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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Get on I-5 N from N Riverside Ave and OR-62 E
- Follow I-5 N to US-199 S/Grants Pass Pkwy/Redwood Hwy in Josephine County. Take exit 55 from I-5 N
- 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:
- Get on I-5 S from SE 7th Ave, SE 8th Ave, Ross Island Bridge/OR-43 S
- Follow I-5 S to OR-99 S/NW 6th St in Grants Pass. Take exit 58 from I-5 S
- 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?
PRACTICAL INFO FOR GRANTS PASS
Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).
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