Southern Oregon Family Vacation Day 3: Big Laughs in Ashland


Drive from Klamath Falls to Ashland: Scenic highway 

Everywhere you drive in Southern Oregon you find beauty and on our way from Klamath Falls to Ashland we found ourselves constantly stopping to take photos like the one above.

Tub Springs: Where the water is pure and fresh

At Tub Springs State Park, we stopped to stretch our legs in a forest of towering firs and drink fresh, pure water from the springs. These springs were a blessing to pioneers who traveled the Applegate Trail in the 1846. This is where they stopped to replenish their water supply before heading down the mountain pass into Ashland. The park is named for the tubs that were later installed in the 1930s to provide water to passing travelers.

Green Springs restaurant: A lovely spot for luch

If you’re spending a couple days in Ashland, it’s worth driving through the pristine timberland along highway 66 to Green Springs. The salads are big and fresh and topped with homemade dressing or try a BLT served on whole wheat bread with avocado.

Best Western Bard’s Inn: A hospitable place in the heart of Ashland Ore.

The Best Western Bard’s Inn is a well-kept hotel that sits right off Ashland’s main drag. From your room, you can walk to the Shakespeare Theater and Lithia Park. Restaurants, cafes and shops are footsteps from your door. 

The rooms were recently upgraded to include soft comforters and pillows on the beds. My crew flopped right on the fluffines!

They also dove right into the pretty pool that’s set against a backdrop of leafy trees and historic Victorian homes.

Ashland, Ore.: 
Southern Oregon’s most popular tourist town has become nationally recognized for its Tony Award-winning Shakespeare Festival. The season that runs February to October features 12 plays, four of them Shakespeare. The plays star world-renounced actors and attract some 350,000 theater-goers a year.

From our hotel, we walked to the Shakespeare Visitor’s Office, hoping to find out touring the theater because we assumed we couldn’t get tickets to a play. We were wrong! Six tickets were available for that night’s show, the Marx Bros Cocoanuts. We bought four tickets and the agent helped us arrange for a babysitter, pre-interviewed and vetted by the festival, to watch our baby at our hotel room that night. Talk about service!

Before the show, we stepped inside the outdoor Shakespeare Theater where an actor was practicing. My son asked, “What language is he speaking?”

Just a block from the theater, you’ll find Lithia Park, a 93-acre forested wonderland with blooming gardens, children’s playgrounds, a network of hiking trails and a babbling creek.

We went for a hike…

And climbed to the top of a play structure.

All of that play time made us hungry and we grabbed dinner at Taco Agave, a hole-in-the-wall dishing up tasty authentic tacos you’d expect to find in Mexico. Fresh corn tortillas are topped with grilled meat, chicken or fish, salsa and a tangle of shredded cabbage. The restaurant is just a block from the Best Western Bard’s Inn.

Rogue Valley Pear, Oregon Bing Cherry, Oregon Trail (double chocolate with hazelnuts and cherries) — this local ice cream parlor specializes in flavors that celebrate Oregon’s bounty. My husband ordered mint chip and pear? Huh? I thought he was crazy but it was actually a delicious combination. I stuck with a more traditional root beer float, which was especially delicious with BJ’s rich, creamy vanilla.

After ice cream, we were ready to see the play. Our family was caught in a spell of delirium as we watched Cocoanuts at the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre. The 1920s jazz age musical, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, is based on the original Marx Brothers 1929 film that was later adapted into a Broadway musical. The plot revolves around a bum Florida hotel where a cast of crazy characters get caught up in a real estate scam and a jewelery heist. There’s a wealthy widower and her unhitched beautiful daughter, two lousy crooks, a ditzy detective and four mad clowns closely based on the beloved Groucho (hotel owner), Chico and Harpo (thieves) and Zeppo (a lovesick bell hop).

As any Marx Brothers fan can imagine, Cocoanuts is a sea of word-play puns with the morsels of humor being delivered in rapid-fire. You have to listen closely to the verbal acrobatics or else you might miss a joke.

”You want ice water brought to your room? I’ll send up an onion. That’ll make your eyes water.”

As our family sat there thoroughly entertained by the Marx Brothers high-wire humor, I realized the power of laughter. We entered the Memorial Day Weekend carrying heavy loads of stress — my husband overwhelmed by a start-up situation, my daughter faced with entering middle school, my son suddenly becoming the middle child with the arrival of a new baby — and finally we were relaxing and reconnecting. It was the perfect ending to a fun day.

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