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The Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the raison d'être of Ashland, is an internationally acclaimed theater festival that runs from February to October. The season typically includes three or four works by Shakespeare plus eight other classic or contemporary plays. These plays are performed in repertory, with as many as four staged on any given day.

The festival complex, often referred to as "the bricks" because of its brick courtyard, is in the center of town and contains three theaters. The visually impressive outdoor Elizabethan Theatre, modeled after England's 17th-century Fortune Theatre, is used only in the summer and early fall. The Angus Bowmer Theatre is the festival's largest indoor theater. The New Theatre is a small, state-of-the-art venue used primarily for contemporary and experimental plays.

In addition to the plays, there are backstage tours (tickets $9-$12 for adults and $6-$8 for children). Throughout the festival season there are also talks and special performances. The opening of the Elizabethan Theatre is celebrated each June in Lithia Park with the elaborate Feast of Will. Between June and early October, the Green Show provides 35 minutes of free pre-performance entertainment outside the doors of the Elizabethan Theatre.

For more information and upcoming schedules, contact the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland, OR 97520 (tel. 800/219-8161 or 541/482-4331; www.osfashland.org). Ticket prices range from $20 to $91; children's and preview tickets are less expensive. In spring and fall, tickets are discounted 25%.

Exploring Ashland & Its Surroundings

The Schneider Museum of Art, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd. (tel. 541/552-6245; www.sou.edu/sma), on the campus of Southern Oregon University, mounts art exhibits of a quality you'd expect in a museum in a major city. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is by $5 suggested donation.

Ashland's first claim to fame was its healing mineral waters, and today you can still relax and be pampered at one of the city's day spas. The Phoenix, 2425 Siskiyou Blvd. (tel. 541/488-1281; www.thephoenixspa.com); The Blue Giraffe, 51 Water St. (tel. 541/488-3335; www.bluegiraffespa.com); and Waterstone Spa, 236 E. Main St. (tel. 541/488-0325; www.waterstonespa.com), all offer various body treatments, skin care, and massages. However, for the most unusual spa experience in town, plan a visit to the Chozu Bath and Tea Gardens, 832 A St. (tel. 541/552-0202; www.chozugardens.com), where you can experience the Japanese tea ceremony, soak in a hot salt-water pool in the bath gardens, or get a massage.

If you happen to have the kids along, you may want to schedule time for a visit to the Science Works Hands-On Museum, 1500 E. Main St. (tel. 541/482-6767; www.scienceworksmuseum.org), which is filled with fun interactive science exhibits. In summer the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5pm (other months it closes at 4pm). Admission is $7.50 for adults and $5 for seniors and children ages 2 to 12.

Wine Touring

For a map and more information on southern Oregon wineries, contact the Southern Oregon Winery Association (tel. 541/846-1039; www.sorwa.org). If you'd like to have someone else take you around to area wineries, book a wine tour with Main Street Tours (tel. 541/488-7895; www.ashland-tours.com), which has tours starting at $69 per person with a two-person minimum.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.