"Rogue Shakespeare Art Hamlet and More" Top 5 Page for this destination Ashland by atufft

Ashland Travel Guide: 76 reviews and 181 photos

Why Does This Town Exist?

Ashland, population 22,000, is truly one of the most unique and remarkable towns in Southern Oregon and on the west coast of the United States, such that for the sort of radical counter-culture motif and ultra-liberal affluent civic politics found in Ashland can only be compared to Santa Cruz, California. The western states of Washington, Oregon, and California, have become increasingly liberal in terms of attitudes toward the environment, world culture tolerance, and civil liberties in part because of a terrific cultural diversity, geographical distance from traditional social and political authorities in Europe and the Eastern USA, and generally benign climates, but certain places like Santa Cruz and Ashland are particularly radical politically and so the question arises, why here? What makes Ashland so peculiar. Ironically, while cultural tolerance is high, cultural diversity is not the answer, because both Ashland and Santa Cruz are predominantly concentrated with ethnic English speaking affluent whites, so as to suggest a degree of "white flight" from more urban areas troubled by cultural conflict. Nevertheless, these towns are fanatical about issues pertaining to the environment and civil liberties. While I direct you to the unique origin of this civic sociology to my web pages for Santa Cruz, this page is concerned with the equally wonderful tourist attraction known as Ashland, Oregon.

Rogue Valley Isolation to Shakespearean Theater

Located at the base of the imposing Siskiyou Mountains, Ashland is nestled along an upper tributary of the same name that drains into the Rogue River basin, a location nearly as remote from the political influences of more populated northern Oregon as it is from the politics of California to the south. The Rogue River Valley name is thus fitting for region because of those early wayward fur trappers and other misfits who pushed away from society and were the first to settle this relatively parched and desolate corner, where conflict with the indigenous tribes continued to as late as 1856. Nevertheless, the gold mined at Jacksonville and the bounty of lumber, orchard crops (particularly the 1893 Chicago World's Fair winning Ashland Peach) and higher value produce from well irrigated hillside farms also permitted a level of relative escape and affluence that induced Ashland's founding fathers to tap into sulphur springs as a way to induce those traveling on the Applegate and Siskiyou trails between San Francisco and Portland to stay just awhile longer. By 1872, the origins of what would become today's Southern Oregon University were establshed providing the benefits a liberal education in the region. In 1908, the town engaged John McLaren, landscape architect of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, to design Lithia park, fostering an expansion of hotels and residential community. And then, during the celebration July 4th, 1935, Angus Bowmer organized the first performances of what would evolve into today's Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the busiest stage theater in the USA. Today this festival attracting some 100,000 tourists between February and October; moreover, Ashland has added new theater entertainment, including the annual Ashland Independent Film Festival, the annual week long Ashland New Plays Festival, and the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

Pleasant Center of Good Health and Sports

In addition to the arts, Ashland has become a modest center for outdoor sports activities. Emmigrant Lake and another dozen or so lakes in the area provid plenty of fishing and boating opportunities in summer, and in winter the "cheap and steep" slopes of Mount Ashland are a convenient 30 minutes away. Ashland has at least one raquet club and several golf courses are in the Ashland-Medford area. But, Ashland is a haven for cyclists in particular, having a wonderful network of bicycle lanes and trails, and numerous bicycle shops oriented toward both mountain and road cycling. Finally, the benefits of good health and farming have transformed much of the region's produce toward wine and beer production, and the production and consumption of organic and self-sustaining crops.

  • Intro Updated Jul 28, 2008
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Reviews (29)

Comments (5)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 5, 2008 at 1:17 PM

    That's a funny story about your friend starting a French restaurant. I'm glad it all worked out well in the end. I'm also glad to hear there is so much cycling in Ashland, and that they have strict enforcement of pedestrian and bicycle lane right of ways.

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Sep 4, 2008 at 1:24 PM

    Warning and dangers. . . apparently no danger in Oregon for naked people! I am discovering Western US with your eyes, Alan, and it’s a good discovery! I would like biking there, and I am an “old riche” in that matter! Thanks, interesting city and page.

  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo
    Jul 12, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    Alan, Excellent page on Ashland. Next time I pass through I’ll be sure to check out Lithia Park and the Chateaulin Restaurant and Wine Shop. ~ Steve

  • Tourtech's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2008 at 1:36 PM

    great page here on Ashland.... Love Oregon. All the best from here...

  • Jul 8, 2008 at 9:55 AM

    Great web site! A lot of information!


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