Cedar City, Utah, is a midsummer's dream of a spot, where top-caliber theater rubs shoulders with high-desert canyons from warm late June through chilly mid-October. My husband, mother and I recently visited the early Mormon settlement, a 6 1/2 -hour drive from Orange County highlighted by stunning red and orange cliffs along southwest Utah's slice of Interstate 15. The tab for three: $624 for three nights (two rooms) at the Best Western and $275 for meals.
With plenty of affordable options, our choice was Best Western Town & Country Inn (189 N. Main St., Cedar City;  586-9900, www.bwtowncountry.com, $80-$150). Its good-sized standard rooms offered comfortable beds and a sitting area. The selling point was the two-minute drive (or 15-minute walk) to the Utah Shakespeare Festival grounds. Though breakfast was included, we fueled up on caffeine at the homey Grind Coffeehouse (19 N. Main St.) in Cedar City's historic downtown district.
For an early dinner, we hit busy Centro Woodfired Pizzeria (50 W. Center St., Cedar City,  867-8123, www.facebook.com/CentroPizzeria. No reservations). Three of us shared the sizable summer salad with goat cheese, dried apricots and lemon basil vinaigrette ($8) followed by pizza with roasted crimini mushrooms, crème fraîche and thyme ($12). The food was fresh and flavorful; the craft beers and wine tempted; however, Shakespeare was calling.
As avid theatergoers, we were abashed to be newbies at the thriving 53-year-old Utah Shakespeare Festival (351 W. Center St., Cedar City;  586-7878, www.bard.org, tickets $32-$69. Free parking). With matinee and evening performances in repertory Mondays-Saturdays, we were able to catch four compelling productions during our two-day visit: "Measure for Measure," A Comedy of Errors," Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's "Into the Woods" and a world premiere adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility." The festival offers three Shakespearean works at its outdoor, Tudor-style theater through Aug. 30. Five plays (including a musical) are staged indoors. I enjoyed the free pre-performance talks, good for brushing up on my Shakespeare.
We had considered a return visit to gorgeous Zion or Bryce Canyon national parks, each an hour-plus away. But wanting to fill our dance card with theater, we chose Cedar Breaks National Monument, a scenic 35 minutes east of Cedar City on Utah Highway 148 (www.nps.gov/cebr, $4 entry fee for 16 and older). It's a mini-Bryce Canyon of vibrantly colored moonscapes and craggy hoodoos. We were able to soak it up leisurely one morning and still make our matinee.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times