When a friend mentioned coming to Southern Oregon with his family for spring break I started compiling a list of suggestions of what to do, where to stay and a long list of must try restaurants. The list quickly grew to become this article. This article then grew and became a three part peek at many of the attractions, inns and restaurants that make Southern Oregon special. So if you are planing a trip to Southern Oregon for a vacation or you’re a local looking for new things to do, here are some suggestions for enjoying this sunny southwestern corner of Oregon.
Nestled at the base of the Siskiyou Mountains at 2000 feet elevation sits the picturesque town of Ashland, Oregon. The city is home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, funky shops, fantastic restaurants and an abundance of natural beauty.
You can’t mention Ashland without some words about the Shakespeare Festival. It is one of the most well known and oldest theater companies in the nation. Seeing a play here is certainly a treat and although spring is just the beginning of their season a few plays are available to see in the month of March including Romeo and Juliet, Animal Crackers and Seagull. For more info see www.osfashland.org/
An activity both kids and their parents are sure to enjoy is Science Works. This science center houses approximately 100 interactive exhibits that encourage the exploration and education of science. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits here including Explore Zone which is an exhibit from San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the Bubble-ology Room and Pedal Power Railroad. 1500 E. Main St. www.scienceworksmuseum.org
If you are looking for fun with the kids head down to Lithia Park which is only a short walk from downtown. The park, designed by the landscape architect of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, John McLaren is a great place to relax and take in the laid back beauty of Ashland. Here you’ll find duck ponds, a playground and large grassy lawns perfect for a game of Frisbee as well as Ashland creek running the length of the park. If that water looks refreshing you can take a sip from the water fountains on the plaza, that is if the smell of sulfur doesn’t scare you off. This is no mere water but Lithia water which is named for the lithium salts it contains which are said to have great health benefits. Drink up!
It may be spring break but at 7500 feet Mt. Ashland may still provide some winter fun in the snow. This ski area is open daily except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays but open all week the week of March 24th which corresponds to spring break for much of Oregon. The resort operation schedule is subject to change depending on weather conditions so check before going (541) 482-2897 Take I5 South from Ashland to the Mt. Ashland exit (Exit 6) www.mtashland.com
From Lithia Park head to the Plaza and Downtown Ashland for a great selection of independently owned shops and restaurants, no chain stores here. (Well, there is one Starbucks but it blends right in).
Unicorn Gifts and Toys has a great selection of unique gifts and plenty of toys for the kids.53 N 2nd St., (541) 488-5943.
Bloomsbury Books is a fantastic independent bookstore in downtown Ashland located at 290 E.Main. www.bloomsburyashland.com
If you like getting crafty and making jewelry check out The Bead Studio which has a large selection of jewelry making materials. 266 E.Main. 541-488-3037
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Ashland is home to Dagoba Organic Chocolate which has a retail outlet at 1105 Benson Way. Open M-F from 10-4. This gourmet chocolate company specializes in high quality organic chocolate which is in their words, “edible gold”. www.dagobachocolate.com
Everything old is new again; this is certainly the wave with music and the resurgence of Vinyl. For the best selection in Southern Oregon check out Music Coop which also boasts a stock of over 20,000 CD’s 268 E.Main. www.musiccooponline.com
When you work up an appetite there are a plethora of cafes lining the streets. For breakfast Greenleaf offers a large selection which includes many vegetarian options. An Ashland staple for the past 27 years it’s also great for lunch or dinner. Located on the plaza at 49 N.Main. www.greenleafrestaurant.com
If pizza is your favorite head to Martollis also on the Plaza for pizza by the slice or a whole pie. The pizza is delish! Enjoy eating in or getting it to go and heading to the neighboring Lithia Park. 38 East Main Street. www.martollis.com
Since you are in Oregon you know there has to be some tasty home grown beer, fear not Standing Stone Brewery is not only a local brewery specializing in organic beer but a great place to stop by for lunch or dinner. The menu offers typical brew pub fare including sandwiches, pizza, salads, etc. Try the fresh cut garlic fries if you dare! If you stop by on a warm sunny day make sure to get a table on their deck which offers views of the surrounding mountains. 101 Oak St. www.standingstonebrewing.com
Originally built in 1925 The Ashland Springs Hotel www.ashlandspringshotel.com was for many years the tallest building between San Francisco and Portland. Now it is a charming hotel in the heart of Ashland. Having been completely restored to its current state it is a sophisticated boutique hotel with all the amenities you would expect at any luxury inn. Enjoy the adjoining restaurant Larks www.larksrestaurant.com/ or the Waterstone Spa during your stay.212 E. Main Street. Rates from $150.
If you prefer to be closer to the natural offerings of the Ashland area check out Callahan’s Lodge. At the base of Mt Ashland in the Siskiyou Mountains this rebuilt lodge and restaurant have a rustic charm and are convenient to both the ski resort and the Pacific Crest Trail which passes by only ¼ mile away. Located just six miles north of the California boarder and 10 miles south of Ashland off of I5 at exit 6. 7100 Old Highway 99 South Rates from $125-$250. www.callahanslodge.com
This is only a small sampling of what Ashland has to offer. This unique quaint town is a great place to spend at least part of your spring vacation. Check back for part 2 and see what else Southern Oregon has to offer.