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.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies this duality more than the indulgent accommodations and amenities offered by the acclaimed Ashland Creek Inn.  Originally built in the 1880s, this fully renovated inn features just ten spacious suites that open up to the soothing, naturally opulent landscape of southern Oregon, giving the venue a brilliant air of exclusiveness.  Each of these meticulously crafted themed rooms feature an abundance of visually arresting accents, from private decks to exquisite antiques personally hand-picked from around the globe by the innkeeper.  Other touches like gourmet seasonal breakfasts and an exquisite multi-tiered garden filled with rare plants further the inn’s ambience of indulgent tranquility.  All of the elements seemingly combine to provide you with a snapshot of elegance that awaits visitors to Ashland, whether or not you are here for swoon over Shakespeare.

And make no mistake:  There are plenty of activities, festivals, and adventures to be had in Ashland that will give ol’ Bill a run for his money.  For example, the city puts on the Ashland Independent Film Festival in the spring; a five-day cinematic extravaganza featuring choice filmmakers unafraid to make movies outside of the Hollywood machine.  Music fans can also flock to the city to treat their ears to a host of music festivals during the year, ranging from classical to rock.  And adventurous types will note that Ashland is situated within close proximity to a wealth of stunning natural wonders, including Crater Lake, rushing rapids, breathtaking ski runs, and an extensive labyrinth of award-winning nature trails.

Of course, all of this activity can easily cause you to work up an appetite.  So it stands to reason that Ashland’s culinary scene is a beautiful sight for the obsessed epicureans to behold.  In addition to a dazzling array of eclectic dining experiences ranging from classic French cuisine to progressive regional American dishes, visitors can indulge in a great number of special food-related events throughout the year, including the Oregon Cheese Festival and seasonal “farm to fork” dinners built around the locality and availability of fresh ingredients.  And if you feel that no good food excursion is complete without a lovely glass of wine to accompany it, don’t fret; Ashland sits at the Southern tip of the Rogue Valley wine region; a rugged, mountainous appellation whose topography allows its 60 wineries to grow a broad amount of varietals.  As one may expect, such versatility is outwardly celebrated through several special festivities, including the Food & Wine Classic and the World of Wine Festival. 

It’s a given that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will still grab the attention when it comes to Ashland, and rightly so.  There is a reason why it has been going strong since 1935.  However, you clearly do not have to be a worshipper of The Bard or have a favorite character from “Othello” to enjoy all of the beauty, majesty, and luxury that this small burg has to offer to its visitors.  It is a pastiche of delights that are so grand, Shakespeare himself may have wrote a sonnet about Ashland’s majesty and magic.