American's Best Small Towns


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by Michael Alan Connelly and Abbey Chase

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Nothing embodies classic Americana quite like small towns. For the second year in a row, we've compiled a list that highlights some of the best places in the country you don't hear about every day. This year, we've focused on destinations with populations under 30,000 that have a vibrancy of their own and year-round appeal. Our list is made up of detour-worthy towns all over the U.S. that have strong cultural offerings or great outdoor adventures, in addition to standout dining and lodging options. For your next small-town getaway, head to any of these 10 remarkable spots.

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Ashland boasts dining, shopping, Shakespeare

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by Eileen Wilson

It started more than a decade ago when my then 11-year-old daughter, Bethany, said, “Hey, I hear there’s a place called Ashland and they have a big Shakespeare festival.”

Well, the daughter is grown and gone, but that doesn’t stop me from escaping to Ashland, Oregon, with friends and family as often as possible, sometimes up to four times a year. That’s because Ashland is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and it doesn’t matter what time of year you go. And here’s a little secret — you don’t even have to like Shakespeare.

Summer is surely one of the best times to visit Ashland, as the festival is in full swing. The venue has three theaters with 11 plays in repertoire. The out door venue, the Elizabethan, is a replica of the Globe Theatre in London.

This year’s lineup of plays is outstanding, and Shakespeare makes up less than one-third of the schedule. Ashland is one of the only places in the world where you will find worldclass acting in a small, eclectic town. Look through the playbill and you’ll see star power from Broadway and Hollywood, and credentials from Julliard and other world-renowned performing-arts colleges.

Ashland Creek Inn proprietor, Graham Sheldon, describes the festival’s sheer number of plays as the town’s biggest draw — there are up to five each day.

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A chic boutique hotel tucked into the banks of Lithia Creek


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by Karen D’Souza

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I also ventured into undiscovered country in terms of hotels. For part of my stay, I enjoyed the serenity of the Ashland Creek Inn, a vine-covered boutique hotel built from the bones of an 1880s grain mill. Tucked away on the banks of Lithia Creek just blocks from the theaters, this is a small, chic place with themed suites where the decor is constantly being curated. In the Copenhagen suite, the simple lines of Danish modern design brighten the spirit. To get in a tranquil mood, gaze at the koi and deer from your own private deck, sleep to the sound of the babbling brook and wake to a gourmet breakfast cooked by the on-site chef.

> Read the full report in the San Jose Mercury News.

Dive Into High Culture in Ashland

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With fewer crowds (and lower prices) at its internationally renowned Shakespeare festival and an ever-thriving local arts scene, now’s the ideal time to visit this cultural oasis in woodsy Southern Oregon.

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The Danish-modern "Copenhagen," one of the regionally-themed suites at the Ashland Creek Inn.  

Watch for deer and hawks from your window or private deck at the boutique Ashland Creek Inn(from $150), a renovated 1880s grain mill on the banks of Ashland Creek. Start off each morning with a gourmet breakfast care of the on-site chef, who experiments with dishes like smoked salmon soufflé, herbed morel-stuffed crepes, and berries with chia-caramel sauce. The inn’s blue-shuttered, vine-covered façade looks more Provence than Oregon woods, and the suites transport as well, each with a different regional style. The Copenhagen, with deck and full kitchen, is Danish modern, with light pine and clean lines; the Normandy has the flowered cushions, rose-hued wood, and wrought-iron deck furniture of a Northern French country house; and the Northern-Italian-themed Sienna has a jetted tub for two in the bedroom.