Off-season Ashland

Enjoy stylish new lodgings and restaurants after the curtain comes down
Bonnie Henderson

"So call the field to rest;
and let's away,
To part the glories
of this happy day."

When Octavius speaks those lines late in the evening of November 3, the curtain will drop on Julius Caesar―and on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2002 season, which won't resume until previews begin in late February 2003. But it's the beginning of a special season in Ashland, when tourists are few and prices on lodging plummet to as little as half the high-season rate. It's when you can browse the shops and galleries unhurried, saunter into your favorite restaurant without a reservation, or slip-slide on the town's skating rink or ski slopes.

Shakespeare's winter sabbatical leaves no void in local performing arts. You can attend shows by the Artattack Theater Ensemble ( www.artattacktheater.com; 541/282-9815), which stages classics and premieres new plays, or Oregon Cabaret Theatre's annual holiday show ( www.oregoncabaret.com; 541/488-2902). For other ideas, go to Ashland Chamber of Commerce's website (see "New Lodging Choices").

Excellent new eateries and accommodations have expanded the already varied options. Consider a winter weekend in Ashland this year, or start planning your summer trip now; the 2003 festival schedule should be posted on the Web by late November at www.osfashland.org (or call 541/482-2111 to request a brochure).

New restaurants

Lela's Bakery & Cafe. A charming bistro in Ashland's historic railroad district, Lela's dishes out Tuscan pizzas, European pastries, and entrées inspired by many cuisines but crafted with a French sensibility. Wed-Sat only. 258 A St.; (541) 482-1702.

Tabú. Sip sangria or a mojito while you graze on tapas, or choose among entrées spanning Spain and the Caribbean, including paella and a savory "drunken pintos" side dish. Daily. 76 N. Pioneer St.; (541) 482-3900.

New lodging choices

For more options, check with the Ashland Chamber of Commerce at (541) 482-3486 or www.ashlandchamber.com.

Ashland Creek Inn. The former Waterside Inn has been refurbished and now has the feel of an old European hostelry. Each of seven suites has a private entrance and is individually―and elegantly―decorated with original art and antiques. Winter packages include a day in the spa or cooking school. From $100 ($195 high season). 70 Water St.; (541) 482-3315 or www.ashlandcreekinn.com

A Midsummer's Dream. This 1901 Victorian B&B tucked into a quiet hillside neighborhood barely a mile from downtown has five luxurious suites, each with fireplace and hot tub. From $140 (from $180 in high season). 496 Beach St.; (877) 376-8800, (541) 552-0605, or www.amidsummer.com

Plaza Inn & Suites at Ashland Creek. Posh four-story, 91-room hotel is a short walk from the theater and is just above the creek. Enjoy amenities such as a menu of pillows and―in the deluxe rooms―fireplaces or hot tubs. From $59 ($139 high season). 98 Central Ave.; (888) 488-0358, (541) 488-8900, or www.plazainnashland.com