Visit Bend Blog

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What’s open (and what’s opening soon!) as Memorial Weekend 2016 kicks off summertime in Bend

May 26th, 2016

The first official day of summer 2016 isn’t until June 20, but that’s not how we see it here. In Bend, Memorial Day Weekend always marks a surge in visitor traffic and the opening of some of our best attractions for the season.

Here’s a handy roundup of what’s already open and what you can expect to see opening very soon in Bend and around Central Oregon.

 

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is the gateway to dozens of breathtaking high Cascade lakes and oodles of great fishing, boating, floating, canoeing, and more. It’s also just a darn pretty drive.

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened earlier this week.

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened earlier this week.

Heavy snowfall prompts the seasonal closure during late-fall each year, but the gates were thrown open this year on May 23. Expect to still see a fair amount of snow scattered around, particularly at higher elevations. If you’re hoping to camp, make sure you’ve got gear that protects you when temps dip below freezing (they will!)

But for now, get up there and enjoy!

 

Tumalo Falls

While this Bend landmark remains accessible year-round, it’s somewhat less accessible during the winter months when the seasonal gate closure at FS Road 4603 puts the main trailhead about two miles (rather than 200 feet) from where you park your car.

Whether you hike 2 miles or 200 yards to reach it, Tumalo Falls is a gorgeous place to be.

Whether you hike 2 miles or 200 yards to reach it, Tumalo Falls is a gorgeous place to be.

Compounding the issue in recent months has been a waterline project that’s limited trail access for what seems like for-EVAH to those of us itching to get back out there.

While we’ve heard mixed information on this one over the last couple days, the most recent official word from our local newspaper is that it’s scheduled to open this Saturday, May 28. Get out there and enjoy it!

 

Pilot Butte

While the hiking route up and down Pilot Butte is open year-round, the paved road for vehicles is only open when you’re less likely to hit patches of ice and go sliding off the side of this 500-foot cinder cone.

The paved road up Pilot Butte is open to vehicular traffic for the season, so watch for cars if you hike along the road.

The paved road up Pilot Butte is open to vehicular traffic for the season, so watch for cars if you hike along the road.

This year, the road opened to cars a little earlier than normal at the end of April. That means you’re free to drive up and down to get your fill of killer views of the city. If you prefer to hike it (which I highly recommend) you’ll want to keep a close eye out for cars if you’re hoofing it along the paved road instead of the dirt path.

 

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument spans more than 54,000 acres ranging from craggy lava fields to turquoise lakes to 7,984-foot Paulina Peak. As you might guess from the sheer size and diversity of this volcanic wonderland, not everything opens at the same time.

Cedar and Violet skip rocks by the lodge before we set out on the next stage of our adventure.

Cedar and Violet skip rocks by the lodge before we set out on the next stage of our adventure.

The Lava Lands Visitor Center opened May 1 with limited hours, but on May 26 they launch into full summer operations. That means they’re open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through September 5. Daily shuttle up Lava Butte will start May 28.

Most of the major roads and campgrounds are open now as well, but the road up Paulina Peak is always slow to thaw, and will likely remain closed until late-June. Check here for up-to-date info on road openings and closures.

 

McKenzie Highway (OR 242)

Crews began plowing this popular stretch of highway in April to remove gobs of snow and a few fallen trees that accumulated over the winter months. It’s not slated to open to vehicles until around June 20 this year, which is actually good news for road cyclists.

Road Cycling on the McKenzie Pass is a special treat this time of year.

Road Cycling on the McKenzie Pass is a special treat this time of year.

Each year, there’s a stretch of time when the roads are mostly cleared but the cars haven’t started flowing yet. It makes an excellent time embark on an epic road cycling adventure, so check out this article to learn more.

 

Crater Lake National Park

Located a little over two hours from Bend, Crater Lake National Park is one of the most popular road trips for people staying in Bend. While the park itself is open year-round, some roads, trails, and facilities are closed seasonally for snow.

In particular, the park’s North Entrance Road and Rim Drive close to vehicles in November each year. Crews started plowing in April, and they’re on track to have it open sometime in early June. East Rim Drive will open in early July.

Ahhh, Crater Lake. Is there anyplace more majestic?

Ahhh, Crater Lake. Is there anyplace more majestic?

But never fear! The Road to Rim Village is open year-round, as is Highway 62. Those are easy ways to access this spellbindingly beautiful area and cross Crater Lake off your bucket list. For up-to-the-minute info on conditions and closures, go here.

 

 

Other cool stuff

A few other cool attractions opening soon for the 2016 summer season:

 

Visit Bend staffers share their top spots for camping in Central Oregon

May 19th, 2016

There might still be snow in the mountains, but Bend locals and visitors alike are already tidying their camping gear and getting ready for nights spent snoozing under the stars.

To help give you some ideas, we asked Visit Bend staff and volunteers to name some of their favorite camping spots around Central Oregon. Here’s what everyone had to say

 

Blogger Tawna hanging around the campsite at Swamp Wells with her dog, Bindi.

Blogger Tawna hanging around the campsite at Swamp Wells with her dog, Bindi.

Name: Tawna Fenske

Position at Visit Bend: PR and Communications Manager (and regular author of this blog)

Campground of choice: Swamp Wells Campground

Tell us about it! While I love spending time on Central Oregon’s lakes and rivers, I prefer quieter spots when it comes to camping. Swamp Wells offers that, with the added bonus of being close to town (12 miles) and offering easy access to nearby lava tubes like Boyd Cave and Arnold Ice Cave.

Operated by the U.S. Forest Service, Swamp Wells Campground is technically a “horse camp,” and you’ll see hitching posts and the occasional pile of horse doody lying around. But we’ve frequently had the place to ourselves and had a dandy time exploring the high desert terrain on our own two feet. At nighttime, the stars are incredible, and you’ll likely hear coyotes howling in the not-so-distant distance.

Facilities out here are rustic, with just a vault toilet and no running water. The upside is that it’s free, which makes it a nice place to be if you’re trying to stick close to Bend and don’t have much money to spend. Be careful with fires, and heed warnings and restrictions during periods when campfires are banned altogether.

 

 

Name: Kevney Dugan

Position at Visit Bend: Executive Director

Campground of choice:  Point Campground on Elk Lake

Tell us about it! This is a great lake for standup paddleboarding, skipping rocks, and camp fires under the stars. It has a boat launch and pit toilets, though no running water, so bring your own.

Kevney's kids frolic with their grandpa on the shore of Elk Lake.

Kevney’s kids frolic with their grandpa on the shore of Elk Lake.

Get there early and take the spot all the way at the end. It’s close to the boat ramp, but the boat ramp isn’t busy so it’s fine. This is a great place for kids to play in shallow water. It has awesome views of Mt. Bachelor to the east and South Sister and Broken top to the north.

Our favorite activity is paddleboarding to the north end of the lake for a treat at the Elk Lake store. If you’re ambitious, go out at night when the lake is calm, the stars are out, and you will have the whole lake to yourself! This campground remains quiet even though it is busy. Bring firewood.

 

 

 

Names: Chip and Josefa LaFurney

Chip and Jo get set up at Lower Palisades Campground site 11.

Chip and Jo get set up at Lower Palisades Campground site 11.

Position at Visit Bend: Volunteers

Campground of choice: Lower Palisades Campground on the Crooked River

Tell us about it! This campground is run by the BLM so it’s very basic and has no facilities, although it does have an outhouse.

It’s only an hour’s drive from our house (Overturf Butte location). Our favorite campsite is number 11, and it’s RIGHT on the river and close to the outhouse. The stars out there are absolutely incredible! Chimney Rock is close by for hiking, as is the Prineville Reservoir where we took the canoe (the Reservoir is 5 miles away).

Insider tip?  GET THERE EARLY. You can’t reserve and it does fill up.  We got there at noon on a Friday and got the site we liked, but it was pretty full by about 4 p.m. We met the other campers and they brought firewood and we hung out by their fire. There were other campgrounds very close and we checked them out but found this one to be the best.

 

 

Name: Nate Wyeth

Position at Visit Bend: Marketing Director

Nate Wyeth always takes the best camping pictures, especially at Wyeth Campground.

Nate Wyeth always takes the best camping pictures, especially at Wyeth Campground.

Campground of choice: Wyeth Campground

Most of my favorite camping spots are dispersed and backpack-in only, but for a more accessible option, I like Wyeth Campground because, well, the name. It’s also less busy than most other popular spots, and although there are only five sites, it still fills up less quickly than campgrounds on the nearby Cascade Lakes Highway.

Besides the name, I love that it’s on a beautiful section of the Upper Deschutes, and still very close to all of the great hikes along the Cascade Lakes Highway. As the sites have a mixture of sun and shade, it’s a great place to just be lazy all weekend, maybe wet a line, and toss the ball in to the river for the pup. The best sites are 2 and 4 and are on the water.

In terms of facilities, it’s pretty bare bones, with pit toilets and a boat ramp, which means you’ll have to bring your own water and firewood (there’s no buying it onsite). On busy weekends, it does fill up quickly since there are only a few sites.

 

 

 

Name: Linda Orcelletto

Position at Visit Bend: Visitor Information Specialist

Linda and her husband know how to do dispersed camping right!

Linda and her husband know how to do dispersed camping right!

Campground of choice: Dispersed camping

Tell us about it! I think we all go camping to get away from the urban sights and sounds. So our favorite spots aren’t in campgrounds, but dispersed areas that are close to water. For some reason the air is fresher, food tastes better, sleep is deeper and the stars shine brighter when you are surrounded by trees instead of RVs, tents, and other folks.

Camping in areas outside campgrounds requires extra care such as bringing your own water, a porta potty, a roll up table, and being conscientious enough take your trash with you. Unless there is an established fire ring, no fires are allowed. Even then, make certain to check on fire regulations. Always bring enough water.  This type of camping isn’t for everyone (especially large groups), so if you are new to this type of camping, check out this link so you know before you go.

Go early (or during the week) so you aren’t disappointed if your site is already taken. Most dirt roads aren’t maintained and require high ground clearance vehicles. Most of all, follow the rules of leaving no trace so others can enjoy the tranquility of the spot after you leave.

For tips and information on dispersed camping on U.S. Forest Service land, check out this link.

 

 

Name:  Lisa Sidor

Position at Visit Bend:  Visitor Center Manager

Campground of Choice: Sparks Lake

Larry Sidor (husband of Lisa Sidor and head brewer/owner at Crux Fermentation Project) enjoys the good life at Sparks Lake.

Larry Sidor (husband of Lisa Sidor and head brewer/owner at Crux Fermentation Project) enjoys the good life at Sparks Lake.

Tell us about it! Last summer, my husband and I kayak camped for the first time at Sparks Lake.  The lake was low, and we had to portage a bit, but ended up having the lake to ourselves.

Camping at Sparks Lake varies with one campground near the Cascade Lakes Highway, dispersed camping along the forest service road to the lake, and dispersed camping by boat along the lake’s shores.

If you pull up on the western shore, you have a beautiful view of Mt. Bachelor.  Bring your own water and firewood.  Weekdays are best to avoid crowds at the launch ramp.

Normal lake levels will see more kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boarders out exploring.  Sparks Lake is wonderful to explore, with lots of nooks and crannies.  The lake drains into the aquifer by fall, and you can see where the lake is draining.  There are several places to camp along the shore, but you need to bring everything in by boat.  Don’t forget all the necessary permits for water craft and your Northwest Forest Pass!

 

 

Name: Hank Therien

Position at Visit Bend: Group Sales and Special Projects Manager

One of many breathtaking sights you'll see while camping at Paulina Lake.

One of many breathtaking sights you’ll see while camping at Paulina Lake.

Campground of Choice: Little Crater Campground

Tell us about it! The campground is on Paulina Lake and is a great home base to explore the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The sites are big enough to accommodate RVs, and there’s a dump station on site. There’s also running water, fire rings, a boat launch, and more. You can even reserve ahead through this link.

This campground sees heavy summer use, so stick to shoulder season times to avoid crowds. Be sure to arrive early, because this campground tends to fill by Thursday afternoon for most weekends.

If you can get your hands on one of the last campsites that you come to near the campground turnaround, you will have quick access to a trail that will lead you to a pair of natural hot springs on the opposite side of the lake.

6 “best of” honors Bend hasn’t earned (but totally should!)

May 12th, 2016

Yesterday I got an email from a colleague seeking a roundup of “best of” lists Bend has made in recent years. It was tough to narrow it down.

Did she want to know about the time Outside magazine named Bend the top standup paddleboarding getaway in the world? Or maybe when USA Today claimed we’re one of the nation’s top cycling towns? Or how about when the New York Times ranked Bend one of the top 52 destinations in the world to visit? What about when Livability.com named us one of America’s most romantic cities, or the time Dog Fancy declared us the dog-friendliest city in the U.S.?

The snow gets thin by summertime, but in the spring you can ski those mountains all morning, then hit the river in the afternoon.

The snow gets thin by summertime, but in the spring you can ski those mountains all morning, then hit the river in the afternoon.

Bend has been lauded for everything from mountain biking to fishing to the city’s amazing beer scene. But scrolling through all those “best of” lists got me thinking about other (admittedly nonexistent) lists Bend would totally rock if there were such a thing.

 

5 great spots to wear boots and a bikini in the same day

Spring is the best time of year to visit Bend if you want to find skiable snow still in the mountains, and paddle-worthy conditions on the Deschutes River all in the same day.

Head up to Mt. Bachelor for a morning of spring skiing or a bit of snowshoeing. Then drive 25 minutes to plop your kayak in the river or maybe hit a mountain biking trail. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can do that in a span of only a couple hours.

Juniper allergy? Okay, so spring might not be the best time to visit Bend. But they're sure beautiful the rest of the year, and Bend's a stunning place to have the sniffles.

Juniper allergy? Okay, so spring might not be the best time to visit Bend. But they’re sure beautiful the rest of the year, and Bend’s a stunning place to have the sniffles.

 

The world’s 10 most scenic places to have an allergy attack

While spring is an amazing time of year to visit Bend, it’s also a not-so-great time of year for those who suffer from allergies to juniper pollen. The thing is, you’re unlikely to care.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who’ve lived in Bend for eons and simply accept the fact that they’ll spend a few days each spring sneezing and sniffling uncontrollably. When asked if they’d ever consider leaving, every single one of them declares a vehement, “No way!” in between sniffles.

There’s a reason allergy-prone folks are willing to put up with a tiny bit of suffering. It’s a small price to pay for endless access to glorious mountain views, abundant recreational opportunities, and the friendliest people you’ll ever hope to meet.

 

The top U.S. destinations to ogle beautiful people

Visit Bend recently shared this seemingly harmless photo on Instagram, and a million female viewers went a little berzerk.

Visit Bend recently shared this seemingly harmless photo on Instagram, and a million female viewers went a little berzerk.

I suppose this isn’t the most politically-correct addition to the list, but it’s true. Everywhere you go in Bend, you’ll see beautiful, fit, smiling people strolling around in cycling shorts or running gear like it’s the most natural thing in the word. In Bend, it kinda is.

Maybe it’s the preponderance of outdoor activities that keeps everyone so fit, or maybe it’s just being in Bend that makes everyone so beautifully smiley all the time. Either way, we’ll take it!

 

15 great places you can wear jeans to a fancy dinner

Bend’s restaurant and brewery scene has been lauded everywhere from the Huffington Post to the Washington Post and several local chefs have won national honors.

This is about as dressy as you need to get in Bend -- even when dining out at a nice restaurant.

This is about as dressy as you need to get in Bend — even when dining out at a nice restaurant.


But Bend also has the most unpretentious culinary scene you’ll find. You can stroll into any one of the city’s award-winning eateries in a pair of jeans and a clean fleece and no one will look twice. The food and beer will be outstanding, and you’ll be comfortable in your casual best.

 

America’s top destinations to get a sunburn

People boast that Bend gets an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, and while I won’t claim the sun is blazing every hour, it’s true we’ve got a whole lot of sun here. Combine with the fact that everyone loves to play outdoors in Bend (and then mix in the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow or a reflective surface like a lake or river) and….well….yeah. You might get a little pink in the cheeks.

Fortunately, you can enjoy Bend without the sunburn as long as you regularly reapply your sunscreen. Try Bend-made T’s Tonics, which offer sweat-proof SPF 30 protection with the added bonus of healing oils that leave your skin soft and nourished.

But if the red demon of sun exposure does strike you down, I can promise there are few places in the country that make a more beautiful setting to smear aloe on your naked body.

You know you're in Bend when...

You know you’re in Bend when…

The best U.S. destinations to count Subarus

If you’ve spent more than an hour in Bend, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Stand on any street corner in Bend on any day of the year and I guarantee you’ll see at least a dozen Subarus cruise past in fifteen minutes or less.

Most of them will have racks on top that are loaded with bikes, kayaks, ski gear, or all of the above. Do not attempt to play the “slug bug” game here with Subarus or you will never recover from the bruises.

How to celebrate Mother’s Day 2016 in Bend, Oregon

May 5th, 2016

Whether you’re a mom to humans, a mom to four-legged creatures, or a childfree visitor looking for a way to celebrate your own mother, Bend makes a pretty fab place to spend Mother’s Day.

In 2016, the big day falls on Sunday, May 8, and there are a number of ways you can commemorate the holiday in Bend. Here are a few of my faves.

 

Mother’s day brunch, coming up!

If you asked my step-kids to name their favorite places in Central Oregon, I’m positive Brasada Ranch would make the list. Though the kids won’t be with us for Mother’s Day this year, I’m still seizing the opportunity to head out there for Brasada Ranch’s annual Mother’s Day Brunch, complete with seasonal, farm-fresh cuisine, lawn games, and more. The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and I recommend getting there early so you can enjoy the whole day out there.

Brasada Ranch makes a beautiful setting for Mother's Day brunch.

Brasada Ranch makes a beautiful setting for Mother’s Day brunch.

If you’d prefer to stay right in the Bend city limits, McMenamins Saint Francis School also hosts an annual Mother’s Day brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a menu that includes French toast, biscuits with sausage gravy, specialty salads, fresh fruit, eggs, maple-glazed ham with Hammerhead sauce, and a selection of desserts.

Other Central Oregon hotspots offering Mother’s Day Brunch include Sunriver Resort, Pronghorn Resort, Tetherow Resort, and Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards. Be sure to call for reservations, since these events are quite popular and tend to sell out.

 

Not in the mood for brunch?

It’s true Mother’s Day brunch is kind of a thing, and I’m positive any of the brunches I mentioned above will be a big win for the mom in your life.

But if that’s not your scene, consider offering mom something besides the traditional breakfast/lunch hybrid. The Bend Ale Trail is a fabulous place to start if mom’s a fan of craft beer. To make it extra special, pick up a beer-themed gift for her a Hydro Flask or DrinkTanks growler (both of which are sold in the Bend Visitor Center). If bling is more her thing, consider a pair of hop-inspired earrings from Hopped Up Jewelry.

The beer-loving mom on your list needs a DrinkTanks Growler, okay?

The beer-loving mom on your list needs a DrinkTanks Growler, okay?

If Mom is less into food and more into enjoying the great outdoors, try planning a family-friendly hike or an afternoon picnic in one of nearly 80 parks in Bend. I rounded up my favorite parks in this blog post.

Another option for the non-brunch-seeking crowd is the special Mother’s Day prime rib dinner at Currents at the Riverhouse. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because the restaurant attached to Riverhouse on the Deschutes used to be known as Crossings. In recent months, the space got a HUGE overhaul, including a new name, a new chef, and a dining area that looks so dramatically different you won’t recognize it. They’ve only recently re-opened, so call 541-389-8810 to book your spot at the Mother’s Day dinner and check out what’s new.

 

Dog moms unite!

Not all moms have kids who walk upright on two legs. For mothers whose beloved babies wag their tails and snack from the cat box, Downtown Bend’s annual Dog Daze event takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 7 (the day before Mother’s Day).

Your dog wants you to take her SUPing in the morning before the two of you head to Dog Daze in Downtown Bend.

Your dog wants you to take her SUPing in the morning before the two of you head to Dog Daze in Downtown Bend.

Sponsored by Riverside Animal Hospital, the event kicks off in Mirror Pond Plaza with pet-themed booths and animals available for adoption. That’s where you’ll grab your “dog passport,” which will lead you (and your leashed, furry friend!) on a journey to different Downtown Bend businesses to collect paw print stamps. Turn in your passport by 3 p.m. for a chance to win prizes valued at more than $300.

 

Get her some flowers…or a barbecue

If you’re a traditionalist who wants to buy Mom a nice floral arrangement for Mother’s Day, you’ll certainly find those at the Central Oregon Builders Association Home and Garden Show.

But you’ll also find booths featuring everything from grills to birdhouses to RVs, along with a huge array of educational offerings from cooking to gardening.

The event is held out at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, and features free admission and parking. Stop by May 6 or 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Treat mom to some pampering

You know what mom wants more than anything else, but is afraid to tell you because she doesn’t want to seem pretentious? A spa day.

Your mom wants a massage. Trust me.

Your mom wants a massage. Trust me.

Trust me, it’s true. Even the mom who insists she doesn’t need a massage or a facial would be absolutely ecstatic if you got her a gift certificate for one.

Luckily, Bend has oodles of amazing day spas for you to choose from if you want to snag a gift certificate or two. Check out Visit Bend’s roundup of Bend spas and day spas to pick one that sounds right for the lady in your life.

Oh, and if you want in on the action, consider booking the Couple’s Massage Workshop at Brasada Ranch so you can use your skills on each other for many years to come.

 

Experiences, not things

A few weeks before Christmas, I wrote this blog post about the benefits of giving experiences instead of things. It’s as true for Mother’s Day as it was for Christmas, and I guarantee mom will treasure the memories she makes during that adventure from Wanderlust Tours or the cooking class from Well Traveled Fork.

And if you’d like to plan a single, amazing day to honor the special lady in your life, check out the itinerary in this blog post on planning a perfect day in Bend.

 

10 things you MUST do on a Bend vacation

April 28th, 2016

Last week someone asked me to recommend a list of must-do Bend experiences and adventures.

I started to email her a link to this blog post I wrote to answer that question. Then I looked at the date. March 2012? Huh.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve changed a lot in four years. I got married and acquired a couple amazing step-kids. I discovered awesome new adventures and experiences in this town I call home. Heck, even the town itself has changed in the 1,511 days since I wrote that post.

The views from the top of Pilot Butte are well worth a little hiking and sweating to get there.

The views from the top of Pilot Butte are well worth a little hiking and sweating to get there.

Based on the popularity of that previous post, it seems wise to offer a new one for 2016. Here, without further ado, are Tawna’s top 10 experiences for Bend visitors.

1) Hike Pilot Butte.

If you’re not up for hiking this 500-foot cinder cone in the center of town, you can drive it in the warmer months between May and October(ish). But one way or another, you need to make the journey to the summit of Pilot Butte. There, you’ll have 360-degree views of mountains, desert, and the entire city of Bend. It’s a terrific way to orient yourself to the city, plus you’ll have bragging rights for summiting one of the only city-dwelling volcanoes in the U.S.

2) Hit at least one stop on the Bend Ale Trail.

Whether you're a beer fan or not, plan at least one stop along the Bend Ale Trail.

Whether you’re a beer fan or not, plan at least one stop along the Bend Ale Trail.

Craft beer is an integral part of Bend’s culture and history. Even if you think you’re not a beer fan, you’ll be fascinated by the science lesson you get on a brewery tour (I recommend the one at Deschutes Brewery, or hit four stops and get sober transportation and snacks with the Bend Brew Bus). Nearly all the breweries along the Bend Ale Trail are family-friendly, so you can make it a casual lunch with the kids, or go whole-hog and hit a dozen or more breweries with your Bend Ale Trail passport in hand. Most breweries offer taster trays, so seize the opportunity to try several styles and varieties.

3) Day trip to a major Central Oregon landmark.

Crater Lake is well worth a road trip during one of the days of your Bend vacation.

Crater Lake is well worth a road trip during one of the days of your Bend vacation.

I’m cheating a little with this one, but it’s my way of acknowledging you’re unlikely to have time to hit all the major state parks, national monuments, and other bucket-list landmarks during your Central Oregon vacation. But make sure you hit at least Drive 40 minutes to Smith Rock State Park to see the towering basalt cliffs, or make the two-hour trek to Crater Lake National Park to see the deepest lake in the U.S., which formed when a volcano collapsed on itself. The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day National Monument is less than two hours away and features stunning multicolored hillsides and sweeping views. You can also day trip to see things like the spellbinding turquoise waters of the Metolius River (40 minutes) or take a two-hour drive and a woodsy hike to see the stunning depths of Tamolitch Pool (also known as Blue Pool). You can read more about must-do Bend day trips here.

4) Try an adventure with Wanderlust Tours.

A cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours makes an excellent addition to your Bend vacation any time of year.

A cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours makes an excellent addition to your Bend vacation any time of year.

I’ve been lucky enough to sample nearly every tour offered by this phenomenal company, from moonlight snowshoe tours to canoe trips to cave adventures and much more. There is simply no better way to experience a once-in-a-lifetime Central Oregon adventure than to go with a knowledgeable, engaging naturalist guide who provides all your transportation, gear, and a wealth of knowledge about this region. Trust me—this will be some of the best money you spend on your Bend vacation. Go here to check out the offerings from Wanderlust Tours.

5) Play on water (liquid or frozen).

Standup paddleboarding is a great way to experience Bend's beautiful waterways.

Standup paddleboarding is a great way to experience Bend’s beautiful waterways.

Whether you prefer to paddle the pristine waters of the Deschutes River or ski the powdery slopes at Bachelor, your Bend vacation needs to include some form of water adventure. Take a drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway in summertime to splash around in one of the lakes. If there’s snow on the ground, head the same direction, but bust out the snowshoes when you reach the gate that closes seasonally. At visitbend.com, you’ll find oodles of summer recreation ideas ranging from canoeing to standup paddleboarding to floating the river on an inner tube. You’ll also learn about winter recreation ideas that run the gamut from ice skating to skiing to sled dog rides. Pick one according to your interests and the season, and prepare to enjoy the best H2O has to offer.

6) Get your foodie fix.

Bend's culinary scene is well worth experiencing.

Bend’s culinary scene is well worth experiencing.

Bend’s culinary scene is mouthwateringly, dizzyingly good for a city this size, and you’ll find everything from Asian fusion prepared by a James Beard-nominated chef, to creative twists on Pacific Northwest and European cuisine. If you’re a true foodie, you might enjoy a culinary tour or cooking class from The Well Traveled Fork. You can also sample pub fare along the Bend Ale Trail or consult the drinking and dining category on this blog to find posts about everything from Bend’s best burgers to gluten-free dining to vegan and vegetarian fare. Just make sure you step out of your comfort zone a few times instead of sticking with chain restaurants you recognize from home. I promise you’ll thank me!

7) Soak in some arts and culture.

Enjoying the artwork in the Tin Pan Alley art collection is as simple as walking down the street.

Enjoying the artwork in the Tin Pan Alley art collection is as simple as walking down the street.

Even if you don’t frequent art galleries in your hometown, you owe it to yourself to take a gander at Bend’s unique art scene. We have an amazing array of outdoor public art you can scope out with the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection or the Roundabout Art Route. We also have a terrific lineup of museums, theaters, concerts, and more, which you can learn about on the arts and culture page of the Visit Bend website. Prefer to have someone else do the driving while giving you oodles of local insights? Check out the Art Safari Tour with The Bend Tour Company.

8) Show me some lava!

Wanderlust's Volcano Tour is a must-do if you're interested in Central Oregon's volcanic landscapes.

Wanderlust’s Volcano Tour is a must-do if you’re interested in Central Oregon’s volcanic landscapes.

One of the most unique things about Bend’s landscape is the volcanic history of the area and the abundance of unique geological features everywhere. You’ll get a taste of it with the aforementioned hike up Pilot Butte, but you can take it a step further by exploring the Newberry Volcanic National Monument or the vast Oregon Badlands Wilderness. You can also enjoy a volcano tour from Wanderlust Tours, or hoof it along the Deschutes River Trail on your own to scope out Lava Island Falls. To take a little piece of it home, try some rockhounding around Central Oregon and scope out massive lava flows and glassy obsidian.

9) Stroll the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend.

Strolling Bend's Old Mill District is a scenic way to get your shopping fix.

Strolling Bend’s Old Mill District is a scenic way to get your shopping fix.

Every town you visit is going to have some form of souvenir shopping, but ours looks a little different in Bend. Historic Downtown Bend is dotted with quaint, locally-owned shops and unique historic architecture, with the added bonus of being right on the fringe of Bend’s famous Drake Park. The Old Mill District has a delightful mix of well-known chain stores and locally-owned boutiques, along with a plethora of great restaurants lining the Deschutes riverfront that beckons you to stroll while you’re shopping there. With roughly a mile separating the two areas, you can easily walk or bike between the two on a nice afternoon.

10) Play Outside.

We kinda already covered this base with the aforementioned suggestions to play in or on water and hike Pilot Butte. But let’s take it a step further, shall we? Vacation is an excellent time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. For some, that might involve bungee jumping, an Ultralite ride, or some other source of adrenaline rush. For others, it might be something like a mountain bike tour with Cog Wild or a kayak lesson from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Find the edge of your outdoorsy comfort zone and take one step out of it. You’ll be glad you did!

5 reasons it’s not too early to plan your summer vacation in Bend

April 21st, 2016

It’s still April in Bend, and a week ago I was looking out my office window at snow piled around tulips in the yard of a neighboring business.

April 14, 2016 in Bend.

April 14, 2016 in Bend.

We have about two more months of vacillating between sunshine and freezing temps in Bend, which might lead you to think you have all the time in the world to schedule a summer vacation in Bend. Don’t be fooled. Here are five reasons you really need to get a jump on it NOW.

 

Choose where you snooze

Bend’s summers are hot in more ways than temperature. Between June and September, the city sees a staggering surge in tourists coming here for warm-weather activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, camping, or all of the above in Bend’s great outdoors.

The pine-fringed pool at Mt. Bachelor Village Resort is a great place to lounge in the summer, but you need to book early if you want to visit in peak season.

The pine-fringed pool at Mt. Bachelor Village Resort is a great place to lounge in the summer, but you need to book early if you want to visit in peak season.

It’s no wonder, since the abundance of blue skies, warm weather, and epic rivers, lakes, and trails makes this the perfect summertime playground. But that means lodging books up super-early in summer months, with many regular visitors scheduling their trips more than a year in advance.

Last-minute lodging can be impossible to find at the height of summer, regardless of whether you plan to stay in a Bend resort, a vacation home, a hotel, or even an RV park. Now’s the time to start nailing down a place to stay if you’re hoping to visit during peak months, so start your search right here.

Don’t miss that once-in-a-lifetime concert

When the Les Schwab Amphitheater announced several months ago that Alabama Shakes would play the venue Memorial Day Weekend, plenty of folks got giddy. When the band won a Grammy a few weeks later, it didn’t take long for the Bend show to sell out.

Concerts can sell out at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, so study the calendar and plan ahead if there's someone you want to see live.

Concerts can sell out at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, so study the calendar and plan ahead if there’s someone you want to see live.

A lot of would-be concert-goers were bummed. They had no idea some of the hottest shows at this awesome outdoor venue can sell out before you’ve made up your mind to buy tickets.

Don’t miss out on that concert you’ve been dying to see. The 2016 summer lineup promises a diverse and awesome lineup of artists ranging from Jackson Browne to Steve Miller Band to Slightly Stoopid to Brandi Carlile to Michael Franti and sooooooo many more. Go here to check out the complete lineup, then nab your tickets early to avoid the heartbreak of missing your favorite show.

 

Predicting the weather isn’t tough

When you plan a Bend vacation in October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May, or early-June, you might get snow. Or you might get rain. Or you might get blazing hot sunshine. Heck, you might get all those things in one day.

It's okay to plan ahead for outdoor activities like whitewater rafting if you're coming in mid-summer. We can almost guarantee perfect weather.

It’s okay to plan ahead for outdoor activities like whitewater rafting if you’re coming in mid-summer. We can almost guarantee perfect weather.

The weather is unpredictable from fall to spring, which is one of the amazing things about Bend. (I actually blogged about it last week in this post on embracing Bend’s yo-yo springtime weather).

But if you’re planning something like a family reunion or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that absolutely, positively requires great weather, you can almost guarantee you’ll get that if you visit Bend between late-June and early-September. That’s when our high desert weather is at its finest (in my humble opinion) with dry, hot, cloudless days and clear, starry, cool nights.

One of many upsides to this is the fact that you can pre-book weather-dependent activities with some relative certainty the weather will cooperate. While Sun Country Tours is unlikely to sign a document in blood promising sunshine on the day of your whitewater raft trip, odds are good it’ll be plenty warm in July or August. Ditto that for things like canoe outings with Wanderlust Tours or a mountain biking adventure with Cog Wild.

Just remember to pack your sunscreen, okay?

 

Consult the calendar to know what’s happening

Not sure which summer month to pick for your Bend summer vacation? Visit Bend’s Event Calendar can help you plan around special events to suit your interests and schedule.

Balloons over Bend happens every July, and Bend lodging books early during the event.

Balloons over Bend happens every July, and Bend lodging books early during the event.

Beer fans might prefer an August trip to coincide with the Bend Brewfest, while families might prefer to time a visit around the Bend Summer Festival or Balloons Over Bend in July.

You can narrow your Event Calendar search to look for things happening in the arts community, for concerts, or for sporting events that tickle your fancy.

 

Booking ahead isn’t for losers. I promise.

Ahem. A personal story.

I spent a big chunk of my 20s and 30s globetrotting all over the world, roaming from Australia to Italy to Venezuela to Morocco to Barbados and a zillion other places in between. I very rarely made reservations anywhere, preferring to roam freely with my grungy backpack and the knowledge I could decide on a whim where to lay my head that night.

Now I’m 41, and when my husband and I sat down to plan our three-week vacation in New Zealand, I was aghast at his suggestion that we pre-book all our lodging. What if I liked Blenheim better than Dunedin and wanted to stay there longer? Or what if the Coromandel Peninsula wasn’t what I expected and I wanted to keep moving?

But after a bit of discussion, I agreed to try it my husband’s way.

You know what, guys? I learned something on that trip. I learned that pre-booking my lodging let me research ahead of time to make sure I get the best lodging deals in areas that suit my style and budget. I learned that not having to scramble with last-minute phone calls and driving around looking for vacancy signs makes vacation a whole lot more restful. And I learned that I would have been in deep doo-doo if I’d shown up in Rotorua (a town we absolutely adored) without a reservation on the day a massive bike race booked every single room in that little city.

So yeah, booking ahead takes a bit of the spontaneity out of travel. But it also takes away a lot of the stress. Do yourself a favor, especially if you’re visiting Bend during peak summer season—BOOK AHEAD!

 

3 reasons to embrace springtime yo-yo weather in Bend, Oregon

April 13th, 2016

On Monday I walked my dog wearing a sleeveless top and skirt.

To clarify, my dog was naked. I wore the skirt and top.

In any case, it was bright and warm and I got a touch of sunburn on my nose. When I came home and glanced at the weather report, I saw snowflakes in the forecast for Thursday. Yep, snow.

It’s always possible this time of year in Bend, just like it’s also possible I’ll be sitting on my back deck tonight sipping a Bend craft beer in 80-degree weather. You kinda never know.

Spring can be a great time of year to kayak in Bend.

Spring can be a great time of year to kayak in Bend.

But there are a lot of upsides to our crazy yo-yo weather fluctuations that come with springtime in Bend, and here are three of my faves.

 

Wield ski poles and a kayak paddle in the same day

Mt. Bachelor has one of the longest ski seasons in the Pacific Northwest, and the mountain is legendary for having some of the best spring skiing in the country. Most years you can ski all the way through Memorial Weekend, and given the snow year we had in 2015-2016, there’s still plenty of white stuff to be found up there.

There's still plenty of snow in the mountains around Bend, even in late-spring.

There’s still plenty of snow in the mountains around Bend, even in late-spring.

As an added bonus, Mt. Bachelor has oodles of great Springtacular specials going right now, ranging from deals on spring passes to events with live music and competitions. You can learn more right here.

Once you’ve had enough of snow play, drive 20 minutes down the hill to the middle of Bend. Take your pick between golfing, mountain biking, kayaking, or any manner of warm-weather sport. There’s plenty to pick from, and the new Bend Whitewater Park adds an extra dimension of fun to your time on the Deschutes River.

My personal fave is standup paddleboarding, and I had my first SUP outing of the season a couple days ago. The very same day, a pal posted her photos from a ski day up at Mt. Bachelor. How’s that for the best of both worlds?

 

Layers can be kinda fun

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no fashionista, but I also kinda like the variety I get to have in my wardrobe this time of year. I start my workday wearing sassy boots and a cardigan with my skirt, and by mid-afternoon I’ve ditched the sweater and switched to sandals. When evening rolls around, I can go back to my original outfit, or trade for jeans and a fleece if I plan to hang out by an outdoor fire pit along the Bend Ale Trail.

Spring weather in Bend gives you a great excuse to shop for the layers you'll need for yo yo weather.

Spring weather in Bend gives you a great excuse to shop for the layers you’ll need for yo yo weather.

Also, can I confess something I didn’t tell my husband when we packed for our recent three-week vacation in New Zealand? I deliberately packed extra light when it came to things like sundresses, hats, and scarves. I knew those would be easy to find in either beach towns or mountain towns, and I love the idea of picking up wearable souvenirs in my travels.

There are oodles of great shopping destinations in Bend, including historic Downtown Bend and the Old Mill District. Springtime is the season of killer clearance sales, so now’s a great time to score really great discounts on those “transitional pieces” that’ll see you through the changing weather.

 

Indecisive travelers unite! Or don’t…

If you’ve been eyeing Bend as a vacation destination, it can be tough to decide when to visit. Do you want to snuggle into your puffy coat beside the Crux fire pit sipping a hearty porter and reminiscing about your day of snowshoeing? Or would you rather hike Pilot Butte in short sleeves, then pick your favorite riverfront dining spot to watch kayakers paddle past while you enjoy a gourmet meal?

Sipping beer by the fire at Crux Fermentation Project is fabulous whether it's warm outside or downright chilly.

Sipping beer by the fire at Crux Fermentation Project is fabulous whether it’s warm outside or downright chilly.

While you’d have to pick one or the other if you were deciding between a December versus an August trip, you can have both when you visit Bend in spring. That hot tub they offer at your Bend hotel or vacation rental will feel a whole lot better on a cool spring evening than it would in July, but you won’t have to shovel a path through the snow to reach it. Score!

Not only that, but the Bend lodging deals you’ll find in springtime are much better than you’d see at peak times in mid-summer or mid-winter.

8 family-friendly hikes in Bend and Central Oregon

April 7th, 2016

Driving along a country road Sunday afternoon, I heard a voice from the backseat.

“Thank you so much for taking us on that hike. It was really fun.”

The Alder Springs hike with blogger Tawna's husband, Craig and kids Cedar (14) and Violet (10).

The Alder Springs hike with blogger Tawna’s husband, Craig and kids Cedar (14) and Violet (10).

The voice belonged to my 14-year-old stepson, and those of you with teenagers know it’s kind of a big deal to have anything declared “fun” when it doesn’t include electronic devices or friends.

But the hike was fun, which got us talking about other fun family hikes we’ve done around Central Oregon over the last five years. There were tons. But we narrowed it to a few of our faves, as voted upon by Cedar and his 10-year-old sister, Violet.

And the grownups. We sometimes get a vote, too.

 

 Alder Springs Trail

Let’s start with the hike that inspired my stepson’s comment last weekend, since it’s the newest one in our repertoire.

The Alder Springs Trail hike offers stunning glimpses of high desert landscapes with sagebrush-dotted plateaus and sweeping vistas in all directions. Unlike some of my other favorite desert-centric hikes (i.e. the Oregon Badlands Wilderness), this one has water thrown in, which makes it nicer for both kids and pets.

Hanging out next to Whychus Creek on the Alder Springs hike.

Hanging out next to Whychus Creek on the Alder Springs hike.

There’s a bit of elevation here, but don’t let that stop you. En route down toward Whychus Creek, we passed two families with kids around five or six and one mom with a toddler in a backpack. While laziness and an abundance of caution (not to mention the fact that I don’t actually have a toddler) would preclude me from doing that, you’ll do fine with kids in the 7+ age range.

It’s about 1.5 miles from the trailhead down to Whychus Creek, which is an excellent spot for a picnic. Many folks opt to wade through the river and keep hiking another 1.5 miles to reach the confluence of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River, but springtime flows made the water a bit too deep and swift to risk it with the 10-year-old. But there was still plenty to see, especially on the hike back up when we detoured toward the old bridge site for more awesome access to Whychus Creek.

The adventure took us about three hours, plus about 90 minutes of total drive time. Be aware that the road leading to the trailhead is pretty rutted, and that there are no bathroom facilities anywhere nearby. Make a potty stop in Sisters or plan on holding it for a little while. The folks at Cascade Hiking Adventures offer great, detailed directions for reaching this area, so go here to check those out.

 

Tamolitch Pool (aka Blue Pool)

Where the Alder Springs hike offers the best of high desert scenery, Tamolitch Pool covers the opposite base with an abundance of towering, mossy trees and damp earth. Getting here requires a drive of about 1.5 hours southwest of Bend, but that makes it a perfect day trip (especially when you reward everyone with a soak afterward at nearby Belknap Hot Springs, which is much more kid-friendly than lots of hot springs you’ll find around Oregon).

Craig and the kids on the edge of Blue Pool.

Craig and the kids on the edge of Blue Pool.

But back to the hike. There are two potential starting points, and while the one beginning at the Koosah Falls parking area offers the bonus of waterfall views, 8+ miles of hiking might be a bit much for families with younger kids in tow. Personally, I prefer to start from the trailhead near Carmen Reservoir or Trailbridge Reservoir, which reduces your hiking time by roughly half, but still gives you plenty of great river and forest scenery to savor.

The end result is the same either way, with glorious views of the Blue Pool (which really is as blue as it looks in photos). Bring a snack and sit on a log or boulder near the rim to enjoy the views while nibbling your cheese and crackers. Expect the kids to sleep well on the drive back to Bend.

 

Pilot Butte

If your time is limited and you don’t feel like driving far to enjoy a Bend hike, Pilot Butte is the ticket. It has the bonus cool factor of being a dormant volcano, making Bend one of the only cities in the U.S. with a volcano in the city limits (and providing bragging rights for your kids when they return to school and tell their friends, “yeah, I hiked a volcano. . . I’m kind of a big deal.”)

Chasing bubbles on Pilot Butte.

Chasing bubbles on top of Pilot Butte.

This 500-foot cinder cone offers a couple different routes to the top. The unpaved trail is steeper and gets you to the top a minute or two faster, but with one kid prone to dust-inspired asthma attacks, we usually opt to hike alongside the paved road. It’s closed to motorized vehicles between November(ish) and April(ish) depending on snowfall, so if you’re hiking between those months, feel free to let the kids run wild in the road. Otherwise, you’ll want to herd everyone into the shoulder to keep them safe from speeding cars.

Regardless of how you get to the summit, plan on spending a little time up there to savor the 360-degree views. When the kids were younger, we used to bring a container of bubbles to blow in all directions so they could chase them as they floated along the wind.

I suspect the 14-year-old wouldn’t find that quite as cool these days.

 

Deschutes River Trail

This is another good option for families who prefer not to drive far from a Bend home base to reach the trailhead. Your distance depends on your starting point. The main trail starts at the Meadow Camp picnic area just off Century Drive. You can access a lot of other trailheads off FS road 41, so pick your starting point and your route depending on your family’s skill and endurance.

Gitsy-Along-River-Trail-Photo-By-Lynnette-Braillard

Gitsy, canine companion of Visit Bend’s own Lynnette Braillard, takes in the sights along the Deschutes River Trail.

To keep it nice and short, try the Meadow Camp to Lava Island hike, which clocks in at just over a mile. If you’re game for a bigger hike, you can hoof it all the way from Meadow Camp to Benham Falls, passing Lava Island Falls, Aspen Camp, and Dillon Falls along the way. That one will require about 8.5 miles of hiking, so plan accordingly.

The nice thing is that you can set out from Meadow Camp and decide along the way what you feel up to. If everyone’s still feeling strong after a couple miles, keep going. If someone in your party (possibly a parent) has a temper tantrum meltdown after mile one, just head back. Easy-peasy!

No matter how far you go, you’ll be treated to splendid views of the Deschutes River and the towering ponderosas and lava rocks that line the trail. This is a pretty well-trafficked trail, so expect crowds if you set out in the middle of summer.

 

Proxy Falls

Waterfall hikes are a big hit with kids, and this one is another favorite for my family. The kids love the winding, woodsy trails and the fact that they get to see not one, but two magnificent waterfalls along the loop.

Blogger Tawna's two stepkids take in the magnitude of Proxy Falls.

Blogger Tawna’s two stepkids take in the magnitude of Proxy Falls.

While the trails are fairly well-maintained, there are some spots where you’ll have to scramble a bit, so keep that in mind if you have teeny-tiny kids or anyone in the party who isn’t sure-footed. But the fact that this is a fairly short hike (1.5 miles) and the fact that it’s a loop instead of an in-and-back hike makes it a great choice for families.

Be sure you have plenty of space on your camera for this one, as the biggest set of falls is touted as the most photographed waterfall in the whole state. Our local paper, The Bulletin, had a great piece a few years ago on visiting Proxy Falls from Bend, complete with handy directions. You can check that out here.

 

Steelhead Falls

Another good choice for the waterfall chasers, Steelhead Falls has the added bonus of being handy to combine with a visit to Smith Rock State Park, since both are near Terrebonne about 20 miles north of Bend on Highway 97.

Tossing rocks at Steelhead Falls.

Tossing rocks at Steelhead Falls.

This is a relatively short but scenic hike, and another one like Alder Springs that highlights more of Central Oregon’s desert landscape. The hike from the trailhead to the main waterfall is a little over a mile that winds down a gorge dotted with sagebrush and ancient juniper. In summer months, the trail can be packed with people looking to swim in the peaceful waters just downstream from the falls.

I prefer doing this one in the springtime when most of the folks you’ll encounter are fishing quietly along the riverbank. Tread carefully if you go when there’s still a threat of ice or snow. Once you reach the waterfall, spread out a blanket for a picnic, and give the kids a chance to chuck rocks into the foaming, churning water.

For terrific, detailed driving details, check out the hike description from Cascade Hiking Adventures.

 

Smith Rock State Park

This one is nice to combine with the aforementioned Steelhead Falls hike to make it a full day of hiking in two different areas, or you can do it all by itself for a shorter day.

A hike at Smith Rock can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

A hike at Smith Rock can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

Smith Rock State Park is regarded as one of the seven wonders of Oregon, and for good reason. Towering basalt cliffs, gorgeous river views, and jaw-dropping landscapes will leave even the not-easily-impressed members of your family staring in wonder at the incredible views.

There are lots of spots to hike around this 651-acre state park, so you can choose whatever fits your family’s skill level. If you want to keep it simple, opt for an easy 2.5 mile stroll on flat ground along the River Trail from the park bridge to Monkey Face (which really does look like a monkey’s face!)

If you’re feeling more ambitious, hike up the Misery Ridge Trail (elevation 3,360 feet) for killer views of the entire Central Oregon Cascade mountain range.

You’ll find longer and shorter hikes, and even the opportunity to try a little sport climbing if you book with a skilled climbing guide (many of whom are happy to work with families of all ages).

And no matter which hike or climb you choose, make sure to stop along the way and stare at the river for a few minutes. Odds are good you’ll be rewarded by views of river otters frolicking in the cool water.

 

Tumalo Falls

One of Central Oregon’s quintessential Bend experiences, Tumalo Falls has the added bonus of being close to town. Depending on how far you choose to hike, you can cross this one off your bucket list in just a couple hours (including drive time and hiking time).

Tumalo Falls makes a gorgeous family hike any time of year, but fall is especially stunning.

Tumalo Falls makes a gorgeous family hike any time of year, but fall is especially stunning.

That’s assuming you go in the late-spring through early-fall when FS Road 4603 isn’t closed. If you show up before the road opens for the season, you’ll need to add another couple miles of hiking, which isn’t the worst thing in the world considering how beautiful this area is.

But assuming you show up at a time of year when you can park right at the trailhead, you’ve got a whopping hike of about 200 yards to reach the first waterfall viewpoint. That’s stunning, and maybe it’s plenty if you’ve got a young baby or you’re tired out from other hikes.

But if you have a bit more energy, it’s only a five-minute hike to the top of the falls, which offers another awesome viewpoint of this shimmering 89-foot curtain of rushing water. Want to keep going? Hoof it for another mile or two before turning back, or head all the way to Happy Valley for a four-mile out-and-back hike you won’t forget.

If you’re hiking in springtime, keep in mind the snow can take a while to melt, so wear hiking boots instead of Tevas if you’re here in May or even June. But for the most part, there’s not much elevation gain to this hike, so it’s a good one for families who don’t want to do lots of climbing.

6 “touristy” attractions you don’t want to miss in Bend, Oregon

March 31st, 2016

I’ve just returned from a dreamy vacation in New Zealand, and I’m pondering something a few kiwi locals said to me during my travels.

“Oh, you don’t want to do that . . . it’s too touristy.”

The first time was in reference to visiting a popular beach, and I quietly blew off the advice and had a fabulous time. The next time I heard it, I had to speak up. “You know, I actually am a tourist.”

Then I felt guilty, because how many times have I thought that about popular Bend attractions? But in most cases, these things are popular for a darn good reason. While there’s a certain charm in trying offbeat adventures during your Bend vacation, many tried-and-true Bend activities are worth putting on your bucket list no matter how “touristy” they might seem.

 

Leave the decisions and driving to someone else when you book an outing with the Bend Brew Bus.

Leave the decisions and driving to someone else when you book an outing with the Bend Brew Bus.

Doing an organized tour

The very idea of “booking a tour” sounds touristy, right? But since a chief purpose of vacation is to relax and experience new things, there’s no better way to do that than with the help of a professional.

During our three weeks in New Zealand, my husband and I paid pros to drive us around wine country, take us to remote landmarks, and introduce us to culinary highlights of the region. I can’t tell you what a relief it was not to hassle with rounding up specialized gear, studying road maps, or arm wrestling my husband over who’d skip wine to be the sober driver. Every tour we booked was worth ten times what we paid for the relaxation factor alone, and it’s no different in Bend.

If you’re planning to hit the Bend Ale Trail, there are oodles of options to not only give you a designated driver, but a great behind-the-scenes experience. The Bend Brew Bus is an excellent option that includes pickup and drop-off from your Bend hotel or vacation rental, or opt for a super-unique tour option with Cowboy Carriage (a beer tour in a horse-drawn wagon!) or Cycle Pub (a bicycle bar with sober driver provided). For more Bend Ale Trail tour ideas, go here.

You kinda want the experts involved if you want to try whitewater rafting in Bend.

You kinda want the experts involved if you want to try whitewater rafting in Bend.

Awesome Bend tours aren’t limited to the Bend Ale Trail. Want to do some snowshoeing, canoeing, or cave exploration without the hassle of packing all the gear and figuring out the best spots? Wanderlust Tours offers a huge array of offerings, with a naturalist guide that’ll give you much cooler insights than you’ll find in any guidebook. Ditto that for the folks at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, who will be delighted to take you kayaking or SUPing on Bend’s rivers and lakes. And speaking of water, you really don’t want to attempt whitewater rafting in Bend without professionals like Sun Country Tours guiding the way.

Need a tour with a little less adrenaline? Learn about Bend’s culinary scene with a foodie tour from the Well Traveled Fork, or get to know the city in a unique way with an Art Safari or a Segway tour from The Bend Tour Company.

You’ll find more Bend tour offerings on this page.

 

Hiking Pilot Butte

I know, I know. Everyone and their dog (literally!) hikes this 500-foot cinder cone in the middle of Bend. But there’s a good reason folks love Pilot Butte, and it goes beyond the exercise benefits of hoofing it to the top. You get KILLER views of the whole city, which is invaluable when you’re trying to orient yourself in a new place.

Hiking to the top of Pilot Butte (especially near sunrise or sunset) is a great way to see killer views of the whole city.

Hiking to the top of Pilot Butte (especially near sunrise or sunset) is a great way to see killer views of the whole city.

Amble to the top on your first morning in Bend to get the lay of the land. If hiking’s not an option, the road is open to motorized vehicles in warmer months (usually May through October). Reward yourself at the end with a tasty breakfast or lunch at Pilot Butte Drive In.

 

Visiting Deschutes Brewery

We’re beer snobs in Bend, and locals love to boast about swilling some new limited-release beer that’s only available if you knock six times with your left hand on the back door of the brewery hidden in a cave under the secret ponderosa in Drake Park.

Deschutes Brewery lives up to the hype.

Deschutes Brewery lives up to the hype.

But everyone knows about Deschutes Brewery. The fifth largest craft brewery in the United States, you’ll find their beers in more than 30 U.S. states and around Canada. I’m not exaggerating when I say Bend’s beer scene would not exist if Gary Fish hadn’t started that first little Bend brewpub back in 1988.

And although they’re big, Deschutes Brewery is still family-owned and operated. Want to know the reason you see their beer everywhere? It’s because it’s darn good. Few things taste as magical as a Black Butte Porter on a snowy winter evening, and just one sip of their Deschutes River Ale will always take me back to the first time I tasted it after whitewater rafting with Sun Country Tours.

So go ahead and embrace the granddaddy of craft beer in Bend. Do a brewery tour at their impressively massive production facility, then head to the downtown pub for a family-friendly dinner. Order extra hot wings for me in case I decide to join you.

 

Stopping by the Visitor Center

The internet has made it easy to get all your travel information with a few mouse clicks, and it’s true you can find tons of Bend travel info at www.visitbend.com.

The Bend Visitor Center is a great resource for maps, directions, and local tips on everything from dining to attractions.

The Bend Visitor Center is a great resource for maps, directions, and local tips on everything from dining to attractions.

But there’s something to be said for stopping by a visitor center in person. You can talk directly to locals who know all the best restaurants and sights worth seeing. You can grab maps and brochures and learn about activities you didn’t know existed. Heck, you can even use their wifi connection (invaluable when you’re traveling!) Best of all, it’s free.

Luckily, I went to New Zealand already knowing this, so I had the good sense to hit local visitor centers immediately upon arrival in a new town. Armed with maps and advice, I could tackle the city’s best attractions more efficiently instead of bumbling around town wondering when the shops would open or how to find a gas station.

Bonus: The Bend Visitor Center has an amazing array of unique souvenirs and gift ideas, so it’s a terrific spot to grab a few things for the folks back home. The Bend Visitor Center is located on the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend, and it’s open 9-5 weekdays and 10-4 on weekends.

 

Dining at Pine Tavern

Bend's iconic Pine Tavern is a great dining spot to have on your bucket list.

Bend’s iconic Pine Tavern is a great dining spot to have on your bucket list.

Built in 1936, the Pine Tavern is one of Bend’s most famous restaurants. It’s best known for the iconic ponderosa pine trees jutting through the center of the restaurant (one’s alive, one’s not).

And while it’s popular with the tourist crowd, it’s worth making a reservation there so you can see firsthand what’s kept this place in business for 80+ years. It might be the sourdough scones with honey butter, it might be the killer views of the Deschutes River, it might be the stellar happy hour, or it might be a combo of all three.

 

Peddling around in a bike surrey

For years I’d seen families peddling around on a bicycle surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals and thought, “Oh, that’s a cute thing for tourists to do.”

Blogger Tawna and her family on a bike surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals.

Blogger Tawna and her family on a bike surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals.

Then I tried it myself with my own family. You guys, this is seriously more fun than you can legally have in most states. The kids loved it, the grownups loved it, and it was a great way to check out the beautiful Old Mill District and the Deschutes River.

We weren’t sure at first if a one-hour rental would be enough, but it turned out to be just perfect. Insider tip: Go slowly when you’re threading the needle between the concrete barriers that keep motorized vehicles off paths. Otherwise, you’ll bang a pedal and possibly your foot (er, not that I’d know).

 

The best of the Bend Buzz Blog. Did your fave make the list?

March 24th, 2016

It just occurred to me I’ve been writing weekly blog posts for more than five years on the Bend Buzz Blog. That’s a heck of a lot of posts (more than 300, if you’re counting).

Folks ask sometimes if I have favorites, and since I’m vacationing in New Zealand at the moment, this seemed like a pretty handy time to answer with a hearty “yep!” and a roundup of all the posts that I (and readers) have loved most over the years.

 

By the numbers

Our talented and tech-geeky Marketing Director pulled the stats so we could see which Bend Buzz Blog posts had the highest volume of visitors in the last five years.

The blog post about Central Oregon waterfalls is one of our most popular posts of all time.

The blog post about Central Oregon waterfalls is one of our most popular posts of all time.

I wasn’t surprised to see the list contained our post about visiting waterfalls in Bend and Central Oregon, though I was a little taken aback to see it in the #1 slot. Either blog readers really love waterfalls or you’re fond of the cheesy ‘90s song by TLC.

Another not-so-surprising fan fave is the post on floating the river in Bend. Considering that’s one of the most popular summer pastimes for visitors and locals alike, it’s great to know folks are seeking out tips on how to do it right.

Rounding out the top five is this two-year-old post on family-friendly Bend activities (written before my step-kids had actually become my step-kids) and another one on Bend’s best happy hours (which begs the question of whether kids drive people to drink, but I digress).

Also making the list: 10 things you won’t hear people say in Bend. Pretty sure the click-bait nature of the headline caused a lot of folks to read it, and since this is the most recent post to make the list, it’s clear it really struck a chord with readers.

 

Keepin’ it quirky

In my non-Visit Bend life, I’m an author of quirky romantic comedy, so it’s no surprise the blog posts I most enjoy writing here are the ones with an offbeat twist.

While I frequently blog about things I enjoy doing with my dog, Bindi, this post actually written by my dog (sorta) was a fun experiment in writing with a different voice.

Quirky posts (like the one about the best places to kiss in Bend) are always popular with readers.

Quirky posts (like the one about the best places to kiss in Bend) are always popular with readers.

It can be challenging to come up with new twists for writing about the Bend Ale Trail and outdoor recreation, so this post about Bend activities to burn beer calories was especially fun.

On the flip side of recreation is this blog post on how to enjoy a lazy vacation in Bend. That one appealed to my true nature, as did this post on the best places to kiss in Bend and this one about offbeat things to do in Bend, like getting a tattoo or visiting a psychic.

I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who’s lived in Bend since 1997 and spent most of my childhood summers here, so I enjoy tapping into that with a lot of my blog posts. This post about things that haven’t changed in Bend was my way of commemorating my grandmother’s passing, while this post featuring a glossary of unique Bend expressions was a way to give an insider’s view of the unique lingo of this Central Oregon paradise.

And while I fancy myself a writer and not a video personality, I did enjoy combining the two in this post featuring commonly mispronounced words in Bend (and how to say ‘em right).

 

Getting out there

One of the best things about this job at Visit Bend is that I am quite literally required to go play outside. It’s been five years since I visited the Oregon Badlands Wilderness for the first time to write a blog post about hiking in the Badlands, and I still regard this area as one of the most magical spots in Central Oregon.

Blogger Tawna hangs out with her stepdaughter on the banks of Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Blogger Tawna hangs out with her stepdaughter on the banks of Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

I’ll never forget the day my boss ordered me to take my step-kids out to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument so I could spend two straight days experiencing everything this incredible area has to offer. My two-part post about doing the ever-loving-heck out of Newberry National Volcanic Monument was the result of that, and the kids still talk about the Paulina Plunge as one of their favorite experiences of all time.

This post about hiking Pilot Butte is another one I refer back to time and time again, and it’s a good reminder that some of the best hikes in Bend are the simplest ones found right under our noses.

I also love test driving other people’s hiking tips, which was the case when I did the Cone & Iron Mountain hike so I could write this post about planning hikes with Cascade Hiking Adventures.

 

Oh, the food!

If you’ve read this blog for very long, it’s probably pretty apparent I love food. Like looooooove food. Luckily, this blog has given me tons of opportunities to indulge my cravings.

Eating burgers and bacony brussel sprouts at Pono Farm for the blog was no great hardship!

Eating burgers and bacony brussel sprouts at Pono Farm for the blog was no great hardship!

Some of my favorites over the years have been my quest to find the “best of” dish in a certain category On the meat loving end of the spectrum, you have posts about Bend’s best bacon dishes, Bend’s best burgers, and Bend’s best hot wings.

On the other end of the spectrum was my personal quest to find Bend’s best vegan dishes and Bend’s best gluten-free fare.


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