Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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).
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?”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
September is unfolding a bit differently in 2015 than the month has rolled out previously in Bend. Little dustings of snow showed up earlier in the mountains, and leaves began changing color nearly four weeks before it usually happens.
I’m not sure what that means in terms of the sort of winter we can expect, but a few things remain pretty constant when it comes to the onset of autumn in Central Oregon. Though the first day of fall won’t arrive until September 23, here are six ways you know autumn has already arrived in Bend.
Oktoberfest (Sept. 18-19) and Bend Fall Festival (Oct. 2-4)
Before anyone says it’s weird to have Oktoberfest in September, I’ll point out that traditional German Oktoberfest starts in mid-September and goes into early October, so Bend’s annual festival is nothing unusual.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you won’t want to miss Downtown Bend’s iteration of this fabulous festival September 18-19. Enjoy Bavarian style music, beer, wine, cider, food, and absurd games of skill for prizes, including yodeling, hammerschlagen, costume contest, tricycle races, and medieval swordplay. Most importantly, there’s the annual Wiener Dog Racing—trust me, you don’t want to miss this spectacle (and get there early for a good spot!)
Not planning to be in Bend this weekend? You’ll have another shot at an autumn celebration when the Bank of the Cascades Bend Fall Festival rolls around October 2-4. Also happening in Downtown Bend, this festival features live music, an art promenade, a conscious living showcase, kids’ games and activities, a harvest market, and 30+ food vendors.
Admission is free to both festivals, so you can hit ‘em both if you’re going to be in town!
The leaves they are a changin’!
When I began noticing brightly-colored leaves around town last week, something seemed a little off. I went and looked up my 2013 blog post about the best places to see fall colors around Bend, and sure enough, it was posted October 17.
Those of you who usually mark your calendars for a mid-October leaf show might want to change the date this year. Our Marketing Director hiked the Metolius River last night and brought back shots of orange and gold leaves. While there’s still plenty of green on the trees around town, our best guess is that things will start peaking before the end of September this year, so get out there and roll in some leaves!
Boots, scarves, and sweaters, oh my!
While I sometimes dread the arrival of winter in Bend, I always look forward to the chance to break out brightly-colored sweaters and snazzy new boots. Even though the weatherman predicts we’ll hit 82-degrees this weekend in Bend, our days are turning chillier.
That’s a great excuse to pick up some new fall accessories, and shopping during your Bend vacation lets you snag some wearable souvenirs. In Downtown Bend, try Clutch Handbag Boutique and Active Girl for cute socks and fashionable scarves, then hit Hot Box Betty for the hippest Frye boots (or try Cowgirl Cash if vintage boots are more your style). When you’re in the Old Mill District, start your sweater hunt at locally-owned Vanilla Urban Threads and continue on to hot-spots like Gap and Banana Republic for all the latest fashions.
Then go for a stroll along the Deschutes River with your pumpkin spice latte in hand. Speaking of which…
Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere!
While we still have a couple weeks before we’re all swimming in pumpkin-flavored treats, I’m already seeing the pumpkin craze heating up in Bend. Just yesterday I snagged a couple bottles of pumpkin soda at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Downtown Bend with the intention of offering it to my stepkids as a weekend treat.
Is it wrong that we’re already down to one bottle?
From pumpkin beers to pumpkin lattes to special treats like pumpkin gelato and pumpkin waffles, you’ll find oodles of pumpkin-flavored goodies around Bend in the coming weeks. For last season’s roundup of 10 great pumpkin-themed treats in Bend, check out this blog post to get your mouth watering.
Swap your kayak for a mountain bike
While some of us are still clinging to the hope of trying out the new Bend Whitewater Park at least once before the weather turns chilly, many folks are already turning their attention to more fall-oriented recreation.
This is a great time of year for mountain biking in Bend, when temps are milder and the trails are in good condition. Want to try it out but prefer not to go it alone? The folks at Cog Wild can hook you up with all the gear you’ll need, plus tours designed for everyone from brand-new newbies to skilled mountain bikers.
If hiking is more your speed, this is an excellent time of year to hoof it around Central Oregon’s abundant trails. Try the Metolius River northwest of Bend, or the Peter Skene Ogden Trail in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument for glimpses of bright fall colors. It’s also a great time of year to hike Pilot Butte for killer views of the whole city and surrounding mountains and countryside.
Mmm . . . fall beer is here!
At the risk of insulting the other seasons, I must say that fall is one of the best times of year to hit the Bend Ale Trail. In September we have a rush of fresh hop beers from many of the local breweries. October heralds in the pumpkin-themed brews, and November marks the return of Bend Ale Trail Month (when you can score oodles of special prizes in addition to the regular schwag you get for trekking the trail).
And to answer the oft-asked question, YES, we are bringing back the trophies this year for anyone who turns in a completed Bend Ale Trail passport in November. You’re welcome.
After readers requested a blog post on daredevil activities in Bend and Central Oregon, I conquered my fears and went bungee jumping to prove I’m strong, courageous, and dedicated.
Just kidding. What I actually did is persuade two less-weenie coworkers to do it, which is almost the same thing.
My wimpy nature aside, there are several great ways to enjoy a bit of adventure and a small (or not-so-small) adrenaline rush when you’re in Bend. Here are five of them.
Go bungee jumping!
First things first, since this is the most buzzed-about adventure in Central Oregon right now. Earlier this summer, Central Oregon Bungee Adventures began offering bungee jumping off the high bridge over the Crooked River at the Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 29 miles north of Bend. It’s the first time in history that Oregon has approved a commercial bungee jumping operation at any State Park, so it’s kind of a big deal (not to mention the 250-foot drop makes it one of the highest bungee jumping experiences open to the public in North America).
Since I’m too wimpy to attempt it on my own, I recruited my colleagues Hank Therien and Jason Lusk to do it in my stead, while our marketing director, Nate Wyeth, filmed the whole thing. Since Hank is 6’8” and 250+ pounds, we all worried he’d test the limits of the bungee system, but it turned out there was nothing to fear. Jumpers can be anywhere from 90-290 pounds, and owner James Scott did a fabulous job answering questions and putting both guys at ease.
Even so, Hank admitted beforehand he was nervous. “Heights is one of my big fears,” he said. “Doing this is an easy way for me to push my own boundaries and it is an easy way to get my adrenaline pumping, but I will be physically shaking on the platform I’m sure.”
So how did it go? “I expected to have more time to think about it and talk myself out of jumping, but they did a great job of coaching before I got up onto the platform, so once I got ready there was very little downtime in which to chicken out,” he shared. “The other surprise was how gentle it was to hit the end of the bungee. I had assumed that hitting the end of the cord would be more violent.”
Both guys said they’d do it again, and encouraged other thrill-seekers to give it a shot. If nothing else, the views from that bridge are killer (er, sorry—wrong word choice).
To learn more about the schedule and pricing, check out the website.
Ride the zipline at Crater Lake!
Bend is a popular home base for those eager to make the two-hour trek to Crater Lake National Park, so why not make your visit extra special by riding a zipline through the treetops along the fringes of this famous landmark?
Crater Lake Zipline opened earlier this summer, becoming the only tree-based canopy tour on U.S. Forest Service Land. The 1.5 mile course offers views of Crater Lake’s nearby rim, along with vistas of Upper Klamath Lake, Mt. Mcloughlin, and Pelican Butte. The course is made up of nine different ziplines, with two of them measuring a quarter-mile each. You’ll also conquer two sky bridges suspended in the trees, rappel from platform to platform on their special DEUS descent, and end with a QuickJump Rappel 55 feet to the forest floor.
Riders must be 10 years old and weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. The trip takes roughly 2.5 hours, though it can take a little longer for those moving at a slower pace. For pricing and schedule info, check their website.
Go gliding for an ultralight experience!
I’ll admit it—this one scares the bejeezus out of me more than any of the others, but for the ultimate adrenaline rush, check out Airborne Outback Adventures. They offer a variety of scenic flights and aerial tours, including powered hang gliders, helicopter tours, and more.
But the thing that really stands out is their special ultralight trike. Part tricycle, part hang glider, this thing offers the ultimate rush, and the ultimate way to see sights like Smith Rock State Park and the surrounding mountain peaks of Central Oregon.
A certified instructor with more than 27 years of experience will be your guide, and a camera mounted to the wing will record your whole adventure for a lifetime of bragging rights.
For rates and schedule info, go here.
Waterfalls! Mountain biking! Hiking! Get it all with the Paulina Plunge!
At last, an adventure I’m not too chicken to try! In fact, I had the pleasure of doing the Paulina Plunge last summer with my husband and step-kids, and it was one of our all-time favorite outings with just a touch of adrenaline to give us a bit of a rush.
So what’s the Paulina Plunge? In a nutshell, it’s a full day of mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, jumping, and sliding. The hiking is fairly tame, and the mountain biking is mostly downhill, which is a plus for less-experienced riders.
But it’s the waterfalls that make this outing truly unique. The highlight for us was a pair of natural waterfall slides where guests can slide down on their bellies or sitting upright. A bigger waterfall further down the trail provides a great swimming hole and pounding natural massage.
Get the adrenaline pumping with an Airsoft battle!
Let’s call this one “adrenaline lite.” For those who don’t want to go plunging off a bridge or waterfall, why not keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and try an action-infused game of airsoft instead?
Peak Airsoft recently opened an indoor arena in Bend to provide a safe, fun, fast-paced, adrenaline – filled action experience. For those who’ve never heard of it, Airsoft is the generic name for air-powered toy guns that shoot small, plastic BBs.
Playing at Peak Airsoft’s indoor arena revolves around loosely-guided, objective-based game modes requiring teamwork and strategy to complete the tasks assigned to each team. All equipment is provided, including electric M4-style rifles and full face protection. If it sounds like serious stuff, I’m assured it isn’t. Belly-laughs are par for the course, and this makes a fun family or corporate outing.
Guests can drop in for open play sessions or book a private party. For info and pricing, go here.
Odds are good you’ve at least thought about a Labor Day Weekend getaway to Bend. Odds are also good you just assumed everything’s already booked up for Labor Day 2015, right?
Au contraire! I have it on good authority that a number of Bend hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and resorts still have available rooms (I’m speculating it has something to do with Portland-area schools starting a week early).
So jump on the website for your favorite Bend hotel or use our handy Bend lodging page to find a place to stay. Reservations secured, here are a few things you’ll be enjoying in Bend, Oregon for Labor Day 2015.
Catch a concert
Yep, we’ve got two big ones for Labor Day Weekend! Catch Weird Al Yankovic on Friday, Sept. 4 or Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on Sunday, Sept. 6 at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Our weather should be perfect for an outdoor concert, and you can still grab tickets here or at the box office on the day of the show.
For tips on attending concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, go here.
Stroll First Friday Art Walk
This is a monthly occurrence in Bend when all the shops in historic Downtown Bend stay open late and feature displays from local artists. Sip wine, nibble snacks, chat with the artists, and do a little shopping! Things kick off at 5 p.m. and most stores stay open until 9.
And speaking of art…
This weekend marks the kickoff of the Edward Curtis exhibit sponsored by the A6 gallery. A Seattle artist known for capturing iconic images of native tribes across the American West in the late 1800s, Edward Curtis is the focus of a massive art exhibit that launches this weekend. You can find a full schedule of events here.
Ride the Slide
Full disclosure: I have mixed feelings about this event, given water shortages around the West.
But since part of the Slide the City event is focused on water conservation (and since they pledged to recycle the water used in their September 5 event in Bend), I have to admit the idea of riding the largest slip-n-slide ever to hit the asphalt in Bend does sound kinda cool.
The event starts at noon, and you can find pricing and other details here.
Swill suds at Little Woody
The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer, Cider, and Whiskey Festival is one of my favorite beer events of the year in Bend, and it’s happening from 5-10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5.
As the name suggests, the festival spotlights brews that have been aged in wine barrels, whiskey barrels, and oak barrels, which adds a unique intensity of flavors to the beverage. It’s held on the lawn of the Des Chutes Historical Society, which is worth checking out even when there’s no beer to be found.
This festival can get a little crowded, so get there early and prepare to sip at a leisurely pace (which is kinda preferable with this sort of beer anyway).
Make a whole weekend of it at Brasada Ranch
Someone at Brasada Ranch must reeeeeally love Labor Day, because these guys went all out this year. Their Labor Day Weekend lineup includes Cowboy Cookouts, live music, a Feast from the Fire event, an All-American BBQ, kids’ programming, and tons of fun on the golf course, spa, and pool with slide.
Go here to learn more about the weekend lineup and to find out about lodging in their Ranch House Suites, Sage Canyon Cabins, or Cascade Cabins.
Everything you need to know for a September vacation in Bend, Oregon (plus win $100 to dine in the Old Mill District!)
I can find something magical about every month in Bend, Oregon, but if you ask my favorite of the twelve, I won’t hesitate to tell you it’s September.
Summer is still going strong for the first 2/3 of the month, but crowds have thinned out. Our days are still warm enough for floating the river, but our nights are cool enough to make sleeping with the windows open feel blissfully like camping. There are still enough people milling about to create the energetic feel of summer, but you won’t have to fight for a table at your favorite restaurant.
Sounds nice, huh? Here’s what you need to know about visiting Bend, Oregon in September (plus keep reading to win $100 to spend on a fabulous dinner in the Old Mill District!)
What to bring
I’m pretty sure you can manage to round up your own toothpaste and underpants, so don’t use this as an all-inclusive packing list.
But when you plan a September vacation in Bend, here are a few things you should bring:
- Sunscreen. Yep, you still need it (though you can buy it in plenty of places around town if you forget). The sun is still strong, and there’s a good chance you’ll be playing outside, so slather it on and stay safe.
- A bathing suit, a jacket, and a pair of lightweight gloves. I’m lumping these three things together not because you’ll be wearing them all at once (though I’d pay to see a photo of that!) but because it’s important to plan for extreme ends of the weather spectrum when you visit Bend in September. I walked my dog at 6:30 this morning and wished I’d worn a thin pair of gloves to keep my fingers from freezing. By 2 p.m., I was sweltering in 90-degree heat. Here in the mountainous high desert, you have to be ready for anything on the cusp of a season change.
- Golf clubs, kayak, standup paddleboard, bike… You get the idea. This is still the time of year when you want your warm weather toys, so whatever they may be, make sure you toss them in the car.
- A cardigan and a sundress. Er, the male readers may want to skip this one (or not—hey, I’m not here to judge). September is still a terrific time of year to dine outdoors in your strappy little sandals and cute sundress. But if you’re opting for an evening meal outside (like that one you could win in the Old Mill District if you keep reading!) make sure you stash a sweater in your bag. You’ll thank me later.
- Hiking sandals. I know a lot of folks prefer to hoof it in hiking boots year-round, but I’m not one of those people. I live for months where I can comfortably hike in a pair of Keens or Tevas, and September still counts as one of those months. I love the feeling of splashing through a creek and not getting my socks all soggy, and if you’re the same, go ahead and pack the sandals.
For an even better roundup of 10 things you may not know you need to pack for your Bend vacation, check out this blog post.
What to do
You can peruse www.visitbend.com to find oodles of ideas for activities ranging from arts and culture to restaurants to water recreation to hiking. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s focus on the things you should definitely add to your September agenda:
Watch a sunset. September is arguably the best time of year to catch dramatic, colorful sunsets in Bend. For ideas on where to get the best view, go here.
- Stroll through Drake Park. The leaves in Bend don’t typically change colors until mid-October, but I’ve heard a few weather geeks predicting it could happen earlier this year. Even if all the leaves are still green and in their proper place on the trees, there are few places on earth more spellbinding than this 13-acre riverfront park in downtown Bend. Walk along the water with a bowl of Bonta Gelato. Hit the Bend Farmers Market on Wednesday for a cornucopia of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, jams, and more.
- Cruise up Pilot Butte. I’m a staunch advocate for traveling on foot to reach the summit of the 500-foot dormant volcano in the middle of Bend, but I know that’s not an option for everyone. Maybe you’re pressed for time, or maybe mobility is limited. Whatever your reason for preferring to drive to the top, September’s a good month to do it. The road closes to motorized vehicles in October, and icy conditions in late-fall or early-winter can make it trickier to hike. One way or another, put Pilot Butte on your bucket list for killer views of the city.
- Catch a concert. The most amazing concert season in Les Schwab Amphitheater history is coming to a close with two remaining shows: Weird Al Yankovic on Friday, Sept. 4, and Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on Sunday, Sept. 6. You can still buy tickets here. While you’re at it, take advantage of the chance to dine outside on the riverfront in Old Mill District. You’ll find a roundup of those restaurants here. (Pssst….for a chance to win a $100 to dine in any Old Mill restaurant, follow the directions at the bottom of this post!)
Where to go
Some of Bend’s most popular hotspots are teeming with people in the summer months, so September is your prime opportunity to visit them when the weather’s still great but the crowds have thinned out. Among them:
- Your favorite Bend Ale Trail stop. We have oodles of amazing breweries along the Bend Ale Trail, but there are several where you’ll almost always encounter crowds. That’s especially true in the summer months, but things thin out just a tad when summer ends, making it a little easier for you to nab a seat at Crux Fermentation Project, Worthy Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, and 10 Barrel Brewing. Now’s your chance to claim that outdoor table you’ve been coveting!
- The High Cascade Lakes. Bend locals occasionally fuss if they arrive at popular summer spots like Elk Lake or Green Lake and find hiking trails and picnic areas teeming with people. Thankfully, that tapers off in September, so if you’re hoping for a bit of solitude at a mountain lake without the threat of snow falling, September’s your time to find it.
- Smith Rock State Park. Another Central Oregon hotspot popular with hikers, climbers, sightseers, and birdwatchers, Smith Rock can get a little busy in the summer months. That’s why September makes an extra special time to swing by, with the bonus of offering slightly cooler temps that make it more inviting to wander amid the towering basalt rocks.
- All the hiking trails. Rather than listing them one by one, I’ll just say that all the great hiking trails in Bend and Central Oregon see a slowdown of traffic once September comes, so now’s a great time to cross one off your bucket list. Need ideas? In addition to Visit Bend’s hiking page, the folks at Cascade Hiking Adventures have some terrific suggestions.
Where to stay
One more thing that’s awesome about September? It gets a whole lot easier to get reservations at your favorite hotel, resort, or vacation rental. Go here to start looking!
WIN $100 to dine in the Old Mill District
Want to enjoy a delicious, romantic meal at your choice of restaurant in the Old Mill District? Winning a $100 gift card would be a great way to do that, and you can take your pick of restaurants. Just think….it would be a fabulous date night if you also bought tickets to see Weird Al Yankovic on Sept. 4 or Ben Harper on Sept. 6 at the Les Schwab Amphitheater (you can still buy tickets here).
Comment on this post with one thing from this blog post that you really, really want to do in Bend this September. Better yet, come up with your own! We’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, September 2. Good luck!
Bend’s reputation as a beer and outdoor adventure mecca occasionally overshadows some of the more subtle attractions that leave visitors feeling giddy as a puppy gulping Dawg Grog.
But after watching Bend’s art scene explode over the last couple years, I’m thrilled to see how many folks have realized they can come for the kayaking and stick around for the concerts, art galleries, film festivals, and more.
With that in mind, here are 8 ways to get your art fix in Bend, Oregon in the coming months.
Shakespeare in the Park (Aug. 21-23, 2015)
Listen up, Bard fans—you only have a few more chances to catch this season’s production of Comedy of Errors in some of the most beautiful settings imaginable. August 21 and 22 will feature two performances in Drake Park, with ticket prices ranging from $22-$75. There will also be an Aug. 23 performance at the SHARC location in Sunriver.
Doors open at 6 p.m. for all shows and performances start promptly at 7 p.m., so nab your tickets here.
Art in the High Desert (Aug. 28-30, 2015)
The Art Fair Sourcebook (basically the bible of juried art shows) ranked Art in the High Desert as the #12 show in the whole country. Pretty impressive, though not surprising if you’ve ever had the chance to catch this popular event on the banks of the Deschutes River at the end of each August.
The 2015 show spans August 28-30 and will feature more than 110 nationally-acclaimed artists from across North America showing and selling their work. You’ll see treasures including paintings, ceramics, fiber art, photography, sculpture, jewelry, furniture, glass, mixed media, print-making, drawings, metalworks, and more.
And hey, even if you hate art, consider it an excuse to stroll on of the most spellbinding stretches of river in Bend. Go here to scope out schedule information, artist profiles, and more.
Edward Curtis exhibit (Sept. 1-Oct. 31, 2015)
If the name Edward Curtis doesn’t ring a bell, try googling. Recognize the photos? Odds are pretty good you’ve seen his famous portrait of Chief Joseph, which says something about this legendary photographer’s work.
A Seattle artist known for capturing iconic images of native tribes across the American West in the late 1800s, Edward Curtis is the focus of a massive art exhibit kicking off through Bend’s A6 gallery September1.
But the event isn’t just limited to gallery shows at A6. You’ll find oodles of tie-in exhibits at the High Desert Museum, the Tower Theater, BendFilm, and the Deschutes Public Library. You can catch the opening night at First Friday Art Walk September 4 and find a full schedule of events here.
Art collectors will be especially thrilled by the chance to purchase one of 106 original Edward Curtis prints at the Private Collector Event September 1. To attend, you must register here by August 25.
A6 has lined up some great hotel specials and presentations by Edward Curtis experts, so be sure to check their website for details.
High Desert Chamber Music (Sept. 2015-May 2016)
Fans of string quintets, piano quartets, and other popular forms of chamber music should take a gander at the newly-announced lineup from High Desert Chamber Music for the 2015-2016 season.
Upcoming shows will include Catgut Trio (Sept. 25, 2015), Heiichiro Ohyama & SBCO Chamber Players (Feb. 14, 2016), Gold Coast Concert Artists (March 18, 2016), and the Crown City String Quartet & Friends (May 20, 2016).
The Spotlight Series, which raises funds to benefit educational outreach programs, includes two recitals at the First United Methodist Church featuring Frank Almond (Nov. 20, 2015), and the Orloff/Walz Duo (April 23, 2016).
For show times and ticket info, go here.
BendFilm Festival (Oct. 8-11, 2015)
This is one of my favorite annual events, and there’s always something enchanting about ushering in the fall season with a magical weekend of indie films and fun parties. The 2015 schedule hasn’t been posted yet, but since it’s pretty much a given it will be fabulous, you should book your lodging now, as things tend to fill up.
Then keep an eye on the BendFilm website so you can watch film trailers and nab your festival passes early.
Jazz at the Oxford Oct. 2015-March 2016
The 2015-2016 lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but this uber-popular music series at Bend’s Oxford Hotel pretty much always sells out. The word around the campfire is that series passes will go up for sale to the public in mid-September, so Jazz fans would be wise to keep an eye on the website.
Series pass holders from previous season will get first dibs on pre-sale tickets at the end of August, so watch your email for news.
Bend A Capella Festival (Feb 19-21 2016)
This is a first-time event, but it’s already off and running in grand style with The House Jacks (featured in Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off) set to headline this killer weekend of a cappella music.
A cappella groups of all ages and sizes from across the Northwest will be on hand for a weekend of pop-up performances, workshops, master classes, and sing-offs. Tickets go on sale to the public October 1, so watch the Bend A Cappella website for more details.
Art in Public Places (anytime you like!)
Bend offers a cornucopia of public art you can enjoy 7 days a week, 365 days a year, thanks to the good folks at Art in Public Places. That’s a non-profit group dedicated to providing public art for everyone in Bend to enjoy (an endeavor that resulted in Americans for the Arts honoring Bend’s public sculptures as one of the most innovative approaches to public art in the country).
Interested in scoping out the sculptures that adorn the traffic circles throughout Bend? Check out the Roundabout Art Route, and earn prizes for making the rounds and answering trivia questions about the art you see. For a memorable, guided introduction to Bend’s public art scene, book the Art Safari outing with The Bend Tour Company.
To get your art fix on foot, meander around Downtown Bend enjoying the paintings that make up the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. Wander ‘til you find your favorite, a process made easier with a big dish of f Bontá Gelato in hand (er, so I’m told).
My unwise decision to get the flu the day before last year’s Bend Brewfest put an unfortunate halt to my plans to attend this beertastic event every year since its inception.
But I’m making up for it in 2015, starting with the Bend Brewfest kickoff at noon on Thursday, August 13, at the Les Schwab Amphitheater and ending with one last delicious sip as things shut down at 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 16.
Since I’ve been around the Brewfest block a time or two, I have a few tips that can help make your experience the best it can possibly be. Here are 10 things you need to know about Bend Brewfest 2015.
Hang on to that mug!
If you’re planning to sample beer at Bend Brewfest, you’ll need to purchase a souvenir tasting mug for $15. Your mug is good for all four days of the event, so guard that bad boy with your life.
Also, don’t try sneaking in last year’s mug. They’ll catch you and they won’t be amused.
Your tasting mug comes with five tokens, which can be swapped for four ounces of beer each. A full 12-ounce pour requires four tokens, but I don’t advise that. The whole point of this event is to try lots of different beers, so don’t fill up on one.
Need more tokens? They’re $1 apiece, sold in packs of five, and if you find yourself with a few extras at the end, don’t fret! They’re good from one year to the next, and I promise you’ll smile when you find one in your sweatshirt pocket in December. They did change from the old wooden nickels to new bright yellow plastic ones this year, but you can still swap those out at the token tent.
Make a plan and stick with it.
At the entry gate or in recent issues of The Bend Bulletin, you’ll find a handy, printed Bend Brewfest guide. This is your Bible, and you need to sit down with a few sober moments and a couple trusty highlighters to really study it.
With more than 70 breweries, cideries, meaderies, and even a winery, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to taste everything. Brightly mark your top choices, including the dates and times of anything on X-Tap that really tickles your fancy. Then consult the map in your guide so you know exactly where to find them.
With your top picks clearly marked, flag a few b-team brews you also want to try. If you can, save those ones for after your first snack break (more on that later) or for another day.
Also, keep in mind that while Brewfest staff work tirelessly to get the guide right, last-minute substitutions from breweries do sometimes happen. Just go with the flow and know there will be no shortage of tasty beer to try.
The weather is likely to be warm for most of the 2015 Bend Brewfest, but temps can cool rapidly at night. Wear short sleeves and shorts/skirt, but bring a sweatshirt for evening. Stick with sandals or sneakers, ladies—this is not the event to trot out those five-inch stilettos. You’ll be on your feet for hours walking on grass that’s damp with spilled beer, so choose your footwear wisely.
Don’t forget to wear something with pockets or carry a small, casual purse to hold those beer tokens. I have a special cross-body bag I got at Clutch Handbag Boutique that’s the perfect size to hold my Hydro Flask, cash, ID, beer tokens, phone, glasses, lip balm, and a light sweatshirt. If you don’t have something similar, visit Clutch in Downtown Bend to find your own. A purse makes an awesome Bend souvenir, plus it’s handy for future events!
Though you can use a card for admission and at the merchandise tent, most food vendors require cash. There’s an ATM on-site, but you’ll pay hefty fees. Better to hit your own bank’s ATM before heading to the venue.
Watch the clock.
Taps shut down at 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday and they DO NOT MESS AROUND with this. Cutoff times are a legal issue, and it doesn’t matter if you’re next in line for that fab beer you’ve been thinking about all night. Do yourself a favor and set an alarm on your phone so you’ve got plenty of time to grab that last brew before your time’s up.
Enjoy your extra day this year.
Traditionally, Bend Brewfest is a three-day affair spanning Thursday through Sunday. But because the beer gods love us very, very much, they added an extra day this year.
Since readmission is permitted on any of the days, this means you can slow down and pace yourself a bit. Decide beforehand to focus on specific breweries or styles on certain days so you don’t confuse your palate by leaping back and forth between Porters and sours and IPAs and ciders.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
If you arrive at the venue and start guzzling beer with an empty belly, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be flat on your back within an hour.
Luckily, there are tons of great food vendors at Bend Brewfest, so finding good grub to soak up the suds isn’t a problem. Split some pizza with a pal, or grab a falafel or a tamale. The idea is to line your belly with some nice, dense carbs to absorb alcohol and keep you upright.
But don’t gorge yourself completely, since you want to save room for beer. Once you’ve sipped a few, head back to the food trailers and grab a snack. The best food vendors in the area all show up for this, and there will be plenty of tasty offerings to keep you fueled for your next round of drinking.
Moderation, guys—pace yourselves.
Arrange a sober ride.
Pop quiz: If you were a cop who wanted to keep Bend’s neighborhoods safe from drunk drivers, where would you hang out the weekend of Bend Brewfest?
Beyond the risk of arrest, you really don’t want to kill your vacation buzz by killing yourself or someone else. Seriously, guys—don’t screw around with this. Bookmark this page and have it handy for when it’s time to call a cab. You can also walk or elect a sober pal to do the driving. Just don’t drink and drive, OK? Pinky swear?
Water’s good for more than paddling.
I know it’s hard to fathom drinking anything besides beer or cider at the Brewfest, but you’ll be hating life in the morning if you don’t remember to drink plenty of water throughout the evening.
You’ll find plenty of water stations throughout the venue. Once you’ve downed a brew sample or two, locate one of these stations, fill your tasting mug with water, and chug that thing down. Repeat after every few samples. If you’d prefer to keep your water vessel separate from your beer one, hit the merch tent to buy a souvenir, double-walled bottle from fiftyfifty. Then swill some more water.
Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Leave the dogs at home (and only bring the kids before 7 p.m.)
Can’t find a sitter? Believe it or not, Bend Brewfest is kid-friendly (at least before 7 p.m.) While I personally prefer to leave the young’uns at home and enjoy the event as a grownup, plenty of folks enjoy taking in the scene with their well-behaved offspring in tow. Prior to 7 p.m., there’s a pretty mellow vibe to the whole event, and you’ll see plenty of other parents with kids. Just don’t let them zip around like crazed maniacs knocking beer out of strangers’ hands. That’s bad beer karma.
If you’re a parent to four-legged kids, Fido will need to sit this one out. For the safety of the beasts, dogs are not allowed at the 2015 Bend Brewfest. If you need some ideas for doggie daycare for a night, go here.
One of the coolest things about Bend is the constant, calming presence of the mighty Deschutes River as it meanders through town. You can stroll beside it, swim in it, paddle through it, float on it, and take pictures of it from dozens of spots around Bend.
But what if you want to eat an amazing meal beside it? You can do that, too! Here are 11 cafés and restaurants in Bend that boast views of the beautiful Deschutes River. To make it even easier, they’re listed in the order you’d encounter them if you hopped in your inner tube and floated from one stop to the next all the way through town.
Um, I don’t advise that, by the way.
I know some folks turn up their noses at the idea of chain restaurants, but considering the views offered at Red Robin in Bend, you should make an exception for this one. If you have kids in tow, this is a sure-fire win with tasty burgers, freckled lemonade, and a kids’ menu that’s guaranteed to please everyone.
In the warmer months, nab a table outside and watch the paddlers move past as you gobble your gourmet burger (I recommend the Bleu Ribbon Burger topped with tangy steak sauce, chipotle aioli, bleu cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and crispy onion straws). Another bonus is the prevalence of bottomless everything.
Er, I’m talking fries and drinks. Not the folks on the river. That would just be weird (not to mention uncomfortable to watch while you eat your burger).
Anthony’s Home Port
I’ve blogged countless times about how Anthony’s in the Old Mill District is one of my favorite summertime hangouts and one of the best happy hours in town, which would be true even if they didn’t have killer views of the Deschutes River.
But the river views are the icing on the cake, or the ahi on the nachos, as the case may be. Seriously, their ahi nachos are THE BOMB, made with sashimi-grade ahi tuna, wasabi, and pineapple chutney served on taro chips. Wash them down with one of their seasonal cocktails, then stick around and order dinner.
You can enjoy river views whether you sit inside or out, but I’m partial to the patio seating when the weather’s warm. While seafood is the specialty at Anthony’s, you’ll find a wide array of seafood and non-seafood dishes on the menu. The sunsets here are out-of-this-world, so make your reservations with that in mind.
While Greg’s Grill is just a few hundred feet from Anthony’s and the two spots boast similar river views, the food in each spot is distinctly different. Come to Greg’s if you fancy contemporary Northwest cuisine like rotisserie prime rib, steaks, chicken, and more cooked to perfection over their Applewood and mesquite-fired grill.
The architecture here is as fab as the food, with floor-to-ceiling windows, breathtaking woodwork, and a gorgeous fountain in the lobby.
But the river views are a centerpiece for all of it, and you can catch those from the indoor dining area or the outdoor patio. Happy hour here is outstanding, and the bar menu is available all day as long as you’re seated in the lounge area (which also boasts a couple river-view tables). Order a steak and one of their divine Caesar salads, then pick something special from the wine list to accompany it. Now raise a toast to your spectacular meal and your river view. Cheers!
As you might guess from the name, Pastini Pastaria serves Middle Eastern cuisine.
I kid. In reality Pastini Pastaria is known for flavorful pasta dishes made with fresh, local ingredients in the tradition of neighborhood bistros in Italy. Aside from offering more than 30 classic and contemporary pasta dishes, they also feature salads, antipasti, sandwiches, desserts, and most importantly, gorgeous river views.
Their location in the Old Mill District just downstream from Greg’s Grill gives them primo views of a slightly different section of river, and the two fireplaces on their patio give you a great way stay toasty if the evening turns chilly. But even if you pick a seat indoors, there are several fab tables with river views.
Kick things off with their Caprese salad, or opt for their three-salad sampler and try a variety of options like the kale salad, artichoke chicken salad, or a Caesar. Pair that with a nice glass of Chianti, then gobble up an order of their butternut squash and gorgonzola ravioli in sage brown butter sauce with toasted hazelnuts. Yum!
Craft Kitchen and Brewery
As the Deschutes River moves from the Old Mill District toward historic Downtown Bend, you’ll find Craft Kitchen and Brewery in that perfect little sweet spot between the two near the Colorado Avenue Bridge. A relative newcomer both to Bend and to the Bend Ale Trail, Craft Kitchen brews their own beer and also features suds from other craft breweries.
The food here is quite tasty and served tapas style, which gives you the chance to try a variety of different items. The warm, roasted beet salad is citrusy and delicious and one of the best beet dishes I’ve ever tasted. Specialties like braised greens, shrimp and grits, and Johnny cake give you a chance to try southern-themed dishes you won’t find on every menu in town.
But it’s the river views here that will truly knock your socks off. The restaurant sits high above the surrounding terrain, giving you stunning views back toward the Old Mill District and the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Get here early for a spot on the deck, or show up near sunset to watch the sky turn pink as colorful reflection shimmers on the water.
Crow’s Feet Commons
This cozy little café in Downtown Bend is one of the first river-view eateries you’ll come to after journeying from the Old Mill area to Downtown. Part bike shop, part café, part brew pub, Crow’s Feet Commons has a special vibe that’s uniquely Bend. The fare is limited to a few sandwiches, pastries, coffee, tea, and oodles of great beers and wines, so it’s ideal to come here for a simple breakfast or a post-hike brew. They often host live music in the evenings, so check the website for info.
No matter when you show up or what you eat or drink, you’ll be treated to some of the best river views in town from their primo spot in Mirror Pond Plaza. Sit outside in the courtyard to feel the hustle and bustle of the Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays, or opt for a bit of privacy on their shaded back porch or inside the cozy little dining area.
Get there early enough to nab an Ocean Roll from Sparrow bakery and a fresh-brewed chai tea, or choose from their selection of local craft beers to accompany a tasty sandwich. Bonus: They also rent bikes, host bike-centric events, and sell bikes and bike gear, so this is the perfect spot for cyclists to start the day.
Looney Bean Roasting Company
Just a stone’s throw downriver from Crow’s Feet Commons, you’ll find The Looney Bean. It’s not a big, flashy restaurant with five-course dinners, but that’s kinda the point. This is the perfect, quaint little coffee shop for someone seeking fresh-roasted coffee, tasty tea, a real-fruit smoothie, or a breakfast sandwich.
On busy summer days, you’ll likely encounter a long line out the door, with folks jonesing for their cuppa joe. Be patient and wait it out. The river views are worth a few minutes standing in line getting to know your fellow coffee connoisseurs. If you happen by on a quieter day, this makes a nice spot to set up your laptop and catch up on some busywork at a sunny table facing the river. You can also take your drink outside to enjoy on a bench facing the river with the breeze in your hair. Go ahead and kick off your shoes to feel the grass under your feet. This is what vacation feels like.
Probably one of the most iconic restaurants in Bend, Pine Tavern has been operating since 1936, and is best known for mouthwatering sourdough scones with honey butter, and for the two pine trees (one dead, one living) that emerge from the center of the restaurant through the roof of the building.
While those things are admittedly pretty awesome, so are the river views from Pine Tavern. Reservations are a good idea, particularly if you want dibs on a river-view table or a spot on the patio. They’re open for lunch, happy hour, dinner, and another late-night happy hour.
Come at dinnertime if you want to sample the aforementioned scones. I’m a big fan of their Chicken Marsala, though a friend claims they make the best prime rib he’s ever tasted. Regardless of what you choose for your entrée, save room for dessert, and don’t forget to click a few photos of the views so you can savor them long after your meal is digested.
Bend Brewing Company
Full disclosure: The river views Bend Brewing Company should technically be classified as “peek-a-boo,” since they’re not the full-on flashy displays of Deschutes River glory you’ll get in the other dining hotspots along the river.
But despite the slightly overgrown trees separating this cozy little brew pub from the mighty Deschutes, you can still catch glimpses of sparkling water from the elevated dining area or the sunny back deck. The fact that you can do that while also earning a passport stamp from one of the smallest stops on the Bend Ale Trail is a pretty nifty bonus.
BBC is well-known as one of the locals’ favorite breweries, and their variety of experimental brews is one of the reasons. Ask your bartender for a taster of whatever’s seasonal and unique, then order a pint or perhaps a whole sample tray. The Elk Lake and the Ching Ching are my personal faves, but there’s plenty of good stuff to choose from. The fish and chips at BBC are extra special, or try one of their unique dinner salads.
Then order another beer. Because really, you’re in Bend. And you’re on the Deschutes River. Enough said.
Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar
This prime piece of river-front real estate has changed hands a lot in the 18 years I’ve lived in Bend, so I was thrilled last month to see it’s been beautifully renovated and transformed into a brand new restaurant. Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar boasts a fabulous array of unique cocktails, tasty sushi creations, and traditional Chinese dishes with a gourmet flair.
They also offer views of a section of the Deschutes River most folks don’t spend time studying. It’s right on the edge of the Newport Avenue bridge, and while traffic noise and the presence of a spillway lend it a slightly more industrial feel, I quite like seeing a rougher, less-manicured, section of the river. As daytime fades, the back deck becomes a magical place illuminated by string lights and the glow of the setting sun.
The expansive cocktail menu made it tough to choose just one thing, but The Emperor and the Mr. Chu were particularly outstanding. The Saigon Spring Roll is fresh and delicious, and there’s an awesome array of sushi to sample (try the Sweet Mama roll with tempura shrimp, snow crab, avocado, and cucumber inside, topped with seared salmon, mango, spicy tuna, scallions, and sesame seeds!) Be sure to request a patio seat or a river-view booth when you book your reservation.
Crossings at the Riverhouse
You don’t need to stay at The Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center to dine at their spacious, river-front restaurant, Crossings. The fact that they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour makes them an excellent go-to spot almost any time of day, and the fact that their back deck offers killer river views makes it one of my favorite spots in Bend for river-view dining.
The deck overlooks a rapid section of frothy whitewater, which is different from what you’ll see in the lazier sections of river through the Old Mill and Downtown Bend. There’s a fun energy to it, and the sound of crashing whitewater makes an exhilarating backdrop to outdoor meal.
The menu here is constantly changing, but favorite dishes I’ve tried in recent months include the Island Breeze Salad (mixed greens, fresh papaya, mango, pineapple, avocado, candied walnuts, and mango citrus vinaigrette, though I love to add grilled shrimp for a couple extra bucks). I’d also go so far as to say their Pineapple Mango Fish Tacos are some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever tasted, and the mac and cheese (while small) is a divine blend of textures and flavors including pancetta bacon, parmesan bread gratin, and fontina and gruyere cheese with a hint of brandy.
Pair your meal with a local craft brew from the bar or a crisp glass of white wine, then sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Deschutes River.