Family Fun in Ashland, Oregon

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Whether visiting for several days or a few hours, Ashland, Oregon, offers families with kids of all ages many wonderful options for exploring, learning and playing. Once a city with an economy largely based on agriculture and railroading, Ashland has evolved into a bustling university town offering excellent entertainment, adventure, great restaurants, and recreational activities. While Ashland and its surrounding area offer plenty to do in all seasons, let’s take a look at some of what this summer has to offer visiting families.

Lithia Park

Lithia Park

Ashland’s beautifully designed 93-acre Lithia Park is Southern Oregon’s oldest park, established in 1908. It features walking trails, gardens, an arboretum, a playground, duck ponds, a creek with a wading area, and a swimming reservoir. For adventurous families, the trail system takes you beyond the park boundaries and to higher elevations. The park’s modern playground includes swings and a climbing apparatus to keep younger children playing for a while. Older children enjoy the challenge of “topping-out” on a climbing boulder.

Lithia Park offers free all-ages 1.5-hour guided nature walks that prove helpful in fully appreciating the spectacular beauty of Lithia Park’s flora, geology, history and more. Tours run 10–11:30 a.m. from May to September on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and additionally on Saturdays in July and August. Look for the tour meeting sign at the Lithia Park main entrance. On June 12, enjoy the annual “Feast of Will” dinner & performances in the park – contact the Oregon Shakespeare Festival box office for tickets at (541) 482-4331. Beginning June 18, The Ashland City Band will perform in a series of free concerts in the park from 7–8 p.m. on Thursdays, offering a nice way to conclude a day trip to the park. For more information on Lithia Park and other great parks to visit in Ashland, go to http://www.ashland.or.us.

Willow Witt Ranch. Photo by Dave Baldwin Photography.

Willow Witt Ranch. Photo by Dave Baldwin Photography.

In eastern Ashland, on 440 acres in a magical hidden valley, lies the Willow Witt Ranch. This sustainable working farm welcomes visitors for day trips and overnight stays. The farm has studios for up to four persons, wall tents, and camping areas available for those wishing to stay longer than a day. Visitors can choose to take a farm tour and/or venture out for hikes into the surrounding wilderness. Willow Witt Ranch offers a truly rustic, off-the-grid setting in which to enjoy the southern Oregon countryside and enjoy farm fresh foods. Visitors can pick their own vegetables and purchase high-quality, farm-fresh meat, eggs and dairy products, which can be prepared in fully-equipped kitchens at guest accommodations on site. For more information on this truly unique place, visit http://www.willowwittranch.com.

ScienceWorks. Photo by Graham Lewis.

ScienceWorks. Photo by Graham Lewis.

The ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum promotes learning in kids of all ages (including adults!), with an interactive approach to education. Instead of learning the laws of physics from a textbook, visitors can manipulate objects to experience physics concepts, and have a fun time in the process. For children ages 5 and under, the museum offers an exhibit called Discovery Island where children play and learn about water, mechanics and air-pressure in play areas named “The Lagoon,” “Coconut Hollow” and “Shipwreck Playhouse.” Older kids can learn about the human body in “Sportsology” and physics at “Motion Commotion.” Contact the museum or visit http://www.scienceworksmuseum.org to learn about current exhibits, special events and all this great museum has to offer.

No description of Ashland would be complete without mention of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). While the majority of plays offered in the 2015 season have an audience age suitability suggestion calling for “well-prepared teenagers/high school students,” the festival offers free family-friendly Green Show Performances all summer, showcasing the diverse talents of many performers from throughout the USA and beyond. The Green Show Performances are held outdoors in the OSF Courtyard, Tuesday – Sunday at 6:45 p.m. beginning June 2. Go to www. osfashland.org for full details.

Ashland is great year-round and certainly offers families much to enjoy in summer, including its Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration with the 2015 theme “Be Active, Live Healthy”; visit http://www.ashlandchamber.com for info. Families enjoy visiting the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays from March to October (www.rvgrowersmarket.com). Summertime hiking at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area is another popular activity, with an easy hike for families to Grouse Gap Shelter and access to the Pacific Crest Trail.

This picturesque little city has walkable charm with fun specialty shops including home decor, art galleries, clothing, shoes, ice cream and confections shops, a variety of quality restaurants, a classic movie theater, an array of lodging options, and often unexpected live entertainment busking around town. Its surrounding areas offer numerous memory-making activities like rafting, camping, hiking, ziplining and more. Think about heading north to Ashland this summer! 

John Stackfleth
About John Stackfleth

John Stackfleth resides in downtown Mt. Shasta, but often wishes he resided in downtown Ashland. He’s the father of two adult children, and looks forward to enjoying road trips and a variety of recreational activities in Northern California and Southern Oregon this summer.

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