Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
Is it just me, or is everyone’s Facebook feed filled with friends pledging to get healthier in the new year? For some that involves mass quantities of kale, while others are contemplating spiritual wellness and mental health.
However you plan to accomplish it, here are five ways a Bend vacation will help you get healthier in 2018.
Get up and get moving!
Nearly everyone I know has vowed to incorporate more exercise into their routine. You can hit the gym at home, but when you’re in Bend, your fitness routine comes with mountain views.
Dig out those hiking boots and hit the trails. You’ll find plenty of ideas here, or nab one of the awesome guidebooks we sell in the Bend Visitor Center.
Want to try mountain biking? Cog Wild offers a huge variety of tours, including outings for newbies trying the sport for the first time. Bonus: They hook you up with the necessary gear and shuttle service. Double bonus: They’re savvy about trail conditions and etiquette, so they’ll keep you from committing a major faux pas like trashing a soggy trail and ruining it for others for the season.
And speaking of your brain…
Tend your spiritual or mental health
More and more people are focusing on spiritual and mental health as a form of self-care in the New Year. If that’s your jam, you’ll find plenty of possibilities in Bend.
Bend Community Healing has offerings that include yoga, acupuncture, meditation classes, and Qigong. They even host special events and workshops that make the perfect weekend getaway for visitors.
If you’re looking for something that caters to a different faith or denomination, you’ll find a huge array of churches, synagogues, and other places of worship right here.
Want to improve your relationship or your communication skills in the coming year? Check out the calendar of couples’ workshops and classes here.
For more health-focused events and workshops happening in Bend in the coming year, peruse Visit Bend’s Event Calendar for ideas.
Grab tasty (and healthy!) grub
“Eat healthier” is something I see on nearly every New Year’s resolution list, but not everyone agrees on what that means.
Looking to go vegan in 2018? Here’s a roundup of awesome vegan and vegetarian dishes in Bend that even diehard carnivores will adore.
If you’re curious about gluten-free dining in Bend, we’ve also rounded up some of the best gluten-free dishes worth trying in Bend (even if you aren’t gluten-free!)
And hey, if you’re trying to do the opposite and add more meat to your meals (what? High-protein dining is a thing), check out this post on Bend’s best burgers.
Don’t derail your Dry January plans
If your holidays included a few too many adult beverages, don’t feel bad.
Bend is home to more than half-a-dozen kombucha brewers, and you’ll find tons of variety on local store shelves and in growler fill stations around town (the one at Food 4 Less is my personal fave).
Check out this blog post featuring a huge array of mocktails and booze-free beverages in Bend and we promise you won’t go thirsty. You might even decide this teetotaling thing is worth extending all year long.
Keep Mother Nature healthy, too!
If your new healthy initiative extends to the world around, you how about working to keep Mother Nature in great shape this year?
When you’re packing for a hike, tuck a small trash bag in your pocket. Not only does that make it easier to pack out your own garbage, but you can pick up small bits of litter along the trail, thereby leaving the place nicer than you found it.
For more ideas on how to help Bend stay healthy and beautiful in the coming year, check out our Visit Like a Local page and consider taking The Bend Pledge (which comes with the added bonus of giving you a shot at winning a killer Bend vacation).
2018 is officially here, and there’s a lot of chatter about rebirth, renewal, rejuvenation, and probably a bunch of other “re” words I’m forgetting.
In case you’re looking to hit refresh (hey, there’s another!) at the start of a new year, here are 4 unique experiences in Bend that can help.
Float away your worries
At Float Central in Bend, you can let all your cares float away while you do the same.
Floating is a wellness and healing technique that allows a person to be free from gravity and external stimulation in a relaxing environment. You slip into a tank that’s roughly four feet wide and seven feet long and filled with water that’s heated to skin temperature. Basically, you lose track of where your body ends and the water begins.
The idea is to let your mind slow down and your body achieve the ultimate relaxation. Since the tanks are soundproof and your ears are below the waterline, noise from the outside doesn’t reach you (though there’s no shame if you’re a wee bit claustrophobic and want to leave the door open).
The water is saturated with Epsom salts at a level that relieves your body from gravity, so you don’t exert any effort to stay afloat. Since your body isn’t fighting gravity or listening to chattering voices and the pinging of cell phones, your brain can spend its energy pumping out dopamine and endorphins while the rest of your body gets to rest, de-stress, and heal by lowering cortisol levels. Think of it as the ultimate meditation!
You can do a one-time float, but multiple floats over the course of several days, weeks, or months is the ideal way to get maximum benefits. Visit their website for pricing and info.
Commune with the stars
Some folks feel a strong connection with astral bodies and the heavens above, and if that’s your jam, you’ll find plenty of ways to reset your celestial clock in Bend.
Wanderlust Tours lets you combine outdoor adventure with a chance to be dazzled by the night sky. In the wintertime, book one of their Moonlight or Starlight Snowshoe Tours, or their ever-popular Bonfire on the Snow snowshoe tours for the chance to revel in glittery fields of snow underfoot and glittery blankets of stars overhead. All gear, transportation, and snacks are provided, plus a knowledgeable naturalist guide.
In the summer months, they’ll take you out on one of the high Cascade Lakes with an epic Starlight or Moonlight Canoe Tour (the difference being the phase of the moon, of course). Your naturalist guide will point out constellations and planets, and pack your brain full of awesome information about everything from trees to animals to the geology of Central Oregon.
If you prefer your stargazing to be a bit more indoorsy (perhaps with a beer in hand?) check out the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing. Brewery guests climb a spiral staircase or take the elevator to the third floor of the Hopservatory to witness one of the best views in Bend, with a stunning panorama from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood.
Tours take you inside the 17-foot rotating Ash dome to view planets, galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, the moon, and the sun through their 16″ reflecting telescope. Visit their website for tour schedules and information.
For other stargazing options around Central Oregon, check out the Pine Mountain Observatory (located 26 miles southeast of Bend) or the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center (about 19 miles southwest of Bend).
Seek solitude on a hike
For me personally, there’s no better way to re-center myself than a hike in Central Oregon’s great outdoors.
Sometimes I crave the silence and solitude of a desert landscape like the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. Other times I want the power and splash of a waterfall. On other occasions, I’m looking to reconnect with family on a kid-friendly hike.
Whatever floats your boat, check out Visit Bend’s hiking page for lots of ideas. You can also snag a good hiking guide book in our Bend Visitor Center.
Make sure you incorporate Leave No Trace practices (like picking up litter and staying on the trail) when you’re out there hiking. You’ll find ideas on how to do that on our Visit Like a Local page. Speaking of which…
Pledge to leave Bend better than you found it
The New Year is all about vowing to do better for many of us, and one way to do that is by taking The Bend Pledge.
The idea is simple: Everyone who spends time in Bend is invited to vow they’ll abide by a set of values that Bend lovers hold near and dear. Things like kindness and courtesy, safety and respect. Everyone who takes the Bend pledge will be entered to win a Bend vacation that includes three nights of lodging, meals, and activities for the entire Bend stay.
Go here right now and take The Bend Pledge and start your New Year off on a positive note!
We’re days away from the start of 2018, which means most of us are trotting out our New Year’s resolutions.
Eat healthier. Exercise more. Watch less television. You know the drill.
But how about resolving to leave Bend, Oregon better than you found it? That’s the idea behind The Bend Pledge, which Visit Bend launched a couple months ago as part of the Visit Like a Local campaign.
The idea is simple: Everyone who spends time in Bend is invited to vow they’ll abide by a set of values that Bend lovers hold near and dear. We’re talking about things like staying on trails and picking up your litter, not solemnly pledging to fight your enemies with a hand-forged sword (in case that crossed your mind. No? Just me? Carry on).
Everyone who takes the Bend pledge will be entered to win a Bend vacation that includes three nights of lodging, meals, and activities for the entire Bend stay.
But how about we throw in a little something extra just for readers of this blog? Say, a 16-ounce reusable Hydro Flask coffee mug (your choice of colors!) plus a $10 gift certificate to Thump Coffee so you can fill that bad boy with a tasty beverage or two.
Step one: Go here right now and take The Bend Pledge.
Done? Pat yourself on the back! You’re now entered to win that Bend vacation I mentioned (plus you’re an all-around awesome person, so yay, you!)
Step two: Now, share it with your friends. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Tweet about taking The Bend Pledge using hashtag #BendPledge and tagging @VisitBendOR. Include this handy link so your friends can take the pledge, too: http://bit.ly/2pO1vr7
- Share your Bend Pledge enthusiasm on Instagram using the #BendPledge hashtag and tagging @VisitBend. Be sure to include the link, too! http://bit.ly/2pO1vr7
- Post on your Facebook page about how jazzed you are about taking the #BendPledge. Include the hashtag in your post so we see it, and be sure to share the link so your friends can take the pledge: http://bit.ly/2pO1vr7
- Share this blog post on any of the aforementioned social media channels using the #BendPledge hashtag.
For each of those things, you’ll get one entry in the giveaway for the Hydro Flask and Thump card. That’s in addition to being entered in the vacation giveaway, so you’ve got some pretty good chances to win.
Step three: Comment on this post to let us know which things you did.
We’ll draw a winner on Thursday, January 4. Good luck to all of you, and have a very happy New Year!
Bend is one of the most amazing places on earth to spend winter break, no matter which holiday you’re celebrating these last couple weeks of December. Heck, you don’t even need to celebrate a holiday—there are festivities galore for people from all walks of life.
Scoping out visitbend.com is a great place to start if you’re looking for things to do, and don’t forget to consult our Event Calendar for special happenings around the holidays.
For those planning to be in Bend for December’s final days, here’s what you need to know!
What’s to eat?
First things first: Food! The holidays are all about the grub for many of us, and you won’t go hungry in Bend.
Lots of Bend vacation rentals come with fully equipped kitchens that allow you to prepare the main meal in style. You’ll find a handy list of grocery stores on our website if you need to stock up on ingredients.
If you’re planning to eat out on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, check out this list of restaurants open for the holidays. You’ll find plenty of options to pick from! Reservations are recommended at many of them, since spaces can fill fast.
Oh, holy night
Like to commemorate the holiday with a visit to a church, synagogue, or other place of worship? Go here to find listings for holy places representing a variety of denominations and faiths.
Beyond the ho ho ho
Christmas isn’t the only game in town this time of year, and several local businesses are acknowledging Winter Solstice and other noteworthy holidays.
On Dec. 21, The Brown Owl is hosting A Festivus for the Rest of Us (inspired by the Seinfeld-created holiday). They’re teaming up with Monkless Belgian Ales to throw a Festivus extravaganza featuring meatloaf, a Festivus pole, airing of grievances, feats of strength, and Monkless Brewing’s new “Friars Festivus” Belgian Quad.
Also on Dec. 21, Wren and Wild is hosting a Winter Solstice and Mala Gathering Party from 7-9 p.m. For $40, participants will enjoy a special evening of celebration, mantras, ceremony, and making a mala necklace or bracelet (a strand of beads traditionally used for counting during meditations). Chai tea and snacks will be provided.
On Dec. 22, The Pavilion ice rink is holding a Winter Solstice Celebration. The whole family can enjoy a joyful evening of ice skating, treats, and twinkling lights. There’s even a special performance by the Bend Ice Figure Skating Club. Cost is $6 a person, including skate rental, when you bring a canned food donation to benefit NeighborImpact’s Food Bank.
Road closures and openings
It’s old news that the gate to the Cascade Lakes Highway and the road up Pilot Butte both closed to vehicles in October, but there are a couple more recent closures you should be aware of.
The gate to Tumalo Falls (Forest Road 4603) closed Dec. 20 to vehicles. If you had your heart set on seeing the falls, you can still hike or snowshoe to it. Just avoid parking on the road so you don’t block traffic for residents beyond the hairpin turn at the gate
An unusual closure worth noting is Santiam Pass from MP 55-81 (that section near Detroit/Idanha). A tragic tanker truck crash on Dec. 15 near milepost 63 damaged the road so severely that it remains closed as of this writing (Dec. 21). If that’s the path you’d normally take from the valley to Bend, consult ODOT’s TripCheck site for updates on road conditions and alternate routes.
Get some giddyup!
Got a horse fanatic in your party? There’s an interesting abundance of horse-themed events happening this year, you’ll want to mark at least one of these on your calendar.
The Old Mill District is offering free carriage rides (courtesy of Cowboy Carriage) Dec. 23 and 24, so it’s a great excuse to get your last-minute shopping done down there.
If you’re venturing a bit farther afield, Black Butte Ranch also has horse-drawn carriage rides Dec. 23-24 and again Dec. 26-Jan. 1. The cost is $12 a person, and you’ll find more info here.
Another fun horsey option is Santa on the Ranch Day Camp at Rhinestone Ranch on Dec. 23 for kids 4 and up. $65 gets your kiddos some horseback riding, hay rides, Christmas crafts, and a visit with Santa (including photo!) It’s a great chance for mom and dad to get some shopping done while the young’uns get their horse fix.
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.