“You are going to Medford? What the heck is in Medford?” That was often the question I received when I mentioned our plan to stay in Medford Oregon for the long weekend. But they didn’t see that Medford Oregon has a lot more going for it, more than one might see at first glance. Awesome outdoor dining options, tax free shopping, a reasonable price tag, and the gateway to all that Southern Oregon has to offer. Medford is perfect place to stay when you want affordability with access to all the amazing options that Southern Oregon has to offer.
We specifically chose Medford as our base for several reasons. It was not that far a drive from our home, so we knew that on the day we were leaving, we could easily do it in one day. Also, as unfair as it is, Medford is not known as a destination. People go to Southern Oregon for the waterfalls, for the national park, and for the Shakespeare festival in Ashland. All those areas have cute (read expensive) boutique hotels or camping. We are not campers. Medford had several affordable chain hotels. Especially since our trip was last minute, we were able to not only find accommodations in Medford, we were able to do so at a reasonable price. We saw that in Medford we were 1.5 hours from Crater Lake National Park, 1 Hour from a number of waterfalls, right in the heart Rogue Valley and its wine tasting area, 30 minutes from Ashland, and in a city with plenty of shopping and dining options at all price points. This allowed us several options for our trip, at a convenient location and a convenient low price.
Where we stayed: There are several good chain hotels in Medford, so if you have a loyalty program, you are sure to find the one of your choice. We choose to stay in the Comfort Inn. It was clean, had a fridge and microwave in the room, and had a pool that was open. They offered free grab and go breakfast, but we did not take advantage of it. You can see more about our stay it in my article “Staying in a Hotel in the Time of COVID”.
Where We Ate: We ate like kings in Medford. I expected to find a lot of chains. I did not expect to find so many good restaurants that existed in town. Our favorite dinner was at Common Block Brewery, a local brewery with an expansive outdoor dining area. We ordered some pints and had appetizers and dinner there. We loved the pretzel and cheese curds. The kids had a great pizza, I had some amazing flavorful bear battered fish and chips, and my husband had a juicy burger and fries.
The other memorable meal we had was at Buttercloud Bakery. Known for its fluffy biscuits and pastries, they have some amazing breakfast platers, pancakes, waffles, and pastries. I had the most amazing eggs benedict on a fluffy biscuit; it was the best I have had in a while. They have six tables outside, each with shade umbrellas, and when it started to get hot, the misters came on to keep us cool.
We did visit a chain, having dinner at Cracker Barrel one evening. If you grew up on the East Coast, you know that restaurant well from road trips down south. I certainly had nostalgia sitting surrounded by the historical artifacts and eating large portions of southern style cooking. It is also known for its hearty all-day breakfast platters. If you are in Cracker Barrel, you can’t pass up the shop, where you find so many cute, home décor items. I may have found a few things to decorate the house for fall.
What we did: Our first day in Southern Oregon, we beelined to Crater Lake to check out it’s famous pristine blue waters.
On our second day, we had grand plans to go hiking to some of the amazing Oregon waterfalls. However, it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. My husband was down with the plan until we finished breakfast and the misters came on. He nixed the idea of being out in the heat, and we went back to the hotel.
Instead we decided to enjoy Medford itself. We took advantage of having the hotel pool to ourselves and let the kids jump in and swim away, while my husband and I sat in the hot tub. After a picnic lunch in the hotel in the air conditioning (with the picnic supplies we bought for the hike), we decided to check out Rouge Valley Mall.
Medford is well known for its shopping. Oregon is a 0% sales tax state and Medford is just about 40 minutes North of the California border, which has a high sales tax. Many people in this area come over the border to do clothing or electronics shopping to avoid the sales tax. We decided to check out the mall and see if there was anything good to be had. We checked out a few of our favorite stores. I got some nice sunglasses, my kids got some new clothing (like they needed any…), and my daughter discovered Claire’s and the fun she could have in that shop. But it had been a while since we had been in a mall, so the kids enjoyed just walking along and window shopping. There were a few activities in the mall for the kids. There was rentable ride along toys, but we did not personally feel safe because we were not sure how well they were being cleaned in between uses.
We did allow the kids to do the Trampoline Jumping with Bungee Cords. They were required to sanitize in and out, and would just be confined to the space they were jumping in. I have to say, I had agreed because I thought they could keep there mask on, but I was disappointed when the young people running the ride not only asked them to remove the mast from their nose and mouth (making it pointless) but also kept taking it off themselves. I am not sure I would recommend that ride during a pandemic. But the kids enjoyed themselves and a few weeks later we are still OK, so I guess we got lucky. We did enjoy a treat at Cookie Connection, where the kids and my husband had ice cream, and I enjoyed tea and a deliciously soft Chocolate Chip Cookie with Walnut. We were able to sit at a table and enjoy our treat a fair distance from others. The mall has tall ceilings, so even though we were indoors, I felt a bit safer.
Otherwise we rested, relaxed, and even did a movie night in our hotel room using our computer and an HDMI cable.
Our last day in Oregon, before heading home, we decided to explore Ashland, Oregon, and it’s famous quaint downtown, theaters, and outdoor dining along the creek.
COVID Considerations: As with most places, masks are generally required in all indoor locations or public areas. When dining outdoors, you need to wear your mask when not actively eating or drinking. At the time of our visit (early September), limited indoor dining was allowed and hotels were still at limited capacity. Make sure to check the websites of where you want to visit before you go to understand what is open and available.
On our last day in Oregon, we left Medford early to head to Ashland. But we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Southern Oregon, and really felt the Medford had the right mix of amenities, restaurants, and proximity to activities to help make it a great home base for a Southern Oregon trip. You can get all this at hotel prices you cannot beat. If you are looking for a good place to plant and explore, Medford is the place. It is more than just shopping.
What to explore more in Southern Oregon and need further help planning your trip?
- See my articles on Crater Lake and Ashland, Oregon.
- Check out my road trip tips for long road trips with little ones in the car.
- Calm your fears of staying in a hotel with these COVID safe tips
- Check out this podcast from We Travel There for even more inspiration!
Note: The day after we left Oregon, the Almeda Fire broke out and wiped out parts of Ashland, Phoenix and South Medford. This is an area that’s main industry is tourism, and its economy has already been badly hit due to the pandemic. The people who lost their homes are truly suffering. If you wish to help the people of Southern Oregon, please check out this page for what non-profits are helping and where to best send your donation.
* Starred Photos take by Atma Photography
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