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Bend vs. beach: 10 reasons to do spring break in Central Oregon

February 22nd, 2018

Scheduling your family’s spring break plans can be a daunting task, and families in the Pacific Northwest often waffle between east versus west. In other words, mountains or coast?

Ice skating can be part of your family’s spring break in Bend.

Here are 10 reasons you should pick Bend for spring break 2018.

 

The whole fan-damily can ski or board at Mt. Bachelor.

Escape the rain

Growing up in Oregon, I had one pair of grandparents on the Oregon Coast and one pair in Central Oregon. I loved visiting them all, but I’ll admit that most of my beach memories are clouded with rain. Clear, sun-kissed days were a rarity on the coast, but they’re standard fare in Bend. My Central Oregon childhood memories are shades of sunshine & snow, or sunshine & desert heat. That can be a blessed relief this time of year if you hail from an area where rain is a springtime staple.

 

Kids ski free at Mt. Bachelor

Anyone with kiddos knows it’s tough to find fun, inexpensive entertainment for the whole family. That’s why Mt. Bachelor’s longstanding Kids Ski Free program is a lifesaver for families. With no blackout dates, it’s a great way to save cash while exposing the whole fam to endless caches of fresh powder. Read up on the rules and plan ahead for spring break fun.

 

No sand in your shoes

Have you ever found yourself still vacuuming sand out of your backseat a month after you visited the coast? There are lots of great things about snow in Bend, but one of the best is that it melts instead of turning your floor mats into sanding blocks.

Bend is a foodie paradise!

Foodie paradise

Bend gets written up a lot for having a killer culinary scene, which is unusual for a landlocked city of 91,000. But with oodles of award winning chefs calling Bend home (not to mention specialty options ranging from gluten-free to vegan dining) your palate will be pleased if your spring break plans bring you to this high desert culinary oasis.

 

No need to make tough choices

To ski or to golf? To snowshoe or to mountain bike? These are difficult decisions to be sure, but you’re not forced to make them in Bend. Marmot recently touted Bend as one of seven places in America that have mastered the art of three sports in one day, so pack your snowboard and your trail running shoes. There’s a good chance you’ll need both.

 

A sled dog ride probably won’t happen for you at the beach, but it could happen in Bend!

Sled dog rides on the beach?

Yeah, that’s not a thing. But if a once-in-a-lifetime sled dog adventure is on your bucket list, you can make it happen in Bend.

 

Sunrises look better with snow-capped peaks

When it comes to snapping sunrises and sunsets, nothing beats Bend’s bounty of rugged eye candy. The glittering Cascade Mountains are the perfect backdrop for family photos and duck-face selfies, so get ready to bust out the good camera. For ideas on where to snag quintessential Bend images ranging from waterfalls to mountains, check out this post.

Sunsets and sunrises are always better with mountains in them.


 

Want a break from the outdoors?

If you’ve had your fill of wallowing in snowy fields, there’s plenty of fun indoorsy stuff to do in Bend. Hit the High Desert Museum and soak up tons of natural history and cool critters. Visit the Mountain Air Trampoline Park to get the wiggles out. Enjoy arcade games, bumper cars, and a family game of bowling at Sun Mountain Fun Center. Solve a mystery together with the clock ticking at Bend Escape Room. For more ideas, check out this post.

The best of après ski

From an umbrella bar with a removable roof at Mt. Bachelor to the post-ski bashes held at Crow’s Feet Commons, Bend’s après ski scene is on point. There’s even an entire Bend Ale Trail for you to tackle. Which brings me to my final point…

Apres ski at Crow’s Feet Commons.

 

The Bend Ale Trail

There’s a reason Bend’s craft beer scene is has been written about in publications ranging from the Washington Post to USA Today. Yes, we make great beer, but do you know why? One reason is the abundance of pure water, courtesy of Central Oregon snowmelt. Check out this awesome video from Wanderlust Tours to learn more.

3 romantic dates for soaking, sipping, and supping

February 15th, 2018

Sometimes you crave something beyond the traditional dinner-and-a-movie date. A shared experience that combines relaxation with a touch of intimacy, capped off with drinks and a great meal.

Start off the Hop in the Spa Experience with beer and a pretzel.

Sound hard to find? It’s totally not! Here are three cool date ideas in Bend that combine soaking, sipping, and supping (a hat tip to the Old English verb for dining, not an acronym for standup paddleboarding). Ready? Let’s go!

 

Hop in the Spa and Tumalo Feed Company

It’s been more than two years since America’s first beer spa took the media by storm, resulting in gobs of buzz over this unique beer experience just 23 miles northwest of Bend.

Blogger Tawna soaking in one of the cedar tubs.

There’s a reason for the hype. A soak at Hop in the Spa in Sisters is one of the most unique couples’ experiences you can book in a beer-centric region like Central Oregon.

You start off in a relaxation room with your sweetie, where you sip craft beer from Deschutes Brewery and nosh a warm, soft pretzel if you’re so inclined. Next, you undress (or wear your bathing suit if you prefer) and slip into a solid cedar tub filled with hops, herbs, minerals, and oodles of other good-smelling things blended by herbalist and naturopathic practitioner Sally Champa.

Tasty steak and scallops at Tumalo Feed Company.

The hubby and I sat in separate tubs facing each other so we could talk, and even got to pick the music to accompany our soak. Couples have the room to themselves for ultimate relaxation and privacy, though you could easily enjoy it with a friend. Sipping a hoppy IPA while immersed in a warm bath filled with bobbing handfuls of hops goes down in my book as one of the coolest beer experiences I’ve had, and there’s a unique vibe that’s equal parts “luxury day spa” and “funky-cool Old West.”

Pro tip: Towel off well afterward, and wear underthings that won’t stain if there’s some hop residue left on your skin (sexy, right?)

Don’t forget the skillet cookie!

Now that you’re nice and relaxed, it’s time for dinner. Since you’re headed back to your Bend hotel and already feeling the old-timey Western vibe, stop off at Tumalo Feed Company for some down home cookin’. The building dates back to the early 1900s, and Tumalo Feed Company has been operating since 1991. It’s under new ownership since December 2017, but the menu is still the same homey fare fans have been enjoying for years.

Steaks are especially good here, and don’t forget to add their homemade onion rings for $1 more. Their tap list is solid, and gives you a chance to sample more local craft beer (Boneyard’s RPM is a safe bet for any fan of hoppy suds).

Don’t forget to save room for the skillet chocolate chip cookie, which takes 20 minutes to bake, so plan ahead. With your belly full, head back to Bend and dream of warm water and cold beer.

 

Float Central and a mellow meal at Currents

I’ve been dimly aware of Float Central for a couple years now, but it wasn’t until I set out to write this blog post that I tried it myself.

Float your cares away at Float Central (but ditch the bathing suit!)

Holy cow, you guys, can I just say this was one of the coolest things I’ve done in Bend?

For those who don’t know, floating is a wellness technique that involves slipping into a tank filled with about 11-inches of water saturated with Epsom salts. The buoyancy of the salt water keeps you afloat in water that’s heated to skin temperature, so you basically lose track of where your body ends and the water begins.

We started our experience with a glass of kefir water (on tap in the lobby) before moving to the float rooms. We got a detailed explanation about what’s involved, including our options for closing the tank door versus keeping it open, and the different options for earplugs if we wanted them. Then we retired to our separate rooms to shower and slip into our private float tanks.

(Sidenote: I will confess that my preconceived—and misguided—notions about floating led me to fear I’d be dunking myself in water filled some previous floater’s skin gunk. That couldn’t be further from reality. The entire volume of water within the tank is filtered and passed through a UV system after each use and treated with an environmentally friendly hydrogen peroxide solution. There’s a lot of other stuff on their website that put my mind at ease, plus stepping inside their super-tidy, calming space gives you a firsthand look at how tidy they keep things. No shoes allowed beyond the lobby, for starters, and showers are mandatory. In other words, germaphobes can rest easy).

Following your float, you can chill for a while in the meditation room at Float Central.

While my husband is one of those people who relaxes easily and zonks into deep sleep or meditative states, I soooooo don’t. I’m not good at shutting off my brain, so I wasn’t sure I could do a full 90 minutes in the tank.

Surprisingly, I did manage to zone out. I didn’t fall fast asleep the way my other half did, but there was something unbelievably relaxing about having no sounds, no sights, and no work required to keep my body afloat. Taking away those stressors left my mind to meander to greener pastures, like what I wanted for dinner and whether I’d somehow slipped through the cosmos and was floating in outer space.

It was way cool.

Speaking of dinner, you’ll want to plan ahead for the meal that follows your floating experience. Float Central provides everything you need to shower off afterward, but trust me when I say you won’t want to wreck your blissed-out buzz by revving a hair dryer or heading to some noisy bar.

Tasty food with a river view at Currents.

We opted for Currents at the Riverhouse, where we knew we could cozy up in the oversized chairs at one of their casual river-view tables. A glass of red wine was the perfect way to keep my mellow state going, and Currents has a wine list that includes several Oregon Pinot Noirs (the Elizabeth Chambers was especially awesome).

We ordered several dishes to share, including a baby kale and quinoa salad, prosciutto-wrapped dates, and the confit turkey leg with sweet and spicy ginger plum sauce (surprisingly huge, but sectioned so it’s easy to eat).

If you’d rather preserve your mellow post-float vibe by skipping the restaurant scene altogether, call ahead to one of Bend’s amazing sushi restaurants and order takeout to bring back to your Bend hotel.

If you’re staying in a vacation rental with a kitchen, you’ll find a well-stocked Safeway just a few steps from Float Central. Grab a couple lobster tails or steak, a bottle of wine, and some sides from their deli, and you’re all set for a dreamy, blissed-out, romantic dinner in the privacy of your room.

 

McMenamins for soaking and a fireside dinner

Want your soak-sip-sup experience to happen all in one location with the bonus of adding sleep in the same spot? A stay at McMenamins Old St. Francis School is a great option.

Escape to another world in the soaking pool at McMenamins.

McMenamins boasts a beautiful tile soaking pool surrounded by shimmering turquoise tile, luminous stained glass, breathtaking murals, and an open-air ceiling that lets you check out the night sky. It’s filled with soft, buoyant saltwater, which makes for an environmentally friendly soak.

Start by hitting the bar for a plastic cup of beer (glass isn’t allowed in the pool area).

Gather ’round the fire pits at O’Kanes following your soak, and don’t miss the Cajun tots.

Raspberry-infused Ruby is refreshingly light option that often appeals to folks who don’t love beer. Spend a relaxing hour or so soaking your bones, sipping your brew, and letting your worries slip away.

After you’re showered and dressed, head to one of McMenamins fabulous bars for dinner. There are several options, but the fireside area outside O’Kanes is a great choice for maintaining your chilled-out vibe. Nabbing a spot by one of the fire pits will keep you toasty even when it’s cold out, and an order of their famous Cajun tots will keep the fire going in your belly.

For dinner, order their Hammerhead Cheesesteak featuring chopped ribeye steak with yellow onions, mama lils peppers, and Hammerhead ale fondue sauce on a hoagie roll.

And another beer, of course.

Ready to head back to your room? If you’re staying in the Art House or Ed House, make sure to poke around for secret rooms and corridors. I won’t tell you the location of the secret Broom Closet Bar, but if you find it while wandering around, it makes a great spot for a nightcap.

 

 

 

4 romantic gestures to make in Bend

February 8th, 2018

Bend is brimming with romance. There are a zillion spots to get engaged, to plan a wedding or honeymoon, to enjoy a romantic date, or to discover meals with aphrodisiac ingredients.

(Incidentally, this is what happens when a tourism bureau hires a USA Today bestselling romantic comedy as their blogger, but I digress).

Romantic opportunities are everywhere in Bend, and here are four ways you can make a special romantic gesture in Bend, Oregon.

Central Oregon is dotted with dozens of glorious, cascading waterfalls that are as beautiful as they are inspiring. Want to make a special gesture with your loved one?

 

Make a waterfall wish

Hike to the waterfall of your choice. Along the trail, pick up a pair of small sticks that catch your eye. When you reach a safe spot at the top of the falls, hold hands with your sweetie and make a wish together, then toss in your sticks and watch them bob and float before tumbling over the edge.

Make your wish from the viewpoint at the top of Tumalo Falls. (Photo by Rich Bacon)

(Let’s not dwell on what it means for the wish if someone’s stick gets snagged on a rock, mmkay?)

Need ideas for finding waterfalls near Bend? Check out this blog post. Waterfalls with easy access points to viewpoints from the top include Tumalo Falls and Salt Creek Falls, but you can find ways to make it work from nearly all of them.

It goes without saying that you should stay on marked trails, refrain from littering, and also avoid maiming or killing yourself in your quest for this romantic gesture.

 

The snowy heart

How many times have you seen a beach montage in a romantic movie where the swoony lovers draw a heart in the sand with their initials inside?

One of many couples to get engaged during the Bonfire on the Snow outing with Wanderlust Tours.

There’s a more creative way to do it in Bend.

Head for higher elevations near Mt. Bachelor, where fields of snow abound at surrounding Sno-Parks. Snowshoe or Nordic ski to a warming hut for a romantic picnic, and conclude by using a stick or ski pole to carve your initial-filled heart in a blanket of snow. Bonus points if you flop down together and make side-by-side snow angels.

Not up for trekking out on your own? Book a romantic moonlight snowshoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours. They’ve had tons of couples get engaged over the years during their Bonfire on the Snow tours, which tells you all you need to know about how awesomely romantic this experience can be.

 

Add some ink

I’ll preface this by saying I never, EVER recommend getting a loved one’s name or likeness permanently inked on your body.

That said, getting a tattoo while on vacation in Bend is one of the most unique souvenirs you can get, and there are plenty of ways for couples to experience it together.

Blogger Tawna got this ink in New Zealand in honor of her stepkids (Violet and Cedar) while her husband got his own family-centric ink as special way to commemorate the vacation.

Subtle “couples tattoos” like matching infinity symbols, EKG heartbeats, or musical notes representing your favorite song are popular. There are endless complementary designs like the moon for one partner and a sun for the other (or peanut butter and jelly, or electron and proton symbols, or…well, you get the idea).

It’s not mandatory to be matchy-matchy, either. My husband and I got inked together in New Zealand, and though the tattoos have nothing to do with one another, they’re a perpetual reminder of our dream vacation together. I’ve also seen artsy couples who get tattoos featuring each other’s handwriting, photos, or sketches. The possibilities are endless, and there are tons of great Bend tattoo studios (I can personally vouch for Monolith).

Keep in mind that many artists book up months in advance, so reservations are mandatory, as is chatting with the artist in advance to explain what you’re envisioning.

 

Do a couple’s quest

It’s super-common for Bend visitors to arrive toting must-see lists that include major Central Oregon landmarks like Smith Rock State Park and Tumalo Falls.

How many places can you find to smooch in Bend?

But why not take it to the next level with a romantic bucket list you create together?

Pledge to smooch atop Pilot Butte at Sunset. Make a date to stargaze together from the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing. Book a couples’ massage appointment at one of Bend’s fabulous day spas. Vow to write lists of ten things you love most about each other, and read them to one another while sipping your favorite beer beside a cozy fire pit along the Bend Ale Trail.

The possibilities are endless, and you’ll have as much fun coming up with your bucket list as you will checking the items off one by one.

 

3 ways to do a Bend family vacay when life throws a curveball

February 1st, 2018

Everything’s ready. You’ve packed the kids’ bags, your Bend hotel reservations are set, and you’ve planned the perfect family weekend in Bend.

Then it happens. Something unexpected threatens to derail your perfect family vacation.

A cave tour with Wanderlust is an awesome way to spend a rainy day.

Been there, done that, forgot to pack the t-shirt. Fortunately, you can still pull off an awesome family vacay when life throws you for a loop. Here are three uh-oh scenarios for families (and some fun workarounds for each!)

 

It’s raining

Rainy days aren’t common here in the mountainous high desert, but they do happen. Fortunately, a drizzly day in Bend isn’t a dream-killer the way it might be with, say, a beach getaway.

First, check the Mt. Bachelor conditions report. What looks like rain in Bend (3,600 feet in elevation) might be perfect, fluffy snowflakes at Mt. Bachelor (elevation 5,700 to 9,065 feet). You could score a perfect day of powder skiing after all.

If skiing isn’t on the agenda, there are plenty of other options for staying dry while having fun. Escape the wet stuff by going underground with a cave adventure from Wanderlust Tours. Your naturalist guide will provide all the gear and transportation, not to mention a top-notch education on Central Oregon’s unique lava tubes.

Need help getting the wiggles out? Hit Mountain Air Trampoline Park for an hour or two of bouncy fun. The main court has 26 trampolines, plus a jumping and tumbling runway and a giant airbag that’s fun to pounce on from above. For more ideas on indoorsy fun in Bend, check out this blog post.

Okay, but what if you’re really, really itching to play outside? Don’t let the rain stop you. The high desert’s rare rainstorms don’t tend to last long, and they’re actually quite remarkable to experience. The scent of wet juniper and sage is an olfactory explosion everyone should savor at least once, and puddle jumping can be a giggle-worthy game for the kids. Just make sure you stay off mountain bike trails when conditions are muddy, or you’ll risk wrecking the trails for other users.

 

You’re battling picky eaters or food allergies

Moms and dads with challenging eaters: I feel your pain. Our family currently grapples with a lifelong egg/peanut/shellfish allergy in kid #1, plus a newly-diagnosed lactose intolerance in kid #2.

Let your picky eaters make their own meal at Flatbread.

For those with younger kids, it can be an endless evolution of food preferences and tantrum-inducing meal planning. Your four-year-old who looooooves grilled cheese on Wednesday might think it’s the grossest thing ever by Friday.

Don’t worry, guys—Bend restaurants have your back.

First off, check out these roundups of good gluten-free and vegan dining options if that’s your jam.

Outside those parameters, you’ll find oodles of other Bend restaurants accustomed to handling special dietary needs. Zydeco is particularly great with food allergies (and with tweaking items on their menu to accommodate your needs). Ditto that for Broken Top Bottle Shop, which has most menu items carefully identified by their dietary properties.

Generally speaking, you’ll find staff in most Bend restaurants are friendly and knowledgeable when asked about specific allergens and dietary needs, and servers are happy to check with the chef for detailed info.

Not dealing with allergies, but just need a place with a solid kids’ menu that’s good for finicky eaters? Try Flatbread Neopolitan Pizzeria in the Old Mill District, where kids can assemble their own pizzas and watch them cook up in the big wood-fired oven. The Old Mill also boasts a Red Robin, which can be a godsend when you just need to fill their faces with familiar-sounding food (bonus: killer river views).

Most of the breweries along the Bend Ale Trail also boast impressive kids’ menus, so don’t think you have to miss out on tasting Bend craft beer just because you have the young’uns in tow.

 

Someone gets hurt

This one sucks. It’s tough enough when your loved ones get injured, but when it happens right before vacation, it can throw a serious kink in the family’s plans.

Even with an injured kiddo, it’s easy to have fun in Bend. An inexpensive cast cover like this one keeps things nice and dry.

First, remember you have options. My stepdaughter’s broken arm a couple summers ago could have put a serious crimp in her dreams of swimming from June to September, but a quick google search led us to some awesome cast covers for swimming. Don’t be afraid to poll other parents on what they’ve done in your situation.

Second, roll with the punches. Maybe you can’t do that twelve-mile family backpacking trip you’d hoped for, but there are tons of shorter hikes to be found. Check out the Deschutes River Trail or Pilot Butte (which also allows you to drive up May through October if mobility is limited). Stop by the Bend Visitor Center and grab a good guide book or ask our friendly front desk staff for tips on great hiking spots to meet your needs.

Plenty of other Central Oregon attractions are easily accessible when mobility or stamina is an issue. Spend the day checking out critters and natural history at the High Desert Museum. They offer wheelchairs for use at no additional charge, plus ramps into outdoor exhibits, wheelchair accessible trails, and benches throughout the grounds for resting.

In the Old Mill District  you can cruise the paved riverfront paths and sidewalks and find tons of easily accessible spots for shopping and dining.

But don’t think you have to give up your dreams of skiing, biking, paddling, rock climbing, or zillions of other sports just because a family member is facing mobility issues or other challenges. Oregon Adaptive Sports offers a huge range of activities, adaptive equipment, and professional instruction to help everyone enjoy Central Oregon’s great outdoors regardless of ability. They have experience working with a huge range of populations, including amputees, visual impairment, Cerebral Palsy, ADD/ADHD, Down Syndrome, PTSD, spinal cord injury, stroke, and much more. Check out their website for info.

 

Pack the 10 essentials for your Bend winter adventure

January 25th, 2018

Avid outdoor adventurers know the phrase “ten essentials.” Some even have a list tattooed on their foreheads.

But for more casual explorers, a few reminders can be helpful. Yes, we know we should pack that mini-flashlight for our ski picnic, but where the @#$% did we put the darn thing?

Your phone is a handy tool, but make sure you have something else to rely on for navigation and illumination.

Find it. And find all the rest of the stuff on this list before you set out, since even a short snowshoe outing can turn dangerous if you’re not prepared.

We covered summertime essentials in this blog post, but here’s what you need to gather before setting out for your winter adventures in Bend.

Navigation

There’s nothing wrong with an old school compass, and in fact, it has advantages over using your phone (which is more prone to battery depletion in cold temps). A paper map or guidebook is smart, too. If you’re determined to rely on your phone, make sure to pack a battery backup or portable charger.

Sun protection

I know this sounds weird in the winter months, but Bend boasts bountiful sunshine even in subzero temps. Not only that, but Bend’s high altitude (along with the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow) can lead to a nasty sunburn. Even if it’s chilly or overcast, pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and a good pair of sunglasses in case conditions change.

Be sure you’re well-layered before heading into the wilderness this time of year.

Insulation

Layers, layers, layers. That’s the name of the game in Central Oregon’s rapidly changing conditions. This time of year, wool and some well-made water-resistant layers are crucial. Stuff an extra pair of socks and gloves in your pack in case yours get wet.

Illumination

Know what I’ve seen over and over again in articles about winter explorers needing rescue? They counted on cell phones as flashlights. Not a good gamble, especially if you’re sapping the battery for directions or Instagram selfies. Carrying a small headlamp can make a return trip in the dark hands-free (allowing you to use that compass and map you’re toting). If a headlamp isn’t your thing, you can buy a small, powerful flashlight for next to nothing these days. Do it, and make sure your batteries are good before setting out.

First aid supplies

You never know when injuries can strike, so nab a small, packable first aid kit. You’ll find some great options at outdoor equipment retailers like REI. In the wintertime, it’s helpful to have one that has a space blanket in it, too in case you need extra protection from the cold and wind.

Fire

Ever been stuck at a campsite with a lighter that won’t work? It’s a lot worse when it’s snowing sideways. Pack smart and include waterproof matches and a lighter. You also need some firestarter, which doesn’t mean filling your backpack with kindling. Some folks swear by dipping cotton balls in wax to make cheap and easy firestarters, or stuff an empty toilet paper roll with dryer lint as an alternative to newspaper. Fire can be a lifesaver in cold conditions, so don’t shortchange yourself on this one.

Make sure you’re carrying tools to repair all your winter recreation gear before setting out on an adventure.

Repair kit/tools

No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your Nordic skiing adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife. Also think ahead to any sports-specific repair items you might need for your gear.

Nutrition

The rule of thumb is to carry at least 200 calories per person for every hour you will be out. High-carb energy bars like Bend-based Picky Bars are perfect! Steer clear of the sort of energy bars that turn into teeth-breaking ice bricks in cold conditions.

Hydration

Here’s where a well-insulated beverage container like Hydro Flask is essential to keep hot liquids warm and cold ones from freezing. Pack at least 1 liter of water per person for short outings and 2.5 liters for longer ones. Keep in mind that if you run out, you’ll need to melt snow for water (which is why that firestarter thing is so critical).

Packing a tent may not be practical if you’re setting out for a half-mile snowshoe, but it’s wise to have some form of shelter if there’s a chance your day trip could become an overnighter.

Emergency shelter

This one’s tougher in wintertime, since you’re a lot more likely to freeze to death if you’re not prepared. A couple garbage bags might suffice in warmer months to insulate you from the ground, but they’re not so effective on frozen ground. An insulating pad is a must-have if there’s a chance you’ll be sitting or sleeping on snow. A space blanket (maybe the one in your first-aid kit?) or a bright plastic tarp is also a must, and keep in mind that you’ll need a shovel to dig a snow cave. If there’s even a remote chance that could happen, buy a small, packable one. Better safe than sorry!

P.S. While this isn’t technically one of the 10 essentials, make sure you have a good, sturdy pack to carry all your stuff. Trudging through snow is tough enough, but doing it with an ill-fitting or broken backpack can seriously wreck your day (not to mention your back).

5 reasons less snow makes this a great winter to visit Bend

January 18th, 2018

Scenes from last year’s snowpocalypse in Bend.

This morning we woke to the news that Mt. Bachelor had six inches of new powder overnight, and it’s still snowing. Storms will keep blowing through the Pacific Northwest over the next week, bringing much-needed snow to Oregon’s ski areas.

Okay, so all that aside, it’s tough to miss the fact that winter of 2017-2018 has turned out much drier than anyone expected. After the crazy, snow-filled season Bend had last year, it’s been a shock for many of us. But even for a ski town like Bend, there are lots of upsides to having a lighter-than-normal snow year. Here are five of them.

 

Getting here got a whole lot easier

Last winter’s snowpocalypse was responsible for crushing a lot of Bend visitors’ vacation dreams. Flights were canceled and snow-packed roads forced many families to think twice about making the drive to Bend.

That hasn’t been an issue this year.

We couldn’t find parking last year, but had lots of spots to chill our beer.

The mountain passes have been blissfully clear, making for easy drives to Bend. Flights have been more reliable, too, with fewer weather-related delays and cancellations.

 

Where did all these parking spots come from?

When you get massive dumps of snow in short periods of time, you run out of places to put it. That’s what happened last year, and as the season progressed, we ran out of spots to stash those massive mounds of white stuff. Parking lots got smaller, and parking spaces shrank as curbside pileups grew.

This year it’s a whole lot easier to find a spot for your car in the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend. Ditto that for sidewalks and walkways, which haven’t required shopkeepers to work double overtime shoveling huge piles of powder. That means it’s easier than ever to access your favorite Bend restaurant or retail shop.

 

So much to do on dry land!

Bend has long been touted as one of those multi-sport destinations where you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Marmot recently included Bend in their roundup of 7 places in America that have mastered the art of 3 sports in one day, and that’s been especially true this winter.

A mountain bike outing with Cog Wild is a great way to get some non-snowy recreation this time of year.

Mountain bike trails are blessedly snow-free (though if you encounter muddy trails, please don’t ride on them or you’ll wreck them for future users). There’s been great riding at Matson and Horse Ridge lately, and you can always check https://bendtrails.org/ for great info on trail conditions.

This time of year, there are countless areas to hike and climb without slipping on ice or snow. Heck, I’ve seen people out surfing in the Bend Whitewater Park (brrr!)

But for those folks journeying to Bend for skiing and snowboarding, you’ll find plenty more to do. Which leads me to my next point…

 

The slopes are still fab at Mt. Bachelor

Thanks to Mt. Bachelor’s higher elevation, the mountain has seen a lot more snow this year than its lower-elevation competitors. That makes all the difference in the world when it comes to lean snow years like this one.

Bluebird skies are common at Mt. Bachelor in less stormy seasons.

That said, there’s no question Mt. Bachelor has seen less snow this season than they did last year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Storm-free skies bring an abundance of clear, bluebird days for skiing and boarding. The decrease in storms also means Mt. Bachelor can run the Summit lift more often, carrying winter enthusiasts all the way to the 9,000-foot peak of the mountain. That didn’t happen as often last year.

Another upside of having more dry, sunny days is that groomers can get out across more runs. The result? A veritable paradise for those who like to cruise the corduroy.

A low-snow year is a great time to try ice skating in Bend!

Oh, and since more Bend residents are opting to stay home and wait for powder days, visitors have the run of Mt. Bachelor’s slopes lately. There’s ample parking, and lift lines have been nice and short.

 

So much more to a winter vacation

Whether you’re a skier or not, you’ve gotta love how many other winter activities abound in Bend. With milder temperatures this year and fewer cancellations due to deep snow, you have access to Bend’s full range of winter fun.

Go ice skating at The Pavilion. Try a snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours. Book a sled dog ride with Oregon Trail of Dreams.

Once you’ve had your fill of chilly activities, take advantage of clear skies and mild temps by walking between breweries on the Bend Ale Trail (no snowshoes required!) or strolling the grounds at the High Desert Museum without fretting about how many layers you’ll need to wear to get a glimpse of the otters.

The possibilities are endless, and it’s a great season for enjoying the best winter has to offer in Bend.

 

How a Bend vacation can help your healthy resolutions

January 11th, 2018

Is it just me, or is everyone’s Facebook feed filled with friends pledging to get healthier in the new year? For some that involves mass quantities of kale, while others are contemplating spiritual wellness and mental health.

Hiking is a great way to boost your health and fitness goals in the New Year.

However you plan to accomplish it, here are five ways a Bend vacation will help you get healthier in 2018.

 

Get up and get moving!

Nearly everyone I know has vowed to incorporate more exercise into their routine. You can hit the gym at home, but when you’re in Bend, your fitness routine comes with mountain views.

Dig out those hiking boots and hit the trails. You’ll find plenty of ideas here, or nab one of the awesome guidebooks we sell in the Bend Visitor Center.

Want to try mountain biking? Cog Wild offers a huge variety of tours, including outings for newbies trying the sport for the first time. Bonus: They hook you up with the necessary gear and shuttle service. Double bonus: They’re savvy about trail conditions and etiquette, so they’ll keep you from committing a major faux pas like trashing a soggy trail and ruining it for others for the season.

There are a zillion other active pursuits you can try in Bend, from skiing to kayaking to pickleball. To get your brain percolating, peruse www.visitbend.com for ideas.

And speaking of your brain…

 

Tend your spiritual or mental health

More and more people are focusing on spiritual and mental health as a form of self-care in the New Year. If that’s your jam, you’ll find plenty of possibilities in Bend.

Yoga and meditation take on a whole new dimension in Bend.

Bend Community Healing has offerings that include yoga, acupuncture, meditation classes, and Qigong. They even host special events and workshops that make the perfect weekend getaway for visitors.

Bend Zendo and Bend Zen both offer regularly scheduled sitting meditation (zazen), classes, discussion groups, workshops, and more.

You can also scope out the schedule at Wren and Wild for special events like their upcoming Noah Levine Kind Awareness Meditation Weekend Feb. 9-11.

If you’re looking for something that caters to a different faith or denomination, you’ll find a huge array of churches, synagogues, and other places of worship right here.

Want to improve your relationship or your communication skills in the coming year? Check out the calendar of couples’ workshops and classes here.

For more health-focused events and workshops happening in Bend in the coming year, peruse Visit Bend’s Event Calendar for ideas.

 

Grab tasty (and healthy!) grub

“Eat healthier” is something I see on nearly every New Year’s resolution list, but not everyone agrees on what that means.

Everything at Next-Level Burger is plant-based, so you can still enjoy a juicy burger even if you’ve sworn off meat in the New Year.

Looking to go vegan in 2018? Here’s a roundup of awesome vegan and vegetarian dishes in Bend that even diehard carnivores will adore.

If you’re curious about gluten-free dining in Bend, we’ve also rounded up some of the best gluten-free dishes worth trying in Bend (even if you aren’t gluten-free!)

And hey, if you’re trying to do the opposite and add more meat to your meals (what? High-protein dining is a thing), check out this post on Bend’s best burgers.

 

Don’t derail your Dry January plans

If your holidays included a few too many adult beverages, don’t feel bad.

The tasty virgin Blueberry Mojito at Brickhouse will keep you on track with your Dry January plans.

Plenty of folks are on the Dry January bandwagon, and just because you’re visiting the home of the Bend Ale Trail and Drinkable Diversions doesn’t mean you must imbibe.

Bend is home to more than half-a-dozen kombucha brewers, and you’ll find tons of variety on local store shelves and in growler fill stations around town (the one at Food 4 Less is my personal fave).

Check out this blog post featuring a huge array of mocktails and booze-free beverages in Bend and we promise you won’t go thirsty. You might even decide this teetotaling thing is worth extending all year long.

Toting reusable beverage containers is one of many ways to keep Mother Nature healthy and happy.

 

Keep Mother Nature healthy, too!

If your new healthy initiative extends to the world around, you how about working to keep Mother Nature in great shape this year?

Hook yourself up with reusable water bottles and coffee mugs from Hydro Flask and Drink Tanks to help keep disposable cups out of the landfill.

When you’re packing for a hike, tuck a small trash bag in your pocket. Not only does that make it easier to pack out your own garbage, but you can pick up small bits of litter along the trail, thereby leaving the place nicer than you found it.

For more ideas on how to help Bend stay healthy and beautiful in the coming year, check out our Visit Like a Local page and consider taking The Bend Pledge (which comes with the added bonus of giving you a shot at winning a killer Bend vacation).

4 unique ways to renew and refresh in Bend this year

January 4th, 2018

2018 is officially here, and there’s a lot of chatter about rebirth, renewal, rejuvenation, and probably a bunch of other “re” words I’m forgetting.

In case you’re looking to hit refresh (hey, there’s another!) at the start of a new year, here are 4 unique experiences in Bend that can help.

 

Float away your worries

At Float Central in Bend, you can let all your cares float away while you do the same.

Floating is a wellness and healing technique that allows a person to be free from gravity and external stimulation in a relaxing environment. You slip into a tank that’s roughly four feet wide and seven feet long and filled with water that’s heated to skin temperature. Basically, you lose track of where your body ends and the water begins.

Neat, right?

The idea is to let your mind slow down and your body achieve the ultimate relaxation. Since the tanks are soundproof and your ears are below the waterline, noise from the outside doesn’t reach you (though there’s no shame if you’re a wee bit claustrophobic and want to leave the door open).

The water is saturated with Epsom salts at a level that relieves your body from gravity, so you don’t exert any effort to stay afloat. Since your body isn’t fighting gravity or listening to chattering voices and the pinging of cell phones, your brain can spend its energy pumping out dopamine and endorphins while the rest of your body gets to rest, de-stress, and heal by lowering cortisol levels. Think of it as the ultimate meditation!

You can do a one-time float, but multiple floats over the course of several days, weeks, or months is the ideal way to get maximum benefits. Visit their website for pricing and info.

 

Commune with the stars

Some folks feel a strong connection with astral bodies and the heavens above, and if that’s your jam, you’ll find plenty of ways to reset your celestial clock in Bend.

 

Let Wanderlust Tours take you out to commune with the stars.

Wanderlust Tours lets you combine outdoor adventure with a chance to be dazzled by the night sky. In the wintertime, book one of their Moonlight or Starlight Snowshoe Tours, or their ever-popular Bonfire on the Snow snowshoe tours for the chance to revel in glittery fields of snow underfoot and glittery blankets of stars overhead. All gear, transportation, and snacks are provided, plus a knowledgeable naturalist guide.

In the summer months, they’ll take you out on one of the high Cascade Lakes with an epic Starlight or Moonlight Canoe Tour (the difference being the phase of the moon, of course). Your naturalist guide will point out constellations and planets, and pack your brain full of awesome information about everything from trees to animals to the geology of Central Oregon.

If you prefer your stargazing to be a bit more indoorsy (perhaps with a beer in hand?) check out the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing. Brewery guests climb a spiral staircase or take the elevator to the third floor of the Hopservatory to witness one of the best views in Bend, with a stunning panorama from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood.

Tours take you inside the 17-foot rotating Ash dome to view planets, galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, the moon, and the sun through their 16″ reflecting telescope. Visit their website for tour schedules and information.

For other stargazing options around Central Oregon, check out the Pine Mountain Observatory (located 26 miles southeast of Bend) or the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center (about 19 miles southwest of Bend).

 

Seek solitude on a hike

For me personally, there’s no better way to re-center myself than a hike in Central Oregon’s great outdoors.

Blogger Tawna’s favorite place to get re-centered, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

Sometimes I crave the silence and solitude of a desert landscape like the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. Other times I want the power and splash of a waterfall. On other occasions, I’m looking to reconnect with family on a kid-friendly hike.

Whatever floats your boat, check out Visit Bend’s hiking page for lots of ideas. You can also snag a good hiking guide book in our Bend Visitor Center.

Make sure you incorporate Leave No Trace practices (like picking up litter and staying on the trail) when you’re out there hiking. You’ll find ideas on how to do that on our Visit Like a Local page. Speaking of which…

 

Pledge to leave Bend better than you found it

The New Year is all about vowing to do better for many of us, and one way to do that is by taking The Bend Pledge.

The idea is simple: Everyone who spends time in Bend is invited to vow they’ll abide by a set of values that Bend lovers hold near and dear. Things like kindness and courtesy, safety and respect. Everyone who takes the Bend pledge will be entered to win a Bend vacation that includes three nights of lodging, meals, and activities for the entire Bend stay.

Go here right now and take The Bend Pledge and start your New Year off on a positive note!

Make a Bend New Year’s resolution and win a vacation!

December 28th, 2017

Ready to take The Bend Pledge?

We’re days away from the start of 2018, which means most of us are trotting out our New Year’s resolutions.

Eat healthier. Exercise more. Watch less television. You know the drill.

But how about resolving to leave Bend, Oregon better than you found it? That’s the idea behind The Bend Pledge, which Visit Bend launched a couple months ago as part of the Visit Like a Local campaign.

Win a Hydro Flask + for $10 Thump Coffee!

The idea is simple: Everyone who spends time in Bend is invited to vow they’ll abide by a set of values that Bend lovers hold near and dear. We’re talking about things like staying on trails and picking up your litter, not solemnly pledging to fight your enemies with a hand-forged sword (in case that crossed your mind. No? Just me? Carry on).

Everyone who takes the Bend pledge will be entered to win a Bend vacation that includes three nights of lodging, meals, and activities for the entire Bend stay.

But how about we throw in a little something extra just for readers of this blog? Say, a 16-ounce reusable Hydro Flask coffee mug (your choice of colors!) plus a $10 gift certificate to Thump Coffee so you can fill that bad boy with a tasty beverage or two.

Step one:  Go here right now and take The Bend Pledge.

Done? Pat yourself on the back! You’re now entered to win that Bend vacation I mentioned (plus you’re an all-around awesome person, so yay, you!)

Don’t forget your reusable water bottle when hiking in Bend!

Step two: Now, share it with your friends. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Tweet about taking The Bend Pledge using hashtag #BendPledge and tagging @VisitBendOR. Include this handy link so your friends can take the pledge, too: http://bit.ly/2pO1vr7
  • Share your Bend Pledge enthusiasm on Instagram using the #BendPledge hashtag and tagging @VisitBend. Be sure to include the link, too! http://bit.ly/2pO1vr7
  • Post on your Facebook page about how jazzed you are about taking the #BendPledge. Include the hashtag in your post so we see it, and be sure to share the link so your friends can take the pledge: http://bit.ly/2pO1vr7
  • Share this blog post on any of the aforementioned social media channels using the #BendPledge hashtag.

For each of those things, you’ll get one entry in the giveaway for the Hydro Flask and Thump card. That’s in addition to being entered in the vacation giveaway, so you’ve got some pretty good chances to win.

Step three: Comment on this post to let us know which things you did.

We’ll draw a winner on Thursday, January 4. Good luck to all of you, and have a very happy New Year!

 

What to know for winter break 2017 in Bend!

December 21st, 2017

Bend is one of the most amazing places on earth to spend winter break, no matter which holiday you’re celebrating these last couple weeks of December. Heck, you don’t even need to celebrate a holiday—there are festivities galore for people from all walks of life.

Scoping out visitbend.com is a great place to start if you’re looking for things to do, and don’t forget to consult our Event Calendar for special happenings around the holidays.

For those planning to be in Bend for December’s final days, here’s what you need to know!

10Below is one of several Bend restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

What’s to eat?

First things first: Food! The holidays are all about the grub for many of us, and you won’t go hungry in Bend.

Lots of Bend vacation rentals come with fully equipped kitchens that allow you to prepare the main meal in style. You’ll find a handy list of grocery stores on our website if you need to stock up on ingredients.

If you’re planning to eat out on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, check out this list of restaurants open for the holidays. You’ll find plenty of options to pick from! Reservations are recommended at many of them, since spaces can fill fast.

 

Oh, holy night

Like to commemorate the holiday with a visit to a church, synagogue, or other place of worship? Go here to find listings for holy places representing a variety of denominations and faiths.

 

Beyond the ho ho ho

Christmas isn’t the only game in town this time of year, and several local businesses are acknowledging Winter Solstice and other noteworthy holidays.

Celebrate Solstice with a twirl on the ice at The Pavilion.

On Dec. 21, The Brown Owl is hosting A Festivus for the Rest of Us (inspired by the Seinfeld-created holiday). They’re teaming up with Monkless Belgian Ales to throw a Festivus extravaganza featuring meatloaf, a Festivus pole, airing of grievances, feats of strength, and Monkless Brewing’s new “Friars Festivus” Belgian Quad.

Also on Dec. 21, Wren and Wild is hosting a Winter Solstice and Mala Gathering Party from 7-9 p.m. For $40, participants will enjoy a special evening of celebration, mantras, ceremony, and making a mala necklace or bracelet (a strand of beads traditionally used for counting during meditations). Chai tea and snacks will be provided.

On Dec. 22, The Pavilion ice rink is holding a Winter Solstice Celebration. The whole family can enjoy a joyful evening of ice skating, treats, and twinkling lights. There’s even a special performance by the Bend Ice Figure Skating Club. Cost is $6 a person, including skate rental, when you bring a canned food donation to benefit NeighborImpact’s Food Bank.

 

Road closures and openings

It’s old news that the gate to the Cascade Lakes Highway and the road up Pilot Butte both closed to vehicles in October, but there are a couple more recent closures you should be aware of.

Tumalo Falls is a great place to be, even when snow requires a little extra hiking to get there.

The gate to Tumalo Falls (Forest Road 4603) closed Dec. 20 to vehicles. If you had your heart set on seeing the falls, you can still hike or snowshoe to it. Just avoid parking on the road so you don’t block traffic for residents beyond the hairpin turn at the gate

An unusual closure worth noting is Santiam Pass from MP 55-81 (that section near Detroit/Idanha). A tragic tanker truck crash on Dec. 15 near milepost 63 damaged the road so severely that it remains closed as of this writing (Dec. 21). If that’s the path you’d normally take from the valley to Bend, consult ODOT’s TripCheck site for updates on road conditions and alternate routes.

 

Get some giddyup!

Got a horse fanatic in your party? There’s an interesting abundance of horse-themed events happening this year, you’ll want to mark at least one of these on your calendar.

The Old Mill District is offering free carriage rides (courtesy of Cowboy Carriage) Dec. 23 and 24, so it’s a great excuse to get your last-minute shopping done down there.

Carriage rides in the Old Mill District are a fond tradition in Bend.

If you’re venturing a bit farther afield, Black Butte Ranch also has horse-drawn carriage rides Dec. 23-24 and again Dec. 26-Jan. 1. The cost is $12 a person, and you’ll find more info here.

Another fun horsey option is Santa on the Ranch Day Camp at Rhinestone Ranch on Dec. 23 for kids 4 and up. $65 gets your kiddos some horseback riding, hay rides, Christmas crafts, and a visit with Santa (including photo!) It’s a great chance for mom and dad to get some shopping done while the young’uns get their horse fix.


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