In just three short years, my family and I have absolutely fallen in love with Southern Oregon. We have spent our weekends hiking, paddleboarding, swimming in lakes, exploring waterfalls and hot springs, picking peaches, cherries and apples, finding sand dollars by the ocean and seeing amazing theater performances without ever having to leave the region. Our family loves Southern Oregon. Here it’s easy to pack family-friendly fun in eight days.
Day 1: Theater and Lithia Park
Located at the edge of the state border, Ashland may be best known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Seeing an OSF show should be a requirement for every visitor — including children, ages six and up. The festival usually puts on at least a couple kid-friendly shows throughout the summer. Last year my daughter and I went to The Wiz, and this year they are performing Beauty and the Beast.
With 11 plays on three stages every season, it can be difficult to narrow down the choices to one show. But my vote is always for the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. The outdoor stage is absolutely breathtaking. We also love attending OSF’s free summer and fall entertainment “on the bricks,” the Green Shows, held right outside the Elizabethan stage, Tuesday – Sunday at 6:45 p.m. from June through October. The entertainment changes night to night, but it’s always a delight to catch before or after dinner in downtown Ashland.
And speaking of dinner, we recommend pizza from Martolli’s. The hand-tossed pizza is delicious and popular with the kids. It has a perfect downtown location where we equally love eating inside or taking pizza to Lithia Park around the corner.
For fancier tastebuds (and well-behaved kids), there’s Brickroom restaurant and bar. Their dirty fries are incredible.
My children love wading through the river and pools at Lithia Park during hot summer days. The 93-acre park has plenty of hiking trails to explore and the little ones will count the deer along the paths and bridges. We’ve also seen many great public music performances at the park’s band shell. It really is an amazing gem in the middle of Ashland.
Day 2: Emigrant Lake and water slides
Just minutes from downtown Ashland is Emigrant Lake, where we swim, fish, stand-up paddleboard, kayak, water ski and jet ski to our heart’s content. Our favorite is taking paddleboards on the lake (you can rent them right on the shoreline) and then spending a few hours at their two 280-foot-high water slides.
The day flies — or rather, floats — by.
Day 3: Fruit Picking
Summer is prime time for U-pick farms, and Southern Oregon has the best. We make sure to go cherry- and peach-picking at Valley View Orchard for the amazing views of Ashland. There’s more peach-picking at Sugar Plum Acres in Talent with great prices.
Blueberries and raspberries are ready for the picking at B & R Berries (“The Berry Patch”) in Gold Hill.
Best of all, to reach each of these U-pick farms takes a beautiful ride through the Southern Oregon countryside!
Day 4: North Umpqua Waterfalls
A waterfall adventure takes a full day. I mapped out several of our favorites and they are all throughout the Umpqua National Forest near Crater Lake National Park. Favorites include: Mill Creek Falls, Pearsoney Falls, National Creek Falls, Whitehorse Falls, Watson Falls and Tokatee Falls — we have visited all of them with our three young kids and have survived to tell the tale.
Mill Creek Falls is especially great because not only is it a short walk to the overlook to the falls, but also Avenue of Giant Boulders is along the same trail.
At 293 feet, Watson Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Oregon and not to be missed.
When we’re up for a little more adventure after visiting Tokatee Falls, we add Umpqua Hot Springs to our itinerary, only a short hike away. The springs are located right on a clifftop perch with an amazing view of the North Umpqua River below. Families should be on the lookout for more “natural” people (think: birthday suit), but we’ve personally never encountered any nudity.
Avenue of Giant Boulders
Umpqua Hot Springs
Day 5: South Umpqua Falls
Okay, okay, I know Crater Lake should be on this list… but instead I am going to share my family’s all-time favorite place in Southern Oregon: South Umpqua Falls.
We make it a day trip because there’s so much to see and do at this fantastic spot — waterfalls, river swimming, crawdads and frogs. Our kids always have an absolute blast.
Day 6: Applegate Country
Just west of Medford is a beautiful countryside with a few of our favorite kid-friendly activities.
The world’s only known Bigfoot trap is an exciting little treasure found in the backwoods of Applegate country. And it’s just a simple 3/4-mile hike hike to get there.
Afterwards we’ll spend the afternoon at Applegate Lake kayaking, SUPing and swimming in the beautiful no-wake lake. There we take in the scenery of the Siskiyou mountains reflecting off the glassy water.
During the summer months, we stop at The English Lavender Farm for U-pick lavender and spend plenty of time at their farm store for everything lavender-infused. We love their lavender lemonade and strawberry-lavender ice cream.
Day 7: Oregon Coast
For us, our closest coastline is in the town of Brookings. But we’ll explore the whole South Coast.
We enjoy making forts out of beautiful driftwood at Crissey Field State Recreation Site, checking out the waterfall at Secret Beach in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor and peeking at the tide pools at Harris Beach State Park.
Day 8: Wildlife Safari
All fun-loving families should stop at Wildlife Safari in Winston. The drive-thru animal park is a blast! Tickets range from $14-20 but the village is free to walk around. We get to see flamingos, wallaroos and snakes, go inside the bird atrium, eat hamburgers at the restaurant and feed farm animals.
To make our visit even more worthwhile, we try and make time for one of their encounters. We have experienced almost every one of them, and our top favorites are feeding the elephants and the giraffes
Southern Oregon is the perfect retreat for families during the summer. There are so many more wonderful adventures throughout the region, but these are some of our must-do activities every summer. See you out there!