GETTING THERE: Most major airlines fly from D.C. to London. Online round-trip fares for April, when the Complete Works festival begins, are running about $650, but will fall when the off-season begins.
In London, catch a train from Marylebone Station to Stratford ($89 for round-trip coach, $148 for first class) or, if you're adding Stratford as a side trip to London, check with your hotel about day-excursion buses. (Driving time is roughly an hour and a half, train time is a little longer.) For the train, consider buying a BritRail Pass before you depart: They're great deals -- $169 for a four-day coach pass -- and not available inside the United Kingdom. Details: 866-BRIT-RAIL, www.britrail.net.
WHERE TO STAY: Lodging runs the gamut, from camping and B&Bs to moderate and first-class hotels. Hampton Lodge (38 Shipston Rd., 011-44-1789-299374, www.hamptonlodge.co.uk), which is right in Stratford, offers six spacious rooms, with doubles going for about $95 a night, including full English breakfast. The White Swan (Rother Street, 011-44-1789-297022) is a moderate 15th-century hotel known for great ales. Doubles start at about $110 a night.
Nearer the top end of the scale is Alveston Manor (Clopton Bridge, 011-44-870-400-8181, www.alvestonmanor.co.uk), a grand old Tudor with an Elizabethan staircase and many modern amenities, not to mention a short walk to downtown. Doubles start at about $120 a night.
WHERE TO EAT: If you come to Stratford and don't stop into the Dirty Duck (Waterside Street), you're missing a big part of local color and history. The 18th-century pub's walls are covered with photos of actors who've come to town to tread the Royal Shakespeare Company's boards and stopped in for a pint or three. Try the smothered chicken and sweet cure bacon, about $15.
The Garrick Inn (25 High St.) boasts a wide selection of ales and reputedly serves one of the best slow-cooked Welsh lamb dishes in the region for about $15. The 500-year-old King's Head (21 Bearley Rd., roughly three miles outside Stratford) features an open log fireplace, stone floors and beams. A one-course lunch of contemporary British cooking runs about $12.
WHAT TO DO:
* Shakespeare-related homes. Start with the Shakespeare Birthplace ($11) on Henley Street. The childhood home of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife, is a mile outside Stratford and is surrounded by gardens. The homes Shakespeare's two married daughters are in Stratford, as is his mother's. Tickets run between $6 to $8 for each through the Shakespeare Visitors' Centre on Henley Street (011-44-1789-204016, www.shakespeare.org.uk).
* Royal Shakespeare Company. Whether booking for the Complete Works festival, a regular-season show or the backstage tour, you can find everything you need at www.rsc.org.uk or 011-44-1789-403403. Package deals called Super Breaks include hotel, one dinner and a show ticket. Cost starts at about $160 person. Info: 011-44-208-758-4799.
* Non-Shakespearean attractions. The Heritage Motor Centre (011-44-1926-641188, www.heritage-motor-centre.co.uk) on Banbury Road in nearby Warwick is home to the world's largest collection of historic British cars. Admission is about $15. Harvard House (see Shakespeare Visitors' Centre info above), on High Street in Stratford, was the home of Katherine Rogers, whose son, John Harvard, founded the university in Cambridge, Mass. Admission is about $4.50. Avon Boating (011-44- 1789-267073, www.avon-boating.co.uk; $5.50) offers 30-minute cruises in vintage watercraft, with regular departures from Bancroft Gardens. The Falstaffs Experience (Sheep Street, 011-44-870-3502770, www.falstaffsexperience.co.uk) is a "haunted museum" where visitors can explore the spooky chambers by day or by lantern at night. Admission is about $9.10.
INFORMATION: For more details about accommodations, eateries and activities: South Warwickshire Tourism, 011-44-870-160-7930, www.stratford-upon-avon.co.uk or www.shakespeare-country.co.uk.
-- William Triplett