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7 things your mom secretly wants in Bend

May 10th, 2018

Today we’re going to talk about 7 things your mom secretly wants you to do for her in Bend.

By “your mom” I might mean “me.”

And by “you” I might mean “my family.”

Get Mom’s car spiffed up at Empire Car Wash while you buy her a growler fill at Gorilla Growlers.

But since it’s almost Mother’s Day Weekend 2018, I figure this list might hold true for lots of other moms spending time in Bend for the holiday or any old time of the year. Here are 7 things your mom might secretly want.

 

Wash my car

My car is filthy after a long winter, but I keep putting off washing it because it’s just going to rain, right? But it pains me to look at my filth-mobile, and your mom isn’t loving hers, either.

If you’ve arrived for your Bend vacation and Mom’s ride is looking dusty after that long drive, make her smile by spiffing it up at one of Bend’s car washes.

Bonus: Gorilla Growlers is right next to Empire Car wash on the NE end of Bend, so you can get Mom’s car looking spiffy and also bring her a gallon of her favorite craft brew.

Win/win!

A hike with the whole family is a fun way to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Take me hiking

I can think of few bonding experiences that rival the family hike. Waterfalls are a special treat for my family, but the biggest thrill is just experiencing something new together.

Stop by the Bend Visitor Center to pick up a hiking guide and give it to Mom with flags on pages featuring hikes you think she’ll like. You can also peruse this blog post for ideas on family-friendly hiking around Central Oregon.

 

Mom deserves a spa treatment, doesn’t she?

Hook me up with a spa treatment

There are things most moms hesitate to buy for themselves because there’s always some pressing home repair or equipment to purchase for a sport we know the kids will lose interest in by the time the next season rolls around.

Treat Mom to the thing she won’t buy for herself. It can be a simple $25 pedicure, or a whole day of body treatments like a wrap and a full body massage. Check out our spa page for ideas, then snag a gift card for your mom and write a heartfelt card telling her why she deserves it.

 

Make me something

The self-portrait (complete with handmade frame) that my stepdaughter made for me when she was seven. The hand-crocheted necklace my stepson gave me when he was ten. These are among my favorite treasures, and I guarantee you every mom in your life has a similar collection.

There’s nothing quite as meaningful as a handmade gift from the people Mom loves most. From hand-painted pottery to jewelry you’ve made yourself, there are tons of do-it-yourself gifts you can create just for mom. Check out this blog post on 10 DIY experiences in Bend for ideas.

 

Give the gift of music

Bend’s music scene is on par with cities more than twice its size, and plenty of top bands choose Bend as their lone Oregon stop over bigger towns like Portland and Eugene. Why not give Mom tickets to a concert you can enjoy together?

Your mom called. She said she wants tickets to see a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

The Les Schwab Amphitheater has a killer lineup for this summer season, with more shows than they’ve ever had in the history of the venue. You can also scope out the schedule for the Tower Theatre or concerts through Bend Chamber Music.

Don’t have much to spend? Give Mom a handmade IOU for a date to one of the season’s free Munch and Music concerts and a promise to pack a picnic basket with all her favorite things.

 

Make the dinner decision

Not every family operates under stereotypical gender roles, and if you’re a family where Dad does most of the cooking, rock on with your awesome selves.

Kids making their own dinner at Flatbread? Sign Mom up for that!

But statistically speaking, moms still do more of the grocery shopping, food prep, and cooking in American households, so why not give her a break from that? In fact, give her a break from all decision-making related to dinner by surprising her with a visit to a Bend restaurant.

Take her to Flatbread where the kids can assemble their own pizzas while the parents enjoy a glass of wine and some appetizers. If you’re feeling fancy, many high-end Bend restaurants like 900 Wall and Zydeco have awesome kids’ menus. For more adventurous eaters, hit the sushi train at Sora Sushi and let everyone pluck their faves off the conveyor belt.

Many breweries along the Bend Ale Trail are also pretty kid-friendly, with Bend Brewing Company and Deschutes Brewery offering some of my favorite kids’ menus (not to mention awesome sample trays).

 

Don’t worry, dog moms—we’ve got you covered

Plenty of moms have kids who walk on four legs and lick their backsides, and some of them are even dogs.

Dog moms need gifts, too!

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the dog mom in your life. Stop by Bendy Dog in Downtown Bend and snag a special gift for the pooch-loving lady in your life. They carry handmade wooden signs and etched metal leash hooks that say “dog mom,” and both are made by local artists. They also have totes that say “dogs can change the way you see the world,” as well as car magnets bearing the “dog mom” moniker.

After that, consult the DogPac page for ideas on great hiking spots for dogs, or visit one of Bend’s eight off-leash dog parks.

You’ll also find many Bend restaurants have dog-friendly outdoor patios, so dog moms can enjoy a special meal with waggy-tailed kids.

 

5 things to do before winter vanishes in Bend

May 2nd, 2018

It’s officially been spring for more than a month now, but those of us in Bend know the new season is seldom ushered in by a fanfare of flowers and warm weather.

Our little high desert mountain town sees winter temps well into May, and most of us don’t put away our snow shovels until late in the month.

Blue skies are par for the course when it comes to spring skiing in Bend.

That said, fans of winter are running out of time to seize the final moments of wintertime fun in Bend. Here are 5 things you should jump on while you still can.

 

Carve those final turns

While a lot of other ski resorts are winding down for the season, Mt. Bachelor still has plenty of season ahead of it. Bend’s beloved ski hill has one of the longest ski seasons in the nation, lasting all the way through Memorial Weekend.

Their popular Springtacular Season Pass is a great way to score springtime skiing at a killer discount, and a good way to access the coveted springtime corn snow local skiers crave.

Last chance to make that snowman (or snowwoman) before spring takes your tools away.

 

One last snowball fight, one final snowman

So maybe you’re not into any sort of outdoor winter sport. Maybe you don’t even like snow all that much.

*quietly raises hand*

But the fact is that you’re not going to see the white stuff for a few months, so you may as well bid it farewell. Why not choose a nostalgic form of childhood snow play as a way to usher out the last of winter?

Stage a snowball fight with the kids. Build a snowman (or snowwoman) with your buddies. Lie down on a field of rapidly dwindling snow and make snow angels with your sweetie.

Higher-elevation spots like Dutchman Flat and areas around Mt. Bachelor are most likely to hold onto their snowfall later than the others, so head there first to savor the last bits of winter.

 

Soak up the last of winter by freezing your butt off

Hey, I get it—some people like the cold.

Some folks would argue this is the best time of year for camping around Bend.

If you’re one of them, now is the perfect time to squeeze in a camping trip. Temps are still dipping low enough at night that you’ll get nice and shivery (though not miserably so—spring camping is delightful with the right equipment).

Bonus: Camping is ideal this time of year because campgrounds aren’t packed the way they’ll be at the height of summer. The first-come-first-served system works beautifully in spring and you won’t have to contend with the reservation system that starts around Memorial Weekend.

Privacy, solitude, a cozy fire, sleeping bag snuggles….aren’t these the reasons we camp in the first place?

 

The best of winter brews and menus

In chillier months, many Bend restaurants build their menus around comfort foods designed to warm your belly. Meatloaf, pot roast, stews, and other heartier fare are popular main dishes, with seasonal produce like root veggies rounding out the offerings.

Many restaurants pare down their offerings of hearty cuisine in spring and summer, so now’s the time to load up on wintery meals.

That starts to change in spring and summer when lighter cuisine is more in fashion, and farm-fresh seasonal produce is at the top of everyone’s menu. If you’re a fan of heavier dishes, now’s a good time to make some hearty dining memories.

The same holds true for Bend’s beer scene. While seasonal porters and stouts are more popular in chilly months, spring and summer bring menus packed with pilsners, lagers, and my personal fave, the gose. If you have a taste for the heavier stuff, hit the Bend Ale Trail now to swill those last sips.

 

Have the road to yourself

Many of Central Oregon’s popular roadways close to vehicular traffic in the winter, making them the sole domain of foot-powered traffic like hikers, snowshoers, and skiers.

It won’t be long before the Cascade Lakes Highway is open to vehicles for the season.

But many of them have already started to re-open to cars, including the road up Pilot Butte and the road to Tumalo Falls. If you’re looking for one last hurrah on roadways not open to motorized vehicles, here are a few dates to keep in mind:

  • May 14, 2018 is the tentative open date for both the Cascade Lakes Highway and Paulina Lake Road.
  • Lava Lands Visitor Center, Lava Butte, and Lava River Cave all open May 3, 2018, but they’ll be operating on limited hours until May 24 (in other words, it’s a good window of time to enjoy some solitude out there).
  • The road to Newberry National Volcanic Monument’s Newberry Caldera is tentatively set to open to motorized vehicles the weekend of May 12.
  • The McKenzie Highway (OR 242) typically opens to motorized vehicles the third Monday in June, so cyclists often seize the opportunity to have the roadway to themselves before that.

Keep in mind that hiking or biking on muddy trails is super uncool, and can damage the trails for the rest of the season. For more info on that, check out our Visit Like a Local page.

 

 

Show your feet (and the rest of you) a fun time in Bend

April 26th, 2018

Have your feet been abused this winter?

This blog post is for your feet.

Since it’s possible your feet aren’t literate, you may need to read it to them.

Ahem.

Dear feet,

It’s been a long winter, hasn’t it? You’ve been crammed into ski boots, subjected to frantic, icy sprints down the driveway on trash pickup mornings, and otherwise neglected for about six months.

But your season is coming, don’t worry. Here are some things you can look forward to in the coming months if you (and the rest of your human) plan to be in Bend.

 

Pedicures

Whether you belong to someone of the male or female persuasion, now’s a good time to get gussied up for all those sandals and flip-flops you’ll be wearing. This is showtime, so you want to look your best.

Bend’s pedicure options range from budget-friendly walk-in places like Happy Nails and Pretty Nails, to more upscale spots like Urban Beauty Bar and Jinsei Spa.

Blogger Tawna (center) enjoys a pedicure at MK Nails with stepdaughter Violet, and cousin Laura.

Some even have guy-friendly specials like the Jack Black Men’s Pedicure/Manicure at Spa W or the Ale-ing Foot Remedy (complete with crushed barley and hops foot scrub) at Anjou Spa.

Bend even boasts a unique “foot sanctuary” created to holistically restore your health through signature foot soaks, therapeutic foot massages, rejuvenating aromatherapy, and more. Sole Foot Bar offers a wide array of treatment options, so check their website for details (er, that’s assuming feet can go online…you may need help with this one).

 

Let’s talk footwear

I know you love boots. They keep you warm and toasty in the winter, and their generous coverage means you can let yourself go during Bend’s chillier months.

But all that’s about to change, and there are upsides to it.

For starters, Bend boasts gobs of amazing shopping centers where you can find the season’s hottest sandals, peep-toes, flip-flops, and other warm weather footwear. Stroll through quirky boutiques, national chain stores, factory outlets, outdoor malls, and one-of-a-kind local shops to find the perfect summer shoes to showcase your best assets.

If you’re planning time on the river, make sure you have footwear that stays strapped to your feet instead of floating away.

But it’s not just about style, guys.

Finding the right footwear for your summer activities is crucial. For instance, you might be tempted to wear flip-flops to float the river, since they’re cool and casual and easy to slip on and off.

But that’s the very thing that makes them the worst possible choice, because all it takes is a muddy riverbed or a swirling current to suck that bad boy right off your sole. Not only will it litter up our beautiful river system, but it’ll put you at risk of burned soles and tootsies when you’re forced to hoof it back to your car on sweltering pavement. A better option? Sturdier water sandals like Keens, Chacos, or Tevas that have straps to keep them from floating away. Convince your human to buy you a pair and you’ll be golden.

If you’re up for tackling Bend’s tougher trails and higher elevations, make sure you’re outfitted in sturdy hiking boots designed to support and protect you. Countless hikers have ended up with stubbed toes or cuts and scrapes from lava rock because they failed to shod themselves with the best footwear.

Make sure your human looks out for your best interests, K?

 

Get permanently prettified

Let’s talk about ink for a moment, shall we?

Tattoos are so common these days that it’s rare to meet someone without one, and ankles and feet are some of the trendiest spots to get them. If you’re already considering some ink, getting tattooed on your Bend vacation can be a cool way to bring home a permanent souvenir of your trip.

Kailah Bartolome at Monolith Tattoo did this awesome foot tat. If you’re planning a tattoo session for your feet or other body part in Bend, make sure you book well in advance (and plan your aquatic activities wisely).

A couple things to keep in mind: Many of Bend’s most popular tattoo artists can book up six months to a year in advance. No joke. Yes, you can occasionally score a walk-in spot, but wouldn’t you rather plan ahead for something that’ll be permanently inked on your body?

Second, a fresh tattoo is technically an open wound, and you can seriously mess it up if you soak it in water before it’s properly healed. In other words, you’ll need to skip wading in the river, swimming in lakes, or swishing in the hotel pool if you opt to get inked early in your vacation.

Plan ahead for your tattoo and book an appointment at the tail end of your Bend vacation.

 

Special pleasures just for feet

My feet have several favorite activities in Bend, and nearly all of them are concentrated during the warmer months.

The annual grape stomp at Maragas Winery is a unique treat for your feet (and the rest of you).

While you can’t go traipsing barefoot into the concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, you’re free to kick your shoes off once you’re there. Nothing rivals the pleasure of twirling barefoot in the grass to your favorite tunes, so scope out the schedule and get ready to dance.

Another summer pleasure is the squish of warm mud between your toes. You can find it in nearly any High Cascade Lake or on the banks of the Deschutes River, so take some time to savor this small joy when you play in the water in Bend.

Want a truly unique feet treat? Maragas Winery just north of Bend holds a grape stomp every fall, and kids and grownups alike have a chance to stomp barefoot through buckets of grapes. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and a chance for some fancy footwork, followed by the rest of the body enjoying live music, tasty food, and great wine. Watch their website for details and dates.

 

 

10 fun DIY experiences for do-it-yourselfers in Bend

April 19th, 2018

While some go on vacation to escape a lengthy to-do list, hardcore DIYers get twitchy without a task.

Even if you’re not a serious do-it-yourselfer, there’s something rewarding about devoting a bit of vacation time to creating something. Bonus: You go home with a new skill, a special souvenir, or both.

For those who crave the DIY experience, here are 10 options to try in Bend.

Immersion Brewing offers BIY (Brew-it-Yourself) sessions for beer fans who want to make their own special batch of craft suds.

Brew your own batch of beer

Beer fanatics who’ve dreamed of crafting their own unique brew under the guidance of a professional brewer can make their dreams come true at Immersion Brewing. Their BIY (that’s Brew-It-Yourself) sessions last two hours and offer more than 30 recipes to choose from.

Prices range from $180-$220, depending on the recipe, but that includes all ingredients, bottles, caps, and custom labels, and about five gallons of your very own craft beer. This makes an awesome activity for friends or corporate groups.

 

Paint some pottery

This is a fun one to do with kids. Earth Fire Art on NE Revere Ave. offers a fun array of ceramic items including mugs, vases, salad bowls, and more. Just walk in, pick your pottery, and get busy creating your own unique design. There are tons of items to pick from, and prices start at just $10.

When you’re done, they’ll apply a non-toxic clear glaze and fire it in their kiln. The process can take 7-10 days, so this is a good activity to slot in early on your Bend vacation.

 

Make something tasty to fill your belly

Want to hone your culinary skills or learn something specific like how to make the perfect Father’s Day dinner or ways to cook with beer?

The Kindred Creative Kitchen offers cooking classes for lots of different ages and skill levels. There are kids’ cooking classes, couples’ workshops, youth camps, and even special cooking courses like ladies’ chocolate night or men’s cooking class.

Check out their schedule for their current lineup of classes, and prepare to have your tummy say thank you.

 

Welding and woodworking and jewelry, oh my!

Bend’s DIY Cave offers a variety of unique classes from welding to jewelry-making to woodworking to auto repair to candle-making.

Their schedule of classes changes constantly, so there’s always something new popping up. Prices are super-reasonable, and there are even options for kids and parents to try together.

 

Get the kiddos in on the cooking action

Looking for a family-friendly dining option that gets the kiddos in on the DIY game? Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria will dish your young’uns up with dough, sauce, cheese, and the toppings they need to make the perfect personal pizza.

Let the kids enjoy some DIY time making their own pizzas at Flatbread.

While mom and dad sip wine and enjoy fresh salads and appetizers, the kids can watch their pizzas cook up in the big wood-fired ovens.

 

Fun times with yarn

Want to pick up a new hobby or hone your skills for an existing one? Try your hand at knitting or crocheting with one of the classes offered at Fancywork Yarn Shop.

They offer workshops for all skill levels, including free learn to knit classes as well as more advanced offerings devoted to specific projects like shawls and socks. They also offer a 10% discount on all materials purchased for classes.

 

Make jewelry, write a poem, paint with coffee

A micro-model for global sustainability, The Workhouse offers a platform for local artists to connect with each other and with conscientious buyers. Aside from the retail gallery and on-site studios, they offer events and educational programming for everyone.

Classes range from writing to figure drawing to jewelry making to painting with coffee or beer (yes, really!) Register online early to get dibs on limited spaces.

Painting with coffee is one of countless classes you’ll find at Workhouse.

 

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.

 

Tie your own flies for fishing

This one’s only offered January through March, but mark it on your calendar now so you’re ready for next year’s fly fishing season.

Confluence Fly Shop in the Old Mill District offers fly tying classes that teach you to do everything from putting thread on the hook to creating a finished fly that’s practically guaranteed to snag a fat steelhead. Classes can fill quickly, so be sure to reserve ahead.

 

January through March, you can learn to tie your own flies at Confluence.

Community learning through COCC

Central Oregon Community College offers a huge array of community learning classes, including automotive, gardening, cooking, and tons of art options. They even have classes for kiddos, so you can send the offspring to cupcake camp while you learn to make a pine needle basket and your significant other takes a class on home brewing or tax preparation (or both, since they kinda go together).

8 unique signs it’s springtime in Bend

April 12th, 2018

Ah…springtime. It’s the season where Bend locals find themselves cranking the car heater in the morning and the air conditioning in the afternoon. The season where you might feasibly use the same muscle groups to paddle a kayak and shovel snow in the same 24-hour period.

It’s one of my favorite times of year in Bend. With that in mind, here are 8 things that make springtime in Bend so uniquely awesome.

 

This time of year, you’re sometimes not totally sure if you’re dodging fluttering snowflakes or blossoms.

Snow or blossoms?

There’s nothing quite like strolling down the street and finding yourself in a cloud of white fluttery bits. Are they snowflakes? Are they spring blossoms from that nearby fruit tree?

You’re never sure at first, and that moment of wide-eyed wonder is one of Bend’s most oddly cool experiences.

 

The season’s first sunburn

Wearing sunscreen year-round is a necessity in Bend, where our high altitude and the albedo effect of a bright white surface like snow can earn you a nasty sunburn even in December. Locally-made Oregon Lavender & Sage sunshade lotion by Angelina Organic Skincare is an awesome product to slather on every day.

That said, we sometimes forget. Or maybe we fail to realize that sunny spring temps mean reapplication is important throughout the day.

I know my dermatologist would punch me for saying so, but there’s something about the season’s first pink shoulders and nose that fills me with giddy excitement for the summer to come. It’s like the Bend version of Groundhog Day.

 

The smell of juniper in the rain is like nothing else in the world.

What’s that smell?

Springtime can bring spring showers, which are infrequent in our dry high desert climate. But those showers bring some of my very favorite fragrances in Bend.

Damp juniper, blooming bitterbrush, rain-soaked ponderosa pine bark baking in the sun….they’re some of the most unique smells in the world. I know some folks struggle with allergies this time of year in Bend, but it’s almost worth it to enjoy the explosion of olfactory goodness.

 

A little birdie told me…

Springtime brings oodles of birds out for nesting and migration, and sometimes you feel like a Disney character whose every movement is accompanied by birdsong.

A great way to enjoy it to its fullest is through a partnership between the Old Mill District and the East Cascades Audubon Society offering free guided weekly bird walks. These walks are led by an expert from the local Audubon Society and wind around the trails of the Old Mill District. The area is a migratory corridor, so you’re guaranteed to see lots of feathered friends.

The walks are appropriate for all ages, and free rental binoculars are available for checkout. You can even grab a specially-designed birding list to help identify what you’re seeing along the way.

 

Surfers in the Bend Whitewater Park become more abundant (and less covered-up) as we get deeper into spring.

More skin in the whitewater park

In mid-December, you’ll sometimes spot brave surfers clad head-to-toe in hooded drysuits as they catch waves in the Bend Whitewater Park.

But when spring arrives, they multiply. Not only that, but some swap the full-body suits for shortie wetsuits and attire meant for warmer weather.

The river is still icy cold, but it’s exciting to see such a visible sign of rising temps. It’s fun to watch, especially if you’ve only ever witnessed the sort of surfing that takes place on sandy tropical beaches.

 

Daffodils in the snow

It happens every year: spring sunshine coaxes the tulips and daffodils out of their underground slumber, and suddenly Bend is awash in oceans of pink and yellow flowers.

Then it snows. It always does, at least once. It’s weirdly beautiful to see those cheerful blooms poking up through a blanket of glittery white, and it’s one of the most quintessentially Bend things I know.

 

It’s not uncommon to see spring blooms under a skiff of snow this time of year.

Skiing in a T-shirt

While a lot of other ski resorts are winding down for the season, Mt. Bachelor still has plenty of season ahead of it. Bend’s beloved ski hill has one of the longest ski seasons in the nation, lasting all the way through Memorial Weekend.

Their popular Springtacular Season Pass is your ticket to ride up to 58 days in April and May. It basically pays for itself after your third visit, so it’s like getting 55 days for free.

Cruise the corduroy, slash the corn snow, and enjoy incredible spring powder days at one of the best spring ski mountains in North America. The events calendar is packed, too, so there’s no shortage of fun to be had.

 

The canals are running!

Bend’s irrigation canals aren’t a landscape feature most tourists ever see, but they’re a common sight flowing through residential areas of southwest and northeast Bend. Some folks think of them as glorified ditches, but most of us see them as burbling creeks that add an eye-catching sparkle to daily dog walks.

One of the lovely canals on Bend’s northeast side.

While the canals are shut off in late-fall each year, spring is the time they gush to life and keep flowing for the next six months.

There are some particularly lovely spots in the northeast part of town along Butler Market Road. You can head east or west from starting points along Brinson Blvd. or Purcell Ave., and the maintenance easement running along the west side makes a lovely walking trail (particularly for those with dogs).

 

 

 

3 Bend experiences that are cooler than you think

April 5th, 2018

Despite what I tell my husband and step-kids, I’m not always right.

Case in point: In 7.5 years of having a job that requires me to experience everything Bend has to offer so I can tell other people about it, I’ve occasionally….misjudged.

Like I’ll hear about a new experience and think, “Meh, that sounds okay, but nothing to get excited about.” Sometimes I’ll hold on to that thinking for a shamefully long stretch before actually trying the thing myself.

And then I’m forced to admit I was totally wrong, and that the activity or attraction is infinitely cooler than I gave it credit for. Here are three examples.

 

Bend Escape Room

My thoughts were ho-hum when I first heard about this adventure game where participants are placed in a room and have to use teamwork to find clues, solve puzzles, and escape the room within a set time limit. It sounded fine and all, but this is Bend—why would I want to be locked inside?

Guys, I was so wrong on this one.

Blogger Tawna (left) and her family after successfully freeing themselves from a Bend Escape Room.

First of all, an hour is no great sacrifice in the grand scheme of how much time you’re spending outdoors.

Second of all, the Bend Escape Room experience is so much cooler than you think it will be. I had the pleasure of doing it with my extended family, which included my father-in-law, husband, sister-in-law, and two stepkids (ages 12 and 16). In other words, a true multigenerational affair.

With the clock ticking, everyone scrambled around the room overturning furniture, assembling puzzles, trying different lock combinations, and using creative problem solving to find clues. Everyone had a different way of approaching things, and it was fascinating to see the wheels turning in the brains of people I thought I knew well. Each family member brought something to the table, and it was one of the coolest family bonding experiences we’ve had together.

We successfully solved the puzzle with just over a minute remaining, and afterward we stood in the parking lot for thirty minutes gushing about how much we loved it and how excited we are to pick one of the other challenges and do it again.

There’s an FAQ on their website that explains more about the rules and how appropriate it is for different ages and group sizes, but I urge you to give this one a shot if you’re looking for a fun family or team building experience.

 

Float Central

I leapt to some very wrong assumptions when I first heard about Float Central.

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.

Wrong assumption #1: Won’t the water be icky with all those people floating in it?

Uh, no. You’re in a private float tank by yourself, and 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. They also don’t allow shoes beyond the lobby, and showers are mandatory before you float. In other words, this place is so clean you could eat off the floor.

Ahhh, floating…way cooler than you realize.

Wrong assumption #2: I’m going to feel claustrophobic closed in a water-filled tank.

Wrong again. The staff at Float Central knows some people are a little freaky about this, so they carefully coach you on options to help you feel safe and relaxed. You can leave the tank door open if you want. You can try two different types of earplugs if you’re worried about water in your ears. You can use a little floaty pillow if you want extra head support. Trust me, these guys have encountered every possible phobia you might have, and they’ve devised a solution that’ll help you relax.

So now that I’ve dispelled some of my own inaccurate assumptions, I’ll tell you what’s amazing about the experience.

Floating is one of the most relaxing, soothing, out-of-body kinda experiences I’ve had. I am not someone who relaxes easily, or who is capable of shutting off her brain for any length of time, so when I tell you I actually zoned out during my 90-minute float, it means something.

There was something unbelievably peaceful about having no sounds, no sights, and no work required to keep my body afloat. Just calm, warm, soothing silence.

So yeah, floating? Way cooler than I thought it would be.

 

A guided tour of caves or breweries

For the cost of a $5 NW Forest Day Pass, you can do a self-guided tour of Lava River Cave, exploring a mile-long lava tube between May and October. For the price of a couple beers, you can get a decent taste of the Bend Ale Trail all on your own.

Get a personalized, guided tour of one of Central Oregon’s amazing lava tubes with Wanderlust Tours.

So why would someone pony up $75 for a Lava Cave Tour or a Bend Brew Bus outing with Wanderlust Tours?

Hoo boy, where do I start?

Let’s start with cave exploration. Yes, the Lava River Cave is neat, and if you’re short on cash, it’s a decent way to get a taste of Central Oregon’s amazing lava tubes. But with thousands of people passing through during peak season, it can feel more like a Disneyland attraction than a spelunking adventure.

By contrast, Wanderlust is permitted to explore caves that no one else can access. Want to see the spellbinding, rustic, super-unique Skeleton Cave? There’s no way in except with Wanderlust, so this is truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime gigs. And your naturalist guide knows everything (I do mean everything) about the history, geology, and science behind the cave systems. Your fees not only include his or her knowledge and guidance, but transportation and gear, including a helmet with headlamp because you’ll be exploring some nooks and crannies that you’d never get to experience with a more sterilized, solo cave visit.

Now, let’s talk Bend Brew Bus. Sure, you can hit the Bend Ale Trail on your own, but you won’t get behind the scenes. You won’t have personal conversations with the brewmaster or sample beers that might not even be on the menu. You won’t get a back-room tour of the brewing equipment or learn exactly what goes into making the beers you’re sampling. If you’re on your own, you won’t get free appetizers at one of your stops (they’re included on your Bend Brew Bus outing).

But most importantly, the Bend Brew Bus ensures you have a safe and sober ride to and from your hotel or vacation rental, and transportation between all four breweries you’ll be visiting. That right there is invaluable, since a DUI will cost you a heck of a lot more than $75.

Now get out there and try something new.

The best spots for wine fans in beer-centric Bend

March 29th, 2018

You don’t need to trek the Bend Ale Trail to know there’s craft beer flowing through this city’s veins, but beer isn’t everyone’s jam.

Maybe you’re a teetotaler on a quest for Bend’s best non-alcoholic beverages (in which case I’ve got a blog post for you).

Or maybe you’re a fan of the cideries, distilleries, kombucha breweries, and wineries that make up our Drinkable Diversions program.

It’s the last bit I want to focus on here, since I’m a bit of a wine geek myself.

Let me first put out the caveat that you should never, ever drink and drive, and that there are plenty of options for finding sober transportation in Bend.

Blogger Tawna’s whole family gets in on the action at the annual grape stomp event at Maragas Winery.

With that said, here are the top spots for oenophiles when you visit Bend.

 

The wineries

Central Oregon’s unique high desert climate makes it an odd place to grow wine grapes, but two local vineyards are making it work with impressive results.

Maragas Winery has been crafting award-winning wines in Culver since 1999, and specializes in several European varietals and French/American hybrids. They have special events like an annual grape stomp and wine dinners, and a wine club that’s surprisingly reasonable in price.

Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards is just a short distance away in Terrebonne, and boasts a breathtaking wedding and event venue against the backdrop of the most stunning mountain views you’ll ever see. They grow varietals like Syrah, Merlot, Barbera, and Pinot, along with some unique grapes like Frontenac, Marquett, Leon Millot, LaCrescent, and Lacrosse.

Both vineyards are part of Drinkable Diversions, so make sure you get your stamp if you opt to head out there.

 

The tasting rooms

Also part of Drinkable Diversions is a pair of winery tasting rooms in Bend’s Old Mill District. Though both are located in a shopping district instead of a vineyard, you swap the smell of grape leaves and the squish of damp earth for easy access, walkability, and sparkly glimpses of the Deschutes River.

The tasting room at Va Piano in the Old Mill District makes a great girls’ night stop.

Naked Winery is based in Hood River, but has several tasting rooms across Oregon. We’re lucky enough to have one in Bend, which serves as a showroom for their risqué-sounding labels like Penetration Cabernet, Foreplay Chardonnay, and Booty Call Blush. Their Bend tasting room is smack dab in the middle of the Old Mill District, and makes a great place to stop before you head to dinner at one of the spots like Greg’s Grill or Level 2 (both of which boast pretty nice wine selections of their own).

The Va Piano Vineyards tasting room is just a stone’s throw away on the opposite side of the street. Their vineyards are scattered around the Walla Walla valley, but their Bend tasting room is just steps from the Deschutes River with a patio that makes for perfect summer sipping. Their wines are organized into five flights, each reflective of the unique micro-terroirs that make Washington State wines amazing.

Again, don’t forget to grab those Drinkable Diversions stamps!

 

The wine bars

Date night vino and nibbles at SIP Wine Bar.

Ahhh, wine bars. They’re the perfect blend of wine shop and restaurant, and they make a fab place for oenophiles to plan a girls’ night or a wine flight date.

Portello Winecafe is tucked in the Northwest Crossing neighborhood offers a killer wine selection and a mouthwatering array of eats. Try a sampler of several flatbreads and their lemony Caesar salad and you’ll be in heaven. Wines by the glass are reasonable and abundant, especially on Mondays when they’re all $5 a glass.

A slightly more intimate setting is  SIP Wine Bar on Galveston Avenue. This spot offers the cozy vibe I crave for date nights, and their menu is a terrific collection of small plates and locally-sourced ingredients. Their outdoor patio is perfect on a warm summer evening, and their flights are fun to split.

 

The wine shops

While you can scoop up a good bottle of wine at any Bend grocery store, sometimes you want the super-fab selection and knowledgeable staff to answer all your questions about regions, varietals, and what pairs well with that takeout meal you just ordered.

Cheers to sipping wine outside when it’s sunny in Bend.

If you’re cruising the downtown Bend circuit, you can hit Good Drop Wine Shoppe and The Wine Shop and Beer Tasting Bar within a couple blocks of each other. Both have wines to sample, and an impressive variety from all over the globe. Split a wine flight and some nibbles at The Wine Shop before making your way down the street to grab a bottle or two at Good Drop. Serious wine collectors will also dig the offerings at RHC Selections a few blocks away, which also does private parties, personal shopping, travel consulting and personalized wine education events.

Since you’re headed to the aforementioned tasting rooms in the Old Mill District anyway, stop by Elixir Wine Group on your way and check out their selection of fine wines from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Baja California.

If you’re hunting for the off-the-beaten-path locals’ secret, check out Bend Wine Cellar. They double as a wine storage venue and a wine retailer, with occasional special events and dinners that make it worth your while to get on their email list.

I might also count French Market here, since they’ve got a huge (and well-curated) selection of wines to grab and go, but I’m going to go ahead and stick them in the next section instead…

 

The restaurants with superfab wine lists and flights

Nearly every restaurant sells wine in one form or another, but there are definitely some standouts.

When I took a prominent food and wine editor to dinner at Zydeco, and he wouldn’t stop talking about how impressed he was by their wine selection. But it’s not just their wine list that makes my winey little heart soar. They have a policy of waiving the corkage fee for your first bottle if you bring one produced in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a screamin’ deal, and works well with a group if you opt to bring one bottle and purchase one (or more) from Zydeco’s fabulous selection.

The aforementioned French Market offers European-influenced cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients in a cozy, intimate setting. They’ll pour tastes until you find just the right glass, and you can order a bottle to take home if you find one you love. (Pro tip: Start your meal with the fondue. You can thank me later).

If you’re an oenophile who loves variety, try a flight at 900 Wall in downtown Bend (pair it with the spicy deviled eggs and the fried green beans) and Anthony’s Home Port in the Old Mill District (pair it with the ahi nachos and the crab dip).

 

The events

Bend has no shortage of wine-themed special events, and fortunately, most of them have a charitable component.

The Wine Walk event is one of the highlights of Oregon WinterFest every February.

Cork & Barrel is a three-day celebration happening every July at Broken Top Club. The event features Sonoma-area wineries and includes winemaker dinners, a tasting event with a killer silent auction, and a chance to mix and mingle with the winemakers. The event benefits the KIDS Center and tickets tends to sell out early. Learn more here.

In February, Oregon WinterFest features a special Wine Walk through the Old Mill District. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend festivities by strolling the Old Mill and sampling wines from a variety of Bend retailers. Learn more here.

If you feel like journeying to Sunriver for the day, their annual Wine, Cheese, and Brew Showcase is a popular spot for wine lovers every August.

Just another reminder: drinking and driving is a no-no. We have taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts, and absolutely no excuse whatsoever for driving under the influence. Seriously.

 

Wine tasting at the Grocery Outlet: It’s a thing. So are the screamin’ deals. Photo courtesy of the Bend Grocery Outlet.

And for all you cheapskates . . .

Cheapskate wine snobs like me are so familiar with the wine world at Grocery Outlet that there’s an entire blog devoted to uncovering the hidden gems that appear on the shelves at this discount retailer.

For those who don’t know, this is where surplus wines and secondary labels go for a new lease on life. Sometimes you’ll get a dud or two, but savvy shoppers know to pull up their favorite wine app or review site to identify the best deals. I’ve snagged mouthwatering Cabs for $10 when online retailers showed the same bottle for $180, and I’ve bought cases of perfectly tasty weeknight wine for pennies on the dollar (I just scored two cases of mouthwatering Marlborough Sauv Blanc for $57 a case).

Staff at Bend’s Grocery Outlet are impressively wine savvy, and hold tastings every Friday from 4-7 p.m. During their semi-annual 20% wine sales (there’s one happening this week through Sunday!) they often do tastings every night of the week.

Keep your eyes peeled for bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir, since those can be great souvenirs to take home. The ones from the Willamette Valley (particularly the Dundee Hills area) tend to be especially good and often pair nicely with your picnic lunch.

Want to win a spring getaway to Bend?

March 22nd, 2018

Spring is here, and so are the flowers!

The first day of spring arrived this week with a fanfare of sparkly white confetti flying at Mt. Bachelor.

Just 20 minutes down the hill in Bend, daffodils are poking their heads through the dirt and admiring the bare-legged trail runners out relishing in the warmer days of spring.

In other words, it’s the best of both worlds in Bend right now, making spring the perfect time for a visit. To celebrate, we’d like to share our brand new spring video with you:

Visit Bend – Share Bend Spring from Visit Bend on Vimeo.

Now, here’s the really fun part. The video you just watched highlights some super-fun stuff to do in the springtime in Bend, so we’ve put together a prize package that includes a bunch of it. Here’s what we’re giving away:

Blue skies are par for the course when it comes to spring skiing in Bend.

The total package is worth about $1,100, and would make for a pretty killer spring getaway, wouldn’t you say?

Let’s give it away!

In the spirit of sharing highlighted in the video, we’d like you to share your own Bend bucket list. If you’re short on ideas, check out www.visitbend.com.

Ready? Fill out the form below to share details of your dream Bend vacation!


That’s it! Easy-peasy. Now that you’ve filled out the form, we’d love to see you share details of your Bend bucket list in the comments of this post, too. If you do, we’ll give you one bonus entry in the giveaway.

We’ll draw a winner on Tuesday, April 3, and will announce it here on this post, so mark your calendar to check back on that day.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and save some dates for your Bend vacation. You deserve it.

5 reasons Daylight Savings Time signals the perfect season to visit Bend

March 15th, 2018

The arrival of Daylight Savings Time generates widespread grumbling each March when we’re forced to sacrifice an hour of sleep in our quest to spring forward.

Hey, I’m grouchy, too.

Longer days make evening hikes possible after DST sets in.

But there are a few reasons I also embrace the big DST each spring when it comes to spending time in beautiful Bend, Oregon.

 

Longer days = more hiking!

At the start of March, sunset was happening around 5:50 p.m., which pretty much nixed your chances of squeezing in an evening hike after a long day on the slopes at Mt. Bachelor (or a day of work, for those of us who live here).

But the sun is now holding out until about 7:10 p.m. and sunset’s getting later each day. By the end of March, that big orange ball will be sticking with us until 7:30 or later, so it’s a great excuse to fit in an evening hike or casual spring stroll along the Deschutes River.

 

Spring skiing at Mt. Bachelor

The arrival of Daylight Savings and springtime ushers in one of Mt. Bachelor’s favorite attractions—spring skiing!

Springtime brings bluebird days at Mt. Bachelor (not to mention killer deals on passes).

Mt. Bachelor boasts one of the latest-running seasons in the world, and it launches in earnest around the time we nudge our clocks forward.

This weekend (March 16-18) kicks off with the Subaru WinterFest featuring live music, cool demos, and tons of cool parties (including an ‘80s dance party guaranteed to rock your neon-banded socks).

They also offer spring pass deals that will let you ride up to 58 days in April and May. Go here for info on Springtacular deals.

 

A little birdie told me…

Grab your illustrated birdwatching guide and start looking!

From the plaintive cooing of mourning doves in search of mates, to the ducks’ enthusiastic (ahem) dating along the Deschutes River, all the birds in Bend get twitterpated this time of year.

If feathered friends are your thing, the Old Mill District makes it easy for you to fit a bit of birdwatching between shopping and your dinner reservation.

Stop by the Ticket Mill to pick up a free birdwatching guide and a pair of rental binoculars (also free!) Consult the schedule to find out about seasonal Nature Walks and Bird Walks with local experts who can help you identify all the little birdies you’re seeing.

 

Bring back the patio dining

Now’s the time when Bend’s restaurants and breweries start dusting off the patio furniture and ushering customers outdoors on days the sun shines brighter.

Warm weather brings more options for outdoor dining in Bend.

It’s early still for many of the top river view dining spots in town, though it’s worth having the list in your back pocket so you can make a beeline for them on spring days when the temps lift into the 60s and 70s.

If you’re itching to get outside and can’t stand to wait, check out this roundup of spots to dine outdoors even when the weather’s chilly.

 

Easier access to sunrise and sunset

The most popular posts on Visit Bend’s Facebook page are sunrise and sunset photos, and for good reason. Bend boasts some of the most stunning sun-related eye candy in the world, particularly when you get that golden glow against the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains.

Daylight Savings Time brings easier access to sunsets and sunrises.


Sunrises are currently happening after 7:15 a.m., making them slightly more accessible than they were a couple weeks ago around 6:30 a.m. And if sunsets are more your jam, they’re getting later and later as the month goes on (giving us the aforementioned extra daylight for evening hikes).

If you’re hoping to snap a quintessential Bend photo of sunrise, sunset, or some other unique Central Oregon landmark, check out this blog post for tips.

And to pinpoint the precise time of each day’s sunrise and sunset, check out the roundup on this page.

 

 

 

 

Why it’s a great time to be a girl in Bend

March 8th, 2018

Today is International Women’s Day, and I’m waiting for someone to appear in my office with a tiara and a glass of wine.

Even if that doesn’t happen, I still feel pretty darn good about being a woman in Bend. That’s the case every day, but especially the third month of the year. That’s because Bend Women’s March is a month-long celebration of the ways women are shaping the community through arts and culture, business, and outdoor adventure.

Running + writing + sisterhood = winning combination.

It kicked off with the annual Muse Conference March 1-4, but there are still tons of fabulous events happening the whole month. Here are some of the highlights of Bend Women’s March.

 

Wilder Running and Writing

A few slots remain available for this weekend’s Wilder Running and Writing event in Bend happening March 9-11.

This workshop is designed to help women find their authentic voice through writing in a way that will come to life on and beyond the page. It also includes coached running by champion runner Lauren Fleshman, along with a deep dive into wild writing with acclaimed teacher Laurie Wagner. There’s even a nutrition talk with bestselling cookbook author Elyse Kopecky.

The event kicks off Friday evening with an optional meet and greet, followed by a full day of programming on Saturday and a half day Sunday. For details and registration, go here.

 

Art and design and social change (oh my!)

Looking for the ultimate girls’ getaway in Bend?

Girl power with Bend Design.

Scalehouse and Bend Design have teamed up to create an exciting agenda you won’t want to miss. Mark your calendar for March 16-17 and plan on two days packed with exciting speakers, creative arts, and a chance to spark your urge for activism.

The event will feature renowned speakers devoted to creating social, civic, and/or business change. Focus areas include storytelling, visual arts, architecture and design, performing arts, conceptual art, and activism.

To learn more, check out this link.

 

Cotopaxi Questival

If you hear the words “adventure race” and imagine slogging through an 80-mile course filled with mud and barbed wire, it’s time to recalibrate your mental picture.

Get your team ready for Bend Questival!

The Cotopaxi Questival Bend 2018 is happening March 23-24, and features a series of challenges in categories like fitness, camping, service, and teamwork. Prizes are awarded throughout competition, and it’s open to all ages and genders of teams from 2-6.

In a nutshell, you register your team and then download the app. The day before the event, you’ll be emailed a list of challenges. These can vary, but think “take a picture with your favorite piece of art in the city,” or “donate blood while wearing Dracula teeth.” Fun stuff.

To kick things off, there’s a check-in party where you pick up your race materials, meet other teams, and enjoy local food and music.

For more info or to register, go here.

 

REI Outdoor Women’s Fest

If outdoorsy fun is your fave, mark your calendar for the Outdoor Women’s Fest happening March 29-31. Sponsored by REI, the event includes three days of dynamic outdoor events and activities ranging from climbing classes at Smith Rock State Park to group hikes to film screenings for several inspiring films.

Perfect your mountain biking technique with the Ladies All Ride clinic.

There are also skiing and mountain biking clinics for those who want to hone their skills or lean something new.

This is another awesome opportunity for a girls’ getaway weekend, so go here to learn more or register.

 

Other special events

Outside the major headlining events, there are gobs of great activities and celebrations happening throughout Bend Women’s March. From poetry workshops to bouldering, yoga classes to film screenings, there’s something for everyone.

Go here to check out the schedule and find a date and event that floats your boat.