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10 Stops Along Southern Oregon’s Well-Traveled I-5 Corridor
Driving through southern Oregon along Interstate 5 on your way between California and the Great Northwest? Here are a few places right off the main highway where you can grab a delicious bite, stretch your legs, or do something fun.
1) Exit in downtown Ashland for ice cream and a hike in Lithia Park.
You could spend all day in this 93-acre forested wonderland with a Japanese garden, a rose garden, children's playgrounds, a band shell, picnic areas, two duck ponds and a hiking trail running parallel to Ashland Creek.
Enter just a few blocks off downtown Ashland’s Main Street. After cool off with ice cream from Zooey’s Café on Main Street. Rogue Valley Pear, Oregon Bing Cherry, Oregon Trail (double chocolate with hazelnuts and cherries) – this local ice cream parlor specializes in flavors celebrating Oregon's bounty.
2) Exit in Jacksonville for authentic German food.
At Frau Kremmling, an authentic German-style restaurant housed in Jacksonville’s original school house, the wiener schnitzels are golden and crispy, the beers are served in tall frosty mugs, and the wait staff wear dirndl and lederhosen.
After a hearty meal, stretch your legs with a stroll along Jacksonville’s California Street where former salons and gambling halls dating back to the gold rush now house cafés, toy stores and ice cream shops.
3) Exit in Medford to eat hamburgers in a former train station.
The city of Medford was born in the 1880s when the tracks for the central Oregon and Pacific Railroad were laid. Porter’s Restaurant is now a museum to the town’s rich rail history and is housed in the former depot built in 1910.
The kitchen dishes up tasty burgers available with a variety of toppings from blue cheese and caramelized onions to cheddar and bacon.
4) Exit in Central Point to pick up some cheese.
Cheese, glorious handmade, artisanal cheese is what you'll find at the 75-year-old Rogue Creamery Cheese Shop. The cheese counter is piled high with a dizzying array of varieties from lavender cheddar to Crater Lake blue, and the people behind the counter generously offer samples.
You can also buy local wines, homemade pickles, salted caramels, fresh produce, and all sorts of gourmet items that make perfect picnic fixings.
5) Exit in Gold Hill to get a lesson in physics at the Oregon Vortex.
The Oregon Vortex & House of Mystery is a point where the laws of nature and physics go cock-eyed, supposedly as the result of a confluence of magnetic fields. In this circle of ground 165 feet in diameter, objects defy gravity and other laws of nature.
Balls roll uphill and people appear dramatically taller or shorter when they switch places on a perfectly level platform. The tour guides are entertaining and crack lots of jokes: "Many people feel a little oozy when they visit the Vortex. Don't worry! You'll probably only feel that way for two weeks . . . just kidding. It should go away as soon as you step outside the Vortex."
6) Exit in Grants Pass for a stroll through Riverside Park and a hearty meal.
Walk along the path passing through this park that fronts the Rogue River. Let the kids climb around on the play structure. Smell the flowers in the rose garden and say hello to the families of geese and ducks who swim around in the river.
Hungry? For deep-fried oysters, crispy onion rings and sandwiches piled high with fillings try Tap Rock overlooking the park and river. On the kids’ menu, the Big Foot Sliders (mini burgers), are popular.
7) Exit on Wolf Creek Road to visit a ghost town.
The Golden State Heritage Site is home to a ghost town that was once a bustling mining town of more than 200 inhabitants, with "two churches and no saloons." You’ll also find a graveyard built for an episode of Gunsmoke that was filmed here.
Across the street, walk around the Coyote Wetlands, where a former mining area is being reclaimed by slowing down runoff with ponds and wetlands. The area is home to more than 40 different species of birds and you’ll find turtles in the ponds too.
8) Exit in Winston to go on an African safari.
At Wildlife Safari you’ll drive through a 600-acre wooded valley where tigers, giraffes, lions, elephants, bison, elk and bear roam freely as they do in the wild.
More than 500 animals from Africa, Asia, and the Americas live here. It takes about 1.5 hours to drive the 4.5-mile loop. Have lunch at the White Rhino restaurant in Safari Village.
9) Exit in Roseburg to get your ya-yas out at Stewart Park.
Kids will burn plenty of energy on the winding slides, suspension bridges, and monkey bars at the big playground at the heart of this 263-acre park. You’ll also find plenty of grassy open space for running around.
10) Exit in Winchester/North Roseburg to watch spawning salmon.
A viewing area with floor-to-ceiling windows offers a close-up look at the upper pools of the fish ladder constructed over this dam dating back to 1890. All kinds of fish swim past this window: steelhead, chinook salmon, coho salmon, trout, lamprey, northern pike minnow and suckers.
Some of them are the size of small children. Looking out over the river, you might spot river otters and blue heron. A quick break here can easily turn into an hour-long stop as this spot offers wildlife viewing opportunities as good as what you’ll see at an aquarium.