Ashland lies in Oregon southern region and has a reputation as one of the best cities for the arts in Oregon. There are so many things to do in Ashland, Oregon from theatres and galleries to endless outdoor recreation options. Ashland is a great year-round destination, so make sure you add it to your list when visiting Oregon!
Ashland is located just 16 miles north of the California border with a population of just over 21,000. But don’t let its small size fool you – there are tons of fun and unique things to do in Ashland, Oregon. This article is going to lay out some of the must-see things to see and do in Ashland.
A lot of people think of either Portland or the Oregon Coast when deciding where to go on vacation in the state. Both are amazing destinations and certainly worth a visit! Portland has so many fun, unique, and weird things to do and the Oregon Coast is simply beautiful – perfect for a road trip. I have visited these areas of Oregon a few times and absolutely love it. While I have not yet made it to Ashland, it’s definitely on my list now! In doing research about all these Ashland attractions, I can’t wait to plan a visit.
So, if you’re going to be in southern Oregon – or up for a road trip! – Ashland is definitely worth a visit. Read on for the best things to do in Ashland, Oregon.
Best things to do in Ashland Oregon
As mentioned, Ashland is known as a cultural hot spot, and actually ranked within the top 10 cities of “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America!” So, naturally, there are a few theatre and gallery destinations to check out. But, Ashland is also located near the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountain ranges, not to mention the Rogue Valley, so there are a lot of fun outdoor activities to take part in as well. Overall, there is a wide variety of fun things to do in Ashland.
Enough of the preamble, let’s get into the 21 best things to do in Ashland, Oregon!
Attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is one of the most famous attractions in Ashland. It happens every year over the summer and into the fall. It offers over 800 different performances at multiple locations for theatre-goers to enjoy.
Contrary to the name, the festival does not exclusively show Shakespeare plays but also offers a variety of contemporary plays as well. So, whatever kind of theatre you enjoy, you are sure to find something for the whole family at the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival!
Visit the Schneider Museum of Art
The Schneider Museum of Art is a must-see Ashland attraction. It’s a place to celebrate the arts and enjoy diverse, unique art exhibitions. It is available year-round and is free to the public ($5 suggested donation).
As a part of the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, it is a place that serves both the academic and community audience.
Exhibitions at the Schneider Museum of Art will rotate throughout the year, so you can see a variety of different mediums (paintings, mixed media, photography, etc.) and current cultural themes
Take a class at Gathering Glass Studio
After viewing artwork at the Schneider Museum of Art, you may be inspired to create some art yourself! The Gathering Glass Studio is a popular studio and gallery that showcases unique and creative blown glass art.
They also offer classes for the public to get involved in, so you can try it out for yourself! Visiting a studio like this one is a great place to get to know some local artists in the city.
Catch a show at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre
When you have a night free, one of the best nights out in Ashland is at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. This destination is popular with locals and tourists and is located in an old Baptist Church that was built back in 1911. The Cabaret opened up in 1986 and has steadily grown over the years.
Today, the Oregon Cabaret Theatre creates original shows, classics, drag shows, and so much more! They put on six shows a week, year-round, so you might find yourself back at the box office to book another show!
Go shopping at Lithia Artisans Market
Located in downtown Ashland, the Lithia Artisans Market is the perfect shopping destination if you are looking for some unique hand-crafted goods.
The outdoor venue hosts artists of all kinds, including glasswork, jewelry, leather, fine art, clothing and accessories, photography, and more. It is a perfect spot to pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift.
There are also live music and dining opportunities on-site, so you can easily spend half a day at the Lithia Artisans Market.
Oregon Centre for the Arts
The Oregon Centre for the Arts is part of Southern Oregon Univesity and educates up-and-coming artists and scholars. Academic programs include undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas such as creative writing, visual arts, digital media, music, and Shakespeare studies.
But beyond their academic program, the Oregon Centre for the Arts is a community space in Ashland, presenting high-quality art exhibitions and musical performances for the community to enjoy.
Visit Crater Lake
While not in the city, Crater Lake is a must-see. It’s a popular destination in the state and one of the best things to do near Ashland, Oregon. Crater Lake National Park is located about 75 miles away from Ashland, or just a 1.5-hour drive. It’s one of the best day trips from Ashland, so budget some time to go!
Crater Lake is famous in Oregon for its beautiful and unique landscape. It is a dormant volcano, whose collapse created a large, deep crater. The lake sitting within the crater is over 2,000 feet deep! It has crystal clear water and is one of the most picturesque places you can visit.
Check out the Scienceworks Museum
Visiting this interactive science center is a fun family-friendly Ashland activity. The Scienceworks Museum has a number of events, exhibitions, and camps for children and adults alike. Their mission is to be a “champion of science” by educating the public and inspiring people through fun and interactive science!
Have a picnic at Lithia Park
Lithia Park is the largest park (100 acres!) in the city and is located downtown, in the heart of Ashland. This public space is considered the “crown jewel” of the city, similar to Central Park in New York.
There are picnic tables throughout the park, as well as plenty of places to lay out a blanket and have a relaxing picnic lunch. If you’re up for something more active, there are tennis and volleyball courts, and softball fields, too!
The Lithia Park trails are also worth a wander! After your picnic, spend some time getting lost in this beautiful park. Make sure you also check out the rose garden and duck ponds in Lithia Park, too!
Enjoy the local cuisine
Even though Ashland is a relatively small city, there are still a lot of excellent places to eat and drink! Whether you like comfort food or something more upscale, there are a lot of restaurants and food trucks to make your taste buds happy.
Here are two top recommendations of where to eat in Ashland:
- Peerless Restaurant is located in the historic railroad district and is an upscale restaurant that offers delicious seasonal dishes.
- Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine is the spot for high-quality comfort food.
Go skiing at Mt. Ashland Ski Area
Whether you enjoy downhill skiing and snowboarding, or other activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area needs to make your list of things to do in Ashland!
With amazing views of Mt. Shasta and other mountain ranges and dozens of groomed runs, it’s a fun place to get outdoors and spend the day.
Mt. Ashland is actually a nonprofit organization that was founded back in 1964. It has a full-service rental shop and classes for beginners as well.
Catch some movies at the Ashland Independent Film Festival
If you have a free night, make sure you go to the Ashland Independent Film Festival! For 20 years, the film festival has hosted over 100 different documentaries, short films, and feature-length films.
The festival runs during the month of September and includes both the Independent Film Festival and two weeks of International Films.
Have a beach day at Emigrant Lake
A day at the lake is one of the best family-friendly Ashland activities. Emigrant Lake is a reservoir located about 5 miles outside of the city and has a large recreation area with a campground and picnic areas. They even have water slides – you are guaranteed to have a great time!
Shop at the Ashland Artisan Emporium
The Ashland Artisan Emporium is a fun and quirky place to pick up some souvenirs or gifts in Ashland. It has been open for the last ten years and has gained popularity as a marketplace with over 200 local vendors. It’s 17,000 square feet so you can spend a lot of time exploring… think of it as a treasure hunt!
Go Horseback Riding
We’ve already talked about how Ashland and the surrounding areas are full of natural beauty. One way to get outside and enjoy the scenery is by going horseback riding! One area for horseback riding in Ashland is Jacksonville Forest Park, which is about 20 miles outside of Ashland. The park has over 30 miles of trails, so it’s a good place to go as a beginner or expert.
Another place to go horseback riding is in the Rogue Valley. There are multiple stables in the area that offer horseback riding lessons and tours including Rogue Valley Equestrian Center or Majestic Stables.
Go river rafting at Rogue River
Another great way to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of Ashland, Oregon is through river rafting! Noah’s River Adventures has been running river rafting adventures down the Rogue River since 1954.
They have adventures for beginners or experts, with guides making sure that you are safe and secure the whole time.
Wander around downtown Ashland
Taking some time to explore the downtown area of Ashland is a natural way to spend a few hours. You can opt for a self-directed walking tour, or perhaps join a guided tour to learn some more about the local history.
While downtown, make sure to hit some of the hot spots, including the Carnegie Library, a historic building from 1911.
There is other interesting architecture around the downtown plaza to look at as well. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes to explore in downtown Ashland, too!
You can also visit the famed Lithia water fountain – it might look like a simple public water fountain, but apparently the mineral water has serious health benefits!
Or, at least that has been an urban legend since it opened in the 1880s.
Relax at the Spa
The Lithia Springs Resort is a gorgeous environment to relax and experience the healing properties of the mineral spring water.
It is also a wine garden if you need another compelling reason to go! The Blue Giraffe Spa is located close to downtown Ashland and is an award-winning destination for massages, facials, and salon services.
Have a wine tasting
Ashland is a premier wine destination and certainly a must-do when in the city! Whether you are a fine wine connoisseur, or just like trying something new at the local wineries, there is something for everyone! Here are a few of the top recommendations to check out:
- Belle Fiore Estate and Winery: Sip on some wine at this elegant winery with French architecture and sweeping views!
- Irvine & Roberts Vineyards: The views out over the vineyards and Cascade and Siskiyou Mountain ranges are absolutely epic. The wine is pretty amazing, too!
- Dana Campbell Vineyards: This small winery has a relaxing, friendly environment.
- Weisinger Family Winery: This award-winning winery, family-run winery is a must-visit when in Ashland!
Go Out for a few Beers
Some people love wine, others love beer, and some just love it all! Luckily, Ashland is a place with something for everyone. If you love craft beer, head over to one of the many tasting rooms in the city and try something new.
Standing Stone Brewing Company is a full-service restaurant and brewery that is committed to community and sustainability.
What does that mean? They have the best of the best of locally sourced beer and food! Caldera Brewing Company is another popular craft beer spot in Ashland and offers both classic and seasonal beers.
Get Outside and Go Hiking
Ashland has so much natural beauty in and around the city, so it’s a nature lovers paradise. There are a number of options to go hiking near Ashland, Oregon. Here are some popular trails to try:
- Pacific Crest Trail: This famous trail was made popular by the book and movie, “Wild”, and a section of it is very close by Ashland! The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is located about a one-hour drive from Ashland, so you can head over and hike a section of the trail.
- Grizzly Peak: This 5.2-mile loop offers epic views over Ashland and the nearby mountains!
- Acid Castle Rocks: This is a quick hike (one mile) above Lithia Park with some really interesting, large boulders that offer a unique view and landscape to explore.
- Hobart Bluff: This trail is 2.5 miles long and is a great trail to see the wildflowers! It also has some excellent views of Ashland.
When is the best time to visit Ashland Oregon?
Because of its location in southern Oregon, near the border with California, Ashland has generally good year-round weather.
The climate is fairly mild, with summer months never getting higher than around 83 degrees. The winter months are also fairly mild and make sightseeing possible even in the coldest months.
The ideal time to visit Ashland might be April-June, as it’s before many of the summer tourists arrive, but the weather is still warm and pleasant. If you want to attend a specific festival, like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, make sure your dates align with the festival dates. Plan ahead to get accommodations, since it can be busier in the city during this time.
Ashland is also a popular destination for outdoor recreation, with options for hiking, horseback riding, skiing, river rafting, and more! If you are outdoorsy and want to take part in these activities, make sure you plan your trip during a time of the year when the weather makes them possible!
Ashland Oregon FAQ
What is there to do in downtown Ashland?
There are a lot of fun things to do in downtown Ashland. It’s a quaint town with lots of shops, restaurants, and bars to explore. There are also some popular art galleries, theatres, and museums to check out (especially good on a rainy day!). If it’s a sunny day, you can spend time in Lithia Park, a large green space right downtown Ashland.
Is Ashland Oregon worth visiting?
Yes, Ashland Oregon is definitely worth visiting! It is known for its commitment to the Arts, so it’s a great place to catch a live theatre or music show. It also has access to amazing natural beauty and outdoor activities. So, if you enjoy either of those things, it’s definitely worth visiting.
What is there to do in Ashland Oregon in the winter?
Ashland is a year-round destination with consistent mild weather. If you visit in the winter, though, you can take advantage of the nearby Cascade and Siskiyou Mountain Ranges. There is also the Mt. Ashland Ski Area, perfect for downhill skiing and snowboarding to keep busy in the winter.
What is Ashland Oregon known for?
Ashland, Oregon is known as a city of the Arts. It has a ton of great theatres, galleries, and festivals, including the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ashland, Oregon is also known as an outdoorsy city, with lots of fun ways to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty.
How Far is Ashland Oregon from the coast?
Located inland from the coast, it’s a bit of a drive to the nearest beach. It is about 88 miles from Ashland to Gold Beach, Oregon, which is about directly west towards the coast. To drive to Gold Beach, you need to take highway 199, which is 166 miles and will take around three hours to drive.
What is the nicest city in Oregon?
Choosing the nicest city in Oregon is a matter of opinion, as there are a lot of nice cities to choose from! Ashland is definitely up there, with its commitment to artistic and outdoor activities and attractions.
Some of the other contenders for the nicest cities in Oregon include Portland, Cannon Beach, Eugene, and Bend. Why not plan a road trip and decide for yourself?
What is the nicest beach in Oregon?
Just like cities, there are a lot of contenders for the nicest beach in Oregon. The entire coast of Oregon along the Pacific Ocean has beautiful, rugged beaches to enjoy. Some of the nicest beaches in Oregon include Cannon Beach, Seaside Beach, and Cape Kiwanda State Scenic Area. Driving down Highway 101 along the coast is the best way to see all the Oregon beaches.
How safe is Ashland Oregon?
Generally speaking, Ashland is a safe city to live in. It has a lower-than-average rate of violent crime than the rest of the USA. However, property crime rates are higher than the average in Oregon. Like any city, it’s important to remain alert when walking alone or at night and you should always keep an eye on your belongings.
Because property crime rates are higher than average, a good security system in your home is important. Or, if you are visiting as a tourist and staying in a hotel, you can feel confident that it is safe and secure.
About the Author
Alyssa is a freelance writer with her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies degree. Alyssa is passionate about travel and has been to over 20 countries – and counting! Living in Vancouver, Canada, she loves to take advantage of the mountains and ocean by getting outdoors as much as possible. When she’s not writing, Alyssa is probably walking by the river, caring for her many houseplants, or grabbing a coffee with a friend. You can keep up with her on her personal blog.