Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz Blog by Visit Bend
You know that squirmy feeling you get when you stare at an unfamiliar word? You take a deep breath and think, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to say this wrong.”
When you plan a Bend vacation for the first time, odds are good you’ll encounter a handful of words you’ve never tried to pronounce before. To help you out, we’ve assembled a few of the most commonly mispronounced ones, along with a handy key to untying your tongue and nailing the pronunciation on your first try.
While a lot of vacationers trek to Bend from Portland, Eugene, or Salem, there’s a good percentage setting foot in our fair state for the first time.
Nothing generates a chorus of boos quicker than a concert performer announcing he’s glad to be here in “Orey-gone,” so it’s important to get this one right. Pronounce Oregon with a softer inflection on both syllables and the emphasis on the first one. It should come out sounding something like “OREH-gun.”
From Tumalo Falls to Tumalo State Park to Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, you’ll see this word attached to a lot of Bend landmarks. The exact origin is debated occasionally among historians, but it means either “wild plum” or “cold water,” depending on your preferred translation of the Klamath dialect. This is another instance where visitors often give the word a harsher sound than it actually has. To say Tumalo correctly, think of those chalky tablets you chew when you have heartburn, then say “TUM-ah-low.”
Though Bend is a good three hours from the lush Willamette Valley, you’ll still stumble upon the occasional business with Willamette in the title. Stumble is a good word there, since visitors often trip over the correct pronunciation.
For this one, I defer to the wisdom of Willamette Valley Vineyards where they sell t-shirts that read, “It’s Willamette, dammit.” In other words, the “a” sounds like the one in “cat” and the last syllable should sound like the thing a baseball player wears on his hand. Say it like “Wil-AAH-mit.”
The mighty river that flows through the center of Bend has spawned the name of everything from streets to events to the city’s iconic Deschutes Brewery (the fifth largest craft brewery in the nation). Whether you’re sipping a Black Butte Porter or heading out for a float on the Deschutes River, make sure you’re saying it like this: “Deh-SHOOTS.”
You’ll see this one a lot if you’re visiting Newberry National Volcanic Monument and enjoying a swim in Paulina Lake, a hike to Paulina Peak, or an afternoon of peddling and splashing on the Paulina Plunge. Yes, it’s spelled just like the woman’s name, but it’s actually a reference to the fearless Northern Paiute leader, Chief Paulina. The middle syllable should rhyme with “high,” or “eye,” so pronounce it like this: “Pol-EYE-nuh.”
A visit to the breathtaking Metolius River should be high on your list of must-do activities in Bend, whether you’re taking a road cycling trip there with Wanderlust Tours, or enjoying a quick hike to see where the river appears by magic from beneath a mossy hillside. When you say the word, it should sound like “Muh-TOE-lee-us.”
Though this chain of Oregon-based brewpubs has locations all over Oregon, and I’ve visited no fewer than a dozen of them, I’ll confess I sometimes still stumble over the pronunciation of McMenamins. When you visit their Old Saint Francis School location in Bend for a tasty pint of Ruby, make sure to tell your server how delighted you are to be sipping a tasty brew at “MICK-mena-minz.”
This tiny town just a little north of Redmond (pronounced “RED-mund,” in case you’re wondering) is another tongue-twister for some visitors. You’ll drive through it on your way to Smith Rock State Park, so don’t be fooled into pronouncing the last syllable like something you’d give a dog to chew. The correct pronunciation should be “Terra-BON.”
While I’m pretty sure that covers most of our commonly mispronounced words in Bend and Central Oregon, feel free to comment with any I might’ve missed. Oh, and just to help you out, here’s a short video of me uttering every one of those words in something that almost passes for normal-sounding conversation. You’re welcome.
It makes me sad to say it, but summer is winding down in Bend.
Luckily, we still have plenty of great weather and copious opportunities to seize summer by its peppy little scruff and give it a fierce, friendly shake. Here are a few of my favorite ways to squeeze the last drops of summer out of your Bend experience.
Water recreation is such a big deal in Bend that we have a whole page devoted to it on the Visit Bend website. From canoeing to standup paddleboarding to floating the river, there’s no better way to soak up the best things Bend has to offer.
If whitewater rafting is on your bucket list, now’s the time to call Sun Country Tours and get that Big Eddy trip booked before the weather turns chilly and getting splashed becomes decidedly less fun. Though Wanderlust Tours offers their fabulous Moonlight and Starlight Canoe trips into the fall months, August and September are great months to go if you prefer not to don gloves before taking your paddle in-hand.
Standup paddleboarding (or SUP for folks cooler than me) is my water recreation of choice, and I feel twitchy when the days start getting shorter. Luckily, the hour just before sunset is my favorite time to be out on the Deschutes River, since that’s when fish are jumping and beavers are cruising around looking for dinner salad. If you don’t have your own gear and the SUP rental shop of your choice closes at 5 p.m., opt for a full-day rental that lets you keep the board overnight. No roof rack? (Or no desire to haul a board around town)? Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe offers a variety of SUP social nights in the evening hours, and $25 gets you a board rental and a two-hour guided tour guaranteed to let you make the most of the dwindling warm summer evenings.
Sip summer beers on the Bend Ale Trail
While winter always feels like the season for malty porters and beefy stouts, summertime seems perfect for lighter brews. Now’s a great time to head out on the Bend Ale Trail to sample some of these made-in-Bend beers that just wouldn’t taste the same if you sipped them in mid-December.
At Worthy Brewing, the Easy Day Kolsch is a light, crisp brew that goes down easy when the weather’s warm. Though it’s gone for the season now, plan ahead next summer to get your hands on Gary’s No Quit Wit, a seasonal Belgian-style wheat ale spiced with coriander and orange peel for a unique, fruity flavor that’s perfect for summer. For bonus points, be sure to enjoy your Worthy brew on their awesome outdoor patio.
Deschutes Brewery’s delicious Fresh Squeezed IPA and River Ale are two of my longtime favorite summer brews, even though both are now bottled and offered year-round. For a sip of something you can only get this time of year, grab a Twilight Summer Ale and enjoy a crisp, malty brew with a heady dose of Amarillo hops.
My go-to brew to throw in the cooler for a summertime trip to the lake is GoodLife Brewing’s tasty Sweet As. It won the People’s Choice Award at the 2012 Bend Brewfest, and it’s light, refreshing, and perfectly portable in a handy can.
One of my favorite summer brews of all is Off Leash from Crux Fermentation Project. Admittedly I’m partial to it because my talented fiancé is the guy who came up with the name, and it’s the beer we’ll be serving at our upcoming wedding. But aside from all that, it’s really freakin’ delicious. A session IPA, Off Leash has a sort of floral, hoppy taste with just the faintest hint of grapefruit. Perfectly refreshing on a hot day!
Hike it before the snow flies
One of the best things about Bend is that it’s a great destination for hiking no matter what time of year you visit. But there are some hiking hot spots that really shine when it comes to summertime hiking, so now’s the time to lace up your boots and go.
Tumalo Falls can be tricky to navigate when there’s snow on the ground, which makes summertime and early fall a great time to go. You can hoof it for miles without the risk of post-holing up to your crotch (something I’ve done more than once when hiking there in late-spring).
Late summer is also when a lot of the wildflowers are in full-bloom at the upper elevations, so this is a great time to head to the high Cascade Lakes or out to the Mount Jefferson Wilderness area. The Cone and Iron Mountain Hike spotlighted on the Cascade Hiking Adventures page is another great option for wildflower viewing.
Speaking of the Cascade Lakes, this time of year is particularly great for heading up there to enjoy some snow-free hiking. Visit Bend’s marketing director took my dog up to Green Lakes Trail last weekend and declared it one of the best hikes he’s ever done around Bend (instantly making me envious of my own dog). The area is brimming with waterfalls, amazing lava-scapes, and a creek that runs alongside it for most of the hike. You can read more about that hike (along with a dozen or so others) on Visit Bend’s hiking page.
Dine al fresco
This is the time of year when outdoor dining is at its best in Bend, so don’t miss the opportunity to nab a spot on one of Bend’s sunny patios.
If you want views of the Deschutes River, Crossings at The Riverhouse has a scenic and spacious deck that’s the perfect place to lift a fork or a glass. If you’d prefer to dine along a stretch of river dotted with happy kayakers and river floaters, nab a table at Greg’s Grill or Anthony’s in the Old Mill District. One of Bend’s oldest restaurants, the Pine Tavern, has a breathtaking riverfront patio in Downtown Bend, and the only thing better than the views is a basket of their famous sourdough scones.
Prefer to set out on your own? Check out this blog post on planning the perfect picnic in Bend!
It’s a great time to shop
Stores are busy trotting out fall sweaters and back-to-school fashions, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that we’ve still got a couple more months of short-sleeve weather in Bend. Not only that, but a lot of retailers are offering killer deals on summer fashions you’ll be able to wear again next year when the weather turns warm.
Cruise through Downtown Bend and nab deals on designer duds from Hot Box Betty, or pick up a snazzy new bag from Clutch: A Handbag Boutique in the Tres Jolie marketplace. I’m obsessed with the outdoor clearance racks at downtown consignment shops Rescue Moderne Consignment and Dahlia’s, so if you end up there, please save some cute summer skirts and dresses for me.
If you’re in the Old Mill District, you’ll find oodles of great summer clearance racks right now at big-box retailers like Gap and Banana Republic. You can also scope out the deals from local favorites like Bend-based jewelry designer Nashelle or Vanilla Urban Threads.
Mt. Bachelor’s got more than just skiing
Plenty of folks know Mt. Bachelor as a snow lover’s paradise in the wintertime, but did you know they’ve got a great roundup of summer activities, too? Their downhill mountain bike park offers a great way to shred the slopes in a totally different way than you would on your snowboard.
Oregon Trail of Dreams does summertime sled dog rides with Iditarod musher Racheal Scodoris and her dad, Jerry. The pups pull a wheeled cart that cruises along at surprising speeds while the doggies yap their excitement. Stick around afterward to help feed and water the dogs.
If you’d rather skip the recreation and go straight to dinner, book a reservation to ride the chairlift and enjoy a scenic, sunset meal at 7,775-feet. You get unparalleled mountain views, and bragging rights for one of the most unique dining experiences in Central Oregon. The opportunity ends for the season on August 31, so book fast (and don’t forget to pack a sweater—it gets chilly up there!)
Even more happiness! Bend’s best happy hours outside Bend’s main zones, plus special late-night and alternate-hour specials! (part 2 of 2)
That was a link to the blog post, not pictures of my liver.
This week, I’m taking a look at happy hours outside those two geographic areas. I’m also rounding up the deals and steals that happen outside the usual happy hour time-frame near the end of a 9-5 workday.
Get ready to lift your glass.
Bend’s best happy hours beyond Downtown and Old Mill
- Located in Bend’s Northwest Crossing neighborhood, Portello Winecafé offers happy hour every Tuesday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. As you might guess from the name, the specialty here is wine. They’ve got an amazing selection of it, and the daily special is just $5 a glass during happy hour. On Mondays from 4-9 p.m., all wines are $5 a glass, which gives you an extra good reason to venture out at the start of the week. Must-try items on the food menu include the lemony Caesar salad (seriously, one of the best Caesar salads you’ll eat EVER) for just $5, prosciutto-wrapped dates with chevre for $6, or a small selection of meat and cheese for $5. Bottoms up!
- Kayo’s Dinnerhouse on NE Third Street touts itself as “Bend’s best kept secret”—a bold statement, but one I might actually have to agree with. Their bar menu boasts a huge array of items that are a killer deal even when it’s not happy hour, including $2.50 for a cheeseburger and fries on Mondays, two tacos for $5 on Tuesdays, or ladies’ night on Thursdays (i.e. happy hour pricing all night for the fairer sex). From 4-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday is when you’ll score the biggest deals, with happy hour options like cod fish & chips for $5, killer BBQ wings for $5, or potato skins stuffed with Andouille, cheese, and peppers for $5. There are oodles of drink discounts, too, and their tap list is enviable. I’m partial to the ladies’ night drink specials when I can score well drinks for $3-$4.
Bend’s La Rosa Mexican restaurant has two convenient locations for folks who need a margarita fix while visiting Northwest Crossing or southeast Bend at Brookswood Plaza. Happy hour takes place from 4-6 p.m. daily, and your best bet here is the Man Van Margarita (silver tequila with flavors of mandarin, pineapple, vanilla, and La Rosa Liqueur). Priced at $4.95 during happy hour, it pairs perfectly with their bacon-wrapped shrimp (six for just $5.95). Olé!
- Tucked in a cozy little spot on Greenwood Avenue,Los Jalapeños offers super-authentic Mexican cuisine and an extra-long happy hour to boot. From 2-6 p.m. daily, you can plunk down $7.95 and get a margarita paired with your choice of regular nachos, fajita nachos, two al pastor tacos, or two carne asada tacos. It’s a pretty fab deal for what amounts to a full meal, and this is one of those local hotspots you might not find if you didn’t go looking for it.
- Crossings Restaurant at the Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center has one of the best riverfront patios in Bend, and since weather typically permits outdoor dining into October, you’ve still got time to take in a happy hour or two this season. The shrimp cocktail (Cajun boil with grapefruit cocktail sauce) is one of the best deals on the menu for $6, but their calamari is pretty spectacular, too, with a red bell tartar sauce that’s guaranteed to leave you licking your fingers. That’s just $5.50, and no order is complete without adding on a dish of their sweet tater fries wth ginger remoulade for $3. Their tap list and wine menu are always excellent here, so you’ll have plenty to choose from when washing down all that great grub.
- I know some people have a problem with chain restaurants, but for those who don’t, Johnny Carino’s is a pretty handy spot on the north end of Bend, particularly if you’re traveling to or from the airport in Redmond. They have one of the lengthiest happy hours in town, spanning from 2-9 p.m. on weekdays or all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Happy hour features a wide array of local microbrews on tap for $3.50. Food items include goodies like mozzarella cheese sticks for $5, or Sicilian fire sticks (tomato-basil tortillas rolled with Italian sausage, chicken, bacon, Roma tomatoes, jalapeños and Italian cheeses, served with spicy marinara sauce and ranch dressing) for $5. This place has the added bonus of being super kid-friendly.
Need a happy hour outside the post-work time frame?
Happy hour at 10 Below on the lower level of the Oxford Hotel is worth raving about in its regular 4-6 p.m. time slot, but they double the fun and savings by offering it again from 9-11. That’s super handy for a late-night snack or a delicious way to wrap up a night of roaming around the Bend Ale Trail (something I’ve been known to do once or twice or 83 times). Their crisp iceberg lettuce wedge (creamy gorgonzola, bacon candy, garlic bread crumbs, oven-roasted tomatoes) is a great way to end your evening on a semi-sorta healthy note for $5, or just give in to sin and get the truffle fries for $7 (so worth it). 10 Below is a cocktail lover’s paradise, and I’m always partial to the Mello Yellow (whipped cream flavored vodka, champagne syrup, and lemon juice—I swear it’s not as sweet as it sounds).
- The Blacksmith is another popular downtown hotspot offering a late-night happy hour on top of their already-fabulous afternoon one. Nab their happy hour deals from 4-6 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. to close all day Tuesday through Saturday, then ALL DAY on Sundays and Mondays. I’m a big fan of their sliders here, featuring three certified Angus beef patties with lettuce and tomato for $6. Mac and cheese fans will especially love their sample flight that includes a small portion of their smoked, bacon, and truffle mac and cheese. Pair it up with the bonus of taking $1 off their fabulous cocktails or grabbing a glass of wine for $5 and you’ve got yourself a treat!
- There’s no doubt Bend is a beer town, so why not round out your happy hour lineup with a late-night stop at McMenamins Old St. Francis? On top of their regular 3-6 p.m. happy hour, you can hit their late-night one from 10 p.m. to close every day of the week. It’s physically impossible for me to come here and not order a round of their Cajun tater tots for $2.50, and I’m partial to washing it down with a pint of Ruby raspberry ale. Vegetarians will dig the grilled asparagus for $4.50, and carnivores can chow down on the BBQ pork ribs for $5.50.
- Speaking of beer, you’ll find some of the best in town at Crux Fermentation Project. You’ll also find one of the coolest happy hour concepts. Rather than locking theirs down to a specific time every day, they set it for 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after sunset every evening. Makes sense, since they’ve got spectacular sunset views from their patio. If you’re not sure when sunset is, they’ve always got it listed on their website. During the sunset hour, beer specials abound, and all starters are $2 off. You can keep it simple with their boiled pretzel featuring a couple tasty dipping sauces (I’ve been known to lick the condiment cup), or go all out with the project board, an assortment of cheeses, meats, figs, baguette, and more. The beer here is too good to pick just one, so order a flight and get generous tastes of six different varieties.
- The upside of Joolz in downtown Bend isn’t just that they offer unique middle-eastern cuisine in a town packed with pub fare—it’s that you can sit at the bar for the opportunity to order from their happy hour menu any time of the day. Pick out your barstool, then snag an order of their tasty hummus for $5 or baba ganouj for $6. Their cocktail menu is exceptionally good here (I’m partial to the Pimm’s cup) or go with the happy hour white or red wine special for $5.
- I’m going to group The Summit Saloon and Astro Lounge together not because the downtown hotspots have anything common in terms of atmosphere or food (one’s a sports bar, the other is a hipster hotspot—can you guess which is which?!) but because their happy hours both go until 7 p.m. Seems like a minor thing, but that extra hour above and beyond most restaurants’ happy hour has been a godsend for me many times when I’m running late after work. The spinach dip and quesadillas are my go-to faves at Summit, and I almost order a pint from their expansive tap list. At Astro, go for their pork belly tacos and a lavender lemon drop.
It was recently brought to my attention that Bend Buzz Blog readers continue to seek out my 2010 blog post on finding the best happy hour in Bend. While that’s awesome to hear, it’s alarming to realize you guys are relying on four-year-old information to get your drink on.
That just won’t do.
Bend’s happy hour scene has changed a lot in four years—so much that it makes sense to split this new blog post into two sections. This week, I’m focusing on happy hours in Bend’s popular Downtown area and the Old Mill District.
Be sure to check back next week when we’ll spotlight happy hours outside those zones, including spots like Crossings at the Riverhouse, some great finds in Northwest Crossing, and more. We’ll also tell you about finding killer happy hour deals outside the traditional post-work time-frame, including hotspots like 10Below and Joolz.
Lift a glass in Downtown Bend
- 900 Wall’s happy hour (3-6 p.m. nightly) has been one of my favorites from the moment they opened. The menu changes seasonally, but one thing you can always count on is that they make one of the best greyhounds in town. They also mix it up with unique offerings like the beer cocktail “Michelada” for $5 or a Pearl Plum Vodka Kamikaze for $6. The best deals are found on their food menu, however. On the cheap end of the spectrum, go for the deviled eggs at $1.50 each. Other great bets are the Caesar salad or the tempura fried green beans for $6. Their beef carpaccio is a splurge at $10, but it’s one of the best you’ll find in town.
- Founded in 1936, Pine Tavern is one of Bend’s oldest restaurants, but it recently came under new ownership. One result is a pretty stellar happy hour that’s worth investigating from 3-6 weekdays, noon to 5 Saturdays, or Sundays 3-close. It’s only available in the bar, so you won’t get to sit next to those landmark pine trees jutting through the roof or take in the killer river views from the patio, but the great deals more than make up for it. Try the scrumptious Cajun shrimp & grits for just $4.95 or the tasty spinach & artichoke dip for $3.95. The house-made hummus plate is a steal at $2.95, and if you ask nicely, they’ll even bring you extra flatbread or veggies. Your best bet on the drink menu is to opt for a well-drink for $4.50, then have them add freshly-squeezed juice for just 50-cents more.
- Noi Thai Cuisine is one of those spots I never seem to go except during happy hour (3:30-6 daily), which is not any sort of commentary on their regular menu. It’s just that their happy hour is too good to miss. I’m especially fond of their fresh rolls (made with tofu, prawn, or BBQ pork) and their small portions of red or yellow curry. The Tom Kah soup is also delightful, especially when washed down by one of their fun cocktails (try the pumpkin martini when the weather turns cooler, and prepare to be blown away).
Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is a newcomer to Downtown Bend, though they’ve had a successful restaurant in Colorado for a number of years. Admittedly the drinks are on the pricey end of the spectrum during regular hours, which is why you don’t want to miss happy hour from 4-6 Tuesday through Sunday. That’s when all their martinis are $4 off (regularly $10). My personal faves (and yes, I’ve tried them all) are the summer squash (vodka, butternut squash, lemon, and spices), the fennomial (vodka, fennel, strawberry). Those who prefer something sweeter will dig the Portuguese (rum, port, fig) or the yellow rose (vodka, rosemary, lemon). Their rosemary-spiced nuts make an excellent thing to nibble for just $6, or for an extra special treat, try their fried mac-and-cheese balls (gruyere, sage, green apple, truffle oil, greens) for $12.
- When out-of-town guests come to visit me, one of the places they always ask to go is5 Fusion. Head chef Joe Kim was recently a James Beard finalist (kinda like the Oscars for chefs) so it’s no wonder my pals drool at the thought of going there, and their happy hour (4-6 weekdays) is a great way to save a few bucks. Their cucumber gimlet is a steal for $6, or try the lavender lemondrop if you like your happy hour cocktail a bit sweeter. Most of the items on their happy hour menu are $5-$6, so it’s easy to order four or five and make a meal of it. My top picks include the crispy lobster fritters in red pepper sauce, the filet mignon lollipops with mashed potatoes, and the ebi tempura roll with tempura shrimp, avocado, and tobiko.
- Brickhouse is known for having some of the best steaks in Bend, but they’ve also got a pretty impressive happy hour (4-6 weekdays) offering plenty of things that don’t moo. The zucchini tempura is a steal at just $3, and the heirloom tomato bruschetta is divine for just $6. My drink of choice here is the huckletini (a huckleberry martini) for just $6 during happy hour.
Drink up in the Old Mill District
- The outdoor patio with riverfront seating make Anthony’sone of my favorite happy hour spots in Bend during the summer months. The ahi nachos made with sashimi-grade ahi tuna, wasabi, and pineapple chutney served on taro chips is my absolute favorite treat, particularly when combined with one of their $5 wine flights. Their cocktails are tasty here as well, especially the garden cocktail made with vodka, St. Germain, pineapple juice, bitters, Sprite, and plenty of fresh mint for just $5.
Another great Old Mill hotspot with killer river views, Greg’s Grill has the added bonus of offering their happy hour bar menu from 3-close anytime you dine in the bar. The wine selection here is especially good, so grab a glass to pair with their classic burger sliders with frizzled onions for just $5.95. The sweet potato fries with sweet chili aioli is another great choice for just $4.95.
- Located in the second floor space above Saxon’s Jewelry, Level 2 Global Food & Lounge has a swanky, intimate vibe that makes it a great happy hour spot for couples. From 3-6 daily, choose from a fairly expansive happy hour menu that includes unique offerings like the dirty dog (a bacon-wrapped hot dog with caramelized onion, bell pepper, cheese, and fried jalapenos) for just $5. The grilled Caesar salad is another tasty option for $5, or get a pair of scrumptious fish tacos with smoked fish, black beans, Napa cabbage, salsa, and chipotle aioli for just $5. Draft beer is just $3.50 during happy hour, so that’s an excellent choice here, or try the lavender love cocktail (vodka, house-infused lavender syrup, and citrus juice) for $6.
Flatbread Community Oven not only offers a terrific happy hour menu (3-6 daily and 9-close Friday and Saturday) but they’re also one of the most family-friendly spots in the lineup. While the kids assemble their own pizzas to stuff in the wood-fired oven, mom and dad can pick from an awesome array of cocktails like the strawberry basil martini or the cucumber sage cooler ($9). There’s also a terrific lineup of wine flights and draft beer (local drafts are just $3.50 during happy hour). The happy hour food menu has a great roundup of items starting at $3.50 for a cheese pizzetta or $4.50-$5.50 for some of their more specialty pizzettas like the chopped veggie or the maple-fennel (my personal fave).
- Mio Sushi is a cozy little sushi spot offering a surprisingly terrific happy hour menu (4-6 weekdays). The lineup includes a choice of five premium rolls for $6.95 (regularly $8.95 to $9.95) and a wide range of appetizers and salads, plus sake, beer, and wine ranging from $2.50 to $5. The sushi and roll combo for $6.95 is a great way to sample three kinds of nigiri (tuna, salmon, shrimp) plus a choice of California roll or spicy tuna roll. Happy hour is also a great time to sample sake for super-fab prices starting at less than three bucks.
Saying Bend has a unique vibe is kinda like saying there’s beer on the Bend Ale Trail. It goes without saying. Nearly every day, I’ll see or experience something that makes me smile fondly and think, “that could only happen in Bend.”
Here are twelve things that make you absolutely, positively certain you’re in Bend (and loving every minute of it).
Even the dogs have a waterpark. You know Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine, but you haven’t fully grasped the magnitude of this until you visit the 17-acre Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area—one of seven dog parks in the city limits—and witness Fido and Rover frolicking in their very own canine spray park. For more info and a map to the park, go here.
Have air mattress, will travel. You see a giant air mattress walking down the street and instead of thinking “what the @#$% is that?” you think “I’d better learn everything I need to know about floating the Deschutes river.”
- Free beer and a bike repair. You belly up to the bar at Hub Cyclery and enjoy a complimentary Bend draft beer while you wait for your bike to get fixed.
- Your restaurant, bike trail, and art gallery all have fresh air and mountain views. In Bend, we take our outdoor pursuits seriously. From oodles of Bend restaurants with patio seating to 277 miles of singletrack bike trails, Bend offers everyone the opportunity to play outside—even the art. Check out the Roundabout Art Route (a collection of sculptures in the city’s traffic circles) and the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection (an awesome array of paintings scattered throughout Downtown Bend).
Sunsets, fitness, romance, and beavers? You head out on the Deschutes River for some standup paddleboarding with your fiancé just before sunset. Over the course of an hour, you enjoy passionate conversation, a brisk core workout, the joy of paddling through water tinted pink-orange by the setting sun, and the sight of three large beavers dragging hunks of river weed to shore for a dinner salad. This is how I spent both Monday and Tuesday evening this week, and it’s how I plan to spend a lot more evenings this summer. Did I mention this was all within a few hundred yards of a killer shopping district and dog park in the Old Mill District?
- Making friends on the Bend Ale Trail. You show up at the Bend Visitor Center with a completed Bend Ale Trail Atlas at the same time as a couple from Austin, Texas, and another set of beer fans from Canada. You all become fast friends while chatting about your favorite breweries, and agree to walk down the street to Deschutes Brewery to discuss the issue in more depth.
Deer and dentistry. You go to the Bend office of Mark E. Jensen, DMD, for a routine dental checkup and see a family of deer in the parking lot.
- One Subaru, two Subarus, three Subarus. You realize at least half the cars on the road at any given time are Subarus, and that most have bike racks attached.
- You hike a volcano on your lunch break. Bend is one of only a handful of cities in the continental U.S. with a dormant volcano in the city limits, so visitors and locals alike enjoy hoofing it up this 500-foot cinder cone for sweeping city and mountain views.
Double-duty recreation. En route to Mt. Bachelor, you see someone peddling uphill with a snowboard strapped to the back of his bike. On the way home, you see a car loaded down with mountain bikes, a canoe, and fishing gear.
Is it a bar or a bike? Driving your car through downtown on a Saturday night, you’re passed by three different CyclePub vehicles en route to the next brewery. All the riders cheer for no apparent reason, peddling gleefully while sipping ale from their Silipints.
- River views and a bang trim. You enjoy killer views of the Deschutes River while having your hair trimmed and highlighted at Luminescence Salon.
When summertime is in full swing in Bend, you look for lots of ways to beat the heat. Floating the Deschutes River is a popular option, along with standup paddleboarding, whitewater rafting, or a dozen other outdoorsy options you can read about on our water recreation page. But sometimes, you just want a swimming pool. Maybe it’s the childhood nostalgia you get from the whiff of chlorine, or maybe you just want to park your towel someplace no muddy dog could roll on it. If you need a pool to get cool, here are five great options in Bend and Central Oregon:
The SHARC in Sunriver
SHARC stands for Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center, but this mecca of cool water and warm sunshine is open to people who aren’t homeowners. In fact, the general public is welcome year-round, even if you’re staying in a Bend hotel or vacation rental.
Located just 20 miles south of Bend, SHARC features more than 2.5 acres of grass, indoor and outdoor recreation pools, a hot tub, two water slides, a lazy river, and a tubing hill. The outdoor pool is adorned with a veritable water playground of kid-friendly goodies, while the lazy river makes an excellent spot for folks seeking a more laidback experience. I love being able to sprawl on a lawn chair in the grass with a good book while the young’uns make dizzying loops down the two waterslides. There’s an on-site snack bar offering things like nachos, hot dogs, and plenty of cool drinks. If you get tired of swimming, check out the tubing hill (which is included with your SHARC admission). A visit to SHARC is a bit on the pricy side, at $25 per person 4 and older, but it’s worth it for a full day of cool, watery bliss and kids who’ll sleep in the car all the way back to Bend.
The public pools at Juniper Swim & Fitness
Frugal families are especially fond of this gem in the middle of Bend. Operated by Bend Parks & Rec, the public pools at Juniper Swim & Fitness offer an excellent option for locals and thrifty visitors alike.
Out-of-district residents (i.e. vacationers!) pay just $7 a person to access an Olympic 50-meter pool that’s indoors in the winter, outdoors in the summer, plus another indoor 25 meter pool with diving boards and rope swing and an indoor children’s pool. There’s also a seasonal outdoor activity pool complete with waterslide and a kid-friendly aquatic playground. On chillier days, grownups in particular will appreciate the indoor co-ed hot tub, sauna, and steam room. As an added bonus, your admission gets you access to the exercise facilities, or pay $1 more to join a variety of fitness classes including barre, yoga, and more.
The Athletic Center at Brasada Ranch
The bad news: this one’s only open to folks who are staying at Brasada Ranch. The good news: this one’s only open to folks who are staying at Brasada Ranch. The amazing news: holy cow, you have an excuse to stay at Brasada Ranch! If you’re looking for an incredible oasis in Central Oregon, Brasada Ranch is it. The ranch offers championship golf, equestrian trail riding, panoramic mountain views, killer hiking trails, farm-to-table dining, a state-of-the-art spa, and luxury cabins that will make you never want to leave. But the gem in the middle of it all is their 17,000-square-foot athletic center. Besides the fitness facilities, it includes two oversized, seasonal outdoor pools with a fun waterslide, a lazy river, and the coolest design imaginable. The pictures don’t do it justice, and that’s saying something considering the pictures make me do a happy little sigh. There’s even a waterfall you can stand under for a killer shoulder massage, or pick a lounge chair in the sunshine and order one of their gourmet wraps from the on-site snack bar. There’s also a year-round indoor lap pool, indoor kiddie pool, and five year-round outdoor hot tubs. You’ll also find private hot tubs at most of the luxury cabins, which means you pretty much never need to leave the water. Well, maybe to go to the bathroom. Please.
The hot springs mineral pool at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa
This one’s a bit of a drive from Bend, but it’s a nice day trip if you want the bonus of some Central Oregon sightseeing. Located on the Warm Springs reservation 69 miles northeast of Bend, Kah-Nee-Tah offers a hot springs mineral pool that’s both soothing and thrilling. It’s heated to 92 degrees in the winter months, and cooled during the summer to make it refreshingly perfect.
There are two awesome slides, including a 184-foot enclosed tube and a 140-foot slide with an open top for claustrophobic fraidy-cats like me. There are a couple hot tubs, a kids’ wading pool, and these adorable bear statues that have been squirting water into the pool since my parents first brought me here in a swim diaper. Don’t forget tons of sunscreen and an air mattress, and remember your camera to snap scenic shots of the landscape surrounding the Warm Springs reservation. Rates for the hot springs pool are $15 for those 11 and older, and $10 for kids 10 and under. Unlimited use of the waterslides is $4 extra.
Bend vacation rentals, motels, and hotels with pools
Sure, waterslides and lazy rivers are awesome, but there are tons of other options if you’d prefer the convenience of having a pool within walking distance of your bed.
There are more than two dozen Bend hotels and motels with swimming pools on-site. Some are indoor, some are outdoor, but all offer the luxury of being mere steps from where you rest your head. Mt. Bachelor Village Resort has a particularly lovely outdoor pool nestled among towing Ponderosa Pines, while the Hilton DoubleTree offers an indoor pool and a convenient location in the middle of Downtown Bend. Check out the grid listing on our Bend Lodging page to find a hotel pool that fits your family’s needs.
The Paulina Plunge: Fill day 2 of your Newberry National Volcanic Monument adventure with this once-in-a-lifetime experience (part 2 of 2)
Last week I told you all about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and how to make the most of a one-day itinerary.
But I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t tell you that you absolutely, positively MUST stick around for a second day and add the Paulina Plunge to your agenda. I promise, you’ll thank me for this later.
What’s the Paulina Plunge?
It’s honestly one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in 17 years of living in Bend and nearly 40 years spending summer vacations here. I can’t believe it took me this long to try this full-day adventure tour that includes mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, splashing, jumping, and sliding.
We kicked off our morning at 10 a.m. by meeting our tour group at the Paulina Plunge office in Sunriver. Participants ranged in age from a five-year-old who spent much of his ride time hitched to the back of dad’s bicycle, to a retired couple on an anniversary adventure.
Roughly 40 of us loaded into a school bus and rode to our starting point as one of the tour guides shared a bit of history about Chief Paulina and the area we’d be visiting on the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. After a 25-minute ride, we disembarked and got outfitted with appropriately-sized bikes and helmets.
My eight-year-old stepdaughter is a fairly new bike rider, so she was nervous about the cycling aspect of the trip. We were relieved to see how thoroughly they checked her skill level and made sure she was comfortable with hand brakes. They also split the 40 of us into two groups of 20—one with more experienced riders, and one with young kids and less-confident cyclists. Our group also got two tour guides instead of one, and it was clear they both had a knack for wrangling kids.
The biking portion of the trip is split into four segments of roughly 1.5 miles each, and most of it is downhill. The short uphill climb in the first segment gave us a good chance to assess everyone’s fitness and experience level so we had a better idea how to space ourselves in the pack. I’ll admit the cycling portion was the part I most fretted about (not being much of a bike rider myself) but it was way easier than I expected.
The waterfalls along the Paulina Plunge route range from 10 feet to 40 feet tall. The first one on our list required a short half-mile hike to reach and gave everyone a chance to splash around, wade, or lie down in the water.
We got back on our bikes and pedaled another 1.5 miles to the next waterfall. This one was more interactive, with lots of space for swimming and wading. The guides led a few brave kids to a spot at the bottom edge of the waterfall where it’s safe to jump. After a few minutes, all the grownups started muttering, “that looks fun,” and pretty soon everyone was in line to give it a try.
After we’d all cooled off in the water, we hiked the half-mile back to our bikes and pedaled a short distance to a spot the guides had chosen for a lunchtime picnic. We had spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains and surrounding volcanic landscape while we enjoyed the lunch we’d packed that morning. For $10 extra per person, the Paulina Plunge folks will pack a lunch for you.
By the time the meal was over, we were all air-dried and ready to hit the water again. We pedaled another 1.5 miles or so for the portion of the outing the kids had been squealing about all week—natural waterfall slides!
There are two different slides to try. The first is a smooth, sloped plane that lends itself well to both upright sliding or going down on your belly. Not wanting to lose my top, I stuck with the former.
The second slide just a bit downstream is a more twisty, turny waterfall with separate sections allowing two people to converge at the midpoint in a splashy, giggly mess. We stayed here until everyone was exhausted and drenched and possibly a bit butt-bruised.
The next leg of our journey took us to a great big waterfall with a pool at the bottom for swimming. This was a more relaxing segment of the trip, and my fiancé enjoyed sitting under the pounding water for a natural massage.
We ended the journey with a longer downhill bike leg and a cold soda at the end. We were back at our car by about 4:30 p.m. with the kids fast asleep in the backseat about two minutes later.
The price per person for the Paulina Plunge is $65, which is a screamin’ deal considering it includes all your transportation, bike and helmet, a day pack if you need it, tour guides with CPR and first aid training, and a full day of the sort of once-in-a-lifetime you’ll only find in the volcanic wonderland of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
There’s a great FAQ page that covers a lot of ground, but allow me to add a few tips of my own:
- The FAQ page advises people to dress in shorts, t-shirts, and old sneakers. Admittedly, that outfit provides adequate protection, but it made me feel like a soggy dork with sand in my socks. Regular sandals or Tevas aren’t a good option (the most common injury is to the big toe) but if you’ve got a pair of Keen sandals with burly toe protection, wear those instead. I also opted to wear a bikini with a super-supportive top (bike riding can be bumpy!) with shorts and a top with a built-in bra, plus a lightweight sweatshirt in my pack. That provided a pretty good system for donning and removing layers, and I didn’t have to pedal anywhere in a dripping t-shirt.
- The FAQ page downplays the necessity of sunscreen a bit, but trust me, you need it. A LOT. You’ll be at a high altitude with several long stretches without the protection of a forest canopy. Make sure you’ve got plenty of water-resistant stuff and reapply often!
- Bring plenty of water—follow the guidelines on the FAQ page, and don’t forget to add a little extra for your lunchtime stop.
- Remember to bring a little cash to tip your guide(s) at the end. It’s not mandatory, of course, but it’s a nice gesture, and trust me—these guys earn it.
For more info on the Paulina Plunge, check out their website or call 1-800-296-0562.
Here are a couple videos of the kids having a ball in the waterfalls.
How to do the ever-loving-heck out of Newberry National Volcanic Monument in two days (part 1, day 1)
When the boss asked me to spend a couple days visiting Newberry National Volcanic Monument to give a first-hand report on what it’s like to explore the area with a family, I wept with misery at how much my job sucks.
That’s so obviously a lie that I can’t even type it with a straight face.
Truth is, I immediately texted the kids with the all caps message: GUESS WHAT AMAZING THING WE GET TO DO?!?!
The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a breathtaking natural playground just south of Bend, teeming with ancient lava flows, cinder cones, caves, obsidian flows, lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains. I’ve been there many times, but never with the intent of mapping out the absolute perfect agenda for a limited time.
Next week’s post will spotlight the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of the Paulina Plunge, but today I’m giving you an easy itinerary to maximize a single fun-filled day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Here’s how we did it:
8:45 a.m.: Breakfast at Sparrow Bakery
As we headed south on the Bend Parkway, we took exit 138 and popped in at Sparrow Bakery. The kids are crazy about their famous Ocean Rolls, and I opted for their bacon breakfast sandwich (a poached egg, bakery-smoked bacon, avocado, arugula, and aioli served on a hand-rolled croissant). The meal was easy to eat in the car, and provided the perfect sustenance for our morning journey.
9:15 a.m.: Arrive at the Lava Lands Visitor Center
Knowing the Lava Lands Visitor Center gets busy with folks jockeying for the chance to drive to the top of Lava Butte, we wanted to hit this stop first thing. We flashed our Northwest Forest Pass for access (though a three-day Monument Pass is just $10 and gets you in to all the areas. A one-day Northwest Forest Pass will do the trick as well if you plan to stick with this itinerary). The attendant granted us a 30-minute permit to drive to the top of Lava Butte.
The kids loved exploring the fire lookout tower at the top of the butte and snapping photos of the panoramic views. We opted to burn off a little energy with the ¼ mile hike around the rim of the caldera, oohing and aahing over the different types of lava rock and the fact that we were standing on the largest volcano in the Cascades.
Back at the bottom, we headed into the Visitor Center facility for a bathroom break and a chance to check out the interpretive exhibits, a short film, and a giant map showing us all the areas we’d be exploring that day.
10 a.m.: Explore Lava River Cave
I’ve had the pleasure of doing several Cave Tours with the folks from Wanderlust Tours, and I’m always in awe of the knowledge and experience offered by their naturalist guides, and impressed by the fact that they’re the only group permitted to take folks into some of Central Oregon’s most pristine natural caves.
But if you’re short on time or cash, or you just want to explore on your own, the Lava River Cave at Newberry National Monument is a good option. Located adjacent to the Lava Lands Visitor Center, the cave is one mile long and the longest lava tube in Central Oregon. You can bring your own headlamps or flashlights if you’ve got them, but I love the experience of renting a propane-fueled lantern for just $5 at the entrance.
The kids both told me the Lava River Cave was their favorite part of our day, and it was easy to see why. We hiked all the way to the end, making spooky noises and shadow-puppets as we went. A few scattered signs along the way shared interesting tidbits like the spot where we were standing directly under Highway 97.
Closed-toe shoes are a good idea for this hike, and a lightweight sweatshirt is a must, since it’s 45 degrees in the cave all year-round. Claustrophobes who feel nervous in smaller caves will appreciate the relatively open spaces in this one.
11 a.m.: Drive to Paulina Falls
We emerged from the cave and drove 12.5 miles to Paulina Lake Road. From there, it was another 12.5 miles to the Newberry Welcome Station where we kicked off the next portion of our journey.
Since tummies weren’t rumbling yet, we decided to see Paulina Falls before lunchtime. The lookout over the top of the 80-foot waterfall is just a short walk from the parking lot off road 21, and I expected the kids to be satisfied with a 10-minute stop for snapping some photos and chucking pine cones over the falls.
They surprised me by loving the waterfall so much they wanted to see it from all angles. We made the short hike to the bottom where they saw the falls from a different viewpoint. 12-year-old Cedar snapped a lovely waterfall photo we shared on Visit Bend’s Facebook page, promptly racking up more than 1,000 likes and making the kid’s day.
Noon: Lunch at Paulina Lake Lodge
I’d stopped at this lodge plenty of times for a potty break or a snack at the gift store, but I’d never bothered to sit down for a meal. What a treat!
We sat on the deck outside to enjoy panoramic views of the lake and mountains while we studied the surprisingly expansive menu. The kids’ menu boasted standard kid-friendly fare like chicken strips and grilled cheese, both of which were deemed delicious by my traveling companions. I opted for a pulled pork sandwich with homemade coleslaw. It was zingy and tasty, and the views made everything that much more scrumptious. After we ate, the kids enjoyed a few minutes of skipping rocks from the edge of the dock beside the lodge.
Added bonus: the staff was so friendly and helpful they provided detailed instructions for reaching the next stop on our adventure and recommended a shovel to help scoop gravel from the hot springs. When we admitted we didn’t have one, they helpfully cleaned out an empty coffee can for us to use.
1 p.m.: Hike from Little Crater Campground to Paulina Lake Hot Springs
This is one of those “locals’ secrets” I’m probably going to get yelled at for revealing to you, but I don’t believe in hoarding all the good spots for myself. Besides, you have to work a little to find this one, so it’s unlikely to be overrun by a million beer-guzzling graffiti artists.
After lunch, we drove a short distance from Paulina Lake Lodge to the Little Crater Campground on the edge of the lake. There’s a day-use area at the very end of the campground, and that’s where we parked to begin the roughly two-mile hike along the lakeshore to the hot springs. At the point where the trail veers uphill, stick to the shoreline and watch for shallow pools fringed with logs. There are several hot springs along the way, and you’ll usually find a few folks soaking in them.
Don’t go expecting a deep soaking pool with seats and towel racks. The springs are shallow and rustic, and it’s a good idea to have something to dig with so you can make a larger spot for soaking and optimize the mix of chilly lake water and piping hot spring water.
Remember your sunscreen before heading out, and don’t forget a bottle of water and sturdy water shoes.
3:45 p.m.: Scope out the Big Obsidian Flow
By the time we’d hiked to and from the hot springs and expended a fair amount of energy splashing in the water, we were feeling pretty wiped. Luckily, The Big Obsidian Flow was just a short drive up the road and a fairly easy walk to the trailhead.
From there you can scope out views of glassy obsidian and a breathtaking hidden lake. This is Oregon’s youngest lava flow, where more than 170 million cubic yards of obsidian and pumice erupted from a vent in the caldera. A one-mile loop interpretive trail covers one corner of the flow.
The Big Obsidian Flow is one of several sites covered in the Volcano Tour from Wanderlust, so if you’d rather have someone else handle all the driving, planning, navigating, and narrating of cool geological facts, that’s a handy option.
4:30 p.m. A trip to East Lake? A drive up Paulina Peak? Or time to head home?
We briefly considered a short drive to East Lake for more sightseeing or a trip up 8,000-foot Paulina Peak for 360-degree volcanic views, but we had tickets to a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, so it was time to head home.
Visitors without concert tickets could probably manage either (possibly both) of these additional side trips. Those with an interest in seeing the Lava Cast Forest (a 7,000-year-old basalt lava flow that enveloped a mature forest and took the shape of trees while it cooled) would be wise to tack on that detour near the start of the trip while still near the Lava Lands Visitor Center.
But overall, we were satisfied with what we managed to pack in on day one of our Newberry National Volcanic Monument tour.
STILL TO COME NEXT WEEK:
Read about day two of our Newberry National Monument adventure, which includes a full day of biking, hiking, splashing, jumping, and sliding in waterfalls on the Paulina Plunge!
On the master list of my favorite childhood vacation memories, more than half are in Bend.
For a kid growing up on the rainier side of the state, there’s something magical about the bright desert sun, towering mountain peaks, and sage-scented air in Central Oregon. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation whether you’re herding toddlers or corralling rowdy teens.
Here are some of my favorite ways to explore the kid friendly side of Bend for families.
Find yourself some family-friendly digs
Bend offers hundreds of amazing hotels, motels, vacation homes, resorts, campgrounds, and more that cater to families. You’ll find a great starting point here.
I recently got the opportunity to play tourist in my own town with a stay at Brasada Ranch. The luxury cabins made the perfect home base for all the hiking, biking, and horseback riding we could handle, and the kids went nuts for the massive swimming pools and waterslide. Our highlight was a romantic dinner for two at Range while the kids were busy roasting s’mores and riding horses at the Cowboy Cookout.
Mt. Bachelor Village is another nice option for families craving the amenities of a resort. For families who prefer the privacy of a vacation home in Bend, you’ll find dozens of Bend rental homes offering perks ranging from hot tubs to bikes to barbecues.
If you like the ease and simplicity of a hotel, you’ll find tons of great Bend hotels and motels catering to families. Enjoy the free hot breakfast buffet each morning at Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center, or let the kids splash in the indoor pool at the Doubletree by Hilton in the middle of Downtown Bend.
And for families who want a unique spin on camping, check out the luxury camper trailers available from Cricket Rentals.
Go play outside
Now that you’ve got a place to lay your head, it’s time to get serious about the real reason you came to Bend—frolicking in the great outdoors.
Water play is a popular activity in the summer months, and you’ll find plenty of that around Bend. To cool off like a local, rent a float tube from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe or Sun Country Tours (don’t forget your free life vest rental for the kiddos). Then learn everything you need to know about floating the river here.
The High Cascade Lakes are another great place to splash in the summer months. Elk Lake and Cultus Lake are my personal favorites with kids, since both offer great picnic spots, easy beach areas for swimming, and plenty of rental gear like boats and standup paddleboards.
If swimming pools are more your scene, the on-site pool at Brasada Ranch is great fun for guests there, or take a short day trip to enjoy waterslides and kid-friendly pools at SHARC (in Sunriver) or Kah-Nee-Ta Resort (in Warm Springs).
If there’s an adrenaline junkie or two in the family, try a whitewater rafting excursion from Sun Country Tours for the perfect blend of “bragging-rights-scary” and “not-going-to-kill-me-scary.” Even little ones can get in on the adventure, as the popular Big Eddy Thriller is great for kids 6 and up.
Once you’ve had your fill of water, head out for another form of family recreation. Cog Wild offers family-friendly mountain bike outings for riders of all ages and experience levels. If you’d rather get the whole family on a single bike together, try a surrey outing with Wheel Fun Rentals and use the opportunity to explore Bend’s stunning Old Mill District. (Insider tip: Don’t try to squeeze through the posts designed to keep cars off bike paths or you’ll end up banging the pedals. Um, not that I’d know anything about that).
Prefer a guided adventure where someone else does all the driving, navigating, and answering questions about geographic features and which bugs you can eat? Wanderlust Tours offers unique outings ranging from cave tours to moonlight canoeing to volcano exploration.
There’s a limit to how much outdoor activity you can pack into a Bend vacation. Sometimes the limit is determined by sunburn, and other times by your offspring’s short attention span. Whatever the case, there’s plenty of indoor fun to be had in Bend, too.
The High Desert Museum offers a great chance to explore Bend’s culture, history, and wildlife. While you’ll have to set foot outside to get to a few exhibits like the otter and the birds of prey, you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly areas in the main part of the museum (including Vivi the bobcat who seriously looks like she needs a belly rub).
I told my 12-year-old stepson I was on the fence about including Sun Mountain Fun Center in this post because parents might not like the idea of their kids playing video games on vacation, but he reminded me they also have bumper cars, batting cages, mini golf, go-carts, bowling and more. Smart kid. Or a kid who’s angling to go there again, which isn’t a bad idea now that temps are soaring and a little air conditioning can be refreshing.
For families with a sweet tooth, Bend-based Goody’s Chocolates offers factory tours with samples of candy and ice cream that will give your kids enough of a sugar buzz to fuel them for the next activity.
Frugal families seeking a couple hours of respite from the pitter-patter of little feet might enjoy the Regal Cinema Movie Express program in the Old Mill District. Every Wednesday and Thursday from late June through mid-August, the young’uns can catch a kid-friendly flick for just $1 at 10 a.m.
Get ‘em some culture
Bend’s arts and culture has gotten a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. It’s one of the most approachable, down-to-earth art scenes around, with public art like the Tin Pan Alley collection and the Roundabout Art Route (both of which make fun opportunities for kids to check out paintings and sculptures in Bend’s great outdoors).
My own step-kids are big fans of live music, and Bend is an amazing spot for that. Freebie concerts like Munch and Music, Alive After 5, and Free Summer Sundays are all family-friendly and fun for all ages. Bring your low-backed chairs and a picnic, or buy tasty food and drinks on-site.
The lineup of summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater always includes several shows that are great for the whole family. My stepdaughter and I got to groove on-stage with Pink Martini last summer, and Michael Franti’s shows are always a kick for young’uns. Coming up later this summer, Amos Lee’s July 18 show looks like it should be a fun one for families to enjoy together. Go here for ticket info.
Feed the beasts
It’s been brought to my attention that children occasionally need sustenance. Luckily, just about any place you go in Bend is happy to cater to people who can’t legally vote.
One of our favorite family-friendly dining spots is Flatbread Community Pizza. The kids get to assemble their own pizzas and watch them bake in the wood-fired oven, while grownups can enjoy a cocktail, beer, or wine and munch on gourmet pizzas and salads. My personal favorite is the maple fennel pizza with a side of their brand new chopped kale salad (grilled stonefruit, golden beats, chevre goat cheese, candied walnuts, blood orange vinaigrette). They even have a wine flight specially created to pair with pizza.
Another reliable option in the Old Mill District is Red Robin. People with a chip on their shoulder about chain restaurants might turn up their noses at this option, but parents who’ve reached the end of their rope and just want a reliable dinner spot with a menu guaranteed to please cranky kids will be happy to know it’s there (and has some pretty terrific salads to boot!)
Families craving fine dining will find plenty of delicious fare at 900 Wall, with the added bonus of a kids-eat-free special starting at 5 p.m. on Sundays (excluding holidays).
One thing we hear a lot from parents is that they fervently wish to enjoy the Bend Ale Trail, but assume they can’t do it with kids in tow. Au contraire! Quite a number of Bend’s breweries have terrific family-friendly options. Bend Brewing Company has one of the best kids’ menus in town, and Crux Fermentation Project has an incredible outdoor patio with a huge field where kids love to frolic.
One of the most kid-friendly spots along the Bend Ale Trail is Deschutes Brewery. Beer fans of legal drinking age will appreciate the opportunity to sip suds at the birthplace of Bend’s craft brew scene while enjoying gourmet eats like tangy baby back ribs, or my personal favorite, Mirror Pond Mac & Cheese (made with spinach, roasted shallots, house-cured tasso ham, Tillamook cheddar, and bread crumbs, served with a side salad). The hearty kids’ menu features the usual fare like pizza and mac & cheese, and there’s a huge gluten-free selection for those who need it.
‘Tis the season for fireworks, parades, Fourth of July camping trips, and floods of phone calls to Visit Bend from travelers seeking information about all those things.
Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common questions we get this time of year. Since it wouldn’t be very nice if we only gave you the questions, we’ve also taken the time to provide answers. We’re helpful like that.
Q: Where can I watch Fourth of July fireworks in Bend?
A: Each year, fireworks are launched from the top of Pilot Butte at 10 p.m. If you have any friends who live in an elevated area of northeast Bend, try to procure an invitation to their Independence Day barbecue. Bring beer.
If that’s not an option, you can see fireworks from just about any spot in town with a view of Pilot Butte. City parks are popular viewing spots, so check the Parks & Rec site to find one near you. Get there early with a blanket or chairs, since some of the popular locales can be packed.
Q: What special events are happening for July 4?
A: One of the most popular Bend traditions is the annual Pancake Breakfast in Drake Park sponsored by the Bend Sunrise Lion’s Club. This all-American meal is served from 8 a.m. to noon. Cost is $4 for kids and $6 for adults, and proceeds support local charities.
My personal favorite event is the annual Pet Parade. It’s Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000 spectators and participants, and it’s been happening since the 1930s. Starting at 10 a.m., the parade winds its way through downtown with a kooky array of humans, canines, and farm animals, many of whom will be attired in bizarre costumes.
If you or your kids want to march in the parade, the lineup and decorating party takes place at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot between Bond and Wall across from the Deschutes Public Library. If you just want to watch, you can park your chair pretty much anywhere in Downtown Bend. Streets will be closed starting at 9 a.m. and parking can be tough to find, so get there nice and early.
After the parade, head over to Drake Park for the Old Fashioned July 4 Festival. From 11-4, enjoy games, live music, a variety of food booths, kids’ activities, and more than 130 artisan booths.
Craving a more intimate celebration? Brasada Ranch (just 16 miles northeast of Bend ) is holding an Independence Day All American BBQ. You can enjoy great food, live music, lawn games, and panoramic views of three (yes, THREE) firework shows across the region. Dinner is served from 6-8 p.m. and music goes from 7:30-10:30. Cost is $39 for adults and $23 for kids 5-10.
For the fitness-minded among you, the annual Spark Your Heart 5K run/walk will kick off at 8 a.m. in Riverbend Park. Details and registration are here.
Q: Uh-oh…Tumalo State Park is full. Where can I camp?
A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, and 2014 will be especially crazy with the holiday falling on a Friday. A good starting point is Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:
- The area around the Cascade Lakes has several options, including Gull Point and Crane Prairie. Keep in mind, many of the northern Cascade Lakes campgrounds are still closed due to snow (yes, SNOW!)
- State Parks are another option for those willing to drive 20-40 minutes. Smith Rock State Park has great spots for tent campers, while La Pine State Park, Cove Palisades, and Prineville Reservoir can all accommodate both RVs and tents.
- Some tent campers might enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of dispersed camping in the Ochoco or Deschutes National forests.
- Crown Villa (smack dab in the middle of Bend) and Scandia RV Park (also right in the city limits) both offer RV sites.
- RV enthusiasts will also find hookups and bathrooms with showers at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds RV Park. Though Mt. Bachelor doesn’t have hookups, they do offer bathrooms and showers in the Guest Services building for those who want to park their RVs in the designated area at the mountain.
- Near Newberry Crater, try Cinder Hill campground.
- Want to stay near Sisters? Try Perry South or Sisters City Park Campground.
Q: Where can I play in the Deschutes River?
A: We have a whole web page devoted to this! Find out about canoeing, kayaking, standup paddling, and river float trips in Bend. To get the inside scoop on floating on the Deschutes River the way the locals do it, check out this blog post.
Q: What hikes are open?
A: This page from the Forest Service offers up-to-the-minute trail conditions and closure info. You can also refer to Visit Bend’s hiking page for ideas about where to go. Cascade Hiking Adventures is another terrific resource for hiking ideas.
Q: Are things like the High Desert Museum and Lava Lands Visitor Center open on July 4?
A: Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. Lava Lands Visitor Center is Open July 4. The Des Chutes Historical Museum is not only open, but offers free admission all day on July 4.
Q: We really like the way you write the Bend Buzz Blog and would like to buy you some fireworks. What would you like?
A: Why thank you! Sparklers and smoke balls, please. I like the green ones.