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7 fab ways to do date night in Bend, Oregon

October 20th, 2016

Date nights are a rare and precious thing in my world. Between family time, my job at Visit Bend, and my not-so-secret life as a romantic comedy author, it’s tough to find free time for a bathroom break, let alone a whole date night.

But studies have shown regular date nights are crucial for any relationship, so I’m making the effort. Luckily, Bend is a great place to plan one. Or two. Or heck, a whole week of them.

The new Broom Closet Bar at McMenamins has a cozy, romantic vibe.  Photo by Kathleen Nyberg

The new Broom Closet Bar at McMenamins has a cozy, romantic vibe.
Photo by Kathleen Nyberg

Here are seven tried-and-tested date nights to try in Bend, Oregon.


Dinner and a movie with a Bend twist

Turn your boring “dinner and a movie” habit into something magical (not to mention convenient) when you park yourself at McMenamins Old St. Francis in Downtown Bend.

The property got its start as a 1930s Catholic schoolhouse, but was transformed into a hotel, movie house, brewery, and more in 2004. A brand new renovation completed in July 2016 added two new buildings, a bunch of guest rooms, and even a new “hidden” bar, all of which are worth checking out if you haven’t been there for a while.

Start in the cozy Fireside Bar for an intimate pre-dinner drink, or head straight to the Old St. Francis Pub for dinner. You’ll find standard pub fare like pasta, burgers, and pizza, or opt for something more exotic like the poke marinated ahi (my personal fave).

With your bellies full, head for the movie theater and snag a comfy loveseat for two so you can snuggle. Don’t worry if you didn’t grab dinner first. You can order food to enjoy in the theater, including full meals or just Cajun tots and a beer.

After the show, head for the soaking pool. You and your honey will luxuriate in soft, saline water while scoping out the artwork and shimmering turquoise tile. Don’t forget to look up through the open ceiling for a glimpse of the stars.

Time for a post-soak drink? Park yourself by one of the fire pits at O’Kanes, or hunt for the elusive new Broom Closet Bar. Then retire to your room at McMenamins knowing you accomplished an entire date night without venturing more than a few hundred feet from your bed.


The Downtown get-around

Can’t decide which Bend restaurant or watering hole you want to visit? There’s no need to choose! Plan a route through Downtown Bend that lets you hit all the hot spots on your list.

Start with a happy hour drink at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, which has some of the most unique concoctions you’ll find anywhere in town. Happy hour is also a great time to hit 5 Fusion, which boasts a menu created by Chef Joe Kim, a three-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award (sorta like the Oscars for chefs). Order an array of tasty sushi, or satisfy any non-fishy fans in the party with their filet mignon lollipops.

The balsamic grilled artichoke is a new addition to the menu at 10Below and sooooo tasty!

The balsamic grilled artichoke is a new addition to the menu at 10Below and sooooo tasty!

With your appetite whetted, head someplace you can order smaller dishes with some fun variety. I’m partial to Joolz with its unique Mediterranean fare and specially-priced menu that’s available anytime you opt to sit at the bar. The Camel Wings and the cauliflower are my personal faves.

Ready to get down? Head below street-level to The Capitol to soak up live music and a fun, funky vibe while you sip the Capitol Manhattan with blackberry and cocoa nib bourbon.

Want to keep going? There’s a terrific late-night happy hour at 10Below Restaurant & Lounge that features great deals on drinks and apps. Keep it light with their sweet cardamom pretzel with three dipping sauces, or indulge your craving for savory with their mouthwatering balsamic grilled artichoke.

Wrap up your evening by calling a cab so you make it safely back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.


Plan a picnic (even in the dead of winter!)

Date nights don’t necessarily need to take place at night. Why not plan a romantic picnic so you can savor time with your sweetie in Bend’s beautiful outdoor spaces?

Try a romantic post-Thanksgiving outing with Wanderlust Tours.

A winter picnic makes a great date!

First things first: The food. Stock up on gourmet nibbles or grab-and-go eats at Newport Avenue Market. You’ll also find a terrific selection of ready-made salads and wraps right across the street at Devore’s Market.

Now you need to pick a place. If it’s warm outside, peruse this list of local parks to find the right spot. With nearly 80 parks scattered around our fair city, you can pick among cozy pocket parks, scenic riverfront locales, or a snazzy covered pavilion near a playground so you can frolic like kids after your meal.

And don’t think you have to skip the picnic just because there’s snow on the ground. Take a romantic winter Nordic skiing adventure together with the picnic goods in your backpack. Once you’ve worked up a good sweat on the trails at Virginia Meissner Sno Park, stop at one of the romantic warming huts to enjoy your meal (along with the views!)


A night under the stars

Love the idea of an al fresco outing, but you don’t feel like picking a place, rounding up gear, and driving to your destination?

One of many couples to get engaged during the Bonfire on the Snow outing with Wanderlust Tours.

One of many couples to get engaged during the Bonfire on the Snow outing with Wanderlust Tours.

Let Wanderlust Tours do the work for you! During the winter months, book their Bonfire on the Snow tour. You and a small group will join a knowledgeable naturalist guide as you hoof it through the starlit forest to an amphitheater carved in the snow. There, you’ll nibble sweet treats and sip an adult beverage as you take in the stars together. Wanderlust has had dozens of couples get engaged on this outing over the years, so if you’re thinking of popping the question, this is a fab time to do it.

In warmer months, Wanderlust Tours runs moonlight/starlight canoe tours on the High Cascade Lakes. What could be more romantic than canoodling in a canoe? Just like with the snowshoe tours, all your gear is included, along with transportation and treats.


The Old Mill stroll

One of Bend’s most vibrant shopping districts spans a scenic section of the Deschutes River. That makes the Old Mill District a terrific spot for a mid-afternoon date that can continue as late as you like.

Grab a romantic river view table at Greg's Grill in the Old Mill District.

Grab a romantic river view table at Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill District.

Seize the daylight before sunset and set out on a stroll along the Deschutes River. Make it a game to see who can spot otters, beavers, or countless birds shown in the free birding guide you can pick up in the Ticket Mill (along with free rental binoculars if you like).

Weave your way in and out of cute boutiques and cafes, stopping to grab a cup of coffee at Strictly Organic or a glass of wine at the tasting room for Naked Winery or Va Piano.

When your stomach starts growling, head to Greg’s Grill or Anthony’s  for a romantic riverfront dinner. If you’ve planned ahead, you can reserve a table with views of the water so you don’t have to give up a single second of sightseeing.

After dinner, stroll over to Flatbread Community Oven for a scoop of gelato and an excuse to warm your ice cream chilled hands in someone else’s back pocket. Um, preferably your loved one.


Get jazzy with your sweetheart

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of jazz music.

Blogger Tawna on a date night for Jazz at the Oxford.

Blogger Tawna on a date night for Jazz at the Oxford.

But you know what? That’s never stopped me from thoroughly enjoying Jazz at the Oxford events hosted October through March in the Oxford Hotel for the last seven years.

Maybe it’s the terrific food and wine or the swanky setting, or maybe it’s the thrill of doing something a little outside my normal comfort zone. Either way, I’m not surprised the shows sell out every single season.

Which is one reason I was thrilled to learn the Riverhouse on the Deschutes just launched their own jazz series spanning October through April. This is a great chance to check out the $10-million renovation project they just completed, and to have a killer meal in the new Currents restaurant.

You can see the schedule (and learn more about their special Jazz + Ski + Stay packages) right here.


Come on baby, light my fire

I love fireplaces and fire pits so much that I once wrote an entire blog post about them.

Even if you don’t share my fire fanaticism, you’ve gotta admit there’s something magical and romantic about snuggling up beside crackling flames as you sip a craft beer or enjoy a romantic fireside meal.

Sipping beer by the fire at Crux Fermentation Project makes a romantic date night in any season.

Sipping beer by the fire at Crux Fermentation Project makes a romantic date night in any season.

Why not do a mini-tour of some of Bend’s best fireside hot spots?

Start with brunch at Jackson’s Corner Eastside, which boasts a cool patio fire feature in front of the restaurant. Cozy up together and enjoy matching bacon biscuit sandwiches and warm mugs of local tea.

After that, head for the Old Mill District to do a little shopping. You can make a fire pit pit stop (har!) at several locations including Pastini Pastaria (which boasts two vertical, standing outdoor fireplaces), Greg’s Grill (which boasts a huge outdoor fire pit that seats 20) and Anthony’s  (which has three fire pits that can hold about 12 people each).

Finished shopping? Time to check out Bend’s craft beer scene with a stop or two on the Bend Ale Trail. The fire pit at Crux Fermentation Project is one of my favorites, and makes a great spot to share a taster tray. Make it a relationship-building exercise to choose your six sample beers together or try and guess what your loved one might pick.

10 Barrel has a killer fire pit as well, along with a tap list that always includes at least a couple sour beers (yum!) You can also cozy up together in the biergarten at GoodLife Brewing to share a snuggle by the fire, followed by a lively game of bocce ball.


8 ways to survive Election 2016 by hanging out in Bend, Oregon

October 13th, 2016

Is anyone else feeling bogged down by all the negative garbage in this election season? The bickering, the accusations, the comment trails that leave you wishing you could poke your eyes out with a rusty fork . . .

Escape election cycle insanity with a walk int he woods!

Escape election cycle insanity with a walk int he woods!

With nearly four weeks to go, it’s easy to see how you might feel a little disheartened by politics and the world in general. While I won’t claim we’re immune from political lunacy here in our little Bend utopia, I’ve rounded up eight ways you can shake off the election season blahs in Bend, Oregon.


Indulge in a little nature therapy

There’s something about fresh air that always hits the reset button on my attitude. Luckily, there’s plenty of that to go around in Bend.

Go for a fall hike someplace the colors are at their peak right now. Tumalo Falls, the Deschutes River Trail, Drake Park, and Shevlin Park are all great options at the moment (er, at least until the storm knocks all the leaves off the trees!)

For a stronger adrenaline rush, book a mountain biking tour with Cog Wild or do something really wild like bungee jumping with Central Oregon Bungee Adventures.

If you prefer to find serenity on the water, book a canoe or kayak outing with Wanderlust Tours or Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe.


Distract your brain from the madness

With the constant onslaught of nasty Facebook posts and debate coverage, it can help to focus your mind on something less chaotic.

Give your brain a break from politics by visiting the Deschutes Historical Museum and checking out their awesome Nordic skiing exhibit.

Give your brain a break from politics by visiting the Deschutes Historical Museum and checking out their awesome Nordic skiing exhibit.

Scope out the schedule at AstroLounge and hit their ever-popular Trivia Night to exercise your mind muscles in a way that doesn’t involve leaving fiery comments on your crazy uncle’s Facebook posts.

You can also flex your brain with a visit to Bend Escape Room. In a nutshell, your group is locked in a room and given the clues to escape. It makes a fun team building or family activity for 2-6 people.

For more cerebral distractions in Bend, check out the critters and natural history at the High Desert Museum, or learn about the historical side of bend at the Deschutes Historical Museum.

You can also get your science fix (along with a tasty craft beer!) by attending one of the Science Pub events at McMenamins Old Saint Francis.

For more mental distractions, peruse our Event Calendar to learn more about special events like Tenth Month or opportunities to catch a play or concert.


Watch the tails wag

Few places on earth are as happy-making as Bend’s off-leash dog parks. There are eight of them to choose from, and each one offers a joyful abundance of gleeful tail wagging and giddy pup play.

Watch the tails wag (and giggle like a 12-year-old over scenes like this) when you visit an off-leash dog park in Bend.

Watch the tails wag (and giggle like a 12-year-old over scenes like this) when you visit an off-leash dog park in Bend.

It’s fun to watch even if you don’t have a dog, but you should really remedy things if that’s the case. How about adopting a rescue dog from the Humane Society of Central Oregon or Brightside Animal Center? Those pups have been trail tested on Central Oregon terrain, so you know you’ll get a buddy who’ll be happy to join you each time you return for a dog-friendly Bend vacation.


Do good deeds

When you’re feeling crappy about humanity (and let’s be honest—this election cycle is making a lot of us feel that way) it can help to do something nice for someone else.

You'll find plenty of "voluntourism" opportunities in Bend (including things like Wanderlust Tours' annual cave cleanup event).

You’ll find plenty of “voluntourism” opportunities in Bend (including things like Wanderlust Tours’ annual cave cleanup event).

It can be as simple as buying a treat for the person in line behind you at a Bend coffee shop. (Note, if I happen to be in line behind you, I’m especially fond of the chai at Thump Coffee).

If you’d rather lend an outdoorsy twist to your do-gooding, tuck a trash bag in your pack and pick up garbage along the trail during your hike. That way you’ll leave Bend’s outdoor spaces a little nicer than you found them!

You can also seek out organized volunteer opportunities through Connect Central Oregon or by scoping out some of the “voluntourism” opportunities I rounded up in this post.


Be a kid again

Remember when you were six years old and cared more about your gumball collection than who might become president of the United States?

Recapture that lost innocence by planning a kid-centric outing (even if you don’t have children!)

Blogger Tawna's family prepares to cruise in the go karts at Sun Mountain Fun Center.

Blogger Tawna’s family prepares to cruise in the go karts at Sun Mountain Fun Center.

Ride go-karts at Sun Mountain Fun Center. Frolic in piles of leaves at Drake Park. Go roller skating at Cascade Indoor Sports.  Play vintage arcade games at Vector Volcano. Go bowling at Lava Lanes. Run around like a maniac at one of Bend’s 80+ parks and playgrounds.

Then cap off your day of fun with a treat at Goody’s or a burger and fries at Dandy’s Drive-In (where the servers will roller skate to your car to deliver your food!)


Treat yourself  

There’s no shame in self-care, and there are plenty of ways to pamper yourself when you’re in Bend.

Massage is a great way to offset political stress with a healthy dose of bliss.

Massage is a great way to offset political stress with a healthy dose of bliss.

Schedule a massage or facial at a Bend day spa, or go the extra mile by booking a couples’ massage class at Brasada Ranch so you and your sweetie can replicate the experience at home.

Buy yourself a tasty gelato at Bonta, or treat yourself to a super-special meal at one of Bend’s renowned restaurants like 5 Fusion, Jackalope Grill, Ariana Restaurant, Chow, Greg’s Grill, Trattoria Sbandati, or the Blacksmith.

Want to indulge in a little retail therapy? You’ll find tons of great shops in Downtown Bend and the Old Mill District, or check out our abundance of thrift stores and consignment shops to score a secondhand find.

Sometimes just sitting still is a great way to feel better about the world.

Sometimes just sitting still is a great way to feel better about the world.


Soak up some feel-good photos

Seven days a week, 365 days a year, Visit Bend is out there posting beautiful Bend photos on our social media channels. We promise they’ll lift your spirits and give you something to smile about even when you’re not able to be in Bend.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to make sure you never miss a post!


Sit still

Find a park bench. Maybe it’s somewhere in Drake Park overlooking Mirror Pond and the distant mountains. Maybe it’s in Downtown Bend where you can watch people strolling past with steaming mugs of cocoa and bright fall sweaters.

Have a seat. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be still. Feel the tension slowly draining out of your shoulders.


6 reasons to get excited about October in Bend

October 6th, 2016

One of the upsides of living in Bend for nearly 20 years is that I’ve developed a sort of Christmas-morning-like excitement about the surprises our autumn weather has in store. Will it dump a foot of snow on Bend the way it did in early-October 2009? Or is the weatherman right in his prediction that our temps this weekend will hit an unseasonably-warm 77-degrees?

You kinda never know, which keeps me in a constant state of giddy excitement this time of year. Here are six other things I dearly love about October in Bend, Oregon.


Drake Park is a must-see in October for fans of fall color.

Drake Park is a must-see in October for fans of fall color.

Fall colors abound

The fall foliage is in full bloom right now in Bend, dazzling us with glorious rainbows of red, gold, orange and everything in between.

Some of my favorite spots to see autumn’s glory include Drake Park and nearby Pioneer Park. Cruise along Mt. Washington Drive for another scenic swatch of color, or stroll Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District (assuming high winds don’t knock all the leaves down over the next few days).

The Three Sisters got a dusting of snow earlier this week.

The Three Sisters got a dusting of snow earlier this week.

For a good roundup of where to see fall colors in Bend this time of year, check out this blog post.


Snow Watch 2016

If you follow the Facebook pages for Mt. Bachelor and Visit Bend, you know this is the time when we’re all breathlessly posting images with captions like “first snow!” and “more fresh powder!”

Even if you’re not a winter sports enthusiast (raises hand) you can’t help but feel giddy about the changing seasons and the beautiful skiffs of white stuff piling up in the mountains.

Snowball fight, anyone?


Pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING

Maybe the pumpkin-flavored lattes popping up in the coffeehouse chains this time of year aren’t your thing, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fill of this festive gourd in Bend.

10 Barrel makes a tasty pumpkin beer!

10 Barrel makes a tasty pumpkin beer!

For a pumpkiny twist on the Bend Ale Trail, check out seasonal faves like Twisted Gourd from Silver Moon Brewing or Big Ol’ Pumpkin from 10 Barrel.

When lunchtime rolls around, try the Thai Curry Squash Soup at Barrio. If your sweet tooth starts calling it, answer with Pumpkin Spice Gelato from Bontà.

For more ideas, check out this roundup I wrote 2 years ago featuring 10 great pumpkin-flavored treats in Bend.


Wallow in creativity

I’ve always loved the weekend of the Bend Film Festival (October 6-9, 2016) when the air is crisp, the leaves are bright, and there’s a hum of creative energy buzzing all over town.

BendFilm is a great excuse to visit Bend in October.

BendFilm is a great excuse to visit Bend in October.

And since I also get my creative fix later in the month when the Swivel Digital and Creative Marketing Conference rolls around (Oct. 10-11, 2016) I was tickled when someone came up with the idea of pulling it all together under one creative umbrella.

Tenth Month is a month-long celebration of innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It incudes the events I just mentioned, plus Bend Venture Conference and Bend Design Conference. Check out their website to find out what’s happening and to plan your ultimate creative getaway in Bend this October!


Get goosebumps on a Historical Haunts Tour

I almost hesitate to mention this one, since the tours always book up fast and I want to make sure my family doesn’t miss out.

The historic Tower Theatre is one of the regular stops on the Historic Haunts tour.

The historic Tower Theatre is one of the regular stops on the Historic Haunts tour.

But the Historical Haunts Tour from the Deschutes Historical Society is offered for only a brief time each October, so you’ll want to mark your calendar if you love spooky ghost stories as much as I do.

The money you save on Bend lodging in October will leave you more to spend while you kick through the leaves in Downtown Bend.

The money you save on Bend lodging in October will leave you more to spend while you kick through the leaves in Downtown Bend.

The tours are guided by volunteers and staff at the Deschutes Historical Museum, and last about an hour. You’ll be taken to a variety of historical buildings and sites around Downtown Bend, and you’ll hear spooky tales guaranteed to raise the hair on your arms.

The 2016 tours are happening Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 with the first tour beginning at 4 p.m. and the last departing at 7:30 p.m. Call early on the day of your tour to pre-pay and reserve a spot, and be sure to bring a flashlight and wear good walking shoes. For pricing, registration info, and more, go here.


Save a few bucks during shoulder season           

Not everyone outside the tourism biz know the term “shoulder season,” but those who do know it’s the best time of year to score great deals on lodging and activities.

In Bend, our shoulder season happens from late-fall to early-winter and then again in early spring (by contrast, peak times are summer break, winter break, and spring break).

In other words, October is pretty much the perfect time to plan a Bend vacation. Crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is still pretty mild.

For the inside scoop on shoulder season deals, check out our Deals and Discounts page.


Super-fab itineraries for enjoying Tenth Month (and a fun fall getaway!) in Bend, Oregon

September 29th, 2016

It’s October in Bend, guys, and you know what that means? It’s time for some of my favorite Bend events!

I’ve gushed plenty of times about how much I love the BendFilm Festival, or how I recharge my creative energy at the Swivel Digital and Creative Marketing Conference, but here’s something new: Tenth Month!

Tenth Month is a month-long celebration of brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It includes events like the BendFilm Festival, Bend Venture Conference, Bend Design Conference, and Swivel, which makes the whole month of October a pretty inspiring time to be in Central Oregon.

BendFilm is a great excuse to visit Bend in October.

BendFilm is a great excuse to visit Bend in October.

If you want to crank the dial on your own creativity, now’s the time to plan a Bend vacation. To help with your planning, here’s a roundup of events, along with a few of my own tips to help you build the best Bend itinerary possible!


October 6-9

A few event highlights:

Legendary independent filmmaker John Sayles will present his first feature film, RETURN OF THE SEACAUCUS SEVEN (1979), to launch the inaugural “First Features” program at the 2016 BendFilm Festival. The film follows a weekend reunion of seven former college friends who reminisce about the good old days when they got arrested on the way to a 60s protest. Sayles and his longtime creative partner, Maggie Renzi, will host an on-stage discussion after the screening.


Legendary indie filmmaker John Sayles and his longtime creative partner, Maggie Renzi, will be part of Bend Film Festival this year.

“First Features” showcases renowned independent filmmakers, screening the first films that catapulted their careers. As part of the “First Features” program, Sayles and Renzi will discuss the trials and tribulations in producing their first feature film and how they were able to capitalize on that film’s success to establish their subsequent careers. Sayles will also moderate a panel discussion with several BendFilm Festival filmmakers who are also presenting their first features.

What else can I squeeze in?

BendFilm signals the start of fall for me, filling my mind with fantasies of sashaying through piles of colorful leaves in a new pair of boots as I stroll Downtown Bend shopping for sweaters and clutching a latte.

I don’t even drink lattes.

But I do drink tea, and I’m partial to the infinite variety at Townshend’s Tea Company. I’m also crazynuts about the chai at Thump Coffee (which coffee-drinking pals have told me also has great coffee).

The drool-worthy shrimp and grits at Drake.

Save room for the drool-worthy shrimp and grits at Drake.

Those boots and sweaters can be found in some of my favorite spots along Wall Street in Downtown Bend, including Hot Box Betty, Local Joe, and Clementine Urban Mercantile.

Opt for stretchy jeans if denim’s on your shopping list, because you’ll want to save room for lunch at Drake. Their shrimp and grits with kale is one of my favorite cool-weather comfort foods in the whole universe.

Afterward, walk a couple hundred feet and find yourself in Drake Park where you can stroll along the river and burn off some of those lunch calories. It’s a great spot to snag a few photos if you brought your camera.



October 10-11

A few event highlights:

Swivel’s speaker lineup is looking better than ever, but one standout speaker you don’t want to miss is design kingpin, Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. On October 10, he’ll reveal “pretty much @#$% everything” he knows to Swivel attendees.

Aaron Draplin is speaking at Swivel this year, and you'll have a chance to nab his new book!

Aaron Draplin is speaking at Swivel this year, and you’ll have a chance to nab his new book!

As a one-man agency, Aaron has elevated such brands as Ford, Burton Snowboards, and the Obama Administration. He has shared his tall tales and “spirited merch” at SXSW, HOW Design, AIGA/NYC and conferences from Anchorage to Amsterdam.

Snag copies of Aaron’s new book at the conference, and get the inside scoop on its ideation, development and production. His lessons are sure to inspire you to tackle your own pipe dreams and backburner ventures!

What else can I squeeze in?

Swivel always leaves me feeling fired up and bursting with energy, so make time for a trail run, a mountain bike ride, or a high-energy hike up Pilot Butte.

Save time for a hike up Pilot Butte!

Save time for a hike up Pilot Butte!

Afterward, head over to Brother Jon’s Public House for a pub food (they have one of my favorite burgers in town!) and some lively conversation. They’ve got a terrific tap list, plus two handy locations in Bend (a larger downtown pub on Bond, and a more intimate pub on Galveston).

Got time for another pint or two? Put your tech skills to use downloading the free Bend Ale Trail app, or grab a Bend Ale Trail atlas at the Bend Visitor Center. Then head out on the town gathering passport stamps as you visit some of the nation’s tastiest breweries.



October 13-14

 A few event highlights:

This year’s Bend Venture Conference will feature a new competition category: Social Impact. It’s open to for-profit companies located in Oregon with a social or environmental mission built into their business model. This year’s award will range from $75,000 to $150,000 (with $75K already committed). An investor group will select the winner after the Thursday panel discussion.

You'll see some pretty staggering checks handed out at the Bend Venture Conference.

You’ll see some pretty fab checks handed out at the Bend Venture Conference.

Thursday’s Social Impact keynote speaker is Rebekah Bastian, Vice President of Product at Zillow. She will speak on how she has used her position at the company as a platform to discuss social issues. Rebekah launched Zillow’s Community Pillar program to help connect low-income renters with affordable housing.

You can buy a ticket to attend only the Social Impact Competition for $45 here. A full-price ticket ($275 for non-EDCO members) gets you into the Social Impact Competition as well as all other conference events.

What else can I squeeze in?

Like Swivel, this is another event likely to leave you with energy to burn. Since you’re fired up about supporting savvy businesses with a social conscience, book a canoe outing or a lava cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours. Their naturalist guides will fill your brain with fascinating facts about Bend’s ecology, plus they’ll cover all the gear and transportation for your outing.

The cool overhead water feature at 5 Fusion is one of many reasons to make sure this hip dining spot is on your list.

The cool overhead water feature at 5 Fusion is one of many reasons to make sure this hip dining spot is on your list.

Need a cuppa joe? Head to Stackhouse Coffee at the 1001 Tech Center (near the Old Mill District). Inspired by the spirit of technology, entrepreneurship and craftsmanship in Central Oregon, Stackhouse is the perfect place to fuel innovation.

For a great dinner afterward, check out one of Bend’s most award-winning chefs at 5 Fusion. Joe Kim has been nominated several times for the prestigious James Beard Award (that’s sorta like the Oscars for the culinary scene). Order piles of fresh, creative sushi, or choose a double order of their mouthwatering filet mignon lollipops. Wash it all down with one of their creative, seasonal cocktails.



October 20-21

A few event highlights:

Bend Design 2016 is a celebration of design culture in the modern world. Led by artful and innovative thinkers both local and national, Bend Design aims to explore the processes and practices that enable design thinking to alter our approach to the challenges and opportunities in our lives, embracing creativity in anything and everything.

Creativity takes many forms at the Bend Design Conference.

You’ll find oodles of opportunity for creativity at the Bend Design Conference.

The event includes, tours, interactive workshops and hands-on exhibits, but it’s the mashups, hosted conversations, and meet-ups that make things extra special. These are all great chances for attendees to meet speakers for informal conversations, in-depth discussions, and more. Go here to find more info and to register early for your favorite connection opportunities.

What else can I squeeze in?

With design on your mind, you want a lunch spot that not only looks cool, but makes your taste buds do a little happy dance. You’ll find that at Barrio, which has a tasty array of creative salads, tacos, soups, and more, plus an atmosphere that’s equal parts chic and funky.

Save room for squash soup at Barrio!

Save room for squash soup at Barrio!

When dinner rolls around, enjoy the aesthetic of recently-remodeled 900 Wall with its mouthwatering northwest cuisine and some of the best cocktails around.

Save time to get your art fix in some of the local galleries, or stroll around Downtown Bend to enjoy the huge array of public art in the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection.

Make time to enjoy Bend's abundance of public art, including the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection.

Make time to enjoy Bend’s abundance of public art, including the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection.

Need more art? Book an Art Safari Tour through Bend Tour Company! Don’t forget to grab a Roundabout Art Route guide so you can answer trivia questions and win prizes for scoping out sculptures.



Can’t decide which event you want to hit? You don’t have to pick!

Tenth Month Bend is offering a limited quantity of Ultimate Passes, which give each recipient access to all participating cornerstone events.

They’re also giving away a prize package (valued at over $3,000), which includes two Ultimate Passes as well as gift certificates for activities, gear rentals, and restaurants to make the most of your Tenth Month experience in Bend.


7 lifehacks for family travel in Bend, Oregon

September 22nd, 2016

Traveling with kids can be a roller coaster ride.

You love the shared adventure, but you don’t love guessing which restaurant is your best pick to avoid the glares of diners unaccustomed to young voices pitched with excited energy. You love exposing the young’uns to new experiences, but you don’t love the prospect of selling a kidney to afford it.

Rest easy. Here are 7 lifehacks (kidhacks? Er, no) to make traveling with kids a little easier in Bend.


Let someone else help you

Ahem. A story.

A cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours is a fun way to make memories with your kids.

A cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours is a fun way to make memories with your kids.

When my husband and I decided to take the kids to Mexico this past summer, my brain went into a tizzy. I traveled Mexico a ton in my pre-kid life, so I wanted to plan jungle hikes and beach excursions and cram ALL THE THINGS into our 7-day trip.

As you might imagine, I burned out fast. Luckily, I did it before we left town, which gave us time to schedule a few organized tours that took the burden off the grownups for planning and logistics.

Did it cost a little more? Yes. Was it worth every penny as far as my own peace of mind and relaxation went? Oh, dear Lord in heaven, YES.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t cram the car with kayaks or snowshoe gear and spend your time studying maps and getting lost on forest roads. Book an outing with Wanderlust Tours and let them handle all the details (including gear, transportation, and really fun, educational narratives during your adventure).

Ditto that if you want to go mountain biking (Cog Wild can hook you up!) The Bend Tour Company offers a variety of organized outings ranging from Segway tours to art exploration. Cowboy Carriage Company has a cool family-friendly outing called Pizza and a Wagon Ride Wednesday, which includes dinner for the whole family and a ride through Downtown Bend in a horse-drawn carriage.

If a bike ride sounds like fun but you need an extra boost, book an electric bike outing with Bend Electric Bikes or Let It Ride.

But seriously, let someone else play tour guide for your family, at least for an afternoon. I promise you’ll thank me for it.


Time to eat!

Mealtimes can be a challenge when vacationing with kids, particularly if you have picky eaters, food allergies, or super young ones still learning when to use inside voices.

At Flatbread Community Pizza, kids get to make their own dinners.

At Flatbread Community Pizza, kids get to make their own dinners.

Luckily, you’ll find plenty of Bend eateries prepared to handle your brood. At Flatbread Community Oven in the Old Mill District, kids build their own pizzas, then watch with giddy glee as their creations bake in big wood-fired ovens.

If someone in your family has special dietary needs, you’ll find a cornucopia of options in Bend, ranging from vegan and vegetarian to gluten-free dining. Kids who only eat specific foods like burgers or grilled cheese will find plenty of spots for those delights, or check out our roundup of on-the-go breakfast picks for morning grub you can eat en route to your next adventure.

Budget-conscious families will be thrilled to know that kids eat free all day on Sundays at Fire in Bend, and their pizzas, wings, and salads will tempt most palates. Kids also eat free at 900 Wall after 5 p.m. on Sundays, so that’s a great spot to score creative Northwest cuisine with a “date night” vibe and enough kid-friendly choices to keep everyone happy. Seeking a more casual kids-eat-free scenario? Your young’uns will gobble up burritos and tacos at Longboard Louie’s, which offers free kids meals on Saturdays and Sundays. Keep in mind that all of these deals are contingent upon the parents ordering adult meals of their own.

And don’t think you have to miss out on the legendary Bend Ale Trail just because you have toddlers in tow. Check out the drool-worthy kids’ menus at Deschutes Brewery (which brews their own non-alcoholic root beer and ginger beer) and the kid-friendly fare at Bend Brewing Company, or set the wee ones loose on the wide, grassy lawn at Crux Fermentation Project while mom and dad sample some of the best beers in town.


Know where the toy stores are

Time for a special reward for kids who’ve been extra good?

Powells Sweet Shoppe in Downtown Bend is a nice spot to score gelatto and other treats for kids who've been on their best  vacation behavior.

Powells Sweet Shoppe in Downtown Bend is a nice spot to score gelatto and other treats for kids (and adults!) who’ve been on their best vacation behavior.

Bend has several shopping zones, but the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend are the ones you’re most likely to visit during your Bend vacation. Lucky for you, they both have toy stores packed to the gills with unique offerings for all ages.

In the Old Mill, check out Wonderland Toy Shop. In Downtown Bend, don’t miss Leapin’ Lizards. If the kids are extra well-behaved, it’s worth knowing there’s a candy shop close by each shop (that’s Sweet Tooth Candy Shoppe in the Old Mill and Goody’s Chocolates downtown, with Powell’s Sweet Shoppe just a couple blocks from that).


Kids ski free at Mt. Bachelor

The snow hasn’t begun flying yet this season, so we’re a couple months away from knowing yet what sort of snow year we’ll have at Mt. Bachelor.

But one thing for certain? Mt. Bachelor will keep their kids ski free offer running. To learn more about it (and to start planning ahead for your winter vacation) go here!


Want more free stuff?

Plenty of fun things in Bend don’t cost you a penny. Take a family hike up Pilot Butte (and to make things extra fun, pack a bottle of bubbles and let the kids chase them around in the breeze at the top).

Bend's Old Mill District is a great place for family's to stroll, whether they're shopping, dining, or birdwatching.

Bend’s Old Mill District is a great place for family’s to stroll, whether they’re shopping, dining, or birdwatching.

Go for a stroll through the Old Mill District and stop by the Ticket Mill to grab their free birdwatching guide and a pair of rental binoculars (also free!)

If your kids are nuts for volcanos (and who isn’t?!) cruise over to Newberry National Volcanic Monument and spend the day exploring a volcano the size of Rhode Island. There, you’ll see ancient lava flows, jagged volcanic glass, rivers, lakes, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, and forests.

If you’re feeling more indoorsy, keep an eye on the Facebook page for the High Desert Museum to see when their next free admission day is coming up. Or better yet…


Buy a family pass for the High Desert Museum

The High Desert Museum has long been one of my family’s favorite spots for fun, and we never seem to tire of checking out the otters, watching a birds of prey demo, or seeing what new exhibits they have on tap.

The otters are always a highlight at the High Desert Museum.

The otters are always a highlight at the High Desert Museum.

Want to support the museum AND get in as many times as you want throughout the year?

Become a Member! A family membership costs less than $100, and ensures your whole fam (that’s parents and all kids 19 and under) get in as many times as you want throughout the year. It’s a screamin’ deal, it helps keep the museum up and running, and makes an excellent holiday gift. Win/win!


Schedule something super-memorable

Without a doubt, your Bend vacation will be memorable. But with every family trip I take, I like to plan one special activity that’ll keep us talking around the dinner table for years to come.

For some families it’s something daring like bungee jumping or a scenic flight. For others it’s an evening telling ghost stories and making s’mores by a campfire. For some it’s a family photo shoot with a talented local photographer.

The possibilities are endless, and whatever you choose is sure to fix this vacation in your memories for as long as you’re all still kickin’.

13 tasty mocktails and booze-free sips to quench your thirst in Bend

September 15th, 2016

Tons of travelers visit Bend with growlers in hand and their sights set on tackling the Bend Ale Trail. Others sip their way through distilleries and cideries that make up Drinkable Diversions.

But what if you want your liquid libations with no risk of hangover the next morning?

Yummy passionfruit limeade from El Sancho.

Yummy passionfruit limeade from El Sancho.

Whether you don’t dig alcohol in general, or you’re taking a break for some reason, there’s no need to stick with water. Here are thirteen tasty booze-free beverage options in Bend.


Passionfruit limeade at El Sancho

They have some of the tastiest tacos in town, and their candied yams are to-die-for. But El Sancho also makes one of the most flavorful, refreshing alcohol-free beverages in town. Each day, the folks at El Sancho squeeze a buttload of fresh limes to make their limeade base. You can order it just like that, but to really have your socks knocked off, order a passionfruit limeade. It’s blended with real passionfruit puree and so flavorful you’ll polish the whole thing off before your meal arrives.


Tasty, locally-made kombucha

Bend has at least half-a-dozen kombucha breweries in town, and you’ll find this healthful, fermented beverage on tap at lots of local pubs and restaurants. Parilla Grill (one of my favorite lunch spots) has three taps flowing with kombucha from Caboost, Bucha Buena, and Humm Kombucha—all of which are based in Bend. You can also fill a growler with kombucha at places like The Growler Guys and Food 4 Less (both of which have Humm Kombucha and Brew Dr. Kombucha on tap). Taste test all the flavors and pick a favorite (or 12!)


Blueberry mojito at Brickhouse

Plenty of upscale Bend restaurants will be happy to mix you a “mocktail” version of your favorite cocktail on their menu, but one of my favorites is the Blueberry Mojito at Brickhouse Steak House.

The tasty virgin Blueberry Mojito at Brickhouse.

The tasty virgin Blueberry Mojito at Brickhouse.

It’s made with freshly-muddled mint, fresh lime, oodles of plump blueberries, and a healthy splash of ginger beer. Bonus: It looks just like its alcoholic counterpart, and as plenty of women can attest, that’s handy if you want to swill a booze-free beverage without fending off unwanted inquiries about pregnancy.


Elderflower soda at Ariana

The first time I tasted this, I’d taken two food journalists to dinner at Ariana Restaurant to show them one of my favorite Bend culinary gems. Since I prefer to stay sharp when I’m in work mode, I asked the server for a non-alcoholic option. I was so blown away by their simple concoction of soda water, elderflower syrup, and lime that I wanted to drink this all night and skip the wine (which is a shame, considering Ariana’s wine list, but I digress). So simple, yet so flavorful, this little n/a soda puts most boozy cocktails to shame.


Fancy French cider at Jackalope Grill

Want to feel like you’re sipping something extra-special on a romantic date night, but skip the booze that might sabotage the romance? Order a glass of Duche de Longueville non-alcoholic sparkling cider at Jackalope Grill.

Foodies will love this extra-special non-alcoholic cider at Jackalope Grill.

Foodies will love this extra-special non-alcoholic cider at Jackalope Grill.

This alcohol-free cider comes from a 50-year-old apple orchard near Dieppe, France, where 15 chosen apple varieties are used to produce it. It’s served in a fancy wineglass to make the whole experience feel more luxurious.


Smoothies at Mother’s Juice Café

As the name implies, Mother’s Juice Café has plenty of freshly-squeezed juice to pick from. But my favorite libations here come from the smoothie menu. Pick from creative concoctions like the Little Bear (apple, strawberry, peach, vanilla yogurt, honey, fresh orange juice) or the Lavender (apple, mixed berries, banana, vanilla yogurt, hemp milk). But my favorite thing to do is to ask the smoothie experts at Mother’s to mix up something special. I spotted the cardamom syrup behind the counter recently and asked what would taste good with that. A few minutes later, I was sipping a delightful blend of fresh coconut meat, banana, almond milk, and the aforementioned cardamom. Delicious!


Freckled lemonade at Red Robin

Some people get snarky about chain restaurants, but the parents among you know sometimes that’s part of the package when you’re traveling with young kids. The familiar comfort of Red Robin’s bottomless freckled lemonade (complete with juicy hunks of strawberry) is made more delightful by the killer views of the Deschutes River you’ll soak up if you’re lucky enough to snag a window seat or a spot on the patio.

Scope out the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District when you sip your Freckled Lemonade at Red Robin.

Scope out the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District when you sip your Freckled Lemonade at Red Robin.


Bonus: Catch a movie or do some shopping in the Old Mill District when lunch is done.


Egg Cream at Goody’s

I’ve always been amused by the name “Egg Cream,” since the beverage contains neither egg nor cream. Popular on the East Coast, Egg Creams are made with soda water, chocolate syrup, and half-and-half. Locally-owned Goody’s Chocolates is a great place to grab one, with locations in several spots around Bend and Sunriver. I recently introduced my 10-year-old stepdaughter to the beverage, and upon her first sip, she declared it her new favorite drink.

Fresh-brewed root beer or ginger beer at Deschutes Brewery

I’ve always said the facility tours at Deschutes Brewery are fun for kids from a science/how-things-work perspective, but they recently made things even more kid-friendly with the addition of their own craft-brewed ginger beer and root beer.

Want to hit a brewery but skip the alcohol? Try a freshly-brewed root beer or ginger beer at Deschutes Brewery's tasting room.

Want to hit a brewery but skip the alcohol? Try a freshly-brewed root beer or ginger beer at Deschutes Brewery’s tasting room.

Even the grownups among you will appreciate having a couple alcohol-free options available. When I swung by during a mid-afternoon outing with Bend Electric Bikes, it was nice to do a little beverage tasting without sucking down anything that would render me groggy for the remainder of my workday.


Thai iced tea at Toomie’s

Bend has tons of terrific Thai restaurants, and all of them offer some variation on the classic Thai iced tea. But there’s something about the one at Toomie’s that always seems extra special. Maybe it’s the aesthetic of the tall glass it’s served in, or the sweet, slightly-smoky flavor. Maybe it’s the way it pairs so perfectly with the green curry chicken I adore so much.

toomies-thai-iced-teaEither way, this sweet and creamy tea makes a perfect non-alcoholic accompaniment to your meal in downtown Bend.


Fresh juice at Salud Raw Food

I’ve gushed previously about my fondness for this cozy little café specializing in raw and vegan food (which is noteworthy since I’m a devoted carnivore). In addition to having an awesome array of salads, wraps, and desserts, Salud Raw Food has a killer selection of fresh, organic juices. They expertly blend fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices for optimum flavor and zing. Try unique concoctions like the Hippy Hoppy (apple, carrot, spinach, lemon, beet, and ginger) or the Heavy Metal Detox (cilantro, lime, apple, pineapple, mint, and celery). And save room for dessert.


Dog beer from Dawg Grog

This one’s not for humans (though it’s totally safe to drink if you did want to try it). Dawg Grog is the original “dog beer,” a delicious and nutritious liquid treat supplement for dogs that’s made right here in Bend. Crafted with brewers wort, vegetarian k9 glucosamine, and vegan trace minerals, it’s a fun and alcohol-free way to share a cold one with your pup.

Mmmm....Dawg Grog!

Mmmm….Dawg Grog!

Pick some up at retailers all over Bend, including the Bend Visitor Center.


Italian Sodas at Bellatazza

Italian sodas were my go-to booze-free beverage for many years, with their simple blend of soda water, flavored syrup, and (optional) half-and-half. Unique flavors have always been my favorite, so I fancy the Italian sodas at Bellatazza Coffee in downtown Bend. Their syrups are produced by a local maker, who creates intriguing offerings like cardamom, lavender, and pumpkin spice. If Italian sodas aren’t your thing, have some of the syrup added to your coffee or chai.

Celebrate fall in Bend, Oregon with these festivals, markets, and fairs

September 8th, 2016

It’s not autumn yet, but you can feel the season already whispering its way into Bend. Kids are back in school. Our nights and mornings are chillier. The crowds that show up to celebrate Bend’s peak summer season have drifted back home, leaving the city a little more mellow.

It’s my favorite time of year.

Live music is one of many fab reasons to hit Oktobercrest at Eagle Crest Resort this weekend.

Live music is one of many fab reasons to hit Oktobercrest at Eagle Crest Resort this weekend.

And it’s clear I’m not alone, if you judge by the plethora of special events commemorating fall in Bend. Here are four of my favorite autumn celebrations in Bend, Oregon.


Oktobercrest at Eagle Crest September 10

Technically not in Bend-proper, this jubilant little fall celebration at Eagle Crest Resort is well worth the 25-minute drive it takes to reach the site from your Bend hotel or vacation rental.

Eagle Crest’s annual Oktobercrest (clever name, eh?!) kicks off its fourth season on Saturday, September 10, 2016 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The event features an impressive array of German food, wine, and local beer. There’s also live music from The Happy Hans Band.

This is an especially family-friendly event, and kids get in free. For grownups, the $10 admission includes a commemorative pint glass and one pour. For more info, check out their website.


Bend Oktoberfest September 16-17

Ever wondered why most Oktoberfest celebrations happen in September? There’s a reason! The first Oktoberfest happened in Germany in 1810 to commemorate the Bavarian crown prince’s wedding in mid-October. When they decided to make it an annual affair, they bumped it earlier to take advantage of nicer weather in September.


The Wiener Dog Races are one of many reasons to hit Oktoberfest in downtown Bend.

The Wiener Dog Races are one of many reasons to hit Oktoberfest in downtown Bend.

That makes sense for Bend, too! Our city’s annual Oktoberfest in downtown Bend is a two-day celebration from September 16-17. It features games, food, beer, cider, live music, and kids’ entertainment like bouncy houses and face painting.

Probably the most popular event is the annual Wiener Dog Races, which will have you in stitches as you watch each gaggle of short-legged, tongue-flopping canines scurry to the finish line. Get there early if you want a good spot for viewing.

Absurd games of skill. That pretty much says it all.

Absurd games of skill. That pretty much says it all.

My favorite aspect of Bend’s Oktoberfest is something termed “absurd games of skill.” There are prizes for yodeling, tricycle races, a costume contest, and bendhamerschlagen (a race to hammer a nail into a custom table). They’re all hilarious, and you can scope out the schedule right here.


Bend Fall Festival September 30-October 2

Whether you require an extra dose of fall festivity, or you can’t make it for one of the aforementioned celebrations of autumn, the annual Bank of the Cascades Bend Fall Festival is a three-day affair that kicks off on Friday, September 30 in downtown Bend.

It’s similar to the other festivals with its live music, abundant food, and plenty of things to do for kids. But this festival also features a Harvest Market, a Fine Artist Promenade, and a variety of fun competitions like pie baking and a pumpkin carving contest.

You can scope out the full schedule here.


Bend Farmers Market through October 12

I know this isn’t a festival like the other three, but I’m including it because there’s something so . . . festive (for lack of a better word) about the Bend Farmers Market this time of year.

Late-season produce like melons and corn are in abundance this time of year at the Bend Farmers Market.

Late-season produce like melons and corn are in abundance this time of year at the Bend Farmers Market.

Every Wednesday from May through mid-October, local vendors gather in Bend’s Mirror Pond Plaza above Drake Park to sell local veggies, fruits, jams, flowers, meats, soaps, baked goods, and so much more. There’s live music and much merriment, but the months of September and October have something a little different.

Maybe it’s the brightness of turning leaves and pumpkins propped up on hay bales. Maybe it’s the joy of bundling up in colorful scarves and new boots. Maybe it’s the knowledge that we only have a few weeks left to snag farm fresh goodies in this quaint, friendly market.

But it’s probably all of those things combined that make a September stroll through the Bend Farmers Market the perfect way to usher in the fall season.

7 things to make you feel good about humankind in Bend, Oregon

September 1st, 2016

You know those heart-tugging stories on the evening news that make you feel happy to be a member of the human race?

While I won’t claim the folks in Bend are shiny-happy people 24/7, most of us spend a fair amount of time feeling darn grateful to be here. If the following 7 examples don’t make you smile at least a little, you might be dead inside.


We take care of our toys

Recreation lovers flock to Bend in droves, so our outdoor spaces need a little extra tending to keep them healthy. Thankfully, folks here are good about stepping up to the plate.

Interested in "voluntourism?" You'll find plenty of opportunities, including the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing.

Interested in “voluntourism?” You’ll find plenty of opportunities, including the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing.

The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council has held an annual river cleanup for 20 years. Their most recent one in July resulted in more than 200 volunteers removing 1,400 pounds of garbage from the Deschutes River and its banks. Keep an eye on their website to learn how you can participate next year.

The Annual Smith Rock Spring Thing has also been going strong for more than two decades at Smith Rock State Park, with volunteers pitching in on cleanup efforts, special projects, and trail maintenance.  The burrito supper afterward makes it even sweeter!

If fighting invasive weeds is your passion, join a Let’s Pull Together event in May or June to help eradicate those noxious plants.

Wanderlust Tours organizes a cave cleanup effort the first Saturday in May, so mark your calendar if you’d like to make Central Oregon’s lava tubes your personal “voluntourism” project.

And speaking of that . . .


It’s a team effort

When I reached out to Wanderlust Tours owner Dave Nissen for details on his company’s efforts to preserve our outdoor spaces, he wrote such a lovely response about Bend’s spirit of collaboration and corporate responsibility that I asked to share it with you. Take it away, Dave!

Wanderlust Tours cave cleanup sml

Volunteers turn out to clean up Central Oregon’s caves with Wanderlust Tours.

“A massive smile comes to my face knowing the volunteer efforts that take place in Bend.  Bendites find a passion to take part in, and once this happens, they give of their time to improve the circumstances surrounding that passion.  I see this made manifest in innumerable ways.  One event that I am passionate about is Wanderlust Tours’ cave cleanup day.  We simply clean up the environment around our cave systems.  The sweetest thing about this is witnessing disassociated locals coming to be a part of this event.  What used to be just Wanderlust Tours staff caring for the environment spread to passionate people at our local REI who jump on board to go “play” underground with us. Then a local restaurant, Jimmy Johns, got involved by asking if they could provide food for hungry volunteers, and their staff have joined in the day of community service.  A local realtor, John Furrow with Fred Realty, got wind of our efforts and not only do John and his family join in, but he brings his associates and personal friends along to help foster Bend as a shining star of community fulfilling its passion through local service.  Through a volunteer effort like this, relationships are built and our community is stronger for it.  This infectiously makes me smile.”

Now I’m not just smiling. There might be a little something in my eye.


Dog lovers unite!

There’s a camaraderie among dog owners in Bend, and it’s part of the reason we were named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine.

The abundance of wagging tails in Bend will make you smile even if you're not a dog person.

The abundance of wagging tails in Bend will make you smile even if you’re not a dog person.

Dog owners smile at each other whether they’re strolling the Old Mill District with their pooches on-leash, or visiting one of Bend’s eight dog parks.

Since I live near the city’s largest off-leash area, I’ve come to rely on it as my go-to mood brightener. If I’m having a crummy day, I grab my pup and head over there for an instant infusion of wagging tails and smiles from dog owners who always offer friendly pooch-related chatter.

Another bonus? Folks are serious about picking up after Fido, which you can see from the abundance of free doody bags in most Bend parks. The Downtown Bend Business Association recently added several doody bag dispensers around Downtown.

Is it the outdoor recreation or the city itself that keeps people young in Bend?

Is it the outdoor recreation or the city itself that keeps people young in Bend?

Make sure you grab one on your way into the Bend Visitor Center (which is dog-friendly, of course). While you’re here, you and Rover can snag a free dog biscuit donated by Mud Bay and a free collapsible dog bowl donated by Bend Pet Express.


Bend keeps you young

On Wednesday, a 98-year-old gentleman stopped by the Bend Visitor Center and mentioned how excited he was about purchasing his Mt. Bachelor season pass this year.

This was as he was on his way out to go jet-boating.

Oh, and have you ever looked at the results of the annual Pole, Pedal, Paddle and noticed how many competitors there are in the 70-74 age category or even 80+?

Few places are more joyful than the Bend Farmers Market on a summer afternoon.

Few places are more joyful than the Bend Farmers Market on a summer afternoon.

Think about that the next time you catch yourself muttering that you’re too old to do something.


Fresh from the garden

From May to October, I make it a point to stroll over to the Bend Farmers Market every Wednesday afternoon. It’s not because I desperately want fresh fruits, veggies, locally-sourced meats, cheeses, flowers, and jams (though there’s that, too).

But half the time I don’t even buy anything. I go because everyone there is smiling. There’s live music and cheerful mothers pushing strollers and the smell of fresh herbs in the air.

If you could bottle the vibe at the Bend Farmer’s Market, you could make millions selling it as an antidepressant.


So much free stuff

Of course we want you to stimulate Bend’s economy by spending money with locally-owned retailers who rely on it. But one of the cool things about Bend is how many amazing experiences don’t cost a dime.

The critters at the High Desert Museum will warm your heart almost as much as their free admission days.

The critters at the High Desert Museum will warm your heart almost as much as their free admission days.

Love art? You’ll dig the plethora of public art in Bend, ranging from the Roundabout Art Route to the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. If music is your scene, check out the wide range of free summertime concerts including Free Summer Sundays in the Les Schwab Amphitheater and Munch & Music in Drake Park (which segues into Munch & Movies as summer comes to a close).

The High Desert Museum routinely offers free admission days, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to know when those are coming.

Sun Country Tours offers free rental life jackets to anyone floating the river from Riverbend Park—even if you don’t rent gear from them!

Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream (a Bend staple for more than 30 years) offers free factory tours, which include a free sample of chocolate.

Smile. You're in Bend.

Smile. You’re in Bend.

And of course, there’s the great outdoors. Hiking, swimming, and exploring in Bend are all totally free, and the return-on-investment is immeasurable.


The smiles . . .

Do something for me, okay?

The next time you’re out on the trail or strolling around Downtown Bend, pick a random stranger and smile.

This is assuming the random stranger hasn’t already smiled at you first, which isn’t a safe assumption.

If the recipient of your unsolicited grin doesn’t smile back, consult your Smartphone’s location tracker. You are not in Bend.

10 Essentials for a Bend vacation, whether you’re adventurous or lazy

August 25th, 2016

The headlines are freaking me out, guys. No, it’s not the politics.

It’s a scary uptick in the number of hikers, river floaters, and other recreation lovers forced to summon Deschutes County Search & Rescue when a day of outdoor play goes awry in Bend.

Just a few of the essentials you should have when venturing into the great outdoors.

Just a few of the essentials you should have when venturing into the great outdoors.

Our VP of Sales & Marketing suggested we share the “Ten Essentials” for camping and hiking in the wilderness, which is a darn fine idea. In fact, you should have it tattooed on your forearm.

But since not everyone visiting Bend has outdoor adventure on the agenda, I assembled my own “Ten Essentials” for the laidback traveler. The un-adventurer, if you will.

Behold, we give you Ten Essentials for an active (and a not-so-active) Bend vacation.


Ten Essentials, Nate Wyeth style

I live for exploring Bend’s outdoor landscapes, so I know the weather can change in mere seconds. That’s why it’s crucial to have the following ten items in your pack anytime you’re heading out camping, hiking, or exploring.

    • A map and compass. Don’t count on Siri to get you where you’re going in the great outdoors. Coverage can be spotty in the wilderness, and you’re better off with one of the sturdy hard-copy maps you’ll find in the Bend Visitor Center or the Deschutes National Forest Welcome Station.
    • Sun protection. The sun can be fierce in the high desert, so remember your shades and sunblock even if it’s cloudy.
    • Extra clothing. Temps can fluctuate wildly in Central Oregon, so don’t forget layers. Gloves, hats, jackets, sweatshirts—even if you think you don’t need them, you want to be prepared.
Having the right gear is essential to a safe and fun high desert adventure.

Having the right gear is essential to a safe and fun high desert adventure.

  • Illumination. Again, don’t rely on your cell phone. Pack a headlamp in case of an unplanned sleepover or a hike that goes later than expected.
  • First aid supplies. You can find awesome little kits at outdoor equipment retailers like REI.
  • Fire. A lighter or waterproof matches are essential when venturing into the outdoors. Just make sure you check first to be sure fires aren’t restricted in the area you’re hiking or camping.
  • Tools. No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your hiking adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife.
  • Extra food. Snacks, particularly high-protein ones, are essential. Think about how hungry you might get if your four-hour hike turned into a twenty-four-hour hike and pack accordingly.
  • Extra water. This is a biggie, especially here in the high desert. Plan on drinking at least ½ cup to a cup of water every 30-40 minutes. A good water filtration system can work if you’re hiking along creeks or lakes, but don’t count on finding water everywhere. Always pack more H2O than you think you’ll need.
  • Emergency shelter. Day-trippers getting caught unexpectedly overnight is frighteningly common, and smart adventurers always pack an ultralight tarp or emergency space blanket. Even a large plastic bag will do in a pinch (plus you can use it to collect trash and feel good about leaving your favorite adventure spot nicer than you found it).


Ten Essentials, Tawna Fenske style

Blogger Tawna reading on the shore of Crescent Lake (about 1.5 hours from Bend) on a lazy late-September morning.

Blogger Tawna reading on the shore of Crescent Lake (about 1.5 hours from Bend) on a lazy late-September morning.

I’m not lazy. Okay, I’m not always lazy. I do love hiking and snowshoeing and standup paddleboarding, and you’ll find me enjoying those things pretty often in Bend.

But there are times I just want to go full-on vacation mode when reveling in my hometown. For those who want to experience Bend in a more laidback fashion, here are my ten essentials:

  • A good book. First things first. If you’re lounging lakeside or by your hotel pool, you need good reading material. Hit a quirky local bookstore like Dudley’s Bookshop Café (where they also make a mean cup of coffee).
  • Super-cute sandals or slip-ons. If you’re a dude, omit “super-cute.” But you do need good slip-ons, because tying shoes is sooooo tedious. Resist flip-flop temptation, since those slip off when floating the river. Tevas, Chacos, or Keens are perfect for summer. In wintertime, Downtown Bend retailers like North Soles and CC McKenzie have a great array of clogs and loafers.
  • Sunscreen. Here’s one of several items you’ll find on both lists. To make things easier, opt for a locally-made spray like T’s Tonics SPF 30 Sunscreen so you don’t have to rub in a pesky cream. You can also go the pampering route with luxurious suncare products from local fave Angelina’s.
  • Tickets. Even if you plan to spend 90% of your Bend vacation lazing in a float tube on the river, save one evening for dinner and a show. Maybe it’s a concert at the Tower Theatre or an indy movie during BendFilm, but you’re gonna want to sample Bend’s lively arts and culture scene.
  • Postcard stamps. You want to gloat to all your friends about how awesome your vacation is, right? Hit the Bend Visitor Center for a great selection of postcards. And if you forget the stamps, we’re just 100 feet from the closest post office.
  • Waterproof case for your iPod or phone. Whether you’re on the river or near a pool, there’s a good chance you’ll interact with a body of water in Bend. I’ve lost enough phones to know a LifeProof case or OtterBox is a smart idea.
  • Gourmet snacks. When you’re treating yourself, no ordinary Doritos will do. Hit Newport Market for the best selection of gourmet goodies and locally-made specialty items, or hit Devore’s across the street for killer wraps and salads.
  • Yala Bamboo sleepwear from Oregon Body & Bath is essential for a relaxing Bend vacation.

    Yala Bamboo sleepwear from Oregon Body & Bath is essential for a relaxing Bend vacation.

  • Beverages in good containers. Water is essential whether you’re trudging up a mountain or lounging by a lake, but don’t forget to sample Bend’s craft beer scene, too. Fill a couple Hydro Flasks with ice and water, then stock a DrinkTank Growler with Keg Cap Accessory Kit with your favorite brew from the Bend Ale Trail. Just make sure you pack out all cups and trash or I will hunt you down and pee on your lawn.
  • Cash. Whether you’re tipping the bartender or just trying to keep track of your vacation budget, an ample stash of cash is a good idea for a lazy vacation. Bonus: When small local retailers aren’t hit with credit card fees, it helps keep prices low for all of us.
  • Cozy loungewear. Yala Bamboo Dreams clothing made from breathable, anti-microbial, temperature-regulating bamboo is the most comfortable stuff imaginable. I have nighties, a robe, and even a skirt purchased from Oregon Body and Bath in Downtown Bend. Bonus: they have a great stock of bath products so you can really pamper yourself.

6 ways to get dirty in Bend

August 18th, 2016

Sometimes, you just want to be dirty. I mean really dirty.

Those of you who don’t have your minds in the gutter know I’m talking about mud, dust, dirt-inspired culinary treats, and all the ways you can enjoy those things in Bend.

Churn up some dust in the Downhill Bike Park at Mt. Bachelor.

Churn up some dust in the Downhill Bike Park at Mt. Bachelor.

Here are six ideas for how to get your fill of dirty deeds and delights in Bend.


Gobble some gravel on a mountain bike trail

Mountain biking is one of those sports where you kinda expect to get a little grubby. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll be delighted to know Bend has nearly 300 miles of singletrack ranging from sweet, flowy dirt to kid-friendly trails to epic dirt jumps. Scope out our mountain biking page for details.

Remember to follow respectful trail etiquette by staying off muddy trails so ruts don’t form, and never skid on corners or blow out berms.

Want to enjoy Bend’s epic mountain biking dirt to its fullest? Book a guided trip with Cog Wild. They’ll not only hook you up with all the right gear, but they’ll show you where to go and how to ride whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned expert. They also offer shuttles for mountain bikers who want to avoid the need to do the double-car shuffle.


Let your young’uns get filthy

Kids love mud, and while parents might not always love doing the laundry, you’ve gotta admit it’s pretty fun to see your offspring grinning ear-to-ear while covered head-to-toe in dirt.


Make sure to register your kid (and yourself!) for the Kids Obstacle Challenge at Mt. Bachelor on August 20, 2016.

For the ultimate kid-friendly mud adventure, sign your child up for the Kids Obstacle Challenge at Mt. Bachelor on August 20, 2016. Kids ages 5-16 will have a chance to rope swing into a mud pit, army crawl through tough terrain, scale up rugged cargo nets, and slide into a muddy paradise.

But the very best thing? Parents are invited to run for FREE! You can pretend you’re just supporting your offspring, when in reality you’re seizing the opportunity to get just as muddy as your kiddo.

For details and signup info, go here.


Let mud make you glow

If mud is your thing, you’ll find a number of Bend day spas that can leave you feeling dirty and pampered all at once.

Get muddy in a good way at Spa W.

Get muddy in a good way at Spa W.

Spa W offers a Moor Mud Body Mask that’s simply divine. They start with a dry brush exfoliation before smoothing on generous portions of Moor Mud and wrapping you in a cocoon. Next comes a facial massage, followed by a serene Vichy shower and light moisturizing application. You can read more about it here.

Prefer to get your mud on in the privacy of your Bend vacation home or hotel? Bend favorite Angelina Skincare has a Terramoor Restorative Herbal Mud Mask designed to remove impurities and leave skin feeling refreshed and smooth. Swing by their shop in Downtown Bend to check it out in-person.


Scope out the cyclocross scene

If you’re not familiar with cyclocross, it’s a type of off-road bike racing with competitors navigating grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, and a variety of obstacles along the course. In other words, it’s crazy fun to watch.

Mud cyclocross

Cyclocross: The sport for those who love mud (or love watching others love mud).

If you are familiar with it and you feel like scoping out the scene, you’ll find all kinds of cyclocross listings on Visit Bend’s event calendar. Most events take place in late-fall through early winter, offering a fun shoulder-season activity whether you’re warching or participating.

Bend’s biggest and most spectator-friendly cyclocross event is the Halloween Cross Crusades in October. Check out the schedule online, then show up to watch riders get covered head-to-toe in dust and mud and sweat and blood.

Er, that sounded more sadistic than I meant it to.


Need more mud-themed events?

Cyclocross isn’t the only mud-sport around.

Don’t forget the Dirty Half Marathon happening every June in Bend. There’s also the Sunriver March Mudness (formerly the Sunriver Mudslinger) happening in March.

You’ll see other mud-themed races popping up from time to time on the calendar, so try searching the keyword “mud” at and look for events happening in the coming year.


Fill your belly with dirt

A dirty martini and a mudslide at Astro Lounge in Bend.

A dirty martini and a mudslide at Astro Lounge in Bend.

It might not sound appetizing, but there are lots of ways to get a delicious dirt fix around Bend. Plenty of local watering holes can hook you up with a delicious mudslide or a dirty martini. Make sure you request locally-made spirits from Bendistillery, Oregon Spirit Distillers, or Cascade Alchemy.

Looking for a dirt-inspired entrée? You can make these scrumptious Sloppy Joes using Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Porter. Yummy! You’ll also find dirty rice popping up alongside Cajun-inspired entrees at places like Zydeco or Fat Tuesday’s.

Mud Pie from Pine Tavern.

Mud Pie from Pine Tavern.

Ready for dessert? Don’t forget the famous Mud Pie at the Pine Tavern (one of Bend’s longest-standing restaurants in business for more than 80 years). It’s creamy and sweet and oh-so-delicious when paired with a selection from their impressive list of dessert wines.


Get dirty, then clean, then dirty again on the Paulina Plunge

If you ask my stepkids their favorite Bend activity they’ve enjoyed over the years, I guarantee they’ll mention the Paulina Plunge. This is a full-day adventure tour that includes mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, splashing, jumping, and sliding.

Rinse off the trail dirt on a natural waterfall slide when you book a tour with the Paulina Plunge.

Rinse off the trail dirt on a natural waterfall slide when you book a tour with the Paulina Plunge.

As you might imagine, splashing in a waterfall and then hopping on a mountain bike will leave your legs a little muddy. And your arms. And probably other parts of your body, too. But that’s half the fun, and if you find yourself feeling too gritty, there’s bound to be another waterfall to rinse off in along the way.

Make sure you book your Paulina Plunge outing in advance of your vacation, since this family-friendly adventure tends to fill up early. And if you want my full recap on my family’s experience with the Paulina Plunge, go here.


Time to clean up now!

Cleaning up after a full day of frolicking in mud can be half the fun if you know how to do it right.

You’ll find many Bend hotels, Bend vacation homes, and Bend B&Bs have bike wash stations, so phone ahead and make sure your chosen home-away-from-home has what you need if you’re planning to get grubby on a bike.

When your mud-fest is complete, get your pup cleaned off right at Bend Pet Express.

When your mud-fest is complete, get your pup cleaned off right at Bend Pet Express.

Did you bring your four-legged friend with you? You’ll find plenty of awesome u-wash dog spots in Bend. I’m partial to locally-owned Bend Pet Express where the oatmeal shampoo leaves my pup smelling like cookies for days afterward.

And speaking of cleaning up, make sure you’re practicing leave-no-trace ethics when you’re out there enjoying the wilderness. Bring a trash bag with you when you hike and leave your favorite trail even nicer than you found it.

Now go out there and get dirty!

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