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Located in Jackson County Oregon, Ashland why is just off Interstate 5 and it’s right on the California border. As of 2010, the population of Ashland was just over 20,000 and this why the town is one of Oregon’s best small towns.

Unlike other small towns in the state of Oregon, there is a lot happening in Ashland on a daily basis thanks to the town being the home of Southern Oregon University and also the annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Both are important to Ashland’s local economy which also includes many great restaurants, retail stores and art galleries to choose from.

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Ashland Oregon History

Founded by the 1850’s by Native Americans who are also known as the Shasta people, Ashland like many towns in Oregon became a stopping point for hunters, trappers and a wide variety of other people who were traveling to Oregon to experience the adventure that the state promised them or they were passing through Ashland on their way to California to take part in the gold rush.

By the late 1800’s, the city of Ashland Oregon was known as Ashland Mills, but the mayor of the town eventually changed the name to just Ashland because, he wanted to make it easy for the new post office in the area to sort and deliver mail to local residents who were building homesteads, shops, and stores here.

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Cultural Capital of Oregon

In 1935, the city of Ashland loaned a local teacher $400 to stage two of Shakespeare’s plays inside a dilapidated theater in town. By the end of the decade, the new Oregon Shakespeare Festival was nationally known, and the southern Oregon town had found itself a niche.

Today, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the city of Ashland are inseparable. The presence of The Bard – and all the people who gather to stage his works – has made Ashland the cultural capital of southern Oregon, and perhaps the most vibrant small town in the state.

Because of the festival, Ashland has become a dinner-and-a-show kind of town. Before show time, the many good restaurants and bars will fill up, emptying like clockwork once seating begins. After the ovations, bars fill up once more, mixing craft cocktails and pouring mugs of mead. While nightlife is the highlight, by day Ashland is a place surrounded by natural beauty, from local Lithia Park to the stunning Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument nearby.

It’s an interesting culture for the region – especially in contrast to other southern Oregon locales, like Klamath Falls and Medford – but it’s one that has allowed Ashland to become not just another local destination, but one recognized the world over. Shakespeare might have lived in England, but he would have felt right at home in Ashland.

Learn More About Ashland Oregon

To learn more about the City of Ashland, visit their website at

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