Ashland is one of those small cities (it really feels more like a big town) that people equate with a high quality of life - this community of about 21,000 is nestled in southern Oregon's Rogue River Valley, beneath soaring Mt. Ashland and just about 10 miles north of the California border off I-5. The city has a very well-attended Gay Pride event, the Southern Oregon Pride Festival, in early October.
Southern Oregon Pride kicks off with the Southern Oregon Gay Pride Parade, taking place on Main Street, ending at verdant Lithia Park, where the festival is held - entertainment, vendors, community organizations - throughout the afternoon. In the evening, the fun continues with "Pride Hopping" at area restaurants, bars, and shops. Details haven't yet been announced for this year, but last time around there were events at Taroko Pan-Pacific Bistro, the Black Sheep Pub, and Granite Taphouse. Here's a full schedule of Southern Oregon Pride events.
What to See and Do in Ashland
It's a beautiful time of year for a visit to this area, which is generally sunny and mild in autumn, and - of course - the festival is still in full swing then. This green, liberal city has a fun academic vibe thanks to its being home to Southern Oregon University, and - most famously in terms of its popularity as a tourist destination - the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the most established and respected theater festivals in the country. The festival, which was founded in 1935, runs from mid-February right till the beginning of November, and it draws in thousands of theater fans throughout that period (it presents about a dozen plays each year, some Shakespeare but also many contemporary and classic plays, from Shaw and Ibsen to Tennessee Williams to notable playwrights of today).
The Shakespeare Festival is among the area's many other diversions (great restaurants, acclaimed wineries, tons of outdoorsy activities - it's even a workable base for visiting Crater Lake National Park, which is a couple of hours northeast. Ashland continues to become more and more popular as both a place to work and live among gays and lesbians.
Once you get to the area, consider taking a look at some of the top attractions in the area, such as the quirky Old West town of Jacksonville (which has some great restaurants and shopping, plus a beautiful gay-welcoming B&B, the Touvelle House B&B), the many nearby wineries, Ashland's leafy and historic Lithia Park (nice for a picnic or a jog), the Schneider Museum of Art (on Southern Oregon University campus), Morning Glory (a hip and fun breakfast spot), and the many other great bars and restaurants around town. If you have a sweet tooth, stop by the headquarters of Ashland-based Dagoba Chocolates - you can taste free samples.
Getting to Ashland
If flying to Ashland, consider Rogue Valley International Airport, in Medford, just 25 minutes' drive north of town - it's served by a number of carriers and provides nonstop flights from Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Seattle, San Francisco, and others. From Portland, it's a 300-mile drive, and from San Francisco, it's 350 miles - long, but quite scenic, road-tripping adventures.
Gay-Friendly Hotels in Ashland
Ashland has no shortage of distinctive, inviting, and very gay-friendly accommodations - the historic, 70-room Ashland Springs Hotel, which has a fine restaurant, Larks, is a good bet. Recommended B&Bs include the Arden Forest Inn (which is gay-owned), the boutique-y Peerless Hotel (also with a terrific restaurant and bar), Country Willows B&B Inn, Shrew's House B&B, and Cowslip's Belle - and that's just naming a few.
Ashland Oregon Gay Resources
For tourism information on the region, consult both Ashland Oregon Chamber of Commerce website, which is a big booster of Pride and has tons of great information and - especially if you're planning to check out some of the other appealing towns in the area, the Southern Oregon Visitors Association website.