The Best of the Rogue Valley
Rogue Valley. One of the gateways to northern California’s coastal redwoods, the jumping off point for a trip to Crater Lake National Park, and home to some of America’s best farm country as its mild climate allows for a longer growing season. Made up of three major cities in southwestern Oregon – Medford, Grants Pass, and Ashland – the Rogue Valley, located along the Rogue River, is the ideal place to witness the colorful fall foliage and to generally soak up nature in all of its splendid glory. Oh, and there’s also wine. Wine and Shakespeare – neither of which we got to experience during our short escape to the area.
In this post, I’m sharing some general highlights of what you can expect during a trip to the Rogue Valley…
While Medford may be a small town by U.S. standards, by Oregon standards, it’s the fourth largest metro area in the state. Although the healthcare industry reigns in Medford, its past economy was driven by timber and agriculture – pears, peaches, and wine-producing grapes in particular – which is no doubt why Harry and David, the company specializing in food and fruit gift baskets, is based in Medford. Perhaps some of you will be buying said gift baskets for loved ones this holiday season.
Apart from flying into and out of Medford, and apart from the few eateries that we tried while there, we didn’t really explore Medford in depth although we were impressed by the city’s small town vibes and natural beauty. But I’m not quite sure what Medford itself has to offer in terms of tourism. Yet, it’s interesting to note that its sister city is Alba, Italy, and the two cities take turns exchanging high school students.
“It’s the Climate.” As Grants Pass’ motto goes, the weather is one of the draws to this city for tourists and locals alike. Although Grants Pass does experience a change of seasons, the winters aren’t severely cold and the summers aren’t severely humid which makes it an ideal place to vacation or live.
With a variety of antique and specialty shops, restaurants, markets, parks and year-round festivals and events, it’s no wonder that Grants Pass is popular with tourists. Fortunately for us, while we were in town, Art along the Rogue, the Northwest’s premier street painting and music festival, was in full swing with a 2014 theme of “The Art in Music”. Many of the talented artists participating in the festival were still putting finishing touches on their masterpieces during our visit, and it was a treat to see them in action.
Of the three Rogue Valley cities that we visited, Ashland was by far my favorite. With a variety of retail shops, galleries, restaurants, a paved intercity bike trail, Lithia Park, and the adjacent Lithia Artisans Market on Calle Guanajuato, Ashland oozes from the seams with charm.
But perhaps Ashland is best known as the home of Southern Oregon University and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a regional repertory theatre that produces eleven stage plays – four of which are Shakespeare plays – on three stages each year from February to October. Given our time restraints, we didn’t have a chance to see any of the plays on offer, but the festival is definitely a major tourist draw to the area.