All About Ashland

From Shakespeare to shopping and more

By: Kathy Chin Leong

She adores Shakespeare, her husband is in love with salmon. What to do? Send them to Ashland, home to the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but also a primo hot spot for fishing and rafting.

“Over 50 percent of our visitors return because there is so much to do. Families, adults and groups come for all kinds of reasons,” said Mary Pat Parker, director of marketing for Ashland’s Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.

Martha Stewart found the kayaking splendid, said Parker. And recently, Leonardo di Caprio was shopping in downtown Ashland, the bustling Victorian-styled epicenter where Shakespeare is performed.

In recent years, Ashland has become a food-lover’s mecca as well. In 2004, when Food Network celeb Rachael Ray shot an episode of her “$40 A Day” series at Ashland’s Bakery Cafe and Lela’s Cafe, phones at the two establishments rang off the hook. Popular A-list restaurants include Amuse, known for Pacific Northwest cuisine using fresh Oregon seafood and local produce, and the Winchester Inn Restaurant and Wine Bar, which ranks highly for similar fare in a cozy inn setting. Downtown Ashland, the heart of the city, boasts some 80 restaurants, and the number is growing.

Within the last five years, wine from southern Oregon has staked its claim to fame, defining three appellations for the nectar of the gods. Applegate, Rogue and Umpqua valleys yield earthy blends that make for crisp pinot noirs and daring cabernets. Ashland Wine Tours offers a $95/day package, making stops at either the Rogue or Applegate regions. The van tour features tastings at four wineries and a progressive lunch, with food served at each place.

Clients opting for outdoor excursions will find plenty of opportunities. Local experts at Ashland’s Adventure Center and the Kokopelli River Guides can work with agents to tailor a novice-to-sportsman’s trip suitable for fishing, kayaking or rafting.

According to Parker, clients visiting in the winter enjoy fewer crowds and activities such as skiing at Mt. Ashland. They can also partake in local holiday festivities which begin the day after Thanksgiving. The Grand Illumination Festival of Lights has over a million lights strung throughout the historic Victorian downtown shopping district, setting the area aglow each night until New Year’s Day. Decorated shops, over 20 art galleries and smaller theaters charm locals as well as visitors.

Theater lovers are in for a treat when they attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), one of the nation’s oldest Shakespeare festivals and largest regional repertory companies in the nation. The festival, which runs each year from February to October, draws over 100,000 visitors annually. Contrary to popular belief, the company also puts on plays by classic and contemporary playwrights, not just those written by The Bard himself.

In the 2007 line-up, theatergoers can attend shows such as “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov; “On the Razzle” by Tom Stoppard; and August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.” Shakespeare plays include “As You like It,” “The Tempest,” “Taming of the Shrew” and “Romeo and Juliet.” All OSF plays are presented in one of its three distinct theaters. Of the three, the most popular is the Elizabethan Stage/Allen Pavilion, an outdoor stage which is a replica of the grand stages from the Elizabethan era in Europe. Tickets run $22.50-$75 per adult and $15-$56 per youth ages 6-17.

Ashland is so popular that national operators like Globus and Tauck are among the many bringing clients here for shows and activities, notes Parker. “From outdoor wildlife to wine-tasting, we have it all,” she said.


Ashland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau


Clients visiting Ashland have plenty of lodging
options to choose from. Below are a few favorites:

Ashland Springs Hotel
212 East Main St.
Room Rates: $89-$229
Commission: 10 percent
Restored in 2000, this light-filled 70-room historic hotel is at the heart of trendy downtown and within walking distance to food, shops and OSF theaters.

Lithia Springs Resort & Gardens
2165 W. Jackson Rd.
Room Rates: $135-$249
Commission: 10 percent
Located outside downtown, these 25 unique cottage rooms are laid out in a multi-acre setting, overflowing with fountains, flowers and fruit trees. Several have Jacuzzi baths that take advantage of the natural underground mineral waters. Memorable homemade breakfast included. And, there is also an on-site spa.

Plaza Inn & Suites at Ashland Creek
98 Central Ave.
Daily Rates: $79-$299
Commission: 10 percent
This 91-room, contemporary hotel is walking distance to downtown and next door to the Blue Giraffe Day Spa. From 10 p.m. until midnight during play season, the inn offers beverages, cookies and make-your-own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. From June through October on weekends, clients enjoy complimentary wine tastings and chair massages.

Winchester Inn, Restaurant and
Wine Bar
35 S. Second St.
Daily Rates: $135-$175, rooms; $185-$250, suites
Commission: 10 percent
Eleven rooms and eight suites emphasize personal service and intimacy, with Victorian-style furnishings and a full breakfast. The award-winning restaurant offers fresh local fare.