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Ashland Travel Guide, Oregon

A small town settled South of Portland and North of San Francisco in the rugged Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland is aiming at becoming a cosmopolitan town with what it has to offer.

What made the little settlement famous is the staging Shakespeare plays since 1935 when the English professor Angus Bowmer staged a very successful performance of Shakespeare's As You Like It. Ashland, a quiet mill town at the time, welcomed the idea and promoted it despite the hard times it went through during the Great Depression. The number of people attending the performances grew every year and now each year more than 300,000 people attend them.

Another enthusiast Jesse Winburne, a local businessman tried to add to the city’s fame by turning it into a mineral-springs resort but his plans were hindered by The Depression. Nevertheless he succeeded to construct beautiful Lithia Park and his work was not in vain as Lithia Park is still the town's top attraction. Ashland is not the mineral-springs resort he dreamed of, but there are many reasons that make you fall in love with this little town besides the clear mineral waters with healing properties.

A large number of outdoor recreational activities are offered by the mountains and forests that surround the town. Those who want to take in all the major cultural attraction, Ashland has some interesting museums.

The Science Works Hands-On Museum boasts fun interactive science exhibits that will particularly attract the children. Than there’s The Schneider Museum of Art exhibiting an impressive art collection that would make proud any museum in a metropolis.

Other entertainment options include the Standing Stone Brewing where you can taste some exquisite local beer; at the Black Sheep you will encounter a genuine English atmosphere and downhill a few blocks from the Plaza is a lively jazz bar called Jazbo's where you can listen to some live jazz.

But if you are looking for the top entertainment in town, the one that made it famous in the country and around the world, Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the answer. It is a 9-month-long theater festival stretching from February to October. The opening of the Elizabethan Theater is celebrated each June in Lithia Park with the elaborate Feast of Will. The complex where the festival takes place is located in the center of town and has a lovely brick courtyard, a perfect place for a theater performance. There are three theaters to choose from depending on the time of the year you want to go and the type of play you want to see. The outdoor Elizabethan Theater is modeled after England's 17th-century Fortune Theater and has the most beautiful architecture welcoming theater lovers from summer to early fall. The Angus Bowmer Theater, named after the person who staged the first performance in town, is an indoor theater used in rainy days and the New Theater that is the newest construction as its name suggests stages mostly contemporary and experimental plays.

During the festival season you won’t get bored as you will have the opportunity to watch four plays on any given day and even see what’s happening behind the scene with the backstage tours and there are also talks and special performances.

Though the main attraction is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival it cannot overshadow the other types of theater productions from experimental theater to Broadway musicals staged at Oregon Cabaret Theater, at the Department of Theater Arts and at Art Attack Theater that stages avant-garde plays. The One World Performing Arts series brings in touring musical acts and other performers.

The city's day spas with its healing mineral waters and various body treatments, skin care, and massages; the staging Shakespeare plays; new cocktail bars and upscale restaurants, live jazz in the clubs and cafes, and art galleries - have turned the town into Oregon's preeminent arts community and one of the Northwest's most popular destinations.

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