In Ashland, it’s always a wonderful time for a bit of indulgence: world-class theater, culinary delights, restorative spa escapes or time with family.
The table: Ashland’s fine dining scene will leave you with the happy quandary of many great choices. Dine at Larks Restaurant in the Ashland Springs Hotel for a celebration of Oregon’s farm-to-table dining at its best. (Look for their wine dinner collaborations during the summer.) The menu at Alchemy Restaurant & Bar includes such rich offerings as filet mignon, stuffed quail and a host of boutique Oregon wines, and Amuse Restaurant brings a decidedly French flavor to the table. For craft beer fans, Caldera Brewing and Standing Stone Brewing are favorite local spots for award-winning ales and satisfying pub fare. Just in time for Oregon Wine Month deals in May, pick up a passport to the Bear Creek Wine Trail, which includes tastings at 13 of Oregon’s southernmost wineries.
The festivals: Ashland is full of tasty detours all year long, but the Ashland Culinary Festival (Nov. 7-10, 2019) is a major annual event that gathers chefs, bartenders and fans from across the region for competitions in mixology, junior chef and top chef categories. The Oregon Wine Experience in nearby Jacksonville (Aug. 9-25, 2019) is a premiere event for oenophiles. Sip and learn about more than 100 Oregon wines available for tasting; meet the winemakers; take a class at Oregon Wine University (food pairings, choosing the right glass, side-by-side tastings and more); and know that proceeds from the event go to support a worthy cause. In late April, A Taste of Ashland is two-day festival that celebrates the region’s best wines, restaurants and galleries — most within walking distance.
The goods: The wineries fertile Southern Oregon wine-growing regions near Ashland are some of the oldest in the state. Plan your visit to drop by the tastings rooms of Del Rio Vineyards, Troon Vineyard, RoxyAnn Winery and DANCIN Vineyards, as well as other others with views and personal tasting experiences in the broader Rogue Valley as well. When it’s time for a snack, don’t miss the Rogue Creamery and Lillie Belle Farms Artisan Chocolates.
The stage: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival runs from March through October. In 2019, the festival welcomed a brand-new artistic director, Nataki Garrett, who replaces Bill Rauch, who is taking a job in New York City. The 2019 lineup includes classic Shakespearean plays “As You Like It,” “Macbeth” and a bilingual “La Comedia of Errors,” as well as modern musicals “Hairspray” and “Alice in Wonderland.” If you’re wondering about which play might be appropriate for young viewers on your next family road trip, the festival offers a handy play suitability suggestions and study guides.
The family: Check out the Shakespeare Festival’s Family Days for discounted $30 tickets per play (with at least one child between 6-17 in the family), which includes a “Prologue,” or explanatory preview, before the play with the festival’s education staff.
The spa: Spend a relaxing afternoon at Chozu Bath and Tea Gardens, where you can soak in a hot pool or try the sauna, steam room or a massage treatment. Enjoy Japanese tea, saké and food at the lounge following your session. Also check out Waterstone Spa at Lithia Springs Resort for a healing soak or delightful massage.
The outdoors: Ashland is a haven for hikers of all ages and abilities. Find your favorite stress-busting hike in Southern Oregon (waterfalls, anyone?). Find nourishing meals nearby the trail as you hike up an appetite, and don’t miss these three must-hike trails in Ashland. Lithia Park, the city’s crown jewel, lights up with cherry blossoms in the spring and bright autumn colors in the fall. In the summer, families dip their toes in the creek and gather for free, guided 1.5-hour nature walks along paved trails through the 100-acre space and its many gardens and play areas.