America'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.

Though it's home to the largest population on our list, Ashland is hardly lacking in small-town charm: Picture twisting hillside streets lined with Victorian homes, a town center with a stream running through it, and a gorgeous 93-acre park. Best known as the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which attracts more than 100,000 theatergoers annually, Ashland has year-round appeal thanks to its outdoor activities, cultural offerings, and growing status as a culinary destination.

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A funky arts town in Oregon

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With their quaint downtowns, undeniably charming shops and distinct personalities, small towns have long held a special place in the American heart. That homey feel can also appeal to city travelers longing for a slice of small town Americana.

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Find things to see and do on TravelOregon.com

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Southern Oregon offers some of the state’s most refined and rugged adventures. On the one hand there’s the Tony-Award winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and the visits to the nearby vineyards, chocolatiers, and cheese makers, and of course the fine restaurants that serve the fruits of their labor. But Southern Oregon is also home to Crater Lake, the deepest and possibly bluest lake in the country, the Oregon Caves National Monument, and the raging Rogue River. One of the best trip planning tools to explore the Rogue region is TravelOregon.com. They offer a guide to Oregon’s Seven Wonders, trip ideas, cities, regions, places to stay, travel deals and much, much more. This website will wow you!

Explore Southern Oregon online at TravelOregon.com.

Fantastic U.S. bike trails

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Recently USA Today included Ashland’s own Bear Creek Greenway as one of 15 “fantastic” U.S. bike trails. Here’s what they had to say...

One of the more leisurely trails you'll find on the west coast, Bear Creek boasts 26 miles of paved trails surrounded by serene meadows and emerald forests. Beginning in the quaint town of Ashland (considered a hidden treasure for bike enthusiasts), the greenway extends to Central Point and is strewn across more than 600 acres of what's considered some of Oregon's most exquisite landscapes. Somewhat of a mountain biking haven, enthusiasts will appreciate area events like the annual Spring Thaw and Ashland Mountain Challenge; two downhill races held in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Read the full report on USA Today...

An Aromatherapeutic Adventure

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Love lavender? Then, you’ll want to make plans now for an aromatherapeutic adventure to the 4th Annual Lavender Festival produced by the Applegate Valley Lavender Farm from July 11 to 13, 2014.

Come stand in the middle of their luscious fields and breathe in the aroma of fresh lavender full bloom. Watch busy bees at work and cut your own fresh lavender bunch. Learn how to make a Lavender Wand, which lavender plants you should grow and how to use your lavender.

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Jeni and Olly's West Coast Wine Adventure

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Recently Jeni and Olly on the Food Network UK stopped in Ashland on a West Coast Wine Adventure. Watch this video for a uniquely British take on the good life in the Rogue Wine Country featuring DANCIN Vineyards, Red Lily Vineyards and Smithfield’s in Ashland!

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Celebrate the 4th of July Ashland style

4th of July Parade in Ashland, Oregon
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Now over 100 years old, Ashland’s 4th of July Celebration is one of the many events that make it such a great small town visit on the holidays. The festivities begin early with a morning run followed by a parade that the entire town turns out for. It just may be the biggest small town parade on the West Coast, complete with synchronized fighter jet flyovers.

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The Great Society opens July 23 - Tickets Going Fast

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Congratulations to Tony Award-winners Robert Schenkkan and Bryan Cranston and everyone involved in the creative journey of All the Way, newly crowned as Best Play at Sunday night’s 2014 Tony Awards. Oregon Shakespeare Festival presented the world premiere here in Ashland during the 2012 season.
Now is your best opportunity to secure tickets for The Great Society, the world premiere sequel to All the Way, running July 23 – November 1 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Tickets have been selling briskly for this highly-anticipated journey deeper into LBJ’s presidency, so act now to secure your preferred dates and seating.

The cast of The Great Society includes many of the great performers you saw in All the Way, including Jack Willis as LBJ, Kenajuan Bentley as Martin Luther King, Jr., Peter Frechette as Hubert Humphrey, and many other OSF favorites reprising multiple roles.

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Fly fishing the Rogue

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Southern Oregon is home to the great Rogue River, and we consider it our home water. For the fly-fisherman, the Rogue offers something almost year round. While we primarily target steelhead in the fall, there are steelhead in the river all year. The summer steelhead fishery on the Upper Rogue is the most popular and most productive.

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