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Last Chance: Sensational Summer Arts Festivals

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Let's face it, we've had a long, hot summer.  Still, you find yourself thinking "but where has the summer gone?"  To stretch out the remaining weeks and re-charge psychic batteries, head to a performance outdoors. There's still time and there's lots to see and hear—music, theater, dance—at festivals across the country.  Here are my top picks:

Tanglewood Music Festival (Massachusett)
Located in the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts, Tanglewood (through Sept. 5), the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, offers a mini-jazz festival (Sept. 1-5), a performance by Crosby, Stills & Nash (Sept. 1), and conductor David Zinman leading the BSO in Gustav Holst's sweeping The Planets (Aug. 27), among a range of orchestral and chamber music concerts.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Stratford, Ontario)
Christopher Plummer, perhaps still most widely known for his role as Captain von Trapp in the The Sound of Music movie, is on stage as Prospero in The Tempest.  Shakespeare's masterpiece runs through Sept. 12; eleven other productions ranging from As You Like It to Dangerous Liaisons are in repertory into the fall (until Nov. 6).

Chicago Dancing Festival (Chicago, Illinois)
Three days devoted to dance, Aug. 26-28, in the heart of Chicago, including the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park—and it's all free! New and classic works by dancers from New York City Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, plus company performances by Ballet West, Mark Morris Dance Group, Alvin Ailey II, and the Joffrey Ballet.

Santa Fe Opera (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
The preeminent American summer opera festival is renowned for its open-air opera house, mix of standard repertoire and new work, with singers, both established and on the cusp of major careers. Operas by Mozart, Offenbach, Puccini, and Britten play through Aug. 28. Performances start at dusk, arrive in time to take in spectacular western sky sunsets and tailgating picnics, productions in themselves.

Moab Music Festival (Moab, Utah)
No other festival offers a chamber music concert in cavernous red rock grotto or a 4-day, 3-night musical raft trip (with daily concerts) along the Colorado River in southeastern Utah's Canyonlands National Park. Programs of classical, jazz, and contemporary music of the Moab Music Festival (Sept. 3-13) also take place at a ranch resort, an outdoor tent, and even a conventional concert hall.

Bumbershoot (Seattle, Washington)
Seattle's music and arts festival produces one of the biggest and most varied summer send-offs: film, comedy, spoken word, dance, theater, as well as music—a showcase for new acts alongside veteran superstars. This year's 40th annual series at Seattle Center presents a lineup that includes Weezer, the Decemberists, Mary J. Blige, and the legendary Bob Dylan. A Labor Day weekend to remember.

Mario R. Mercado is the arts editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo Credit (Tanglewood): Steve Rosenthal

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