Surrounded by flat and fertile farmland, STRATFORD is a likeable little town of 30,000 people, whose downtown core is brightened by the meandering Avon River and a grandiose city hall, a brown-brick fiesta of cupolas, towers and limestone trimmings. More importantly, the town is also the home of the Stratford Festival, originating in 1953 and now one of the most prestigious theatrical occasions in North America, attracting no fewer than half a million visitors. Each season, the continent's largest classical repertory company puts on the festival (Tel:1-800/567-1600, Web:
), featuring two of Shakespeare's tragedies and two of his comedies; this programme is augmented by other classical staples – Moliere, Sheridan, Johnson and so forth – as well as by the best of modern and musical theatre. The festival also hosts a lecture series, various tours (of backstage and a costume warehouse, for example), music concerts, an author reading series and meet-and-greet sessions with the actors. The festival runs from mid-April to early November and there are performances in four downtown locations – the Festival, Tom Patterson, Avon and Studio theatres. Regular tickets cost anywhere between $45 and $100 depending on the performance and seat category, though there are all sorts of discount deals for students, seniors, same-day performances and previews; many plays are, however, sold out months in advance. Call or consult the website for the latest news.