Ashland, Oregon: A Luxury Road Trip

There’s just something about a road trip. The journey. Going from point A to point B. The planning, the pit stops along the way. Discovering new towns, scenic vistas, gas stations you say you’ll never-ever return to, windows down, windows up, realizing you still have a CD player, and then finally, you’ve arrived.

For me, road trips involve some creature comforts. I’m happy driving a few extra miles to get off of the highway and onto the scenic route. I’d rather take my time and stay in a secluded resort than make good time by choosing a roadside motel, trucks whizzing by my guest room window. I like to wake to birds chirping, finding myself in a plush king bed rather than a sleeping bag. I prefer my coffee from a carafe, not a campfire. I’m far more likely to swim in a pool than a lake, and drawing a bath is the ultimate luxury. Enter Lithia Springs Resort, and welcome to my luxury road trip.

Ashland, Oregon is three and a half hours from Bend, and four and a half from Portland and Sacramento. No matter which direction you’re traveling from - you’ll quickly fall under Southern Oregon’s spell, where hot springs abound, the Bard keeps its Western home, and awe-inspiring valleys give way to snow-capped mountains. Driving north from California, detour through Redwood forests or out along the Oregon Coast before finding your way to Ashland. From Portland, take the 5 or wind through the lush Willamette Valley to the Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon’s lesser known wine region, before continuing on to Ashland.

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From Central Oregon, leave the high desert in your rear view as you head south, where massive Ponderosa pine trees give way to Oregon’s scenic volcanic byway with Crater Lake National Park its star, along the way to Ashland.

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My sister and I departed Bend in the afternoon and arrived at Lithia Springs Resort in the early evening. The Resort is located five minutes' drive from Ashland, with easy access to the highway but tucked back just enough to make it a true hideaway. Upon arrival, the sun had just dipped below the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, casting that golden hour glow over the main entrance of the resort, which was overflowing with roses, peonies, and daisies.

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Lithia Springs Resort is spread out across four acres of lush 100% organic gardens which wrap around 38 guest accommodations, Waterstone Spa, saline pool and hot tub, koi pond, multiple outdoor event spaces, trellises draped in vines and flowers, and fruit trees home to a variety of harmonious birds. 

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The accommodations include Hillside Suites, Studios, Patio Bungalows near the pool, and Spa Bungalows near the spa. Additional suites are located around the main building, including some facing the Garden Courtyard where we enjoyed daily complimentary breakfast.

We stayed in a beautiful Spa Bungalow which featured a living room with a sitting area, American Leather pull out sofa, gas fireplace, flat screen television, kitchenette, and a large soaking tub. The separate master bedroom featured a king bed, dresser, and closet stocked with two robes. The hexagon tiled bathroom included a single vanity and shower.

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But this resort is more than meets the eye. Deep beneath the gardens lay mineral rich springs, renowned for their healing and restorative power. All of the water on property is ozonated mineral water which has been passed through a chemical-free system that removes much of the sulfuric odor and leaves highly alkaline water. A good soak allows the water molecules to bond to hydrogen in the skin and draw out impurities. How could I not?

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I dressed myself in a thoughtfully provided robe, and drew the bath. The room was dimly lit via the aptly labeled “Cave Lighting”. When the bath was ready (it’s a large tub, large enough for two), I slipped in and drifted far, far away. I sipped hot coffee, perused the Wall Street Journal I’d picked up at breakfast, and peace washed over me. The mineral water allowed me deep relaxation I’ve only experienced in massage and acupuncture. Stepping out of the tub, my skin felt softer, my mind clearer, and my body detoxified.

While my sister wasn’t ready to jump in the tub with me, temperatures in the high 70s meant pool time was a must. The saline pool is open seasonally for Resort guests. If you've never experienced a saline pool, you'll find it is much more gentle on the eyes and skin than a chlorinated pool. The water felt soft and smooth, and use of harmful chemicals is minimized. 

 Poolside at Lithia Springs Resort in Ashland, Oregon

Poolside at Lithia Springs Resort in Ashland, Oregon

Although my sister and I would have been happy never leaving the resort (or the poolside) all weekend, I'd planned a handful of things to do in Ashland later that day, starting with Shakespeare. We pulled ourselves away from the pool, took quick showers, and headed into town. 

 Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is renowned all over the world. Since its beginning in 1935, the Festival has presented Shakespeare's 37 plays over 300 times with over 30,000 performances to 20 million visitors. I purchased tickets to "Shakespeare in Love", a play adaptation of one of my favorite rom coms starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow (1998). As the story goes, a young, broke Shakespeare is searching high and low for inspiration when he's asked to write a play with a promise of payment he simply can't refuse. As he sets off to write and rehearse "Romeo & Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter", he meets his muse, falls in love, and the story transforms into what we know today as Romeo & Juliet. Not long after the movie's release, I played Juliet in my high school production of Romeo & Juliet, and much of the prose still dances in my head over a decade later.

The stage adaptation of the play was incredible. The experience of actors performing live on stage cannot be beat, giving audience members a chance to connect and understand the characters' feelings and emotions on a deeper level. The play took some creative liberties, inserting humor while staying true to the screenplay and to Shakespeare. I laughed, I cried, and that old theater-loving flame was ignited inside once more. I promised myself I'd return to the Festival again this summer. 

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Second to Shakespeare, Ashland is also home to Lithia Park, a 100-acre public park of sprawling lawns, tennis courts, ponds, and forest situated along Ashland Creek. The park is ideal for an afternoon stroll or picnic, complete with musicians dotting the way, couples wandering hand-in-hand, and ducks and geese in pursuit of their next crumb. There's a playground where families congregate, a pond where artists dream, and a path that leads to an outdoor amphitheater, presumably part of the Shakespeare Festival. 

Dining in Ashland is another performance worthy of an encore. During our time, we enjoyed great meals at Larks Restaurant and Smithfields, and ice cream at Mix Bakeshop.

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On the last day of our stay, I woke early to birds chirping. I was so cozy in my king bed, but I wanted to get outside and walk through the gardens one last time before breakfast. Each time I walked the paths, a new flower would reveal itself to me. There had to be hundreds of different flowers growing, each one more colorful than the last.

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We packed our car and headed into the main building for breakfast before checking out. Daily, complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea service are included in all reservations, and are executed with care by a staff that seems to really care about the guest experience. That morning, we savored a vegetarian quiche, steel-cut oats, and dark chocolate and cherry scones, fresh from the oven. 

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Although our stay at Lithia Springs Resort had come to an end, the natural beauty and deep sense of relaxation stayed with me long after I'd left. Many hotels provide a getaway to their guests, but few provide an environment that stays with you long after you've left. Lithia Springs Resort is a rare gem, one I hope to return to again.

IF YOU GO

Where To Stay

Lithia Springs Resort, 2165 West Jackson Road, Ashland, OR 97520, http://lithiaspringsresort.com/.

Where To Eat

Larks Restaurant, 212 East Main Street, Ashland, OR 97520, http://www.larksrestaurant.com/.

Smithfields, 36 South 2nd Street, Ashland, OR 97520, http://www.smithfieldsashland.com/.

Things To Do

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 15 South Pioneer Street, Ashland, OR 97520, https://www.osfashland.org/.

Lithia Park, Ashland, OR 97520, http://www.ashland.or.us/.

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