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Discover this quaint Oregon town : the perfect alternative to visiting Portland

Have you ever wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of Portland and explore a quieter, more charming corner of Oregon ? If so, let me introduce you to Ashland, a quaint town nestled in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains. Ashland is the perfect alternative to Portland, offering unique experiences and picturesque landscapes that you won’t find in the big city.

Exploring the vibrant cultural scene

Ashland might be small, but it punches well above its weight when it comes to culture. At the heart of the town’s cultural identity is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), which has been attracting theater lovers since 1935. Each year, more than 400,000 visitors flock to Ashland to watch world-class productions spanning Shakespearean classics to contemporary plays. Imagine an evening under the stars at the outdoor Elizabethan Theatre, where you’re transported back in time, mesmerized by the hauntingly beautiful performances.

The artistic vibe doesn’t stop at the OSF. Ashland Art Center and numerous galleries along Main Street showcase works by local and regional artists. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a casual browser, you’ll find something that catches your eye. First Friday Art Walks are a favorite community event, featuring live music, good food, and vibrant street performances. You’ll love mingling with the friendly and approachable locals who add warmth and a genuine sense of belonging to the Ashland experience.

For those with a penchant for music, the Southern Oregon University hosts concerts and recitals, delivering an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and modern music. The town’s music festivals, including the Ashland World Music Festival, provide ample opportunity to indulge in global sounds and rhythms. The dynamic energy of Ashland’s cultural scene is comparable to Portland’s, making it a fantastic alternative for a rich, immersive experience.

Outdoor adventures in stunning natural settings

If you love the great outdoors, Ashland offers an abundance of activities that rival those in Portland. Lithia Park, a 93-acre haven nestled alongside Ashland Creek, is a must-visit. Designed by John McLaren, who also conceptualized San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Lithia Park is a blend of manicured gardens, lush forests, and serene water features. Take leisurely walks, indulge in a picnic, or simply sit by the Japanese gardens and soak in the tranquility.

Ashland’s location at the crossroads of the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges makes it a prime spot for hiking, biking, and skiing. The Mount Ashland Ski Area is merely a short drive away, offering excellent winter sports and stunning alpine vistas. In the warmer months, try hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs near Ashland and offers breathtaking views out over the Rogue Valley.

Water enthusiasts can take to the Rogue River for white-water rafting, which offers a thrilling contrast to the peaceful surroundings. Additionally, Emigrant Lake, just a stone’s throw from town, is perfect for swimming, boating, and family fun. Camping spots around the lake provide a scenic environment to spend the night under the stars, far from the city lights.

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For vineyard lovers, Southern Oregon’s wine country is rapidly gaining fame, and Ashland is right in the middle of it. Enjoy wine tours and tastings at acclaimed wineries such as Weisinger Family Winery and Belle Fiore Winery, which offer panoramic views and exquisite varietals. The renowned Rogue Valley AVA produces some of the best wines in the state, making it a fantastic alternative to the larger, commercial wineries around Portland.

Local cuisine and delightful dining experiences

One of the joys of visiting Ashland is indulging in its vibrant food scene. The town may be small, but it boasts a surprising range of culinary delights. From farm-to-table restaurants to cozy cafes, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Many of the eateries pride themselves on using locally-sourced ingredients, ensuring fresh and flavorful dishes.

Start your morning at Bloomsbury Coffee House, a local favorite known for its delicious baked goods and aromatic coffee. For lunch, stop by Ruby’s, a popular spot offering mouth-watering vegetarian and vegan options. Ashland’s dedication to sustainable and healthy living shines through in its dining options, giving you a true taste of the region’s bounty.

In the evening, treat yourself to a gourmet meal at Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine, where you can enjoy dishes crafted from seasonal ingredients. Their menu celebrates the farm-to-fork philosophy, with offerings like pan-seared steelhead trout and wild mushroom risotto. For a more relaxed atmosphere, try Standing Stone Brewing Company, which brews excellent craft beers and serves hearty, locally-sourced meals in a casual setting.

Don’t forget to leave room for dessert. Mix Bakeshop is known for its artisan pastries, organic ice creams, and delectable cakes. It’s the perfect place to end your culinary journey in Ashland on a sweet note. And while you’re there, don’t miss the chance to engage in friendly conversations with the staff and fellow patrons, reflecting the warmth and friendliness that Ashland is known for.

Unique shopping and charming downtown vibes

Ashland’s downtown area is a treasure trove of unique shops and boutiques, offering a delightful shopping experience. From artisanal crafts to trendy clothing, there’s something for everyone. Stroll along Main Street and you’ll find stores like Paddington Station, which has been a local favorite since 1973. This three-story emporium offers an eclectic mix of gifts, home décor, and clothing.

If you’re a book lover, Bloomsbury Books is a must-visit. This independent bookstore has an impressive collection of new and used books, along with a cozy café where you can sip coffee and lose yourself in a good read. The atmosphere is inviting, and you’re likely to strike up a conversation with other book enthusiasts, enhancing the personable and relatable charm of Ashland.

For those who appreciate handmade goods, the Ashland Artisan Emporium is a delightful discovery. Featuring local artists and crafters, you can find unique jewelry, pottery, and artworks that make perfect souvenirs. The monthly Lithia Artisans Market along Ashland Creek is another excellent spot to explore local craftsmanship while enjoying live music and tasty street food.

Experience the town’s vibrant farmer’s market, the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, held twice a week. Here, you can purchase fresh produce, handcrafted items, and indulge in delicious snacks from local vendors. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and community spirit, undoubtedly a warm alternative to Portland’s busy markets.

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Attraction Description Location
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Annual festival presenting a range of plays from Shakespeare to modern drama Various theatres in Ashland
Lithia Park 93-acre park designed by John McLaren, featuring gardens, forests, and creeks Downtown Ashland
Mount Ashland Ski Area Popular winter sports destination offering skiing and snowboarding 14 miles from downtown Ashland
Weisinger Family Winery Family-owned winery offering tastings with views of the vineyards 3150 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland
Bloomsbury Books Independent bookstore with a café 290 E Main St, Ashland

Planning your visit and making the most of your stay

Ready to explore Ashland ? Here are some tips to ensure you have an unforgettable visit.

Firstly, consider the time of year. Ashland has something to offer in every season. Spring and summer are perfect for outdoor activities and strolling through vibrant parks. Fall brings stunning foliage, while winter offers skiing and cozy evenings by the fireplace.

Accommodation options cater to various preferences and budgets. For a luxurious stay, Ashland Springs Hotel blends historic charm with modern amenities. If you prefer a more intimate setting, bed and breakfasts like Iris Inn offer personalized hospitality. For those who enjoy the great outdoors, camping at Emigrant Lake or staying in cabins around the mountains can provide a closer connection to nature.

Transportation within Ashland is convenient, with most attractions within walking distance in the downtown area. Renting a bike is another popular option, allowing you to explore at your own pace. If you’re coming from Portland or other major cities, flying into Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport and driving to Ashland is both easy and scenic.

To make the most of your visit, plan ahead and check out local event calendars. The Ashland Chamber of Commerce website is a great resource for current happenings, from theater performances to farmer’s markets and seasonal festivals. Engaging with the community through these events adds a personal and enriching dimension to your trip.

Finally, don’t rush your visit. Ashland is a place to savor slowly. Take your time to chat with locals, explore back streets, and immerse yourself in the town’s unique charm. This dynamic and friendly approach will ensure you leave with memorable experiences and perhaps even new friends.

Ashland is more than just a quaint town; it’s a vibrant community teeming with culture, nature, and warmth. As a perfect alternative to Portland, it offers a serene yet stimulating escape, inviting you to dive deep into its many treasures. So next time you crave an authentic, engaging Oregon experience, head to Ashland – you won’t be disappointed.

Lance Brownfield