Thinking of moving to S. Oregon (Meford/Ashland) ... Advice?
December 12, 2013 11:52 AM   Subscribe

There is a possibility I may be getting a job that would require a relocation to southern Oregon (Medford/Ashland area) With a few exceptions, I've grown up and lived almost my entire life in the Chicago area. Can you help recommend a community or neighborhood? Details inside.

(First off, please no recommendations about telecommuting or working remotely. This is a senior role and the job would require me to be on-site in Medford. Thanks!)

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We've been living the last few years in the western suburbs of Chicago. Specifically, Downers Grove, and we've absolutely loved it. In fact, the recommendation for Downers Grove came from folks here on the Green. Neither of us know much about Medford or Ashland, though, so I'm hoping the Green came through again.

Of course, we recognize that this is a significant change in lifestyle. But if I get hired, where should we be looking to live?

Here's what we're looking for:
  • Communities where the houses don't all look exactly the same.
  • Good schools (our son turns 10 months old next week, so we're looking ahead)
  • Walkable "mini-downtowns" that function as a community hub where you can walk around, get an ice cream, enjoy a nice summer night out and about.
  • Family-friendly activities.
  • Culture (art, theatre, music, museums). We like live music, but do not go to bars or clubs to hear it.
  • Small shops and independents.
  • Communities and neighborhoods where every restaurant or business is not a big box retailer or national chain.
  • Acceptance (we're an interfaith family and politically liberal).
Tall order? :)

So what do you think of southern Oregon (Medford/Ashland area). Thoughts? Ideas? Recommendations?
posted by zooropa to Society & Culture (15 answers total)
 
It sounds to me like you would enjoy Ashland much, much more than Medford. Neither is very large, so I'm not sure you'll have a lot of "mini-downtowns." However, Ashland is a much more cultural place. It's a lovely little university town. Very cute downtown, hippy-ish, lots of coffee shops, cafes, that sort of thing. An incredible Shakespeare festival every year. Good music. You're also right on I-5, so you get a lot more traveling acts and such. Southern Oregon is a pretty rural, agricultural/ranching place, and it's pretty far from everywhere (about halfway between San Francisco and Portland). Ashland is definitely the little cultural oasis.

Medford is much more...big box/rural Oregon/conservative. It's still a fine town, but coming from Chicago, my guess is it might be a bit more of a shock. You'll be prepared for the winters though!
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The main influences in Ashland are Southern Oregon University and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The Festival is a big deal. It makes Ashland a huge tourist destination. So the area around the theaters (multiple) is all about entertaining guests and keeping them fed and happy before and after shows. That's pretty much the center of town.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:32 PM on December 12, 2013


Ashland is a lovely small town that has more interesting things to do than comparably sized cities. Lots of cafes and great restaurants, the aforementioned Shakespeare Festival, good community events, etc. It’s quite pretty, too. The city government passed an ordinance many years back that made it illegal to erect signs that were greater than a certain height, so the town wouldn’t be cluttered with ugly billboards and the like. A field trip I took as a freshman in high school (to see Live! Theater! for the first time) was partially why I moved to Oregon. Though I ended up in Eugene, I fell in love with Oregon via Ashland. Portland's not too far away, either, if you want your larger city fix!
posted by but no cigar at 12:44 PM on December 12, 2013


I grew up in Oregon and still have friends throughout the state. Definitely another vote for Ashland from me. Medford is indeed more conservative, whereas Ashland is a lovely, historic town with a lot of culture. Plenty of artisanal places as well, the Shakespeare festival brings in tourist funds that help keep that flourishing.

As for Oregon, keep in mind it's a state of only 3 million in population, with over half of that in Portland, somewhere north of two hundred thousand in Eugene-Springfield (combined), with Salem and Corvallis as the next two largest cities. In other words, everywhere else is pretty tiny by comparison.
posted by fraula at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, the Festival runs most of the year. For instance, in the 2014 schedule, The Tempest will run from February 14 to November 2.

It isn't all Shakespeare. They're going to be running a play based on A Wrinkle in Time.

Long ago when I was in high school, a group of us went there and saw several plays. I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead and I still remember how awesome it was. I've seen other performances of it since, including Stoppard's film, and none was as good.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:52 PM on December 12, 2013


I agree that you'll like Ashland a lot more than Medford, but be aware that Ashland real estate is crazy expensive, especially for semi-rural Oregon. It's one of the most expensive areas in the state, perhaps even THE most expensive.
posted by outfielder at 2:09 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please also look into the vaccination crisis in Oregon, particularly in Ashland, as you consider moving there. It was the subject of a PBS Frontline special a few years ago.

Normally I wouldn't even suggest thinking of such a thing, but Ashland is particularly problematic and Oregon changed it's laws in vaccine exemptions precisely because of so many people in that area choosing to avoid them. It may not be for you, but for me that's frightening enough you couldn't pay me to spend any time there.
posted by zizzle at 2:47 PM on December 12, 2013


Another consideration is that Ashland is probably 10 degrees cooler than Medford in the Summer. And, as well, during the Winter months they set up an ice rink in Lithia Park. By the way, Lithia Park is one of the world's best, IMO.

If you can afford it, Ashland would clearly be the choice. Although Medford does not always live up to the "Dreadford" moniker, Ashland is just a lot nicer.

Jacksonville might be worth a look. It is, like, 20-30 minutes from Ashland, maybe 15 minutes to Medford, and it has some very unique homes. It also has the Britt in the summer.

If you travel there to check it out, I would recommend the Columbia Hotel to stay at.
posted by Danf at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2013


A friend of mine lived in Ashland/Medford for years, and always referred to Medford as "Methford." He raved about Ashland but did find it rather insular and sort of pseudo-progressive and overly homogenized. The demographics when he lived there hovered around 90% white with a fairly high median income and crazy expensive real estate. But, given the choice between Ashland and Medford, Ashland is where it's at. Tons of stuff to do, aggressive stances against big box retailers, very walkable/bikable, beautiful scenery, etc.
posted by xyzzy at 5:11 PM on December 12, 2013


The Ashland area is beautiful, and Ashland itself has lots of culture, shops, art, and restaurants. However it's still a small city, and you're several hours away from the nearest major airport. Getting away for a weekend will almost inevitably involve several hours of driving unless you just want to go to the beach, or up into the mountains.

The weather in Ashland is more severe than in the Portland area: hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. If you like outdoor sports--hiking, biking, rafting, skiing--this is a great place for it.

Culturally, southwestern Oregon will be a bit of a shock. Oregon is very white compared with the Chicago area. Rural Oregon is conservative politically (although Ashland itself would not be). You will find a like-minded community in Ashland itself, but much less so in Medford or elsewhere in that area.

And if you don't like theater, or craft beer, you might not like Ashland. ;-)

These are issues you would want to consider before moving.
posted by suelac at 5:26 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have lived in Ashland since 1996. It is a lovely, lovely town. People have covered the salients above. I am from Milwaukee, and Spouse is from Chicago. After 16-odd years here, I am not yet "over" it.

Things I have liked:

* Eminently walkable and bikeable;
* For a rural region, pretty urbane due to the Uni and Shakespeare;
* You can literally walk up into the mountains from Lithia park or many residential neighborhoods; there is a lot to do if you are outdoorsy.
* You run into a-b-c-d list acquaintances every 10 feet when out and about;
* There is a viable, burgeoning wine industry in the region, and the state at large. I enjoy wine;
* There are four seasons here, although winter is disappointingly mild.

Things I have not liked:
* Housing here is rather expensive;
* You run into a-b-c-d list acquaintances every 10 feet when out and about;
* Feels very provincial in terms of diversity, and I feel that in countless small ways;
* There is an above-average amount of "woo" here, ranging from the anti-vaxxers to the people convinced that they have indigo children to the dude at the Co-op who is blue--and whose son is looking bluer each year--due to colloidal silver.

The region generally is rather conservative and Xtian, but honestly, that has never impacted me in a really negative way aside from Sunday morning traffic jams in Jacksonville because of the megachurch near Ruch.

Finally: I have lived in Medford, too, and hated it. Whoever described it as "big box", above, is dead on; it may as well be any of a hundred unpleasant little towns in the US. YMMV, of course.

This is rather scattered, I realize, but please PM me with any questions!
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 6:39 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


sandettie (immediately above) has nailed it completely.

I'm living in Bellingham, Washington, right now, which is very similar to Ashland -- liberal, cultural, university town, but S.M.A.L.L. I am chafing at the smallness, and Ashland is a lot smaller. I simply could not live there, as beautiful and rich as it is. I never thought of myself as a city girl, but I look at Portland and Seattle with deep longing. I'd think long and hard about this move.
posted by Capri at 8:53 AM on December 13, 2013


I was born in Ashland, and moved to Medford about fifteen years ago. Ashland is definitely the town you're describing, if you can afford it. If not, you could consider Talent. It's only five miles away (which is five miles closer to your job in Medford). One of my sisters sold her one-bedroom house in Ashland and bought a three-bedroom house in Talent for the same price.
One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that Ashland is mostly on a hillside. If you have a problem with walking up hills, that would be a point against it. Ashlanders divide the city into "Above" and "Below" The Boulevard when judging someone's class. (For example, I've heard that pizza delivery guys won't take a check Below The Boulevard.)
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 2:26 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


TotC has it re hills--this is not a flat town. If you enjoy walking, you will perforce elevate your fitness level pretty quickly.

The above-below Siskiyou Blvd thing is more of a notional thing than a practical matter. I circulate pretty freely here, and it is vanishingly rarely that I hear that used as any sort of anything.

That said, there is a widespread preoccupation with real estate in the valley, generally.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 5:52 PM on December 13, 2013


Ashland or Talent, not Medford.
posted by togdon at 6:31 PM on December 14, 2013


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