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What’s happening in Bend, Oregon for Thanksgiving 2015?

November 23rd, 2015
Who's ready for opening day at Mt. Bachelor?

Who’s ready for opening day at Mt. Bachelor?

You’re really quite smart, you know that?

No, this isn’t some newfangled inspirational blog post. It’s my way of saying you’re pretty darn clever for planning to spend Turkey Day 2015 in the land of snow-capped mountains and high desert stars.

So now that you’re here, what’s happening Thanksgiving week in Bend? Tons of fun! Here’s what’s in store for everyone who plans to be in Bend, Oregon for Thanksgiving 2015.


Gobble up some good grub

First things first. Let’s talk about where you want to have your main meal on November 26 this year.

For some, the thought of preparing your own feast in the kitchen of your Bend vacation rental has the homey sorta vibe you’re craving. If that’s the case, go here to scope out a variety of vacation homes and condos with ovens waiting to welcome that big, juicy bird.

If you’d rather leave the cooking to someone else, you have plenty of options to pick from. Check out this list for a roundup of restaurants ready to make your holiday meal extra special. The Thanksgiving buffet at McMenamins Old St. Francis is one of the most popular offerings in town, with mealtimes offered from noon to 6 p.m. Reservations are required, and the roundup of food will include fresh-carved turkey, fireside port cranberry relish, roasted pork loin with Edgefield cider jus, poached salmon, tortellini salad, garlic green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey gravy, along with a wide array of fresh fruit, salads, and desserts.

The cozy dining room at Greg's Grill is one of many spots in Bend where you can enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The cozy dining room at Greg’s Grill is one of many spots in Bend where you can enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Other hotspots include 10 Below, Brasada Ranch, Black Butte Ranch, Crossings at the Riverhouse, Greg’s Grill, and oodles more. Be sure to check the list for a complete roundup of options!

Not in the mood to eat in a restaurant, but still don’t want to do the cooking? Not a problem! Catering experts Tate & Tate, The Well Traveled Fork, and Country Catering all offer holiday meals for pickup. Depending on when you read this, you may have missed the cutoff for Turkey Day, but now’s the time to plan ahead for Christmas Dinner!


Burn off those Turkey Day calories

Feeling guilty about that sixth helping of mashed potatoes? Never fear, Bend has a variety of Thanksgiving-themed runs and walks to help burn off those extra calories.

Run off those Turkey Day calories in the Thanksgiving Classic or one of the other fun runs happening this year.

Run off those Turkey Day calories in the Thanksgiving Classic or one of the other fun runs happening this year.

The Bend Thanksgiving Classic 10k/5k walk/run and the I Like Pie Thanksgiving day walk/run both kick off at 9 a.m. in different parts of Bend on Thanksgiving morning. The day after Thanksgiving, the Turkey Trot is taking place at 10 a.m. in Sunriver.

To learn more about each of these races, check out our Event Calendar.


Who’s ready to ski at Mt. Bachelor?

I know plenty of you are waxing your snowboards and tuning your skis in anticipation of Mt. Bachelor’s first day of operations. While things are always subject to change based on the whims of Mother Nature, Mt. Bachelor is currently scheduled to open Wednesday, November 25—the day before Thanksgiving.

Who's ready to carve some turns at Mt. Bachelor?

Who’s ready to carve some turns at Mt. Bachelor?

Make sure you check the online condition reports and follow Mt. Bachelor’s Facebook page for up-to-the-minute info about opening day. And oh yeah—pray for snow!


Shop ‘til you drop

For those who favor indoorsy pursuits over outdoorsy ones (or for those who simply love a good bargain), don’t miss the Black Friday shopping deals around town.

Bend’s Old Mill District features stores like Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Zumiez, and more. Check out their Black Friday Specials page for info on who’s opening on Thanksgiving day, as well as who’s opening at midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 5 a.m., and other more sane hours.

There are plenty of places to shop 'til you drop in Bend for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

There are plenty of places to shop ’til you drop in Bend for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Fans of outlet shopping will want to check out the Bend Factory Stores for big bargains. Shops include spots like the Coach Factory Outlet, Nike Outlet, Eddie Bauer, Columbia Outlet, and much more.

For deals at places like Best Buy and Cost Plus World Market, head north to the Cascade Village Shopping Center. And if big-box stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and TJ Maxx are on your agenda, be sure to hit the Bend River Promenade in the middle of town. While you’re on the north end of town, pop into Pomegranate Home & Garden, a locally-owned shop in a historic farm house, for some really unique gifts.

To help you spread things out a bit, many shops in Downtown Bend are participating in Small Business Saturday. Check out their page for details about shops and specials, including deals at great local boutiques like Hot Box Betty, Local Joe, and newcomer Clementine Urban Mercantile.


Christmas already?

Before we’ve even stashed the Thanksgiving leftovers, a lot of us are gearing up for the next major holiday. If you’re ready to get a jump on Christmas, check out the Old Mill District’s Holiday Happenings page for a roundup of what’s going down. Santa will arrive via helicopter around 10 a.m. on Friday, November 27, to begin his tour of duty at Santaland. There will also be oodles of other Christmassy offerings like free carriage rides, carolers, kids’ activities, and more. Go here to see what’s in the lineup.

Carriage rides are one of many festive traditions happening in the Old Mill District.

Carriage rides are one of many festive traditions happening in the Old Mill District.

Downtown Bend is another festive place to be, with oodles of lights and decorations adorning streets and shops. One of Bend’s most cherished holiday traditions is the annual Christmas tree lighting on November 28 (the Saturday after Thanksgiving). The live tree is located at the top of Drake Park near Mirror Pond Plaza, and guests get to sing carols and watch Santa light the tree. Festivities get underway at 6 p.m., but you’d be smart to arrive at least half an hour before that to find a spot.


Only in Bend

Yes, I acknowledge there are Black Friday sales and Christmas tree lightings happening in most towns around America this time of year. While I encourage you to enjoy those activities, here are a few only-in-Bend things to add to your holiday agenda:

Snowshoeing by starlight is one of those once-in-a-lifetime activities you can enjoy with Wanderlust Tours in Bend.

Snowshoeing by starlight is one of those once-in-a-lifetime activities you can enjoy with Wanderlust Tours in Bend.

  • Snowshoe with Wanderlust Tours. Let the naturalist guides at Wanderlust lead you into the wilderness to traipse through pristine fields of pillowy snow. Tours include all gear and transportation, not to mention snacks and warm drinks. They offer daytime or starlight outings, and kids are welcome, too.
  • Visit the High Desert Museum. Bend’s popular High Desert Museum offers fascinating exhibits, cool animals, and tons of opportunities to learn more about the culture and history of the high desert. Check out their website to learn more about the schedule of special events and exhibits at the museum.
  • Special programs at the Tower Theatre. Even if they weren’t having any shows at all, Bend’s historic Tower Theatre would be worth checking out just for the beauty of it. But during Thanksgiving week, you’ll have the chance to see the popular holiday film Elf on the big screen. The show starts at 7 p.m. on November 28, and you can get tickets here.


Missing your snow days of childhood? Relive them in Bend!

November 18th, 2015

Sunday night, my 14-year-old stepson and 10-year-old stepdaughter sat transfixed by the weather report.

Blogger Tawna's stepson, Cedar (now age 14), on a snow day a few years ago.

Blogger Tawna’s stepson, Cedar (now age 14), on a snow day a few years ago.

No, they’re not budding meteorologists. They’re Bend kids desperately hoping for a snow day from school. While they didn’t get one last weekend, the experience got me thinking about what makes snow days so magical for kids.

Know what’s funny? All the things that get kids giddy about snow days in Bend can be replicated easily by visitors of all ages planning a winter trip to this high desert mountain oasis. Here’s what I mean…


Ducking your duties feels good

Admittedly the most alluring element of a snow day for my step-kids is the fact that they’re getting out of school. While they’re fine students who love their classes and teachers, there’s something enthralling about escaping your responsibilities for a day or two.

Ahhh....the magic of spending a snow day sipping coffee in Downtown Bend.

Ahhh….the magic of spending a snow day sipping coffee in Downtown Bend.

Luckily, you can replicate that same feeling with a winter vacation in Bend, particularly if you plan your getaway mid-week when you’d ordinarily be at work. Bonus: A mid-week, non-holiday trip means you’re more likely to find rock-bottom prices on lodging and activities. Go here for ideas on deals.

But even if a mid-week trip isn’t an option for you, you’ll still experience the thrill of a snow day whenever you get out of town for a wintery respite. Look around your house right now. See that pile of laundry? Or that sink full of dishes? Wouldn’t it feel exhilarating to just say, “to heck with that” and leave it behind for a weekend of snow-play in Bend?


Sledding, snowball fights, and snow angels

While missing school is obviously a key thing that makes snow days fun for kids, it’s a whole lot more fun to miss school for six inches of fresh powder than for, say, a dentist appointment.

Snowshoeing is one of dozens of ways to play in the snow in Bend.

Snowshoeing is one of dozens of ways to play in the snow in Bend.

The reason, of course, is that you can frolic and play in the snow a whole lot easier than you can frolic and play in the dentist’s office (plus no one’s chasing you with a drill, so there’s that).

Whether you’re a kid playing hooky from math class or a grownup playing hooky from the office, a snow day in Bend gives you a chance to experience the wonder of winter recreation. Ski fresh powder at Mt. Bachelor. Grab your toboggan and hit the sledding hill. Strap on those snowshoes and go exploring (or better yet, have Wanderlust Tours handle all the gear and driving!)

After that, stage a snowball fight before flopping down in a fresh field of powder to make snow angels. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling like a third-grader.


Get toasty warm again

Half the fun of frolicking in the snow is coming inside to warm up. There’s nothing quite like tumbling through the door all breathless and rosy-cheeked with snow clinging to your hair and a fire in the fireplace. You build yourself a blanket fort, then snuggle up inside with a plate of cookies and a warm cup of cocoa while the snow keeps falling outside.

Beer and snow days go hand in hand.

Beer and snow days go hand in hand.

You can replicate pretty much all of that in a Bend hotel or vacation home. Places like Pine Ridge Inn, The Riverhouse, and Mt. Bachelor Village Resort offer amenities like in-room Jacuzzis and fireplaces in some of their suites, and plenty of local vacation rentals offer those same cozy perks.

As for the snacks, I’m a big fan of sipping a pint of rich porter or stout on a chilly winter day. There are plenty of those to choose from along the Bend Ale Trail, so pick your fave, fill a growler, and bring that bad boy back to your blanket fort.


Embrace the element of surprise

There are days the snow starts piling up at noon, so by the time evening falls in Bend, you have a good idea school might be cancelled the next day.

Blogger Tawna's stepdaughter, Violet (now 10) on a snow day a few years ago.

Blogger Tawna’s stepdaughter, Violet (now 10) on a snow day a few years ago.

But the most thrilling kind of snow day is the one you don’t see coming. You go to sleep to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, and you wake up to a glorious blanket of white stuff on your front lawn and a text message from the school district saying you’re off the hook for the day.

While we can’t help you replicate the message from Principal Jones, you can capture some of the same thrill by surprising your loved one with a Bend getaway.

Feeling romantic? Book a spa package or a night at a cozy bed and breakfast. Want to make your kids giddy? Sneak their gloves and snow pants into a suitcase and don’t tell them where you’re headed until they spot piles of snow on the roadside and that big sign that says, “Welcome to Bend.”

Surprise! You’re in for the best weekend of your whole year. Now get out there and enjoy it.




How to be a Snow Stalker in Bend

November 12th, 2015
The snowflake that made me squeal Wednesday morning.

The snowflake that made me squeal Wednesday morning.

I woke early yesterday to walk my pooch across frosty fields to our favorite dog park. As usual, I pulled up the weather on my phone so I’d know whether to don two layers or eight to brave the morning chill in Bend.

That’s when I saw the thing that made me scream.

Okay, fine . . . waking my entire household because of a tiny snowflake on Sunday’s weather report may have been an overreaction.

Still, it’s hard not to get excited by the prospect of snow in Bend this time of year. November is when Bend fans frantically scan webcams and ski reports and I do a little snow dance anytime my left hand falls asleep because clearly the barometric pressure has shifted and snow is on the way.

Just call me a human barometer, or better yet, a Snow Stalker. Want to join me in my snow stalking pursuits?  Here’s what you’ve gotta do.


Step #1: Buy a Snow Stalker outfit

It’s important to look the part if you want to be a real Snow Stalker. Black ski mask, black pants, black jacket. . . you get the idea.

Make sure you're ready to bundle up nice and toasty warm!

Make sure you’re ready to bundle up nice and toasty warm!

All right, I suppose it’s not mandatory to wear all black. We’re stalking snow, not unsuspecting visitors in dark alleys.

You’re probably better off choosing your Snow Stalker attire based on what will keep you warmest, rather than what will help you blend into the shadows. Peruse this list of retailers who rent winter gear, since many of those spots also happen to sell everything from snow pants to ski parkas to gloves and hats and more. Though there are still a couple weeks until Mt. Bachelor opens for the season (November 25, baby!), make sure you visit their retail and demo shop to peruse all their snazzy winter duds.

Don’t forget the shades. Now you look the part.


Step #2: Prep your surveillance equipment

Every good Snow Stalker knows having the right gear is key to staking out your subject.

First things first—get your phone ready.

Nah, you don’t need to download some high tech GPS decoder or night vision camera. Just make sure your weather app is set up show you what’s happening in Bend. That way, even if you’re on the other side of the globe, you’re just a few clicks away from knowing snow’s about to fall here in the mountainous high desert of Central Oregon.

Next, bookmark a couple important pages on your phone, iPad, or desktop computer. You know that Mt. Bachelor website I mentioned earlier? Go there now. Seriously, I’ll wait.

You see that little box in the top right-hand corner that says “Live cam?” HOLY COW, YOU GUYS, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS?

Um, it’s a live cam. You knew that already, right?

Don't forget to keep an eye on the Mt. Bachelor webcam!

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Mt. Bachelor webcam!

And you’re keeping your eyes glued to it at all times to give you up-to-the-minute views of different areas of the mountain. How’s that for high-tech stalker tools? There’s also a conditions report that will give you updated info on snowfall, base depth, lift operations, and more.

It’s also a good idea to follow along on the Visit Bend Facebook page, where we’re regularly posting everything from lift ticket specials to daily conditions to awesome photos of folks out there enjoying some snow play.

Look at you, all geared up!


Step #3: Study the top-secret video footage

Watching videos of your subject is a great way to learn those subtle nuances and mannerisms that will make you an effective stalker.

Luckily, we’ve already got a few pieces of footage all lined up for you. Check out this video titled “Warmth” for a glimpse of how a Bend winter vacation can leave you feeling warm all over (no, really). Then check out this one titled “Outside” for inspiration on winter recreation in Bend.

Still jonesing for more footage? We’ve got an entire video gallery for your perusal.

No matter what form your fun takes, you're bound to have a lot of it when you plan a winter vacation in Bend!

No matter what form your fun takes, you’re bound to have a lot of it when you plan a winter vacation in Bend!


Step #4: Choose a stakeout location

The next thing you need to do to be an effective Snow Stalker is to build yourself an igloo or a snow cave. Next, mount a 360-degree spy camera on the roof alongside your high-tech audio surveillance system.

Or you could just book a nice Bend hotel room or vacation rental. That works, too.

Now’s a great time to scope out the “Hot Deals” page on the Visit Bed website. There, you’ll find a huge array of bargains ranging from kids-stay-free promos to packages that include lift tickets or even drinkable goods from along the Bend Ale Trail.


Step #5: Enjoy!

Now that you know when and where the snow will be, you’re all set to enjoy copious outdoor recreation including snowshoeing, skiing, sled dog rides, sledding, and more. For ideas, check out our Winter Fun Page.

Happy Snow Stalking!


Sheila Dunn is the new featured artist for the Pillars of Art program

November 5th, 2015

You know how your mom used to get mad when you’d draw on the living room wall?

Here at the Bend Visitor Center, we don’t get mad at all. In fact, we pay artists to do it.

2015-Sheila-Dunn-Pillars-©-nate-wyeth-midres-89 smallEvery six months, Visit Bend chooses one local artist to create unique chalk drawings on the cement pillars in the Visitor Center lobby. The artist also has his or her framed work displayed and sold in the Visitor Center for the duration of his or her show. It’s part of the Pillars of Art program, which was created to introduce tourists to Bend’s unique arts and culture scene, and to support emerging local artists.

The newest Pillars of Art creator is Sheila Dunn. For her Pillars of Art installment, Sheila paid homage to the high desert, chalking bright images of raptors, Native American imagery, and Central Oregon scenery. You can see her work at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon Ave. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also scope it out (and purchase some!) on her website.

2015-Sheila-Dunn-Pillars-©-nate-wyeth-midres-1 smallWe caught up with Sheila recently and asked a few questions about her art, her life, and everything in between. Here’s what she shared with us:

Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in Bend?

I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado, a town quite similar to Bend in its love for breweries, bikes and all things outdoorsy. After traveling around for a bit and teaching yoga following college, I decided to relocate to another town for a change of pace. The potential list included all the usual suspects (Missoula, MT, Asheville, NC, Flagstaff, AZ, Bellingham WA, Bend OR, insert other hip mountain town here). So when my college friend serendipitously sent me a job opening at Bend Yoga, I sold most of my belongings and moved here sight unseen. The rest, as they say, is history. I never expected to be here – or anywhere – for six years, but the Bend vortex is strong.

Tell us about your artistic training.

2015-Sheila-Dunn-Pillars-©-nate-wyeth-midres-42 smallI received a BFA in painting and minor in art history from Colorado State University. I also studied abroad in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy my junior year of college, where I had the distinct pleasure of learning from an amazing Italian professor, Paolo. He was a true Renaissance man – a painter, sculptor, historian and linguist – and I still carry his passion for art and commitment to learning with me on my creative path. Since then, most of my artistic training has simply consisted of hours upon hours in the studio.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I primarily paint figures with a strong emphasis on color, movement, and geometric brushstrokes.


What’s your favorite medium?

Water-mixable oils.
2015-Sheila-Dunn-Pillars-©-nate-wyeth-midres-48 small

Who are your artistic influences?

Oh geez, so many. I am greatly influenced by a wide variety of art forms and some of my biggest inspirations are actually musicians and poets. But to narrow it down to a few contemporary figure painters, I adore Jenny Saville, Alex Kanevsky, and Andrew Salgado.


What do you like best about living in Bend, and how does it influence your artistic style?

2015-Sheila-Dunn-Pillars-©-nate-wyeth-midres-72 smallI love the synthesis of community and wilderness that exists in Bend. As an artist, I crave the connection of being surrounded by other creatives and the comfort found in community. Yet I equally crave the wide open spaces, the time spent in dialogue with the landscape of this deeply beautiful place. The balance of the two is quite extraordinary here, something I hope to never take for granted.


What do you enjoy doing in Bend when you’re not creating art?

Yoga, (slow) trail running, climbing occasionally, and drinking obscene amounts of kombucha.
2015-Sheila-Dunn-Pillars-©-nate-wyeth-midres-86 small

What’s your impression of the Bend art scene, and how do you think the Pillars of Art program fits with that?

I think the Bend art scene is becoming more and more vibrant and diverse. But what I most appreciate about it is the sense of camaraderie among artists here. In a line of work that is so often laden with comparison, competition, and self-doubt, I feel like fellow artists in this town truly support and celebrate one another.

Bend also seems to place great value on the importance public art (YES!!!) and Visit Bend has done so much to spearhead this movement with both Pillars of Art and the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. In a day and age where the arts are too often undervalued and underfunded, I am oh-so grateful to see businesses and communities that recognize the vitality and depth they bring to a place.


It’s Bend Ale Trail Month 2015! Wanna win free stuff?

October 29th, 2015

When my co-workers told me their idea for handing out beer trophies during the first Bend Ale Trail Month last November, I’ll admit it—I laughed.

You know you want it...

You know you want it…

“Who’d want some silly Bend Ale Trail trophy cluttering up their house?” I scoffed.

Er, it turns out a whole lotta people did.

More than 350, to be exact, which was nearly double the number who’d hit the Bend Ale Trail in November the previous year.

Is now the time to admit I was wrong?

It’s definitely the time to start planning your beerventure for this November, so here’s everything you need to know about Bend Ale Trail Month 2015.


What’s so special about Bend Ale Trail month?

You can hit the Bend Ale Trail all year long and earn prizes for gathering passport stamps at the breweries. December through October, you earn a Silipint pint glass for racking up 10 passport stamps, and an additional bottle opener for hitting all 16.

But in November, that all changes. Yeah, you still get the Silipint and the bottle opener for accomplishing the aforementioned feat, but guess what else you get?

A freakin’ trophy, that’s what!

To earn it, just bring your completed Bend Ale Trail passport to the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava Ave. and Oregon Ave. between November 1 and November 30. Ten passport stamps get you the trophy AND the Silipint, or hit all 16 to earn the bottle opener, too.


Besides the trophy, what schwag can I get?

So the trophy’s not enough for you, huh?

That’s okay. We’ve also got brewery gift certificates, hats, T-shirts, stickers, pint glasses, and tons more beer-related schwag. To win it, post photos of your Bend Ale Trail adventures in November using the hashtag #BendAleTrailMonth15 (yeah, we know it’s long…you’ve gotta work for this!)

We're drowning in beer schwag in the Visit Bend office. Want some?

We’re drowning in beer schwag in the Visit Bend office. Want some?

You can post your pics to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use that hashtag in all three spots. More pics = more chances to win!

Oh, and who wants to hear about the BIG prize?

Everyone who turns in a completed Bend Ale passport in November will be entered to win the ultimate Beercation Getaway. The getaway package includes two nights of lodging, a $100 Crux Fermentation Project card, a tour for two with the Bend Brew Bus, and a plethora of other brewery schwag. Not a bad score, huh?


How about other freebies and discounts?

Sheesh, you still want MORE hookups?

Pine Ridge Inn is one of many properties offering killer lodging specials during Bend Ale Trail Month.

Pine Ridge Inn is one of many properties offering killer lodging specials during Bend Ale Trail Month.

No problem. We’ve got ‘em.

The nice thing about Bend Ale Trail Month is that everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. We’re talking EVERYONE. Here are just a few of the deals being offered by Bend businesses during Bend Ale Trail Month 2015:

  • Planning to stay at the Pine Ridge Inn while you trek the trail of beer? Complete the Bend Ale Trail while staying with them in November, and receive one FREEnight of lodging to add to your existing stay or for a future stay through spring! Find details on the promo here.
  • During Bend Ale Trail month, stay two nights at Mount Bachelor Village Resort and get a FREE Hydro Flask growler to fill with your favorite beer to take home.
  • Want to catch a show while you’re in town? Flash your Bend Ale Trail atlas at the Tower Theater at the concession stand during Bend Ale Trail month and get a free pint of beer to enjoy during the performance This is good for the Veterans Day Concertwith Notables Swing Band (Nov. 11). Voices of Hope Singalong & Concert (Nov. 14), Screening of “Elf” (Nov. 28), and (Portland Cello Project (Nov. 29).
  • Need a break from beer? During Bend Ale Trail Month, Volcano Vineyards is offering a complimentary taste of sangria and 10% off growler fills. At Cascade Alchemy, they’re doing free tastings all month long for Bend Ale Trail adventurers. Atlas Cider is offering a free Atlas pint glass with the purchase of a taster tray in November. You’ve gotta flash your Bend Ale Trail Atlas to claim any of these deals, so make sure you’re packing it!

To read about more deals on lodging, refreshments, and entertainment during Bend Ale Trail Month, go here:


Can I score any killer deals on Bend Ale Trail gear?

Man, you think this is some sort of endless parade of bargains?

Blogger Tawna in her Girl vs. Beer t-shirt (which is just one of many pieces of Bend Ale Trail merchandise on sale for 40% off in November).

Blogger Tawna in her Girl vs. Beer t-shirt (which is just one of many pieces of Bend Ale Trail merchandise on sale for 40% off in November).

It is!

For the month of November only, pop by the Bend Visitor Center to browse our selection of Bend Ale Tail merchandise (including our ever-popular “Man vs. Beer” and “Girl vs. Beer” T-shirts. We also have gear ranging from sweatshirts to hats to belt buckles and much more. Best of all, it’ s 40% off for the month of November.

You read that right.

That’s 40% off all Bend Ale Trail merchandise at the Bend Visitor Center for the month of November, while supplies last. Hurry in early while the selection is still good!


Wow. You guys must love beer drinkers, huh?

Yep. You’ve probably figured that out by now.

In fact, we’ve decided to open the Bend Visitor Center on Sundays, just to make it easier to cash in your Bend Ale Trail passport. We’ll be here seven days a week doling out prizes, offering directions and dining tips, handing out brochures for Bend activities, and snapping photos for folks who want to pose with our cool Bend Ale Trail prop.

Don't forget to pose with our prop when you stop by the Bend Visitor Center to claim your prize!

Don’t forget to pose with our prop when you stop by the Bend Visitor Center to claim your prize!

The Bend Visitor Center is located in scenic Downtown Bend on the corner of Lava Ave. and Oregon Ave. It’s open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.


Can you give me something free NOW?!

Why not?

We want to spread the news far and wide about Bend Ale Trail Month, so we’re calling on you to help us out.

Here’s a short link to the Bend Ale Trail Month page:

Got it? Good.

Now head out to your social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest…whatever rolls your socks up) and share the link with all your pals. Tell ‘em how excited you are about Bend Ale Trail Month!

After you’ve done that, come back here and comment telling us where you shared the link. For each place you shared, we’ll give you one entry in a drawing to win a Hydro Flask beer growler and a $50 gift card to Riverbend Brewing.

We’ll choose a winner on Tuesday, November 10. Good luck!


8 things that haven’t changed much at all in Bend

October 22nd, 2015

So my grandma died yesterday.

Blogger Tawna hangs out with her stepdaughter on the banks of Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Blogger Tawna hangs out with her stepdaughter on the banks of Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

I know I’m usually upbeat on this blog, so I promise I’ll still lace this post with a few doses of irreverent humor.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about my childhood summers in Central Oregon. I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up in Salem, but for much of my childhood, my grandparents lived in Central Oregon raising racehorses. I spent a lot of time in Bend as a kid, so I’ve been thinking about my memories of the area in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

While you can’t throw a rock these days without hitting someone in the midst of remarking how Bend has changed in recent years, here are eight things that are still basically the same as when I was an awkwardly-coiffed first grader learning to skip rocks in the Deschutes River in 1981.


Scope out some really old rocks

While Newberry National Volcanic Monument wasn’t actually named a national monument until 1990, the features that make it up have been around since way before you and I were twinkles in our grandparents’ eyes. The area includes nearly 50,000 acres of lakes, waterfalls, obsidian fields, lava flows, and amazing, ancient geologic features you won’t find anywhere else in the state.

As a kid, I remember being fascinated by the glittery obsidian and the itty-bitty chipmunks skittering everywhere. I could pick up a bumpy, porous rock off the ground and know it was once lava—lava!!—and find myself endlessly enthralled by that idea. My own stepkids expressed much of the same delight when we enjoyed a two-day excursion out there last summer.

It's a great time of year for a hike up Pilot Butte!

Pilot Butte has been drawing visitors since before you were a twinkle in your grandparents’ eyes.

Beyond the ancient lava flows of Newberry, there are countless other geologic attractions around Bend and Central Oregon that haven’t changed much over the years. A hike up Pilot Butte will give you killer views of a city that’s grown quite a bit recently, but if you look down at the ground under your feet, you can think about the fact that this 500-foot cinder cone has been standing in the middle of Bend for thousands of years. Pioneers used the volcano as a landmark to guide wagon trains seeking a safe passage crossing the Deschutes River, and the land was given to the state back in 1927.

There are oodles of other geologic wonders around Central Oregon that still (mostly) smell, sound, and look the same as they did when I was a kid. Check out the Oregon Badlands Wilderness to see untouched desert landscapes at their finest, or head northwest to Cove Palisades State Park to splash around in the same lake that enchanted me when I was still rockin’ pigtails and a Sesame Street bikini. I promise I didn’t pee in the water. Much.


That’s how we used to party, sonny

Folks in Bend get pretty excited about special events, and that dates back long before the Bend Pet Parade featured Chihuahuas floating from hot air balloons.

The annual Fourth of July Parade has been going strong in Bend since the 1930s.

The annual Fourth of July Parade has been going strong in Bend since the 1930s.

The annual Fourth of July parade through Downtown Bend got its start way back in the 1930s, and it’s grown to be the largest parade of the year in Bend with more than 8,000 participants.

Athletic endeavors have always been a part of Bend culture, even when participants were sporting tube socks and mullets. The multi-event Pole, Pedal, Paddle race each May has been a Bend staple since 1975, and the Cascade Cycling Classic isn’t far behind with origins dating back to 1979. That makes it the longest consecutively run elite road bike stage race in the United States.


What’s that smell?

Scientists have done tons of studies on olfactory memory and the reason certain scents can transport you instantly to a place in your own history.

The smell of sage and juniper baking in the sun in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is one of those fragrances that'll stick with you your whole life.

The smell of sage and juniper baking in the sun in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness is one of those fragrances that’ll stick with you your whole life.

Even though I’ve lived in Bend almost 18 years, that unmistakable smell of sun-baked desert sage brings me right back to summers spent playing hide-and-seek in Redmond’s Dry Canyon. When it rains these days, I like to stand on my porch, breathe the scent of rain-drenched juniper, and remember my first high desert storm back when I could still run topless through the raindrops without getting arrested.

No matter how much Bend has changed over the years, I can almost guarantee the early pioneers used to stand on the banks of the Deschutes River and savor that perfect perfume of ponderosa pine bark and river water. If someone could figure out a way to bottle the fragrances of Bend, I swear they’d make a fortune.


Stuff your face where grandpa used to eat

Bend’s outstanding culinary scene has made lots of headlines lately, with the Huffington Post naming us one of nation’s top 15 “best restaurant cities.” And while it might be tempting to give credit to all the new award-winning eateries popping up over last decade, there are plenty of spectacular dining spots that have been serving up tasty chow since before some of those chefs were born.

One of Bend's oldest and best-known riverfront restaurants, The Pine Tavern.

One of Bend’s oldest and best-known riverfront restaurants, The Pine Tavern.

Bend’s iconic Pine Tavern is best known for the two towering ponderosa pines (one dead, one very much alive) jutting up through the ceiling of the dining area. But did you know this Bend landmark will celebrate 80 years in the restaurant biz in 2016? At a time when the country was barely pulling itself out of the Great Depression, the founders of Pine Tavern built a thriving restaurant serving timber workers and their families starting in 1936. These days you can stop by for one of the best happy hours in town and a basket of mouthwatering sourdough scones drizzled with honey butter.

If burgers are your passion, you’ll find two old-fashioned drive-in hot spots to satisfy you. Dandy’s Drive-in has been owned and operated by the same family since 1981, and its old-school charm is made more charming by the roller skating servers who zip out to your car to take your order. Pilot Butte Drive-In has been serving up juicy, tasty burgers at the base of the aforementioned Pilot Butte since 1983 (though they’ve since added a second location on Bend’s Westside).

Servers on roller skates have been delivering burgers right to your car at Dandy's since 1981.

Servers on roller skates have been delivering burgers right to your car at Dandy’s since 1981.

Bend old-timers occasionally lament the fact that famed Jake’s Truck Stop is no longer on the south end of town dishing up some of the city’s tastiest breakfasts, but did you know it’s still operating? The name changed slightly to Jake’s Diner, and it relocated to Bend’s eastside in 2005, but you’ll still find many of the same menu items and crew members who made the place great in 1987.

Other longtime Bend eateries include Kayo’s (serving up tasty steaks and seafood since 1982), the D&D (Bend’s oldest bar, established in 1986), and Roszak’s Fish House (an old-school eatery offering seafood and prime rib since 1981).

And if you’d prefer to stock the fridge at your Bend vacation rental, try longtime grocery favorites Newport Avenue Market (open since 1976), Nature’s Marketplace (open since 1983), and Erickson’s (serving Central Oregon since 1915!)


Bobcats and otters and skunks, oh my!

When I was in third grade, my Campfire troop visited the High Desert Museum and I married a chipmunk. I’m a little fuzzy on the details of the ceremony and why I thought a rodent might make a suitable spouse, but one thing I do remember is that I loved the High Desert Museum.

There are always new exhibits at the High Desert Museum, but the place itself has been operating since 1982.

There are always new exhibits at the High Desert Museum, but the place itself has been operating since 1982.

That hasn’t changed much since my first visit in 1984, just two years after they opened to the public. I still love going there and checking out the animal exhibits ranging from porcupines to badgers to otters to creepy-crawlies like snakes, spiders, fish, turtles, and other desert dwellers like a raccoon and a bobcat.

Besides cool critters, the High Desert Museum boasts an impressive array of natural history exhibits. Their 135-acre grounds has more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space containing Native American artifacts, an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904, and countless hands-on programs that bring history and science to life for kids and adults alike.


I wasn’t a beer-swilling 14-year-old, I swear

Deschutes Brewery may have gotten a bit bigger, but they've been serving up suds in Bend since 1988.

Deschutes Brewery may have gotten a bit bigger, but they’ve been serving up suds in Bend since 1988.

It’s true, the legendary Bend Ale Trail was not a part of Bend’s culture back when my grandma used to chase Grandpa out of the bar. But 1988 (right about the time I was jammin’ to Debbie Gibson on my Walkman) was when Deschutes Brewery burst onto the craft brewing scene in Bend. Things haven’t been the same since, with 16 breweries now rounding out the Bend Ale Trail, and a total of 28 breweries within 30 minutes of Bend.

But if you prefer your fizzy, frothy dose of drinkable nostalgia in a non-alcoholic form, you can always hit Goody’s Chocolates. Since 1984, they’ve been making the best old-fashioned sodas, milkshakes, hand-dipped chocolates, ice cream sundaes, and much more.


History buffs rejoice


Try a walking tour from Des Chutes Historical Museum for a look at historic buildings in Bend.

I can’t claim I ever visited the Deschutes Historical Museum as a kid, but odds are good I strolled by it en route to Drake Park (which has been drawing awestruck visitors since 1921). Housed in the old Reid School (a historic landmark built in 1914), the Deschutes Historical Museum was created in 1979 and has been treating guests to a healthy dose of history and culture ever since.

While I’m pretty sure their free Heritage Walk App wasn’t around when I was learning to moonwalk on Grandma’s kitchen floor, it’s still worth downloading if you want some great insights into historical buildings around Downtown Bend.





Be nice. You’re in Bend.


Enough said.

With an office that sits in the middle of the Bend Visitor Center lobby, I hear a lot of comments from Bend tourists. Besides “Bend is sure pretty!” and “man, you’ve got a lot of great beer,” do you want to know one of the top remarks I hear from our guests?

“Everyone’s so friendly in Bend!”

Yep. It was true when I was a kid, and it’s still true now. It doesn’t matter if our population has surged from 18,575 in 1986 to 33,740 when I moved here in 1997 to more than 82,000 today—we’re still the friendliest, happiest, most cheerful folks you’ll encounter almost anywhere.

My grandma would be proud.


10 things you won’t hear people say in Bend, Oregon

October 15th, 2015

There are many things that make Bend unique. Endless sunshine. A spellbinding volcanic landscape. More breweries than you can shake a pint at. But it goes beyond that into the little idiosyncrasies of our language and the things you will (and won’t!) hear folks say around here.

Before someone takes me to task in the comments, I’m not saying no one has ever uttered the following phrases in Bend, Oregon. Heck, I might have said one or two of them myself.

But your odds of hearing them are a whole lot smaller in Bend than in most other places around the country.


I’m bored.

If you’re a recreation enthusiast who loves hiking, biking, kayaking, and skiing (all before breakfast on a good day!) you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in Bend. But if a lazy Bend vacation is more your style, we’ve got you covered there, too.

No excuse for boredom – there's always plenty to do when you're in Bend!

No excuse for boredom – there’s always plenty to do when you’re in Bend!

Pretty much any end of the entertainment spectrum is covered in spades when you’re in Bend. Love culinary adventures? Yep, we’ve got that. Crazy about arts and culture? We give you the Roundabout Art Route, the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection, and an endless array of other artsy options like galleries, theaters, art festivals, museums, and more.

If you’re in Bend and you’re bored, you need to seriously reevaluate your life. Like make sure you have one. Have you checked your pulse today?


I wish it would stop raining.

I thought of this the other day when someone on our Facebook page (150,000+ page fans and counting!) asked if Bend is as rainy as other well-known cities in Oregon like Portland and Eugene. At first I thought the guy was joking. Then I remembered not everyone knows how dramatically different Bend’s weather is from the rest of the state.

The high desert oasis of Bend sits at an elevation of 3,600 feet, and we have the Cascade Mountains blocking most of the weather moving through from the west. What does that mean for our weather?

Hot, dry, summers with endless blue skies. Chilly winters with lots of powdery snow and the aforementioned blue skies. Spring and fall with wildly-fluctuating temperatures that can leave you bundling up for a 36-degree morning and then flipping on the air conditioner by 3 p.m. when temps climb into the 80s.

And did I mention the blue skies? Yeah, we get those pretty much year ‘round.


There’s nothing fun for kids to do.

Bend has plenty of fun things for kids to do!

Bend has plenty of fun things for kids to do!

I have a 14-year-old stepson and a 9-year-old stepdaughter, and I don’t think there’s been a single moment in the five years I’ve known them that we’ve struggled to come up with something fun to do.

From caving to floating the river to exploring Newberry National Volcanic Monument to scoping out local swimming pools, there are oodles of things for kids to enjoy in Bend.

Need ideas? Check out this post featuring 12 things my stepkids rattled off as their favorite Bend attractions, or this post (or this one) featuring family-friendly activities.

Then yank the iPods out of their sweaty little hands and get out there to have some fun!


Don’t bring your dog there!

In 2012, Dog Fancy magazine named Bend the nation’s dog-friendliest town. Since that time, the city has only gotten more accessible to your furry friends.
From off-leash dog parks (8 and counting!) to dog-friendly skiing and snowshoe trails to pet-friendly lodging options to restaurants that let your pooch join you on the patio for a meal, there’s not a whole lot Fido can’t do with you when you’re traveling in Bend.

Well, maybe think twice about bringing him into the dressing room at the lingerie store. That’s just weird.

I can’t find a beer I like.

A few weeks ago I fielded an inquiry from a journalist writing about Bend for a major national publication. Her assignment: To cure herself of a lifelong aversion to beer by journeying to the beer capital of the universe (Bend, Oregon) and sampling her way around the city. The goal would be met if she found a beer she liked enough to consume a whole pint.

From hiking to dining, your pooch can join you for most activities in Bend.

From hiking to dining, your pooch can join you for most activities in Bend.

I don’t want to give away any big spoilers before the article comes out, but suffice it to say, this was one of those moments I really, really loved my job and the opportunity to introduce someone to the wealth of craft beer along the legendary Bend Ale Trail. From porters to IPAs to lagers to radlers to unique beers you’ve probably never even heard of, they’re brewing it up in Bend.

Want to plan the ultimate beerventure in Bend? Bend Ale Trail month is coming up in November, with your chance to score a trophy in addition to the prizes you normally earn for gathering passport stamps at the breweries.


I haven’t seen a Subaru for ages.

Stand on any street corner in Bend. Wait one minute. If you haven’t seen a Subaru drive by, get back in your car and check your GPS, because clearly, you are not in Bend.


You really shouldn’t wear that to dinner.

I should start by saying that if you feel like putting on a pretty dress or a tie before you head out for a nice dinner at Ariana Restaurant or 900 Wall or Trattoria Spandati or 5 Fusion or one of Bend’s other fine dining establishments, go ahead and rock on with your fancy-pants self. I’ve been known to break out the little black dress myself from time to time.

Even the top restaurants in Bend are uber-casual.

Even the top restaurants in Bend are uber-casual.

But it’s not mandatory. You could walk into the nicest restaurant in all of Bend (see the aforementioned list) and no one would bat an eyelash if you were sporting cargo shorts and a clean fleece sweatshirt. It’s that kind of place.


I wish I could find a restaurant that serves… (fill in the blank)

Before the last item leads you to the conclusion that Bend’s dining options are limited to a couple of truck stops, let me dispel that myth right away.

Yummy taco salad from Salud...gluten-free, vegan, and oh-so-tasty.

Yummy taco salad from Salud…gluten-free, vegan, and oh-so-tasty.

Bend has such a huge variety of cuisine options that it’s really quite staggering. Looking for Asian cuisine? You can pick between Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Asian fusion, Thai (both northern and southern) and more. Need gluten-free options? Yep, we’ve got those. How about vegan cuisine? No problem.

Unless you’re a cannibal whose hunger can only be sated by dining on the flesh of your mortal enemies, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find a Bend restaurant that serves your favorite food.


Traffic sucks.

There was one day last winter when an early snowstorm collided with freezing temps and a sudden influx of out-of-town visitors, bringing traffic to a standstill in several parts of Bend right around 5:15 on a weekday. I’ll admit it. I got annoyed that my regular 10-minute commute took closer to 30 minutes.

The view from one of the stoplights on the northeast end of Bend. Not too shabby, eh?

The view from one of the stoplights on the northeast end of Bend. Not too shabby, eh?

Then I remembered I’ve lived here for almost 20 years. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been stuck in traffic in Bend. Even on our busiest days, I can still get from one end of town to the other in less than 15 minutes.

Compare that with traffic jams in places like Portland or Seattle. It’s really no contest. Besides that, the photo over there to the side is my view from the traffic light where I’m routinely stopped on my way to work. Frankly, I’m kinda disappointed when I don’t hit a red light.


I’m tired of Bend and I want to go home.

My office sits 20 feet from the front desk of the Bend Visitor Center, which sees roughly 200 visitors a day during high season. I’ve worked for Visit Bend for more than five years, and since eavesdropping is one of my most cherished hobbies, I can assure you this phrase has never once been uttered in our building.

I can’t speak for the rest of the city limits, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the number of times anyone’s said it is roughly the same as the number of people who can’t find at least one Bend beer they enjoy.

My romantic weekend at Brasada Ranch (and how you can win your own!)

October 8th, 2015
Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, enjoy a romantic evening by their private fire pit outside their suite at Brasada Ranch.

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, enjoy a romantic evening by their private fire pit outside their suite at Brasada Ranch.

When the folks at Brasada Ranch invited me to spend a weekend there familiarizing myself with the trappings of a romantic fall getaway, I was horrified.

“You want me to sleep in a luxurious suite, eat delicious gourmet meals, get massages with my husband, and go mountain biking at sunset to take in the beautiful mountain views?” I asked. “Why must I suffer so?”

As you might imagine, my romantic fall getaway at Brasada Ranch was no great hardship. Lucky for you replicating it for yourself is just as effortless (and could be even easier if you win the giveaway I’ll tell you about at the end of this blog post!)

So let me tell you about my weekend…


The digs

The last time I visited Brasada Ranch, I stayed in one of their luxurious cabins with my husband and two stepkids. While the cabins are amazing and perfect for a family outing, the Ranch House Suites are the place to be if intimacy and luxury are what you’re after.

The Ranch House boasts an array of deluxe suites, plus fine dining all under one roof.

The Ranch House boasts an array of deluxe suites, plus fine dining all under one roof.

These adult-only rooms are spacious and luxurious with all the bells and whistles—king beds with deluxe linens, a gorgeous two-headed tile shower, and a private patio with our own beautiful fire pit (plus access to a big hot tub reserved only for Ranch House Suites guests).

Simply stepping into the space was enough to drain all the tension from my shoulders and leave me feeling like I’d escaped from the stress of day-to-day life. Of course, the next segment of our journey is where the real relaxation got started.


The spa

One of the main reasons for our visit to Brasada Ranch was to check out Spa Brasada their expansive day spa and learn about the one-of-a-kind Couples Massage Workshop they offer.

But first things first.

Tawna enjoys a private massage before the Couples Massage Workshop.

Tawna gets a private massage before the Couples Massage Workshop.

Relaxation and romance was the order of the day, so my husband and I got checked in and bundled into soft, plush robes. We each spent a few minutes in the steam rooms in our respective dressing rooms before meeting up in the “relaxation room” (you know it’s relaxing if they name the room!) There, we nibbled Spa Brasada’s signature lavender honey shortbread cookies and sipped tea by the fountain until our massage therapists came to lead us into massage suites for one-hour private massages before our workshop.

I picked the East Meets West massage, a unique mix of Swedish techniques blended with acupressure points, polarity, and energy-based techniques. To say the whole experience was heavenly doesn’t begin to do it justice. It was an hour of pure bliss at the hands of a highly-skilled, supremely friendly therapist.

Thoroughly relaxed, I headed into another private massage suite for the second part of our experience. My husband and I met with Michelle, who talked with us a bit about what we hoped to get from our Couples Massage Workshop. “I want to learn new ways to touch my wife,” my husband offered helpfully.

Tawna and Craig enjoy the glorious Couples Massage Workshop.

Tawna and Craig enjoy the glorious Couples Massage Workshop.

Michelle had us begin with me on the table, tastefully draped. She patiently explained a variety of techniques and strokes, demonstrating on my neck, back, shoulders, and legs while my husband followed along and practiced her suggestions. Michelle encouraged us to offer feedback about what felt great, and she gave plenty of encouragement as we went along.

Halfway through the session, we switched spots. It was my turn to practice on Craig, which was fun as well as enlightening. I’ve admittedly never been the world’s best massage giver, but Michelle showed me ways my 5’4” self can exert the desired pressure on my 6’1” husband without breaking my own back. Knowing we don’t own a massage table of our own, Michelle even offered tips for how we can replicate the techniques on a bed in our own home.

I’ve always said that learning something new with a significant other is the best way to bond as a couple, but learning massage? On each other? It doesn’t get any better than that. Seriously, this is one of those bucket list experiences you need to try at least once with your honey. Put it on your Valentine’s wish list or tuck a gift card in your sweetie’s Christmas stocking. The spa is open to the public, so you can book their services even if you aren’t staying as a guest.


The grub

During the busier summer months at Brasada Ranch, guests can pick between Range and Ranch House for dining, but things are a bit quieter in the off-season when Ranch House is your go-to spot for chow.

Cheers to our romantic weekend!

Cheers to our romantic weekend!

Instead of feeling limiting, it was actually quite nice to enjoy all of our meals in this quaint, cozy space with servers who remembered our names and little details like how Craig prefers his coffee.

There’s a surprisingly wide variety of cuisine in a single restaurant. The breakfast menu is teeming with creative twists on omelets and benedicts and waffles, while the lunch menu has a nice mix of sandwiches and salads and flatbreads. On one afternoon we had to hustle into town for my stepdaughter’s soccer game, and the kitchen crew helpfully packed up a pair of turkey club sandwiches for us to take on the drive.

Mmmm...pork chops!

Mmmm…pork chops!

But dinnertime was the real highlight here. The massive heaters on the deck allowed us to sit outside one night enjoying the glorious sunset and sweeping mountain views while we sipped creatively-prepared (and delicious!) cocktails. The views were still stellar even on the night we dined inside, and it was spellbinding to snuggle up together with a glass of wine and watch the sun sink behind the mountains.

The entrée selections were delectable, with a heavy emphasis on locally-sourced, regional selections. Steak, pork chops, halibut, even burgers were done with a creative flair I couldn’t possibly replicate at home, and the wine selections perfectly complemented the menu offerings. Dining at Ranch House certainly set the stage for romance. And speaking of romance…


The romance

No, I’m not going to give you intimate details of our romantic weekend. But I will tell you that Brasada Ranch excels at setting the stage for romance in everything they do, even the really simple things.

Tawna and Craig toast s'mores at their private fire pit.

Tawna and Craig toast s’mores at their private fire pit.

On one night we rented bicycles for a sunset pedal to Spirit Rock. The friendly attendant gave us a map and directions and helped us time our outing to maximize the colorful views. When we joked about bringing a bottle of wine, he pointed us to the General Store where they sell a surprisingly great selection of vino at ridiculously reasonable prices.

Then there were the s’mores. For years I’ve heard people talk about the s’mores at Brasada Ranch, which come with locally-made chocolate from Goody’s and marshmallows made fresh daily by Brasada Ranch’s award-winning chef, who also makes the graham crackers from scratch with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and honey. Guests get to toast the whole thing up in the fire pits on the back deck, but since our server knew we were staying in the Ranch House Suites, she offered to box up all the ingredients so we could take them back to our private fire pit.

The s’mores themselves were divine, but cuddling by the fire with the sound of crickets and coyotes around us and stars overhead was simply out-of-this-world. And being able to do that a mere 15 steps from our room was heavenly (not to mention convenient).


The deal

Okay, so by now you might be feeling a little jealous. “Hey, Tawna,” you may be asking. “How can I enjoy the same sort of romantic weekend you got to have?”

Tawna walks her bike (hey, it was steep!) up to Spirit Rock for sunset.

Don’t miss the sunset bike ride (or bike walk) up to Spirit Rock for sunset!

The simple answer is that you can visit Brasada Ranch’s website and book the whole thing in about two minutes. Easy as pie! (Or s’mores. Whatevs). Brasada Ranch is only a 25 minute drive from Bend despite feeling a world away and 20 minutes from RDM airport (with direct flights from PDX, SEA, SLC, SFO, DEN, and soon PHX).

But if you’re a fan of games and you kinda like winning things, you’ll want to keep your eyes on Visit Bend’s Facebook page October 13, 14, and 15, 2015. That’s when we’ll be doing a scavenger hunt. On each of those days, we’ll post an image from Brasada Ranch. Study that image, then go hunting for it on their website. When you locate it, copy the URL, then go here and paste it into the contest form. You’ll fill out a couple other small details, then hit “enter to win.” Voila! You’re in the running for two free nights of lodging in a Ranch House Suite.

Good luck, and may the romance be ever in your favor!


How to be lazy as @#$% in Bend (and still love your vacation!)

October 1st, 2015

Yesterday, I eavesdropped on a conversation between two tourism colleagues. I shouldn’t admit that publicly, huh?

They discussed how Bend visitors arrive with detailed itineraries that have them hiking at sunrise, mountain biking by noon, and cramming in as many Bend Ale Trail stops as possible before the breweries close for the night.

While tackling a Bend bucket list at breakneck speed is a good way to maximize your vacation time, it’s also a good way to go home exhausted. This really hit home for me, since I just found myself with a diagnosis of Bronchitis and Laryngitis, along with orders from my doctor to slow down, pronto.

Blogger Tawna reading on the shore of Crescent Lake (about 1.5 hours from Bend) on a lazy late-September morning.

Blogger Tawna Fenske reading on the shore of Crescent Lake (about 1.5 hours from Bend) on a lazy late-September morning.

Message received.

And I followed the order by enjoying a lazy, romantic weekend at Brasada Ranch (which I’ll tell you about in detail next week). For now, let’s look at how you can have your own glorious, lazy weekend in Bend.


Step one: Get up whenever the heck you feel like it

For me, that’s 6:30 a.m. I’m a morning person by nature, but my night owl husband can doze until 10ish. You know what’s great about that? I can grab a good book and a nice, big mug of tea. Then I can find a cozy chair on my hotel balcony or on a park bench by the Deschutes River, and I can sit for an hour or two sipping, reading, and looking up every few minutes to enjoy the glorious scenery.

It doesn’t sound like much, but that brief period of relaxation will recharge your batteries like nothing else in the world.

Go here to find a hotel or vacation rental in a spot that promises easy access to great scenery (which is pretty much anyplace in Bend, now that I think about it). Then go here to find a nearby teahouse or coffee shop (my personal faves are Townshend’s Tea Company, Lone Pine Coffee Roasters, and Thump Coffee).

And I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you where to find a book, though if you like risqué romantic comedy, I happen to know this one author… (that’s an inside joke, in case you don’t know what I do for a living outside Visit Bend!)


Step two: Do a lazy man’s hike

I’ve blogged plenty of times about how you kinda want to hike Pilot Butte (the 500-foot dormant volcano in the center of town) to really, truly experience it.

It's fine if you choose to drive, rather than walk to the top of Pilot Butte. You can still enjoy the views!

It’s fine if you choose to drive, rather than walk to the top of Pilot Butte. You can still enjoy the views!

But you know what? That’s crap. If you’re pressed for time or just plain don’t feel like walking, there’s no shame in driving to the top. You’ll still get the killer 360-degree views and a great orientation to the city, and you won’t end up sweaty.

Keep in mind you’ll lose your option to drive up when they start the seasonal road closure in late-fall, but they’ll reopen it again in April once the threat of snow and ice has passed. You still have maybe six weeks to drive up in 2015, so make the most of your time right now.

Okay, so what if you’re up for an actual hike, but you don’t feel like exerting yourself too much? The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a great place to find nice, flat, mellow trails that meander through beautiful desert landscapes but won’t leave you huffing and puffing.

If a lakeside hike is more your speed, I’m fond of the loop around Suttle Lake nearly any time of year, or hit the short trail circling Devils Lake during summer and late-Fall when the Cascade Lakes Highway is still open. Both are fairly flat and even, and will give you great views without a lot of altitude gain.

If you want to stick close to town, just hoof it along the flat, paved path that follows the Deschutes River through the Old Mill District (bonus: shopping time and post-hike snacks at one of the restaurants along the river!)


Step three: Plant your butt in a donut

Yeah, yeah . . . we all know you can paddle hard in a kayak or brave crazy whitewater rapids in the summer months, or get your powder fix with a side of adrenaline on Mt. Bachelor when winter rolls around.

Ahh, floating the river. One of many lazy ways to pass a day in Bend.

Ahh, floating the river. One of many lazy ways to pass a day in Bend.

But what if you’re not looking for recreation that involves anything more strenuous than sitting? Believe it or not, that’s do-able.

If it’s warm outside, rent yourself a big, squishy inner tube, plop your butt in it, and float the Deschutes River. You don’t even have to paddle if you don’t feel like it, and the whole thing just got a lot easier with the new Bend Whitewater Park (complete with a safe passage for floaters so you no longer need to get out of the river and hike your lazy butt around the Colorado Avenue Dam). Just keep on floating all the way to Drake Park.

When winter rolls around, head up to Mt. Bachelor and grab a pass for their Snowblast Tubing Park. They provide the tubes and the rope tow that will drag your lazy butt to the top of the slope over and over again until you can’t stand any more fun. You provide the squeals of joy (along with the aforementioned butt).


Step four: Make someone else drive you around

Okay, so maybe you’re feeling just ambitious enough that you wouldn’t mind snowshoeing or canoeing or exploring a Bend cave, but the idea of gathering up all the gear, figuring out where to go, and driving to the destination sounds like way too much work.

Leave the decisions and driving to someone else when you book an outing with Wanderlust Tours or the Bend Brew Bus.

Leave the decisions and driving to someone else when you book an outing with Wanderlust Tours or the Bend Brew Bus.

Wanderlust Tours to the rescue! Their naturalist guides will hook you up with everything you need to have an amazing outdoor adventure. You supply the paddle power or leg movements, and they’ll handle the rest!

But if that’s still too much effort and you’re more in the mood to swill beer, they can help you maximize your laziness power there, too. Book a trip on the Bend Brew Bus to tackle Bend Ale Trail in style. You’ll get a designated driver to and from your Bend hotel, plus they’ll throw in tours and tastings at four breweries and a snack at one of the stops.

If your beverage preferences are a bit more diverse, try their Coffee Roastery Tour or the Local Pour Tour (which hits one brewery, one cidery, one distillery, and one winery).


Step five: Have dinner come to you

Feeling exhausted by your day of doing nothing? If your hotel doesn’t offer on-site dining, why not have dinner delivered?

Kebaba is one of many restaurants you can sample if you order a meal through Bend Takeout Express.

Kebaba is one of many restaurants you can sample if you order a meal through Bend Takeout Express.

Bend Takeout Express is a local delivery service that will bring you food from nearly two dozen local restaurants. This goes beyond the realm of takeout Chinese or pizza delivery, and I’m always delighted to have several of my favorite local hotspots in the lineup.

Order a mezze sampler for two from Kebaba, then eat it in bed while gazing out the window at the mountains. Ask for burritos from Longboard Louie’s or luscious curries from Noi or go for a regular pizza delivery from Versante Pizza.

There are plenty more restaurants to pick from, and Bend Takeout Express will bring it to you for surprisingly reasonable rates. I can’t tell you how many times this service has made me weep with relief in the middle of a hectic move or a weekend when I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with feeding myself. It’s one of those little luxuries that can go a long way toward making you feel rested and relaxed.


Step six: Get that lazy booty pampered

I said earlier that I’ll tell you all about my romantic getaway to Brasada Ranch in next week’s blog post, but can I just say right now that their Couples Massage Lesson changed my life? Seriously, I’m still feeling tingly a week later.

A glorious moment from the Couples Massage Class at Brasada Ranch.

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, enjoy the Couples Massage Class at Brasada Ranch.

I know it’s a splurge, but there’s something so divinely relaxing about treating yourself to a massage, facial, pedicure, or other spa service. Go here to find a roundup of day spas offering treatments guaranteed to propel you into a state of bliss. If you’re here with your honey, spots like Jinsei Spa and Anjou Spa offer couples’ massage sessions guaranteed to get you feeling groovy together.

If money’s tight, try the student salon at Phagens Cosmetology College, where you can score services like facials and manicures on the cheap.


Step seven: Find more places to loaf

The older I get, the more I appreciate the fine art of loafing around doing nothing. I shouldn’t say doing nothing, exactly. There’s a lot to be said for relaxing as you take in the scenery or do a bit of people watching.

Combine working with loafing to maximize your lazy days in Bend.

Combine working with loafing to maximize your lazy days in Bend.

Luckily, there are lots of places to do this in Bend. Find a barstool or outdoor table at your favorite brewpub along the Bend Ale Trail, then lounge around all day sipping local craft beer.

If the weather’s chilly, find a local fire pit and spend an evening toasting your toes and relaxing by the crackling flames. If the weather’s warm, park your booty in a lounge chair at one of the local swimming pools and watch the kids frolicking in the water.

Bend is also home to more than 70 public parks where you can snooze in the grass or lounge on a park bench. Check out this handy park map to find one closest to you (because we wouldn’t want you to have to exert yourself by traveling very far).

Now get out there and enjoy being lazy!

9 spots for a grab-and-go breakfast in Bend

September 24th, 2015
Blogger Tawna set out to find Bend's best grab-and-go breakfasts. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Blogger Tawna set out to find Bend’s best grab-and-go breakfasts. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Though we like to wax poetic about how laidback everyone is in Bend, the truth is that we’re almost always going somewhere. Perhaps we’re en route to Mt. Bachelor for a day of skiing, or maybe we’re headed to Drake Park for a morning stroll.

There’s a huge call for grab-and-go breakfasts that are delicious, nutritious, and above all, portable. I’m not suggesting you grab a gloopy breakfast sandwich and hop behind the wheel of a car, veering dangerously into the bike lane when the sausage patty hits your crotch. I’ll leave it to you to be responsible about saving the nosh-fest for when you’re either a passenger hand-feeding your driver, or transporting your portable breakfast to a scenic locale to enjoy it.

However you handle it, here are nine great grab-and-go breakfasts you’ll find in Bend.


Rockin’ Daves

The full name of this popular Bend eatery is Rockin’ Daves Bagel Bistro and Catering (say that five times fast!) so as you can probably guess, bagels are a staple here (though they also offer terrific sit-down breakfasts and Bloody Marys when you have more time to spare).

The Clogger bagel sandwich from Rockin' Daves.

The Clogger bagel sandwich from Rockin’ Daves.

My stepkids are partial to simple offerings like a plain bagel and with seasonal berry cream cheese, while I’m fond of more substantial options like a bagel breakfast sandwich. The Clogger is my personal fave, with bacon, tomato, avocado, red onion, and cream cheese on your choice of bagel. While I love adding an egg for a small upcharge, this does make the whole thing bigger (read: messier and harder to shove in your pie hole) so keep that in mind if you’ll be eating in a car.

If bagel sandwiches aren’t your thing, they also offer a terrific build-your-own breakfast burrito option. Each comes with egg, cheese, hash browns, and your choice of one meat and one veggie (meats include bacon, ham, sausage, and pork belly, while veggies include onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and jalapeño). These bad boys are BIG, so I usually choose the small instead of the large. If you’re taking your breakfast burrito to a park or hiking trail, ask for extra salsa and slather it on generously with each bite. Yum!


Jackson’s Corner

This popular Bend eatery has Eastside and Westside locations, and Jackson’s Corner is ideal for a lazy Sunday breakfast sprawled at one of their huge farm tables taking your time over a plate of biscuits and gravy or cardamom & sea salt French toast.

Tasty bacon breakfast biscuit from Jackson's Corner.

Tasty bacon breakfast biscuit from Jackson’s Corner.

But if you’re itching to hit the road, you can still sample their fare. Try the biscuit sandwich, made with Hills bacon, Tillamook cheddar, and organic scrambled egg on a house-made biscuit. I like asking them to add a few seasonal, grilled veggies for added crunch and nutrition.

This tasty sandwich actually looks messier than it is. The box they give you for takeout makes a perfect catch-all for dropped crumbs, and I’ll admit I enjoy the tactile pleasure of eating the side of home fries with my fingers (though my husband—refined gentleman that he is—opts to eat them with a fork in an unmoving car).

One of the things I love about Jackson’s Corner is their commitment to fresh, locally-produced ingredients. If that’s important to you as well, you’ll enjoy a little peace-of-mind with that side of home fries!


Mother’s Café

I planned my most recent stop at Mother’s Café to coincide with my drive to the annual Yogis Unite yoga festival held each September in Bend. This was no accident. The instant you walk through the door, you feel centered, balanced, and oh-so-very-healthy.

Yummy, fruity, healthy Chia Pudding from Mother's.

Yummy, fruity, healthy Chia Pudding from Mother’s.

But you get even healthier when you start ordering from the menu. Their cold-pressed juices and smoothies make a supremely portable breakfast option, with tons of variety to choose from. I’m partial to the Tropical Fuji, made with orange juice, pineapple, banana, mango, coconut, mango sorbet.

I’ll admit I have a tough time feeling filled up by a meal I can’t chew, so there are plenty of chewable options here as well. Their breakfast sandwiches are a bit messy to eat in a car, but they’re a terrific choice for that brunch picnic. The Mother’s Cristo features ham, egg, Havarti, and marionberry jam on an English muffin, or try the Baden-Baden with avocado, egg, tomato, spinach, Swiss, and chimichurri on an English muffin.

On the morning of the yoga festival, I decided to branch out with something new. “Have you tried our Chia Pudding?” asked the friendly attendant. I had not, and I’ll be honest—it sounded a little weird. Boy, was I in for a surprise! Chia pudding is made with chia seeds, hemp milk, kale, lemon, mango, bee pollen and ginger, topped with apple, almonds, fresh berries and coconut. It’s a glorious mix of textures and flavors with the perfect amount of crunch and zing. Definitely don’t attempt to eat this one while driving, but do take it with you to that perfect picnic table where you’ll wield your plastic spoon and feel very zen about your life.

Like many other cafes in this roundup, these guys have both Eastside and Westside locations, so you can hit them whether you’re heading to Mt. Bachelor or out to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.


Los Jalapeños

You know how sometimes you order a breakfast burrito and you end up with all the egg on one side and the meat on the other? Or the ratio of filling to tortilla is skewed so heavily to the tortilla that you feel like you’re chewing a piece of cardboard rubbed with egg?

One of the tastiest, heartiest, freshest breakfast burritos you'll ever eat can be found at Los Jalapenos.

One of the tastiest, heartiest, freshest breakfast burritos you’ll ever eat can be found at Los Jalapenos.

That’s sooooo not the case at Los Jalapeños. This hidden little mid-town eatery isn’t something you’d find unless you went looking for it, but I urge you to stop whatever you’re doing now and go looking.

These guys are the masters of the perfect breakfast burrito, which they’ll grill up hot while you wait, chattering happily in Spanish the whole time. They have tons of options to pick from, ranging from the Chorizo Burrito (Mexican sausage, hash browns, two eggs, and cheese) to the Machacha Burrito (shredded beef, bell pepper, hash browns, two eggs, and cheese) and more. I loved the sound of their veggie burrito (two eggs, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, cheese, and hash browns) but wanted to add ham. No problem! They charged a little bit more, then cooked the whole thing up fresh while I waited.

The tortilla was light and fresh and heavenly, and the fillings were scrumptious and well proportioned. They gave me little to-go cups of green and red salsa, which I doused over each bite I took while working at my standup desk.


Strictly Organic

As a devout tea drinker, I didn’t think to put Strictly Organic on my list of grab-and-go breakfast options at first. But when I asked the girl making my breakfast at Mother’s for her favorite grab-and-go spot that isn’t Mother’s, Strictly Organic was her suggestion. I’m glad I heeded it!

Tasty, healthy breakfast wrap from Strictly Organic.

Tasty, healthy breakfast wrap from Strictly Organic.

For starters, Strictly Organic offers waaaaaaaaaay more than just coffee. I was taken aback by their selection of grab-and-go breakfast items, including pastries, muffins, breakfast wraps, breakfast sandwiches, and quiche. As you might expect from a spot with this name, these guys specialize in fresh, locally-produced, organic goods.

The wide selection makes it a perfect spot to take a family looking to eat on the run.  My stepkids opted to pick something out of the pastry case, which offered a wide array of cinnamon rolls, muffins, scones, and bagels.

My husband chose the daily breakfast special, which was turkey bacon, egg, and Swiss with spinach, onion, mayo, and roasted red pepper on his choice of bread. I went for the veggie breakfast wrap with avocado, tomato, and onion, plus I added turkey bacon because—well, I could. Everything here screamed “fresh!” and I liked the added bonus of being able to choose between white, wheat, or a gluten-free rice wrap.

Keep in mind this spot is super-popular with locals, so if speed is crucial in your grab-and-go quest, you might want to pick someplace else on a busy Saturday or Sunday. But if you have a little extra time to wait, it’s definitely worth it!


Big O Bagel

Yet another option with handy Eastside and Westside locations, Big O Bagels is one of my family’s most regular stops when we want a super-fast, super-predictable breakfast on our way out of town for a hike.

Big O Bagels kids

Cedar and Violet enjoy their tasty treat from Big O Bagels (while Bindi the dog looks on).

The kids are suckers for their chocolate chip bagels smeared with butter or (if they’re feeling adventurous) cream cheese.

For me, the no-frills nature of their bagel sandwiches (and the fact that their bagels are just a tiny bit smaller and firmer than the ones at Rockin’ Daves) is a huge selling point for an on-the-go breakfast. I don’t have to worry about the whole thing falling apart in my lap while I’m attempting to simultaneously eat, unwrap my husband’s sandwich, and throw napkins to the kids.

I typically choose one of their sundried tomato bagels smeared with red pepper cream cheese, then adorned with egg, bacon, and a few slices of tomato. They also have other meat options like sausage and ham, and they routinely offer unique, seasonal bagel flavors.


Sparrow Bakery

Ocean Rolls from Sparrow Bakery....mmmm!

Ocean Rolls from Sparrow Bakery….mmmm!

One of Bend’s most popular breakfast eateries, Sparrow Bakery is legendary for their melt-in-your-mouth ocean rolls. What’s an Ocean Roll? A flaky, buttery pastry a bit like a cinnamon roll, but spiked with cardamom and drizzled with the most mouth-watering glaze you’ll ever taste. I’m not a big fan of sweets for breakfast (or in general) but even I go nuts for Ocean Rolls.

But Sparrow also offers a pretty tasty breakfast sandwich made with poached egg, bakery-smoked bacon, avocado, arugula, and aioli served on a hand-rolled croissant. This one can be a little messy, though my husband occasionally makes it less-so by asking for a bagel instead of the croissant. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this breakfast treat.


Emerald City Smoothie

I was driving to work thinking about this blog post and reflecting on the fact that I hadn’t included any breakfast smoothies in the mix. Suddenly, I spotted the brand new Emerald City Smoothies on the north side of Greenwood Avenue. Perfect! A chance to try something new, and a chance to see if I could get over my aversion to non-chewable breakfasts.

At Emerald City Smoothie, you can add granola to your smoothie for a little extra crunch.

At Emerald City Smoothie, you can add granola to your smoothie for a little extra crunch.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to. Not completely, anyway. See, Emerald City Smoothies gives you the option to layer any of their smoothies with granola, which adds the bit of crunch I crave.

I was blown away by the sheer volume of smoothie options here. There are smoothies geared toward weight loss, weight gain, immunity support, energy boosting, and more. Best of all, each smoothie on the menu is labeled with nutritional information to help you make smart choices about protein, fat, and calorie content.

I picked the Marionberry Fuel smoothie, made with marionberry, strawberry, nonfat milk, protein, and energy mix (in case you’re wondering, that’s 380 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 14 grams of protein). I also added the granola, and while it was tasty, I recommend asking them to add only half the regular amount (unless you really, really dig granola).

Also, Emerald City has smoothie happy hour from 7-9 am. weekdays when all smoothies are $3.95. You can hit them at their new Eastside spot, or at their longstanding Westside location on Century Drive.


Longboard Louie’s

Are you sensing a theme here with all these Bend eateries boasting both an Eastside and Westside location? While I didn’t set out to do that, it’s a tremendous convenience for folks staying in one part of town but spending time in another.

Enjoy a hearty breakfast burrito from Longboard Louies.

Enjoy a hearty breakfast burrito from Longboard Louies.

Longboard Louie’s offers one of my favorite cheap lunches in town, but I seldom go here for breakfast. I decided to rectify that by stopping in to scope out their breakfast burrito selection.

Quite the selection it is! To start with, they offer both small and large breakfast burritos, which is a fab feature for those with family members of varying appetites and hand sizes.

The standard breakfast burrito comes with eggs, hash browns, fresh salsa, sour cream, and pinto beans wrapped in a flour tortilla with your choice of filling (though you can add more than one filling for an extra 50-cents). Fillings include chili relleno, fajita veggies, sausage, chorizo, cheese, bacon, steak, and turkey sausage.

I chose turkey sausage and fajita veggies (which are my favorite addition to the aforementioned cheap lunch). For some reason I wasn’t expecting the beans (even though, duh, it mentions them right there on the menu) and I might have chosen to skip those. Then again, they did make for a more filling meal.

My favorite thing about a visit to Longboard Louie’s is always the salsa bar. You’ve got about a dozen options to choose from, including tomatillo, a bean and corn salsa that always makes me happy, red salsas in varying degrees of spiciness, and a tropical mango and pineapple salsa that might be a little weird on a breakfast burrito, but is delicious on just about anything else.

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