Go West Semi-Young Man!!!
July 2, 2007 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm relocating this month to Ashland, Oregon. I've never lived out west, so wanted to hear opinions and/or suggestions from those who've been there or live there. What's life like? What can I expect? Is it true there are really 4 seasons (I live in Florida now. 2 seasons only.)??
posted by Dantien to Travel & Transportation around Ashland, OR (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I doubt there's really much of a winter in Ashland. But you can at least go to the Shakespeare festival! But outside of that I was never too impressed with Ashland. Just another smallish somewhat touristy town.
posted by DarkForest at 7:19 AM on July 2, 2007

Best answer: I used to live near Ashland. You will discover they have a thing called "snow" there. It is hard to drive on - practice this in a large parking lot before you try to drive out of your steep Ashland driveway down a big hill and find you can't stop when you get to a major street. This will be difficult to do, since it usually snows overnight. I suggest you not drive anywhere when this day comes, wait a few days for the snow to melt. Walking will be a little tricky too.

A plus to snow is that you can go skiing at Mt. Ashland, or go to the park and make snowmen or whatnot. Oh, and there are 3 other seasons.

Ashland is a neat little town, be sure to check out the big park and paths by the creek. It tends to get overrun with tourists at times due to the Shakespeare festival, but as long as you are not right in that area it should be fine. I wouldn't suggest moving to right up the street from it unless you work there.

Ashland has high housing prices compared to the towns to the north, so many people who work there commute, although the town itself is very walkable/bikeable.

I've never lived out east, so I'm not sure what to tell you about what life is like there. I've heard that a lot of places back east are very ethnically divided geographically, which you won't find in a lot of the west, but as far as Ashland goes you will not find all that much diversity.

Learn to pronounce the name of your new state properly. The 'E' is pronounced, but slurred into to first syllable. Treat the word as if it has 2 1/2 syllables, basically.

While there is no sales tax in Oregon, Ashland does have a tax in restaurants so they can get more money out of tourists. If you don't like it, drive down the hill (to one of the towns to the north).

Ashland is surrounded by lots of outdoors, I suggest you get out there in it. Do try river rafting. You can go with a guide, or if you meet some people who raft see if you can get invited along.
posted by yohko at 7:27 AM on July 2, 2007

Dantien, if you have any specific interests or concerns I may be able to tell you a bit more.
posted by yohko at 7:30 AM on July 2, 2007

Second that it is an expensive town, but like a lot of these little University towns it has a real cultural buzz and the town centre is anything but dead. It has theatre, cinema, shopping, just like the old days.

As a European I remember how charming it seemed the first time I visited. I lived there for six months once and I admit that it got a bit dull over that length of time - the only city of any substance nearby is Medford and Medford isn't exactly Manhattan. I think you need to "get out" as others have said.
posted by A189Nut at 8:32 AM on July 2, 2007

You're on the I-5 corridor. People are a bit more liberal there than they are elsewhere in Oregon, and Ashland is a liberal art town. There will also be a conservative side of town if you'd like, but expect that you might have to create your own entertainments. I grew up in a small liberal art town, and Netflix was the best thing that ever happened to us.
posted by lilithim at 8:35 AM on July 2, 2007

I used to live and go to SOU in Ashland. I would not move back unless I knew I had a job before I got there. I have many college friends from SOU who graduated and are still working retail or low-tech jobs. It's expensive to live there and geared toward retirees and seasonal tourists, you won't find a job unless you are working in education, medicine, or customer service. My old high school English teacher followed a dream to Ashland and ended up working at an auto dealership.

There is a winter in Ashland, we had a lot of snow days.

The public radio in Ashland is superb on Jefferson Public Radio, but most of the dial is dominated by country and christian stuff which can be really repetitive and boring.

Also, housing can be a bitch. The houses in the hills are mostly build-to-suit and the houses in the lowlands are shacks and badly built apartments. It's nothing like the postcards.
posted by parmanparman at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2007

Response by poster: Well, fortunately I'm moving out there due to a job, so the work situation is handled. I guess I left my question open to see what kind of response I'd get. Snow I can handle, as well as tourists (I live near St. Augustine, FL), but really wanted to hear about lifestyle, culture, and other info from natives. The ephermal things that you gain from being a resident somewhere...not the obvious tourist options.

And for the hater above, I'm relocating there because of work, so sorry you weren't too impressed. Nothing I can do about the location choice.
posted by Dantien at 9:40 AM on July 2, 2007

Best answer: I grew up there, I'd never move back. That said...

You will have four seasons, all of which can hit extremes. The summer gets oppressively hot, when/if there are forest fires it's sort of what I imagine hell is like. Ashland is nicer than the rest of the valley in the summer though, and you can always go out to the Immigrant Lake (or further up) or out to the Rogue to cool off. The winter can be really cold, and it will snow. The further down the mountain you are the less snow you'll have to deal with. Fall and Spring are at the extreme end of wonderful can't be beat beautiful weather and scenery. Given that Summer can resemble hell, the park in the Fall gets to be heaven, if that makes sense.

In addition to the hot weather in the summer all of downtown turns into Shakespearean Disneyland. You will eventually grow to hate the tourists on unimagined levels. The 4th of July is really the pinnacle of zaniness, with a huge small town parade, art fair, fireworks, etc. spectacular. Abandon any hope of driving and just wander around by foot.

In general you'll probably find that depending on where you live/work you'll be able to get everywhere by foot. During tourist season you'll probably end up walking to avoid the parking nightmare.

Work... you thankfully have a job. It's hard to find work there in general, and most of your neighbors will either be college students or retired kazillionaires, so they won't care.

Housing prices are outrageous, crappy two bedroom homes will go for a half million or more depending on their proximity to downtown.

The Beanery coffee shop was one of my favorites. The restaurants are almost all great (they charge less in the winter, so do your exploration then). Macaroni's, Cucina Biazzi, Callahan's (which burnt down recently as I recall, but may be rebuilt), Pilaf, Alex's, The Black Sheep, Geppetto's, Monet, and Chateaulin are some of my favorites. There's also a new Japanese restaurant called Kobe that I've heard good things about, a couple of Thai places that seem to change names too often, a bunch of bento places that are never open (but make great food when they are), oh and a little Mexicanish restaurant on Pioneer between E Main and Lithia Way that I can never remember the name of that's great but has an evil staircase of doom that thwarts all patrons who have more than one margarita. Put it this way... you'll have a hard time finding a bad restaurant. Also... Drunken pub crawls are easy because you can walk everywhere and there are a ton of bars.

There's a ton of outdoor activity to be had. Anything you want to do outside can be done there, from fishing, hiking, biking, skiing, ice skating, etc. This is probably its strongest suit.

Even though you're in the middle of nowhere you'll have--in theory--good connectivity. There's a municipal fibre network that was called AFN last time I cared to check. I believe that they may have gone out of business, but I'm sure that something has replaced them. When I left in 1995 mind.net was the only ISP and they seem to at least have hooks into the AFN stuff, so I'd call them for starters.

You're going to be surrounded by rednecks in all of the surrounding towns, with the possible exception of Talent (Ashland's nearest neighbor to the north and the only place families can afford to live any more). Or at least you would have been surrounded 12 years ago, now maybe it's better.

Medford is obviously the "big city." You'll find yourself needing to go there for a variety of things that you can't find in Ashland. Try grouping trips, especially in the winter.

As for fun at night... there's theather, both the OSF and independent theaters. There's the Varsity theater downtown for indie movies and the one in the old grocery store for other first run stuff. In addition to the Blockbuster there's a cool independent movie store called DJ's that used to carry a lot of quirky independent stuff. There's lots of drinking to be had at a wide variety of bars. There are at least two wineries and at least a couple of breweries.

I've probably said enough... if you've got specific questions just let me know, either here or via email.
posted by togdon at 10:35 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

I had a great time for about a week in Ashland in August (or Sept.?) a couple of years ago and, being a person from the East where it's humid in the summer, I have to say that the dryness was what struck me the most . . . as I said, I was only there briefly, but it seems like that's the climate there and it could be an interesting adjustment for you, coming from Florida.
posted by nnk at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2007

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