6 Unique Things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon

6 Unique Things to Do in Grants Pass, Oregon

6 unique things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon and why it’s easily one of the most charming cities to visit in Southern Oregon.

As little as two years ago, Grants Pass wasn’t known for its bustling downtown. If you lived in Josephine County, where the city is located, you would have one of the lowest property taxes in Oregon.

However, with a very low property tax in Grants Pass and no sales tax in Oregon, there was little to give to local services, such as the sheriff and fire departments. Crime rates rose. There was a meth problem on the outskirts of the city, a drug that continues to haunt many cities around Oregon.

But this city’s story became a much happier one.

In two short years, the list of things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon has skyrocketed thanks to the city’s complete revitalization. Due to the tight-knit arts community that brings in continuous revenue and investment into the city’s historic buildings, there are numerous new businesses that are coming into downtown these days.

There is now a focus on farm-to-table cuisine in local restaurants, an increase in craft beer culture, plenty of wine options and community events such as Concert In The Park.

Grants Pass is situated near the Applegate Valley, which is arguably the best spot for wine tasting in southern Oregon. Although Ashland is seen as the cultural capital of southern Oregon by many, Grants Pass is giving it serious competition these days.

The Grants Pass I visited was one that was full of proud locals. The city is in an attractive area that is situated along the Rogue River. The slogan of Grants Pass is “Live Rogue” and that spirit of adventure could easily be felt with the number of activities offered to visitors.

The Rogue River was one of the first rivers in America to receive protection as a Wild & Scenic River from Congress in 1968. The community is based around the river and many local experiences will include that connection in some way.

Grants Pass, cities in Southern Oregon - Serra Vineyard
There is nothing like a sunny afternoon in the city of Grants Pass.

I wasn’t sure what I would find with an afternoon in Grants Pass, but my lack of expectations was met with a welcoming fascination and respect for an unassuming city by the river.

If you’re looking for your own introduction to the city, here are six things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon!

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Rogue River

As I mentioned above, a lot of the activities in Grants Pass revolve around the wild and scenic Rogue River. You have options to go for a ride on one of the Grants Pass jet boats, or to go kayaking, white water rafting, picnicking, or, my personal favorite, a trip on The Paddled Pub.

Things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon - Paddled Pub Tour along the Rogue River
One of my favorite things to do in southern Oregon is paddle down the Rouge River.

The Paddled Pub opened in June of 2016 and it’s a simple yet genius idea. They call it Oregon’s most unique pub experience and it’s hard to argue with that. The “pub” is a raft that they’ve essentially turned into a bar with snacks and craft beer to enjoy on a sunny day out on the river.

Things to do in Southern Oregon - Paddled Pub Tour in Grants Pass
Skip the traditional bars in Grants Pass and enjoy a Paddled Pub Tour.
Paddled Pub Tour in Grants Pass, Southern Oregon
Enjoy great beer and snacks in Grants Pass, Southern Oregon.
Paddled Pub Tour in the city of Grants Pass, Southern Oregon
Admire the natural beauty of the Rouge River in the city of Grants Pass.

It was a relaxing afternoon on the Rogue River. We picked up crowlers (i.e. can growlers) from Climate City Brewing beforehand and took them onto the river. There were snacks and good company waiting in the form of Trevor and Aaron, the two affable guides we had with us on the tour.

The Paddled Pub is the ideal experience if you don’t want to get wet in an inner tube drinking beer. Or if you want a more chill experience than white water rafting, while still appreciating the natural beauty around Grants Pass.

Book tickets for The Paddled Pub here

Paddled Pub Tour in Grants Pass, Southern Oregon
The Paddled Pub is a unique, fun tour to experience while exploring Grants Pass in Southern Oregon.

The Twisted Cork

We stopped in at one of the best restaurants in Grants Pass, Oregon, The Twisted Cork, for lunch and were wowed by the many dishes that were placed in front of us.

The Twisted Cork is one of the premier wine bars in Grants Pass and it’s not just the wine that is worth coming here for. They have everything from tapas to salads, pasta, and impressive desserts. I was in love with their sticky toffee pudding cake and strawberry Thai basil sorbet. I could’ve had a lunch of just desserts, they were that good.

Restaurants in Grants Pass, Oregon - Twisted Cork
Enjoy strawberry Thai basil sorbet from one of the top restaurants in restaurants in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Martha Fritz is considered to be one of the best chefs in Southern Oregon, and she’s both the cook and baker of the restaurant. If you’re more interested in the wine, they have 16 wines by the glass every day and wine flights to give you a little taste of everything. They also host winemaker dinners once a month to regularly highlight a new local winemaker.

Applegate Valley

Speaking of wine, the city of Grants Pass is not only lucky enough to be located right on the Rogue River, but it’s also in the midst of the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. You may not hear as much about the Southern Oregon wine scene as you do about the Willamette, but there’s a lot to see around the Applegate Valley if you have the time.

Things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon - Schmidt Family Vineyard
Delicious cheese, grapes, and crackers are just one of the many reasons why wine tasting is the top thing to do in Grants Pass, Oregon.
Grants Pass Southern Oregon - Schmidt Family Vineyard
Anyone visiting Grants Pass in Southern Oregon needs to add wine tasting to their list of things to do.

Closest to Grants Pass are Serra Vineyards, Schmidt Family Vineyards, Troon Vineyard, Rosellas Vineyard, Bridgeview, and Woolridge Creek Winery. You could easily make a day of just visiting the wineries in the area. I visited Serra Vineyards and Schmidt Family Vineyards during my visit and I was sold on the quality of the wine and versatility of the region.

Both wineries were beautiful in their own way. Schmidt Family Vineyards had a lovely outdoor area with plenty of picnic spots and a stunning tasting room.

I enjoyed the wines at Schmidt Family Vineyards slightly better. They’re especially known for their Bordeaux varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. The vineyard represented the essence of the area well – a locally focused, family-run operation that has personality.

Grants Pass Southern Oregon - Schmidt Family Vineyard
Schmidt Family Vineyards is one of my favorite vineyards in the city of Grants Pass.

Serra Vineyards, on the other hand, had a breathtaking view on their side. They’re situated up on a hill that has a grand lookout over the vineyard below. It would be the perfect spot for a relaxing afternoon sipping on a refreshing glass of wine. My favorite was their 2011 pinot noir.

Related: 14 Stops to Make on an Oregon Coast Road Trip

Things to do in Southern Oregon- Serra Vineyard
What to do in Southern Oregon? Admire the stunning views from Serra Vineyard.
Things to do in Southern Oregon - Serra Vineyard
Serra Vineyard produces some of the best wine in the city of Grants Pass

Josephine County Fair

If you are looking for what to do in Southern Oregon during the summer, a visit to the Josephine County Fair is a must. The Fair comes to Grants Pass every summer, bringing thousands of visitors from other Southern Oregon cities and across the country. This county fair is one of the many Grants Pass events that are fun for all ages.

This legendary weekend is a classic American carnival providing guests with tons of games and rides to enjoy, shows and musical entertainment throughout the day, and all of the popcorn and cotton candy that you can eat.

Southgate Cinema

After having an adventurous day “Living Rogue” and exploring the thriving downtown Grants Pass or one of the many Grants Pass parks, take a break and enjoy a night out at the movies in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Watching a new release at the Southgate Cinema is a comfortable and relaxing way to spend an evening and end a day of exploring this revitalized city. This Grants Pass movie theater plays current films as well as timeless classics. 

Local Art

Last but certainly not least, there’s an abundance of art and culture to be found in Grants Pass. There are numerous art galleries that fill the city, outdoor sculptures, street murals, summer concerts in Riverside Park, the Art Along the Rogue Festival in October that attracts over 10,000 people in a weekend, and perhaps the most unique art experience to enjoy – BearFest.

Unique Things to Do in Grants Pass, Oregon - BearFest
Enjoy the local art during BearFest, one of the unique things to do in Grants Pass, Oregon.

BearFest is a summer art installation where every year 42 new themed bears are placed around the city for a fun and hilarious showcase of skills from local artists. From the beginning of May through Labor Day weekend, these hand-painted bears can be found all over Grants Pass.

At the end of the season, they’re auctioned off to the public and the proceeds go to a variety of local non-profit organizations. Win-win!

Another art experience to have in town is a visit to The Glass Forge Gallery & Studio for a glass blowing demonstration. Even simply walking through their gallery of glass art is an impressive sight. I especially enjoyed their glass blown pumpkins, perfect for fall.

Glass Forge in the city of Grants Pass, Southern Oregon
Enjoy the talented glass forgers in the city of Grants Pass.

Hotels in Grants Pass, Oregon

The next time you are exploring Southern Oregon stay at one of these three top-rated hotels in Grants Pass, Oregon.

BUDGET

The Riverside Inn is the largest hotel along the Rogue River. This charming hotel offers its guests stunning rooms with private balconies that overlook the river, a full hot breakfast, and fresh popcorn every evening.

The Riverside Inn is located within walking distance of downtown Grants Pass, shopping, and restaurants. This hotel is one of the top-rated hotels in the city and is the perfect location for all who wish to explore the city of Grants Pass, Oregon on a budget.

Check availability here

MID-RANGE

The Weasku Inn is one of the top hotels in Grants Pass, Oregon. All of the rooms at the hotel have a classic rustic feel to them, and a mountain or riverside view. The Weasku Inn offers guests daily afternoon hors d’oeuvres and wine tastings. Guests can also arrange day trips through the hotel to Crater Lake National Park and the Southern Oregon wine region.

Check availability here

LUXURY

The Lodge at Riverside is one of the most luxurious options for accommodations in Grants Pass, Oregon. Their boutique interiors are spacious and elegant.

The Lodge features an outdoor pool that overlooks the river, as well as spa and massage services and WIFI. Guests can enjoy daily breakfast, a wine reception in the afternoon, and freshly baked cookies in the evening.

Check availability here

Camping near Grants Pass, Oregon

If you would prefer to camp while you enjoy all the fun things to do in Southern Oregon, you can view the different campsites in the area here.

Recommended Experience: Horseback Riding in Grants Pass

More Information About Grants Pass, Oregon

Where is Grants Pass, Oregon?

Grants Pass is located in southern Oregon, about 35 minutes northwest of Medford and about four hours south of Portland. View a Grants Pass, Oregon map here.

Directions to Grants Pass, Oregon

If you are coming from Medford:

  1. Get on I-5 N from N Riverside Ave and OR-62 E
  2. Follow I-5 N to US-199 S/Grants Pass Pkwy/Redwood Hwy in Josephine County. Take exit 55 from I-5 N
  3. Continue on US-199 S/Grants Pass Pkwy/Redwood Hwy. Take NE E St to SW 5th St in Grants Pass

If you are coming from Portland:

  1. Get on I-5 S from SE 7th AveSE 8th AveRoss Island Bridge/OR-43 S
  2. Follow I-5 S to OR-99 S/NW 6th St in Grants Pass. Take exit 58 from I-5 S
  3.  Follow OR-99 S/NW 6th St to SW 5th St

How big is Grants Pass, Oregon?

The city of Grants Pass is only about 11 square miles.

Grants Pass, Oregon population

The population of the city is about 37, 500.

Have you heard of Grants Pass before? Where is your favorite place to visit in Southern Oregon? 

Note: I was a guest of Travel Southern Oregon and Travel Grants Pass during my time in Southern Oregon, but all opinions are my own. 

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PRACTICAL INFO FOR GRANTS PASS

Find accommodation or book your rental car

Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).

Buy your Oregon Travel Guide here.

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Need help planning your trip to Oregon? Find inspiration from these blog posts!

Best Things to Do in Florence, Oregon

Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon

Top 7 Things to Do in Ashland, Oregon

Jet Boating the Rogue River

14 Stops to Make on an Oregon Coast Road Trip

How to Spend Winter in Portland

 

Grants Pass: A Revitalized City in Southern Oregon - USA

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Mimi McFadden

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Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
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5 comments

  1. Wow! This sounds like my kind of city. (Quite frankly, you had me at “Paddled Pub”) We visit Oregon often when we are in the States, but haven’t been to this region. Looks like we’re going to have to make a detour next time around! Thanks for the great tips 😉

    1. Haha The Paddled Pub is what sold me on visiting Grants Pass in the first place too, the other gems of the city I discovered once I got there were just an added bonus!

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