There are many necessary components for a fun girls’ getaway weekend—namely, great food and wine, nightlife, outdoor adventure and a spa for repose. And since my two girlfriends and I live hundreds of miles apart in Bend, Portland and San Francisco, a good location is imperative. Enter Ashland. The Southern Oregon town boasts world-renowned theater, amazing cuisine and more than 60 wineries in Umpqua Valley, all with a backdrop of valleys and mountains. On a Friday morning in March we left our respective homes and met up just a few hours later for an unforgettable girls’ escape.
Ashland is conveniently located about equidistant from San Francisco, Portland and Bend. We arrived in the early afternoon on Friday and checked into the Ashland Springs Hotel. Built in 1925, the boutique hotel was renovated a decade ago and provides luxurious accommodations, including the newly remodeled Waterstone Spa across the street, which was our first stop. Champagne in hand, we each settled in for a pedicure.
After a quick change in the room we headed downtown for the First Friday Art Walk. Ashland has a vibrant arts scene. The galleries are located within easy walking distance of each other and on this night, the scene was buzzing with patrons, artists and musicians. Eventually we made our way to Peerless Restaurant in the railroad district. We shared small plates of Spanish stewed chickpeas and wild forage mushroom risotto, and finished up in time to walk the four blocks to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Angus Bowmer Theatre just as the lights were dimming for the 8 p.m. showing of Hamlet. Needless to say, we fell asleep that night just as our heads hit the pillow.
Ashland is located on the south end of the Rogue Valley, just 15 miles from the California border, and has mild weather year-round, with crisp, cold winters and hot summers. This morning started with bright sunshine and a complimentary breakfast at Larks restaurant in the hotel. We set off for a mid-morning hike at Table Rock in Sams Valley. Our trail led us on a steep two-mile climb through lush shaded forest and plateaued on a flat, wide-open summit where we were rewarded with a 360-degree view of the Rogue River and Siskiyou Mountains.
Down the trail and on the road again, this time with growling stomachs, we made a detour into Jacksonville. We grabbed sandwiches and meandered through the town. Established during the gold rush, the historic town has the same façade it had over a century ago. The main drag is dotted with brick-faced boutiques, one-room banks, wood buildings with saloon-style doors and Queen Anne-style homes.
We headed out of town for dinner at New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro in Talent. The funky outpost doesn’t look like much sitting on the side the highway, but don’t be fooled by its shabby adobe frame. Inside, husband-and-wife team Vernon and Charlene Rollins (they’re both Chez Panisse expats, where she was a chef and he a sommelier) serve up gourmet food, much of it sourced from their extensive vegetable garden behind the restaurant. After a desert of homemade ice cream and marionberry tart, we headed back to Ashland for round two of the Shakespeare Festival: Pride and Prejudice.
Our final day was all about chocolate. Despite feeling melancholy about our impending departure, we started the morning with a walk in Ashland’s Lithia Park. Located in the heart of downtown, the park contains 93 acres of forest and streams, duck ponds and open field, playgrounds and hiking trails. By the time we made it back to our hotel, the sixth annual Chocolate Festival had just begun. We ventured through the labyrinth of chocolatiers, our mouths watering as we perused (and sampled) delectable truffles and bars, rich sauces, homemade marshmallows, special pastries and hot cocoa. It was a grand way to end an equally grand weekend. Well-fueled on sugar, we sadly parted ways, each of us heading in opposite directions. We know there will be more getaways in our future, but it’s hard to imagine another as perfect as this.