Last weekend we had a great time in Ashland. It was a date night and we had dinner at MAS, a new restaurant serving a pre-fixed, eleven course dinner with a pairing of Sake or Wine. After that, we stayed the night at the historic, high-rise, Ashland Springs Hotel. When we got the reservation for the hotel, we got the last room available – which I thought was unusual. It’s only May and not yet peak time for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) and the 11 plays that tourist flock to; but apparently OSF keeps Ashland busy 10 months a year with 780 performances. As we were leaving Ashland and headed home, I thought to myself how Southern Oregon owes much of its success to Ashland and to OSF for bringing in 410,000 play goers, mainly tourists, every year. To accommodate all these play goers, Ashland has, over the years, expanded the theaters, built scores of charming B&B’s, motels and hotels and added many incredible diverse and outstanding restaurants.
Personally, I was first drawn to this area in 1996 when I saw ads on TV for OSF. In the ads they showed the Rogue Valley, the plays, the mountains, the lakes and river rafting. This was well before there was much of a wine industry in Southern Oregon. Those ads got me interested in visiting Ashland, but I never heard of Medford, Jacksonville or any other towns in Southern Oregon until years later. As I started to vacation up here, I started to explore the entire area, rafting and Kayaking the Klamath, Rogue and even the Applegate river. I saw a huge valley on the map between the Rogue Valley and Grants Pass, so I decided to drive through it on Hwy 238, and on the way, I discovered Jacksonville and the Applegate Valley. That was a great day, and I fell more in love with Southern Oregon.
Finally, moving here in 2002 and settling in Jacksonville, I have come to appreciate that there is beauty everywhere I look in Southern Oregon and I’m thankful that Ashland drew me to this area. Every day I notice how Southern Oregon is growing. We are adding to the draw of Southern Oregon, expanding what we offer to tourists, escapees and retirees. If you haven’t seen that, think about the Wine Industry, almost non-existent when I first visited in 1996, it now has over 150 Wineries. Every quarter I look forward to reading the Wine Scene with 60 pages of articles packed with new wineries, new tasting facilities, and scores of metals being won. Our local wine industry has created a draw for tourists and locals alike. The wineries are a great way to see the local beauty of Southern Oregon while sipping wine, dining, and enjoying live music. In my opinion, our local wine industry competes well with the Sonoma and Napa wine areas, and offers tourists and locals a more kicked back, casual experience.
When I first moved here the shopping was limited, but ever sense, I have seen ever expanding shopping, restaurant and hotel offerings giving locals and tourist more options. We have seen local hotel groups along with Marriott, Hilton and other national chains expand their branded hotels each year. Restaurants are popping up all over with the latest additions, Baja Fresh, 5 Guys, Cracker Barrel, Heroes American Café, Firehouse Sub and MAS. Both local and national retail chains keep opening up and offering a never ending array of shopping choices, all without sales tax.
With the growing success of OSF, our wine industry, and the increased shopping has come the addition of Uber and Lyft to get us around easier, expansion of local roads and the badly needed Hwy 62 bypass. Our little airport has seen a record amount of passengers flying in and out and has added American Airlines, more flights and larger jets. Southern Oregon has truly become a destination for entertainment, outdoor activities and fun!
The real estate industry has been one of the big winners as our valley now has more to offer. We have a never ending amount of retirees and families escaping large metropolitan areas and moving here to start a new life. We are seeing a huge demand on real estate with very little supply of homes for sale. Last year the median home price rose by over 10%. This year we’re seeing the same increase in home prices along with a 20% increase in the number of homes sold! With sales of homes increasing at a double digit pace and few homes on the market, we’ll see lots of new homes being built and prices of existing homes continuing to rise.
Does Southern Oregon owe all its success to OSF and Ashland? I think so! Ashland has always been the first point of contact to so many tourists and the magnet that pulled me and many others to visit. Once here, you fall in love with Southern Oregon and dream of coming back. So, thank you Ashland and OSF, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.