American's Best Small Towns


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by Michael Alan Connelly and Abbey Chase

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Nothing embodies classic Americana quite like small towns. For the second year in a row, we've compiled a list that highlights some of the best places in the country you don't hear about every day. This year, we've focused on destinations with populations under 30,000 that have a vibrancy of their own and year-round appeal. Our list is made up of detour-worthy towns all over the U.S. that have strong cultural offerings or great outdoor adventures, in addition to standout dining and lodging options. For your next small-town getaway, head to any of these 10 remarkable spots.

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Ashland boasts dining, shopping, Shakespeare

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by Eileen Wilson

It started more than a decade ago when my then 11-year-old daughter, Bethany, said, “Hey, I hear there’s a place called Ashland and they have a big Shakespeare festival.”

Well, the daughter is grown and gone, but that doesn’t stop me from escaping to Ashland, Oregon, with friends and family as often as possible, sometimes up to four times a year. That’s because Ashland is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and it doesn’t matter what time of year you go. And here’s a little secret — you don’t even have to like Shakespeare.

Summer is surely one of the best times to visit Ashland, as the festival is in full swing. The venue has three theaters with 11 plays in repertoire. The out door venue, the Elizabethan, is a replica of the Globe Theatre in London.

This year’s lineup of plays is outstanding, and Shakespeare makes up less than one-third of the schedule. Ashland is one of the only places in the world where you will find worldclass acting in a small, eclectic town. Look through the playbill and you’ll see star power from Broadway and Hollywood, and credentials from Julliard and other world-renowned performing-arts colleges.

Ashland Creek Inn proprietor, Graham Sheldon, describes the festival’s sheer number of plays as the town’s biggest draw — there are up to five each day.

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A chic boutique hotel tucked into the banks of Lithia Creek


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by Karen D’Souza

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I also ventured into undiscovered country in terms of hotels. For part of my stay, I enjoyed the serenity of the Ashland Creek Inn, a vine-covered boutique hotel built from the bones of an 1880s grain mill. Tucked away on the banks of Lithia Creek just blocks from the theaters, this is a small, chic place with themed suites where the decor is constantly being curated. In the Copenhagen suite, the simple lines of Danish modern design brighten the spirit. To get in a tranquil mood, gaze at the koi and deer from your own private deck, sleep to the sound of the babbling brook and wake to a gourmet breakfast cooked by the on-site chef.

> Read the full report in the San Jose Mercury News.

Dive Into High Culture in Ashland

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With fewer crowds (and lower prices) at its internationally renowned Shakespeare festival and an ever-thriving local arts scene, now’s the ideal time to visit this cultural oasis in woodsy Southern Oregon.

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The Danish-modern "Copenhagen," one of the regionally-themed suites at the Ashland Creek Inn.  

Watch for deer and hawks from your window or private deck at the boutique Ashland Creek Inn(from $150), a renovated 1880s grain mill on the banks of Ashland Creek. Start off each morning with a gourmet breakfast care of the on-site chef, who experiments with dishes like smoked salmon soufflé, herbed morel-stuffed crepes, and berries with chia-caramel sauce. The inn’s blue-shuttered, vine-covered façade looks more Provence than Oregon woods, and the suites transport as well, each with a different regional style. The Copenhagen, with deck and full kitchen, is Danish modern, with light pine and clean lines; the Normandy has the flowered cushions, rose-hued wood, and wrought-iron deck furniture of a Northern French country house; and the Northern-Italian-themed Sienna has a jetted tub for two in the bedroom.

3rd Night FREE on Winter Wonderland Getaway Package

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Ashland, Oregon is a secret wonderland in the wintertime, and one local innkeeper is making it easier to discover the seasonal magic of a town that the
Washington Post called a “dream you’ll never want to leave.”

From November 12 through February 13 (blackout dates apply), guests who book a three-night stay at Ashland Creek Inn will receive their third night free compliments of innkeeper Graham Sheldon. Guests will also enjoy a gourmet multi-course breakfast served daily in the inn’s picturesque creekside dining room.

“Lots of annual visitors to Oregon Shakespeare Festival think that Ashland rolls up the sidewalks when the stages go dark for the season,” shares Sheldon. “What really happens is that our tiny mountain town transforms into a winter wonderland, beloved by locals and recently discovered by a new generation savvy travelers looking for an alternative to overrun resort towns.”

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All’s Well in Ashland, Oregon

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by Rich Manning

For decades, the city of Ashland, Oregon was so strongly linked to the works of William Shakespeare that many people thought the play’s the only thing that happened in town.  At first blush, it is easy to see why this was the case, since the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has lured people from around the globe to see the works of the nearly mythical literary icon performed at a world-class level for over seventy years.  Yet as anyone who has recently visited Ashland can tell you, the association with The Bard merely scratches the surface of what is possible to enjoy within this modest community that lay between San Francisco and Portland.  Indeed, there is a host of sumptuous yet rejuvenating activities to explore here; visceral life experiences that simultaneously provide a means of luxury while maintaining a feeling of escape.

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First-class base camp for Shakespeare Festival and more

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Ashland Creek Inn offers easy access to world-class theater, wine tasting, wilderness recreation, winter sports, and more

Halfway between San Francisco and Portland is a ten-suite luxury inn hidden away in an idyllic Oregon mountain town that the Washington Post called a “dream you’ll never want to leave.”

A dream within a dream, luxury suites at the Ashland Creek Inn give guests a first class base camp to experience the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival at its doorstep and explore natural wonders such as Crater Lake in its bioregional backyard.

Since opening its doors a decade ago, Ashland’s only all-suite inn has become a perennial pied-à-terre for patrons of the town’s annual ‘ode to Shakespeare’, the nine-month festival that Time magazine ranked one of the top five regional theaters in the country.

But beyond Broadway-quality theater, access to world-class natural wonders coupled with a culture of near non-stop festivals celebrating everything from local food to international film has put the boutique inn and its tiny town on the map for a new generation of travelers for whom the play’s not the only thing.

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Nestled along its namesake

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It might not be in New York, but Ashland Creek Inn's allure beckons from the idyllic Oregon mountain eponymous town near Crater Lake. The ten-suite luxury inn is located halfway between San Francisco and Portland, but its real claim to fame lies in the fact that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival takes place steps away from the Inn.

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It's All About The Creek

Southern Oregon Magazine Best of 2010
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Outside, the Ashland Creek Inn looks like an old-world European hotel, with soft sand- colored stucco walls and shutters and awnings in deep blue. The Inn is nestled on the banks of Ashland Creek, and you can hear the murmuring rush of the water as well as the hustle and bustle of downtown Ashland, just blocks away. A longtime favorite of theater-goers, family reunions and business travelers, the Ashland Creek Inn is known for privacy, personal accommodation, exquisite taste and exceptional morning fare.

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Uniquely decorated luxury-level inn

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At the Ashland Creek Inn (70 Water St., 541/482-3315, $230 and up) you won’t get any closer to Ashland Creek without getting wet. This small luxury-level inn is directly adjacent to the stream and has several guest rooms with cantilevered decks directly above the rushing water. Each of the 10 suites is uniquely decorated according to a theme—the Caribe, the Marrakech, the Edinburgh—and each offers complete kitchens, living rooms, private entrances, and decks. Best of all, this comfort and style is just moments from downtown shopping and the theaters.