12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Jacksonville, OR

Written by Brad Lane
Mar 8, 2021

Jacksonville is a bit of a secret gem in Southern Oregon, approximately five miles west of Medford. Although, with significant cultural events, like a months-long musical festival, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year, the secret is not that well kept.

This historic town began with a gold mining boom in the 1850s, approximately seven years before Oregon received its statehood. Jacksonville prospered as a center of commerce for over 30 years before meeting its eventual bust. And while the town today is popular for different reasons, many of the historic buildings remain the same.

Alongside live music and historic architecture, Jacksonville has a fun community vibe. Shopping, dining, and strolling around in the sunny weather are other popular activities. And surrounded by stunning landscapes, the town is also an excellent basecamp for Southern Oregon adventures.

Find your next new favorite Oregon getaway with our list of the top things to do in Jacksonville.

1. Take a Historical Jacksonville Trolley Tour

Old hotel in Jacksonville
Old hotel in Jacksonville | ryan harvey / photo modified

The rich history of Jacksonville is on full display with various tours of the town. One of the most popular guided outings, the Jacksonville Trolley Tour, offers a 45-minute narration of the city's past. These fun historical tours depart five times a day, every day between May and June. Tours are available Friday through Monday for the rest of the year.

The trolley isn't the only tour in town. The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce also offers a free self-guided walking tour following much of the same route as the trolley. And for a different way of getting around, Segway of Jacksonville offers two-hour tours cruising the city streets.

Jacksonville's haunted side is also on display with select tours of the city. Near All Hollow's Eve at the end of the year, the trolley transforms into a Haunted Trolley. This family-friendly event offers a ghoulish narration and visual effects for a spooktacular ride. The Jacksonville Haunted History Walking Tour also highlights the town's restless residents this time of year, with costumed characters adding to the effect.

2. Shop Local in Jacksonville

Antique shop in Jacksonville
Antique shop in Jacksonville | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Shopping in Jacksonville is a treat. It gives visitors a reason to walk around downtown and admire the historic ambience of the city. And with only local shops lining the downtown area, the selection guarantees finding something unique with each visit.

With a long and spirited cultural history, it should come as no surprise that Jacksonville has a lot of antiques to peruse. The antiquing available in Jacksonville has helped put this small town back on the map. Places like Trolley Stop Antiques and Pickety Place Antiques are good first places to visit.

But it's not just old-timey items in Jacksonville. Several modern merchants of clothing, home furnishings, and amusements also line the streets. Scheffel's Toys is an excellent place to visit for games and family activities. And Rebel Heart Books on West California Street caters to both bibliophiles and casual readers alike.

3. Attend the Britt Music & Arts Festival

The Britt Music & Arts Festival entertains thousands of spectators with dozens of performances throughout the summer. This months-long music festival doesn't subscribe to a specific genre, either. Performances range from jam bands to country music and include classical, reggae, and funk shows.

Over 30 scheduled events span June through September. Nearly all performances occur at the stunning outdoor Britt Festival Pavilion, on the estate of the prominent 19th-century photographer, Peter Britt. This natural amphitheater offers spectacular scenery to go with the show.

Seating is split between reservable bench seats near the front of the stage and a sprawling lawn area in the back. Bring a blanket for the lawn seating, and perhaps a pair of binoculars for better views. Personal food and beverages are welcome at each show.

Several of the concerts sell out each year. The amphitheater's total seating tops out at 2,200 people – which is nearly enough to accommodate Jacksonville's entire full-time population.

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

4. Amble Around Historic Jacksonville

The historic St. James Building, now Jacksonville City Hall
The historic St. James Building, now Jacksonville City Hall | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Gold was first discovered in Rich Gulch, on the southwest side of today's city center, in the winter of 1851. Soon after, Jacksonville grew to become a cultural hub of the Oregon Territory – which wouldn't become a state for another seven-plus years.

Following the gold boom, interest continued to grow thanks to the prospect of the California Railroad coming through town. In 1883, when the railroad laid tracks in the adjacent community of Medford instead, the city began its bust after three decades of prosperity.

Jacksonville bounced back to become a cultural hub of agriculture, entertainment, and art. Many of the historic buildings from the mid-to-late 19th century remain on the streets today. And now Jacksonville has so many buildings over a century old, the entire central commercial district is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Enjoying the historic aesthetics is as easy as walking around. Places like the historic Jackson County Courthouse and Beekman House are hard to miss. Simply strolling this well-aged infrastructure is a quintessential experience while visiting. The town also offers various walking and trolley tours that narrate the surrounding history.

5. Get Lost in Some Lavender

Lavender farm In Jacksonville
Lavender farm In Jacksonville

Jacksonville and the surrounding Applegate Valley offer prime conditions for cultivating lavender. This aromatic and eye-catching plant takes full bloom between approximately mid-June and mid-August. And one of the best ways to take it all in is the Southern Oregon Lavender Trail.

The current Lavender Trail has five scenic stops along the route, mostly following Highway 238. On the trail's northern end between Medford and Jacksonville, the OSU Lavender Garden is the state's first lavender demonstration garden. It has over 80 varieties on display.

Next on the trail, Lavender Fields Forever is in Jacksonville proper and is perhaps the one place to go if you can't visit them all. Alongside ample u-pick opportunities, this working farm also offers educational programs. Classes include essential oil diffusing, wreath making, and lessons on cultivating lavender at home.

6. Grab a Bite to Eat

Jacksonville Inn
Jacksonville Inn | Michael Dunn / photo modified

An abundance of local eateries throughout Jacksonville help satisfy the surplus of tourists that visit each year. And from casual cafés to romantic fine dining, eating out adds to the Jacksonville experience. The most concentrated collection of restaurants is at the center of town on either side of California Street.

For the most important meal of the day, Mustard Seed Cafe serves a wide variety of breakfast entrees. GoodBean Coffee is also an aromatic place to head first thing in the morning. Later in the afternoon or evening, places like C St Bistro and Bella Union offer lunch and light dinner fare.

Fine dining is easily accomplished at the Jacksonville Inn Dining House. This warm and intimate dining atmosphere pairs nicely with a long menu filled with steak, seafood, and decadent entrees. The Sunday Brunch at the Jacksonville Inn is especially worthwhile, with reservations highly recommended.

7. Explore Forest Park on Foot

East Applegate Ridge Trail near Jacksonville
East Applegate Ridge Trail near Jacksonville | Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington / photo modified

Several hiking opportunities lace Jacksonville within city borders. From easy walks through gardens to more challenging uphill climbs, the range of routes caters to every type of explorer. One of the densest concentrations of hiking trails is in Forest Park, located approximately two miles west of the city's center.

Forest Park encompasses over 1,000 acres of lush terrain and over 30 miles of multi-use trails. Routes lead along stream beds, through canyons, and up towards significant views of the Siskiyou Mountains.

Outside of Forest Park, the Jacksonville Woodland Trails also provide a surplus of routes to explore. Primarily encompassing the southwest part of town, this trail system features over 16 miles of blazes to follow. The Britt Woods and Peter Britt Gardens are two popular areas within the Jacksonville Woodlands.

8. Attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Courtyard
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Courtyard | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The nearby city of Ashland, 15 miles southeast, is home to the acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This world-renowned festival takes place over eight months, with 800 performances every year. It has become nothing short of a way of life in Ashland.

Productions grace many stages in Ashland, but none quite as remarkable as the Allen Elizabethan Theatre. This open-air stage features a three-story facade that looks to belong in 1600s England. This set decor and all its moving pieces, alongside the authentic Shakespearean dialogue, really sets the ambience during a show.

The merriments flow, from the Shakespearean stages into the adjacent Lithia Park. This linear public space has also grown alongside the festival to be one of the nation's most acclaimed city parks.

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

Read More: Top Things to Do in Ashland

9. Hike to the Top of Table Rocks

Table Rocks
Table Rocks | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The prominent plateaus on the Rogue River, known as Table Rocks, are among the most popular hiking destinations in the region. These two mega-monoliths, Lower and Upper Table Rock, stand 800 feet above the Rogue Valley and offer tremendous views. And both trailheads are accessible from Jacksonville with a 30-minute drive.

It's less than two miles of hiking in one direction to reach the top of either Table Rock. But both routes climb approximately 800 feet, making it an uphill effort. Lower Table Rock is technically the easier hike but still presents a challenge. The best time of year to make the hike is in the spring or fall, avoiding the intense exposure of the summer sun.

Upon making it to the top of either Table Rock, a scattering of trails leads in all directions across the flat expanse. These elevated areas contain a significant cultural history tied back to the native Takelma Indians population.

Much of the Table Rock history is discussed on a Rogue Jet Boat Adventure, which takes place on the river below.

10. Take a Rogue Jet Boat Adventure

Rogue Jet Boat Adventure
Rogue Jet Boat Adventure | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The world-famous Rogue River begins in Crater Lake and flows north of Jacksonville and the Applegate Valley. Several fun ways to spend the day surround this Wild & Scenic River. Popular activities include hiking to natural bridges, angling from the shores, and white-water rafting through rapids.

However, one of the best ways to experience the Rogue is on a Rogue Jet Boat Adventure. This guiding company provides 2.5-hour tours in a light and agile jet boat. These nimble river vessels navigate up and down the current while having a little fun with hairpin turns and fast acceleration. The popular boat rides are fun for the whole family.

Rogue Jet Boat Adventures start and begin at TouVelle State Recreation Site, a 12-mile drive from Jacksonville. Alongside the exciting ride, the tour guide provides an in-depth narration of the area's natural and cultural history. Specifically, and with a great view of the prominent plateaus, Table Rocks' history is expanded upon during each tour.

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

11. Day Trip to Crater Lake

Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon

One of the country's most stunning national parks, Crater Lake is less than two hours from Jacksonville. This ancient caldera is the remnant of Mount Mazama erupting over 7,000 years ago. With the passage of time, rainfall and snowmelt collected in the massive crater to become the deepest lake in the United States.

Not only is the water deep at Crater Lake, but thanks to its purity, it is also a fantastic shade of blue. One of the most popular activities at Crater Lake is simply standing at the rim and staring across the dazzling expanse. This view alone cements Crater Lake as one of Oregon's top sightseeing attractions.

One of the best places to head from Jacksonville is the Rim Village and Rim Visitor Center. It's approximately a two-hour drive to this hub of activity on the southwest rim. Here, visitors can access the West Rim Drive or paralleling hiking trail for extended views. Rim Village also has an extensive campground for those looking to extend a day trip into an overnight adventure.

12. Appreciate the Displays at the Art Presence Art Center

On the historic Jackson County Courthouse grounds, Art Presence Art Center is a central spot to peruse local works. This community-based art center features over 30 members who continuously display new work. Mediums range from painting to ceramics and include bronzed sculptures, beaded jewelry, and photography.

The Art Presence Art Center also engages the community with regularly occurring events and classes. Live music, book readings, and artist lectures are standard at this community spot. The center also puts out several calls for submissions for local artists looking to get displayed.

Address: 206 N 5th Street, Jacksonville, Oregon

Official site: https://art-presence.org/

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