by Nick Neely | Photo © Jenny Graham
You can experience Ashland in two distinct fashions: either by exploring the busy downtown area or enjoying the city’s famed Shakespeare Festival. If your time is limited, you can even pack it all into a single day.
Even those unfamiliar with theater may know about Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival. Since its inception in 1935, the festival has completed roughly 29,000 performances and has gone through Shakespeare’s entire repertoire multiple times. Every performance at the Shakespeare Festival serves as another testament to the caliber of the organization’s talent. And while it is an absolute blast to see your favorite performances carried out by such professionals, be sure to experience a play entirely unfamiliar to you. Day trippers often take in a matinee and, afterward, enjoy a stroll through downtown and dinner.
Peculiar for smaller towns, a significant number of Ashland’s downtown buildings host even more restaurants on second and third floors rather than the standard apartments or offices. The end result: the main strip of Ashland is loaded with great places to dine, tip a pint or savor a craft cocktail.
For a pre-show treat, stop in at Dobrá Tea (dobrateaashland.com), a traditional teahouse with a menu thicker than most novels, offering more than 100 hundred unique varieties of tea. After the play, you may be in the mood for a bit of old England; try the relaxed and expansive loft of the Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant (theblacksheep.com), or Oberon’s Tavern (oberonstavern.com), which recreates the Shakespearean era in food, song and dance. If you’re thirsty for a local brew, grab a table at Standing Stone Brewing Company (standingstonebrewing.com), a downtown brewpub serious about sustainability—the beers are made with 90 percent local or organic ingredients and much of the food is made with ingredients from their own 260-acre farm just outside of town.
After spending a day in Ashland, you just might be tempted to extend your stay. If that happens, you have a great variety of lodging to choose from. The Ashland Springs Hotel (ashlandspringshotel.com) grants you immediate access to the downtown action, while the Lithia Springs Resort (lithiaspringsresort.com) outside Ashland fulfills every amenity needed to ensure a relaxing and rejuvenating stay.