Literary City Guide | ASHLAND, OREGON

Esmeralda! now we rest

Here, in the bewitched and blest

Mountain forests of the West.

Here the very air is stranger.

Damzel, anchoret, and ranger

Share the woodland’s dream and danger.
— Vladimir Nabokov, from his poem, Lines Written in Oregon (He and his wife lived in Ashland in 1953 and he finished Lolita that summer. )


Katrina Neill

Katrina lives in Northern California and spends as much time as possible in her dream town of Ashland, Oregon – a mecca for things she cherishes: a lively arts scene, local food purveyors and natural beauty. She works as an editor and communications manager by day and seeks adventure with her husband and dog in her free time. (Photos by Katrina Neill)


Relationship to Ashland: I first visited Ashland with my book club in 2001 to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). I pretty much fell in love on the spot. Since then, I drive up as often as I can. With each visit, I try to find things I don’t like about this little gem of a mountain town (just 15 miles north of the California border) so I am inspired to travel to different places. I just can’t!

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Billy Collins for his amazing wit and grace

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Maybe potluck and cocktails would be fun

Writing soundtrack: Dave Matthews Band 

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning. Tea in the evening.

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback from the library. Hardback to own and re-visit.

Good Reads


Bloomsbury Books. On Main Street, Bloomsbury Books devotes lots of space to local writers, theater and arts, hosts readings and features an upstairs coffee house.

Tudor Guild. Run by Oregon Shakespeare Festival volunteers, this bookstore and features a wide selection of plays, children’s and reference books – including scripts of OSF commissioned works (including All the Way by Robert Schenkken, a Tony winner in 2014).

TreeHouse Books. Here you’ll find the storefront for “The Secret Book Club”, a literary program for children. The store features books for newborns to young adults and has a lovely touch of “faery” throughout.

Book Exchange. This outpost on Pioneer Street has lots of good-quality, gently used titles and categories. You can often score a first edition there.


Ashland Library. One of 31 Carnegie Libraries in Oregon. It includes the original building and a newer wing and hosts events throughout the year.

Hannon Library. The Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University (SOU) hosts the Ashland Book & Author Festival in October.


Ashland New Plays Festival. This festival encourages the creation of new works through public readings. Readings take place in late October and often feature actors from OSF.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival. OSF hosts two play readings per year – typically in late winter and August. The festival also presents Hip-Hop Poetry Open Mic events on some Monday evenings, lectures throughout the season, and Prefaces to plays.


Oregon Shakespeare Festival. OSF performs 11 plays in an eighth-month season. It is a big draw to the town of Ashland. But only three or four plays are by William Shakespeare. The festival also produces new works, musicals, classic pieces and commissioned plays. Two indoor theaters and one outdoor stage make up the OSF complex.

Lithia Park. Designed by John McLaren (of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park fame), this outdoor space is comprised of 93 acres of woods, gardens, paths, duck ponds, tennis courts and picnic spots – all with Ashland Creek running through it.

Papaya Living. A lifestyle retail store owned and operated by the Papaya Art co-founders (a mother-daughter creative team). You can find their girly and dreamy social expressions line there, as well as colorful clothes and home décor treasures. Note: The Brickroom restaurant is also owned by this family and shares the same inviting aesthetic.

Ashland Art Works. Don’t miss this cluster of historic buildings on Oak Street that showcase the work of local artists. You can always find an affordable gift or treasure in each of the small buildings filled with pottery, metalwork, wood craft, paintings, jewelry, fiber arts and assemblage. A bonus: Ashland Art Works and dozens of other galleries are host to First Friday Art Walks throughout the year.

Ashland Dog Park. Tucked on Nevada Street, this is a real find for dog lovers who travel to Ashland. Green grass, access to a creek, kiddie pool, water bowls and a separate section for dogs who don’t care to be super-social are all a part of this welcoming canine park.

Good Eats


Noble Coffee Roasting. Located in the historic Railroad District, Noble has a staff of skilled baristas and roasts on site.

Mix BakeShop. You’ll find Seattle’s Stumptown Coffee, delectable bites, and shop-made ice cream from morning to evening.

Rogue Valley Roasting. This coffee shop is in a charming, leafy neighborhood at the edge of the Railroad District and very walk-able from downtown.


Standing Stone Brewery. This brewery is owned by a local family that supports community, sustainability, plus a generous bike-to-work program for employees that pedal to their jobs at this popular and friendly restaurant. Their beer is brewed on the premises.

Brickroom. Brickroom feels like it could exist in Seattle, Portland or San Francisco. Walk up a graphically painted staircase and you enter a world of dark wood, exposed brick walls, cool art, a long bar, two treetop patio sections and a great vibe. Food and drinks are equally refined.

Agave. Inside you’ll find fresh, organic Mexican food and signature, made-to-order guacamole and chips to resemble its namesake plant.


Ashland Food Co-op. Stop here for a nice selection of healthful prepared foods, local produce and dairy and all grocery essentials.

Zooey’s Natural Ice Cream. Zooey’s carries Oregon favorite BJ’s in dozens of appealing flavors. They stay open extra-late on theater nights.

Caldera Tap House. Don't miss Caldera for beer and tater tots on the back patio, a really fun indulgence. They brew a wide array of varieties, and if you bring your clean Mason Jars, you can fill up at the bar.

KATRINA's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: Duck pond in Lithia Park looking through trees to the rooftops of the Elizabethan Theater – you almost feel like you are in Old England

2. Favorite place to write: A vacation rental that sits on Ashland Creek

3. Favorite museum: Schneider Museum of Art on the Southern Oregon University campus for its contemporary collections

4. Favorite coffee shop: Noble Roasting for its warmth of character and staff

5. Favorite thing about Ashland: My favorite thing about my adopted town of Ashland is the feeling I get standing “on the bricks” of OSF before the plays begin. On a midsummer evening, all three theaters are in production, and the crowds of people who gather there before curtain time are so lively and happy.