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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.
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.
The champagne is gone, the noisemakers are stashed, and it’s time to get serious about those pesky New Year’s resolutions.
Some good news: this is the year you’re finally going to achieve all those goals you set for yourself. Your secret weapon? A vacation in Bend, Oregon.
Here’s how a Bend vacation can help you achieve six of the most common New Year’s resolutions.
If you’ve resolved to get fit…
Dubbed “the outdoor playground of the west,” Bend is the place to be if fitness and recreation are part of your plans for the New Year. No matter what form of fitness you prefer, Bend offers the best playground to do it. Is snowplay your thing? National Geographic listed Bend as one of the world’s top 25 ski towns. Fond of hunting and fishing? Outdoor Life named Bend the nation’s #1 town for sportsmen. Both Competitor and Outside magazine named Bend the top town for trail running, while Mountain Bike Action spotlighted the city as America’s #1 mountain biking town.
If you’re new to fitness and all this sounds a little too expert-level for your taste, don’t worry! You’ll find plenty of help for newbies just looking to get started. Try a basic mountain biking tour with Cog Wild, or scope out Visit Bend’s hiking page or Cascade Hiking Adventures to choose a good starter hike that’s more your pace.
If you tend to be more goal-oriented with your fitness, skim our event calendar for upcoming races like the Pole, Peddle, Paddle in May, the Dirty Half Marathon in June, the Deschutes Dash in July, or the Haulin’ Aspen in August. Then start your training program now so you’re ready to compete on race day.
If you’ve resolved to spend more time with family…
When it comes to family fun, no one does it better than Bend. Grab a bottle of bubbles at the Dollar Tree before you head out for a family-friendly hike up Pilot Butte. When you reach the top, blow bubbles for the kids to chase.
If snow-play is your scene, Mt.Bachelor offers the ultimate family-friendly package with their kids ski free offer that allows kids 12 and under to ski free with the purchase of an adult lift ticket. You can also opt for an afternoon at the SnowBlast Tubing Park or a truly special experience with a family sled dog rides with Oregon Trail of Dreams.
For a guided outing you’ll all remember, try a cave tour or a snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours.
Feeling more indoorsy? Enjoy an evening of arcade games and bowling at Sun Mountain Fun Center. For the consummate Central Oregon experience, check out the High Desert Museum where you’ll enjoy artful exhibits, history, culture, and cool local critters like the bobcat, lynx, badger, and porcupine.
Do the kids still have energy to burn? Bend has nearly 70 public parks scattered all over town where you can run, cavort, slide, swing, and frolic ‘til everyone’s tuckered.
If you’ve resolved to have a better work/life balance…
In 2012, Entrepreneur magazine touted Bend as “the most entrepreneurial city in America.” If you’re tired of the rat race in your current city of residence, now might be the time to consider a move to Bend. As any HR director will tell you, employees are more productive when they’re happy, healthy, and inspired by the natural beauty around them.
If you’re thinking of relocating a business to Bend, the city has plenty of competitive advantages, including an affordable cost of living and business-friendly infrastructure. Bend also offers fast access to major business markets, with direct flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and Salt Lake City.
Go here to request a business relocation packet and to learn more about moving your business to Bend.
If you’ve resolved to be smarter with money…
OK, I can’t claim you’ll actually save money with a Bend vacation if you’re choosing between that and staying home on your sofa. But if you’re scheduling a vacation anyway and considering options like Vail or Tahoe, Bend wins hands-down on the affordability scale.
Whether you’re analyzing prices on Bend hotels and vacation rentals or checking out the price of activities, you’ll find Bend to be one of the least expensive mountain destinations in the region. Just ask TripAdvisor (the world’s largest travel site) which recently analyzed the most popular ski destinations in the U.S. based on common ski trip expenses like hotel stay, lift ticket, rental equipment pricing, food, and beer. Bend was named the #2 value in all of the U.S. and Canada. Not too shabby!
For even more tips on saving money in Bend, keep your eyes on the Bend Buzz Blog. Posts like Cheapskates, Rejoice! Bend has great lunch options for $6 or less as well as Your guide to finding Bend’s best cheap eats for $3.50, $2.50, $1.50, or (*gasp*) FREE! can help you stretch your vacation dollars to the max.
If you’ve resolved to eat better…
No matter what your culinary resolutions entail, you’ll find a great support system in Bend. Going gluten-free? Bend is teeming with restaurants catering to your culinary needs, and you’ll find a roundup of them here. You can also check here for oodles of great ideas on finding vegetarian chow in Downtown Bend.
You’ll find a bounty of nutritious offerings at Sara’s Raw & Vegan Café, which features handcrafted smoothies, daily lunch specials, yummy vegan snacks, raw desserts, and more. If you’ve pledged to focus on locally-sourced foods, check out the selections at Chow or Jackson’s Corner, where they make it their mission to incorporate as much local food as possible into their meals.
You know that saying about giving a man a fish so he can eat for a day or teaching him to fish so he eats for a lifetime? If you want to learn to eat for a lifetime (and eat really, really well while you’re at it) check out the schedule of cooking classes offered by Well Traveled Fork. They’re designed to teach you everything from seasoning techniques to cooking with aphrodisiacs, and you’re guaranteed to have a good time while you’re at it.
If you’ve resolved to master a new skill…
There are plenty of things you can learn in Bend, depending on what interests you. Hook up with a local fly fishing outfitter to learn casting techniques or the best place to find big, fat trout.
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at writing, Nature of Words often hosts creative workshops for adults and kids. You’ll also find an array of community learning classes offered through Central Oregon Community College. Choose from professional development classes like foreign language or computer skills, or opt for continuing ed courses ranging from yoga to art to gardening.
Want to try your hand at photography? Cascade Center of Photography offers a variety of workshops to nurture your inner shutterbug.
Believe it or not, winter is a great time to learn to kayak. Rather than dunking you in a frigid river, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe makes it simple for you to learn basic techniques in their shop and a swimming pool before you head out on the open water. Go here to learn about classes offered now, including their three-hour brace and roll class offered most weekends throughout the winter.
I already mentioned the Well Traveled Fork in the last section, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest their cooking classes here as well for those looking to pick up some new techniques or start from scratch as a newbie cook.
So what’s your New Year’s resolution this year? And more importantly, when will we see you in Bend so you can start fulfilling it?
I just realized it’s been nearly three years since I wrote this post about how to plan the ultimate dog date in Bend
Since then, Bend’s canine-friendly reputation has grown faster than an Italian Mastiff pup on steroids. Dog Fancy magazine named Bend the dog-friendliest city in the nation last summer, and Dawg Grog (a non-alcoholic beer for dogs invented by Boneyard Beer employee Daniel Keaton) became a national sensation with everyone from CNN to Conan O’Brien buzzing about it.
With new dog-centric businesses and events popping up all over town, it seems like a good time to revisit the notion of how to plan the best dog date EVAH for you and your pooch.
My dog date starts early with my canine companion, Bindi, a four-year-old Australian Kelpie. We kick things off with a sunrise walk along the canal in northeast Bend en route to the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area at Pine Nursery Park. It’s an 18 acre fenced dog park with oodles of trails to explore and plenty of wide open spaces for fetching and frolicking.
Now that Bindi’s burned off some energy, it’s time to get to work. Our favorite dog trainer, Bryan Castleberry of Cascadia Canine, swings by the house for a refresher course on house manners. His training has made Bindi one of those dogs everyone stops and watches and asks me, “how do you get your dog to walk so well on a leash?” For visitors to Bend, a quick one-hour Saturday session can be a nice way to give Fido a little help with trouble areas like jumping or leash pulling.
After our session, it’s time for a reward. Bindi and I head to Bend Pet Express for a handful of freshly-baked dog treats. Though their location near Costco is our preferred spot for its proximity to home, they have another location on Bend’s westside that’s convenient for folks en route to the mountains and lakes.
That’s our destination today, as Bindi and I are craving some time exploring the areas of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway. Both Sparks Lake and Elk Lake are great areas for swimming and picnicking, and my step-kids are happy to give Bindi a good workout with the aid of a sturdy stick. Lucky for us, Bin wears a waterproof, stink-proof collar from Bend-based Ruffwear. The Headwater collar is perfect for dogs that frequent the water, and the coated webbing is flexible, non-absorbent, and boasts a cute reflective pattern that’s handy on nighttime walks.
The collar may not be stinky, but Bindi kinda is. Off we go to Woof Neighborhood Dog Wash, which opened earlier this month on Newport Avenue. This u-wash dog station provides everything we need to get Bindi sudsed up and clean in their super-cute old fashioned clawfoot tubs. The $15 flat fee is worth every penny to avoid covering our own bathroom in hair and mud.
With Bindi clean and blow-dried, we make a quick stop at Healthy Paws on Newport Avenue to grab a few treats made by Polka-Doodle Dog Bakery. We also stop to browse the shop’s cool collection of doggy-themed art.
Souvenirs in hand, we head to one of our favorite dog-friendly breweries. Crux Fermentation Project has an amazing outdoor dining area with a big field for frolicking and plenty of water dishes on hand for four-legged companions. While Bindi snoozes under the table, we order a sampler tray of Crux beers and their to-die-for Grilled Cheesy sandwich—an 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.
Of course, Bend has plenty of other dog-friendly dining spots to sample, so check out our listings of Bend restaurants. As you scroll through the grids for different restaurants and types of cuisine, you’ll see notations beneath many of the restaurant names indicating dogs are allowed on the patio. Pretty handy!
After dinner, we get to head home for some doggie snuggle time on the sofa. For those who aren’t Bend residents, there are tons of pet-friendly Bend hotels happy to roll out the red carpet for your four-legged friend. The Riverhouse offers dog treat bags, easy access to river trails, and no extra charge for pets, while The Oxford Hotel greets your pooch with a personal pet bed proportional to his size, two travel bowls—one is your gift to keep!—a map of dog-friendly trails and parks, and samples of goodies like pet salve and dog treats.
For more resources on traveling to Bend with your pooch, check out the Visit Bend Pet Travel page.
Then give your pooch a scratch behind the ears and tell him, “good dog!”
In 2012, 53% of Bend visitors went hiking.
As far as activities go, that’s second only to dining at 70%, and maybe nose-picking (which, to be fair, we didn’t actually survey people on because ew.)
Suffice it to say, hiking is one of Bend’s most popular activities. Visit Bend’s hiking page is consistently in our top ten for page views, which is a pretty good indication you guys are searching for tips and ideas.
Want more? Even if you’re already well-versed on local hiking hotspots, Cascade Hiking Adventures has something for hikers of all interests and experience levels. Created in 2013 by Bend resident Matt Landry, Cascade Hiking Adventures is a treasure trove of great Central Oregon hiking info. What’s so great about it?
It’s easy to browse
There are tons of ways to find the perfect hike when you use this site. Scroll through all the pages, reading details and checking out photos to find something that piques your interest. You can also reference their A-Z trail list to choose by the name of the hike or scroll for a specific area. Another option is to use their handy-dandy trail map to get an idea which Central Oregon landscape you might like to explore. You can even search by specific interests like family hikes or dog-friendly hikes or even overnight backpacking hikes.
So much good info, your head might explode
When you’re scouting for a good hike, it’s nice to have info like location, mileage, and difficulty. Cascade Hiking Adventures goes way beyond that, offering useful details like difficulty rating, best time of year to visit, suggested wilderness experience, required permits, and even the location of the closest restrooms. You can click through to download a free topo trail map, or pony up $3 to purchase GPS files for each hike. Best of all, the listing for each hike offers a photo album packed with great pictures of what you can hope to see.
Free is a very good price
I should have mentioned this sooner, huh? One of the best things about Cascade Hiking Adventures is that it doesn’t cost you anything to use it. You’ll pay a small fee if you want to download GPS files for a specific hike, but other than that, you’re not paying a dime for some of the best hiking info you could ask for.
Great hikes for all skill levels
The reason hiking is one of the most popular in Bend is that it’s fun for everyone from couch potatoes to expert climbers. The trick is to pick hikes that work for your skill level, and Cascade Hiking Adventures makes that super-simple. Hardcore hikers will appreciate learning the nitty-gritty details of hikes like South Sister and Lucky Lake Loop, while more mellow recreationists will enjoy learning about easier in-town hikes like Deschutes River Trail or Shevlin Park Loop Trail. The website makes it easy to find what you’re looking for in terms of length, difficulty, or suggested experience level.
My personal testimonial
I’ve lived in Bend almost 16 years, but I’ve been hiking in the area much longer than that as a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up exploring Central Oregon. I’ve test-driven several of the hikes listed at Cascade Hiking Adventures, so I know firsthand how fab the info is.
I hiked Black Butte for the first time last summer, without the benefit of info from Cascade Hiking Adventures. While the hike went great, there’s oodles of info on the website that would have made things much smoother. Cascade Hiking Adventures offers great tips on how much water to bring (a lot!) and sections of the trail where there’s no shade (which means you probably shouldn’t hit that spot during the hottest part of the day). It also offers blow-by-blow details on what you can expect to see at different parts of the hike.
Since Cascade Hiking Adventures lists a number of cool hikes I’ve never tried, I set out a couple weeks ago to sample one of them. The Cone and Iron Mountain hike is a moderate 6.6 mile loop boasting oodles of wildflowers and great mountain views. While wildflowers were a little scarce in the heat of August, this was still an incredible hike in an area of Central Oregon I hadn’t explored before. (Sidenote: because I’m a moron who doesn’t follow directions I have an acute sense of adventure, we ended up climbing Cone Mountain instead of Iron Mountain, which I do not recommend, since Iron Mountain has much clearer trails and a super cool viewing platform at the top). Overall, the directions were excellent, and I loved scoping out new hiking trails with a handy guide to point the way.
One tip: In addition to reading directions on the website before you set out, it’s a good idea to take a printout of the downloadable trail map for your chosen hike. Many of the most recent postes even have downloadable trail guides, offering a PDF version of the hike description. Plenty of wilderness areas won’t offer you a cell signal, so a printed version can come in handy. Downloading the GPS directions for your chosen hike would also be a smart idea for just $3.
It’s also worth noting that new hikes are added constantly, and there’s a form on the right side of the webpage where you can sign up to get an email each time a new one goes up.
Overall, Cascade Hiking Adventures offers one of the best resources I’ve found for planning a hike in or around Bend. Take a gander, and then come back to share details on YOUR favorite Central Oregon hike!
Raise your hand if you’re hot and sweaty in Bend.
On second thought, ew.
Bend’s been a bit on the warm side in recent days, which is nothing to complain about. Those of us addicted to Bend sunshine live for gorgeous summer days like this.
But every now and then you just want to cool off a little. If that’s the case, here are four ways to drop your body temp on hot days in Bend.
Get cool and slippery
Nothing cools you off as quickly as a plunge into a refreshing pool, chilly river, or crystal clear lake. My favorite summer pastime is a float down the Deschutes river on an air mattress. If you don’t have one, you can rent a deluxe float tube from Sun Country Tours or Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Then go here for all the details on where to put in and how to float safely. Those who prefer the confines of a swimming pool will appreciate the local Parks & Rec pool at Juniper Swim and Fitness – particularly the price tag of only $6 for out-of-district residents. For an extra big treat for the young’uns, drive 20 miles to Sunriver to enjoy the new SHARC aquatic center. It’s a bit of a splurge at $25 for adults and $20 for kids 4-17, but worth it for the huge indoor/outdoor recreation pools, hot tub, water slides, lazy river, tubing hill, and more than 2.5 acres of grass for lazing in the sun. You can splash, slide and sunbathe to your heart’s content!
Get up and away
There’s nothing like gaining a few feet in altitude to earn you a few degrees of cooler temps. On hot summer days, I love following Century Drive toward Mt. Bachelor until I hit the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. All along the road, you’ll see endless gems of lakes perfect for paddling, hiking, floating, swimming, or anything else you might like. The ones set a bit off the highway (like little-bitty Blow Lake, for instance) are perfect for solitude and a short hike with a picnic. For scenery and ease-of-access, Devil’s Lake is a nice choice. For beach access and amenities like paddleboard or boat rental, try Cultus Lake Resort or Elk Lake Resort. The fun is finding your own favorite lake among the dozens available. This Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Map is an excellent resource to get you started. Once you’ve found your spot, just kick back, relax, breathe the fresh mountain air, and feel your temperature dropping. As an alternative in the opposite direction, head 26 miles southeast of Bend toward the Pine Mountain Observatory. Operated by the University of Oregon physics department, it offers an amazing array of telescopes, terrific stargazing, and an altitude of 6,500 feet to guarantee you a bit of chilly relief in the evening.
While we know you visit Bend for the outdoor adventure, we realize you sometimes need a break from the great outdoors. When that happens, an afternoon of shopping is the perfect way to bask in some air conditioning while picking up souvenirs to take home. Bend’s Old Mill District offers a terrific array of familiar national shops like Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, and Bath & Body as well as locally-owned favorites like Nashelle jewelry and Vanilla Urban Threads. You’ll also find oodles of great restaurants where you can stop for a cool drink and great views of the river, or catch a movie at bend’s largest cineplex for a couple soothing hours of air conditioned entertainment. Then head for historic Downtown Bend to browse cool boutiques, unique art galleries, and an eclectic array of restaurants offering everything from Asian fusion to burgers. There’s plenty of cool AC to spare, and you can meander through Drake Park to dip your toes in the Deschutes River for an extra chilly thrill.
There’s something about a cool drink that always seems to drop my body temperature a few glorious degrees. Since Bend is home to the popular Bend Ale Trail, you’ll find plenty of tasty craft beer guaranteed to quench your thirst and please your palate. My personal favorites for summer are Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewery, and the new Swill from 10 Barrel. Both are citrusy and delicious and perfect for a hot day. If beer isn’t your thing, you’ll find tons of great spots around town for cool cocktails. Astro Lounge in Downtown Bend has oodles of creative creations and a great happy hour from 4-7. Their cucumber lavender mojito is a divine way to beat the heat. If you’re in the Old Mill District, both Anthony’s and Greg’s Grill have great wine lists and views of the river. Order a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and a cool salad, and you’ll feel refreshed and relaxed in no time. For a non-alcoholic option, Newport Market sells an amazing hand-squeezed lemonade that’s delicious on a hot summer day.
Whether you’re a jock, a couch potato, or something in between, here are 3 ways to tackle 3 popular Bend adventures
At the risk of messing up my hair, allow me to put on my marketing hat for a sec.
At Visit Bend, we do a lot of aspirational marketing. We like the idea of a guy channel surfing on his couch one rainy Portland afternoon and stopping to watch our commercial featuring fun-loving folks diving in sunny mountain lakes and shredding mountain bike trails. We want him to think, “I could totally do that!”
This 30-second clip is a good example of what I’m talking about:
Admittedly, we don’t expect everyone who vacations in Bend to plunge over a waterfall in a kayak. We’d prefer it if you didn’t. Guts are tough to clean out of rivers.
But we do hope most of our visitors will enjoy some form of Bend recreation. Here are three variations on three popular outdoor activities in Bend.
Hiking & Climbing: Not for the faint of heart. Or is it?
You see those videos of skilled Smith Rock climbers deftly maneuvering across stemming corners and slabs as they smear, jam, lie-back, and do a bit of nubbin-pulling.
I don’t know what any of that means.
If you do, awesome! Smith Rock is a great place to test your climbing skills. For those with visions of hardcore techno face climbs dancing in their heads, Smith Rock Climbing Guides can help you get your bad self roped up and scaling gnarly rocks.
That’s one way to get your altitude fix in Bend.
But if you’re looking to climb something a bit more mellow, why not tackle Pilot Butte? This 500-foot extinct volcano juts up in the middle of town, and offers incredible 360-degree views of Bend from the top. You can make this walk as hard or as easy as you like. I hiked it several weeks ago with a pal who wanted to run to the top. A good workout, to be sure, though I thought I might die halfway up. More often than not, I opt for a casual stroll to the top with my gentleman friend and his two young offspring (whose favorite Pilot Butte experience involves lugging a bottle of soapy water to the top so their father can blow bubbles for them to chase in the wind). There’s even car access to the summit between April and November for those not up to the hike.
Prefer your hiking on flatter surfaces with someone else leading the way? Check out the list of free guided hikes from Deschutes Land Trust. I joined them several weeks ago for one of their history walks at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve and loved exploring local historic sites including Camp Polk Cemetery. The terrain was mostly flat, the guides’ stories were interesting, and the hike included frequent stops and a slower pace to accommodate an older demographic.
Out on the water: From class 6 rapids to lazy paddling
There aren’t many kayakers with the skill to tackle the class 6 rapids at Benham Falls. If you’re one of them, I tip my hat to you (and kinda want to watch sometime). If you lack the expertise but want to earn it, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe offers some amazing classes including their Full Immersion Whitewater Weekend. They can also hook you up with all the gear you never knew you needed.
Prefer a more family-friendly whitewater adventure? You’ll still get the adrenaline rush on the Big Eddy Thriller whitewater raft trip with Sun Country Tours, but it’s great for newbies and even young kids (who can choose not to paddle if they prefer). You’ll encounter lovely sections of flat water as well as class 3 rapids on this three-mile journey along the Deschutes. Be prepared to get wet, either from the rapids or the inevitable splash fights that break out.
Envisioning something a bit more mellow? Try a moonlight canoe trip with the good folks at Wanderlust Tours. Desert, drinks, and a chance to savor the moonlight shimmering on one of the high lakes – what more could you want? Perhaps a daytime outing if you’d rather see the sights in the sunshine. Tumalo Creek offers an awesome half-day kayak trip on the upper Deschutes. Check out cool lava formations and watch for birds in hidden little sloughs. Or accidentally tip your kayak and go for a little swim like I did last summer (which, for the record, was sorta fun).
BikeTown USA: There’s more than one way to peddle
If you haven’t already seen the recent viral video of this girl shredding rollers, tabletop jumps, and banked turns on Whoops Trail, check it out.
That was filmed on part of the Phil’s Trail Network, which is one of Bend’s most famous areas for mountain biking. You’ll find endless miles of singletrack to explore, as well as technical sections like C.O.D. and lower Grand Slam. Go here to find an excellent map of the area before you set out on your own for a day of serious mountain biking.
Craving a bit of hand-holding from a guide, combined with the ease of not dragging all your biking gear with you on the roof rack? Hook up with Cog Wild for one of their day tours. Grab the young’uns and head out for the popular Family Mountain Bike Tour aimed at beginners, or try the Bachelor to Bend full-day trip where you’ll enjoy miles f flowy trail, rocks, roots, creek crossings, and a tasty lunch with views of Mt. Bachelor.
Need something even mellower? Hey, I’ve been there. Check out Let it Ride for one of their fun electric bike tours. You can choose to pedal if you like, or just let the bike’s little motor do all the work as you enjoy the scenery along the river between Bend’s Old Mill District and historic Downtown. Choose from the fascinating Bend History Tour, or check out the Brewdie Tour for a look at Bend’s brewery scene.
So there you have it – three ways to tackle three popular forms of recreation in Bend’s great outdoors. Which one is your speed?