In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, our top picks this year are all towns close to America’s natural splendors
Jacksonville’s gold deposits were discovered in the 1850s, and the town’s past still glitters today, literally. The famed Jacksonville Inn was actually built out of sandstone that had specks of gold in it.
The town thrived as a commerce capital until its fate changed when, in 1884, the railroad connecting eastern Oregon with a national rail network bypassed Jacksonville, and the economy tanked. In a strange twist of fate, the town’s poor fortune was actually what helped preserve its the 19th-century charms. Left mostly untouched for years, its historic buildings led it to become the first town in America to be named a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Artifacts are still being dug up that explore Jacksonville’s gold rush past. In 2004, road work uncovered broken Chinese bowls and tea cups along with other objects that shed a light on its short-lived Chinatown, Oregon’s first, created when Chinese immigrants moved to Jacksonville during its boom. A narrated history walking tour provides a fascinating learning experience about the town’s preserved homes and buildings.
The town’s wineries have come into focus in the past few decades. The Applegate Wine Trail runs through Jacksonville, which is home to six tasting rooms in town, as well as wineries just outside it. Those looking for an alcohol-free beverage can do no better than Good Bean. The raved about coffee shop delivers a tall order, one of the best cups in Oregon.
Crater Lake National Park is a scenic drive from Jacksonville, making it a great day trip from Jacksonville. The journey offers some spectacular views of Oregon’s countryside, and those with the time should take a detour to the Lost Creek Reservoir, at the Mill Creek Falls turn-off. A switchback hike rewards with a beautiful waterfall at the end.
Every summer, a concert series in Jacksonville memorializes one of many who came to Jacksonville in search of gold, photographer Peter Britt. He spent much of his time in town capturing its historic legacy, which people can now look back on today. The Britt Festival, which runs all summer, takes place on his old estate. This year's lineup boasts Diana Ross, Grace Potter and Hunter Hayes, among others. Read the full report on SmithsonianMag.com >