When the fall crush of homework, soccer, carpools and daylight savings becomes too punishing, sometimes there’s only one thing to do: find a long weekend and pile into the van for a mini family retreat. Often, a good car ride together is the best way to reconnect (if not have fun trying).
Just a 4.5-hour drive from Portland, two hours from Crater Lake National Park and near the Oregon-California border, lovely Ashland offers a lot of easy ways for families to experience the unique region in the fall. The dry climate, vibrant culture and warm hospitality draw visitors of all ages.
Catch Celtic Music in a Cozy English Pub
The fall is a great time to soak up some music in Ashland. The Black Sheep, a British-style pub, offers family-friendly Celtic music sessions throughout the month on cozy Sunday afternoons. Stick around for Mum’s English Sunday Dinner, a warming pot-roast meal with Yorkshire pudding.
Visit Friendly Horses and Funny Turtles
It’s no secret that many children love horses, and Ashland is home to a horse sanctuary making a great impact. Reserve an appointment to visit the Equamore Sanctuary and Foundation,where your family might be able to meet rescued horses like Dewey, Dancer and Dusty.
Willow-Witt Ranch, about 13 miles northeast of downtown, is home to Oregon’s highest location for western pond turtles, and you’re free to come visit them daily. Time your visit for a sunny day when the critters will be out warming themselves. Workers recently restored 80 acres of wetlands on the 445-acre ranch — and a 2.5-mile-long interpretive trail explains why that’s so cool. You’re also free to wander around the meadows on a 3.1-mile-long loop before heading to the farm store for ice cream.
Explore the Natural World at Museums and Parks
Spend an afternoon at the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, a nonprofit enterprise with indoor and outdoor exhibits including a “bubble-ology” room, a hall of illusions and a weather station with a 33-foot meteorological tower that takes real-time readings. Kids love the museum’s DaVinci’s Garage, a place where they can use science to build the best-flying paper airplane ever or create scenes using stop-motion animation. View their website for volunteer opportunities to test and try out new museum exhibits.
You can also follow the self-guided interpretive trails at North Mountain Park, which leads to a beautiful sandbox, all sorts of wildlife and pieces of Native art. Finally, don’t leave Ashland without a day at Lithia Park, the city’s crown jewel. Kids will love the impressive playground and duck ponds amidst the 93 acres while you can soak up some serious fall colors in the Japanese Garden.
Where to Sleep in Ashland
For more kid-approved lodging options, Ashland is home to more than a dozen charming bed-and-breakfast options, many of which are located within walking distance of Lithia Park and other downtown locations. For more room for the group, get a pet-friendly family suite at Lithia Springs Resort.