Thanksgiving's extra calories are reason enough to shake a leg and enjoy some of the Rogue Valley's biggest attractions and best seasonal activities. Take a few of our suggestions and give your out-of-town visitors something to chew on besides leftover turkey. Joy's Top 10 favorites mingle indoor and outdoor pursuits with family fun and some respite from the holiday hubbub.
1. SATISFY YOUR SWEET TOOTH
Medford's annual GingerBread Jubilee arguably is the region's sweetest celebration. This year's entirely edible entries crafted from cookies and candy were inspired by icons of the silver screen. Look for "The Grinch" and "You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" among approximately 40 sculptures at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave.
Starting at 10 a.m. the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Jubilee's community tour runs through 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, and reopens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 25 and 26, at the downtown theater. Admission is $3 per person, and all proceeds benefit Craterian Performances. See www.craterian.org/gingerbread-jubilee.
2. TAKE A HIKE
Follow the lead of Rogue Valley residents, who perennially cite Upper and Lower Table Rocks as their favorite hiking trails. The flat-topped mesas are named for their relative positions along the Rogue River. Shaped by erosion, they tower about 800 feet above Sams Valley and Central Point.
The Lower Table Rock trail climbs about 780 feet and is 1.75 miles long; the Upper Table Rock trail climbs about 720 feet and is about 1.25 miles long. Dwelling in the mesas are more than 70 species of animals and 340 species of plants.
Owned jointly by the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Table Rocks attract more than 10,000 visitors annually, with more than 4,600 people participating in guided hikes each year. To get there from Medford, take Table Rock Road north through White City and follow the BLM signs.
3. CUT TO THE CHASE
If you'd rather blaze your own trail — and get into the spirit of the next holiday — take a forest trek for the perfect Christmas tree. It may be headed for the living room, but a pine or fir taken straight from the woods is bound to smell fresher and last longer.
The price certainly can't be beat. Purchase a $5 permit at the Bureau of Land Management's Medford office or one of several U.S. Forest Service ranger stations. Trees must be less than 12 feet tall, within 12 feet from another tree and cut on BLM or Forest Service land at least 200 feet away from state highways, campgrounds and recreation sites. Don't forget a saw, gloves and a thermos of hot chocolate.
4. NOW, THAT'S BAZAAR
Speaking of the next holiday, bazaars of local handicrafts can help jump-start your shopping. One of the region's best, the Lithia Artisans Market Christmas Faire, opens at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 25, in Ashland. Purchase toys, jewelry, leather goods, clothing, ceramics, glass, wood carvings, fiber arts, photography and herbal body-care products from vendors who are usually assembled in summer on Calle Guanajuato near Lithia Park.
Live music and food stalls also highlight the market, which runs until 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. See www.lithiaartisansmarket.com.
5. SEE THE LIGHT
Put off putting up your Christmas lights for another day and bask in the glow of Ashland's collective effort. The Festival of Light, a free community event run by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, brightens the day after Thanksgiving and ushers in the Christmas season.
Entertainment on the downtown plaza is followed at 5 p.m. by "Santa's Parade." Then Santa and Mrs. Claus lead the countdown to the "grand illumination" of more than 1 million lights on trees and buildings all over downtown. See www.ashlandchamber.com.
6. SPIN YOUR WHEELS
A bicycle ride or brisk walk on the Bear Creek Greenway is just the ticket after that slab of pumpkin pie. This paved, flat route is suited to beginning cyclists and has many starting points between Ashland's dog park and the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Central Point.
The trail passes through Lynn Newbry Park in Talent, Blue Heron Park in Phoenix and U.S. Cellular Community, Bear Creek, Hawthorne and Railroad parks in Medford. See www.bearcreekgreenway.com for maps and detailed instructions.
7. HOP ON THE FAST TRACK
Medford's Railroad Park is closed for the season, but a train-themed extravaganza rolls into town every year to raise money for the beloved attraction. The 34th Rogue Valley Railroad Show features model exhibits, demonstrations, about 30 vendors, door prizes, a swap meet and raffle for dozens of items, including a completed model-railroad set valued at several hundred dollars.
The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27, at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and free for kids 14 and younger accompanied by adults. Call 541-890-8145 for more information.
8. CHILL OUT
The valley's only outdoor ice rink has been a tradition for 15 years from mid-November through February in Ashland. Weather permitting, Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink will open at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, on Winburn Way across from Lithia Park. Hours for open skating are 2 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Additional open-skate times for Thanksgiving weekend are noon to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 24 and 25.
Admission costs $4 for adults, $3.25 for kids. Skate rental is $2.50, with kids' skate trainers available for an additional $2. Hockey and skating lessons also are offered. Call 541-488-5340 or 488-9189 for complete schedules.
9. WARM UP TO WINTER
Frigid fingers and toes deserve a nice, long soak at Ashland's Chozu Bath and Tea Gardens, an outdoor spa with a Zenlike ambiance.
Ninety minutes of simmering in Chozu's saltwater pool and sauna costs $25. When the heat builds to beyond bearable, plunge into Chozu's cold pool, a breathtaking break that stimulates the lymphatic system. An additional $10 buys a private pool in a screened-off area of the garden. Children 14 to 18 accompanied by an adult are welcome prior to 5 p.m.
Take the chill off in the tea house with a pot of blooming tea that releases tiny blossoms into the brew. See www.chozugardens.com for more information.
10. SWIRL, SIP AND SAVOR
If your thirst isn't quenched by tea, cocoa or cider, go wine tasting. The Rogue Valley is home to more than 40 vineyards and wineries, most with well appointed tasting rooms from Ashland to Applegate, from Gold Hill to Butte Falls. Check the Mail Tribune's online guide, www.mailtribune.com/winetasting, for hours and an interactive map of locations.
Some estates offer family-friendly activities, such as vineyard walks or carriage rides. Open spaces can accommodate games of Frisbee or tossing around the ol' pigskin.