I’ve been enjoying the fall colors and associated activities over the past few weeks! Before the constant rain started, I decided to take my last mud-free opportunity of the year to hike Table Rock and see the foilage from above.
I went to the pumpkin patch twice this year. On my second trip, I decided to get a blue pumpkin, which I never had before. The following days were all pumpkin-themed. I roasted the seeds from my pumpkin, baked cookies and cheesecake brownies from canned pumpkin, and carved the pumpkin in a park under the colorful leaves of a tree.
Last week was the first Friday of the month, which called for an evening trip to Ashland for the First Friday Art Walk. After that I headed down the street to Southern Oregon University, where I joined a haunted tour. But the most incredible thing I saw happened before all that: I parked my car at Lithia Park, and saw these trees between the duck pond and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Do you love the idea of getting flights, lodging, ground transportation, meals, and attractions for free or steeply discounted? Who wouldn’t want that! This is what makes travel hacking so enticing. But this can be too daunting when it comes to churning credit cards and running up a big bill.
Never fear, there are plenty of travel hacks where owning a credit card is completely optional! Below are credit-free hacks based on my personal experience, as well as a few collected from others in my travel networks.
When I first visited the Subaru dealership, I brought measuring tape with me. I wanted to make sure I was able to lay down in the trunk with the back seat down. If you road trip in a van or SUV, this could be a comfortable and cheap option for overnights. For me, I started doing this as a kid. Before getting my own tent for Christmas, I would often choose to sleep in the back of my dad’s Jeep Cherokee during family camping trips. My first car was a 2000 Ford Explorer. I bought it for about $1750, and made a large portion of that back in savings by sleeping in it at free campgrounds and WalMart parking lots. Since then, I’ve learned to fit an inflated air mattress in the back, how to make temporary privacy curtains, and that my favorite free spot to stay the night is casinos that allow RVs overnight. Just a few steps away, I have access to bathrooms, WiFi, and security!
Help others for airline perks.
Back when I was an EMT, I helped out with someone having an emergency while boarding our plane. Had this person stayed on the flight, the crew would have offered to refund my ticket to sit with her. Although this didn’t happen, a flight attendant gave me one of those super-expensive snack boxes I would never afford to buy myself. Megan Parsons shared, “this couple asked if they could help me because I am flying alone with a baby. I said yes and their boarding position jumped significantly.” Obviously opportunities like these don’t always arise, but it always helps to keep an eye out!
Use free toilets.
“Go when you can, not when you must.” I heard this from a NYC tourguide ten years ago, and it’s stuck with me as a useful, albeit awkward travel motto. Of course needing to use the bathroom when there isn’t one available can result in ruined clothes, laundry expenses, smelly luggage, and embarrassment. I’ve pointed several visitors to free bathrooms in a small tourist town near where I live, and look out for free restrooms while I travel. This tip is especially useful in areas where most public toilets cost money, since they’re still usually free at restaurants, paid attractions, churches, trains, and porta potties. (Bonus tip: always carry a pack of travel tissues. Your stall may be out of toilet paper, and in some countries the stalls don’t always have toilet roll holders!)
Get free food and drinks in the airport with this simple tip.
We know that the shops and restaurants in airports are overpriced. But do you know how to get food and drinks past TSA security? More and more people are realizing that you can bring an empty bottle and fill it with water once past security, instead of dropping several dollars for a disposable plastic bottle. (If you do forget your water bottle, some airport fast food places might give you a free water cup.) You can add single-serve flavor packs if you wish. As for food, it’s totally okay to go through security as long as it doesn’t contain many liquid-based components. (Mustard on a sandwich should be fine; a heavily-frosted cupcake is a no-go.) You don’t even have to fit your food in your carry-on or personal item as long as it’s consumed before boarding.
Find mistake fares and airline sales.
Stephan Mark Smith shared, “Check each day until you find a mistake fare.” While I personally have yet to find a mistake fare, I did take advantage of a cheap airline sale a few years ago. As long as you’re not too picky about your destination, you could plan a great trip around a cheap flight!
Fund your trip with gift cards.
Just about every aspect of travel can be paid for with a gift card. If you have partially- used gift cards lying around, get creative and brainstorm how they can be used towards upcoming travels. For everything else, check out Swagbucks. Many people think of this site as a rebate program. But I promised that none of these travel hacks require a credit card, and this one doesn’t have to, either. On Swagbucks, you can earn points by watching videos, playing games, taking surveys, and my favorite, using a search engine. These points then translate into gift cards for gas, hotels, cruises, restaurants, Groupon, and more. You even get free points just for signing up!
Check the fine print on coupons.
Between free travel gear and free souvenirs, this hack has saved me a lot of money, and provided me with wonderful things I never would have gotten if I had to pay for them! I ignore most coupons because their stipulations require me to buy something I don’t need. But years ago, while backpacking Nashville, I found a coupon that offered $3 off at a local candy store- no minimum purchase! I even surprised the cashier when I got a $2.50 nut log for free. Since then, I stay on the lookout for coupons offering free food, free souvenirs, and free gear. I also like stores that allow coupon stacking or using coupons on already-discounted items. My favorite coupon right now is the $10 rewards coupon I get from Eddie Bauer twice a year. I have to spend at least $10 to get $10 off, but it’s still a good deal for useful gear and clearance items!
Visit your library before leaving.
A library is more than books. When planning my trip to Europe, I learned about Rick Steves, and wanted more of his advice than what was offered online and on PBS. I went to the library and found his Europe Through the Back Door guidebook as well as a few seasons of his show on DVD. Of course my rental time wasn’t long enough to bring these with me in Europe for 90 days, but I could take notes on the most useful information for me. For shorter trips, a borrowed library book is great for downtime, as long as you make sure not to lose it. With a lot of weekend road trips I’ve been taking lately, I enjoy getting an audio book or two from the library to listen to in the car. I’ve also taken periodicals from the free magazine rack. Your library may have other perks that benefit travel as well.
Double up on freebies at events.
Some of my favorite travel memories have been at free local events. I went to some of these at the advice of a local person or fellow traveler. Others I stumbled onto completely by accident. Either way, you’re likely to find a free concert, play, or street fair, especially in large cities. Not only is the event free, but you can often double up on freebies at events like this since the sponsors often give free items away. This could mean food, apparel, pens, and other items that make excellent souvenirs.
If something goes wrong, cash in on all you can.
I definitely would not recommend getting into a car crash as a way to travel hack. With recent personal experience, it’s a hassle, it’s costly, and it can ruin the joy of travel, at least temporarily. But if something like this does happen to you, milk it for all it’s worth. My favorite car crash perk has been the free massages and chiropractic adjustments, especially helpful since my health insurance ended just a couple weeks after my crash. You can enjoy this benefit even if you were only a passenger in a crash. When I got my rental car, I planned a weekend getaway to Redding, California. While I paid for the gas, the rental was covered by insurance, and it didn’t add mileage to my own car. Speaking of mileage, since my car was totalled before its warranty ended, I got most of it refunded. While each situation differs, look into what’s available in the event of an unfortunate incident involving a car, plane, hotel, restaurant, event, or attraction. Don’t be demanding or threatening, but be sure to get what you’re owed.
What travel hacks have you done? Let me know in the comments!
Since this week marks the start of school for my area, I decided to reflect on my own summer. While I didn’t have any big trips planned and faced some difficult challenges, it turned out all right!
I decided to experiment with a different type of travel this year. Instead of taking time off work, I utilized my days off for maximum adventures. This mostly involved weekend road trips. Although my per-day costs of travel mostly increased with this style of trip, I wasn’t losing money by not going to work. I was also motivated to pack more into each day of these shorter getaways. As a result, here are my top six favorite trips of this summer!
Even though my schedule changes at the end of summer, I’m still determined to travel. I especially want to since it’s hard to travel in Oregon right now- everything’s up in smoke! Recommend where I should go next in the comments.
Despite being only about an hour and a half away from my home, I felt as if I had somehow been transported to an African safari. I rode around in safari trucks with guides who knew a lot about the dozens of animals we passed. And before falling asleep in my tent, I listened to the carols of a pride of lions.
In reality, I was at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon. I’ve been to this drive-thru safari experience a few times, but that wasn’t in the plans for this trip. I was there to take part in Roars and Snores, which involves a sleepover inside a lion enclosure, plus a jam-packed itinerary for animal enthusiasts. The event description on their website was somewhat vague, so I knew I was in for a weekend of surprises!
I arrived at Wildlife Safari an hour before Roars and Snores began. This was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the free Safari Village, which has a petting zoo, taxidermy room, and dozens of animals you can’t see in the drive-thru safari. There’s also an overlook to the lion enclosures, where I saw staff setting up for the night’s experience. Then I went to the gift shop to check-in. I was told to have a seat in the restaurant where guests would soon enjoy dinner and a presentation.
The barbecue-style dinner was delicious, with enough food and variety for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. Several zookeepers showed us slideshows about two animals we would see that evening: lions of course, and also bears. I learned a lot about these beasts, like how lions “carol”, which is a sort of role call using roars.
After everyone was stuffed, we walked it off on the way to the nearby lion enclosure. The keepers explained how they don’t train Wildlife Safari’s animals to do tricks like a circus might. However, they do need to train the creatures in some ways to make sure that they stay healthy. For example, we got to watch the lions mimic their trainers by lifting up their paws, and that way they could be inspected for injuries. Each lion who did this was rewarded with raw meat kebabs. However, no one at Wildlife Safari forces the animals to do anything. These snacks were a good encouragement to get inspected and go into their nighttime shelter, but if a lion chose not to do this one night, then the staff would record this and try again the next day, but otherwise let the lion be.
Since these aren’t truly “trained” lions, we got to see some of their wild instincts up-close through the safety of a fence. When the lions saw the children in our group, or even adults squatting down, they would pace in front of that person. In the wild, lions often go after smaller prey because it’s a more guaranteed victory for them. But some of these lions’ habits weren’t the same as a wild lion. In this pride, a female was in charge. Typically a male would be the head of a pride, but since the two adult male lions were rescues, the females had more skills. The adult males are also kept separate from the cubs so that a male cub doesn’t try to overpower an adult male like they often do in the wild.
After the lions went to bed for the day, we hopped on the safari trucks and headed over to the bear enclosure. On the way, we passed through parts of the African and North American sections of the safari, so we got to see several species along the way. When we got to the bears, I watched them eat watermelon, play with boxes, and take their medicine. It was a great experience, but I hope I don’t get that close to a bear in nature!
By the time we were bussed down to the lion enclosure with all of our camping gear, it was getting dark. I don’t think I’ve ever set up my tent after sundown before, but it was accomplished! We were rewarded with a campfire and s’mores. Maybe the event should have been called Roars, Snores, and S’mores!
I really liked how the staff thought of everything to make the stay as pleasant as possible. Besides dinner and s’mores in the evening, ice chests full of beverages were available. This was especially helpful since I had left my water bottle in my car parked a mile away. An outhouse was places in our lion enclosure to use at night, but there were a few opportunities to use the Safari Village restrooms before that. (As a note, Safari Village is really cool after the park closes and the usual guests have left.) Even a continental breakfast was provided, which wasn’t mentioned in the information online.
Although this event is called Roars and Snores, neither of those happened until after I had crawled into my sleeping bag for the night. Lions use their roars as a way to keep track of everyone else, so when one lion roars, the others roar back. When the lions listen to this “carol”, they are able to tell if someone is missing, or if a stranger participated in the carol. They did this roll call (or is it a “roar call”?) several times at night before the roars of the lions were replaced by the snores of the other campers.
I awoke the next morning to more lion carols- quite the alarm clock! I got ready foe the day, tore down my campsite, and leisurely enjoyed the continental breakfast. Two African cranes noticed that all of us humans were caged up and walked over to the outside of our fence. It was like they had gone to the zoo to see the people exhibit!
Our first activity that morning was to go inside the enclosure that the lion cubs would use that day. We took cardboard boxes, spritzed them with perfume, and placed them around the enclosure. Apparently lions love playing with boxes and the scent of perfume interests them, but I think it also helped that the keepers placed meat in some of them! Once we were all safely outside of the enclosure, the lions were released and had a blast!
The last activity of Roars and Snores was with a big cat that can’t even roar. Everyone had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a cheetah.
It’s hard to believe that thia all took place in less than 24 hours- they packed a lot into this short vacation! If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out Wildlife Safari’s website regularly for announcements about upcoming Roars and Snores sleepovers. They also sometimes offer an event that includes dibner for both you and the lions, bur without the campout. Your group could also book a private event that includes a lion encounter. Even if none of these are available for the date you want to visit, I’m sure you’ll still have a great time at Wildlife Safari at the drive-thru or in an animal encounter.
PS- Discounted tickets are often available on Groupon, good for either drive-thru admission or an elephant car wash!
I made it all the way through June without going on a single overnight trip. You could say I was having road trip withdrawals. After getting my new car, I was really itching to put some pavement behind me. I looked at my next weekend, and my only commitment was a chiropractic appointment on Saturday morning. I couldn’t change it to an earlier time, and I didn’t want to cancel it, so I wasn’t sure if travel would be a possibility that day. But when I woke up Saturday morning, I decided that I’d just work some travel around that.
There was an interesting-sounding hostel in Eugene, Oregon that I had never stayed at before. On the morning of, there was only one bed left to book, which just so happened to be in the female dorm. I quickly got ready (not packing much at all), made a rough plan of stops I would make, and headed off to the chiropractor. The doctor typically asks if I have anything exciting planned for that day, so it was nice to go in and tell him something interesting for a change!
My first stop was at Seven Feathers. I’ve only stopped there once, and that was back when my sister was underage, so I never actually walked through the casino part of the resort. However, I didn’t gamble. It was just a quick stop to use the bathroom, get on the WiFi, and take a picture with the world’s largest cast iron eagle.
After a couple more hours of driving up the I-5, I checked into Eugene Whiteaker International Hostel. While on the medium-to-small side as far as hostels go, this became one of my top hostels in the character and comfort categories.
I didn’t stay long, however, because I only had the afternoon to explore Eugene. Thankfully, everything I wanted to see could be access from the Eugene Riverwalk, which was just a few blocks from the hostel. Before I got on the trail, I smelled the Owen Rose Garden.
After walking towards downtown for a bit, I came across a planet. Saturn, to be exact. This was a good sign, since my goal was to make it to the sun. Okay, maybe I should explain. The city of Eugene displays a lot of permanent public art. One of those is a scale model of the solar system. The sun, moon, and all the planets (including Pluto!) are all the correct size and distance from each other… if they shrunk to a billionth of what they actually are! While I would have loved to see Neptune and Pluto, they were miles away from the other planets distributed through a park and along the Riverwalk. After Saturn, I had to walk quite a bit further before I reached Jupiter. Then it would be a long time before I saw Mars.
But before I saw the small planets, I made a stop at University of Oregon. I didn’t end up in the central part of campus, but I enjoyed walking through an art department. Due to summer break, it seemed like a ghost town. If you want to visit Eugene for the culture, I would recommend going during the school year!
I should mention how beautiful the parks lining the river are. It’s neat that even a semi-large city like Eugene purposely sets aside prime locations for the public to enjoy. At one point, I was walking through a forested area! It was a long walk of many miles, but the beautiful urban nature and finding the planets kept me going. On my way back, I even walked further than I needed to so that I could see Uranus!
Back at the hostel, I ate, relaxed, and did something artsy for the first time in a long time. Most importantly, I rested up for an even bigger day following.
On Sunday morning, I got ready, enjoyed the free hostel pancakes, and looked up where I needed to go that day. It all started with over an hour of driving to the Oregon Coast. I headed up to Yachats to begin my day at Thor’s Well. I had seen pictures of this blowhole online over the past few years, and I wanted to be able to see it for myself. Most of the pictures online were taken at high tide, which just could not work with my itinerary that day. But it was still a fantastic sight when I saw the water shoot up from the ground. And I had the added advantage of being able to walk right up to it!
Thor’s Well was the only planned attraction of this trip, but there was more to see on the Central Oregon Coast. While I’ve been to much of the Oregon Coast, I’m most familiar with the Southern part since it’s the most accessible from my home. I think the last time I was on the Central Oregon Coast, I was in middle or elementary school!
It was surprising how many stops I ended up taking just between Yachats and the neighboring town of Florence. There was Heceta Head Lighthouse which I of course had to tour, which was right next to a beach that was perfect for eating lunch at. Then I decided that, while expensive (at $14 a head!), I should check out the Sea Lion Caves.
In the past, when I told a former coworker about my solo travels, she would say that the only solo trip she’d ever done was driving out to the Sea Lion Caves by herself. That was what sold me on going here, just following in her footsteps I suppose. I was surprised at how many other people traveled out here; some were even from other countries! After entering through the gift shop, I ended up on a trail outside facing the Pacific Ocean. To the left, there was a lookout point where you could look down and see dozens of sea lions enjoying the sun and sea. Then to the right, there was an elevator that went deep down into the cave.
The cave had a looping video, skeletons of sea lions, and informational panels about the different species. Of course, there was an opening to look into the part of the cave where the sea lions were, all piled on a rock. It was fairly distant, and at first I was a little disappointed in this place when you can see the San Francisco sea lions a lot closer, and for free. But then I found out that the staff member overseeing that area had a pair of binoculars that she loaned out to visitors, and she had plenty of stories to tell about the sea lions that I could now see up-close!
I stopped for some s’mores flavored ice cream at a Florence ice cream shoppe called BJ’s, and then went behind the Fred Meyer to enjoy the sand dunes. (I wish I brought a sandboard or toboggan!) I continued driving south. I got a tip when planning for my NorCal road trip to San Francisco last summer that, if you go on a one-way trip along the West Coast, make sure you go south. That way, your side of the road has better views of the ocean. Good advice!
I stopped at another lighthouse (though the tour was too expensive for this one) and an ocean overlook. I even went on a little nature walk through a patch of darlingtonia, which is a carnivorous pitcher plant. I tried stopping at an old favorite coffee shop in Coos Bay, but it was closed by the time I got there. Finally, I made it to Old Town Bandon.
I enjoyed many of the same places as I did the last time I stopped in Bandon, including the delicious Cranberry Sweets. But for some reason, I was craving Mexican food. Maybe it was because a favorite place to go when I worked in Bandon was El Jalepeno, a restaurant with big, unique, tasty burritos. Sadly, that closed down years ago. So I searched on my GPS to see if there were any Mexican restaurants still standing in Bandon. There was, and it just happened to be in Old Town! I walked there and enjoyed a feast. I think it was my first time eating solo at a sit-down Mexican restaurant, and it was a revelation to realize that I could double-dip my chips in the salsa!
With a full belly, I pondered where to go from here. Everything south of Bandon would just be a repeat of my trip to Brookings a couple months prior. It would be faster to head back to the I-5, but that would also be a repeat but with less scenery. I decided to take the long way home so that I could enjoy more of the coastal views. Most of it was drive-by enjoyment, such as through the Mount Humbug and Prehistoric Gardens area. But I did make a quick stop at Kissing Rock in Gold Beach as the sun was setting. I even stopped at Oregon’s highest bridge, which I’ve driven over several times but never actually stopped to look at. I took an even longer break in Brookings so I could explore Azalea Park, which was too rainy to enjoy the last time I was there. When I was a kid and camped near Brookings, the Azalea Park playground was like a castle. I played on it for a few seconds for old time’s sake, but was now more impressed with the garden and the capella.
After that, it was a dark, eerie-but-fun drive through the redwoods. I work the overnight shift between Sunday and Monday, and I made it there with ten minutes to spare!
Other than Yachats, I had already been to all the towns that I stopped at on this road trip. Yet it felt like an entirely new experience. Enjoying different attractions or seeing the same attractions in different ways (such as different times of day or even different ages!) made it a whole new experience.
Have you ever visited a destination more than once? What felt different on subsequent trips? Let me know in the comments!
It’s the weekend! What a great time for a road trip! Each day of this weekend, I’ll be sharing a recent road trip I took. My hope is that, even if you don’t take the route I did, you’ll get some tips and inspiration for wherever you go! Today, I’ll be catching up with a road trip along the Southern Oregon Coast.
At age 13, I was introduced to a magazine that just about every Christian millenial girl read: Brio, published by Focus on the Family. In each issue, the “Dear Susie” column answered reader questions with the magazine’s editor, Susie Shellenberger. Susie also contributed other articles on a variety of topics like sex, drinking, and knowing whether God is real.
Although Brio is back in publication now, it did close down in 2009 along with just about every other Christian girl magazine facing the recession. Susie Shellenberger decided to start her own magazine, and my first published article appeared in the first issue of Susie Magazine. So it’s realistic to say that Susie Shellenberger was a major influence in me becoming a writer and editor.
Fast forward to April 2017. I had no idea this would be my last month with my very first Subaru. But when Susie Shellenberger posted on Facebook that she would be speaking in Brookings, Oregon that weekend, I knew I wanted to meet her there! After a couple messages back and forth, I discovered she would be speaking at a women’s conference as well as several church services and events.
I decided that if I could find an affordable place to stay Saturday night, I could attend the Saturday evening service and at least the first Sunday morning service, possibly the second service if I thought I could get back in time to start my 3 o’clock work shift. Most coastal hotels are pricey, and the only Oregon Coast hostels are in the northern half of the state. Since it would be rainy and chilly, I wasn’t up for camping. So I decided that, for the first time ever, I would make a reservation on AirBnB.
Once lodging was figured out, I started getting really nostalgic about my teen years. Brio was a part of my teen life, as was Lake Bradley Christian Camp, a retreat center in Bandon-by-the-Sea. I spent summers in high school working there. Although Brookings is the closest town on the Oregon Coast from my house, maybe I could take a longer route and drive up to Bandon first.
And if I did that, I would go up the I5 until I got off around Roseburg. One of my high school friends lives in Roseburg now, so I decided to see if she would want to meet up Saturday morning. She recommended a coffee shop for us to meet up at.
With a rough plan in place, I headed out on Saturday morning. I felt kind of bad only spending about a half hour in the Roseburg coffee shop, but there was a lot to pack in before the service started at 6pm! From Roseburg, I went to Bandon to walk around Old Town and drive by Lake Bradley and other old familiar sites.
Then I headed South. I wanted to see the Prehistoric Gardens, but didn’t have much time, nor did I want to pay the admission fee. But there are two life-size dinosaurs to take pictures with in the parking lot. I also stopped at Gold Beach, hoping to find a glass float this time, but was unsuccessful once again.
After several hours of driving and sightseeing, I finally arrived at my AirBnB near Brookings Harbor. For being my first AirBnB experience, it provided an unbeatable experience. I stayed in a sailboat that circumnavigated the world! During check-in, the owner told lots of stories that led to how this boat ended up in his front yard, surrounded by remains of another boat.
Because of these stories, check-in took longer than expected, so afterward I rushed across town to Brookings Nazarene Church. Susie’s message that night was about cemeteries and castles, which caused us to think about which of those two options we were currently living in, and which one we would rather be. I was thankful that it was a fairly small church, because that meant I had the opportunity to spend some time with Susie afterward!
That evening was spent listening to music and watching the sun set over the sea from the top of my AirBnB boat. I woke up to the sound of rain. After lounging around the boat a bit more, I headed back to church.
There were two Sunday morning services. The first was a repeat of Saturday night’s, but I still gleaned more from it. The second service was about sanctification. I wish I could have stayed even longer, but I had to leave right after the second service to make sure I arrived at work on time that afternoon. However, I had a lovely drive through the Redwoods on the way! Looking back, it’s bittersweet that it would be my last long drive with that car. It would be totaled a few weeks later. But at least it left on a high note!
Question: Have you ever traveled to see a specific person? If not, who would you want to see on your travels?
Distance: We walked the Ziglar trail and part of the Gold Gulch trail, which was about a mile and a half. One trail loop is four miles long, so choose your own adventure!
I went early this morning while doing childcare in hopes of tiring him out. (It didn’t work until very late in the afternoon, when I didn’t want him to take a nap of course!) He asked me if anyone else was on the trail, to which I replied. “I don’t think so. There weren’t many cars and I don’t think many people walk at 8:30 on a Friday morning.” I was quickly proven wrong as we were greeted by runners, hikers, and even dogs throughout our entire walk.
I enjoy Jacksonville as a whole. You’ve read about some of my adventures there, such as my Chinese New Year experiences. But I have yet to conquer the entire network of trails that lie just behind the renowned Britt Gardens. Since six-year-olds tire fairly quickly when you don’t have enough snacks to bribe them to go further, I didn’t accomplish this today, either. I have a feeling that you will hear more about the specific trails that are part of the Britt Woods as I make return trips until all of them have been trod by my own two feet!
-At most of the trail entrances, there is an informational board featuring flowers and plants you might see along the way. This is a good time of year to try to find some of them.
-For optimal parking, go to the city parking lot next to the library. You only have to cross the street to get to the Britt Gardens and the trail heads. Most trail heads also have small dirt parking lots as well.
-Make sure to bring water. We found several drinking fountains, but none of them were working. (Hopefully they just forgot to turn them on after the winter!)
-Bring two quarters so that you can get a trail map or an interpretive trail brochure.
Location: Ashland, Oregon… only available on the first Friday of the month!
Length: Galleries are available all around Ashland. However, most are located close to each other on the main street of downtown, which is what I chose to stick to.
I doubled up on walks last Friday. After dropping off the kid I explored Hawthorne Park with, I headed south to Ashland. Although I started this stroll solo, I soon found myself among a sea of humanity. Many other participants had come from all over the place to explore the unique art of Ashland. Although some of the art was from faraway artists, many galleries allowed several artists to come stand next to their work and answer questions. Musicians lined the streets and occasionally inside galleries to provide a variety of eclectic music. It was a fun mix of people.
Downtown Ashland bustles with art galleries and restaurants. When I arrived around 5:30, I figured I’d browse a few of the galleries, then choose a restaurant to dine at before exploring more art. After a few galleries, I realized that restaurants would be unnecessary tonight! Most of the galleries served cheese, fruit, chocolate, cookies, or other snacks, as well as beverages (both wine and kid-friendly).
Despite living close to Ashland for the majority of my life, I’ve only been to the First Friday Art Walk one other time. During my freshman year of college, my humanities teacher made it a requirement that we all attend one night. I’ve wanted to go back since, but either forget or get too busy by the time the first Friday of the month rolls around. I’m glad I made it a priority for April!
-Ashland hosts an art walk the first Friday of every month from 5-8pm. Each month is a little different in which galleries are open and what art is displayed (and what refreshments are served!), so your experience is guaranteed to be unique!
-Can’t make it to the art walk? Ashland still has lots of public art displayed 24/7, and numerous galleries that are open every day.
-You can enjoy other shops and services between galleries. Maybe even enjoy performing arts in the form of a Shakespeare play (I at least went to the gift shop). I also took a quick walk at dusk through Lithia Park, since that’s where I parked my car.
-I realized that my favorite type of art is functional art. While there is value to a piece that only serves the purpose of decorating a wall, I would rather have art that can tell time, help me in the kitchen, or serve as furniture. Last week I discovered a piece of art that I’ve found extremely functional, and I got it before I even went to Ashland! Strawesome is an artistic company that makes decorative glass straws. I got one that I’ve used just to dress up my drinking glass, as well as protect my teeth. (Acid and sugar in beverages can cause tooth decay. Because I often drink ACV water, using this straw is promoting my holistic health while also promoting my enamel health!) Because Strawesome straws are reusable and not made of plastic, they help the environment’s health, too! An especially great idea since Earth Day is coming up. Carry one of these awesome straws around as you sip and stroll through eccentric Ashland’s art galleries, and you’re sure to get some compliments!
Strawesome provided me with a glass straw so that I could review it. No other compensation was made. Thanks!
Distance: The entire park is five acres, and you can choose however much of the path (or off-path area) you want to walk on. There are a few steps on an optional part of the pathway, but other than that, this is a very flat, very easy walk that anyone can participate in.
Today was a very rainy morning. I had lagged behind on walking this week, and I knew that the hike I wanted to take would be incredibly muddy. I thought about skipping a walk entirely this week and just posting a walk I took previously. But then while I was out driving, I found myself headed toward my first-ever hometown of Rogue River, Oregon. I don’t remember living there because I moved to California before my first birthday, but I remember visiting as an older child.
When I went to the Wimer Covered Bridge a few weeks ago, I passed a church on the drive there. On the drive back, I recognized tennis courts and a bridge behind the church building. I immediately pulled into the parking lot (which turns out is shared by the church and the city park) and walked down memory lane… but only in my mind. I was pressed for time, and had a kid sleeping in the backseat who couldn’t be woken up even for something as fun as a park.
When I realized I was headed to Rogue River on this rainy morning but didn’t know what I was going to do once I got there, I decided to enjoy walking through this park despite the weather. Because of the downpour, I was the only one there. Everyone else sure missed out!
Even though I remember going to this park a few times many years ago, I only remembered the sports courts, the footbridge, and the picnic tables near a playground. Palmerton Park is actually best known for being an arboretum. But it turns out I didn’t start at Palmerton Park. I had parked my car at the smaller adjacent Anna Classick Bicentennial Park, which includes a variety of sports courts such as tennis and basketball. I then headed across the Skevington Bridge.
I guess I have a thing for walking across previously-collapsed bridges. The Skevington Bridge was washed away twenty years ago during a flood, but then rebuilt in 2002. It was one of those suspension bridges where you could feel the bridge move with each step you took. It crossed Evans Creek, as well as a foliage green pond, before allowing me to arrive and continue my walk in Palmerton Park.
Because of the rain, I mostly stayed on the path, though I occasionally adventured into the wet grass to get a better look at a unique tree or to take advantage of a photo opp. (Because this was a spontaneous trip, I had left my waterproof camera at home and instead had to protect my phone against the elements while trying to capture pictures!) I walked along a stony path area with a fountain feature. Despite all the extra water it was receiving, it only provided a trickle of a waterfall. I then went around the playground and to the official front of Palmerton Park. Since I had come in from the back way, I had missed out on a big informational sign showing how Palmerton features dozens of different trees from all around the world. There was a coastal redwood, a monkey puzzle tree, and other unique plants. I think my favorites were the trees that were currently in bloom. It was evidence that it is indeed spring!
-Since this is in Oregon, some sort of rain protection is recommended. Most locals will tell you that we don’t like to use umbrellas. But a raincoat is subtle enough that you can still blend in.
-Look for inspiration around the park. I found one unusually unique inspirational quote engraved on a sign. (I’m not sure why it was there, but it did make me ponder for awhile!) And of course be inspired by the nature itself.
-If you want to enter the way I did, go down Pine Street and turn in when you see Rogue Valley Community Church. However, the official entrance is on Evans Creek Road.
Distance: Who knows?! I didn’t think to take a pedometer with me. We walked wherever we felt like at the time, did some backtracking, and stopped at the playground, the Japanese gardens, the duck ponds, and a picnic table for lunch. About three hours total was spent here.
Ah, Lithia Park. As a child, this 93-acre locale was almost as amazing as Disneyland, except it was free and not as far away. I loved going here with my parents, toting our stale bread and crusts so that we could feed the ducks and geese. While feeding the wildlife is no longer allowed, I decided to attempt passing the magic of this place on to the next generation anyway. It turned out to be a fun babysitting experience. He still appreciated seeing the fowl without breadcrumbs. He also got to enjoy an updated playground and Japanese garden. (He was really interested in bamboo that day!)
I’ve never not seen anyone at Lithia Park. It’s an eclectic bunch. From business professionals on lunch break, to parents running the energy out of their kids, to hippies trying to make a statement about something rather, people watching is definitely a must-do in Lithia Park, and Ashland in general. However, not many people stray from the main (paved) path at Lithia park. There’s plenty more to see off the beaten path.
The hippie city of Ashland, Oregon boasts the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Southern Oregon University, access to the Pacific Crest Trail, and a host of prominent local shops, but Lithia Park will always be my favorite out of all these things to do.
I like how you can choose how challenging you want your trip to Lithia Park to be. If you want to park right next to the playground, cross the bridge, and sit down for lunch, that can be a full experience itself. You could also go up to the miles of hiking trails, come back down to the upper duck pond, pass the sports courts, head over to the Japanese garden, go over to the fountain, back down to the stage, and then make your way past the playground and lower duck pond before stopping to refresh on the free Lithia water. (Try it; it’s delicious… wink wink.)
-Seriously, try that Lithia water! It’s sure to be an experience you’ll never forget!
-If you can’t find parking downtown, keep driving up the side of the park until there are fewer cars. You can park longer in this area, anyway.
-Don’t be afraid of the locals! The population may appear crazy if you aren’t used to it, but they mean no harm and the unique culture is what makes Ashland a great place to visit.