There are certain legs of a road trip that aren't as planned out. The main cities or points of interest have a full itinerary of activities, restaurants, and photo ops. But, what happens in between? Where do you stop to sleep or eat after driving all day? Well, if you're between Oregon and California and have an unplanned weekend, consider Medford, Oregon.
Midway between San Francisco and Portland, this historical town is surrounded by mountains offering spectacular scenery and a lively community. Medford began as a railroad town in the late 1800's. By the early 20th century it was a regional urban center with a growing population and growing interest in vineyard/orchard operations. With the first public airport in Oregon, Medford became a hub city for the state.
These days, downtown Medford is made for strolling where local cafes and boutiques still believe in outdoor awnings. Nostalgia lingers here in ghost signs on historic buildings and marquees on vintage theaters. Medford is guaranteed to grab your interest with 104 buildings on the National Register of Historic Buildings and a culinary scene complemented by local wine and craft brews. It's the perfect road trip stop for hiking, history-buff foodies.
Stay: Waverly Cottage
This historic bed and breakfast was built in 1898 by some of the towns first residents. Designed in the Eastlake style, the cottage is characterized by elaborate embellishments and carved balustrades. Inside has been renovated with modern replicas yet is somewhat of a small museum housing period antiques and several historical artifacts. You can find the cottage listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings as the Shone-Charley House. Located within walking distance to downtown, this colorful cottage is ideal for a weekend trip. If they happen to be booked up, try Airbnb. There are several nearly as charming options nearby.
Day One: Friday
5 p.m. - Wine Down for Sunset
Catch the sunset as it drops below mountaintops at Roxy Ann Peak in Prescott Park. An easy, 3-mile hike to the top of the peak provides awe-inspiring views of Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin, and Mt. Ashland. On the southwest slope you'll find Roxy Ann Winery. I mentioned the towns history in growing a variety of fruit. Well, it paid off well in the form of wine. Medford is in Southern Oregon's wine region. And, Roxy Ann Winery was one of the first dating back to 1908 when it began as Hillcrest Orchard. Visit Roxy Ann Winery on Friday nights for live music and pop-up food vendors in the renovated old barn turned tasting room. Exposed wooden beams and wine barrel tables set an atmosphere that is rustic and cozy. Check another one off your National Register of Historic Buildings list after your visit!
Day Two: Saturday
9 a.m. - An Organic Oregon Breakfast
Begin the day downtown at Organic Natural Cafe for breakfast. The menu features thoughtful vegan and veggie friendly options like veggie burgers, soy bacon, and hummus with vegetables as a side. The chipotle scramble with marinated organic tofu and green chilies is spicy and satisfying. You'll find organic soups and a full organic salad bar too. Brighten the morning with one of their fresh squeezed juices or fresh fruit smoothies before exploring the town.
10:30 a.m. - Historical Scavenger Hunt
Take a stroll around town. Medford has 3 historical districts and downtown is one of them. Some of the oldest date back to 1895 when the town was first settled. Keep an eye out for Porter's, a 1910 train station turned steakhouse, the Woolworth building circa 1911, and Holly Theatre built in 1930. Vines seem to takeover the hand-hewn brick at Porter's but it's historical significance is hard to miss. Down the street, iconic red and gold wrap the corner of the Woolworth building with slim, white lettering announcing it's name. When the Holly Theatre first opened it boasted the largest neon sign in Oregon. The sign still remains but the theater is only open for daily tours while under renovation. Wander through highly ornate Venetian style rooms for a glimpse into the past. To see how residents lived back in the beginning of Medford, visit the South Oakdale Historic District. Entering from the north or south, you'll walk through tunnels of large oaks, chestnuts, and sycamores setting the scene for one of Oregon's oldest and most architecturally diverse neighborhoods.
12 p.m. - Market Munchies
Walk over to Rogue Valley Grower's Market at Hawthorne Park. The market began 30 years ago and is as vibrant as the day it began. Local vendors and food carts seemingly come out of the woods. For such a small town, the community really knows how to support its businesses. You'll find the usual farmers market buys like organic produce, fresh flowers, and just baked bread. What you'll stay for is the handmade soaps, custom-made wooden kitchen utensils, and local ceramic artists. I hope you brought your reusable bag because you won't leave empty-handed. Visit Wasana's Thai Food Cart for cooked to order traditional Thai dishes. Wasana's smiling face and full flavors will make you wish you lived in Medford. Try the complimentary hot soup while you wait. And, if you so dare, try her homemade hot sauce. You'll wish it was bottled and available for purchase.
7:30 p.m. - Spanish in Oregon
Start your night at Elements, a traditional Spanish restaurant specializing in tapas and serving the region's most extensive selection of Spanish wines. The star of the menu is their paella - a saffron-scented Spanish rice dish with rich layers of flavor served in a shallow pan. Traditionally, it's cooked with a variety of vegetables, seafood and/ or meat. Elements offers a vegetable paella with artichoke hearts that melts in your mouth. Order a few tapas and glasses of wine while you wait. Allow about 40 minutes. The longer the better when it comes to waiting for paella.
10 p.m. - Drink immortality
The night is always young at Immortal Spirits & Distilling Company. A more-crafted cocktail would be hard to find. At Immortal Spirits, scratch-made liquors are distilled in gear built by the owners. Opened in 2009, the tasting room features their flagship whiskey in several variations, rum, brandy, and even absinthe. They even offer premixed cocktail growlers like Strawpeary, their pear brandy mixed with ginger ale, muddled strawberry, cucumber, and lime. Fall in love and take a bottle home from their retail store. Don't worry it'll still look the same and taste just as good the next day. There's live music often highlighting local artists. Check their Facebook for upcoming events.
Day Three: Sunday
10 a.m. - Morning Coffee
Limestone Coffee brings artisan coffee to Medford. They roast and ground all of their coffee in-house. Walking in, you'll forget where you are. Light streams in on exposed brick walls from ceiling to floor front windows. The curved staircase, steel table, and lofted seating could easily be found in any big city coffeehouse. Instead, it's here in one of the town's nationally recognized historic buildings. Check another one off that list! Their beans are fair-trade, Rainforest Alliance Certified, and purchased in small quantities from small farms. Get your buzz on before heading out for a day hike at Table Rocks.
11 a.m. - Hiking's on the Table
Grab fruit and granola from your farmer's market finds for breakfast on the go. Upper and Lower Table Rock are a short 20 minute drive from Medford. Meander through cliff-edged mesas with views of the Rogue River Valley and Cascade Mountains. The hike to Upper Table Rock is an easy 2.8-mile trip while the hike up Lower Table Rock is a moderate 5.4-mile trip. Wildflowers and migratory birds create a sanctuary that the Takelma Indians once revered. Take a few minutes at the top of Table Rocks to meditate in open mountain air.
5 p.m. - Dancin Vineyards
Sprawling vineyards overlook the Table Rocks and Mt. McLoughlin. You'll appreciate that hike so much more with a wine glass in hand. The property is Northwest sloping, shaded by tall pines and cedars, providing the perfect terrace for sipping wine in the late afternoon. Dancin Vineyards is a place where wine tasting is an experience made better with harmonious food pairings. Using local ingredients, the chef conjures up wood-fired pizzas, inventive pastas, and signature stuffed mushrooms. Chickens roam the grounds in early morning providing protection against pests. Here, sustainability is a natural extension of wine making. The owners believe that being stewards of the land now ensures quality grapes for future generations. Reservations are only required for a party of 8 or more.
8 p.m. - Seat in History
Did you happen to notice the Craterion "Ginger Rogers" Theatre on your historical scavenger hunt yesterday? You probably couldn't miss the bright aqua marquee trimmings. Erected in 1924 in the Spanish Colonial style, the theater was and still is a state-of-the-art performance venue. Shows are typically on the weekends and can vary from theatrical, musical, and cultural performances. Have a seat in history and enjoy one of Southern Oregon's premiere entertainment facilities. The concession stand offers light snacks, beer, and wine to continue the night's festivities.
Walking and biking- friendly town with everything in a close distance.
Multiple weekly farmer's markets.
Restaurant focus on organic, local and seasonal ingredients.
Vegan options are slim.