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Everything you need to know for a September vacation in Bend, Oregon (plus win $100 to dine in the Old Mill District!)
I can find something magical about every month in Bend, Oregon, but if you ask my favorite of the twelve, I won’t hesitate to tell you it’s September.
Summer is still going strong for the first 2/3 of the month, but crowds have thinned out. Our days are still warm enough for floating the river, but our nights are cool enough to make sleeping with the windows open feel blissfully like camping. There are still enough people milling about to create the energetic feel of summer, but you won’t have to fight for a table at your favorite restaurant.
Sounds nice, huh? Here’s what you need to know about visiting Bend, Oregon in September (plus keep reading to win $100 to spend on a fabulous dinner in the Old Mill District!)
What to bring
I’m pretty sure you can manage to round up your own toothpaste and underpants, so don’t use this as an all-inclusive packing list.
But when you plan a September vacation in Bend, here are a few things you should bring:
- Sunscreen. Yep, you still need it (though you can buy it in plenty of places around town if you forget). The sun is still strong, and there’s a good chance you’ll be playing outside, so slather it on and stay safe.
- A bathing suit, a jacket, and a pair of lightweight gloves. I’m lumping these three things together not because you’ll be wearing them all at once (though I’d pay to see a photo of that!) but because it’s important to plan for extreme ends of the weather spectrum when you visit Bend in September. I walked my dog at 6:30 this morning and wished I’d worn a thin pair of gloves to keep my fingers from freezing. By 2 p.m., I was sweltering in 90-degree heat. Here in the mountainous high desert, you have to be ready for anything on the cusp of a season change.
- Golf clubs, kayak, standup paddleboard, bike… You get the idea. This is still the time of year when you want your warm weather toys, so whatever they may be, make sure you toss them in the car.
- A cardigan and a sundress. Er, the male readers may want to skip this one (or not—hey, I’m not here to judge). September is still a terrific time of year to dine outdoors in your strappy little sandals and cute sundress. But if you’re opting for an evening meal outside (like that one you could win in the Old Mill District if you keep reading!) make sure you stash a sweater in your bag. You’ll thank me later.
- Hiking sandals. I know a lot of folks prefer to hoof it in hiking boots year-round, but I’m not one of those people. I live for months where I can comfortably hike in a pair of Keens or Tevas, and September still counts as one of those months. I love the feeling of splashing through a creek and not getting my socks all soggy, and if you’re the same, go ahead and pack the sandals.
For an even better roundup of 10 things you may not know you need to pack for your Bend vacation, check out this blog post.
What to do
You can peruse www.visitbend.com to find oodles of ideas for activities ranging from arts and culture to restaurants to water recreation to hiking. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s focus on the things you should definitely add to your September agenda:
Watch a sunset. September is arguably the best time of year to catch dramatic, colorful sunsets in Bend. For ideas on where to get the best view, go here.
- Stroll through Drake Park. The leaves in Bend don’t typically change colors until mid-October, but I’ve heard a few weather geeks predicting it could happen earlier this year. Even if all the leaves are still green and in their proper place on the trees, there are few places on earth more spellbinding than this 13-acre riverfront park in downtown Bend. Walk along the water with a bowl of Bonta Gelato. Hit the Bend Farmers Market on Wednesday for a cornucopia of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, jams, and more.
- Cruise up Pilot Butte. I’m a staunch advocate for traveling on foot to reach the summit of the 500-foot dormant volcano in the middle of Bend, but I know that’s not an option for everyone. Maybe you’re pressed for time, or maybe mobility is limited. Whatever your reason for preferring to drive to the top, September’s a good month to do it. The road closes to motorized vehicles in October, and icy conditions in late-fall or early-winter can make it trickier to hike. One way or another, put Pilot Butte on your bucket list for killer views of the city.
- Catch a concert. The most amazing concert season in Les Schwab Amphitheater history is coming to a close with two remaining shows: Weird Al Yankovic on Friday, Sept. 4, and Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on Sunday, Sept. 6. You can still buy tickets here. While you’re at it, take advantage of the chance to dine outside on the riverfront in Old Mill District. You’ll find a roundup of those restaurants here. (Pssst….for a chance to win a $100 to dine in any Old Mill restaurant, follow the directions at the bottom of this post!)
Where to go
Some of Bend’s most popular hotspots are teeming with people in the summer months, so September is your prime opportunity to visit them when the weather’s still great but the crowds have thinned out. Among them:
- Your favorite Bend Ale Trail stop. We have oodles of amazing breweries along the Bend Ale Trail, but there are several where you’ll almost always encounter crowds. That’s especially true in the summer months, but things thin out just a tad when summer ends, making it a little easier for you to nab a seat at Crux Fermentation Project, Worthy Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, and 10 Barrel Brewing. Now’s your chance to claim that outdoor table you’ve been coveting!
- The High Cascade Lakes. Bend locals occasionally fuss if they arrive at popular summer spots like Elk Lake or Green Lake and find hiking trails and picnic areas teeming with people. Thankfully, that tapers off in September, so if you’re hoping for a bit of solitude at a mountain lake without the threat of snow falling, September’s your time to find it.
- Smith Rock State Park. Another Central Oregon hotspot popular with hikers, climbers, sightseers, and birdwatchers, Smith Rock can get a little busy in the summer months. That’s why September makes an extra special time to swing by, with the bonus of offering slightly cooler temps that make it more inviting to wander amid the towering basalt rocks.
- All the hiking trails. Rather than listing them one by one, I’ll just say that all the great hiking trails in Bend and Central Oregon see a slowdown of traffic once September comes, so now’s a great time to cross one off your bucket list. Need ideas? In addition to Visit Bend’s hiking page, the folks at Cascade Hiking Adventures have some terrific suggestions.
Where to stay
One more thing that’s awesome about September? It gets a whole lot easier to get reservations at your favorite hotel, resort, or vacation rental. Go here to start looking!
WIN $100 to dine in the Old Mill District
Want to enjoy a delicious, romantic meal at your choice of restaurant in the Old Mill District? Winning a $100 gift card would be a great way to do that, and you can take your pick of restaurants. Just think….it would be a fabulous date night if you also bought tickets to see Weird Al Yankovic on Sept. 4 or Ben Harper on Sept. 6 at the Les Schwab Amphitheater (you can still buy tickets here).
Comment on this post with one thing from this blog post that you really, really want to do in Bend this September. Better yet, come up with your own! We’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, September 2. Good luck!
Bend’s reputation as a beer and outdoor adventure mecca occasionally overshadows some of the more subtle attractions that leave visitors feeling giddy as a puppy gulping Dawg Grog.
But after watching Bend’s art scene explode over the last couple years, I’m thrilled to see how many folks have realized they can come for the kayaking and stick around for the concerts, art galleries, film festivals, and more.
With that in mind, here are 8 ways to get your art fix in Bend, Oregon in the coming months.
Shakespeare in the Park (Aug. 21-23, 2015)
Listen up, Bard fans—you only have a few more chances to catch this season’s production of Comedy of Errors in some of the most beautiful settings imaginable. August 21 and 22 will feature two performances in Drake Park, with ticket prices ranging from $22-$75. There will also be an Aug. 23 performance at the SHARC location in Sunriver.
Doors open at 6 p.m. for all shows and performances start promptly at 7 p.m., so nab your tickets here.
Art in the High Desert (Aug. 28-30, 2015)
The Art Fair Sourcebook (basically the bible of juried art shows) ranked Art in the High Desert as the #12 show in the whole country. Pretty impressive, though not surprising if you’ve ever had the chance to catch this popular event on the banks of the Deschutes River at the end of each August.
The 2015 show spans August 28-30 and will feature more than 110 nationally-acclaimed artists from across North America showing and selling their work. You’ll see treasures including paintings, ceramics, fiber art, photography, sculpture, jewelry, furniture, glass, mixed media, print-making, drawings, metalworks, and more.
And hey, even if you hate art, consider it an excuse to stroll on of the most spellbinding stretches of river in Bend. Go here to scope out schedule information, artist profiles, and more.
Edward Curtis exhibit (Sept. 1-Oct. 31, 2015)
If the name Edward Curtis doesn’t ring a bell, try googling. Recognize the photos? Odds are pretty good you’ve seen his famous portrait of Chief Joseph, which says something about this legendary photographer’s work.
A Seattle artist known for capturing iconic images of native tribes across the American West in the late 1800s, Edward Curtis is the focus of a massive art exhibit kicking off through Bend’s A6 gallery September1.
But the event isn’t just limited to gallery shows at A6. You’ll find oodles of tie-in exhibits at the High Desert Museum, the Tower Theater, BendFilm, and the Deschutes Public Library. You can catch the opening night at First Friday Art Walk September 4 and find a full schedule of events here.
Art collectors will be especially thrilled by the chance to purchase one of 106 original Edward Curtis prints at the Private Collector Event September 1. To attend, you must register here by August 25.
A6 has lined up some great hotel specials and presentations by Edward Curtis experts, so be sure to check their website for details.
High Desert Chamber Music (Sept. 2015-May 2016)
Fans of string quintets, piano quartets, and other popular forms of chamber music should take a gander at the newly-announced lineup from High Desert Chamber Music for the 2015-2016 season.
Upcoming shows will include Catgut Trio (Sept. 25, 2015), Heiichiro Ohyama & SBCO Chamber Players (Feb. 14, 2016), Gold Coast Concert Artists (March 18, 2016), and the Crown City String Quartet & Friends (May 20, 2016).
The Spotlight Series, which raises funds to benefit educational outreach programs, includes two recitals at the First United Methodist Church featuring Frank Almond (Nov. 20, 2015), and the Orloff/Walz Duo (April 23, 2016).
For show times and ticket info, go here.
BendFilm Festival (Oct. 8-11, 2015)
This is one of my favorite annual events, and there’s always something enchanting about ushering in the fall season with a magical weekend of indie films and fun parties. The 2015 schedule hasn’t been posted yet, but since it’s pretty much a given it will be fabulous, you should book your lodging now, as things tend to fill up.
Then keep an eye on the BendFilm website so you can watch film trailers and nab your festival passes early.
Jazz at the Oxford Oct. 2015-March 2016
The 2015-2016 lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but this uber-popular music series at Bend’s Oxford Hotel pretty much always sells out. The word around the campfire is that series passes will go up for sale to the public in mid-September, so Jazz fans would be wise to keep an eye on the website.
Series pass holders from previous season will get first dibs on pre-sale tickets at the end of August, so watch your email for news.
Bend A Capella Festival (Feb 19-21 2016)
This is a first-time event, but it’s already off and running in grand style with The House Jacks (featured in Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off) set to headline this killer weekend of a cappella music.
A cappella groups of all ages and sizes from across the Northwest will be on hand for a weekend of pop-up performances, workshops, master classes, and sing-offs. Tickets go on sale to the public October 1, so watch the Bend A Cappella website for more details.
Art in Public Places (anytime you like!)
Bend offers a cornucopia of public art you can enjoy 7 days a week, 365 days a year, thanks to the good folks at Art in Public Places. That’s a non-profit group dedicated to providing public art for everyone in Bend to enjoy (an endeavor that resulted in Americans for the Arts honoring Bend’s public sculptures as one of the most innovative approaches to public art in the country).
Interested in scoping out the sculptures that adorn the traffic circles throughout Bend? Check out the Roundabout Art Route, and earn prizes for making the rounds and answering trivia questions about the art you see. For a memorable, guided introduction to Bend’s public art scene, book the Art Safari outing with The Bend Tour Company.
To get your art fix on foot, meander around Downtown Bend enjoying the paintings that make up the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. Wander ‘til you find your favorite, a process made easier with a big dish of f Bontá Gelato in hand (er, so I’m told).
My unwise decision to get the flu the day before last year’s Bend Brewfest put an unfortunate halt to my plans to attend this beertastic event every year since its inception.
But I’m making up for it in 2015, starting with the Bend Brewfest kickoff at noon on Thursday, August 13, at the Les Schwab Amphitheater and ending with one last delicious sip as things shut down at 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 16.
Since I’ve been around the Brewfest block a time or two, I have a few tips that can help make your experience the best it can possibly be. Here are 10 things you need to know about Bend Brewfest 2015.
Hang on to that mug!
If you’re planning to sample beer at Bend Brewfest, you’ll need to purchase a souvenir tasting mug for $15. Your mug is good for all four days of the event, so guard that bad boy with your life.
Also, don’t try sneaking in last year’s mug. They’ll catch you and they won’t be amused.
Your tasting mug comes with five tokens, which can be swapped for four ounces of beer each. A full 12-ounce pour requires four tokens, but I don’t advise that. The whole point of this event is to try lots of different beers, so don’t fill up on one.
Need more tokens? They’re $1 apiece, sold in packs of five, and if you find yourself with a few extras at the end, don’t fret! They’re good from one year to the next, and I promise you’ll smile when you find one in your sweatshirt pocket in December. They did change from the old wooden nickels to new bright yellow plastic ones this year, but you can still swap those out at the token tent.
Make a plan and stick with it.
At the entry gate or in recent issues of The Bend Bulletin, you’ll find a handy, printed Bend Brewfest guide. This is your Bible, and you need to sit down with a few sober moments and a couple trusty highlighters to really study it.
With more than 70 breweries, cideries, meaderies, and even a winery, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to taste everything. Brightly mark your top choices, including the dates and times of anything on X-Tap that really tickles your fancy. Then consult the map in your guide so you know exactly where to find them.
With your top picks clearly marked, flag a few b-team brews you also want to try. If you can, save those ones for after your first snack break (more on that later) or for another day.
Also, keep in mind that while Brewfest staff work tirelessly to get the guide right, last-minute substitutions from breweries do sometimes happen. Just go with the flow and know there will be no shortage of tasty beer to try.
The weather is likely to be warm for most of the 2015 Bend Brewfest, but temps can cool rapidly at night. Wear short sleeves and shorts/skirt, but bring a sweatshirt for evening. Stick with sandals or sneakers, ladies—this is not the event to trot out those five-inch stilettos. You’ll be on your feet for hours walking on grass that’s damp with spilled beer, so choose your footwear wisely.
Don’t forget to wear something with pockets or carry a small, casual purse to hold those beer tokens. I have a special cross-body bag I got at Clutch Handbag Boutique that’s the perfect size to hold my Hydro Flask, cash, ID, beer tokens, phone, glasses, lip balm, and a light sweatshirt. If you don’t have something similar, visit Clutch in Downtown Bend to find your own. A purse makes an awesome Bend souvenir, plus it’s handy for future events!
Though you can use a card for admission and at the merchandise tent, most food vendors require cash. There’s an ATM on-site, but you’ll pay hefty fees. Better to hit your own bank’s ATM before heading to the venue.
Watch the clock.
Taps shut down at 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday and they DO NOT MESS AROUND with this. Cutoff times are a legal issue, and it doesn’t matter if you’re next in line for that fab beer you’ve been thinking about all night. Do yourself a favor and set an alarm on your phone so you’ve got plenty of time to grab that last brew before your time’s up.
Enjoy your extra day this year.
Traditionally, Bend Brewfest is a three-day affair spanning Thursday through Sunday. But because the beer gods love us very, very much, they added an extra day this year.
Since readmission is permitted on any of the days, this means you can slow down and pace yourself a bit. Decide beforehand to focus on specific breweries or styles on certain days so you don’t confuse your palate by leaping back and forth between Porters and sours and IPAs and ciders.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
If you arrive at the venue and start guzzling beer with an empty belly, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be flat on your back within an hour.
Luckily, there are tons of great food vendors at Bend Brewfest, so finding good grub to soak up the suds isn’t a problem. Split some pizza with a pal, or grab a falafel or a tamale. The idea is to line your belly with some nice, dense carbs to absorb alcohol and keep you upright.
But don’t gorge yourself completely, since you want to save room for beer. Once you’ve sipped a few, head back to the food trailers and grab a snack. The best food vendors in the area all show up for this, and there will be plenty of tasty offerings to keep you fueled for your next round of drinking.
Moderation, guys—pace yourselves.
Arrange a sober ride.
Pop quiz: If you were a cop who wanted to keep Bend’s neighborhoods safe from drunk drivers, where would you hang out the weekend of Bend Brewfest?
Beyond the risk of arrest, you really don’t want to kill your vacation buzz by killing yourself or someone else. Seriously, guys—don’t screw around with this. Bookmark this page and have it handy for when it’s time to call a cab. You can also walk or elect a sober pal to do the driving. Just don’t drink and drive, OK? Pinky swear?
Water’s good for more than paddling.
I know it’s hard to fathom drinking anything besides beer or cider at the Brewfest, but you’ll be hating life in the morning if you don’t remember to drink plenty of water throughout the evening.
You’ll find plenty of water stations throughout the venue. Once you’ve downed a brew sample or two, locate one of these stations, fill your tasting mug with water, and chug that thing down. Repeat after every few samples. If you’d prefer to keep your water vessel separate from your beer one, hit the merch tent to buy a souvenir, double-walled bottle from fiftyfifty. Then swill some more water.
Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Leave the dogs at home (and only bring the kids before 7 p.m.)
Can’t find a sitter? Believe it or not, Bend Brewfest is kid-friendly (at least before 7 p.m.) While I personally prefer to leave the young’uns at home and enjoy the event as a grownup, plenty of folks enjoy taking in the scene with their well-behaved offspring in tow. Prior to 7 p.m., there’s a pretty mellow vibe to the whole event, and you’ll see plenty of other parents with kids. Just don’t let them zip around like crazed maniacs knocking beer out of strangers’ hands. That’s bad beer karma.
If you’re a parent to four-legged kids, Fido will need to sit this one out. For the safety of the beasts, dogs are not allowed at the 2015 Bend Brewfest. If you need some ideas for doggie daycare for a night, go here.
One of the coolest things about Bend is the constant, calming presence of the mighty Deschutes River as it meanders through town. You can stroll beside it, swim in it, paddle through it, float on it, and take pictures of it from dozens of spots around Bend.
But what if you want to eat an amazing meal beside it? You can do that, too! Here are 11 cafés and restaurants in Bend that boast views of the beautiful Deschutes River. To make it even easier, they’re listed in the order you’d encounter them if you hopped in your inner tube and floated from one stop to the next all the way through town.
Um, I don’t advise that, by the way.
I know some folks turn up their noses at the idea of chain restaurants, but considering the views offered at Red Robin in Bend, you should make an exception for this one. If you have kids in tow, this is a sure-fire win with tasty burgers, freckled lemonade, and a kids’ menu that’s guaranteed to please everyone.
In the warmer months, nab a table outside and watch the paddlers move past as you gobble your gourmet burger (I recommend the Bleu Ribbon Burger topped with tangy steak sauce, chipotle aioli, bleu cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and crispy onion straws). Another bonus is the prevalence of bottomless everything.
Er, I’m talking fries and drinks. Not the folks on the river. That would just be weird (not to mention uncomfortable to watch while you eat your burger).
Anthony’s Home Port
I’ve blogged countless times about how Anthony’s in the Old Mill District is one of my favorite summertime hangouts and one of the best happy hours in town, which would be true even if they didn’t have killer views of the Deschutes River.
But the river views are the icing on the cake, or the ahi on the nachos, as the case may be. Seriously, their ahi nachos are THE BOMB, made with sashimi-grade ahi tuna, wasabi, and pineapple chutney served on taro chips. Wash them down with one of their seasonal cocktails, then stick around and order dinner.
You can enjoy river views whether you sit inside or out, but I’m partial to the patio seating when the weather’s warm. While seafood is the specialty at Anthony’s, you’ll find a wide array of seafood and non-seafood dishes on the menu. The sunsets here are out-of-this-world, so make your reservations with that in mind.
While Greg’s Grill is just a few hundred feet from Anthony’s and the two spots boast similar river views, the food in each spot is distinctly different. Come to Greg’s if you fancy contemporary Northwest cuisine like rotisserie prime rib, steaks, chicken, and more cooked to perfection over their Applewood and mesquite-fired grill.
The architecture here is as fab as the food, with floor-to-ceiling windows, breathtaking woodwork, and a gorgeous fountain in the lobby.
But the river views are a centerpiece for all of it, and you can catch those from the indoor dining area or the outdoor patio. Happy hour here is outstanding, and the bar menu is available all day as long as you’re seated in the lounge area (which also boasts a couple river-view tables). Order a steak and one of their divine Caesar salads, then pick something special from the wine list to accompany it. Now raise a toast to your spectacular meal and your river view. Cheers!
As you might guess from the name, Pastini Pastaria serves Middle Eastern cuisine.
I kid. In reality Pastini Pastaria is known for flavorful pasta dishes made with fresh, local ingredients in the tradition of neighborhood bistros in Italy. Aside from offering more than 30 classic and contemporary pasta dishes, they also feature salads, antipasti, sandwiches, desserts, and most importantly, gorgeous river views.
Their location in the Old Mill District just downstream from Greg’s Grill gives them primo views of a slightly different section of river, and the two fireplaces on their patio give you a great way stay toasty if the evening turns chilly. But even if you pick a seat indoors, there are several fab tables with river views.
Kick things off with their Caprese salad, or opt for their three-salad sampler and try a variety of options like the kale salad, artichoke chicken salad, or a Caesar. Pair that with a nice glass of Chianti, then gobble up an order of their butternut squash and gorgonzola ravioli in sage brown butter sauce with toasted hazelnuts. Yum!
Craft Kitchen and Brewery
As the Deschutes River moves from the Old Mill District toward historic Downtown Bend, you’ll find Craft Kitchen and Brewery in that perfect little sweet spot between the two near the Colorado Avenue Bridge. A relative newcomer both to Bend and to the Bend Ale Trail, Craft Kitchen brews their own beer and also features suds from other craft breweries.
The food here is quite tasty and served tapas style, which gives you the chance to try a variety of different items. The warm, roasted beet salad is citrusy and delicious and one of the best beet dishes I’ve ever tasted. Specialties like braised greens, shrimp and grits, and Johnny cake give you a chance to try southern-themed dishes you won’t find on every menu in town.
But it’s the river views here that will truly knock your socks off. The restaurant sits high above the surrounding terrain, giving you stunning views back toward the Old Mill District and the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Get here early for a spot on the deck, or show up near sunset to watch the sky turn pink as colorful reflection shimmers on the water.
Crow’s Feet Commons
This cozy little café in Downtown Bend is one of the first river-view eateries you’ll come to after journeying from the Old Mill area to Downtown. Part bike shop, part café, part brew pub, Crow’s Feet Commons has a special vibe that’s uniquely Bend. The fare is limited to a few sandwiches, pastries, coffee, tea, and oodles of great beers and wines, so it’s ideal to come here for a simple breakfast or a post-hike brew. They often host live music in the evenings, so check the website for info.
No matter when you show up or what you eat or drink, you’ll be treated to some of the best river views in town from their primo spot in Mirror Pond Plaza. Sit outside in the courtyard to feel the hustle and bustle of the Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays, or opt for a bit of privacy on their shaded back porch or inside the cozy little dining area.
Get there early enough to nab an Ocean Roll from Sparrow bakery and a fresh-brewed chai tea, or choose from their selection of local craft beers to accompany a tasty sandwich. Bonus: They also rent bikes, host bike-centric events, and sell bikes and bike gear, so this is the perfect spot for cyclists to start the day.
Looney Bean Roasting Company
Just a stone’s throw downriver from Crow’s Feet Commons, you’ll find The Looney Bean. It’s not a big, flashy restaurant with five-course dinners, but that’s kinda the point. This is the perfect, quaint little coffee shop for someone seeking fresh-roasted coffee, tasty tea, a real-fruit smoothie, or a breakfast sandwich.
On busy summer days, you’ll likely encounter a long line out the door, with folks jonesing for their cuppa joe. Be patient and wait it out. The river views are worth a few minutes standing in line getting to know your fellow coffee connoisseurs. If you happen by on a quieter day, this makes a nice spot to set up your laptop and catch up on some busywork at a sunny table facing the river. You can also take your drink outside to enjoy on a bench facing the river with the breeze in your hair. Go ahead and kick off your shoes to feel the grass under your feet. This is what vacation feels like.
Probably one of the most iconic restaurants in Bend, Pine Tavern has been operating since 1936, and is best known for mouthwatering sourdough scones with honey butter, and for the two pine trees (one dead, one living) that emerge from the center of the restaurant through the roof of the building.
While those things are admittedly pretty awesome, so are the river views from Pine Tavern. Reservations are a good idea, particularly if you want dibs on a river-view table or a spot on the patio. They’re open for lunch, happy hour, dinner, and another late-night happy hour.
Come at dinnertime if you want to sample the aforementioned scones. I’m a big fan of their Chicken Marsala, though a friend claims they make the best prime rib he’s ever tasted. Regardless of what you choose for your entrée, save room for dessert, and don’t forget to click a few photos of the views so you can savor them long after your meal is digested.
Bend Brewing Company
Full disclosure: The river views Bend Brewing Company should technically be classified as “peek-a-boo,” since they’re not the full-on flashy displays of Deschutes River glory you’ll get in the other dining hotspots along the river.
But despite the slightly overgrown trees separating this cozy little brew pub from the mighty Deschutes, you can still catch glimpses of sparkling water from the elevated dining area or the sunny back deck. The fact that you can do that while also earning a passport stamp from one of the smallest stops on the Bend Ale Trail is a pretty nifty bonus.
BBC is well-known as one of the locals’ favorite breweries, and their variety of experimental brews is one of the reasons. Ask your bartender for a taster of whatever’s seasonal and unique, then order a pint or perhaps a whole sample tray. The Elk Lake and the Ching Ching are my personal faves, but there’s plenty of good stuff to choose from. The fish and chips at BBC are extra special, or try one of their unique dinner salads.
Then order another beer. Because really, you’re in Bend. And you’re on the Deschutes River. Enough said.
Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar
This prime piece of river-front real estate has changed hands a lot in the 18 years I’ve lived in Bend, so I was thrilled last month to see it’s been beautifully renovated and transformed into a brand new restaurant. Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar boasts a fabulous array of unique cocktails, tasty sushi creations, and traditional Chinese dishes with a gourmet flair.
They also offer views of a section of the Deschutes River most folks don’t spend time studying. It’s right on the edge of the Newport Avenue bridge, and while traffic noise and the presence of a spillway lend it a slightly more industrial feel, I quite like seeing a rougher, less-manicured, section of the river. As daytime fades, the back deck becomes a magical place illuminated by string lights and the glow of the setting sun.
The expansive cocktail menu made it tough to choose just one thing, but The Emperor and the Mr. Chu were particularly outstanding. The Saigon Spring Roll is fresh and delicious, and there’s an awesome array of sushi to sample (try the Sweet Mama roll with tempura shrimp, snow crab, avocado, and cucumber inside, topped with seared salmon, mango, spicy tuna, scallions, and sesame seeds!) Be sure to request a patio seat or a river-view booth when you book your reservation.
Crossings at the Riverhouse
You don’t need to stay at The Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center to dine at their spacious, river-front restaurant, Crossings. The fact that they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour makes them an excellent go-to spot almost any time of day, and the fact that their back deck offers killer river views makes it one of my favorite spots in Bend for river-view dining.
The deck overlooks a rapid section of frothy whitewater, which is different from what you’ll see in the lazier sections of river through the Old Mill and Downtown Bend. There’s a fun energy to it, and the sound of crashing whitewater makes an exhilarating backdrop to outdoor meal.
The menu here is constantly changing, but favorite dishes I’ve tried in recent months include the Island Breeze Salad (mixed greens, fresh papaya, mango, pineapple, avocado, candied walnuts, and mango citrus vinaigrette, though I love to add grilled shrimp for a couple extra bucks). I’d also go so far as to say their Pineapple Mango Fish Tacos are some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever tasted, and the mac and cheese (while small) is a divine blend of textures and flavors including pancetta bacon, parmesan bread gratin, and fontina and gruyere cheese with a hint of brandy.
Pair your meal with a local craft brew from the bar or a crisp glass of white wine, then sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Deschutes River.
The Bend Visitor Center has seen a surprising surge in inquiries about rockhounding in recent months.
Actually, I should take back the word “surprising,” since it’s an activity my step-kids have been nuts about for the last three years. But I’m delighted to see a wider burst of interest in this fun, educational way to see Central Oregon’s great outdoors, and I figured folks could benefit from a few of the things we’ve learned along the way.
First off, rockhounding in the city limits of Bend isn’t really a thing. You’ll need to drive at least an hour to reach any major rockhounding site, but Bend makes an excellent home base to explore many of the top spots.
Though you don’t need any serious equipment to go rockhounding, here are a few things we’ve found helpful in our explorations:
- The Central Oregon Rockhounding Map available for purchase in the Bend Visitor Center or online from the S. Forest Service website. This thing has become our Bible for rockhounding, so don’t leave home without it.
- Sturdy gloves for each family member
- Plenty of water and snacks. Most of the areas you’ll visit are remote parts of the desert without facilities nearby, so plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen and bug spray. The latter won’t be necessary in most places you’ll visit, but it’s handy to have just in case.
- Buckets or backpacks to carry your rocks (unless you’re visiting Richardson’s Rock Ranch, where they provide this for you).
- Small hand tools like chisels and spades are handy, but not mandatory (and again, Richardson’s Rock Ranch gives you loaner chisels for free).
- A snakebite kit. I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian and 18-year Central Oregon resident and I have never once run across a rattlesnake in the high desert. That said, I believe in being prepared, so I usually have one in my backpack.
What can I find?
The aforementioned Central Oregon Rockhounding Map spells it out beautifully, but generally speaking, the primary treasures you’ll be seeking include thundereggs, obsidian, and various forms of jasper. You can also find petrified wood, calcite, and moss agates, depending on where you’re searching.
Be sure to scope out photos in the Central Oregon Rockhounding Map or online so you know what you’re looking for. Thundereggs (one of the primo finds in Central Oregon) actually look quite ugly on the surface, so kids who prefer seeking out sparkly, colorful stones might lose interest quickly on a thunderegg quest.
Where do I go?
Your Central Oregon Rockhounding Map will include tons more ideas, but here are a few of my faves.
Richardson’s Rock Ranch for thundereggs (roughly 1.5 hours from Bend)
My personal favorite rockhounding spot is Richardson’s Rock Ranch. The shop is located 11 miles north of Madras, though you’ll drive another 20 minutes on dirt roads to get to the actual rock pits.
The shop has oodles of rocks to admire and purchase, plus some lovely scenery and glorious peacocks strutting around the grounds. If these three things are all you’re after, you might prefer to stick closer to Bend by visiting Petersen Rock Gardens halfway between Bend and Redmond.
But if you want to actually hunt for your own rocks, Richardson’s is worth the extra drive time. You start off in the shop, where they’ll give you an idiot-friendly tutorial on where to drive, what to look for, and what it will cost you to lug back a bucket of rocks. They also loan you the buckets and chisels, which are handy for folks who don’t travel with those things in the trunk of the car.
(Sidenote: If you actually do travel with a chisel in your car, I might be a little afraid of you).
Smashing rocks at the Richardson’s dig site is strictly forbidden. You’ve gotta wait until you get home or get back to the shop where they’ll cut them for you. In addition to whole thundereggs, you’ll find plenty of crunched up thundereggs, jasper, and sparkly crystals I couldn’t possibly name, but that caught the eye of my 9-year-old stepdaughter.
My 13-year-old stepson had a little more patience for seeking out the ugly-on-the-outside thundereggs that would eventually prove to be much prettier when sliced open in the shop. The fact that they actually cut thundereggs for visitors on-site is a huge bonus in my book, since it gave us a chance to see what our treasures looked like on the inside.
Prices are subject to change, and you can scope those out here, but when we were there July 2015, there was a $1 per pound price with a $10 minimum. A full 5 gallon bucket weighs about 50 pounds, but between myself and the two kids, we only hauled out 17 pounds. We chose 10 or so small thundereggs to have sliced open on-site, and at a rate of 35-cents a square inch, we paid less than $15 for the cutting. All told, for the rocks, the cutting, several stones and trinkets from the gift shop, and the pleasure of exploring their well-maintained rock beds, we paid $48. Totally worth it, in my opinion.
White Fir Springs for thundereggs (roughly 1 hour from Bend)
If freebie rockhounding is more your speed and if you know what you’re looking for, a trip to the Ochoco Wilderness might be in order. We followed the directions in our Central Oregon Rockhounding Map to reach White Fir Springs outside Prineville.
The rocky, uphill dirt road leading there is a little tricky to navigate, but we made it just fine in my little 2013 Honda Fit without four-wheel-drive (though I suspect winter/fall/spring conditions might make it tougher).
Once you’ve reached the site off the rugged Forest Service road, you’ll find several pits where you can dig. We showed up with only small hand trowels for digging, and kinda wished we’d brought full-sized shovels instead. Even so, we had a blast poking around in the dirt and unearthing small thundereggs.
The more experienced thunderegg hunters we met seemed to have no trouble hauling out a dozen or more larger rocks to take home for cutting. Since the kids were more interested in smashing open small grape-sized geodes to find the crystals inside, we let them go nuts whacking the rocks open using other small rocks (don’t worry, we used eye protection).
Meanwhile, I explored well-treed forest in search of morel mushrooms while my husband snapped photos from the lovely hilltop location. Afterward, we let the kids splash around in nearby Prineville Reservoir.
Fischer Canyon for jasper, calcite, petrified wood, and agates (roughly 1 hour from Bend)
Another site on the fringes of the Ochoco Wildnerness, Fischer Canyon is further north than White Fir Springs and reachable via several routes you’ll find in the Rockhounding Guide (we opted to take Highway 20 east from Bend and cut north on 27, though there are other routes that take you through Prineville instead).Be prepared for more dirt roads, but again, we made it fine in my little Honda.
This spot is perfect for seeking out red and green jasper, orange-tinted agates, white crystalline calcite, and petrified wood. In contrast to the dense forest of White Fir Springs, this area is more desert-like mesa and plateau, with rock-covered hills the kids found fun to scramble up and poke around for rocks.
Most of what we found was small but colorful, and it’s the perfect place for a kid to add to (or start) a nice rock collection with a lot of colorful variety.
Glass Butte for obsidian (roughly 1.5 hours from Bend)
This is a site I haven’t visited personally, but since many guests in our Visitor Center ask about places to pick up obsidian, I wanted to include it.
I sought the advice of Visit Bend volunteer, Vic, who spent an afternoon there hunting for glassy obsidian. Glass Butte is located about 70 miles east of Bend off Obsidian Road (mile post 77). Refer to your Central Oregon Rockhounding Map for more detailed directions.
Vic described the roads as “decent,” but they’d likely be dicey in adverse weather. He suggested bringing a shovel and a backpack to haul rocks. Visitors can easily find rainbow, black, mahogany, and double-flow obsidian pieces that are quite large. There’s a 200-pound limit, so you can gather quite a bit out here without any trouble.
Bring plenty of water and a lunch, since there’s no place nearby to purchase anything.
Other rockhounding resources
Want to just buy rocks and/or gems? Here are a few places to do that:
- Canutt’s Gems in Redmond.
- Petersen Rock Gardens between Bend and Redmond
- Richardson’s Rock Ranch north of Madras
- Sunriver Rock & Gem in Sunriver.
Want to score some rockhounding equipment? Try The Lifestyle Store off Hwy 20 in Northeast Bend.
Want to buy me a piece of Oregon Sunstone jewelry? Why than you! I’ll take anything they have in the case at Douglas Fine Jewelry Design in Downtown Bend.
Happy rockhounding, everyone!
Each year in late-July, stores bombard us with back-to-school ads and displays of school supplies. It always sends me cowering in the corner and whimpering at the thought that summer is half over.
But it’s a good reminder that now’s the time to get a jump on your summertime checklist in Bend. Several of the city’s best events and activities are the limited-time-only variety, so here’s what you simply MUST do in Bend in the coming weeks.
Browse the Farmer’s Market
The Bend Farmer’s Market takes place each Wednesday in Downtown Bend in the Brooks Street Plaza above the city’s iconic Mirror Pond. It typically runs from early June through mid-October each year, and the 2015 end date is slated to be October 14.
While that means you’ve still got plenty of time to hit one before summer ends, now’s a pretty ideal time to go. The produce vendors are hawking oodles of fresh fruits and veggies grown at nearby farms. Fresh flowers are in abundance, and the weather is perfect for a leisurely stroll through the market.
One thing I’ve noticed this season is that 2015 boasts one of the most impressive lineups of vendors I’ve seen at the Bend Farmer’s Market in previous years. In addition to fresh, locally-grown produce, you’ll find unique offerings like artisan cheese, locally-raised meats, fresh honey and jellies, baked goods, handmade pastas, and much more. Plan on spending at least an hour browsing the booths and enjoying live music between 3 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Attend a concert
You’ve still got oodles of great concerts to choose from in the 2015 summertime lineup, including a lot of great free music (yes, FREE!)
Munch and Music (a free summertime concert series in Drake Park each Thursday evening) has shows booked through August 13, so check out their lineup and pick on that works for your schedule. In the Old Mill District, the Alive After 5 music series offers free concerts on Wednesday evenings though August 5, so scope out the remaining shows and plan accordingly.
There’s also the popular Free Summer Sunday music series at the Les Schwab Amphitheater most Sundays through August 2 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. I’ve found this often fits nicely with an early afternoon river float, which we’ll get to in just a moment.
If you’re willing to pony up a few bucks for concert tickets, check out the remaining lineup at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. The 2015 agenda still has shows from Pink Martini, Wilco, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ben Harper, so go here to check the schedule and buy tickets.
Float the river
As I’ve said many times, floating the Deschutes River in Bend is one of the most divine summer pleasures you can imagine.
It’s also something you can’t do in, say, December, so you want to make sure to check this off in the next couple months.
Pick a sunny afternoon, plunk your inner tube or air mattress in the water at Riverbend Park, and spend the next hour or two drifting blissfully through the Old Mill District and several scenic neighborhoods before ending up in Bend’s beautiful Drake Park
For tips on floating the river like a local (including how to get around the Colorado Avenue spillway) go here.
Have a gourmet dinner at 7,800 feet
There’s a limited window of time each year between July 5 and Labor Day weekend when Mt. Bachelor lets guests ride the chairlift to the Pine Marten Lodge for an exquisite Sunset Dinner. We’re right in the middle of that period now, and reservations are going fast for the unique opportunity to enjoy a gourmet meal at 7,800 feet.
Seatings are offered every 15 minutes between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and reservations are required. The menu features Northwest-style cuisine and a tempting variety of creative cocktails, appetizers, desserts, and locally-grown ingredients. Of course, the highlight of the experience is the sunset itself, which you can enjoy from your table, or step out onto the balcony to bask in the golden glow and the fresh mountain air. Afterward, enjoy a starlight chairlift ride back down the mountain (Note: It gets chilly up there at night, so dress wisely!)
If you can’t make it to Mt. Bachelor, go here to peruse other listings for restaurants with decks and patios available for outdoor dining. Some of my personal faves include Anthony’s and Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill District, Worthy Brewing on the east end of town, and 900 Wall and Pine Tavern in Downtown Bend.
Enjoy those hikes you can’t do all winter
Winter may seem like it’s still a long way off in the future, which might tempt you to procrastinate some of those high-elevation hikes on your bucket list.
Don’t do that.
I learned this the hard way last year when I put off the Proxy Falls hike I’d been meaning to do all summer. I finally found time in October, but had to turn back en route to the trailhead when an early season blizzard made driving there too dangerous. Don’t let that happen to you.
Act now if your bucket list includes a hike at any of the areas along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, including Todd Lake, Sparks Lake, Elks Lake, Green Lake, Devil’s Lake (wow, are we running out of lakes yet? Answer: Not even close). Ditto that if you want to explore along the McKenzie Pass, including Proxy Falls or Scott Lake. Same thing with the Newberry National Volcanic National Monument, particularly Paulina Peak with its 8,000-foot altitude that makes it inaccessible except at the height of summer.
Snow and ice can start hitting all the high-altitude areas in the very early fall, so don’t miss your chance to explore them safely and without the need for a million layers of clothing.
I’m lucky enough to attend nearly every concert booked at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, which I realize is pretty much the coolest job perk on the planet.
Last week, a guest at the Bend Visitor Center peppered me with questions about an upcoming concert, wondering what to bring, when to arrive, and which bra to throw at Lyle Lovett. It occurred to me that not everyone knows the ins and outs of the amphitheater named by Travel + Leisure as one of America’s coolest music venues.
Though we’re mid-way through what is arguably the best season of concerts ever booked in Bend, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind anytime you’re hitting a show at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
DO buy tickets in advance. Several concerts have sold out in 2015 including the Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss show and both Phish performances. If there’s a show you really want to see, check the concert lineup here and follow the links to buy tickets in advance. You can also buy them in person at the Ticket Mill in the Old Mill District, which is open daily during the summer months.
Many of the 2015 shows still have tickets available as of today (Thursday, July 16, 2015) including Pink Martini, Wilco, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ben Harper (though I’m typing this reluctantly, since any of those shows could sell out at any time).
If you really want to plan ahead, make sure you’re following Visit Bend’s Facebook page. Each spring when the concert announcements start flying, we’re quick to tell you about upcoming performances and pre-sales.
DON’T buy from scalpers. Seriously, guys—that’s a recipe for getting hosed and losing your money.
DO hit Will Call instead of the Ticket Mill for last-minute tickets. If you decide to risk it and not purchase tickets ahead of time, you’ll score a slight discount if you hit the Will Call booth right outside the venue instead of the Ticket Mill outlet on the day of the event (though they’ll still cost slightly more than they would have if you’d bought in advance). Will Call opens at 4 p.m. just before each concert begins.
DON’T think you can lurk outside the venue and poach the show for free. Back in the early days of the Les Schwab Amphitheater, thrifty folks parked their lawn chairs on the sidewalk outside the venue so they could listen for free. Unsurprisingly, artists who’d busted butt to actually get paid for their talents did not appreciate this. Several complained to the powers-that-be, and the powers-that-be listened and banned the practice (totally do-able, since the Old Mill District is private property).
Despite some initial grumbling, a funny thing happened. The promoter for some super-duper-famous artists (*ahem* Dave Matthews Band and Jack Johnson) got wind of the new policy and called the Les Schwab Amphitheater folks. “So I see you’ve decided to start being a real venue,” he reportedly said. “In that case, we’d like to play there.”
That’s right, folks—all those big-name performers we’ve been seeing lately? Many of ‘em wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the ban on concert poachers. Respect the artists and their crews, pay your ticket fees, and enjoy the show.
DO get yourself a low-backed chair. This comes with the caveat that you first need to check the details page for your specific show, since some like this year’s sold-out Phish concerts don’t allow chairs and blankets.
But for most concerts, blankets, towels, and low-backed chairs are totally cool. Trust me, you want the chair. It’ll not only save your back, but it’ll keep you from getting stuck grumbling on your blankie while some tall guy in a sand chair plunks himself in front of you.
By low-backed chair, I mean no more than eight inches from the ground to the seat, and no more than 33 inches from the top of the chair to the ground. Save yourself the hassle of measuring (or getting turned away at the gate from the attendants who’ll definitely be measuring) and grab one of those Tommy Bahama chairs they sell at Costco. They’re cheap, sturdy, and easily recognizable to the attendants who’ll often wave you through without whipping out the yardstick.
DO expect to have your bag searched. This is part of the process when you enter the venue, along with having your chair measured. Make it easier on everyone by not bringing too much stuff, and by leaving any of the following items at home…
DON’T try to bring this stuff to the concert. Recording devices, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, outside food or drinks, umbrellas, Frisbees, or farm animals. And again, check the listing for your specific concert to find out if it’s one of the shows restricting things like strollers or chairs or blankets. You’ll also see the occasional performer who bans things like disposable water bottles for the sake of the environment. Just know before you go by checking here.
DO bring an empty, refillable water bottle. It can get hot out there, so I always pack my trusty Hydro Flask for any concert. You’ll find the drinking fountain straight ahead of the entrance, which makes it handy to fill up before the show starts. There are also plenty of vendors selling bottled water, or you can get through security with any sealed bottle of H20.
DON’T think Oregon’s new marijuana laws let you toke at a concert. Sorry, guys, but that’s not how it works. You can’t blaze up in public, so don’t even think about smuggling your joint into the venue. For more info on how the law works, go here.
DO check the weather before you go. Temperatures can drop quickly in the high desert, so even if it’s 80 degrees when you head to the venue at 5:30 p.m., it might be bitterly cold at the end of the encore. Bring a sweater, a jacket, or even a blanket.
My fellow four-eyed friends would also be wise to bring prescription sunglasses to wear as the sun arcs brightly over the west side of the stage. Make sure you also have your regular eyeglasses so you can see after the sun goes down.
DON’T eat at home before you go. I used to do this in an effort to save a few bucks, but realized after years of drooling over other people’s food that it’s better to buy dinner at the venue.
Besides that, there are plenty of delicious options that won’t break the bank. Parilla Grill makes these amazing rice bowls packed with veggies, beans, herbs, special sauces, and oodles of slow-roasted meat for only $8. Jumbo Tamales makes amazing, HUMONGOUS $8 tamales packed with veggies and/or meat, and you can cruise through their well-stocked condiment bar to load up on fresh salsas, sour cream, cheese, and more.
Tons of other vendors have tasty treats that will give you a chance to sample the best of Bend’s culinary scene, so show up hungry!
DO bring cash. There are a handful of food vendors that accept credit cards (The Pizza Cart is one of them) but most of the food and beverage booths require cash. There’s an ATM in the venue, but you’ll pay a fee to use it. You’re better off snagging a couple $20s from your own bank’s ATM before you head in.
DON’T drink like a moron. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this blog post.
Most folks at the concert have paid a lot of money to enjoy the music—not to have drunk jerks spilling beer in their laps and shouting at each other over the music (I know, surprising!)
That said, it’s totally cool to enjoy a drink or two at the show. The beverage tent always has a couple mixed drinks available like lemon drops and on-the-rocks margaritas, plus a few different beer options (I’ve been diggin’ the Joe IPA from 10 Barrel this season!) You can also purchase wine by the glass or by the bottle, and selections from Naked Winery include a surprisingly diverse array of reds and whites. Keep in mind that bottle sales stop at 8 p.m., so plan accordingly and buy early if you want a bottle of vino to share with friends.
DO pay attention to what others are doing. Each concert has its own special setup. Some have roped-off areas of reserved seating surrounded by general admission and dancing areas off to the side, while other setups feature a huge sea of general admission areas and a big free-for-all dancing spot up front.
Watch what other folks are doing and follow suit. If you want to shake your groove thing, join the existing sea of dancers instead of creating your own boogie zone in front of folks who want to sit. If you want to sit, don’t plunk your chair down behind the dancers and snarl at them to sit down.
Which brings me to my final item on your list of things to bring…
DO bring common sense, courtesy, and respect for the artists and each other. Enough said.
Bend is teeming with opportunities to use booze as an excuse to behave like a bonehead. I can say this with authority because (ahem) I may have been a bonehead once or twice in my life.
That’s not to say you can’t have tons of fun exploring the Bend Ale Trail, attending boozy concerts and events, or scoping out cideries, distilleries, and wineries with your Drinkable Diversions passport in hand.
It just means there are a few things you can do to avoid being a complete moron while you do it.
Moron move #1: Drinking and driving
First things first. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you drink and drive in Bend. You shouldn’t do it anywhere, for that matter, but let’s focus on Bend for now.
There are tons of ways to get around our fair city if you plan to enjoy a few adult beverages. Here are a few worth noting:
- Walk. Whether you’re sipping happy hour drinks along the riverfront in the Old Mill District or ambling between breweries scattered through Downtown Bend, you can get around pretty easily on foot when the weather is nice (though for the record, I once hit eight Bend Ale Trail stops on foot in a blizzard).
- Arrange a shuttle or a pedicab with The Bend Tour Company.
- Add a culinary twist to your beerventure with the Fermentation Tour from The Well Traveled Fork.
- Book a half-day, four-brewery tour with The Bend Brew Bus or schedule the Local Pour Tour with them to visit one brewery, one distillery, one cidery, and one winery.
- Get your giddy-up going in a horse-drawn carriage with Cowboy Carriage Company.
- Pedal a bicycle made for 14 with The Cycle Pub of Bend.
- Head out with in a 1980s-style trolley with The Bend Trolley.
- Call a cab.
- Enjoy a first class ride that includes a flat screen TV, LED laser light show, stereo sound system, and more with Bend’s Party Bus.
- Cruise in luxury with a Lincoln stretch limo with JD’s Car Service.
Seriously guys, don’t mess around with this one. Winding up dead or in jail would put a pretty big damper on your Bend vacation.
Moron move #2: Rendering yourself too blitzed to remember anything
Raise your hand if you’ve ever over-imbibed in adult beverages.
I’ll admit my hand is in the air, which makes it pretty difficult to type. Many of us have done it, and it can kinda kill your Bend vacation mojo.
If you’re old enough to drink legally, you’re old enough to know how to do it responsibly, but we all need a reminder every now and then. A few tips:
- Drink tons of water. Toting a Hydro Flask in your purse or backpack does wonders, and you’ll never catch me without one if I’m pub crawling or attending an event where booze will be served.
- Eat something. Bend has tons of amazing happy hours and great food along the Bend Ale Trail, so keep your belly filled with grub to soak up the booze.
- If you’re out on the Bend Ale Trail, keep in mind that no purchase is necessary to get your passport stamp. Yes, it’s fun to sample beers from 16 amazing breweries, but you don’t have to pound a pint at every stop. If you’re determined to sip at each brewery, ask for a small taster, or order a schooner instead of a pint.
And if you do end up overindulging, check out this blog post on Bend’s best hangover cures. You’re welcome.
Moron move #3: Embarrassing yourself in public
This kinda goes hand in hand with the last one, and again, most of us have done it. But if you plan to drink and would prefer not to risk making a public spectacle, why not confine it to the privacy of your Bend hotel or vacation rental?
Plenty of Bend lodging spots have lovely patios and balconies where you can sip your beverage with a view of the river or mountains. Stop at one of Bend’s growler fill stations to fill up on local craft beer, or hit a local cider producer for something crisp and refreshing.
If spirits are your passion, there are several amazing Bend distilleries with tasting rooms where you can purchase bottles of vodka, gin, whiskey, or other tasty beverages. You’ll also find them stocked at our local liquor stores, so pick up a couple bottles of special spirits to take home.
Moron move #4: Annoying other people
Have you ever splurged on a pair of concert tickets to see your favorite musical act, only to have the experience spoiled by a cluster of drunk jerks standing with their backs to the stage and talking so loudly you begin to suspect they’re unaware there’s a concert happening?
Don’t be those guys.
Seriously, the Les Schwab Amphitheater has some KILLER concerts in this summer’s lineup, and most folks attending are there to enjoy the music. Yes, there’s a plethora of great wine and beer and mixed drinks available for purchase, and I encourage you to hit the beverage tent a time or two. Just be smart about it, okay? Your fellow concertgoers will appreciate it.
Moron move #5: Singing karaoke
Wait, what am I talking about? This is no moron move. I love watching karaoke (note: the operative word there is “watching,” not “singing.”)
Provided you drink responsibly, there’s no shame in using a bit of liquid courage to get up the guts to sing your little heart out to cheesy ‘80s pop or country ballads.
Spots in Bend where you can regularly find karaoke nights include Corey’ Bar & Grill, Kelly D’s Sports Bar & Grill and Maverick’s Country Bar. Check their websites and Facebook pages for up-to-date info about times and dates (and check item #1 one more time before you go).
It’s officially July in Bend, and since this is the high desert, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out it’s pretty hot and dry.
(As a sidenote if you happen to actually be a rocket scientist, maybe you know how to hook up air conditioning at my house?)
But today I want to talk about water. There’s something about it that makes me feel instantly cooler even if I’m not actually submerging myself in it. Here six of my favorite aquatic spectacles in Bend.
Lovely, splashy fountains in Downtown Bend
The Bend Visitor Center is smack dab in the middle of Downtown Bend (and conveniently open 9-5 weekdays and 10-4 weekends if you’d like to stop by when you’re here!)
When I stroll around at lunchtime, I’m treated to an amazing array of public art, some of which includes the lovely splish-splash of flowing water. There are two awesome water features near the corner of Greenwood Ave. and Wall Street, but my personal favorite is the one just a bit south of our office on Lava Avenue. It’s just below the DoubleTree by Hilton and a stone’s throw from Bend’s award-winning Oxford Hotel, so it’s easy to find if you’re staying nearby.
The shady park bench beside it is one of my favorite places in the universe, and the lovely, cool spatter of water makes me feel refreshed even when not a single drop of it hits me. For an added treat, walk a few hundred feet east and grab a scoop of gelato from of Bontá Gelato before you claim your spot on the bench. Ahhh, paradise!
Treat Fido to some special splashing
There are plenty of fun spots along the Deschutes River to frolic with Fido, but one of the most unique places to splash with your pup isn’t a body of water at all. Head to the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area to enjoy this fully-fenced 18-acre paradise of trails, fields, and a pup-centric water feature comprised of three spritzy fire hydrants guaranteed to have your pooch leaping and yapping and barking his fool head off.
Float the river like a local
This time of year, there’s no greater pleasure than plopping an inner tube into the calm shallows at Riverbend Park and floating your way through the Old Mill District and on to Drake Park. You’ll see some of Bend’s most breathtaking scenery, and you’ll stay cool while you do it. For details on floating the Deschutes River in Bend, check out this post.
If turquoise water is your thing . . .
I’d need to remove my shoes to tally up Central Oregon’s lakes using my own digits, and even then, I’d still have to count a few fingers and toes more than once.
But since I’m barefoot now anyway, it’s a great excuse to choose a lake and set out for an afternoon of aquatic fun. I’ve blogged endlessly about hotspots like Elk Lake and Cultus Lake, but if you’re hankering for something super unique, how about dipping your toes in a body of turquoise water?
OK, technically I suppose the water itself isn’t turquoise. I’m sure there’s some complicated geological explanation for why several Central Oregon lakes appear to have a deep blue-green hue, but I’m too busy frolicking in the water to bother looking it up.
If splashing in a turquoise paradise is your thing, try Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. You can stop by the Paulina Lake Lodge for a great lunch, then rent a boat or a paddleboard at the marina and set out for a day of play.
If you’re looking for a quieter option, try Devils Lake. You won’t find any restaurants or boat rentals here, but you will find some nice solitude and a great spot to SUP or fish in the lovely turquoise shallows.
Break out that waterfall bucket list
This blog post on exploring waterfalls around Bend is one of our most popular posts of all times, and it’s not hard to figure out why. There’s something miraculously cooling about watching swirling whitewater plunge wildly over a cliff. From the dramatic thunder of Paulina Falls to the more subtle splendor of Dillon Falls, you’ll find more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at around Central Oregon. Check out the post to learn more.
Worth noting: The trail to Tumalo Falls is currently closed until late summer 2015, so you might want to pick a different waterfall from the list if you’re visiting Bend in the next month or so!
Diving boards and waterslides and lifeguards, oh my!
If you prefer your body of water with added chlorine and a lifeguard or two, Central Oregon has a number of resorts and hotels that feature swimming pools for guests to use. You’ll also find some nifty water parks around Central Oregon, including the mineral pools at Kah-Nee-Ta resort in Warm Springs or the SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic and Recreation Center) in Sunriver.
Bend also has a terrific community facility at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center with steam rooms, hot tub, kiddie pool, and both indoor and outdoor pools (the latter with a fab waterslide).
For details on finding the perfect pol around Central Oregon, check out this post.
Admittedly, I’m biased after living in Bend for nearly 18 years and enjoying childhood summers here through the 70s and 80s. But can I just say there’s no place on earth more magical to spend the fourth of July than Bend, Oregon?
It’s true. From old-fashioned pancake feeds and sack races, to bountiful opportunities to hike, bike, paddle, and explore the great outdoors, Bend has everything you could possibly want for an Independence Day celebration.
And lucky for you, you’ve chosen to spend your holiday here! Pat yourself on the back, then check out this roundup of what’s happening in Bend for Independence Day 2015!
Q: Where can I watch Fourth of July fireworks in Bend?
A: Each year, fireworks are launched from the top of Pilot Butte at 10 p.m. If you have any friends who live in an elevated area of northeast Bend, try to procure an invitation to their Independence Day barbecue. Bring beer.
If that’s not an option, you can see fireworks from just about any spot in town with a view of Pilot Butte. City parks are popular viewing spots, so check the Parks & Rec site to find one near you. Al Moody Park (near the base of Pilot Butte) is a locals’ favorite, but you’ll want to get there early with a blanket or chairs.
Q: What special events are happening for July 4?
A: Bend’s old-fashioned 4th of July celebration is like something out of a Normal Rockwell painting. Watermelon-eating contests, dunk tanks, scavenger hunts, and sack races will keep you hopping (so to speak) all day long.
Things kick off early with the annual Pancake Breakfast in Drake Park sponsored by the Bend Sunrise Lion’s Club. This all-American meal is served from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and proceeds support local charities.
Once you’ve stuffed your face with hotcakes and bacon, stroll into Downtown Bend for the annual Pet Parade. It’s Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000 spectators and participants, and it’s been happening since the 1930s. Starting at 10 a.m., the parade winds its way through downtown with a kooky array of humans, canines, and farm animals, many of whom will be attired in bizarre costumes. If you or your kids want to march in the parade, the lineup and decorating party takes place at 9 a.m. in the parking lot between Bond and Wall across from the Deschutes Public Library. If you just want to watch, you can park your chair pretty much anywhere in Downtown Bend. Streets will be closed starting at 9:15 a.m. and parking can be tough to find, so get there nice and early.
After the parade, head over to Drake Park for the aforementioned Old Fashioned July 4 Festival. From 11-4, enjoy games, live music, a variety of food booths, kids’ activities, and more than 130 artisan booths.
Craving a more intimate celebration? Brasada Ranch (just 16 miles northeast of Bend ) is hosting a variety of Independence Day events including a traditional county fair and old-fashioned barbecue. You can enjoy great food, live music, lawn games, and panoramic views of three (yes, THREE) firework shows across the region. Go here for pricing and event schedule.
For the fitness-minded among you, the annual Spark Your Heart 5K run/walk will kick off at 8 a.m. in Riverbend Park. Details and registration are here.
Q: Uh-oh…Tumalo State Park is full. Where can I camp?
A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, and 2015 will be especially crazy with the holiday falling on a Saturday. A good starting point is Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:
- Near Newberry Crater, try Cinder Hill campground.
- Want to stay near Sisters? Try Perry South or Sisters Creekside Campground.
- State Parks are another option for those willing to drive 20-40 minutes. Smith Rock State Parkhas great spots for tent campers, while La Pine State Park, Cove Palisades, and Prineville Reservoir can all accommodate both RVs and tents.
- Some tent campers might enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of dispersed campingin the Ochoco or Deschutes National forests.
- RV enthusiasts will also find hookups and bathrooms with showers at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds RV Park. Though Bachelordoesn’t have hookups, they do offer bathrooms and showers in the Guest Services building for those who want to park their RVs in the designated area at the mountain.
Q: What about hotels?
A: Bend has tons of amazing hotels, but the odds of you scoring a last-minute room for 4th of July weekend are about the same as the odds it will snow that day.
Luckily, there are a number of neighboring towns that may (emphasis on may) have rooms available. Try Redmond (20 minutes away), Sisters (25-30 minutes away), Sunriver (25-30 minutes away), La Pine (45 minutes away), or Prineville (45 minutes away).
Q: Where can I play in the Deschutes River?
A: We have a whole web page devoted to this! Find out about canoeing, kayaking, standup paddling, and river float trips in Bend. To get the inside scoop on floating on the Deschutes River the way the locals do it, check out this blog post.
Q: What hikes are open?
A: This page from the Forest Service offers up-to-the-minute trail conditions and closure info. You can also refer to Visit Bend’s hiking page for ideas about where to go. Cascade Hiking Adventures is another terrific resource for hiking ideas.
Q: Are things like the High Desert Museum and Lava Lands Visitor Center open on July 4?
A: Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. They have several brand new exhibits opening, plus a new lineup of critters that includes a raccoon, a mustang, turkey vultures, a peregrine falcon, and even a baby porcupine (called a porcupette, in case you’re wondering!)
Q: We enjoy the Bend Buzz blog so much that we’d like to buy you a beer. What kind do you like?
A: Why thank you! I’ll take anything from around the Bend Ale Trail, but my personal faves are Hop Venom from Boneyard Brewing, Off Leash from Crux Fermentation Project, Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Company, and pretty much any sour they happen to be serving up at 10 Barrel.