Ashland, Ore.: The place to see Shakespeare

Ashland, Ore.: The place to see Shakespeare


You don't have to love Shakespeare to enjoy Ashland, Ore., but those who do will revel in whimsical opportunities such as sipping a cocktail named "Titania's Weakness" in a tavern named "Oberon's" while reading "A Midsummers Night's Dream" carved into the bar.

Although Ashland is most famous for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), the city, which sits inside the beautiful Rogue Valley, offers a bounty of other pleasures and activities.

Running from March through October, the festival presents a few works of Shakespeare as well as other notable plays and musicals.

The 2018 lineup includes "Othello," "Henry V," "Love's Labor's Lost" and "Romeo and Juliet."

The festival has finished the complete Shakespeare canon four times over its 83 years. Plays run every day, except on Mondays.

OSF is a not-for-profit organization, committed to "revealing our collective humanity through illuminating interpretations of new and classic plays" and has a legacy of phenomenal acting and diversity in its casts.

The festival's website is

This year, we saw "Love Labor's Lost" at the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theater, the oldest existing full-scale Elizabethan stage in the Western Hemisphere, where you will need to dress for all kinds of weather.

These plays are not often canceled, and it literally rained up until our 8 p.m. showtime. As long as there is no lightning, the show will go on. They do sell ponchos!

We were also happy to find that drinks are allowed during the show, and you can even pre-order your favorite drink for intermission.

But be warned, people are serious about Shakespeare here. The performances start on time, and there is no late seating. Children under 6 are not allowed in the theater, where no one in the audience appears to speak a word or move an inch during the performances.

Next door to Oberon's, which bills itself as "Ashland's Most Ashlandiest Spot," is The Black Sheep, a really fun and decorated British pub "where you belong."

We ate at several great places in Ashland, so it surprises me that one I keep thinking about is a pizza place, Creekside Pizza Bistro, where the "Slammy" is the best veggie pizza I can remember having, and I am not a vegetarian.

We stayed at The Bard's Inn, a hotel within walking distance to the festival and all of downtown, where you can see both sides of the valley. It has several different buildings with a variety of amenities, including a daily breakfast (with a pancake maker that was important to my kids) and a nice pool and spa.

The staff here is as nice and helpful as I have encountered anywhere in my travels.

We started each morning with a walk through Lithia Park, 8 acres that follow a creek with various hiking paths and playgrounds.

We also enjoyed Escape Ashland and Science Works, a science museum for children that adults actually enjoy, too.

Options for rafting and water sports and several wineries are nearby as well.

Additionally, recreational marijuana is legal here, and the local dispensaries even run coupons in the festival's playbill for 10 percent off any purchase.

The closest airport to Ashland is Medford, Ore.

Crater Lake National Park is a bit north, which we will plan to see next visit, because this time, we drove south to continue to the redwoods and various other sites in California.

Southern Oregon is truly a beautiful place. The OSF adds charm and culture to this town, which is obviously full of tourists but somehow doesn't feel too touristy.

Leslie Sweet Myrick lives in Champaign with her husband and two children. She works part time at the University of Illinois and reviews books at

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