If you’ve wandered around visitbend.com, odds are good you’ve stumbled across our Bend FAQ page. It’s packed with frequently-asked questions ranging from Bend history and elevation to Sno-Park permits and airports.
Useful stuff, to be sure. But the Visit Bend team fields plenty of less-commonly-asked question on Facebook, Twitter, or in the Bend Visitor Center. Many of them have to do with finding the best place for a particular activity. It might not be the sort of thing you’d see in a normal FAQ, but we think it’s worth sharing in case you have the same plans.
Here are three not-so-frequently-asked questions about Bend (along with the answers—because we’re helpful like that).
Answer: Believe it or not, we’ve fielded this question more than once. Though a lot of free wi-fi spots are coffee shops that close a bit earlier, here are three excellent options for night owls craving an internet fix and an IPA.
Answer: Though I’m not a fan of televised sports, I’m aware that there’s always a “big game” no matter what season it is. Luckily, Bend has a nice selection of sports bars offering you the opportunity to belly-up to the bar, sip a cold one, and watch men in tight pants run around on a field.
Answer: You’ve come to the right place, in case you missed the news that Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine.
One of the key things that earned Bend the DogTown USA title is the city’s abundance of off-leash areas—seven, in total! DogPAC has an awesome map of them here. My favorite is the Bob Wenger Off-Leash Area in the northeast part of town. It features more than 17 acres of fenced terrain with trails and grass.
Don’t forget to review the dog park rules at Bend Parks & Recreation District website.
If you’re hoping to hike in the great outdoors without the constraints of fences or leashes, there are a few great options. In the winter months, Wanoga Trail is Oregon’s only groomed ski/snowshoe trail that allows dogs. During the summer months, check out the Three Sisters Wilderness between the South Sister climber’s trail and Broken Top.
Dogs are also allowed off-leash all year long while in the river from Meadow Camp to Benham Falls. The area between the Entrada Lodge and Widgi Creek Golf Course offers the best water access in the summer, with just a short hike to the river.
You don’t want to blink this time of year in Bend. Close your eyes for half-a-second and you’ll open them to discover everything is different. Well, different in a good way. Here are seven exciting new seasonal developments in Bend from the last few weeks.
The Lava Lands Visitor Center closes down during the icy months, but as of May 2, everything is up and running again. This bustling interpretive hub of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a great place for the whole family. Springtime is a particularly pleasant time to visit, since the mid-summer months can be downright scorching with acres of lava rock and obsidian acting as a big solar oven. The Lava Lands Visitor Center offers amazing insights on area geologic and cultural history, a cool gift shop, educational films, ranger talks, and a chance to drive to the top of Lava Butte for a spectacular view of Central Oregon. From now through June 10, they’re open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After June 10 they’ll be open daily for those same hours, which will last through early September.
It was only a few weeks ago I had to scrape snow off my windshield before driving to the grocery store. There’s still white stuff falling from the sky, but none of it requires a shovel and sturdy boots. Bend’s flowering trees are in full bloom right now, sending cascades of fluttering blossoms adrift anytime the wind blows. It’s a lovely sight to behold, but it won’t last long. And we also can’t guarantee there won’t be one more real snowstorm before things heat up for the summer.
One of my favorite things to do in Bend is enjoy a cocktail and some appetizers on an outdoor patio, so I nearly wept with joy a few weeks ago when local restaurants began dragging tables outside. I especially love 900 Wall in Downtown Bend. It’s a great spot for people-watching, and their happy hour menu is one of the best in town. Try the carpaccio and a greyhound made with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. A bit east of that is Brickhouse, which just moved to a new spot a couple weeks ago. They’ve got a great area for outdoor dining, and their bacon wrapped scallops are out-of-this-world scrumptious (particularly when paired with their tasty cucumber martini). Crossings at the Riverhouse has an enormous deck overlooking the river, plus an equally enormous happy hour menu with oodles of tasty treats to choose from. If you’re in the Old Mill District, head to Anthony’s or Greg’s Grill, which both have amazing outdoor patios overlooking the Deschutes River. The views are spectacular from either spot, and both restaurants boast awesome happy hour menus and terrific wine lists.
If fishing is your scene, you might have danced a jig on April 27 when most of the great Cascade Lakes opened for fishing season. This includes Crane Prairie Reservoir, South Twin Lake, Little Lava Lake, Big Lava Lake, and Wickiup Reservoir. All of those spots are known for spectacular fishing (or spectacular lounging in the sun reading a good book while someone else does the fishing). For a little extra challenge, Cabela’s planted a specially-tagged fish in South Twin Lake. If you catch it, you could win a million bucks through their Fish for Millions promotion. That’s almost enough to make me consider buying a fishing pole.
All I have to do is whisper the words Sun Mountain Fun Center and my gentleman friend’s offspring will sprint for the car. This is THE place to go for families looking to entertain the youngsters with bowling, billiards, bumper cars, arcade games, and more. What you may not know is that some of their super-fun outdoor activities don’t open ‘til the weather turns warm. The go-karts started running again several weeks ago, and you can ride Friday through Sunday through mid-June when they’re operating every day of the week. The batting cages opened in April, and the outdoor mini-golf opened a bit before that. The Water Wars area won’t open until the weather turns a little bit warmer, but based on the way spring is heating up, that could be sooner than normal. Save some water balloons for me, okay?
Seasonal road closures are commonplace in the land of snowy winters, but with the snow receding, popular highways are welcoming traffic once more. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened this week, making it easy for guests to reach spots like Devil’s Lake and Sparks Lake (though Todd Lake is still closed due to snow). Crews from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have been clearing the McKenzie Pass Highway, and one lane is already open for cyclists and pedestrians. Gates should open soon for motor vehicles, so stay tuned for news.
If a whitewater raft trip is on your bucket list this summer, you’ll be thrilled to know Sun Country Tours just started running their popular daily Big Eddy Thriller raft trips again last weekend. The adventure features class III rapids on a three-mile journey down the beautiful Deschutes River. It’s great fun for families who don’t mind getting a little soaked, and young kids can opt not to paddle if they choose. You can easily fit the trip into a morning or afternoon, and all experience levels are welcome. The cost is $53 for adults ages 13 and up, or $46 for kids 6-12. Book early, and be prepared to get wet.
My idea to blog about Bend’s best bacon was not well-timed. A few weeks before bikini season (and all the lovely river floating I plan to do on the Deschutes) is not the best moment to embark on a quest to find the top swine-centric dishes in the city.
But I persevered, bringing you the top seven bacon dishes you simply must sample when you visit Bend. Try them in order as a sort of progressive day-of-bacon dining experience, or savor them one by one over multiple days.
If you’re looking to start your day with a few slices of succulent, crisp, trip-over-your-tongue-drool-worthy bacon, you can’t go wrong at McKay Cottage. Their applewood smoked bacon is sourced from a ranch in Missoula, Montana, and according to staff at McKay Cottage, the secret to perfect bacon is in preparation. Instead of pan-frying it, they bake their bacon in an oven about 350-degrees, which produces the perfect crispy (but not too crispy) texture. The flavor is extra divine, too, and particularly good when served with one of their scrumptious hash dishes. Or just order a plate of bacon—3 slices for $3.50. What more could you need?
A little out-of-the-way for the average Bend tourist, Pono Farm & Fine Meats is well worth the trek to the northeast end of Bend. Located in the general area of Lowe’s and Les Schwab Tires, Pono Farm specializes in selling hormone-free, antibiotic-free, humanely raised meats grown locally on their Central Oregon family farm. They raise Wagyu (Kobe) and red angus beef, as well as heritage breed pork consisting mainly of Berkshire and Red Wattle genetics. These old breeds are known for superior meat quality, and the hogs at Pono Farms are raised long and slow for flavorful, succulent pork.
As you can probably guess, these guys are serious about their bacon, and they offer a variety of cuts and preparation methods. I opted for a simple Tillamook Cheddar Bacon burger for $12, which comes with one side. Since friends had raved about their amazing side dishes, I tacked on a few extras just to try them. The fries were tasty and crisp, the citrus-roasted asparagus was divine, and the roasted Brussels sprouts were served with a succulent mix of onions and—what else? Bacon! The Brussels sprouts were especially lick-your-plate delicious, and the burger was tender and tasty with the perfect complement of flavors between the beef, cheese, and gloriously flavorful bacon. The kitchen at Pono Farm is currently just open for lunch, but they have broader hours for the butcher shop if you want to pick up something to throw on the grill back at your Bend vacation rental. Check their website for hours, and be prepared to swoon.
Prefer to consume your bacon in liquid form? The Bakon Bloody Mary at Brother Jon’s Public House has everything you need in a glass. This tasty beverage features Bakon brand bacon-flavored vodka, their special house-made Bloody Mary mix, a dash of Lea & Perrins, a dash of Tabasco, a bacon salt rim, lots of veggies, and of course—a couple slices of bacon! The bacon is sourced locally from Primal Cuts, and it’s the perfect complement to this bacony beverage from heaven. We won’t judge you for ordering two. Or three. Or four.
With breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon drink under your belt, it’s time for dessert. While you’re in the neighborhood near Brother Jon’s, head over to The Dough Nut to get your sugar buzz in true bacon fanatic fashion. All their donuts are made from scratch daily from 6:30 a.m. until they’re sold out. That’s been happening earlier these days as their amazing made-from-scratch donuts become more popular, including the divine bacon maple bar topped with homemade maple glaze and tasty chunks of fresh bacon. You can nab the bacon maple bar for just $2, along with oodles of other great donut creations. Your best bet is to arrive earlier in the day, since they’ve been known to sell out completely by 3.
After a bacon-filled morning and afternoon, you’re craving something a bit lighter. A salad, perhaps? Nothing completes a salad quite like bacon, and 10below restaurant & lounge on the lower level of the Oxford Hotel has mastered this art like no one else. Their iceberg wedge salad features house-made Thousand Island dressing, fresh ground black pepper, and a generous helping of candied bacon. It’s a flavor explosion of crisp, tangy, salty, and sweet, and it’s only $4 during happy hour or $5 on the regular menu. Several times I’ve made the mistake of offering to split it with someone, and I always end up ordering a second one because it’s too delicious to share. Pair it with their tasty Mello Yellow cocktail (whipped cream flavored vodka, champagne syrup, lemon juice) and a plate of their tasty tempura-battered veggies, and you’ve gotten your veggie requirement for the day. Now for more bacon!
With the salad out of the way, it’s time to fulfill your fruit requirement. Head a few blocks west to Velvet, and order a couple of their tasty bacon-wrapped apricot skewers with sweet soy. They include five zingy apricots with the perfect amount of squish and sweetness, paired with salty-crisp bacon. The swirl of sauce on the plate is perfect for dipping, and the shreds of green onion add an extra zip of flavor. The skewers are $3 apiece, and three of them offer the perfect amount for sharing between a couple.
Knowing my fondness for both bacon and the use of beer in recipes, my gentleman friend tipped me off about this new addition to the menu at Crux Fermentation Project. Their new baked mac and cheese features a divine cheddar cheese sauce spiked with their Marzen beer—an Oktoberfest-style brew that’s the perfect complement to tangy cheddar. It’s $10 for the basic dish, but you absolutely must add a generous helping of diced bacon for just $2. The portion is generous, the beer cheese sauce is rich and flavorful, and the bacon adds the perfect hint of texture and salty goodness. It comes with a couple slices of spent-grain toast, and if you’re craving some greens to accompany it, grab the Spring Crux Salad with balsamic stout vinaigrette, fresh strawberries, avocado, gorgonzola, and sliced almonds on a bed of tossed greens. You can add bacon to that, too, if you like. And why wouldn’t you?
I spent the week of April 15 over in Salem, where it’s a veritable explosion of colorful blossoms and vibrant green foliage.
Back in Bend, my gentleman friend was texting me photos of the scene outside our bedroom window:
Suffice it to say, spring looks different in Bend than it does in other parts of Oregon. But Bend-ites embrace it, as do our lucky visitors this time of year. Here are six unique things about springtime in Central Oregon.
Bend weather watchers have been crowing all week (April 22-26) about warm temperatures in the mid-sixties and low seventies.
What does that look like in Bend? Well, picture a lot of people wearing shorts and skirts with bare legs—no tights, hooray!
Then picture them all shivering like fiends, because it’s 15-degrees below freezing in the morning. Here’s what the weather report looked like Tuesday morning around 8 a.m.:
23-degrees one morning, and 72 degrees a few days later? Yep, that’s Bend in the springtime. It’s a bit chilly in the morning, but the warm afternoons make everything worthwhile. Besides, it’s fun to watch the full-day striptease as everyone around you peels off layers throughout the afternoon, only to bundle back up in the evening.
Sure, you’ll see lovely little bursts of tulips, daffodils, and crocuses in well-manicured flowerbeds throughout Bend shopping districts and neighborhoods. But my favorite springtime flowers are the hardy blossoms that struggle through dry desert earth, popping up between volcanic rocks and the roots of ancient junipers.
I won’t pretend to be able to name all the varieties, but if you prowl around areas like Pilot Butte State Park or the Oregon Badlands Wilderness this time of year, you might encounter sand lilies, larkspur, wallflower, Oregon sunshine, buckwheat, and many more. These random little orangey-red blooms shown on the left? I have no idea what they are, but seeing them sprouting through lava and sagebrush while I was rock-hounding at Fischer Canyon northeast of Bend totally made my weekend.
Plenty of people are allergic to juniper, including my poor gentleman friend (who, during an allergy-inspired sneezing fit yesterday, declared, “I hate April.”) Since I’m blissfully devoid of seasonal allergies, I can say I love Bend’s juniper trees with all of my slowly-thawing heart. This time of year the junipers are especially fragrant, with lush, blue berries weighing down the branches. I smell them when I step outside, and I’m instantly transported to my childhood summers visiting my grandparents in Central Oregon.
If you are allergic, there’s still a way for you to enjoy Bend’s junipers. Stop by Bendistillery (America’s most award-winning craft distillery) and snag a bottle of their Crater Lake Gin, which is made with wild, locally-harvested juniper berries. Yum!
Yeah, yeah…we’ve all seen letters vanish from signs pointing out Bend’s irrigation canals. I’ve also heard plenty of cracks about how they’re essentially glorified ditches. I don’t care. I think Bend’s canals are beautiful, burbling bodies of water flowing through parts of town tourists don’t often get to see, and they begin flowing each year in April following their winter shutdown. There are some particularly lovely spots in the northeast part of town along Butler Market. You can head east or west from starting points along Brinson Blvd. or Purcell Ave., and the maintenance easement running along the west side makes a lovely walking trail (particularly for those with dogs).
While plenty of other ski areas in the nation are winding down for the season, Mt. Bachelor is just hitting its stride. Bachelor has one of the longest winter seasons in North America, and Springtacular is the celebration of that extra-lengthy opportunity to savor snow-play. They’re open daily through May 26, and Springtacular festivities include concerts, competitions, camps, prize giveaways, discounted passes, and of course, regular old skiing and boarding. Don’t forget the sunscreen, and remember to dress in layers for those extra-sunny afternoons. Head up early and start your day right with one of their delicious Bloody Marys in the bar!
It’s still too chilly to flop your inner-tube in the Deschutes for a lazy, sun-baked float down the river. That’s melted snow, remember? Still, warmer springtime temps beckon us all to Bend’s abundant bodies of water, which makes this an excellent time of year to try standup paddleboarding. Go here to find a list of outfitters who can hook you up with rental gear, basic tips, or even personal lessons.
And lest you think having Fido on your board is strictly for paddlers with vast experience, I should point out the photo to the leftwas snapped during my second outing. Trust me, it’s easier than it looks. Also trust me when I say the water is colder than it looks, so don’t fall in (at least not for another couple months).
Bend is an amazing place. I mean, that’s why we’re all here on this website instead of the one for Visit Blue Ball, Ohio (that’s a real town. I swear).
While Bend has everything you could possibly wish for in a vacation destination, it’s possible you’ll feel like exploring elsewhere for an afternoon. Hey, we aren’t here to judge. We’re here to offer three suggestions for fun day trips you can take from your Bend home base.
Located on the Warm Springs reservation northeast of Bend, Kah-Nee-Tah is a fun day trip for families in particular. Though you’ll find all kinds of activities like biking, horseback riding, mini golf, a day spa, and even a casino, the best reason to head to Kah-Nee-Tah is the hot springs mineral pool. It’s warm and soothing in the winter months (heated to 92 degrees) and cooled during the summer. There are two awesome slides, incluging a 184-foot enclosed tube and a 140-foot slide with an open top for claustrophobic fraidy-cats like me. There are a couple hot tubs, a kids’ wading pool, and these adorable bear statues that have been squirting water into the pool since my parents first brought me here in a swim diaper. My gentleman friend and I recently made the day-trip here with his offspring (ages 7 and 11) and the whole family had a blast swimming, splashing, sliding, and snacking. Don’t forget tons of sunscreen and an air mattress, and remember your camera to snap scenic shots of the landscape surrounding the Warm Springs reservation. Rates for the hot springs pool are $15 for those 11 and older, and $10 for kids 10 and under.
While Sisters makes an excellent outing for recreation-lovers looking to prowl the 1.6 million acres of national forest surrounding this tiny town, that’s not the best reason to visit. Located west of Bend, Sisters is a shopping mecca brimming with quaint stores, art galleries, and unique eateries. Start your day early at the old-timey Gallery Restaurant. Order a hearty helping of corned beef hash & eggs with a side of their homemade applesauce and enjoy it while you check out the walls covered with one of the world’s largest collections of Winchester rifles. With your belly full, browse dozens of cute shops ranging from Beacham’s Clock Co. (one of the world’s few complete master clockmakers that can design and build the entire product) to the Stitchin’ Post (a popular spot for fans of the Sisters Quilt Show) to Sisters Log Furniture (offering handcrafted rustic and western gifts and décor). Time for lunch? Head to Angeline’s Bakery for some healthy eats like raw zucchini noodles with pumpkin seed pesto, or belly up to the bar for some old fashioned grub at Bronco Billy’s Ranch, Grill, and Saloon. Then hit the streets again to browse art galleries, coffee shops, thrift stores, and more. Just make sure you’ve got extra room in the trunk for all the goodies you’re sure to take home.
One of the most pristine national parks on the planet is just a little over two hours from Bend. Crater Lake National Park features towering cliffs, stunning volcanic islands, and the most shockingly blue water you’ll ever see. At 1,943-feet deep, it’s the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the world. It formed when Mt. Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago in a massive volcanic eruption. Then the whole thing collapsed on itself, creating a big hole that eventually filled with water to become the amazing lake you see today. Personally, I love visiting Crater Lake in the summer months when roads are clear of snow, chipmunks are scurrying through the pine needles, and brave souls can go swimming in the icy water. If you find yourself there in the winter months, you can explore the area with a free Ranger-guided snowshoe tour. No matter when you choose to go, make sure you’ve got plenty of room on your camera card to snap tons of photos. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime views you’ll want to remember for a long time.
Bend has so many incredible restaurants and brew pubs that it’s silly to hit the same place twice in four days.
Well, unless you’re talking about Broken Top Bottle Shop.
Broken Top Bottle Shop is one of those awesome spots you could hit every day of the week and not only find a new array of delicious food specials, but a brand new tap list brimming with selections you won’t find anywhere else in town.
I dropped by on a Friday night for a beer and some live music, and returned Tuesday with the Visit Bend crew for a full dinner and beer sampling. The tap lists were so different (not to mention so tempting on both occasions) that I was lured by the sampler tray both times. For $10, you get five 5-ounce tasters from the ever-changing tap list that usually includes 12-15 selections.
Oh, and get this—you can scope out their daily tap list on their website beforehand so you can see what’s new every day of the week.
That’s obviously a plethora of great beer, but it doesn’t stop there. Their huge wall of beer coolers offers roughly 300 varieties of canned and bottled beer ranging from international selections to rare oddities from around the country. Pick a bottle to enjoy at the restaurant, or grab something to go and take 10-percent off.
Not a beer fan? Hey, they still have you covered with a great wine list, plenty of soda, and usually a hard cider selection on the tap list.
One thing that sets Broken Top Bottle Shop apart from a lot of other pubs is the focus on healthy fare. Smoked meats, Panini sandwiches, appetizers, soups, salads, and a huge array of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are whipped up daily by Chef Bethlyn Rider. Even the dessert and kids menus offer an abundance of gluten-free options.
I’m normally a huge fan of their rotating menu of sliders and tacos, and that’s what I get when I’m there on my own. When I dined with Visit Bend, I opted to try a few menu items I hadn’t sampled before.
We started with a heaping pile of nachos so delicious I eventually moved them to the other end of the table for fear I’d devour the entire thing and leave none for my fellow diners. They feature corn tortilla chips topped with gluten-free, vegetarian chili, cheddar cheese, green onions, black olives, O’Hana salsa, sour cream, and edamame guacamole. It’s $6 for a small, $10 for a large, and an extra $4 to add roasted chicken or pulled pork.
Another great appetizer is the applewood smoked chicken wings. You can pick from a variety of sauces, and I highly recommend their house-made mango rum barbecue sauce. They come with a side of bleu cheese or garlic tahini dipping sauce and a generous pile of carrot and celery sticks. It’s $5.50 for six or $11 for a dozen. You’ll want a dozen, trust me.
On previous visits, I’d become smitten with the scrumptious roasted beet salad with its tasty candied walnuts, so I decided to branch out in my salad selection. I picked the lemon pistachio seared king salmon salad, which featured arugula tossed in an avocado lime dressing, topped with creamy basil red pepper coulis drizzle, dusted with pistachios and house-made bacon. I opted for the large at $15 so I’d have some for lunch the next day, though the $9 small is a great option for someone less piggy than me. The whole thing was so scrumptious that I barely had anything left for lunch.
Other entrees I coveted at our table included the tamale pie with blue corn tamales layered with roasted corn, peppers, house-made veggie black bean chili, and grilled zucchini, topped with house-made red chili mole enchilada sauce, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. It’s $11 for all that, or add roasted chicken, pulled pork, or smoked tempeh for another $4.
I’m normally not a huge fan of dessert, but couldn’t resist the bananas foster with Bonta natural artisan gelato, candied walnuts, and whipped cream.
All in all, Broken Top Bottle Shop is a terrific option for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free diners, carnivores, healthy foodies, unhealthy non-foodies, beer fans, non-beer fans, and pretty much anyone walking upright. Or in a wheelchair. Or crawling.
Just check it out, OK? It’s that good.
I’m not a serious cyclist. I do own a bike. It’s a tandem, which should tell you I ride less for the exercise and more for the scenery (I’m talking trees and rivers, not the posterior of the person in front of me, though I enjoy that scenery as well).
Bend is often lauded as BikeTown USA. Velo magazine ranked Bend among the world’s best cycling destinations in their 2012 “ultimate ride guide,” and Mountain Bike Action magazine named us the #1 mountain biking town in America. The Three Sisters Scenic Bikeway offers a collection of scenic road cycling routes connecting communities of Central Oregon.
But if you’re a newbie rider or a casual cyclist like me, that can all sound a little daunting.
With that in mind, I sat down with Doug La Placa for a bit of Q&A about biking in Bend. Besides being Visit Bend’s President and CEO, he’s also an avid cyclist who enjoys everything from competitive road cycling to mountain biking to cruising the Bend Ale Trail on a townie bike. Here’s what he had to say about Bend’s booming bike scene (and the fact that it’s not just for serious riders).
Tawna: You’ve biked all over the country. What is it that makes biking in Bend special?
Doug: Two things combine to make Bend the top cycling destination in the country. The first is terrain. We have a seemingly endless supply of mountain biking for all abilities, ranging from trails for complete novices with little fitness, to trails that would challenge the best athletes. We also have an abundance of road cycling routes with smooth pavement and minimal traffic, and we have amazing neighborhoods that are perfect for just cruising around on a townie bike to go shopping or out for dinner. Cycling is accessible for almost anyone in Bend, and that’s a rare thing to find.
The second thing is our cycling culture. Bend has evolved to have a rich cycling culture in which bikes are part of our everyday life. You’ll see five-year-olds out on mountain bike trails, and whole families attending Cyclocross clinics. We have bike racks everywhere in Downtown Bend and the Old Mill District, and organized rides where cyclists will take over the road for no reason at all. You can stop in at Crow’s Feet Commons, which is a full-service custom bike/ski community, café, and tap room. Bend is Bend is a place where a guy with shaved legs (a custom among bike racers) won’t get funny looks.
Tawna: For newbies out there, how would you suggest getting started?
Doug: First, figure out which looks most fun to you—mountain biking, road cycling, or a cruiser bike in town. You can walk into any bike rental shop in town to get all the gear you need as well as maps and directions for where to go. If you’d rather not set out on your own, you can book a guided tour with an outfitter like Cog Wild. You can even opt for a guided electric bike tour around town with Let it Ride. No matter what, there are plenty of people in town who will be happy to teach you the ropes and get you started.
Tawna: Name your three favorite bike rides in Bend.
Doug: For road cycling, the Twin Bridges Loop is outstanding. It starts and ends in Drake Park in the heart of Downtown Bend, and covers 36 miles of rolling terrain with views of the mountains, forests, and high desert landscape. For mountain biking, The North Fork and Metolius Windego trails are my favorite because they’re only open between August and when the snow flies, and you can ride right to the wilderness boundary at the edge of Broken Top. When I’m on a cruiser bike in town, I like hitting a few stops along the Bend Ale Trail (though keep in mind that Oregon’s traffic laws apply to bikes, too, so you need to stay under the legal limit).
Tawna: Any advice for new cyclists looking to start out in Bend?
Doug: Relax and have fun with it. Don’t feel insecure. We all started out at some point, and that first time you strap on a dorky helmet and leave your house wearing lycra, you feel awkward. But here in Bend, it’s part of the culture. Embrace it. Walk into a coffee shop and you’re sure to see someone dressed just like you. Maybe not the grocery store, though. That’s crossing the line.
From a safety standpoint, remember to bring a cell phone and more food and water than you think you need.
For more experienced cyclists, Bend has an abundance of cycling events throughout the year. They range from the family-friendly Tour des Chutes (with course options ranging from 7 miles to 100) to the Central Oregon 500 (five days of 100-mile rides for serious athletes).
Here’s a glimpse at what’s happening this year:
Road Cycling Races & Tours in Bend
|Central Oregon 500+||June||Chris Horner’s Cascade Gran Fondo||August|
|Cascade Cycling Classic||July||USA Cycling Masters Road Nat’s||Sept|
|Tour des Chutes||July|
Mountain Bike Races in Bend
|Chainbreaker||May||High Cascade 100||July|
|Sisters Stampede||May||High Cascade 24hr||Sept|
|Pickett’s Charge||June||Sisters MTB Festival||Sept|
|Oregon Enduro Series||June||Bend’s Big Fat Tour||Oct|
Cyclo-cross Races & Series in Bend
|Thrilla Cross||Sept||Halloween Cyclocross Crusade||Oct|
|USGP of Cyclocross||Dec|
Is there anything cuter than baby animals? It’s one of the things I love best about springtime, and I’ve been known to drive into the countryside around Bend just to gawk at newborn calves in the fields.
Visit Bend’s marketing director admits she visits local feed stores just to admire baby chicks this time of year, so I know I’m not alone. Whether you’re looking to gaze at fuzzy babies in springtime, or just craving a general animal fix, here are six ways to see oodles of critters around Bend.
A cria is a baby alpaca, and you’ll see plenty of those right now at Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch north of Bend. The ranch is one of the largest alpaca breeders in the United States, and they’ve had 20 new babies born since late January, with roughly 100 more expected between now and September.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the ranch is open for members of the public to come out and enjoy a self-guided tour. There’s always someone on hand to point out new cria and help you get a closer look at alpacas of all ages, sizes, and colors.
There’s also a boutique on the grounds, where you can purchase alpaca wool products ranging from finger puppets to socks to sweaters.
It’s easy to wander on your own, and you’ll find directions to the ranch online. Another way to see it is by booking a Farm and Ranch Tour with The Well Traveled Fork. What’s that, you say?
The Well Traveled Fork offers culinary tours throughout Central Oregon, and Chef Bette Fraser has a passion for showing people where their food comes from. Her popular Farm & Ranch Tour is a great way to get out into the countryside and meet all kinds of critters, especially this time of year when all the baby animals are making their appearance.
This half-day tour includes transportation to a variety of area farms that let you get up close and personal with pigs, sheep, chickens, cows, alpacas, and more. You also get a look at an organic vegetable farm, plus Chef Bette’s awesome insights into the uniqueness of ranching and farming in the high desert environment.
The tour is $50 a person, and is perfect for anyone over age 5.
Bend’s High Desert Museum is one of my favorite critter spotting places in Bend, and I love that they’re constantly bringing in new animal exhibits. A couple weeks ago, they introduced two new otters (Sandy and Rogue, age 3) into their large otter exhibit that previously housed one lone otter (Thomas, age 16).
The new guys are still settling in, but their presence has already perked things up both for the exhibit and for Thomas (who, admittedly, spent the first few days pretty ticked off about the change). The guys are all settling in now, and you can catch a special presentation about otters given each day at 2 p.m. by one of the museum’s naturalists.
Another relative newcomer at the museum is Vivi the bobcat. She arrived a little less than a year ago after the museum’s former bobcat, Ochoco, passed away. She seemed pretty shy during the early months in her new home, and I’ve enjoyed watching her come out of her shell in recent months. For a special presentation at the wild cat exhibit, drop by at 12:30 p.m. each day to hear a naturalist talk about Vivi and the museum’s lynx, Snowshoe.
For museum hours and admission rates, go here.
Longing to see a Belted Kingfisher or a bevy of Buffleheads? Spring is an excellent time to see our fine feathered friends in action, given the warming weather, bird nesting, and migration. The Old Mill District kicked things off earlier this month by offering free guided walks with a local birder from the East Cascades Audubon Society. Tours meet every other Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Ticket Mill, where you can check out binoculars and participate in an adventure. Tour dates for 2013 are 29, April 12, 26, May 10 and 24.
Prefer to do your birding alone? No problem! You can still borrow the binoculars at the Ticket Mill, along with nabbing a free birding guide to help guide you in your adventure. Scope out the illustrated list of birds native to the Bend area, then try to spot them along the Deschutes river. For more information, go here or call or 541-312-0131.
Book a Wild Cat Tour with Bend Trolley and you’ll head out on an exciting expedition to a Central Oregon facility that houses a variety of wild cats and other animals. Learn about breeding, feeding, lifestyle, and the history of these gorgeous animals. You’ll enjoy the trip there and back in an original 1800s trolley with oak bench seating and open-air side panels (kept closed in colder months like this). The price is $45 per person, and requires a minimum of 10 people to book the tour.
Ever fantasized about flying over snow on a majestic dog sled ride led by a team of skilled canines, many of whom competed in the Iditarod? The season is winding down for Oregon Trail of Dreams and their amazing dog sled rides up at Mt. Bachelor, but there’s still time to book your own adventure.
Oregon Trail of Dreams is operated and owned by Jerry Scdoris and his daughter Rachael Scdoris. Rachael is a world renowned athlete and had her first Iditarod finish in 2006. The dogs are beautiful creatures you’re invited to pet and scratch before and after your dog sled trip.
The cost is $85 for anyone over 80 pounds, and $40 for kids under 80 pounds. Advance reservations are required by calling 541-382-1709.
And for a look at what you’ll be experiencing, check out this awesome video:
When people ask what my job entails, my lengthy explanation includes the phrase, “I take journalists out on the Bend Ale Trail to drink beer.”
This is met with the vaguely jealous pronouncement that I have the best job in the world, which is true. I haven’t counted the number of times I’ve made the rounds to all nine Bend Ale Trail breweries (plus the extra-credit brewery in Sisters, plus a smattering of other Bend brew pubs where newness or lack of a public tasting room precludes them from being added just yet).
Suffice it to say, I’ve visited my fair share of Bend beerhouses, so I’ve learned a few things along the way. Allow me to share.
But for now, you’re looking at nine Bend breweries and an extra-credit one in Sisters. You still earn your Silipint prize if you skip the extra-credit stop, which is smart if your goal is to do it all in a matter of hours.
Your best approach is to study the map beforehand online, in your printed Bend Ale Trail Atlas (available at all participating breweries and the Bend Visitor Center downtown) or in your free app for Droid or iPhone. Notice how many of the breweries are located downtown? A good strategy is to start with the breweries outside that zone, hitting Cascade Lakes, GoodLife, Brew Werks, and possibly 10 Barrel before parking in a central downtown location and walking to the rest of your stops on foot. If you’re using this strategy, make sure you’ve got a sober driver, or that he/she opts for only small samples at those first few breweries.
It is actually possible to hit all the stops on foot, particularly if the weather’s nice (though I once walked the whole thing in an afternoon during a blizzard). If this is your strategy, the opposite routing works well, too. Begin downtown, then start making your way toward the outliers, opting to have a cab take you home from your final stop at Cascade Lakes or GoodLife.
If you’re doing the all-in-one day approach, pay special attention to my next few tips.
Be sure you know everyone’s hours of operation before you set out. For instance, the Deschutes Brewery warehouse stops offering tours and tastings at 5 p.m. You can still get your passport stamped at the downtown pub, but the warehouse tour is a pretty cool highlight you really shouldn’t miss. You also want to keep in mind that Boneyard’s tasting room closes at 6 p.m., so plan to hit them a little earlier. 10 Barrel is always packed to the gills, so your best bet there is to avoid lunch hour or dinnertime. Hours at all breweries are subject to change seasonally, so when in doubt, call first.
When it’s time to turn in your passport and collect your prize, remember the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon downtown is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We’re closed Sundays until our summer hours kick in Memorial Day weekend.
Eat a hearty meal before you set out. Bring your own water bottle or ask for glasses of water at brewery stops so you stay well-hydrated. Order food at pubs throughout your journey so you always have something in your belly. Opt for smaller schooners instead of full pints, or stick with a little sample every now and then instead of glugging whole beers. Above all, be responsible. Which leads to the next topic.
There are tons of great ways to ensure everyone stays safe and out of jail. I’ve had a blast doing nearly every single item on the following list:
Seriously, guys. I once had to bail a pal out of jail after he failed to do this. He was lucky, as were the other people in his path that night who could have been injured or killed if things had gone differently. You DO NOT want to mess around with this one.
Because I’ve done the Bend Ale Trail so many times, it’s easy for me to get cocky thinking I know everything. Then I’m forced to beat my head on the bar repeatedly, because DUH.
On my most recent Bend Ale Trail outing, I admitted to accompanying pals that a particular brewery’s beer didn’t really roll my socks up on previous visits. We planned to stop quickly for just a small sample, but ended up staying when we realized their beer was truly phenomenal. I don’t know whether to attribute it to the brewery tweaking its recipes, or my own misguided taste buds, but I’ve already made plans to return again soon.
Conversely, a brewery with a beer I previously adored gave me only a “meh” experience on this round. Generally speaking, it’s smart to keep an open mind. You can pour in more beer that way.
Call me a neurotic planner, but I love checking before I set out so I know who’s got seasonal specials and don’t-miss food deals. I’m a huge fan of the food at Old Mill Brew Wërks, so I always make sure I hit them around mealtimes or happy hour for the best deal on their to-die-for risotto cakes stuffed with goat cheese and served with pesto cream & balsamic reduction.
When I learned Bend Brewing Company still had a few 22oz bottles left of their seasonal Ching-Ching, I nabbed two bottles—one to take home, and one to enjoy with my scrumptious order of fried zucchini. Knowing McMenamins Old St. Francis has a late-night happy hour starting at 10 p.m. makes it a great last-stop for $3.50 pints and $2.50 Cajun tots. Don’t be afraid to study your map carefully or call around beforehand asking about specials.
Above all, have fun out there as you explore our beloved beervana. See you on the trail!
Bend has oodles of beer festivals on the horizon, so if you’re a brew fan, make sure you mark your calendar for these dates:
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: “Hiking” is just a fancy way of saying “walking.”
And here’s another secret: Snowshoeing is pretty much the same as hiking or walking, but with tennis racquets strapped to your feet.
I might be oversimplifying just a tad, but not much. It’s the pure simplicity of these activities that I love most, and now’s a great time for snowshoeing in particular.
Here are three great ways to get your snowshoe on in Bend, even if you’ve never done it before.
If you’re new to snowshoeing, the idea of tracking down rental gear and finding the best trails might seem daunting at first. If you prefer a little extra hand-holding, book a snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours.
A standard half-day snowshoe tour is just $55, or step it up a notch for $65 with a Shoes, Brews, and Views tour offering craft beers from the Bend Ale Trail. You can also opt for a nighttime outing with the Bonfire on the Snow trip for $65. All snowshoe tours include snowshoes, instruction, transportation, and cocoa (plus adult beverages if you choose one of the latter options).
Notice I mentioned instruction? They don’t take this lightly at Wanderlust. Their naturalist guides don’t just help you lace up your snowshoes and pat you on the butt. They also offer awesome techniques and tricks, plus incredible insights about local geology, wildlife, and nature. The outings are even good for kids 8 and up, and you can rent snow pants ($5) or boots ($7) if you forgot yours at home.
While you’re there, get your hands on a trail map and a SnoPark permit (purchase yours at the Bend Visitor Center in downtown). All five sno-parks along or near Century Drive allow snowshoeing, and not far from Bend, and that’s a great place to start whether you’re a beginner or an old-timer.
Virginia Meissner SnoPark is one of the first areas you’ll come to as you head toward Mt. Bachelor on Century drive. The trails are well-groomed and well-marked, and you get the bonus of beautiful scenery and toasty warming huts where you can enjoy a picnic lunch.
Personally, I love snowshoeing in the company of my trusty canine companion, Bindi. The good folks at DogPAC work hard to keep the trails at Wanoga SnoPark groomed and fully accessible for dogs and their snowshoeing owners. You can even walk the snowshoe loop sans snowshoes, or head out on the Nordic trails if you brought your skis. Just be sure to pick up after rover using the handy doggie bags available everywhere along the trail.
There’s been a lot of buzz about the fact that Bend was picked to host the Snowshoe National Championships March 15-17, but you know what? The race isn’t just for elite athletes or awestruck spectators.
Even if you’ve never snowshoed in your life, there’s a special component to this weekend’s event that promises to give you the best bragging rights EVAH.
The Citizens’ 5k Fun Run/Walk will take place on the Snowshoe National Championships course at Virginia Meissner SnoPark at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 16. To participate, you need a pulse. That’s pretty much it.
Dion Snowshoes and Atlas Snowshoes will have free demo gear you can use, and your $40 registration fee earns you an awesome schwag bag that includes a commemorative Silipint and a T-shirt proving you took part in the Snowshoe National Championships.
Go here to register, or show up the morning of the race to take advantage of on-site registration right before show-time.
Even if you decide not to compete, hang out on the sidelines to watch more than 200 of the country’s most skilled winter endurance athletes as they compete for the national title. For a complete schedule of the different races and age divisions go here.
No matter how you choose to tackle your snowshoeing adventures, have fun out there this weekend. See you on the hiking walking snowshoe trails!