If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, a family trip to Ashland, Oregon should be on your radar. With both the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and Rogue River in its backyard, Ashland is known for its outdoor adventure. And of course, it’s also a theater destination, as home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In recent years, Ashland has sprung onto the culinary scene as well, with brew pubs, wineries, and restaurants. Have a foodie family? Come in early March to enjoy the Oregon Chocolate Festival with kids.
The Oregon Chocolate Festival has always called Ashland home. Last year, it was held at the fun, retro-styled Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites, with over 30 chocolatiers and a total of 44 vendors. In addition to sweet samples from all the chocolatiers, located from around the state, the festival hosts dessert contests, auctions, and demos from local chefs.
How to plan your day at the Oregon Chocolate Festival with kids:
The festival runs three days, over a Friday-Sunday. We recommend attending on Sunday, which is a shorter, and therefore cheaper day. Start with the Willy Wonka 5K fun run. This low-key race includes a 1/2 mile sprint for kids and a traditional 5K for everyone in the family, strollers and dogs welcome. Stay afterward to peruse the vendor booths, taking at least a few hours to sample the chocolate from everyone! Yes, you will overindulge!
Grown ups: in addition to the chocolate booths, cider and wine booths are set up. For the kids, water stations are plentiful, and there’s usually some form of hot chocolate or liquid chocolate to try.
When you enter the festival (held indoors), you’ll be given a schedule. Pay attention to this information, because it tells you when and where to see chef demonstrations and other events. On the Sunday we visited, we watched a 30 minute demonstration on making a eucalyptus-infused chocolate dessert and the grown ups attended a beer and chocolate pairing class. These classes and demos are included in your ticket price.
After you’ve had enough chocolate (it DOES happen eventually!) head outside of the hotel to find Ashland’s best food trucks. This is a great opportunity for a low-cost and easy lunch!
Once you’ve ‘cleared your palate’, head back inside for more samples and to make some purchases of your favorites. All the booths we visited took debit and credit cards, so bringing cash wasn’t necessary. We ended up with several treats we couldn’t resist, as well as business cards so we could order from chocolatiers outside our area.
Tip: Be sure to vote for your favorite chocolate creation or business in the ‘people’s choice’ style awards. On Saturday afternoon, ‘official’ awards are given out as well.
Festival ticket prices:
Friday and Sunday are half-days and $15 each. Saturday is a full day, with $20 tickets. Multi-day tickets are available, but probably not necessary. Kids 8 and under are free!
Where to stay:
Combine a trip to the Oregon Chocolate Festival with a family getaway in Ashland. Stay at the site of the festival at the Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites with their package deal. In 2016, it was under $160 for a room and tickets for two (just add any youth tickets needed). Read a full review of this hotel. We’d plan to ski one day at Mt. Ashland Ski Area and attend the festival the next!
We received tickets to the Oregon Chocolate Festival free of charge, for the purpose of review. We thank the festival for their hospitality.