Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
In recent years, gift giving trends have swung from gifting “objects” to gifting “experiences,” which is pretty awesome in my book. Giftwrapping is easier, not to mention there’s less uncertainty about whether a gift is wanted or where the recipient will store more stuff.
Luckily, Bend is packed full of amazing experiences that fit perfectly under a Christmas tree. Here are 32 fabulous experience-themed gifts for 2017.
- An adventure with Wanderlust Tours. Let your recipient choose his or her own adventure with Wanderlust Tours. Offerings include snowshoe outings, cave tours, canoeing adventures, and more. A naturalist guide will provide all the gear and transportation, plus oodles of cool education about Bend’s ecology and geography.
- A gift certificate for a hotel stay in Bend. Whether your loved one favors luxury resorts, budget-friendly motels, cozy bed and breakfasts, upscale hotels, or vacation homes for rent, you’ll find tons of options to pick from in Bend. Check out our Bend lodging page for ideas!
- Get out and play at Sun Mountain Fun Center. My kiddos (ages 12 and 16) love the go-karts and bumper cars when the weather’s warmer, but you can keep it super cheap and just stuff a $5 Sun Mountain Fun Center gift card in each kid’s stocking. That’ll earn everyone a few video games and an entertaining diversion if you need something indoorsy for an hour or so.
- The promise of summer fun with Sun Country Tours. Plan ahead for a summertime whitewater rafting adventure with the whole family, or let your loved one use the Sun Country Tours gift card to rent float tubes or a standup paddleboard when the weather turns warm.
- Old Mill gift certificates and Downtown Dollars. Can’t decide what your loved one needs, but you want to make sure you’re supporting local Bend businesses? Grab a fistful of gift certificates for the Old Mill District or Downtown Bend. You can buy them in $10 or $25 increments, and they’re good at nearly any store, restaurant, gallery, or theater in that shopping district. Can you say stocking stuffer?
- Let them choose their own wine. This is something I gift to my father for every birthday, and he never stops loving it. Pick one of Bend’s fabulous wine retailers like Good Drop Wine Shoppe, The Wine Shop and Beer Tasting Bar, Elixir Wine Group, Bend Wine Cellar, SIP Wine Bar, Portello Winecafe, RHC Selections, Bend Wine Cellar, Va Piano Tasting Room, or Naked Winery Tasting Room, and give the oenophile in your family a chance to pick his or her own wine. (Bonus: If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll share!)
- The gift of relaxation. From facials to massages to pedicures to wraps, Bend’s day spas offer the full gamut of luxury spa treatments. Know someone who could use a little pampering? Check out our spa page for ideas on where to send your sweetie for a little R&R.
- Who wants to fly an airplane? For my stepson’s 14th birthday, we bought a discovery flight from Professional Air. For just $69, the kid got a mini lesson on takeoff, landing, and controlling the aircraft. Then he got to fly the plane. Let me repeat that. MY 14-YEAR-OLD-STEPSON FLEW AN AIRPLANE BEFORE HE COULD LEGALLY DRIVE A CAR. Suffice it to say, this ended up being one of the highlights of his young life so far.
- The chance to jump off a bridge. Continuing our daredevil theme, my stepson got to enjoy the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America on his 15th He declared his leap from the historic Crooked River Bridge one of the coolest things he’s ever done. Buy gift cards for the daredevil in your life through Central Oregon Bungee Adventures.
- A biking adventure with Cog Wild. One handy thing about a Cog Wild gift certificate is that the gift recipient can use it almost any time of year. Pick from their array of mountain bike tours during the warmer months, or when there’s snow on the ground, try one of their popular fat bike tours.
- Bachelor gift certificates. You can buy Mt. Bachelor gift cards in any amount over $5, which gives your favorite snow bunny the freedom to choose from gear, lessons, lift tickets, and more. They can be purchased online, over the phone, or in person in the Gravity Sports Shop.
- Rev someone’s engine with a snowmobile outing. Know someone who craves a wintertime adrenaline rush? Central Oregon Adventures, Inc. offers two- and four-hour snowmobile tours leaving from Wanoga Sno-Park. They also rent snowmobiles, and will drop you at the location of your choice.
- Date night at a Bend restaurant. This is one of my favorite gifts to get. I love dining out, but it can be tough to justify the expense sometimes. Bend has an amazing array of restaurants to pick from, so snoop around to figure out the gift recipient’s favorite (or better yet, choose something special you know the person wouldn’t splurge on otherwise).
- A gift certificate for a sled dog ride. Now THIS is a bucket list item! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a dogsled ride with Oregon Trail of Dreams at Mt. Bachelor. The company is operated by Rachael Scdoris, the first legally-blind competitor to run the Iditarod, so these folks know what they’re doing. Stick around afterward and help feed and water the dogs.
- A NW Forest Pass, State Park Pass, or Sno Park Pass. These handy permits are a necessary part of recreating in some of our most scenic spots, and they come with the added bonus of helping to maintain these wilderness areas. Choose from day passes, multi-day passes, or annual passes. We sell them all right here in the Bend Visitor Center.
- The chance to learn a new skill. Give your loved one a new skill he or she can use for years to come. Bend’s DIY Cave offers a variety of unique classes from welding to jewelry-making to woodworking to painting. Prices are super-reasonable, and there are even options for kids and parents to try together.
- A trip with Bend Jeep Tours. Is there someone in your life who’d enjoy the ultimate off-road adventure deep in the Deschutes National Forest? Guests will discover ancient lava flows, waterfalls, and a top-of-the-world view of the majestic Cascade Mountains. Go here to learn more.
- An all-terrain adventure with Outriders NW. Similar to the jeep tours above, but in a crazy-cool all-terrain vehicle that lets you explore towering Cascade Mountains, historic volcanic monuments, and the unique high desert environment. Good for families, groups, or individuals. You can learn more here.
- Wine and painting. You’ve seen the trend, and it’s available in Bend from a couple different companies. Participants swill vino while learning to paint a cool scene. No experience is necessary, and both Art & Wine Oh My and Splash Wine Paint Create offer gift certificates.
- Tickets to an event at The Tower Theatre. Got a loved one who loves live performances in a cool, artsy venue? Check the schedule at Bend’s historic Tower Theatre and snap up some fab seats at an upcoming event. If you’re not sure whether to choose tickets for a musical performance, a film, or a theater event, just opt for a Tower Theatre gift card and let your loved one do the choosing.
- A gift certificate for Vector Volcano. Children of the ‘80s and ‘90s will fall in love with this quirky Downtown arcade packed with vintage video games. Vector Volcano is family-friendly, but they also serve local craft beer. Admission gets you unlimited game play for the time period you pick, with no quarters or tokens required.
- Passes to the High Desert Museum. A favorite among families, the High Desert Museum is chock full of natural history exhibits and the coolest desert-dwelling animals you’ll find anywhere. I could spend hours just watching the otters, and with an annual family membership, your loved ones will be able to do just that! Visit their website to learn more about passes and membership.
- Get loopy with Central Oregon Aerial Arts. Got an aspiring circus performer in the family? Gift the family acrobat with a certificate for Central Oregon Aerial Arts. They offer professional aerial silks acrobatics classes with specially-trained instructors and oodles of safety precautions in place.
- An adventure with The Bend Tour Company. Not sure if your loved one would prefer to scoot around town on a Segway, pedal the Cycle Pub, or cruise in a bus on the Art Safari tour? Pick up a gift card from The Bend Tour Company and let the recipient make the choice.
- Membership to the Deschutes County Historical Society. The history buff in your life will love having a membership that lets him or her scope out the Deschutes Historical Museum as many times as possible over the course of a year. Individual memberships start at just $20 for the year, so visit them online to learn more.
- Passes to Mountain Air Trampoline Park. Mountain Air Trampoline Park is the primo spot in Bend to get the wiggles out (both for kids and grownups!) They have 26 trampolines surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway, dodgeball, basketball, and a giant airbag that’s fun to leap onto from above.
- Bowling for the whole family. Bowling is the ultimate family activity for all ages, and Bend is lucky enough to have two great spots for it. Grab a gift certificate for Lava Lanes or Sun Mountain Fun Center and tuck that bad boy in your pal’s favorite bowling shoes.
- Get someone teed off. Central Oregon is home to more than two dozen golf courses, including several ranked among Golf Digest’s top courses. Pick one that piques your interest and snag a gift card for the golf fan in your life.
- Let your family “escape” together. Another great indoorsy Bend activity, Bend Escape Room and Red Button Escapes are fun, immersive, interactive game experiences for the whole family. Your group is locked in a room and given the clues to escape. There are a variety of themes and challenges, and the whole experience makes for a fun team building or family activity for 2-6 people.
- A chance to try aerial yoga. Got a yogini in your family who’s looking to take things to the next level? Get him or her a gift certificate for Wren and Wild. Aerial yoga is a strengthening practice using sturdy silks suspended from the ceiling. They offer private classes, group workshops, and even special sessions like mother/daughter aerial yoga.
- A flight with Airborne Outback Adventures. Here’s another high-octane outing for the adrenaline junkies on your list. Airborne Outback Adventures offers scenic flights and aerial tours using powered hang gliders, ultralite trikes, and more. It’s the ultimate way to see sights like Smith Rock State Park and the Cascade Peaks.
- A Brew-It-Yourself session at Immersion Brewing. Got a craft beer fanatic in the family who’d like to try his or her hand at brewing a special batch of suds? Immersion Brewing offers Brew-It-Yourself workshops with a professional brewer. The session includes all ingredients, bottles, caps, custom labels, and approximately five gallons of your very own craft beer.
This week marks 20 years since I moved to Bend.
I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up in Salem, but childhood summers were spent frolicking in sagebrush-speckled canyons near my grandparents’ Central Oregon horse ranch. Even as a kid, I knew I’d move to Bend.
More than four decades have passed since my youthful summers of catching lizards and wading in irrigation canals, and two decades have gone by since I got my childhood wish and moved here. In the time I’ve lived in Bend, the population has grown from 32,620 in 1997 to 91,122 today.
A surge like that comes with plenty of change.
But there are tons of things about Bend that I love as much now as I did as a kid and as a wide-eyed, perpetually-broke 23-year-old. Here are ten of them.
What’s that smell?
From the time I was little, I was entranced by Central Oregon’s smells. Pine needles in the sun, juniper in the rain, the peaty scents of grassy lake shores—all of it seemed magical to me, and still does. It’s the reason I roll down my car window every time I return home after a long trip.
Hiking Pilot Butte
Bend is one of just a handful of cities in the U.S. with dormant volcano in the city limits.
Pilot Butte State Park isn’t just for admiring, either. You can hike it or drive it, and snap photos from its base or its summit. It’s one of the best places to get 360-degree views of the city, and a great way to orient yourself if you’re new to town. I never tire of hoofing it to the top and admiring the views.
Those first few snow days of winter
I’m not saying I don’t mutter curses in late-March when snow is still falling hard and I’m sick of shoveling my driveway. But those first few snow days of the season in Bend? Magical. Always. Every time.
Summer. Everything single thing about summer.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia of so many childhood summers spent here, or maybe it’s just that summers in Bend really are amazing. From hiking to biking to standup paddleboarding to rafting, there’s an endless supply of activities in Bend’s warmer months. While some folks don’t love the desert heat in mid-summer, I live for it. I bask in it. I could bottle it up and eat it for breakfast every single morning.
The dog-friendliest city
One of my first acts upon moving to Bend 20 years ago was adopting a dog from the Humane Society of Central Oregon.
Sadly, she passed away years ago, but I’ve continued having dogs in my life (and continued adopting them from rescue organizations) because Bend is best explored with a furry friend. My dog goes with me on hikes and on my paddleboard, and joins me on restaurant patios for meals. She’s even allowed to browse with me at many retail shops around town.
Arts and culture and music, oh my!
When I moved to Bend in 1997, I went gaga over all the great live music. There was Munch and Music (going strong for 27 years!) and a surprising lineup of talent performing at the Athletic Club of Bend. Those venues are still just as awesome, but Bend has added lots more options for live music.
There’s the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the renovated Tower Theatre, not to mention breweries along the Bend Ale Trail that frequently offer live music. Bend’s music scene has only gotten better over the years, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to blossom.
Twenty years ago, locals liked to boast that Bend had the most restaurants per capita in the United States. I never knew if it was true, but it did seem like Bend had an extraordinarily high number of awesome places to dine for a town this size. The foodie scene has only improved over the years, with tons of award-winning chefs flocking to town and oodles of added options like gluten-free dining and vegan dining.
One of my favorite parts of this job is entertaining journalists writing about Bend’s foodie scene. They always leave with bellies full and minds blown by how amazing the food is in our little desert mountain town.
Ease of cruising
I catch flak when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: Traffic in Bend is pretty awesome. I know, I know . . . there are times it takes longer than we’d like to get up to Mt. Bachelor over Christmas break, and certainly you’ll run into some traffic snarls on peak summer afternoons. But compare Bend’s traffic to what you’ll experience in larger cities like Portland or Seattle and it’s a breeze. I can make it from one end of town to the other in 15-20 minutes most days, which I absolutely love when I’m running late for work. Not that this ever happens.
Discovering new places
I think this is my single favorite thing about Bend: there is always, always someplace new to explore. Getting your hands on a great Bend guide book is enough to convince anyone of that, or simply asking around about people’s favorite hikes. Every season, I discover some new place to hike or SUP or snowshoe, proving there’s magic around every corner for those who make time for new adventures.
If you want to find the pulse of a small town, look for its diners. Those little slices of Americana where you can belly-up to the counter and order a hearty breakfast with hot coffee poured by a smiling waitress who knows half the patrons on a first-name basis.
There’s much debate about the difference between “diners” and “cafés” and “restaurants” and whether the terms are interchangeable or defined by operating hours, cuisine, regional preferences, or something else.
I define them by “something else.” It’s the unmistakable homey vibe that leaves you feeling like you’ve just stumbled into the cozy living room of any given city. That’s a “diner” to me, and here are my four favorites in Bend.
A Bend landmark since 1987, Jake’s Diner is one of Bend’s most recognizable and beloved diners. Those of us who’ve been in town a couple decades remember when it was out on south 3rd Street, and those who love it cheerfully followed when they moved to their Eastside location in 2005.
Since I fit into both categories, I visit Jake’s regularly and always feel like I’m showing up to a family reunion even when I don’t know a soul in the place.
The walls are lined with historical memorabilia and classic diner décor, while the menu is filled with hearty fare that will stick to your ribs on cold winter days.
You’ll see all the usual diner offerings like waffles and omelets, but it’s the extra touches that make Jake’s special. For instance, you’ll find menu items named for longtime Bend locals (The Central Oregon Classic is dubbed “Bob Shotwell’s favorite,” and features four large scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and sour cream, along with bacon, sausage, or kielbasa.) Jake’s is also well-known in the community for charitable work and community service.
Order a classic like the eggs benedict or the chicken fried steak and you’ll find they’re not only generous with the portions, but with hefty ladles of hollandaise or gravy. And whatever you order, make sure to add a side of their famous cheddar bacon cheese grits.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a fridge in your Bend hotel or vacation rental, score! The hearty portions at Jake’s ensures you’ll have leftovers, and I have it on good authority (mine) that their chow makes for excellent midnight snacking (especially those cheese grits!)
Black Bear Diner
I know there are Black Bear Diner locations all over the Northwest, but there’s something about Bend’s Black Bear Diner that makes it seem like a one-of-a-kind treat.
Maybe it’s the unique bear-themed décor peppered around the inside and outside of the building. Maybe it’s the contagious friendliness of the servers, or the fact that they always go the extra mile to refill your coffee, coordinate a special order, or answer questions about the menu items.
Or maybe none of that matters because the food is so tasty and hearty and that’s what counts.
Black Bear Diner is a family favorite when the kids are with us, since there’s something on the menu to thrill every palate. From their unique cinnamon roll French toast, to the scrumptious chicken apple sausage with eggs and a side of home-fried potatoes, everyone gets exactly what they’re craving when they come here.
They even offer a section of the menu filled with lighter fare for those counting calories or wanting something that’s not quite so heavy.
Check out their awesome on-site gift shop on your way out for a set of bear paw slippers or boxer shorts. You can even grab a pie to take home!
Here’s where I confess that I considered omitting Sargent’s Café, not because their name technically says “café,” instead of “diner,” but because I want to keep this quiet treasure all to myself.
But Sargent’s is too good not to share, and despite the name, it really does offer the quintessential diner experience. You’ll spy a lineup of longtime locals at the counter bar from breakfast through lunch, and one look at the menu tells you this place is a Bend landmark with a finger on the pulse of the community.
There’s the Lava Bear special (a hat-tip to the Bend High mascot) which is meatloaf and a fried egg on an English muffin, smothered with sausage gravy and hash browns.
Or choose the Cougar Special (named for Mountain View High’s mascot) featuring ground beef, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and Swiss cheese, all scrambled together with eggs and topped with sour cream and a side of hash browns. The last time I ordered it, I swapped out the mushrooms for green pepper and then spent the rest of the day telling my husband, “My tummy feels so happy.” I think he wanted to stuff me in the trunk after an hour.
But it would be worth it because the food is seriously sooooo tasty and comforting.
Bonus for Sargent’s: Their prices are by far the lowest on this list, so it makes a great stop for those pinching pennies or looking to feed a large family.
This is another longtime Bend staple that’s technically a café, but offers such a classic diner experience that it’s impossible not to include them on the list.
Palmer’s Café has been a Bend landmark for more than 30 years, and stepping inside this Midtown rambler leaves you feeling like you’ve just walked into grandma’s living room.
The portions are huge and hearty, and the menu offers enough variety to make this a diner stop that will pass muster with even the snobbiest foodie palate. They’re most famous for unique dishes like their blueberry banana nut French toast or lunchtime favorites like Harry’s Homemade Potato Salad.
But for me, it’s all about the eggs benedict. There’s nothing fancy about it, but everything’s in perfect proportion—the large English muffin, the thick ham, the well-poached eggs, and the exact right amount of hollandaise. Just enough hollandaise, in fact, to leave a little extra for dipping their housemade potatoes, which are super swoon-worthy. They’re like an odd hybrid of potato chunks smooshed and fried like hash browns, and I often find myself enjoying them as much as the main meal.
While wait times can sometimes be longer at this locals’ hotspot, they make up for it by offering a big carafe of coffee for customers waiting around for tables. It’s a great way to hang out and chat with Bend locals about what they like to see and do in Bend.
If your Thanksgiving fantasies involve a delicious mix of skiing and mountain biking, blended up with some of the best shopping and dining around, you’re in for a treat during your Bend Thanksgiving vacation.
Wondering what’s happening Thanksgiving week in Bend? Gobs of stuff! Here’s what’s in store for everyone who plans to be in Bend, Oregon for Thanksgiving 2017.
Gobble up some good grub
First things first. Let’s talk about where you want to have your main meal on November 23 this year.
For some, the thought of preparing your own feast in the kitchen of your Bend vacation rental has the homey sorta vibe you’re craving. If that’s the case, go here to scope out a variety of vacation homes and condos with ovens waiting to welcome that big, juicy bird.
If you’d rather leave the cooking to someone else, you have plenty of options to pick from. Check out this list for a roundup of restaurants ready to make your holiday meal extra special. The Thanksgiving buffet at McMenamins Old St. Francis is one of the most popular offerings in town, with mealtimes offered from noon to 6 p.m. Reservations are required, and the roundup of food will include fresh-carved turkey, fireside port cranberry relish, roasted pork loin with Edgefield cider jus, poached salmon, tortellini salad, garlic green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey gravy, along with a wide array of fresh fruit, salads, and desserts.
Other hotspots include 10 Below, Awbrey Glen Golf Club Restaurant, Black Butte Ranch, Brasada Ranch, Currents at the Riverhouse, Pronghorn Resort, Pine Tavern, Tetherow, Jackalope Grill, Sunriver Resort, Suttle Lake Lodge, Phoenix Restaurant, and oodles more. Be sure to check the list for a complete roundup of options!
Not in the mood to eat in a restaurant, but still don’t want to do the cooking? Not a problem! 10 Below, Bowtie Catering, Bistro 28, Tate & Tate, and Country Catering all offer meals for pickup (though depending on when you read this post, it may be too late to book for Turkey Day 2017). But now’s a good time to book for Christmas, or to start thinking ahead to next Thanksgiving.
Burn off those Turkey Day calories
Feeling guilty about that sixth helping of mashed potatoes? Never fear, Central Oregon has a variety of Thanksgiving-themed runs and walks to help burn off those extra calories.
The I Like Pie Thanksgiving day walk/run kicks off at 9 a.m. in Bend. There will be a timed 5k and 10k run, along with an untimed 5k, 10k, and 1-mile run. The race starts and finishes on Powerhouse Drive adjacent to the Century Plaza of the Old Mill District.
If you feel like trying something new, head a few miles north to Redmond where they’re holding their own Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. This is an inaugural 5k and 10k event that will cruise along the Radlands trail in Redmond, offering views of Smith Rock. Participants can enter to win lift tickets for Hoodoo Resort.
The day after Thanksgiving, the annual Turkey Trot is taking place at 10 a.m. in Sunriver. This is an annual 5k fun run/walk with proceeds supporting the Neighborhood Impact program. Costumes are encouraged, with a prize for the most decked-out individuals.
To learn more about these races or other running events in Bend, check out our Event Calendar.
Who’s ready to ski?
Ski and snowboard fans got two early chances to carve some turns at Mt. Bachelor when they opened the weekend of September 23 and again the weekend of November 18.
Weather permitting, the plan is for the mountain to open again on Friday, November 24, and to stay open for the duration of the season.
Shop ‘til you drop
For those who favor indoorsy pursuits over outdoorsy ones (or for those who simply love a good bargain), don’t miss the Black Friday shopping deals around town.
Bend’s Old Mill District features stores like Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Zumiez, Hello Sunshine, and more. Check out their Black Friday Specials page for info on who’s opening at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and other more sane hours.
Fans of outlet shopping will want to check out the Bend Factory Stores for big bargains. Shops include spots like the Coach Factory Outlet, Nike Outlet, Eddie Bauer, Columbia Outlet, and much more.
For deals at places like Best Buy and Cost Plus World Market, head north to the Cascade Village Shopping Center. And if big-box stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and T.J.Maxx are on your agenda, be sure to hit the Bend River Promenade in the middle of town. While you’re on the north end of town, pop into Pomegranate Home & Garden, a locally-owned shop in a historic farm house, for some really unique gifts.
To help you spread things out a bit, many shops in Downtown Bend are participating in Small Business Saturday Passport Event. Check out their page for details about shops and specials, including deals at great local boutiques like Hot Box Betty, Local Joe, and Clementine Urban Mercantile. You’ll also have a chance to win prizes valued at up to $2,000.
Before we’ve even stashed the Thanksgiving leftovers, a lot of us are gearing up for the next major holiday. If you want to get a jump on Christmas, check out the Old Mill District’s Holiday Happenings page for a roundup of what’s going down. Santa will arrive via helicopter around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, November 24, to begin his tour of duty at Santaland. There will also be oodles of other Christmassy offerings like free carriage rides, carolers, kids’ activities, and more. Go here to see what’s in the lineup.
Downtown Bend is another festive place to be, with bright strings of lights and decorations adorning streets and shops. The annual Christmas Tree Lighting is slated for December 1 this year, so don’t miss that if you’re planning to stick around. The live tree is located at the top of Drake Park near Mirror Pond Plaza, and guests get to sing carols and watch Santa light the tree. Festivities get underway at 6 p.m., but you’d be smart to arrive at least half an hour before that to find a spot.
Hang around one more day for the annual Bend Christmas Parade kicking off at noon on Saturday, December 2 in Downtown Bend.
Only in Bend
Yes, I acknowledge there are Black Friday sales and Christmas tree lightings happening in most towns around America this time of year. While I encourage you to enjoy those activities, here are a few only-in-Bend things to add to your holiday agenda:
- Snowshoe with Wanderlust Tours. Let the naturalist guides at Wanderlust lead you into the wilderness to traipse through pristine fields of pillowy snow. Tours include all gear and transportation, not to mention snacks and warm drinks. They offer daytime or starlight outings, and kids are welcome, too.
- Visit the High Desert Museum. Bend’s popular High Desert Museum offers fascinating exhibits, cool animals, and tons of opportunities to learn more about the culture and history of the high desert. Check out their website to learn more about the schedule of special events and exhibits at the museum.
- Special programs at the Tower Theatre. Even if they weren’t having any shows at all, Bend’s historic Tower Theatre would be worth checking out just for the beauty of it. But during Thanksgiving week, you’ll have the chance to see the popular holiday film Christmas Vacation on the big screen. The show starts at 7 p.m. on November 24, and you can get tickets here. You can also catch special performances of The Nutcracker and A Charlie Brown Christmas later in the week, so check the schedule for times and ticket info.
On September 23, Mt. Bachelor became the first ski area in North America to offer skiing and snowboarding in advance of the 2017-18 winter season when an early storm dumped more than a foot of snow.
Though that was only for a weekend, they followed it up this week by announcing for the first time in ten years that they’ll open the weekend before Thanksgiving. November 18 is the big day, guys!
It’s fabulous news for snow fans, and Mt. Bachelor is sweetening the deal with some awesome sales happening right now.
But Mt. Bachelor isn’t the only Bend entity enjoying noteworthy “firsts” this winter. Here are three more worth having on your radar for winter 2017-18.
Riley Ranch Nature Reserve becomes Bend’s first bike-free, dog-free park
But for recreation enthusiasts seeking a quieter, more wildlife-filled park experience, the opening of Riley Ranch Nature Reserve in December is an exciting event.
Riley Ranch is a 184-acre nature reserve featuring 35 acres of canyon floor and a 30-acre band of rimrock cliffs on the northwest edge of Bend. This mostly rugged terrain is a near-to-home nature experience unlike others provided by Bend Park and Recreation District. From its unique location adjacent to the Deschutes River, Riley Ranch Nature Reserve offers dramatic views of the Cascade Mountain Range and the river canyon.
The park’s size and location, coupled with a lack of dogs and bikes, means you’re much more likely to get close-up views of wildlife you may not see in Bend’s other parks. It should be an awesome spot for hiking and trail running, so put it on your calendar to visit this winter.
The High Desert Museum shows off their Pacific Lamprey
Ever seen a Pacific Lamprey?
Probably not, unless you’ve visited the High Desert Museum recently. That’s because they’re the first museum in Oregon to partner with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation to have the Pacific Lamprey on exhibit.
Lamprey have a rich cultural history with the tribal groups of the Columbia Plateau, but the fish have lost much of their native habitat. They’re bizarre looking creatures, but vitally important to High Desert river ecosystems and have a fascinating biology and natural history. Visiting the High Desert Museum right now is your chance to get a close look at this unique animal.
If that’s not a cool enough achievement for you, the High Desert Museum also has a Western Screech Owl named William who is believed to be the oldest living screech owl in captivity. The previous record is 13 years, but William’s history with the High Desert Museum goes back to 1997 when he arrived as an adult after being hit by a car. He’s retired from being on exhibit now, but you can feel happy knowing he’s there enjoying his golden years while you’re busy scoping out the Lamprey.
Bend’s first car returns to the Deschutes Historical Museum
Here’s one for the history buffs: This December, the first car that ever came to Bend will go back on display after spending time on the road for the county centennial.
The car is a 1907 Holsman, and following a tune-up, it will reappear at the Deschutes Historical Museum so you can get a close look at it.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the announcement of when the car goes back on display. To learn more about the background of Bend’s first car, check out this awesome video.
Ugh. I’m not ready for winter.
Here’s where I confess I sometimes fall in the second camp. I love Bend summers, and since I’m not a skier, I occasionally find I’m less-than-thrilled about winter’s arrival.
But then I take a step back and remind myself of all the awesome reasons that Bend winters ROCK—even for non-skiers. Here are six of them.
Find fun ways to stay warm
We’re accustomed to chilly weather in Bend, so we have oodles of creative ways to get warm.
If snuggling by a fireplace is your idea of fun, you’ll find dozens of fire pits scattered all over town, including an awesome collection of them around the Old Mill District. At Crux Fermentation Project, you can cozy up by the fire and enjoy a belly-warming pint and a Grilled Cheesy sandwich. Check out this blog post for more ideas on where to find fire pits around Bend.
If soaking your bones sounds like a good way to beat the chill, McMenamins Old St. Francis School 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. You’ll also find that plenty of Bend hotels and vacation homes have on-site hot tubs.
To warm yourself from the inside out, pick up some spiced rum from Oregon Spirit Distillers to mix with hot cider, or try blending Bendistillery’s Hazelnut Espresso Vodka with some warm cocoa and a dollop of whipped cream.
For more clever ways to stay warm in Bend, check out this blog post.
Get great deals on lodging and activities
For budget-conscious travelers, Bend’s chillier months are the best time to score a screamin’ deal on Bend lodging. Shoulder season in particular (October through early-December, and January through April) is when you’ll find Bend hotels and vacation homes at rock bottom prices.
And don’t forget to check our Deals and Discounts page for special packages that can include things like extra nights or free lift tickets.
Rediscover the thrill of snow days
Remember when you were a kid and you spent winter evenings glued to the TV, watching for news that school was cancelled the next day? Few things were more thrilling than a snow day, and you can recapture that magic in Bend.
Grab your toboggan and hit the sledding hill. Gather the family for a snowball fight at one of Bend’s nearby Sno-Parks. Get creative by building snowmen together or flopping on your back to make a snow angel.
Take a twirl around the ice at The Pavillion, Central Oregon’s only full NHL-sized ice sheet. It’s fully-covered and protected on the sides by translucent panels to reduce wind and sun exposure while maintaining an open air feel
After your cold-weather playtime, reward yourself with a hot cup of cocoa (or a grownup alternative like coffee from one of Bend’s awesome coffeehouses or tea shops).
Adrenaline rush optional
I’ve heard more than one ski skeptic explain an aversion to winter recreation as disinterest in daredevilry. But there are tons of winter sports that require no adrenaline rush at all.
If skiing holds some appeal but you’d like to keep things mellow, check out the Nordic trails near Bend for a slower-paced version of skiing. Try your hand at snowshoeing, which is really just hiking with tennis racquets strapped to your feet (er, more or less).
Have someone hold your hand
If snowshoeing piques your interest but you’re nervous about traipsing out into the wilderness alone, a guided outing is a great option.
Book a snowshoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours and leave the gear, the planning, the driving, and the decision-making to someone else. Best of all, their naturalist guides will give you some awesome insights about our forests, the creatures in them, local history, and more.
Not so sure about snow? Wanderlust also does cave tours all year long!
But if you do want to learn to ski or snowboard…
If “I’m not a skier” is your perpetual reason for digging your heels in about a winter vacation, how about changing that?
Mt. Bachelor’s Ski or Ride in 5℠ is an award-winning lesson program designed for those “never-evers” who have not had previous experiences trying to learn to ski or snowboard.
It’s a five-lesson program with instruction by one of Mt. Bachelor’s hand-picked instructors based on their communication skills and overall success rate of coaching beginners. Included with each lesson is a ski or snowboard rental and daily lift ticket.
It’s a great—and surprisingly inexpensive—way to find out if you might be a skier or boarder after all.
At the Bend Visitor Center, we not only let people draw on the walls—we encourage it!
Once a year, Visit Bend chooses a local artist to create unique chalk drawings on the cement pillars in the Visitor Center lobby. The artist also has his or her framed work displayed and sold in the Visitor Center for the duration of his or her show. It’s part of the Pillars of Art program, which was created to introduce tourists to Bend’s unique arts and culture scene, and to support emerging local artists.
The newest Pillars of Art creator is Sweet Pea Cole. She’s a graduate of the University of Wyoming, and has lived in Bend for almost two decades. For her 2017-2018 Pillars of Art installment, she created an array of colorful, whimsical illustrations of people, birds, pets, bicycles, and other scenes sure to put a smile on your face.
You can see Sweet Pea’s work at the Bend Visitor Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also check her out at www.sweetpeacole.com
We caught up with Sweet Pea recently and asked a few questions about her art, her life, and everything in between. Here’s what she shared with us:
Visit Bend: Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in Bend?
Sweet Pea: I grew up in Laramie, Wyoming. After mousing around the Pacific Northwest (Missoula, Montana; Seattle, Washington; Corvallis, Oregon) my husband and I landed in Bend in 1999. We were looking to return to big mountains and escape the rain of the west side of the Cascades. We thought that meant returning to the Rockies, but friends kept encouraging us to consider Bend. Upon arrival, we found sun and mountains and wonderful people, but were stunned by the lack of culture. Even to this girl from Wyoming, Bend seemed like a cultural desert. It’s been wonderful to see that aspect change.
Visit Bend: Tell us about your artistic training.
Sweet Pea: I’m self-taught, and I’ve been drawing and painting and creating my whole life. As I kid, I was always making things. I’d get an idea and I’d work at it until I found a way to make it a reality. I’m intensely DIY (do it yourself), but I also love reaching out to other artists for ideas and inspiration.
Visit Bend: How would you describe your artistic style?
Sweet Pea: My work is characterized by hand drawn lines, slightly shaken and smooth. There is an intended quirk to my work—a celebration of the slightly flawed reality that exists everywhere and for everyone.
Visit Bend: What’s your favorite medium?
Sweet Pea: Currently, my work is dominated by printmaking—specifically screen printing. But my favorite medium is whatever it takes to create the idea that is in my mind. That may be fabric or paper or wood.
Visit Bend: Who are your artistic influences?
Sweet Pea: Wes Anderson. Patti Smith. My contemporaries in the handmade/maker made realm. Street artists. It is an ever expanding list….
Visit Bend: What do you like best about living in Bend, and how does it influence your artistic style?
Sweet Pea: I love my community; the kind, energetic, creative, adventurous souls who I am lucky to call friends. Their generous spirits are at the core of so many of my ideas. Of course, I love the mountains… they are more requirement for my mental health than an influence on my work.
Visit Bend: What do you enjoy doing in Bend when you’re not creating art?
Sweet Pea: Skiing is my all-time favorite thing to do, ever. When I can’t do that, friends are visited, bikes are ridden, hikes are taken, camps are set up, etc. Also, a considerable amount of coffee is consumed.
Visit Bend: What’s your impression of the Bend art scene, and how do you think the Pillars of Art program fits with that?
Sweet Pea: As I mentioned before, the art scene in Bend has come a long way in the time I have enjoyed living here, though I think it is still in its infancy. I truly believe the work Visit Bend is doing to promote cultural appreciation and tourism is so important. Programs like Pillars of Art, Tin Pan Alley, and Tenth Month are vital for artists living in Bend because they draw attention to the city’s creative side.
There are many artists here, but it’s very challenging to sell art in Bend. In the past, you’ve had to take it somewhere else. People don’t come to Bend for the art. They come for mountains and rivers and all the outdoor activities. But by bringing awareness to Bend’s art scene, Visit Bend has positioned it as another great thing for tourists to see and do. They can come here to mountain bike, but also spend an evening checking out galleries or admiring the Pillars of Art at the Bend Visitor Center.
One great thing about Pillars of Art is that it doesn’t dictate what the art is going to be. Visitors get to walk in and see real artwork, rather than a crafted commercial piece.
Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean you should surrender the idea of experiencing Bend with the fun, carefree spirit of your youth. Here are 6 ways you can enjoy being a kid again on a Bend vacation.
Do the leaf pile pounce
Right now, Bend’s parks are teaming with glorious, multi-hued leaf piles just begging for you to leap right in.
Indulge yourself. Heck, bring your own rake so you can pile them up into a towering leaf mountain. Take a running jump and pounce on that pile like the goofball you are.
Then rake and repeat until your face hurts from giggling.
Go sledding, wage snowball battles, or build snowmen
We’re teetering on the brink between fall and winter, which means snow is starting to pile up near Mt. Bachelor.
It doesn’t take much searching to find an open field of snow where you can mold a few snowballs to toss at pals, or flop down on your back to make an old-fashioned snow angel.
If you’re feeling artsy, pack a carrot and a spare scarf and build yourself a snowman.
Once Mt. Bachelor opens for the season, you can enjoy an old-fashioned sledding experience (minus the need to lug your inner tube uphill) in their Snowblast Tubing Park. If you’d rather go it alone with your saucer sled or Flexible Flyer, check out this blog post for ideas on where to do some sledding in Bend.
Get your game on
Remember the thrill of visiting a video arcade with a pocketful of quarters and a steadfast determination to get the top score on Pac Man? You can recapture that experience—minus the quarters, but add in a beer—at Vector Volcano. It’s a vintage video arcade that charges a low flat fee for unlimited play.
If you want more than just video games, visit Sun Mountain Fun Center. They not only offer a wide array of arcade options, but also bumper cars, Go-Karts, mini golf, bowling, and more. The pizza here is surprisingly awesome, and your arcade play earns you tickets to cash in for prizes.
Sometimes, kids just need to burn off some energy. The same holds true for adults, and there’s no shame in venturing to an indoor arena like Mountain Air Trampoline Park for the chance to bounce around like a freakin’ lunatic.
The main court has 26 trampolines and is surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway. Mountain Air even offers basketball and dodgeball, along with a giant airbag that’s crazy fun to leap onto from above.
Note to grownup ladies: Pack a sports bra for this one. You’ll thank me later.
Check out critters at High Desert Museum
The first time I visited the High Desert Museum in 1984, I was nine years old and they had only been open a couple years. I remember running around the 135-acre grounds checking out chipmunks and learning about birds of prey. It was the most fun I had all year.
Not much has changed.
Well, the museum itself has, with tons more exhibits and animals (including a newly-renovated otter exhibit and a brand new juvenile otter who just joined the existing two on display).
Even without my kids in tow, I love visiting the museum for the raptor show, the porcupine demo, or just to check out the latest exhibits. It’s fun for all ages, and consistently ranked by TripAdvisor as the top Central Oregon attraction.
Play with your food
When you were a kid, you heard the refrain over and over: “Don’t play with your food!”
But you did it anyway, because it was freakin’ fun.
While it’s not socially acceptable to waltz into Jackalope Grill and have a mashed potato fight, there are plenty of foods you can eat with your hands and have it be totally cool.
Pizza is a great pick for grub you can grab with both hands. My current fave is the pizza menu at 10 Barrel, which also boasts an impressive beer menu with recommended pairings for each pie. For a full list of Bend pizza spots, go here.
There’s snow in the mountains, frost on the grass, and predictions of a harsh winter slated to hit Bend for the 2017-2018 season.
In other words, it’s time to put away the kayak and start preparing for snowball fights, bluebird ski days, and slippery sidewalks. Here are 6 things you should start rounding up right now.
A good pair of gloves
Make that ten pairs of gloves, if you’re like me and have the tendency to misplace a pair or two. Or six.
Even if you’re not scatterbrained, it’s a good idea to have multiple pairs of gloves for other reasons. Days filled with snowshoeing, sledding, and snowball battles require thick, waterproof gloves or mittens that can protect your hands from the elements.
But when you’re just walking from your car to a restaurant or strolling Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District for a bit of shopping, it’s handier to have a thinner pair of driving gloves. Bonus points for the kind with the specially-designed fingertips that allow you to use a touchscreen phone (which makes for handy picture-taking in chilly conditions).
And I’ll be honest—I keep a stash of cheap, stretchy Dollar Store gloves in my purse at all times for unexpected glove-mergencies or to loan to pals or offspring who forget theirs.
A vessel to keep your beverages warm
I have three million Silipint cups and matching beverage lids, and this is how I drink my on-the-go tea about ninety percent of the time. They’re inexpensive, unbreakable, and keep my beverages at just the right temperature.
But when I need a hot drink at a kids’ soccer game, snowshoe adventure, or other outing that requires prolonged exposure to cold temps (not to mention leak-proof carrying) I turn to my Hydro Flask insulated mug. This bad boy keeps my hot drinks so hot that I’ve occasionally burned my tongue when sipping too fast.
But they’re perfect for cold winter conditions when you really need your drink to stay toasty. We sell them in a wide variety of sizes and colors at the Bend Visitor Center.
Your Mt. Bachelor pass
Want to save money on your Mt. Bachelor lift tickets or lessons? Plan ahead and buy in advance.
Their website is chock full of pre-sale info, package deals, and other info you’d never know about if you just showed up at the ticket window and plunked down your credit card.
Now is an especially good idea to scope out the schedule and discover dates for specific promotions that can help you save money.
You’ll also find a number of bargains on Visit Bend’s “Hot Deals” page, which frequently features package deals that include lodging and lift tickets. Cheapskates unite!
There is a time and a place for super-cute stilettos with shiny red soles. That time and that place are not Bend, Oregon in the winter.
No matter how diligent Bend retailers and City of Bend personnel are about keeping roads plowed and sidewalks de-iced, there will always be slick patches of ground lurking in the shade to yank your legs right out from under you.
Be smart with your footwear when you’re visiting Bend in the wintertime and invest in a good pair of rubber-soled flats or boots. Can’t find any in your hometown? No problem! You’ll discover lots of great Bend shopping options, and a new pair of winter boots would make a great Bend souvenir.
And if you really want to be cautious, grab a set of Yak Trax to give you extra traction on super-icy days.
Extra phone charging capability
Raise your hand if you deplete your phone’s battery about fifty times faster when you’re on vacation.
I’m raising mine, which makes it tough to type.
It’s not tough, however, to get your hands on an inexpensive, portable phone charger you can tuck in a purse or backpack during your Bend travels. That’s a great way to ensure you don’t run out of juice right when you want to snap a photo of Tumalo Falls or catch some video of your sweetie swooshing down the slopes at Mt. Bachelor.
For tips on where to shoot some of the quintessential Bend images everyone likes to snag, check out this post.
Advance reservations for…well, everything
Plenty of Bend winter days fall into the category of “shoulder season,” which is a slower time of year when you can score some killer deals on lodging and activities.
But there are lots of random dates you might not realize can fill up crazy-super-fast during Bend’s chillier seasons. Regions that have year-round school have holiday breaks at unusual times, which means Bend might see a sudden surge in visitors during odd weeks in November or February.
And it goes without saying the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can book up months (or even years) in advance.
If you’re planning a winter vacation, it pays to make early reservations for things like Bend lodging, guided tours, and even restaurants. That way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your Bend vacation without scrambling for any of the essentials.
While beer fans can tackle the legendary Bend Ale Trail any month of the year, there’s something extra special about doing it in November.
Make that several somethings. November is Bend Ale Trail Month, and 2017 marks the fourth time we’ve enjoyed this month-long celebration of Bend’s craft beer scene.
What’s all the fuss about? Read on to learn what’s awesome about planning your Bend beerventure in November 2017.
What’s this about a trophy?
You can hit the Bend Ale Trail all year long and earn prizes for gathering passport stamps at the breweries. December through October, you earn a Silipint pint glass for racking up 10 passport stamps, and an additional bottle opener for hitting all 16.
But in November, that all changes. Yeah, you still get the Silipint and the bottle opener for accomplishing the aforementioned feat, but guess what else you get?
A freakin’ trophy, that’s what!
To earn it, just bring your completed Bend Ale Trail passport to the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava Ave. and Oregon Ave. between November 1 and November 30. Ten passport stamps get you the trophy AND the Silipint, or hit all 16 to earn the bottle opener, too.
Oh, and just because you have a trophy from a previous season doesn’t mean you don’t want this one. We’ve released a brand new (and in my opinion, even cooler) trophy this year, so it’s a great chance to add to your collection.
Can I score more free stuff?
While the trophies are clearly the top prize during Bend Ale Trail Month, there’s plenty more schwag to go around in November.
The breweries are extra generous with prizes for Bend Ale Trail month, filling our conference room with all manner of goodies for us to give away. Hats, shirts, stickers, gift cards, Hydro Flasks, Silipints, and so much more can be yours with just a few taps of your phone screen.
Just snap a pic of your beerventure and share it on Instagram using the hashtag #bendaletrailmonth. We’ll randomly select winners to receive schwag throughout the month. Easy peasy!
What else can I win?
What, the trophy and the schwag aren’t enough for you?
Okay, how about a free Bend vacation!
Everyone who brings a completed Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Bend Visitor Center and completes a quick survey (you’ve gotta do both!) will be entered to win a Bend beercation that includes two nights of lodging at Wall Street Suites, gift certificates for two awesome adventures with Wanderlust Tours, and a Brew it Yourself beermaking session at Immersion Brewing.
Er, what if I can’t drink all that beer?
If you want to spend your Bend Ale Trail adventure sipping your way through creamy porters and hoppy IPAs, rock on with your bad self.
But you’re not required to drink a single drop of beer. You do have to show up in person at each brewery to get your passport stamped, of course. But eating, drinking, or buying anything at all is optional. This is good news for teetotalers and designated drivers.
And while kids under 21 aren’t allowed to participate in the Bend Ale Trail program, they’ll find plenty of non-alcoholic selections along the trail. My personal fave: The root beer and ginger beer brewed up fresh at Deschutes Brewery.
If you’re a fan of adult beverages but just not beer, flip your Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Drinkable Diversions page. That’s where you’ll find a roundup of awesome distilleries, cideries, wineries, and kombucha brewers who’d be happy to hook you up with locally-made craft beverages of a different sort.
What else do I need to know?
If you do plan to swill beer during your Bend Ale Trail journey, it’s important to be smart about consumption. A few quick tips:
Eat a hearty meal before you set out, and plan to nosh at a couple breweries along the way.
- Take frequent water breaks. Tote your own Hydro Flask, or ask your server to set you up with a big glass of ice water.
- Opt for smaller schooners instead of full pints of beer, or stick with samples.
- Share a taster tray with a pack of friends so everyone can try a wide variety of beer without overindulging.
- Don’t try to hit all the breweries in one weekend. Take it nice and slow!
- Make a plan before you set out, including how many breweries you plan to hit and how you’ll get safely back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.
And speaking of being responsible…
Don’t even think of drinking and driving. Seriously.
There are gazillion ways to travel between breweries without risking a DUI or someone’s life. Here are just a few of them:
- Walk. Especially if the weather’s nice. It’s a great way to see Bend.
- Arrange a shuttle, a pedicab, or even a Segway outing with The Bend Tour Company.
- Book a half-day tour with The Bend Brew Bus.
- Hit the trail on a horse-drawn carriage with Cowboy Carriage Company.
- Pedal a bicycle made for 14 with The Cycle Pub of Bend.
- Head out with in a 1980s-style trolley with The Bend Trolley.
- Travel the trail in style with a limo from JD’s Car Service.
- Call a cab.
- Download the app for Uber or Lyft and hitch a ride with one of countless local drivers now serving these rideshare programs.
I’m kinda worried about those beer calories…
Planning to visit Bend for Bend Ale Trail month, but fretting about your belt getting too tight? Never fear! Sign up for the Bend Ale Run on November 11 and fit in a little cardio with your fellow beer-lovers.
There’s a half-marathon and a 10k, plus an option to pedal the course for cyclists. You can even opt to walk it with a generous 5-hour time slot for completion.
To learn more and to register, go here.
Is there an app for that?
Not in the mood to pack the Bend Ale Trail atlas with you everywhere you go? No problem!
Save trees and keep everything tucked neatly in your pocket when you check in at all your stops using the handy Bend Ale Trail app.
It’s free to download for iPhone and Android devices, and you can gather virtual stamps right there in the app (not to mention plotting your route, reading up on each brewery, and finding a place to stay). Download the app here.