About This Place
Home to the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon, is the consummate art community. Here, cosmopolitan flair blends with a peaceful, small-town existence. Downtown art galleries, jazz clubs, stylish cafés and wine bars buzz with Bard-aficionados and bohemian students from Ashland’s Southern Oregon University. Restored Victorian homes line the hillsides like bright jewels.
Some believe this southern Rogue Valley town—a 15-minute drive from the California border—resembles a village in Switzerland or northern Italy. The snowy peaks of the Siskiyou Mountains frame the skyline in an area with hot summers and cold winters.
Named for the local mineral springs, 93-acre Lithia Park anchors Ashland and borders the downtown district. Residents and tourists visiting Ashland relax over picnics, explore the half-mile trail, or, in summer, peruse the popular artisans’ market. Lithia Park was designed in 1914 by landscape architect John McLaren, who also designed San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Each year from February through October, approximately 100,000 Bard fans attend the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the top attraction in Ashland and the city’s artistic tour-de-force. Productions are held in the heart of the city at the festival complex, also called “the bricks” for the prominent brick courtyard. The outdoor Elizabethan Theatre, modeled after London’s Fortune Theatre, seats 1,200 and overlooks Lithia Park. Named for the festival’s founder, the state-of-the-art Angus Bowmer Theatre holds 600 and showcases five productions each season. The festival uses the 350-seat New Theatre for more contemporary plays by artists such as Henrik Ibsen and Tennessee Williams. Backstage tours can be arranged.
Another top attraction in Ashland is the Schneider Museum of Art, situated on the outer edge of Southern Oregon University campus. The 66,000-square-foot complex houses exhibits by artists from Oregon and elsewhere on the West Coast, as well as a permanent collection by Alexander Calder and George Inness. Visitors also view pre-Columbian ceramics and works by faculty and students.
Ashland welcomes theater lovers, as well as grape lovers, to the tasting rooms in downtown. About four miles south, Weisinger’s Winery sits perched on a hilltop with sweeping views of the Siskiyou Mountains. Established in 1988, the family-owned shop produces wine from harvests in the Rogue Valley, including a Viognier and a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend.
Adventurers visiting Ashland discover a variety of outdoor activities close to the city. Skiers hit the slopes at nearby Mount Ashland, about a nine-mile drive, and hikers and bikers explore the trails in the surrounding forestland. Access to the famous Pacific Crest Trail is about an hour east of the city.
Ashland first became known for the soothing natural mineral waters of nearby Lithia Springs. After a day of tasting wines, applauding a Shakespearean play or perusing art galleries, visitors rejuvenate at one of the city’s day spas, such as Waterstone Spa on Main Street or The Blue Giraffe on Water Street. Chozu Bath and Tea Gardens near Railroad Park hosts a Japanese tea ceremony and welcomes guests to bathe in the hot salt-water pool or unwind with a massage.