Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
This past Wednesday marked the official first day of summer, which means Bend’s peak season is officially in full swing. Planning a summer vacation to the outdoor playground of the West? Here’s what you need to know!
Visit Like a Local
Want the inside scoop on everything from trail etiquette to the right way to navigate Bend’s roundabouts? Check out our Visit Like a Local page!
In a matter of minutes, you’ll be an expert on leash laws, the best beverage receptacles, and the proper footwear to don for a river float (hint: NOT flip-flops)!
There’s a lot happening in Bend during the summer months, from concerts to art festivals to sporting events. Many’s the time I’ve heard visitors lament that if only they’d known the dates for Bite of Bend or the Michael Franti concert, they would have planned their trip around it.
Here’s a tip: Check out the Visit Bend Event Calendar to see the full scope of what’s going on during the times you’re considering a visit.
I won’t lie—traffic can be tricky in Bend’s peak summer months, with everyone scrambling to see the same sights, shop the same stores, and dine in the same fabulous restaurants. This summer, you have two brand new options for navigating without the need to drive your own car.
The first is the new Ride Bend shuttle connecting greater Downtown Bend destinations from June 23 through Labor Day. The shuttle is free of charge, and runs every 15 minutes circulating in a clockwise loop between Downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, OSU-Cascades Campus, and Galveston Avenue. The free shuttle is made possible by a partnership between Visit Bend, the City of Bend, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
The second option is a new bike share program that has stations popping up all over town, including in the Old Mill District, Downtown Bend, and at OSU-Cascades. Download the Zagster app for your phone to get started.
And of course, an organized tour is another way to make sure you don’t have to haggle for parking at popular trailheads. Book a canoe outing or volcanic adventure with Wanderlust Tours and leave the driving, planning, and gear to someone else.
Yes, you really do need reservations
Folks with fond childhood memories of cruising into Bend on a Saturday and having plenty of Bend hotel rooms to pick from can get a pretty rude awakening in mid- summer.
Times have changed, and the city’s lodging operates at or near capacity from June through September. That means you need to plan ahead, especially if there’s a special Bend vacation home or bed and breakfast you’ve been eyeing.
Don’t risk having your summer vacation plans torpedoed by a lack of lodging. Plan ahead, then kick back and relax knowing you have a place to bunk down for the night.
Pick your play
Bend is a cornucopia of outdoor activities year-round, but that’s especially true in summer. On a shorter trip, it can be tough to choose between activities, so you owe it to yourself to study up.
Consider what forms of water recreation you want on your roster—Kayaking? Canoeing? Standup paddleboarding? Fishing? Pick your faves, and study up. It’s especially crucial to understand the rules of floating the river if that’s on your agenda.
Investigate your options for hiking and identify a top choice hike or two.
Knowing you have at least one designated day for play (and what it’s going to be) is a great way to give yourself something to anticipate for your Bend vacation.
Indoorsy options for all
The dry heat of our Central Oregon high desert takes some getting used to, so it’s smart to plan at least one “indoorsy” day filled with air conditioning and a bit of culture.
Visit the High Desert Museum to scope out the cool critters and exhibits. Explore art galleries or see a show at the Tower Theatre. Learn about Bend history with a visit to the Deschutes Historical Museum.
Then get back out there and soak up the sun. With sunscreen, of course.
Whether you’re drawn to Bend by the breweries, the hiking trails, or the mountain biking, there’s one activity that’s almost certainly on your to-do list if you visit between June and September: Floating the river.
I know this because previous blogs I’ve written on the subject remain our most highly-trafficked posts even seven years later. Since the rules and even the river change from year to year (more on that in a sec!), it’s time for an updated, latest-and-greatest blog post featuring everything you need to know about floating the Deschutes River in the summer of 2017.
Start with the right gear
First things first: Here’s what you’ll need to safely (and legally) float the river:
- A high-quality inner tube or floatation device. While you’ll see plenty of folks out there on pool toys, that’s risky if you want to cruise through the passageway channel in the Bend Whitewater Park. Rocks and rapids lead to popped and tumbled cheap floaties (which leaves us with garbage bins stuffed with ruined inflatables). You can rent durable float tubes from a number of local retailers including Sun Country and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.
- I’ve witnessed many a ruined vacation when visitors didn’t realize the strength of the sun in our high-altitude desert town. Slather up, guys. You’ll thank me later.
- Proper footwear. You’ll want something on your feet for hoofing it back to your car or around the passageway, but whatever you do, DON’T WEAR FLIP FLOPS! They’ll come off in the water or mud to become litter in our pristine river. Instead, opt for sturdy footwear like Keens or Tevas.
- Secure your personal items. Plan to keep your keys, phones, trash and other belongings with you, not on the river’s bottom. Want to ruin your trip in a hurry? Just lose your car keys (or wallet, phone, camera, prescription glasses and so on) in the passageway. No Bueno.
- Life jacket. State law requires that each boat or paddleboard carry one Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board, and children age 12 and under are required to wear life jackets. If you lash several float tubes together, that counts as a boat. Play it safe and snag yourself and the kids a free rental life jacket from the Sun Country kiosk at Riverbend Park.
Okay, now what?
Since the Deschutes River does not flow in a circle like a carnival ride, you need to make a plan before you set foot in the water. While some folks opt for a long walk back to their car, or do the multi-car shuffle by leaving a vehicle at the takeout point, you’ll be much, much happier if you leave the driving to someone else by taking the Ride the River Shuttle. It’ll save you tons of headaches with parking.
Now that you’ve got a plan, you’re ready to roll!
Most floaters put in at the shallow beach area in Riverbend Park. Paddle out into the water and let the current start your journey downstream. Keep in mind the water is fed by snowmelt and icy springs, so it’ll be chilly even at the height of summer.
As you approach the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ve got a decision to make . . .
To ride or not to ride?
In 2015, the Bend Whitewater Park opened at the site of the former Colorado Avenue dam, opening up an access that previously didn’t exist. It has three distinct channels that include a habitat area for wildlife, a whitewater channel for surfing and whitewater kayaking, and a passageway meant for river floaters.
If this is your first time through, hop out here and study the passageway. It includes a series of rapids that’ll be a little bumpy and could wreck your ride (not to mention your backside) if you’re not using a sturdy floatation device. If you’re on a flatwater boat or paddleboard instead of a float tube, you’ll want to exit the river here as the rapids will likely damage your boat or board.
Feeling up to it? If you’re riding on through the passageway, do your best to keep your feet downstream and your float tube in the whitewater section of the channel.
If you have small children with you or if you’d rather walk around it, just hoof it along the portage trail and hop back in the water on the other end of the channel.
You can also call it a day at the bridge and enjoy a relatively short walk back to the put-in point.
Or you can keep on floating . . .
Got it. Let’s keep going!
If you choose to continue floating past the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ll eventually find yourself drifting into Drake Park. As you approach the Galveston Avenue Bridge, start making your way to the right.
Just past the bridge, you’ll see a small beach on the right side of the river. That’s where you’ll want to hop out.
And since you already made plans to Ride the River Shuttle, you’ll have an easy time getting back to your vehicle or to the put-in spot so you can do the whole thing all over again.
What else do I need to know?
A few more rules, tips, and general advice to avoid breaking the law or being a jerk:
- There are local ordinances that make it illegal to drink alcohol on the Deschutes River or in a Bend park, so leave the brews at home. You know what’s also illegal? Sinking your beer cans or bottles in the water. If the cops catch you doing it, they’ll fine you. If a local catches you doing it, you’ll get a pretty serious tongue-lashing about littering and the importance of protecting Bend’s natural beauty.
- Despite the fact that marijuana is legal in Oregon, it’s not legal to blaze up in public places. Leave the bong behind, guys.
- Keep in mind that the full float will take anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. Plan on half that time if you jump out at the Colorado Avenue Bridge.
- Parking can be crowded at Riverbend Park, but it’s downright insane at Drake Park. Seriously, Ride the River Shuttle. I promise you’ll thank me.
- Bend Park and Rec offers an amazing virtual tour for how to float the river. You can check that out here.
- Want a big-picture overview of the Deschutes River and where all the hazards lie? The Bulletin recently ran an excellent graphic you can scope out right here.
- Want more tips on navigating Bend like a pro? Check out our Visit Like a Local page!
Happy floating, everyone!
For some, it’s weird to imagine finding good sushi in a landlocked city nearly 200 miles from the nearest ocean.
But you don’t just find good sushi in Bend—you find AMAZING sushi in at least 11 different places around town. And I made it my mission to dine at every single one to ensure I’m giving you a fair and balanced overview. (Related: My job does not suck).
Here—listed from north to south—are 11 fab places to find sushi in Bend, Oregon.
Since I’m a longtime resident of northeast Bend, Shinsei Sushi is my go-to spot for quick takeout on my end of town. They have an impressive selection of not just sushi, but also yakisoba, stir fries, lunch specials, and more.
But it’s the sushi that pulls me in, and I almost always pick from the day’s selection of specials. There are typically three, and it’s a great way to try something new and so-fresh-it’s-still-flopping.
The Bachelor Roll is my personal fave, made with real crab, avocado, and cucumber, then topped with fresh tuna, fresh salmon, and unagi sauce. Their spicy tuna rolls are also excellent.
The sushi chefs here offer the warmest greeting in town, with shouted hellos as you enter and a cheerful chorus of thank yous as you depart.
Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar
The happy hour here is one of the best in town, and their creative cocktail menu makes it tough to choose just one (so don’t pick—order both The Emperor and Mr. Chu and share with me!)
Not just a sushi joint, Chi offers traditional Chinese fare with a gourmet flair. They also have some pretty cool river views from the outdoor patio. If the weather isn’t great, their indoor dining room is also quite lovely (and for some reason I’m especially fond of the bar seating).
My favorite roll is the Last Samarai, which is made with tempura jalapeño, unagi, asparagus, butterfish tempura fried, then topped with spicy salmon poke, soy infused tobiko, and unagi sauce. Yum!
5 Fusion & Sushi Bar
There’s a reason Chef Joe Kim of 5 Fusion has racked up multiple James Beard nominations (sorta like the Oscars of the culinary world). Actually, there are many reasons, and many of them can be found on the sushi menu.
5 Fusion offers an eclectic mix of creative fusion dishes, mouthwatering sushi rolls, and plates that will appeal to non-fish-loving members of your party (order them the filet mignon lollipops for your sushi-skeptic uncle and watch him start to drool).
Besides amazing food, 5 Fusion boasts a stunningly beautiful dining room space with a unique water feature on the ceiling. They also have an incredible happy hour, which makes this a great spot to get your evening started before you spend a night strolling Downtown Bend.
Keep an eye out for their regular charity dinners, which are a great way to score a fabulous multi-course meal while supporting great local causes.
Sidenote: Though not a sushi spot, it’s worth mentioning the brand new Ajii Asian Kitchen in Bend. It’s owned by 5 Fusion’s Joe Kim, but offers a much more casual dining experience than 5 Fusion. Noodle and rice bowls abound, and prices are super-affordable. The food is hearty, nourishing, and delicious, and it’s a great lunch stop for families who love the simplicity of a one-dish meal.
Kanpai Sushi & Sake Bar
When my sushi-loving sister-in-law visits from Seattle, Kanpai Sushi & Sake Bar is always on her shortlist of restaurants to hit.
Small and cozy with a sunny outdoor patio, the sushi is always super-fresh, and the sake is plentiful. Sushi superfans will find plenty to choose from here, and they boast an impressive wine list to boot.
If you’re a sushi newbie who’s not super-adventurous just yet, try ordering their sushi combo that includes three nigari, sashimi, half a California roll, and a spicy tuna roll. It’s a great way to get your feet wet if you can’t decide what to order.
Personally, I adore the Orgasm Roll (and not just for the name). It’s made with tempura unagi, crab, and cucumber topped with avocado, creamy scallops, tobiko, and sweet soy reduction. So tasty!
Sora Sushi Restaurant
The newest newcomer to Bend’s sushi scene, Sora Sushi Restaurant has the added bonus of offering our city’s only sushi train (ie. the sushi conveyor belt that provides a rotating roundup of delectable sushi you can grab as it goes by).
The visual appeal of the conveyor belt makes this a great place to bring kids, and my stepdaughter loves seeing her options roll past so she can snag what looks yummy. The prices are good, too, with a handy pricing structure that lists the price of the dish according to the color of the plate.
There’s a regular menu, too, plus a popular happy hour seven days a week. But if you’re in a hurry, sit at the conveyor belt and grab what catches your eye. Save a little room for one of the tasty tiny dessert bites you’ll see rolling past.
Juno Japanese Sushi Garden
Another sushi newcomer in Bend, Juno Japanese Sushi Garden is the smallest, coziest restaurant in the roundup. But don’t let the size fool you (and don’t let the “reservation only” signs on the door scare you. While it’s true you’ll need one on busy nights, there’s a good chance you can stroll in and make a reservation on the spot if you show up on a slower night).
The restaurant is the baby of Michi Nakanishi, a native of Kyoto, Japan who moved to Bend at 17 and worked in three different sushi spots around town before starting her own. Focusing on “true Japanese food,” the menu is small but mighty (tasty).
Everything they offer tastes unbelievably fresh, and the interesting addition of mild jalapeño peppers gives many of the rolls a refreshingly bright pop. The El Sancho roll was my personal favorite, with soft shell crab, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, and lettuce. Also outstanding was the Ninshi Jin (a “non-everyday special” made with seared albacore, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, mango, avocado, and cucumber).
And if you’re looking for a unique appetizer, try the Cream Corn Korroke, which is a deep fried potato and corn croquette covered in panko bread and served with the most delectable sauce imaginable. Top it off with a small carafe of sake, and you’re good to go!
Located in the Old Mill District, Mio Sushi is one of my favorite spots to drop by with my stepdaughter for a kid-friendly sushi lunch. She loves the mango iced tea, and I love the fact that the menu spells out very clearly what’s in each roll (and what non-sushi options are available if she isn’t in the mood—she swoons for the tempura!)
This is also home to one of my favorite sushi rolls in town, the Bubble Bubble. Made with avocado, tobiko, salmon, and ikura, it’s topped with the thinnest, most scrumptious slices of fresh lemon you can imagine. Trust me when I say the lemon adds a whole new dimension to the dish that’ll have you ordering it again and again (and possibly commanding your husband to swing by on his way home from work to grab a double order—what, that’s just me?)
Bonus: Coming here will give you a great excuse to stroll the Deschutes riverfront and check out the cool shops in the Old Mill District. Not that you need an excuse.
Okawa Japanese Steak House & Sushi
I made my first visit to Okawa Japanese Steak House & Sushi quite recently, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The former home of Outback Steakhouse, this expansive restaurant is much more than a sushi joint. It’s a hibachi grill where the entertainment value from the chefs is every bit as awesome as the food.
Make sure at least one member in your party orders a hibachi dish, and that you request a seat next to the grill. Be prepared for an acrobatic display of tool flipping and flames, not to mention a tasty and hearty dish. Also be prepared for leftovers, as these meals are HUGE.
If you’ve come for the sushi, you won’t be disappointed. The menu boasts some of the most creatively-named rolls in town, including the Stinky Roll (spicy crabmeat, asparagus, and avocado inside Cajun albacore and topped with garlic ponzu sauce), and the One Night Stand roll (spicy tuna, asparagus, and avocado, topped with seared salmon and served with basil sauce).
Expect to see a few rowdy groups of birthday parties or girls’ night gatherings. Better yet, schedule your own.
A locals’ favorite on the south end of town, Tomo Sushi is best known for offering half-priced sushi on Mondays from 4 to close (sorry, no to-go orders, and wait times can be long).
But paying full price won’t break the bank here anyway, as the sushi and non-sushi dishes are all reasonably priced and plentiful. The ambiance is surprisingly cool and funky, and the cocktail menu is impressive.
This is also another kid-friendly spot where you won’t get dirty looks for bringing in youngsters who haven’t fully mastered chopsticks.
Try the Back in Black roll with tempura shrimp, avocado, and spicy tuna, topped with blackened tuna, spicy aioli, unagi sauce, and spicy masago. And scope out their selection of local beers on draft, which make a nice accompaniment to many of the sushi rolls.
Grocery store sushi
I know, I know . . . there’s a stigma that comes with grocery store sushi, and it’s not great.
But trust me when I say there are two spots worth a second look, especially when you’re seeking an on-the-go sushi meal to take with you on a picnic or a day drive from Bend.
The first is Newport Avenue Market, which is a local favorite for fresh, gourmet ingredients and unique grocery items you won’t find in other stores. Their sushi is made fresh daily, and ranges from tempura rolls to sashimi balls to specialty rolls. My favorite perk is the fact that you can always find rolls made with brown rice, which adds a nutty flavor and unique texture I find appealing.
Another good grocery store option is the new Market of Choice on Bend’s west side. They have an on-site sushi kitchen, and a surprisingly good (and well-priced!) variety of rolls to pick from in their deli case. But the best deal of all is their $4.99 Sushi Wednesday special, which offers up to 10 varieties for $4.99 all day each Wednesday. Just look for the special red Sushi Wednesday sticker.
Three years ago, a hotelier in a town near Bend told me every room in their small city was already booked for the 2017 solar eclipse. Pretty sure I’d heard wrong, I asked him to repeat that.
“We started getting calls from all over the world back in 2011,” he said somberly. “It’s going to be huge.”
While the Total Solar Eclipse happening August 21, 2017 will be viewable all over North America (and even in parts of South America, Africa, and Europe), Central Oregon has been touted as one of the best spots on earth to see it. It’s partly our reputation for cloudless summertime skies, and partly that Madras, Oregon (45 miles northeast of Bend) is smack-dab in the direct line of totality. That means they’ll see approximately two minutes and two seconds of complete darkness around 10:19 a.m.
It’s the first Total Solar Eclipse since 1979, and there won’t be another viewable from the U.S. until 2024. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in Central Oregon.
Got a place to stay?
What that hotel owner told me three years ago wasn’t an exaggeration. Hotels in Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Bend, and La Pine have been fully booked for ages. Ditto that for campgrounds at all the state parks.
There’s a slim, slim chance you can still find a few private campgrounds with spots available, and I’ve seen several Central Oregon ranchers offering “self-contained RV sites” on their property.
If someone cancels a hotel room and you’re lucky enough to snag it, expect to pay a premium. Supply and demand is in full force, and I’ll admit I’m mind-boggled by the prices I’m seeing for rooms.
As of this posting (May 25, 2017) the one place I know of that still has a few rooms available is the brand new Springhill Suites by Mariott that just opened in Bend. They’re requiring a five-night minimum stay during the eclipse, and odds are good these will be snapped up within the next few days.
So where can I watch?
While the eclipse will be viewable from towns all over Oregon, it’s Madras that’s getting all the press as the town in the line of totality. As the moon begins to pass between the sun and the earth starting around 9:06 a.m., viewers in Madras will witness the shadow darkening the peak of nearby Mt. Jefferson before everything goes black and the area is plunged into total darkness for about two minutes at 10:19 a.m.
Sounds awesome, but getting there will be the trick. If you’re staying in an outlying town like Bend or Sunriver, don’t expect to jump in your car that morning and cruise to Madras. Experts predict traffic will be at a standstill, and a drive that would normally take an hour could take nine or ten hours. Seriously.
You can try driving out the previous evening, or you can settle for chilling at your hotel or campsite in Bend or surrounding areas and enjoying what will still be pretty darn fine views of the eclipse.
If you’re dead set on being on the line of totality, visit http://madraseclipse.com/ for everything you could possibly want to know about festivals, amenities, transportation, and more.
Traffic will be nuts, guys
I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one—traffic is going to be insane. Our towns in Central Oregon are small, which is why most of us love it here. The roadways weren’t designed for an influx of 100,000 to 500,000 vehicles in one weekend (which is what experts currently predict).
Fortunately, Bend is a pretty bike-friendly town, and weather in August lends itself to cruising everywhere on two wheels. Bring your bike from home, or make a reservation to rent a ride from one of our local bike shops.
Fighting traffic to get into Central Oregon before the eclipse will be challenging, but authorities predict getting out after the eclipse will actually be trickiest. Pro tip: If you can remain in Bend for a few days after August 21, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration fighting traffic. Besides, it’s a pretty awesome place to hunker down.
How can I prepare?
Central Oregon authorities are regarding eclipse preparations like the ramp-up to a natural disaster, but their advice is spot-on. We don’t really know what to expect, so it’s smart to be ready for anything.
If possible, fill your gas tank 5-7 days before the eclipse, since there’s a possibility of shortages or super-long lines. Ditto that for stocking up on things like groceries, medications, or any supplies you might need for your trip.
Most importantly, be flexible and patient. There will be thousands of folks here vying for tables at restaurants, spots on coveted tours, and viewpoints at major landmarks. Just go with the flow and use the opportunity to put our Visit Like a Local tips into practice.
Need more info?
To learn more about the eclipse and to see the source of the map we shared above explaining the path of totality, check out this site: http://www.eclipse2017.org/
If you’re planning to stay in Bend, bookmark www.visitbend.com for everything you could possibly want to know about shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation in Bend, Oregon.
Want to check traffic conditions en route to, from, or around Central Oregon in the days surrounding the eclipse? The Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck site is a great resource: https://tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp
And once again (because I can’t say it enough) this really is an awesome site dedicated to seeing the eclipse along the line of totality in Madras: http://madraseclipse.com/
It’s that time of year again, kids. ‘Tis the season for waking up to frost on the ground, and by lunchtime, stripping off those extra layers to bask in 80-degree sunshine.
The weeks surrounding Memorial Day Weekend also signal the opening of roadways and landmarks that have been buried under snow for the last five months. Heavy snowfall in 2017 has pushed many opening dates later and later, with some still up in the air as snow continues to fall in the mountains.
Here’s the current roundup of what’s open, what’s opening soon, and what’s still snowy in and around Bend as of May 18, 2017.
Already open and ready for play!
The road allowing guests to drive up and down Pilot Butte opened on April 15 in 2017, which is on par with a normal snow year. Watch for icy spots on cold mornings, but otherwise, you should be ready to roll.
The Cascade Welcome Station (operated by the Forest Service near milepost seven on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway) is also open, and operating Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. That schedule will continue through May 30, when they’ll shift to summer hours and be open daily during those same hours.
Lava Lands Visitor Center is also open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The road to the top of Lava Butte is open and drivable, and the shuttle will start Memorial Day weekend this year. Lava River Cave is also open already, and currently operating from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday until they shift to summer hours on Memorial Day weekend. New this year, there’s a 10-minute required orientation that all visitors must attend. You can learn more about that here.
The Tumalo Falls Trailhead is also open for the season, but be aware that the trail is still pretty packed with snow just above the overlook. Dress warmly, bring proper footwear, and be prepared to turn back when the snow gets too deep for hiking.
What’s opening soon?
Several weeks ago, folks were speculating the Cascade Lakes Highway would open on its usual timeframe around Memorial Day Weekend. Then Mother Nature laughed and laughed and laughed and dumped another couple feet of snow on us.
As of today (May 18, 2017) they’re predicting an “early June” opening for the Cascade Lakes Highway between Mt. Bachelor and Elk Lake. As of now, the gates are still in place at Lava Lake. Crews are working nonstop on clearing the snow, and you can keep your eyes on this page for the latest updates.
Another hotly-anticipated opening date each year is the Old McKenzie Pass (242). Right now, they’re predicting a late-June opening date for roads to be cleared and the gates to open for cars. Cyclists, on the other hand, are welcome to head up now to enjoy car-free roads.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is at least a little bit accessible right now. Paulina Lake Road (FS Road 21) will open the gate at 10-Mile Sno-Park on Friday, May 19, but access to the lakes is still limited by snow. The Paulina Peak Visitor Center is expected to open on May 27, but don’t expect Paulina Peak Road to open anytime soon—that bad boy is going to take a lot of clearing and snowmelt this year!
What if I still want to play in the snow?
You’re in luck! Spring skiing is in full swing at Mt. Bachelor, with lifts running every day from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through Sunday, May 28. They’ve seen 604-inches of snow at mid-mountain since October 1, which is pretty impressive. Almost as impressive as their spring lift ticket prices, which are in effect for the remainder of the season.
Can’t make it out for spring skiing? Prepare yourself for summer skiing. That’s right—Mt. Bachelor recently announced plans to open the Sunrise and Summit lifts from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from July 2 through July 4. And while those lifts are spinning for skiers and snowboarders, the Pine Marten lift will be open (snowmelt permitting) for scenic rides and mountain biking.
How’s that for having the best of both worlds?
Visiting a new city always sends my inner foodie into a frenzy, a fact I rediscovered last week when traveling to Barcelona. It’s not enough to know that I must try paella. I must find the absolute perfect spot to enjoy the classic paella experience with views of the cathedral and maybe a flamenco guitarist serenading me while I eat.
Figuring out a region’s signature dishes and the best place to enjoy them can be exhausting, I’ll admit. So I’ve helped you get rid of the guesswork with these suggestions of dishes and drinks you absolutely must add to your Bend bucket list.
Grab a burger at Dandy’s or Pilot Butte Drive In
Bend is home to a zillion amazing hamburgers, and I blogged about 12 of them right here.
But if you’re seeking the quintessential Bend burger experience, I suggest you try one of two places.
The first is Pilot Butte Drive In. Located next to Bend’s iconic Pilot Butte State Park, this cozy little diner has been a Bend landmark since 1983. You’ll find tasty goodies like homemade malts, scrumptious steak & eggs, and of course, a delicious variety of burgers.
My personal fave is the Ortega Cheeseburger, piled with grilled mild green chilis and melted jack cheese with mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Go inside and grab a cozy booth by the fire, or park and order from your car for a true drive-in diner experience.
And speaking of the drive-in experience, that’s the specialty at Dandy’s Drive-In. This nostalgic little burger joint has operated in Bend since 1968, with servers who arrive on roller skates to take your order through the car window. Don’t expect a lot of frou-frou condiments and crazy toppings here, but do expect a darn good traditional burger.
The Dandy Deluxe is a standard burger with the addition of cheese, tomatoes, and special sauce. It’s deliciously drippy and extremely satisfying, especially when paired with an old fashioned Cherry Slice and an order of their to-die-for onion rings.
Eat the sourdough scones at Pine Tavern
One of the oldest restaurants in Bend, Pine Tavern has been operating since 1936. The name hails from the two ponderosa pine trees (one living, one not so much) that jut up through the center of the restaurant.
But even more than the trees, what Pine Tavern is best known for are its sourdough scones with honey butter. Fluffy and light and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, they’re paired with homemade honey butter that will leave you swooning at your table. Be forewarned that the scones are only available with dinner, so don’t show up at lunch expecting to order them.
But dinner is a great time of day to be there anyway, especially if you can nab a river-view table on their patio. Their meatloaf is especially tasty, as is their classic prime rib. Plan on taking home a doggie bag after you’ve filled up on those scones!
Grab a beer at Deschutes Brewery
Beer fans trekking the trail of suds along the Bend Ale Trail will debate furiously over which of the 15 breweries has the best beer.
But one thing that’s not up for debate is who started it all. Deschutes Brewery is the granddaddy of Bend’s beer scene, establishing the first Bend brewery in 1988 and eventually growing to become one of the nation’s largest craft breweries.
These days you can nab a table in the very same pub where the first beers were brewed, ordering a taster tray that includes originals like Black Butte Porter and Jubelale as well as seasonal selections and nitro brews available only in the pub. Pair your brew with a tray of tasty hot wings or one of their scrumptious salads to make it a lunch or dinner affair.
Honorable mention: While there’s no question Deschutes kicked off Bend’s beer scene, Bend Brewing Company wasn’t far behind when they opened their doors in 1995, making them the city’s second oldest brewery. It has the vibe of a friendly, cozy local watering hole and a darn fine meal menu. Order a pint of Ching Ching or Elk Lake IPA, along with their scrumptious sriracha seasoned cauliflower or a steak and spinach salad.
Devour a Nacho Mountain at Mt. Bachelor
If your visit to Bend includes a ski day at Mt. Bachelor, no trip to the mountain is complete without a Nacho Mountain at the Clearing Rock Bar.
This legendary, culinary treat is made with your choice of chipotle chicken tinga, hearty beef chili, or smoked pork. That’s piled atop a hearty plate full of chips, cheddar-jack cheese, fresh tomato, olives, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeños, and red salsa.
Pair it with one of Mt. Bachelor’s famous bloody marys or a local brew for the ultimate après ski treat.
Savor an ice cream sundae at Goody’s
Goody’s Chocolates has been Central Oregon’s go-to sweet spot since 1984, and now boasts several locations that manufacture a whopping 20 tons of chocolate a year.
But it’s their ice cream that holds the most nostalgic qualities for folks who’ve been vacationing in Bend and Sunriver for decades. Grab a waffle cone brimming with creamy Oreo cookie goodness to enjoy as you stroll to nearby Drake Park, or park yourself at the counter to share a banana split with your favorite family member.
They also have an old fashioned soda fountain serving up treats like phosphate sodas and egg creams, plus an impressive array of candy you can buy by the pound.
Salmon and steelhead and trout, oh my!
When people ask about local cuisine in the Pacific Northwest, my first thought always jumps to fish. Salmon, steelhead, and trout make appearances on plenty of local menus, each prepared in uniquely Central Oregon style. Three spots with the most Bend-esque flair for fish dishes include Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill District, 900 Wall in Downtown Bend, and Ariana Restaurant just outside the Downtown zone.
The latter (Ariana) gets an additional shout-out as a foodie’s paradise with oodles of critical acclaim. Named one of the top 100 restaurants in America by Open Table, they boast an impressive wine list and classic European dishes mixed with specialty Northwest cuisine. Try their rainbow trout with pan-roasted, smoked fingerlings, sauce gribiche, and dill oil, and prepare to be blown away.
I’m writing this post from 5,570 miles from Central Oregon, which seems weird for a tourism blog devoted to Bend.
But being in Barcelona right now has me in “tourist mode” instead of “tourism promotion mode,” which spurred a few observations worth sharing. While I’ve bopped my way between countless foreign lands and U.S. cities over the last few decades, here are 6 reasons I’m convinced Bend is one of the best places on earth to be a tourist.
One heck of a great visitor center
My work station back home is spitting distance from the front desk of the Bend Visitor Center, so I’m a perpetual eavesdropper on conversations between Bend visitors and the volunteers and staff members answering their questions.
That’s how I know the tips they dole out daily aren’t canned marketing statements they’re forced to spew because someone’s paying for it. They’re genuine, heartfelt endorsements from locals who live and play in Bend.
When a Visit Bend team member suggests where to hike, bike, dine, ski, shop, or anything else in Bend, you know you’re getting someone’s unbiased, personal endorsement. That’s a rare thing, and it’s why I always tell Bend visitors to stop by the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend (weekdays 9-5, weekends 10-4) at the start of any Bend vacation.
Make your belly happy
Some tourist destinations can be challenging when it comes to dining. Maybe the cuisine is super-greasy or made with unfamiliar ingredients that generate howls of protest from picky eaters in your family, or maybe restaurant hours just don’t mesh with your vacation schedule.
But one thing I love about Bend is that you’ll find pretty much anything your tummy might need. Looking for gluten-free or vegetarian dining in Bend? Bend has oodles of options. Want a grab-and-go breakfast for mornings you’re en route to Mt. Bachelor or a full-day hike? I can name nearly a dozen ideas off the top of my head.
You’ll also find a variety of restaurants in Bend, from Asian to Italian to Mexican and everything in between. Bottom line—your belly will always be happy on a Bend vacation.
What’s that smell?
Researchers have studied why certain scents have the power to trigger powerful emotions, finding some fascinating links between olfactory senses and memories.
I don’t doubt it. The places I’ve visited that have the most unique odors are the ones I remember most clearly. You could drop me blindfolded into the souks of Marrakesh, Morocco, and I would instantly know my location from the unique scent of exotic spice and leather and livestock. Ditto that for the briney, seaweed aroma of the Oregon Coast or the strange blend of botanicals and diesel exhaust in Caracas, Venezuala.
But no place in the universe smells like Bend, Oregon.
There’s something magical about the heady fragrance sun-warmed sage and bitterbrush mixed with the weirdly pleasant cat-pee smell of juniper. Blend in a hint of volcanic dust and ponderosa pine bark, and you could bottle it as Bend perfume.
It’s why I always roll my car window down as I pull into town after a long trip away. It’s the scent of happiness and fresh air and of home, and it’s one of the best sensory experiences I know.
No shortage of banks
Bend’s plethora of banking institutions might seem like a strange benefit to tout, until you find yourself in a lesser-endowed city spending precious vacation time in search of an ATM. That’ll never happen in Bend, where there’s a credit union or major bank chain on nearly every corner.
That’s a big plus for travelers who prefer to pay with cash (which is a great way to track your vacation budget, not to mention supporting small local businesses who appreciate not getting hit with credit card charges).
Guided tours galore
When orienting yourself to a new city, there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than with a guided tour.
Luckily for Bend visitors, there are tons of unique ways to do that. Outdoor enthusiasts can book an outing with Wanderlust Tours to see the area’s caves, snowshoe trails, or top canoe spots. You’ll also find walking tours, electric bike outings, and specialty options like Jeep tours and brewery excursions.
For a complete list, check out our guided tours page to find the one that’s right for you.
More smiles than anyplace else
While disembarking the plane on one of my many layovers en route to Barcelona yesterday, the passengers began to shove. Several folks surged from the back of the plane, prompting surly shouts from those near the front.
“That would never happen in Bend,” I thought.
While I can’t claim Central Oregon is an idyllic land free from road range and bad moods, it’s true that folks seem a little more laidback in Bend. Maybe there’s something in the air, or maybe it’s Bend itself that makes folks kinder, more patient, and generally more joyful.
Whatever it is, Bend is just one of those places that makes your heart a little happier.
It’s still April, and odds are good we’ll see snow at least once more before warm weather arrives in Bend and decides to stick around.
You might think that means you’ve got plenty of time to plan your Bend summer vacation, but you’d be wrong. Here are 5 things you need to do RIGHT NOW if you want to visit Bend during peak summer season.
Book your lodging
I know this seems premature if you have fond memories of the days you could cruise into town on a Saturday in July and expect to have your pick of Bend hotel rooms.
But times have changed, and the city’s lodging operates at or near capacity from June through September. That means you need to plan ahead, especially if there’s a special Bend vacation home or bed and breakfast you’ve been eyeing.
Don’t risk having your summer vacation plans torpedoed by a lack of lodging. Plan ahead, then kick back and relax for another couple months.
Get your gear ready
Most folks journeying to Bend have outdoor recreation on their minds, whether it’s skiing and snowboarding in the winter, or rafting and hiking in the summer.
Don’t make the mistake I’ve made and discover hours before a big hike that your twenty-year-old hiking boots are on their last legs (no pun intended). Plan ahead by inspecting your boots and other outdoorsy attire right now and figuring out what to repair or replace. Bonus: You’ll have time to break in new footwear before hiking season really heats up.
This is also a great time to inventory and inspect things like camping gear or specialty recreation items. Are all your tent stakes present and accounted for? Do the float tubes hold air? Does your bike need a tune-up? Does your sleeping bag smell like something crawled inside and died?
Make sure everything is in working order so there are no unpleasant surprises when it’s time to throw everything in the car for your Bend vacation.
Make a bucket list and a schedule
Last year I was lucky enough to spend three weeks traveling all over New Zealand. I sat down beforehand and sketched out which towns we’d visit and what activities we’d enjoy on each day of the trip. Then I heard echoes of my twenty-something self scoffing about how I used to be a free-spirited, seat-of-her-pants adventurer who never planned ahead, and now I’m just a huge dork.
But my dorkiness paid off.
With pre-made reservations in hand, we didn’t panic when a massive mountain biking event booked up every hotel room, kayak trip, and wine tour in town.
We also didn’t have to spend precious vacation time making phone calls, doing internet research, and trying to plot out the best route from point A to point B.
A Bend vacation is a special thing, so you owe it to yourself to make the most of it. Spend some time researching beforehand at www.visitbend.com and decide what activities belong on your Bend bucket list. You can even peruse this blog for specific recommendations on tours, drinking and dining, and kid-friendly attractions.
Then make a list, make a schedule, make reservations, and kick back knowing you will maximize the ever lovin’ heck out of your Bend vacation.
Watch for special events
Concerts, festivals, and special events are abundant in the summer months, and if there’s some flexibility in your dates, it pays to sync your visit with the ones that cater to your interests.
The Les Schwab Amphitheater has already announced dozens of summer 2017 shows, including Paul Simon, the Avett Brothers, Steve Miller Band, Michael Franti, Jack Johnson, Diana Krall, Ween, and more.
There are also oodles of events like foot races, mountain bike competitions, kayak classes, and more.
For the most comprehensive Bend event calendar on the interwebz, go here.
Grab a good guidebook
I’m a sucker for good guidebooks, and you’ll never catch me boarding an international flight without at least one good tome outlining the top attractions at my destination.
A few of my favorite Bend guides include Bend Overall by Scott Cook (notice all the sticky-tabs in my copy?!), Bend, Oregon Daycations (Day Trips for Curious Families) by Kim Cooper Findling, and Day Hiking: Bend and Central Oregon by Brittany Manwell.
Grab whichever guide interests you most and study up. There will be a quiz later, and I promise you’ll love it.
Last week, a magazine fact-checker sent me an article with a caption touting the beauty of Tumalo Falls in Tumalo State Park. The problem? Tumalo Falls isn’t actually in Tumalo State Park. In fact, the two landmarks are miles apart.
It’s one of many things that throws Bend visitors for a loop, and I’m not here to snicker about it. I’m here to clear up 7 of them so you don’t feel like a doofus on your Bend vacation.
Tumalo Falls isn’t in Tumalo State Park?
Let’s start with the one that spawned this blog post, since it’s one of the most common things to trip up Bend visitors.
Tumalo Falls is located about 14 miles west of Bend off Skyliners Road. You can follow these Google Map directions to get you there from the Bend Visitor Center.
Tumalo State Park is about 19 miles northeast of Tumalo Falls, and while it offers a great campground and fab views of the Deschutes River, there’s no waterfall in sight.
Tumalo Mountain is another entity altogether, and isn’t near the waterfall or the State Park (but is worth a hike in the summer months, so add it to your bucket list!)
There’s also the quaint little town of Tumalo, which does happen to be quite close to Tumalo State Park.
It’s the desert, right? So why is it cold?
Yes, Bend is a desert. But it’s a mountainous high desert that sits at 3,600-feet above sea level. “High” is the key word there (and I promise it has nothing to do with legalized marijuana in Oregon).
Bend’s altitude is responsible for our snowy winters and conditions that can fluctuate wildly. Even on scorching-hot summer days when temps reach the 90s or even break 100, odds are good you’ll still need a jacket at night. You also need to follow the high altitude instructions on the back of the brownie mix you’re baking at that Bend vacation rental (just sayin’).
So Fido can’t run free everywhere?
Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine, and the city’s abundance of off-leash dog parks was one reason.
But that doesn’t mean Rover can roam anywhere he likes without a leash. In developed areas of Bend like neighborhoods, campgrounds, and even parking lots, your dog must be leashed at all times. Leash laws are enforced, and fines can be hefty.
Leash laws also apply between May 15 and September 15 on the Deschutes River Trail between Benham Falls and Meadow Camp, and in the Three Sisters Wilderness between the South Sisters climbers trail and Todd Lake.
Dogs are allowed off-leash when playing “river fetch” in National Forest areas, even along restricted trails. But make sure your pooch is well-trained to respond to voice commands and unlikely to tear off after deer or other wildlife.
For more info about doggy etiquette and laws in Bend, check out www.dogpac.org.
And it goes without saying that no matter where you are, you should do your duty when Fido does his doody. Carry waste bags and clean up after your pooch everywhere you go. It’s part of how you Visit Like a Local when you’re in Bend.
The snow is gone, so why isn’t everything open?
Visitors are sometimes surprised to arrive in the spring and discover the town itself is snow-free, but major landmarks still closed. What gives?
Clearing snow from seasonally-shuttered roadways like the Cascade Lakes Highway and the McKenzie Pass can take a looong time, particularly after a heavy snow year like 2017.
It also affects landmarks like the Lava Lands Visitor Center and Pilot Butte, where safety dictates closures during icier months. Generally speaking, most sites open in the weeks surrounding Memorial Day, though it can take longer for high-elevation attractions.
If you’re wondering about a specific site, call or stop by the Bend Visitor Center for up-to-the-minute info about seasonal closures. You can also keep an eye on the Bend Buzz Blog, where we usually put up a post like this one giving opening dates for major landmarks and roadways.
The river runs which way?
For some odd reason, many Bend visitors are under the impression that all rivers flow south.
But rivers follow the laws of gravity, and water flowing from the mountains takes the path of least resistance in its journey downhill. In Bend’s case, that means the mighty Deschutes River flows north.
Around and around and around we go!
For folks living in cities that don’t have traffic circles, Bend’s roundabouts can seem daunting at first glance. My mother steadfastly refuses to drive through one, always petrified she’ll be seized by demons and tempted to drive the wrong way.
But roundabouts are actually pretty simple. Traffic flows counterclockwise, and traffic entering the roundabout must yield to vehicles already in it.
When you’re ready to exit, use your right turn signal to indicate your intent to leave the roundabout. Failure to signal is one of the most common mistakes drivers make, and you can be fined for not doing it.
Want more tips for navigating Bend’s roundabouts, including some of the multi-lane traffic circles? You’ll find several handy videos here.
Which day use park pass do I need?
State Parks Pass, NW Forest Pass, National Parks Pass . . . when it comes to day use permits, how the @#$% do you know which one you need to see all the landmarks on your Central Oregon bucket list?
Let’s start with State Parks. The main ones in Central Oregon are Smith Rock State Park, Tumalo State Park, La Pine State Park, Cove Palisades State Park, and Pilot Butte State Park. Pilot Butte and La Pine are the only two on that roster that don’t require any sort of parking fee or pass. The others charge $5 per day, and there are machines on site that take credit cards to make it nice and easy. Planning to visit more than one state park on multiple days? Splurge for the $30 annual pass or the $50 two-year pass, which we sell here in the Bend Visitor Center. There are no senior discounts for State Park Passes.
Now let’s talk about the NW Forest Pass. This one is my personal fave, since it grants you access to a whole lotta great stuff you’ll want to see around Central Oregon. This includes all the trailheads on National Forest land, like Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Painted Hills National Monument, and all the awesome lakes and trails off the Cascade Lakes Highway. Day use passes are $5, and you’ll find envelopes and drop-boxes at most major sites. But honestly, you’re better off paying $30 for an annual pass that grants you access to everything for the entire year. We sell that in the Bend Visitor Center, too.
Planning to drive the extra miles to Crater Lake National Park? Normal park entrance is $20 for seven days, but here’s a tip if you’re planning to hit gobs of parks on your Bend vacation: Splurge for the $80 Interagency Annual Pass and get access to all Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish & Wildlife Service sites that charge entry fees. Be aware, though, that none of these passes – or the NW Forest Pass – is valid at any of the Oregon State Parks. Oh, and if you’re 62 and older, pony up $10 for a lifetime America the Beautiful Senior Interagency Pass that gets you into everything except State Parks.
My husband is traveling on business this week, so I’ve spent lots of time talking to the dog drinking milk from the carton exploring Bend on my own.
Obviously, it’s not the first time in my 42+ years as an Oregonian that I’ve hung out solo in Central Oregon, but it’s the first time I’ve paid super-close attention to the best ways to savor Bend by yourself. Here are 6 of them.
Pick the perfect spot to stay
When you’re vacationing solo, sometimes you’d prefer to keep to yourself. That’s easy to do in nearly any Bend hotel or vacation rental, and you can amplify your vacation enjoyment with perks like killer views, in-room spas, or the ability to walk everywhere you want to go (handy if you plan to hit the Bend Ale Trail on your own and want to avoid driving).
Downtown properties like Wall Street Suites and the DoubleTree by Hilton make it simple to stroll between restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. Ditto that for The Oxford Hotel, which has the added bonus of a swanky lower-level restaurant to enjoy when you do feel like interacting with humans.
Hotels in the Old Mill District are another great option for the ease of walking anywhere you need to go for shopping and dining, plus you’ll be mere steps from the Deschutes River and summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Table for one?
I’ll admit I’ve felt moments of awkwardness when dining alone as a business traveler or just a local gal who feels like taking herself out on a lunch date.
Fortunately, Bend’s dining scene is chill enough that it’s really not an issue. My favorite lunch spots for solo dining include Parilla Grill (especially the awesome new Eastside location!), Longboard Louie’s, Barrio, and Croutons.
El Sancho is another great choice for those who want to dip a toe in the water of meeting new people. Many’s the time I’ve parked myself at one of the large, outdoor tables with a random group of strangers and found myself making a new friend.
Looking to treat yourself to a nice dinner? 900 Wall, Joolz, Greg’s Grill, and Zydeco are all awesome dinnertime options where I swear you won’t feel weird requesting a table all to yourself (though if you prefer, most of those spots have a bar where you can ask to be seated solo).
Heading out for a hike
I’ve hiked by myself all over Central Oregon, and aside from a couple rare (and possibly paranoid) moments of fretting about cougars, I’ve always felt safe.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to take some precautions when you’re setting out for a solo hike. Take plenty of water and snacks—just like you would when hiking with pals—but factor in the downside of not having an extra body around for warmth. Then stuff your pack with a few extra warm layers and a space blanket.
Next, make sure you plot your route carefully and take a paper map (no relying on smartphones where you might not have service!) Grab a good guide book like Bend Overall by Scott Cook and Bend, Oregon Daycations (Day Trips for Curious Families), by Kim Cooper Findling to get ideas for routes and what to expect.
And most importantly, let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. That way they can notify authorities if you haven’t returned in a reasonable amount of time.
No sense in driving solo
Since invisible friends don’t count, your solo status renders you ineligible to use the carpool spots at Mt. Bachelor.
But what a great excuse to catch the Mt. Bachelor shuttle to avoid driving all the way there and back in your own car.
Enjoy your own company
One of my favorite solo activities when traveling is to find a warm, cozy spot to curl up with a good book.
When it’s warm and sunny, check out one of Bend’s 80+ public parks. You’ll find tons of great spots to throw down your picnic blanket and curl up with your toes in the grass and a good book on your lap. Pack a picnic and make a day of it!
Want to meet people?
As much as I enjoy the pleasure of my own company, there are limits to how much alone-time I need. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to mingle with strangers when you’re visiting Bend.
Book an outing with Wanderlust Tours, and bond with your fellow travelers while snowshoeing, canoeing, caving, or enjoying countless other tours they offer year-round.
And if you’re looking for an activity or event that’s catered to your specific interests, scope out Visit Bend’s event calendar. There, you can search for film screenings, athletic competitions, concerts, art gallery openings, culinary events, and more.