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But what about those unexpected dining hot-spots? Those hidden gems so unassuming, so unlikely, that you totally don’t expect to have them rock your culinary world.
I love finding treasures like that when I’m traveling, and it’s great to find them in my own town, too. Here are five such secrets in Bend that I guarantee will leave your taste buds swooning.
Scrumptious breakfast at a barbecue joint?
When I first heard Baldy’s BBQ was doing breakfast at their eastside location, I’ll admit I did a little grimace. Barbecue? For breakfast?
In a word, YES. Wait, I have a better word—YUM! If you haven’t had ribs and eggs as your first meal of the day, you haven’t lived. If you haven’t had them from Baldy’s (with fall-off-the-bone tender meat and a side of perfect house potatoes) you haven’t lived well.
If you still can’t wrap your brain around the barbecue thing at 8 a.m., don’t worry. They have plenty of other offerings like pancakes, chicken fried steak, cinnamon French toast, and traditional eggs benedict (though they also make one with pulled pork if you want a slight barbecue twist). There’s even a bacon-flecked waffle with bits of bacon cooked right into the batter. Genius! And so delicious.
And their $4 mimosas are the icing on the cake (or the sauce on the ribs. Whatevs). Check their website for hours and locations, but make sure this is on your list for your a.m. meal.
Mouthwatering, creative cuisine from a trailer?
You know how the food truck scene is kinda hot in cities like Portland and Eugene? Right. Well you know how it gets kinda cold in Bend in the wintertime?
In order to have a year-round food truck scene in Bend, we had to get creative, and that’s just what the founders of The Lot have done. Not just a collection of food trucks (though it’s also that), The Lot offers 16 taps, an open-air covered eating structure, built-in tables, fire pits, heaters, regular live music, and even booty-warming benches. Best of all, it’s got a hip, unique vibe that makes it a fab spot for people-watching or interacting with locals.
One of the appealing things about The Lot is that members of your party with differing culinary tastes don’t have to order from the same spot. Send your gluten-free mom over to Real Food Street Bistro for their scrumptious Sticky Chicken. Point the kids toward the Bleu Dragon for tasty sammies, or satisfy your craving for curry at the Thailandia trailer.
I’ll admit a special fondness for the unique tacos at A La Carte. The pork curry taco, for instance, features slow-cooked shredded pork, coconut milk curry, roasted peanuts, green onions, cilantro, radish, sesame seeds, cabbage and feta.
If you’re not counting calories (or if you’re kinda hung over) try the gorgonzola bacon fries cooked in peanut oil served with gorgonzola aioli, chopped bacon, green onions, Cajun seasoning, and fresh gorgonzola.
Once everyone’s got their grub, nab a seat in the covered area. The benches around the edges have warmers in them, while the central tables have overhead heaters that’ll keep you basking in a toasty glow. Or maybe that’s the beer?
Amazing beer and the best grilled cheese imaginable in an old auto transmission shop?
I love every stop along the Bend Ale Trail for different reasons, but if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to pick my favorite . . . well, first I’d call the police, because that’s seriously messed up.
But then I’d probably admit my great love of Crux Fermentation Project. It doesn’t look like much from a distance. Housed in a building that was first a lumber supply store, then a transmission shop, it has a rustic, unassuming flair that makes you feel cozy right off the bat.
But you’ll want to hold on tight to that battered wood bench, because you’re about to be blown away. Crux makes some of the best beers in town, from pilsner to saison to Scotch Ale to porter to IPA. They’ve got all the craft beer bases covered, so get a sampler and try more than one. You should also save room for their Grilled Cheesy, which features asiago-cheese crusted panini with mixed ricotta, pepper jack, and white cheddar with diced bacon and spicy pickles on Italian country spent grain bread from DiLusso Bakery.
Tables here can fill up fast, and sometimes you’ll have to wait a while to find a spot or place your order. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Killer cocktails in a basement?
As the name suggests, 10 Below Restaurant & Lounge is literally 10 feet below street level. But if the idea of dining and drinking in a basement seems seedy to you, think again.
10 Below has a swanky, hip vibe and the menu to go with it. It’s a good spot to go for happy hour, since that happens twice a day from 4-6 p.m. and again from 9-11 p.m. My personal faves from the happy hour drink menu include the Grapefruit Gem (vodka, orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and a splash of lime) or the Blackmaker Hard Rootbeer (spiced rootbeer liqueur created with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and sweet birch, then topped with sparkling water).
But straying from the happy hour menu to the regular cocktail menu opens up a mouthwatering realm of creative options. Try the Hip Hop Beer Cocktail (Bend Distillery Desert Juniper Gin, grapefruit juice, and passionfruit puree topped with Boneyard IPA, served on the rocks) or the Secret Garden (muddled cucumber and lime, Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit liqueur, and thyme simple syrup served “press style.”)
With your drink in hand, peruse the tasty happy hour menu for a bite to eat. Their iceberg wedge salad is legendary, featuring a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with housemade 1000 Island dressing, sweet Oregon smoked bacon candy, garlic breadcrumbs, and fresh black pepper. Opt for calamari or truffle fries if you’re feeling nibbly, or go for something heartier with the pork belly tacos made with Carlton Farms pork belly braised with ancho peppers and topped with citrus slaw.
10 Below is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well, so make sure this one’s on your list no matter what time of day you can make it there.
Great gourmet dining in a gym?
“Hey, honey! What do you say we dress up nice and go out for a fancy dinner where people wear gym shorts and get sweaty?”
Okay, so this is probably not a conversation you’ve ever had, which means you’ve been sorely deprived of the opportunity to dine at Bistro 28. Yes, this dining hotspot is technically located within the Athletic Club of Bend, but dining there doesn’t require membership or a need to cross paths with anyone pumping iron.
If you’re familiar with uber-trendy, uber-tasty Zydeco restaurant in Downtown Bend, then you’ll recognize a number of items on the Bistro 28 menu. It’s the same owner, so you can expect the same creative, locally-sourced cuisine laced with ample zing and spice.
But the atmosphere at Bistro 28 feels a little homier. You can cozy up beside the fireplace, or hang out near the wood-fired oven to watch dinner being made. While this is an excellent spot to come for a scrumptious date-night meal, it also makes a great ladies’ night hangout (particularly if you’ve got some gluten-free diners in the mix).
For dinner, choose from options like steak, crab cakes, pork tenderloin, rack of lamb, grilled trout, and more. No matter what you choose for your entrée, make sure you pair it with an order of their crispy Brussel sprouts with bacon. You’ll also be impressed by their wine list, which features a good mix of Oregon varietals and imports.
Oh, and don’t forget dessert. The Godiva chocolate pana cotta and the s’mores tart are melt-in-your-mouth decadent, and worth saving room for.
Admit it. Your dog kinda runs your life.
That’s okay. He probably does it better than you would, which is why you should listen to your pooch when he suggests your New Year’s resolutions for the coming year. Not only do they guarantee you a plethora of life improvements, but they get you to Bend, Oregon in 2016.
It’s a win/win, but with more tail wagging.
Go for more walks
This is my pup’s most frequent request, and I’ve vowed to indulge her in the coming year. Luckily, we live in the dog-friendliest city in America (according to Dog Fancy magazine) and one of its perks is an abundance of dog-friendly spots to stroll.
This time of year, I adore the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, which offers 29,000 acres of wide open space to explore Bend’s unique high desert landscape. You’ll see ancient junipers and craggy lava flows, and the fact that the area is fairly flat and relatively snow-free makes it great for winter hiking.
But if we’re on a quest for snow, we head to Wanoga SnoPark and hit the dog-friendly snowshoe or cross country ski trails. Bend has seen record-breaking snowfall in late 2015, so you and your pup are guaranteed some quality winter frolicking.
If you’d rather stick close to town, try one of Bend’s off-leash parks. Our personal fave is the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash area, featuring 18 fully-fenced acres filled with trees, grassy fields, and lava outcroppings perfect for scrambling around and exploring. If you’re visiting during winter, bring a little water for your pooch, since the fountains shut down during chilly months.
Pee on new things
While I don’t share my dog’s passion for using my bladder to mark new territory, I do relate to her urge for venturing into unfamiliar areas. I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who’s lived in Bend since 1997, and I’m not even close to running out of new spaces to explore.
The Visit Bend website is a great spot to get ideas for your next adventure. Take some time to peruse our pages devoted to hiking, pet-friendly travel, or winter fun & recreation to scope out new-to-you areas that you and Rover can discover together.
If you’re sentimental about returning to the same places each time you visit Bend, try shaking it up by visiting during a different time of year. Maybe you’ve already explored the Deschutes River Tail between Meadow Camp and Benham Falls at the height of summer, but did you know your pup can run leash-free in that area from mid-September until mid-May?
Likewise, trails in the Three Sisters Wilderness between Todd Lake and the South Sister Climbers’ Trail are leash-free zones from mid-September all the way through mid-July, making fall, spring, and winter a perfect time to let your pup run wild and free.
For more tips on planning Central Oregon adventures with your dog, check out the DogPac website.
Bring home more doggie bags
Here’s where you and your dog might have slightly different goals. You want to explore Bend’s amazing restaurants, sampling everything from Asian fusion to Italian to Mexican to dishes with a unique Pacific Northwest fare.
Your dog wants you to do the same thing. He just wants you to eat a couple bites and bring the rest home in a doggie bag.
Sadly for Rover, that’s unlikely to happen. The food in Bend is second-to-none, with award-winning chefs like Joe Kim of 5 Fusion (a two-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award—one of the only Oregon chefs outside Portland to be nominated for the honor). Ariana Restaurant was named one of the top 100 restaurants in America by Open Table diners, and Trattoria Sbandati was named Restaurant of the Year by readers of The Source Weekly. And these are just a few of the phenomenal dining spots you’ll find in Bend, Oregon.
In other words, you’ll probably clean your plate.
But don’t let that stop you from dining out as much as possible while you’re in Bend. You should add Zydeco to your list, since they offer free housemade doggie biscuits to take home to your four-legged pal. If that’s not enough, stop at Bend Pet Express for another round of treats, including unique offerings like chicken feet and beef thorax (sounds gross, but trust me—my dog loves it). Then grab a pint of Dawg Grog doggie beer so your pooch can wash it all down in style.
Don’t work so much
Fido’s motives are clear here. If you’re not at work, odds are good you’re not only more relaxed, but you’re spending time with him.
You want to make your dog happy, right? So make yourself happy, too, by planning a weekend getaway to Bend.
Clip on Fido’s leash for a scenic hike up Pilot Butte. Stroll historic Downtown Bend for a bit of shopping, and you’ll discover most shops let you bring your pup right inside. Be sure to head down Minnesota Avenue for a visit to Bendy Dog, where they sell dog soaps, greeting cards, pooch products, and a huge array of photography and paintings inspired by our four-legged friends.
Then button up Rover’s dog jacket and head out on the Bend Ale Trail where your furry pal can join you by the fire pits at breweries like McMenamins, Crux Fermentation Project, or Good Life.
After that, say a great big “thank you” to your four-legged friend. You should probably let him make your resolutions every year.
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.
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.
I’m visiting my parents in Kauai this week, which has me thinking a lot about vacation planning. Several times a week, I’m asked to come up with the perfect vacation itinerary for travelers visiting Bend.
My suggestions vary widely depending on whether you’re a beer geek seeking tips for navigating the Bend Ale Trail, or someone seeking family-friendly vacation ideas for summer or for chillier times of year.
But if you asked me straight up how I’d plan my very own perfect day in Bend, Oregon, here’s what I’d tell you.
6:30 a.m. Visit the dog park
I’m a morning person, and so is my dog (though she prefers to mask her person-ness beneath fur and paws). Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine, and the town boasts an impressive seven off-leash areas, but my personal favorite is Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area. It spans 17 fully-fenced acres filled with trees, trails, grassy areas for fetching, and even a spray park to frolic in when the weather is warm. It’s a great spot to stroll and enjoy the sunrise in the company of my favorite four-legged companion.
7:30 a.m. Breakfast at Jackson’s Corner
One of my favorite spots for a tasty, locally-sourced breakfast is Jackson’s Corner. Their original location near Downtown Bend is fabulous, but I’m especially delighted they opened a second spot in northeast Bend. That makes it a convenient post-dog park stop, and they’re open at 7 a.m. for my fellow early risers.
I’m a big fan of their biscuits and gravy made with Redmond Smokehouse gravy over housemade buttermilk biscuits, and I usually add a side of roasted seasonal veggies just to make things healthy. If I’m eating solo, I’ll probably grab a book and choose a sunny corner table or a spot next to the outdoor fire pit so my pup can join me. If I can persuade a pal to join me, I’ll talk him or her into ordering the roasted red pepper scramble (organic spinach, roasted peppers, organic eggs, and Tumalo Farms chévre) so I can sneak a bite or two.
9:30 a.m. A family hike
By this time the rest of my family should be up and around and jonesing for some outdoor fun of their own. Pilot Butte (that 500-foot dormant volcano in the center of Bend) is one of our favorite spots if we feel like sticking around town. We like to hike the paved road all the way up if we’re there during the car-free months spanning October through May, or we’ll stick with the dirt path if it’s summertime. In any case, our favorite thing to do is bring a container of bubbles and a big bubble wand with us on our hike. When we reach the top, my husband flings bubbles while the kids and dog chase them around the summit.
If we feel like venturing a bit further, we might head south toward the Newberry Volcanic National Monument for a full day of adventure, or head out to explore one of the breathtaking waterfalls in and around Bend. If it’s wintertime, a snowshoe adventure might be a fun alternative to a regular hike. In the warmer months, we love nothing more than pumping up the air mattresses so we can all float the river.
11 a.m. Shopping, sightseeing, and lunch in the Old Mill District
Now that we’ve all worked up an appetite, we’ll head to the Old Mill District for a bit of fun and sustenance. With the kids in tow, we’re likely to hit family-friendly favorites like Red Robin or Flatbread Community Oven where kids get the opportunity to make their own pizzas. During non-kid times, we’re partial to seafood hotspot Anthony’s or local favorite Greg’s Grill, where the river views are unbeatable (especially in the warm months when you can sit outside).
On a chilly day, we might spend a few hours browsing the Old Mill shops before venturing to the Regal Cinemas Theater to catch a movie. If it’s a sunny day, we might stroll along the river for a bit before renting a surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals so we can pedal around together and enjoy the scenery.
1:30 a.m. Outdoor adventures with Wanderlust Tours
I’ve been lucky enough to experience every outing offered by Wanderlust Tours, so I know an adventure with their naturalist guides is high on my list of things to enjoy on my perfect day.
Wanderlust recently kicked off the season for their half-day canoe trips, and since that fits nicely with today’s schedule, we’ll head out with them for the afternoon. Odds are good we’ll see otter, osprey, eagles, and more, so my wildlife quota will be met for the day. It’s also a great chance to enjoy the area’s breathtaking volcanic landscape and some of the best mountain views you’ll see anywhere.
If the day happens to be a snowy one, we could easily swap our paddles for snowshoes and head into the mountains for one of Wanderlust’s spectacular snowshoe tours. They provide all the gear, instruction, and transportation, which makes it a great way to fit in a little snow play without too much hassle.
And if the weather isn’t cooperating for an outdoorsy adventure, Wanderlust’s cave tours are another terrific option that’s available year-round. That’s a favorite adventure for my stepson in particular, who shared his experience with the cave tour in this post.
5:30 p.m. Time to hit the Bend Ale Trail!
This might sound odd with a couple kids in tow, but there are plenty of stops along Bend’s legendary Bend Ale Trail that somehow manage to be incredibly kid-friendly without losing their edge.
My personal fave is Crux Fermentation Project, which not only boasts some of the best beer in town, but also the best grilled cheese sandwich you will ever consume in your entire life. The kids can enjoy snacking, toasting their toes at the fire pit, and chasing each other around the large grassy field while the grownups split a taster tray and enjoy a little dinner.
If we’ve got room in our bellies (and room on our Bend Ale Trail passports) for another stop, we’ll likely head for Bend Brewing Company in Downtown Bend. They’ve got a terrific kids’ menu, one of the most impressive taster trays on the trail, and a primo location right above the Deschutes River (perfect for a post-dinner moonlight stroll through Drake Park).
Pimp my beer! Five beer accessories you must try in Bend, Oregon (plus a chance to WIN the ultimate beer vessel from DrinkTanks!)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the success of the Bend Ale Trail, it’s not to have an empty stomach if you visit all 14 breweries in one day.
Wait, no. That’s not the message I wanted to share. Let’s try this again.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the success of the Bend Ale Trail, it’s that Bend visitors and locals love their craft beer. We love it so much that we’re not content to merely drink the beer. We have to cherish it. Coddle it. Dress it up in pretty clothes and parade it around.
If you love your beer—I mean really love your beer—here are five beer accessories you truly need to have.
A belt buckle that doubles as a bottle opener
Have you ever found yourself standing around at a party and had a sudden, insatiable need to crack open a cold one using an article of your own clothing?
Of course you have!
And since they haven’t invented bottle openers made from underwear, you need the next best thing in the form of an official Bend Ale Trail belt buckle with built-in bottle opener.
These heavy-duty accessories come in three finishes (copper, bronze, and silver) and can be purchased in the Bend Visitor Center for just $28. You know you want all three of them.
A beer glass that bounces when you drop it
I’m not saying I have a habit of knocking over my beer glass after I’ve had a few, but . . . actually, that is what I’m saying.
That’s one of many things I love about Silipint silicone pint glasses. Topple a regular beer glass onto the floor and you end up with a pile of shattered glass, but a Silipint just bounces and rolls.
Even if you’re not in the habit of dropping your adult beverages, Silipints are just practical. I fill mine with hot tea every morning, using the handy travel lid to keep things from sloshing around. When that’s gone, I switch to ice water, which my Silipint maintains at optimum temperature without making a sweaty mess. When evening rolls around, that same Silipint makes a fabulous vessel for my favorite Bend-made suds. How many other glasses are that versatile? Slop a bunch of hot coffee into your Riedel wineglass and let me know how that works out for you.
You can find Silipints for sale all over Bend, including the Ticket Mill Outlet in the Old Mill District and at the Bend Visitor Center. If you want a special Silipint declaring “I completed the Bend Ale Trail,” you’re going to have to earn it by bringing us your completed Bend Ale Trail passport to claim your prize.
A sweater for your beer
You want your beer to be attractive, fashionable, and cozy, right?
Your beer needs a sweater. Lucky for you, Deschutes Brewery has one. It’s a dapper little knitted number that serves the dual purpose of keeping your beer cold and your hand warm.
It’s stretchy enough to fit a 22-ounce bomber or a regular 12-ounce bottle, and the bold hues of black, gold, and red will leave your beer feeling stylish and sassy.
At only $8 a pop, how can you not own enough for a whole six-pack?
A growler you can rub for three wishes
Pretty much every brewery in town offers a logo-adorned growler, but only Crux Fermentation Project sells one that looks like Barbara Eden might emerge from it at any moment.
Did I just date myself with an I Dream of Jeannie reference?
No matter. The growlers they sell at Crux look wicked cool, and you can buy them online for only $18.
You can also pick one up at the brewery itself, which is a much better idea. I hear the odds of seeing a genie are markedly improved when your growler is filled with fresh, delicious Crux beer.
The growler to trump all growlers
There are several companies in Bend making high-end, airtight growlers with double-walled construction that keep your drink cold for up to 24 hours.
And while they’re all pretty fabulous, the folks at DrinkTanks have taken the game to a whole new level. They started by giving their growler a big, sturdy handle and a clamp-on lid with a double-bail locking system that’s guaranteed to be totally leak-proof.
Then they created an add-on Keg Cap Kit with a hose and CO2 cartridges you use to transform your growler into a personal keg.
Mind = blown.
We had the chance to test drive one in the Visit Bend office and it rocked my ever-lovin’ world. We sampled a regular stout poured from the growler and then tried it with a little pump of C02 and honest-to-dog, it was like sipping beer straight from the tap. As a bonus, it comes in 11 stylish finishes and can even be engraved for that added personal touch. You can pick one up in a regular 64-ounce size, or get in on the Kickstarter campaign to support the creation of a massive 128-ounce growler (which officially makes it the world’s largest beer growler, in case you were wondering).
The 64-ouncer runs $69, plus $45 for the Keg Cap, but guess what? The folks at DrinkTanks are giving one away for FREE!
Enter to win by commenting on this blog post with your favorite Bend beer. For an extra entry, tell us in your comment if you’ve shared a link to this blog post on Twitter or Facebook (we’ll give you bonus entries for each of those tasks).
We’ll pick a winner on Friday, April 3.
Happy drinking, everyone!
I’d like to apologize to all the cows that may have been harmed in the making of this blog post on Bend’s best burgers. I’m sorry for my quest to sample all the most delicious hamburgers in town.
I’m not sorry, however, that I got to taste so much juicy, beefy goodness from Bend’s top restaurants. Wondering who has the best burger in Bend? Here are a few of my top picks:
The Bleu Diamond Burger at The Row
They had several options to choose from, including rotating hamburger specials with beer pairings. But it’s the regular menu that features the star of my show, the Bleu Diamond Burger. It’s made with a half-pound of Cascade Natural Beef and stacked with fried sweet potato crispies, maple bacon, demi-glace, and Rogue Creamery bleu cheese.
The chef didn’t scrimp on any of those accouterments. The bacon was plentiful and crisp, and the bleu cheese was the most flavorful of any I sampled in my burger quest. Considering the quantity of toppings they packed on there, I was surprised by how well the whole thing held together.
The tap list here is nice as well, and I got to sample an IPA from Sunriver Brewing that blew my socks off. Overall, this burger topped the list as one of my very favorites in Bend.
The Dandy Deluxe Burger at Dandy’s Drive-In
Dandy’s Drive-In has been operating in Bend since 1968, and if you’re looking for a fun, old-fashioned experience with servers who arrive on roller skates to take your order through the car window, this is the place to be.
The burgers themselves are made with freshly-ground chuck and prepared as they’re ordered. This isn’t fast food, and you can taste the difference. Don’t expect a lot of frou-frou condiments and crazy toppings here, but do expect a darn good traditional burger.
The Dandy Deluxe is a standard burger with the addition of cheese, tomatoes, and special sauce. It was deliciously drippy and extremely satisfying. The standard burgers were favorites for my step kids, who prefer their burgers without a lot of frills or creative toppings.
While the skating servers and old-fashioned drive-in experience is what makes this place special, the side dishes run a close second. Sip a Cherry Slice with your meal, grab an order of their to-die-for onion rings, and top the whole thing off with a fluffy, scrumptious, fresh banana shake. Groovy!
The Ortega Cheeseburger at Pilot Butte Drive-In
Pilot Butte Drive-In is another longtime Bend staple right at the base of its namesake Pilot Butte (though their newer Westside location is pretty awesome, too). They’ve been around since 1983, and their reputation for having some of Bend’s best burgers is well-earned. Their selections run the gamut from very traditional burgers, to more creative offerings like the roasted garlic cheeseburger and the Hawaiian cheeseburger (mmm, pineapple).
My personal fave here is the Ortega Cheeseburger. It features a 100% angus beef patty topped with grilled mild green chilis, melted jack cheese, mayo, lettuce, and tomato. The chilis add the perfect amount of zing without overwhelming the burger, and I like the option to add grilled onions if I want a little extra kick. You can wash the whole thing down with a tasty malt or shake, or grab a local craft beer at their Westside location.
Bonus: Their breakfasts here are pretty amazing, too, so consider an early morning stop if lunch or dinner isn’t in the cards for you.
The Bleu Ribbon Burger at Red Robin
I know, I know….some of you will take me to task for including a chain restaurant in the mix, but hear me out. The parents among you will understand that sometimes, you just want something familiar, predictable, and family-friendly.
The Red Robin in Bend’s Old Mill District comes with the added bonus of being smack-dab in the center of Bend’s beautifully scenic shopping district on the river, so you can do some birdwatching, browse the shops, catch a movie at Regal Cinemas, and then hit Red Robin when you need to refuel.
The kids’ menu here can’t be beat (especially if you’ve got one kid craving a burger and the other who suddenly decides she hates burgers, but wants mac & cheese or chicken fingers).
For grownup fare, I’m partial to the Bleu Ribbon Burger topped with tangy steak sauce, chipotle aioli, bleu cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and crispy onion straws. The crispy onion straws are my guilty pleasure, and I’ll confess to asking my server to add a few extra.
I’m particularly fond of the whole “bottomless” aspect here. Bottomless fries. Bottomless freckled lemonade. If we could get them to make the cocktails bottomless, this would be my favorite spot in town.
The Rat Hole Burger at Rat Hole Brew Pub
Their oh-so-appetizingly-named Rat Hole burger will appeal to the meat lovers in your party with a patty made from in-house ground fresh beef, pork, and lamb. If you like your burger with an extra-thick bun, you’ll be a fan of the brioche buns they use here. The chipotle mayo on the burger is a terrific compliment to the delicious Southwest potato salad you’ll want to make sure you order as a side.
Don’t forget to sample from their beer menu while you’re here. The $5 sampler tray lets you try four different brews, and if you see the lemon wheat beer on the tap list, order it.
The BBQ Bacon Burger at Pour House Grill
My visit to Pourhouse Grill to sample their burger menu was my first, but it certainly won’t be my last. If you’re looking for a super-diverse tap list to wash down your tasty burger, this is your spot. They have tons of local offerings from around the Bend Ale Trail, as well as unique varieties of beer from around the state and beyond.
But we’re talking about burgers here.
The menu at Pourhouse offers tons of options, and you’ll also find fresh and unique offerings on the daily specials board. I opted for the BBQ Bacon Burger and wasn’t disappointed by this deliciously messy concoction. Both the bacon and the burger patty itself were among the most flavorful I sampled, and the bun was squishy and delightful. Their fresh-cut fries were some of the best I tasted, and the perfect complement to the meal.
But seriously, the beer. Did I mention the beer?
The Ranch Burger from Brother Jon’s Public House
Brother Jon’s Public House has two locations in Bend, and both are wildly popular among locals. There’s a good reason for that. The atmosphere is casual cool, and the food and beer selection is outstanding. I recommend their buffalo mac & cheese if you’re burned out on burgers, but what am I saying? Just come back when your burger gas tank is ready to be refilled, because you won’t want to miss what they’re grilling up here.
The burgers at Brother Jon’s have a fresh-off-the-grill flavor that’s guaranteed to leave you swooning, and their buns (which come from Big Ed’s Bakery) were my favorite out of all the stops. I’m not a fan of big chunks of raw onion on burgers, so the thinly-shaved onion on the Ranch Burger was a nice touch. This was a two-patty burger, with both of them weighing in at a generous quarter-pound. It features bacon, dill Havarti, fresh avocado, ranch dressing, and the usual lettuce, tomato, and aforementioned onion.
The kettle chips accompanying the burgers are a nice switch from fries. The size of this burger makes it great for splitting, but I’ll warn you in advance that you won’t want to share. It’s tasty enough you’ll want the whole thing all to yourself.
The Next Level Burger with Special Sauce at Next Level Burger
Vegans, rejoice! Every single thing on the menu at Next Level Burger is plant-based, so now you can have your cake burger and eat it, too.
As you’ve probably gathered by reading this far into the blog post, I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Next Level Burger as much as I did, so this stop gets high marks for being my most pleasant surprise.
I opted for the Next Level Burger, which features a juicy, meaty-non-meat patty with a whopping 26 grams of protein. It normally comes with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a sprouted-wheat bun, but I picked the Special Sauce version so I’d also get dill pickles, vegan cheese, and of course, the special sauce.
Sidenote: I have no idea what’s in that special sauce, but if it were socially acceptable, I would fill up my bathtub and soak in it.
The burger itself was surprisingly delicious and filling, and the accompanying crinkle fries were crisp and tasty. I also ordered a side of sautéed kale, which made me feel grownup and healthy and hopefully balanced out the 500-pounds of beef I’d consumed up to this point.
The menu here also includes things like vegan hot dogs, soy-based shakes, and an array of organic sodas in an array of unique flavors (mmm, blueberry!) Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian as a habit, this is a great spot to try at least once. Bonus: No tipping is allowed. Like, ever.
The 900 Wall Burger at 900 Wall
900 Wall has one of my favorite happy hours in Bend, so if you happen to visit between 3-6 nightly, you’ll score an extra special deal on this burger (along with extra tasty menu items like their deviled eggs, beef carpaccio, and one of the best freshly-squeezed greyhounds in town).
The 900 Wall Burger featured imperial stock ranch beef, red onion jam, and aioli. You’ll want to pay a little extra to add bacon to this one, and you might as well spring for the gruyere, too, while you’re at it.
If cocktails are your favorite beverage for washing down a good burger, this is your stop. Aside from the aforementioned greyhound, try the Beet Snapper, The Sexy Niner, or the SS Minnow, or choose one of their fabulous wine flights if you’re more of an oenophile.
The Wall Street Burger at Bend Burger Company
No burger blog post is complete without including Bend Burger Company. As you can imagine, there are a lot of burgers to choose from at this burger-focused hotspot in Downtown Bend. You’ll find unique options ranging from the breakfasty Sunrise Burger (mmm, egg!) to the ultra-spicy Lava Butte Burger with pepperjack cheese and chipotle peppers.
My persona fave is the Wall Street Burger made with Swiss cheese, smoked ham, roasted garlic, dill pickles, and their special Bend Burger mustard Sauce. That’s all heaped on a generous patty made with 100% ground chuck steak.
Bonus: You’re mere steps from Bend’s historic and scenic Drake Park, so go for a stroll after your meal to burn off those burger calories.
The Tillamook Bacon Cheeseburger at Pono Farm & Fine Meats
This spot on the northeast end of Bend is a bit off the beaten path for most tourists, but a visit to Pono Farm & Fine Meats is well worth your time if you’re looking for one of the tastiest bacon burgers you’ll ever taste.
Pono Farm is really more a butcher shop than a restaurant, but they have a number of tables and a terrific menu offering hormone-free, antibiotic-free, humanely raised meats grown locally on their Central Oregon family form. They raise Wagyu (Kobe) and red Angus beef, as well as heritage breed pork. The result is some seriously tasty, superior-quality meat. The bacon on this burger is out-of-this-world delicious, and the beef is juicy and fresh, complimented perfectly by the zing of Tillamook Cheddar. This is a great spot for unique side dishes, including their famous roasted Brussels sprouts with a succulent mix of onions and bacon.
Hours here are limited, and they only serve lunch, so make sure you check their Facebook page first to find out if they’re open. If you have a barbecue your Bend vacation rental, make sure you grab a little something extra from their butcher shop to throw on the grill that evening.
The Hogs Burger at Wubba’s BBQ Shack
I’m a huge fan of Wubba’s BBQ Shack—especially their scrumptious hot wings. But I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I’d like the Hogs Burger when I read the description.
Being wrong has never been so delicious. The Hogs Burger features a 1/3 pound beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, juicy pulled pork, grilled onions, and coleslaw. It’s the perfect combination of smoky, creamy, crunchy, and zingy, and I managed to devour nearly the entire thing.
The selection of sides here is outstanding as well. You can get standard French fries if that’s what you’re craving, but it’s way more fun to try things like fried okra, corn fritters, and creamy mac salad.
They’ve also got a pretty awesome tap list here, including an IPA I sampled from newcomer brewery North Rim (mmm, imperial IPA). And since we’re talking about new Bend breweries (and since you’re standing a mere 100 feet from the doorway) why not venture across the parking lot and visit newcomer Bridge 99 Brewery?
Want an offbeat adventure during your Bend vacation? Tattoo studios, psychics, aerial tours, and more await you!
Sure, most folks plan a Bend vacation to enjoy popular activities like hiking, biking, skiing, or sipping suds on the Bend Ale Trail. While I encourage you to do every single one of those things (though not necessarily in that order) why not leave room in the agenda for some of Bend’s less common attractions?
Here are just a few to put on your bucket list.
While permanently inking your body isn’t something you want to do on a whim, visitors already considering some new body art might appreciate the significance of getting a tattoo to commemorate a Bend vacation.
Bend has an abundance of top-notch tattoo studios to pick from, with award-winning artists eager to give you a souvenir you’ll always remember. My personal fave is Monolith Tattoo Studio, which has been named Bend’s best tattoo studio three years in a row by readers of The Source Weekly. They have seven different artists offering distinctive styles and experience, and they’re always willing to do custom designs. Appointments can book up fast, though you can sometimes spot last-minute openings on their Facebook page. Either way, it’s wise to plan ahead if you think you might want some vacation ink.
Another small but worthy studio is Eternal Body Art. For years, my hubby wanted a design of a domestic cat done in a Pacific Northwest tribal style. He shared his vision with Jace, who drew up an incredibly unique design that looked terrific when it was inked into the flesh of my beloved’s forearm.
One more studio worth noting is Mum’s Tattoos. Angela has been tattooing for nearly two decades, and she’s a favorite among many locals (particularly those who fancy a female artist and studio owner). She did a nice piece on the back of my neck several months ago, and I had good luck getting a last-minute appointment during slower winter months.
See a psychic
Whether you’re a staunch believer in all things paranormal, or just someone with a mild curiosity, a visit to a professional psychic, oracle, or other intuitive professional is one of those bucket list items you kinda ought to try at least once. Why not give it a shot while you’re in Bend?
Kaira Sherman of Divine Guidance offers services ranging from tarot card readings to spiritual guidance since 1998. I had the pleasure of doing a short reading with her several years ago at a street fair in Downtown Bend, and I was amazed by her insights and professionalism. She does readings in her local studio or by phone, and even teaches regular classes on tarot and intuitive development.
Brenden Avery Butler is another local intuitive offering readings I can pretty much guarantee will blow your mind. I’ve visited him on two occasions, and also have several friends who’ve walked away from a reading marveling at the depth of insight he offered. (Common refrain: “Seriously, there’s NO WAY he could have known that stuff about me – I’ve never told anyone!”) Aside from the mind-blowing aspect, it can bee a good way to gain insight into a troublesome issue, untie knots, overcome an obstacle, heal, or grow in some fashion. Not a bad way to spend some vacation time, eh?
Brenden does readings by donation, and you can get in touch by phone (541-771-8447), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or telepathy (I’ll leave that one up to you).
When summer rolls around, the Cosmic Depot holds weekly events on the sprawling lawn outside their shop. There, you’ll find an array of tarot card readers, Reiki practitioners, astrology experts, and more, offering services in exchange for donations to the local food bank. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details and dates, or stop by the shop to browse their awesome selection jewelry, tapestries, incense, candles, stones, essential oils, legal herbal smoking pipes, and more.
You may have glimpsed Bend from above by hiking Pilot Butte, but you haven’t truly seen an aerial view of our fair city until you’ve done a scenic aerial flight.
Several companies offer tours and discovery flights departing the Bend airport by helicopter or small plane, including Professional Air and Leading Edge Aviation. There are even options that allow you to co-pilot the plane with help from an instructor.
For a super-unique experience, head to the Redmond airport for a tour with Big Sky Balloon Company. They do scenic balloon flights in a hand-painted balloon.
For a list of all the tour operators and options, visit our Aerial Tours page on the Visit Bend website.
Oh, and if you’re craving a flight experience, but prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, check out the North Star Flight Lab to try a hydraulic flight simulator that’s amazingly realistic and accurate.
Swill beer at a museum
The High Desert Museum is always on my list of recommended spots for visitors, whether they’re fond of natural history and culture, or fans of critters like porcupines, otters, badgers, birds of prey, and a bobcat.
But from January 16 through Memorial Day Weekend 2015, there’s an extra incentive to stop by for everyone with an interest in Bend’s craft beer scene. The new exhibit titled, “Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer” opens January 16 with an exhibit preview party at 6:30 p.m. that will feature live music, kids’ activities, a panel discussion, and tastings from ten local breweries. Go here to buy tickets and RSVP (which is kinda mandatory, since it’s likely to sell out).
Even if you miss the opening event, the exhibit itself is worth checking out while you’re in Bend. Conceived and designed by the High Desert Museum curatorial staff, it will present the history of brewing, the ingredients used in craft beers, the process of brewing, and the culture of the craft brewing industry. Go here to learn more.
Sample from a hodge-podge of other ideas
Still looking for unique things to try while you’re in Bend? Here are a few more ideas:
- Maverick’s Country Bar & Grill offers regular line dancing, dance lessons, and live music. Check out their Facebook page for up-to-the-minute schedules and info.
- History buffs will love downloading a free app to enjoy The Heritage Walk history audio tour of Downtown Bend. It’s offered by the Des Chutes Historical Museum, and you can read all about it here.
- Want to watch chicks on roller skates shoving each other around? Check the schedule for the Lava City Roller Dolls, and enjoy a fun evening of roller derby action.
- The Well Traveled Fork offers a variety of cooking classes and tours to add some culinary spice to your Bend adventure.
And don’t forget, the Visit Bend Event Calendar is packed full of unique activities ranging from concerts to organized hikes to educational presentations.
Now get out there and do something fun.
But whether or not you love strapping slippery boards to your feet and sliding down an incline, Bend still offers a dizzyingly diverse array of activities to enjoy during the snow-packed months of winter. Here are five winter vacation ideas you can get the most from your vacation in Bend.
Do the ever lovin’ heck out of Mt. Bachelor
First things first: Mt. Bachelor has the highest skiable elevation in all of Oregon and Washington, and it’s one of the largest single-mountain resorts in the country. The fact that it’s a dormant volcano gives you the rare opportunity to ride 360-degrees off the summit, and with an average snowfall of 462 inches, there’s plenty of white stuff to go around.
Like to ski and snowboard? They’ve got 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain ranging from beginner slopes to terrain parks to treed slopes with pillowy caches of powder. And unlike a lot of resorts around the country, Mt. Bachelor makes sure you spend a lot more time on the slopes than you do standing in lift lines.
If Nordic skiing is more your speed, Bachelor has the longest groomed Nordic season in North America, with trails open from mid-November to late-May. More than a dozen trails sweep over 56km of forest, and the area is machine-groomed and track-set every night.
Craving something a little outside-the-box from your Mt. Bachelor experience? Try a sled dog ride with Oregon Trail of Dreams, or grab the whole family for an afternoon of sledding fun on the Snowblast Tubing Park.
Biking in wintertime?
When I explain the basics of a Bend winter vacation to journalists who’ve never been here, one thing that consistently blows their minds is the idea that you can ski powder all morning, then drive 20 minutes down the hill and spend your afternoon mountain biking on 277 miles of sweeping singletrack.
That’s the beauty of this area. While Bachelor might get the aforementioned 462 inches of snow each season, the city of Bend averages only 23.8 inches. You can credit the magic of elevation gain and the high desert climate for that little miracle.
If you’ve got your mountain bike loaded on your car already, check out Visit Bend’s mountain biking guide to learn everything you need to know to have a blast when you’re out riding. Prefer to hit the trails in the company of a seasoned tour guide who can hook you up with all the equipment you need? Book a full-day or half-day adventure with Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours.
If you just can’t get enough snow, you’ll be fired up about the latest cycling craze. Fat bikes have oversized tires designed to cruise through the snow. You can rent one from Hub Cyclery in Downtown Bend, then stick around and enjoy a free beer from their in-house tap while you chat up the staff about which trails to hit.
Now it’s time for some suds
You’ve played hard in the great outdoors, so you’ve earned the right to reward yourself with some delicious craft beer along the Bend Ale Trail.
Pick up your passport at the Bend Visitor Center or any of the 14 breweries that are part of the program. Then sip your way from brewery to brewery gathering passport stamps and sampling hoppy IPAs, malty porters, and unique seasonal selections you’ll only find in the pubs.
For tips on making the most of your Bend Ale Trail adventure, check out this post!
Soak up some arts and culture
Now that you’re nice and relaxed, it’s time to scope out Bend’s unique arts and culture scene. If you’re in town at the beginning of the month, don’t miss First Friday Art Walk and the awesome opportunity to browse shops in Downtown Bend while enjoying music, art, wine, nibbles, and the chance to chat with artists about their work.
If you want to catch a show, the historic Tower Theatre is a great place to start, or check out the kitschy-cool Tin Pan Theater. While you’re there, stroll around Downtown Bend checking out the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection for a look at one of Bend’s most unique assortments of outdoor art. Want more? Swing by the Bend Visitor Center to grab a passport for the Roundabout Art Route, then set out on a mission to see an exciting array of sculptures in the center of Bend’s traffic circles. If you’d prefer to leave the driving to someone else, call Bend Tour Company and book their popular Bend Art Safari tour.
If you’ve got a hankering for some Bend history, check out the Des Chutes Historical Museum, or visit the High Desert Museum for Central Oregon’s coolest collection of natural history exhibits and animals.
Snow play without slipping and sliding
Ready to get back to the snow now? Try snow play of a different sort when you book a snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours.
Choose from daytime outings with your kids in tow, or opt for the Shoes, Brews & Views tour featuring an array of local beer from breweries along the Bend Ale Trail. If you’re more of a night owl (or just want the experience of seeing the snowy landscape under sparkling stars) try one of their Moonlight or Starlight Snowshoe Tours, where you’ll trek to an amphitheater carved into the snow.
Your snowshoe outings with Wanderlust include all gear, transportation, refreshments, and the most engaging, entertaining, and educated naturalist guides in the biz.
I got married at Tumalo State Park in Bend this past Saturday, so you might say I have weddings on the brain. The fact that I already live here precluded me from choosing Bend as a honeymoon destination, but rest assured, I’m aware that this is one of the most romantic spots in the universe.
Here are seven of my favorite reasons Bend makes a fabulous place for a romantic marriage proposal, a couples’ getaway, or a destination wedding:
How ‘bout that backdrop?
Whether you’re popping the question or popping the cork on your wedding day champagne, you want a scenic backdrop to your special moment. Luckily, Bend is packed full of vistas so beautiful you want to gobble them up with a spoon.
Want a romantic riverfront setting? Scope out the parks map to find a setting that’s perfect for your big moment. Scenic locales like Smith Rock State Park and Tumalo Falls are popular places for couples to get engaged or share a romantic moment. Just about any hiking trail around Central Oregon will lead you to a scenic, secluded setting that’s perfect for asking your honeybun to be with you ’til it’s time to choose matching cemetery plots.
Planning a wedding? It cost me a whopping $50 to reserve the picnic area where we wed last Saturday at Tumalo State Park, so clearly you can get the scenic setting on a budget. For more elaborate affairs, consider the stunning backdrop at Brasada Ranch and start planning your destination wedding today.
Visit Bend has multiple web pages devoted to finding the right venue, flowers, DJ, and more, so click the link to get started.
Spoil me, pamper me, love me
If your vision of a romantic weekend getaway involves a decadent massage for two, you’ll find tons of great ideas on Visit Bend’s spa page. Two of my favorite spots offering couples’ massage are Jinsei and Anjou. Both have cozy, romantic suites where they set up two massage tables side-by-side and spoil you with chocolates and champagne.
Bend’s spas are a great place to get spiffed up and beautiful for a wedding, too. In the weeks leading up to my own nuptials, I sprung for a series of facials at Revive Skin Services to help smooth out some of the damage done by Bend’s harsh desert climate. Jen at Polish works magic when it comes to waxing and eyelash extensions, and my tootsies were perfectly pampered thanks to a pedicure at Raelynn at Images Salon. I’ve trusted Fawnda at Luminescence to trim and style my hair for more than a decade, with the added bonus of stunning river views as I sit in her chair.
To plan your own weekend of pampering in Bend, be sure to check Visit Bend’s spa page.
Make memories together
There’s nothing quite like marking a special vacation with an activity you’d never get to do at home. Whether you choose to propose during a romantic moonlight snowshoe tour, or celebrate your honeymoon with a starlight canoe outing, you owe it to yourself (not to mention your sweetie) to book a special outing with Wanderlust Tours.
If you’re more of a foodie than an adventurer, schedule a cooking class together with The Well Traveled Fork. I can’t tell you how many times my new hubby and I have consulted the recipe packets from our classes with Chef Bette, and it makes us smile every time we prepare one of the dishes we learned to make together. Watch her offerings around Valentine’s Day for special classes like aphrodisiac cooking!
Want to bond over a shared adrenaline rush? Book a whitewater raft trip with Sun Country Tours, or opt for the ultimate adventure with an aerial tour. You can see Bend from the vantage-point of a helicopter, airplane, or hot air balloon. You can even scope out the scenery while skydiving. Talk about taking the plunge!
Table for two, please?
If you’re looking to canoodle over canapés, there are plenty of romantic restaurants in Bend for your special occasion. One of my favorite splurgy dinner spots is Ariana Restaurant. Their outdoor patio is sunny and open, and their indoor space is cozy and romantic. The menu is centered around Northwest cuisine and unique twists on classic dishes, and their wine list can’t be beat.
If you want Italian cuisine like you’ve never experienced before, Trattoria Sbandati is your spot. You can go here to read my full write-up on this magnificent little Italian restaurant, or just trust me when I say the food here is one of those things you’ll remember for years after you’ve lovingly polished off the last forkful of Tagliatelle al Gorgonzola.
Jackalope Grill is another special occasion hotspot guaranteed to leave you swooning from more than just the romance. Order the Osso Bucco and a seat in their sunny courtyard, and prepare to have your mind blown.
If you feel like venturing outside the city limits for something a little different, check out the scenic dining at Black Butte Ranch. Their menu features creative Northwest cuisine, and you’ll always find unique dishes like elk loin or brook trout.
For a complete roundup of Bend restaurants to fit every taste and budget, go here.
The honeymoon suite
Whether you’re planning a honeymoon, or just a romantic weekend getaway, Bend is jam-packed with hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and resorts. For an in-depth look at the charming array of bed and breakfast establishments in Bend, check out this post, or peruse Visit Bend’s lodging page for info on all kinds of great places to stay.
Even though I was Belize-bound for my honeymoon, I chose to spend my wedding night in a lovely river-view suite at the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center. We had a breathtaking view of the Deschutes River, an in-room hot tub, and a fireplace that came fully-stocked with everything we needed to start a toasty little fire to sit beside while we enjoyed the champagne and chocolate they left for us. Perfect!
Hey, don’t just take my word for it
OK, I know what you’re thinking. “Of course the lovestruck newlywed thinks Bend is the perfect place for romance.” That may be true, but I’m not the only one with that opinion. Travel + Leisure included Bend in their January 2013 roundup of America’s most romantic towns, and Livability.com ranked Bend in the #1 slot in their roundup of the nation’s top 10 romantic cities. See? It’s not just me.
Come back again and again
When you get engaged, hitched, or otherwise romantic in a certain city, ever notice how you want to go back? Once you’ve made some memories in Bend, we hope you’ll want to return for anniversaries and special getaways. Luckily, it’s easy to reach Bend from just about anywhere. Nonstop flights depart daily to major hubs like Seattle, Portland, LA, San Francisco, Denver, and Salt Lake City.
If you crave the bonding time of a road trip, check out our handy Getting Here page for maps and info about travel times.