Kid-Friendly Southern Oregon Attractions
1) See a Shakespeare play in Ashland.
Southern Oregon's most popular tourist town is nationally recognized for its Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The season, running February to October, features 12 plays, four of them Shakespeare – and all of them in Ashland.
At least one play is geared to young kids though many are fun for tweens and teens. On the festival website, osfashland.org, you’ll find a family section with a suitability guide helping parents decide which plays are appropriate for their children.
2) Roll through historic Jacksonville.
In 1966, this gold rush town with over 100 buildings dating back to the 1800s was declared a National Historic Landmark District. One of the best ways to take in its charm is on the 45-minute Trolley Tour (free for kids under 6).
Jacksonville Trolley Tour
Families with kids 14 years or older might enjoy the two-hour Segway Tour. Hop on a big-wheeled scooter and glide through town past Victorian homes, the old courthouse and jail, up the hill through Britt Gardens and finally through the cemetery for spectacular Rogue Valley views.
3) Watch a music performance under the stars at Jacksonville’s Britt Festival.
This outdoor music festival, running June to September, brings well-known pop, jazz, and classical artists to the historic town. Pack a picnic, spread a blanket out on the grass and enjoy your evening under a starry sky.
4) Tour the Applegate Valley.
This up-and-coming wine area is home to 18 wineries, and while wine tasting isn’t a kid activity, the wineries don’t mind well-behaved children tagging along. At Longsword, chickens and sheep greet families, and at Schmidt, walk through flower and herb gardens.
After, pull up a stool and order iced teas and a BLTs at the Applegate Store & Café, an all-American diner with a wide Formica counter. Finally, drive up Woodrat Mountain, a popular hang-gliding launch site for incredible valley views; on clear days you’ll catch a glimpse of Crater Lake’s rim.
5) Tour the Harry & David Factory in Medford.
What does 50 pounds of chocolate-covered caramel popcorn look like? Find out on this tour of one of America’s favorite gourmet gift catalog companies.
Harry & David is based in Medford and offers the public four tours a day at their Country Village. You’ll learn why the company decided to specialize in Comice pears and how the scrumptious truffles are made. Tours cost $5 and include $5-off coupons and free chocolate.
6) Brave wild rapids on the Rogue River.
The Rogue flows from the deep blue waters of Crater Lake and twists and turns its way through pristine pine forests and the fertile Rogue River Valley, before dumping into the Pacific. An 84-mile section was one of the original eight rivers included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
With Rogue Wilderness Adventures, a guide will take you along this expanse on half-, full- and multi-day rafting trips leaving from Merlin. Another way to experience the Rogue is on a Hellgate Jet Boat Excursion leaving from Grants Pass. These hydro-jet-powered boats glide inches above the surface and travel at high speeds. Choose from two, three, and four-hour trips.
Rogue River Valley
7) Hike the Rogue River Trail.
Not up for rafting the Rogue? This 40-mile trail, stretching roughly between Grants Pass and Gold Beach, is another option and takes you through the same remote canyons and pristine forestland. You can choose to hike for either four hours or four days.
8) Get up close with big beasts at Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center in Merlin.
Bears, cougars and wolves, oh my! You’ll get eye to eye with big furry mammals at this center where sick, injured and orphaned animals and birds are cared for and then returned to the wild.
On the way, pick up sandwiches at Lil’ Pantry in nearby Merlin and have a picnic at Hog Creek County Park or Robertson Bridge County Park. Both overlook the river and you can watch the rafters and kayakers drift by.
9) Fly through the trees on a zipline.
Rogue Valley Zipline in Gold Hill has some 2,700 feet of zipline between its five courses, the longest being 1,300 feet long.
Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center
As you fly above the treetops like a wild and crazy bird, you’ll take in views of Upper and Lower Table Rocks, the rim of Crater Lake and Mounts McLaughlin and Thielson.
10) Travel deep into the underworld at Oregon Caves National Monument.
Step inside this underworld labyrinth of caves and you enter a landscape that's hard to describe – it's a world of drip wax candles, a planet in a sci-fi movie, something out of a Dr. Seuss novel.
A one-hour drive south of Grants Pass, the park offers guided tours. Arrive early in summer to guarantee a spot on a tour.
11) Feel the spray at Watson Falls outside Roseburg.
The tallest falls in southwest Oregon, Watson Falls cascades 272 feet over the edge of a moss-covered basalt lava flow. A round-trip hike that’s just shy of a mile takes you over a wooden bridge crossing Watson Creek and gets you so close to the falls that you feel the spray.
Find the falls just off Highway 138 outside Roseburg. Want to see more? Continue along the Rogue-Umpqua where a dozen cascades hang like tassels from the mountains along the route.
12) Drive through Douglas County’s covered bridges.
The Bridges of Madison County could have been set in the picturesque area surrounding Roseburg where six charming covered bridges, some dating back to the 1920s, are set along country roads.
Want to learn about the time in history when these bridges were built? Stop by the Douglas County Museum of Culture & Natural History in Roseburg where over 8,500 artifacts and 24,000 images tell the ancient and modern-day stories of the Umpqua River Valley.
13) Stand in front of Crater Lake and scream “Wow!”
Nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking beauty of this 21-square-mile expanse of royal blue waters known as Crater Lake National Park. It’s a color chosen by the most careful decorator, Mother Nature herself.
To take in the scenery, try hikes from Discovery Point and Watchman Peak. Plan ahead and book tickets for a cruise out to Wizard Island. If you’re driving to Crater Lake, via Highway 62, stop at Beckie’s Café for heaping slices of fresh homemade boysenberry pie.
14) Go bird-watching in Klamath Falls.
Bird lovers from all over the world flock to the high desert wonderland surrounding Klamath Falls – 60 miles south of Crater Lake. The Klamath Basin hosts two million ducks and geese in fall; over 500 bald eagles, the country’s largest gathering, in winter; migrating shorebirds in the spring; and thousand’s of nesting birds in summer.
Bring your binoculars! Tip: Before heading out on an early morning adventure, pick up a buttermilk muffin, cream scone or cinnamon streusel roll at the Green Blade Bakery in town.
15) Take a walk around Fort Rock.
This massive red-rock rock formation of towering jagged walls rises 325 feet above the vast sagebrush plains creating what would be the perfect backdrop for a spaghetti western.
You can enter the spectacular scene by setting foot on one of the many hiking trails that meander around this National Natural Landmark that’s about two hours northeast of Crater Lake.