendary British actor Alec Guinness leading the inaugural season. Despite initial skepticism, the festival quickly gained momentum, drawing attention from theatre aficionados across Canada and beyond.

Over the years, the Stratford Festival expanded its repertoire, incorporating classical plays, modern works, and musicals.

The festival’s commitment to artistic excellence and innovation has helped it establish a reputation as one of the premier theatre festivals in North America. Today, the festival features several venues, including the iconic Festival Theatre, with its distinctive thrust stage that allows for a more intimate connection between actors and audience.

Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or an extended stay, here’s a guide to help you make the most of your time in Stratford, ensuring a memorable and enjoyable visit.

Pick Your Plays for the Stratford Festival

It is always a good idea to start by selecting which Stratford plays you and your company would like to enjoy. Information about shows and ticket reservations can be found on the official Stratford Festival Website.

Do not think that you will be an audience to incomprehensible, dry Shakespearian performances; the colorful interpretation and humor are obvious in many of these theatrical events. For instance, in the 2012 season, the Shakespearian Much Ado About Nothing is performed by a real-life couple, adding much to their chemistry and the developing plot. 

There are Broadway musicals such as 42nd Street and a play written and performed by recent Oscar winner Christopher Plummer, A Word or Two. Some plays are especially catered to children, such as You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

Arrange which dates suit your preferences and buy your tickets online. If you are planning a weekend event, you may like to book a play on a Friday night and a matinée or night show on Saturday. This would allow you time to do some shopping in the quaint town. Or, you may like to arrive on Saturday, see a show or two, and leave on Sunday after shopping and touring the town.

What plays are playing in Stratford 2024?

The Stratford Festival in 2024 features a diverse lineup of plays, from Shakespearean classics to contemporary works, offering a rich experience for theatre enthusiasts. This season includes three Shakespeare plays: “Romeo and Juliet,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Cymbeline.” Additionally, you’ll find productions like “Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen and the Victorian comedy “London Assurance” by Dion Boucicault.

The festival also offers musical theatre, with “Something Rotten!” playing at the Festival Theatre and “La Cage aux Folles” at the Avon Theatre. Other noteworthy productions include “The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?” by Edward Albee and several world premieres, such as “Salesman in China” by Leanna Brodie and Jovanni Sy, and a new adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s “The Diviners” by Vern Thiessen with Yvette Nolan​.

These productions are among the highlights of the Stratford Festival’s 2024 season, offering a variety of theatrical experiences and showcasing a wide range of talent. You can learn more about the plays and the full schedule on the Stratford Festival’s official website​.

How much are the tickets for the Stratford Festival 2024?

Tickets for the Stratford Festival in 2024 have several price options. For young theatergoers aged 16 to 29, tickets are available for as little as $24 for any performance throughout the season. This offer provides an affordable way for younger audiences to enjoy the festival’s diverse lineup of plays and musicals.

Additionally, if you purchase an adult-priced ticket, you can get up to four additional tickets for those 18 and under for as little as $15.50. This discount makes it easier for families and groups with younger members to attend the festival. However, please note that these discounts are not available in the Globe Ring and Founders’ Row seating areas​.

Ticket prices for other seating categories and special performances may vary, so it’s best to check the Stratford Festival’s official website for detailed information on pricing and availability​​.

Book Your Hotel in Stratford

There are many hotels in the Stratford area that offer a range of prices and ambiance. Do some research online for hotels near the theatre, some of which are listed on the official Stratford Festival website mentioned earlier. Keep in mind that pre-season and post-season times offer better rates than during the high season, and show tickets are also available at reduced prices during those times.

Dining and Shopping in Stratford

A variety of delightful flavors await you at the many dining establishments in Stratford. Some are conveniently found woven throughout the numerous shops on Ontario Street. Fellini’s offers Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with complimentary olive bread. Bentley’s Inn Bar and Restaurant offers casual dining and delicious desserts. Reservations are needed for most restaurants during the busy season and between show times.

An article about Stratford should not be written without mentioning the delicious candy and chocolate stores. Rhéo Thompson Candies is known for its famous “Mint Smoothies” and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for itsits numerous chocolate creations.

The many shops on Ontario Street offer numerous unique items that can bring the whimsical Stratford feel to a home. A delicate teapot, artisan paintings, or unique, tasty cooking sauces are welcome reminders of a trip taken into another era and a different pace of life.

Between Shows, Enjoy the Scenery in Stratford

Beyond the festival, Stratford has a wealth of attractions to explore. Take a leisurely stroll along the Avon River, where you can enjoy the scenic views and watch the swans gliding across the water. Boat tours are also available.

Avon River

Visit the Stratford Perth Museum to learn about the town’s history and heritage, or explore the Stratford Art Gallery to appreciate local art and exhibitions.

If you’re interested in shopping, Stratford’s downtown area is home to unique boutiques, antique shops, and artisanal stores. It’s a great place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts to commemorate your visit.

The Stratford Festival is much more than a theatre event; it’s a cultural institution that celebrates the enduring appeal of Shakespearean drama and the transformative power of the performing arts. With its rich history, commitment to artistic excellence, and vibrant festival experience, the Stratford Festival continues to inspire and captivate audiences year after year.

With a few of these tips in mind, you can better enjoy your visit to the Shakespearian town of Stratford!

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About the author
Growing up in Detroit, Lindsey is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.