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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Ashland, OR

Written by Brad Lane
Aug 14, 2019

The soul of Southern Oregon and the Rogue Valley, Ashland is a cultural destination surrounded by stunning natural spaces. Popular things to do at this Southern Oregon hot spot include exploring the 100-acre Lithia Park, enjoying the local taste and flavors of the region, and attending an authentic Elizabethan production via the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. With local fare and numerous shopping opportunities to top off the tourist experience in Ashland, it's easy to see why the city keeps growing with new residents each year.

Snowshoeing near Ashland

With a season spanning February through October and featuring over 700 productions, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a must-visit cultural event of the state. The energy of the Elizabethan Theatre and theatrical performers spill out across Ashland, adding a unique ambience to the city found few other places in the country. For extra theatrical things to do, the nearby Oregon Cabaret Theatre offers unique dining menus with each show.

Numerous day and weekend trips stem from Ashland, with public spaces like Emigrant Lake and Mt. Ashland Ski Area a short drive away. The internationally acclaimed and top natural marvel of the American West, Crater Lake National Park, is also accessible from Ashland in just over an hour's drive. More outdoor activities line the entirety of the Rogue River—whitewater rafting, hiking, and lodge-to-lodge adventures are just a few of the fun things to do on the river.

For more ideas on how to spend your time, see our list of the top things to do in Ashland, Oregon.

1. Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Green Show courtyard and stage | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The center stage attraction of Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the oldest and largest non-profit theaters in the country. Spread across three different stages, the Shakespeare Festival puts on multiple showings of 11 different performances within a season, spanning February through October. On any given day of a show, the surrounding downtown district is filled with the energy of theatergoers making their way to their seats.

While the Angus Bowmer Theatre and Thomas Theatre put on spectacular shows, the eye-catching Allen Elizabethan Theatre provides the most authentic Shakespeare experience. With an outdoor stage and two tiers of seating, attending a show at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre is a unique and special thing to do in Oregon. Celebrating over 80 years of Shakespeare plays, the festival today attracts international attention with over 700 shows each year.

Fun and free pre-show entertainment can be experienced at the centrally located Green Show Courtyard and Stage, featuring live music from local and regional performers. Numerous hiking trails and scenic picnic spots line the neighboring Lithia Park for a leg stretch before or after the show. Special behind-the-scenes tours of the different theaters are available through advanced reservation.

Official site: https://www.osfashland.org/

2. Lithia Park

Lithia Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The crown jewel natural space in Ashland, Lithia Park extends south from downtown as it follows the meandering banks of Ashland Creek. Encompassing over 100 acres, this linear park reveals hidden gems and unique park amenities around every turn of the trail. A Japanese Garden, beautiful bandshell, and decorative fountain are all discovered in Lithia Park with a short walk, and different picnic spots and gatherings areas are spread throughout.

The immensity of things to do in Lithia Park is a bit disorientating when exploring the public space, but the linear fashion and popularity of the park makes it hard to get lost. Public events and spillover of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival takes place at the north end of Lithia Park. Numerous downtown restaurants are also at this end of the park, making for great outdoor seating overlooking the landscaped surroundings.

3. Downtown Ashland

Ashland Downtown Plaza and mineral fountain | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A charming shopping and dining corridor, downtown Ashland is lined with local restaurants, unique shops, and tons of character. With its historic downtown plaza, complete with an odiferous mineral water fountain, walking through the heart of downtown Ashland is reminiscent of European street markets, with garden-lined paths and vibrant storefronts. This European flair also comes from downtown's proximity to the stages of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The northern end of the sprawling Lithia Park connects with downtown, offering an easy escape from the city streets. Numerous events occur in downtown Ashland throughout the year, including the Ashland Saturday Market featuring fresh fruits, flowers, and veggies. First Friday Artwalk also takes places in downtown once a month with a community block party vibe.

For delicious Shakespearean-themed entrees and décor downtown, Oberon's Restaurant features aromatic entrees like Shepard's pie and beef stew. Greenleaf is another popular downtown restaurant offering fresh fare for every meal of the day. The Tudor Guild Shop offers more Shakespearean keepsakes to take home, and Bloomsbury Books is the quintessential local bookstore of Ashland.

4. Oregon Cabaret Theatre

Oregon Cabaret Theatre | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For additional theatrical attraction in Ashland, Oregon Cabaret Theatre offers dinner and a show. Featuring season-long shows and special One Night Only performances, the current performance space was renovated from an old church in the neighborhood, adding a certain dramatic aesthetic to every show. Guests can enjoy appetizers, dinner, and casual company before each performance, with a unique menu accompanying each production.

Address: 241 Hargadine Street, Ashland, Oregon

Official site: https://theoregoncabaret.com

5. Rogue River

The Rogue River in the fall

The Rogue River travels 215 miles from its headwaters in Crater Lake to the ocean at Gold Beach, effectively carving through the landscape and creating the rich community that surrounds it. Numerous recreational, scenic, and tasteful attractions surround the banks of the river and subsequent Rogue Valley, including plenty of things to do on the water. For one of the best paddling trips in the nation, the Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River delivers, with lodge-to-lodge rafting tours and world-renowned white water.

A half hour north of Ashland and departing from the scenic and historic Table Rock Area, Rogue Jet Boat Adventures provides a fast-moving and guided ride atop the water. With great views of both Upper and Lower Table Rock, the guided tour details the history of the surrounding Rogue Valley with an emphasis on native populations of the region. Jet boat riders meet at TouVelle Park, which is also a great place for a picnic or quick dip in the river.

North towards Crater Lake and the river's headwaters, the Natural Bridge of the Rogue River further illustrates the unique beauty found along the banks. The trail leading to this unique natural feature caused by the river suddenly turning sideways into a 250-foot lava tube is paved and very accessible. Other popular things to do on the Rogue River include salmon fishing and hiking the Rogue River National Recreation Trail.

6. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake

An ancient caldera formed by a massive volcanic event over 7,000 years ago, Crater Lake is filled with icy blue snowmelt and rainwater. One of the grandest natural marvels of the American West, Crater Lake National Park is accessible from Ashland in just over an hour's drive. The most popular thing to do at Crater Lake is travel along the Rim Trail and stare in awe at the wonder below.

The Rim Trail is also one of the best day hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, and the hiker/biker sites at the Mazama Campground within the park are often filled with thru-hikers spending the night. The campground also accommodates tents and RVs with over 200 sites available. Hikers can take a ferry across Crater Lake to reach the protruding Wizard Island, and for something fun to do in the winter, the Rim Road remains unplowed and primed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm

7. Ashland Ski Area

Mt. Ashland Ski Resort

A popular wintertime ski destination, Mount Ashland offers plenty of cold weather things to do. Surrounding the tallest peak in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon, Mt. Ashland Ski Resort is reachable from Ashland within an hour's drive. Encompassing over 200 acres and 23-named runs, Mt. Ashland is a local favorite based on its affordability and access to big mountain terrain. Regularly occurring winter events at Mt. Ashland include a Midwinter Jam Series and a Dummy Downhill.

Address: 11 Mt. Ashland Ski Road, Ashland, Oregon

Official site: https://www.mtashland.com/

8. Emigrant Lake County Park

Emigrant Lake | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

With fun summer things to do in Ashland, the wide-reaching shores of Emigrant Lake invite boating, swimming, and spending the night next to the water. Created by the impoundment of the Rogue River, this 800-acre reservoir features two campgrounds that exclusively cater to tents or RVs respectively. Group campgrounds are also available at Emigrant Lake. A 15-minute drive from Ashland, Emigrant Lake is popular for post-work and weekend trips alike.

Official site: http://jacksoncountyor.org/parks/Camping/Emigrant-Lake

9. ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum

Engaging children of the Rogue Valley since 2002, ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum features numerous interactive exhibits aimed at spurring the imagination. Popular exhibits at this children's museum include a Wild Music multimedia display and a special Discovery Island for children five years old and younger. Science Camps at the museum are often coveted by parents and children alike, and regularly occurring classes and programs offer fun things to do for the whole family.

Address: 1500 E Main Street, Ashland, Oregon

Official site: https://scienceworksmuseum.org

10. Schneider Museum of Art

Schneider Museum of Art | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Open to all members of the public and on the campus of Southern Oregon University, the Schneider Museum of Art has a heavy focus on visual displays. Showcasing student, regional, and national artworks, the Schneider Museum of Art regularly rotates their exhibits for something new to see with each visit. Part of the larger Oregon Center for the Arts at the University, other cultural contributions on campus include chamber music concerts and a ShakespeareAMERICA Institute.

11. Oredson-Todd Woods

Oredson-Todd Woods

Above the south side of the city in the slopes of the Siskiyou Mountains, Oredson-Todd Woods provides a popular access point for hiking and mountain biking on the city's edge. Combined with the adjacent Siskiyou Mountain Park, over seven miles of challenging trails navigate the forested canyon, including the popular White Rabbit Trail, which extends beyond park boundaries. Offering a fun thing to do with dogs in Ashland, the vertical terrain is well equipped to burn off some extra pet energy.

Official site: https://www.landconserve.org/oredsontodd-woods-siskiyou-mt-park

12. Ashland Library

Carnegie Library in Ashland | Jay Galvin / photo modified

A frequented public space, the Ashland Library stands out as a place to visit thanks to its many valuable resources and aesthetic design. The stately courthouse design of this Carnegie Library is surrounded by a tranquil exterior and landscaped grounds, and the inside caters to quiet study with high ceilings, natural light, and fast and free internet. Alongside the books, magazines, and newspapers, other popular community resources include computer stations, kids' storytelling times, and public meeting rooms.

Address: 2196, 410 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland, Oregon

Official site: https://jcls.org/ashland/home

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