“I have a really busy week at work,” I told my better half the other morning. “What’s a Visit Bend blog topic that’s easy to write?”
He thought about it a minute. “How about reasons to go hiking in Bend?”
Listing reasons to enjoy one of the most awesome experiences you can have for free? Yeah—pretty much the definition of easy.
Still, it’s worth spelling out for those unfamiliar with Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails and thousands of acres of hikable terrain just outside the city limits. It’s also worth reminding the old pros who just need a nudge to lace up your boots and get out there.
Here are five reasons you need to drop what you’re doing right now and go hiking in Bend.
Going for a stroll is such a simple activity, but you may be surprised at how many calories a hike can burn. It varies widely depending on terrain, speed, and the weight of the hiker, but generally speaking, a 160-pound person burns around 430-440 calories for an hour of hiking. Not too shabby. That goes up if you weigh more or if you’re tackling some trickier terrain. Hit an uphill hike like Pilot Butte State Park to feel some extra burn in your calves and glutes, or pick up the pace and try a bit of trail running to really feel the impact.
In my non-Visit Bend life, I’m a published romantic comedy author with four novels and two novellas slated for release in a twelve month period. Suffice it to say, I’m under a bit of deadline pressure at the moment. Few things leave me feeling more centered or clear-headed than a hike with my pooch. If I’m stuck in a plot hole, I throw some snacks and water in a day pack, load my dog in the car, and drive out to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness for a few hours of fresh air and wide open space. Nine times out of ten, I’ll come home with my plot problem solved and my psyche soothed.
My gentleman friend also turns to solo hiking in times of stress, and he’s been known to seek out remote spots so he can talk out loud to himself as a way of sorting through what’s troubling him. (Sidenote: if you see a tall, handsome guy muttering to himself on the trail, he’s harmless. Really).
Whether you spend your time calling for Fido or conversing with no one, hiking is a great way to check in with yourself and do a bit of soul-searching.
While the aforementioned solo hike can be an excellent form of therapy, a hike with your significant other can be great for the opposite reason. Bend’s scenic beauty lends itself well to feelings of elation and romance, so why not make the most of it?
Check out this blog post for tips on great places to kiss in and around Bend, or seek out your own scenic spots. I’m a big fan of Devil’s Lake—a gorgeous, turquoise lake that’s one of the first you come to on the Cascade Lakes Highway. In warmer months, a simple picnic hike along the Deschutes River Trail is an easy way to go. In chillier months, head an hour southwest of Bend along the Mckenzie River and find the trailhead to Tamolich Pool just off Highway 126. The two mile hike to the spot dubbed “Blue Pool” is one of the most romantic, scenic places you’ll ever see.
Some people require a bit more stimulation than the act of putting one foot in front of the other. For those folks, geocaching can be the perfect way to turn a regular hike into a quest for buried treasure. If you’re unfamiliar with geocaching, it’s an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS. Participants navigate to a set of GPS coordinates and try to find the geochache (usually a container of random goodies left by other players). There are more than six million geocachers worldwide. You can learn more about the sport and locate Bend-area geocaches here.
For a similar experience with the benefit of trained guides and organized searches, gather a team of eight or more and book a GPS Eco-Challenge with Wanderlust Tours for your next team-building or family gathering.
Our BendVisitorCenter has a lovely array of postcards for you to send to pals back home, and I should probably encourage you to buy those. But to be honest, the beauty of Bend hiking is that it’s totally possible for you to capture breathtaking photos all on your own. If you’re on Facebook, check out Visit Bend’s page where we routinely post images shared by visitors. Many are snapped on cell phones with no filters or Photoshop, and most of them are gorgeous. While professional photographers obviously take killer shots (and I encourage you to support them in galleries around town) you can make your own souvenirs pretty easily if you pack your camera on a hike. Want to hone your photo skills? Check with Cascade Center of Photography for upcoming classes and workshops.
Happy hiking, everyone!
Bend has been dubbed “the outdoor playground of the west,” and it’s true most folks come here to play in one form or another. But there’s an interesting trend in the playing lately.
“Gamification” (a completely made-up word, I’ll admit) is a trendy thing in tourism marketing. It’s the idea of creating games around activities or attractions tourists enjoy while they’re here. Bend offers a number of gameified ways to play, from organized tours to…well, not-so-organized offerings.
Check out these six ideas for gameifying your Bend vacation.
You’re a winner anytime you’re sipping beer at Bend’s world-renowned craft breweries, but the Bend Ale Trail lets you earn prizes to prove it. Using the Bend Ale Trail atlas or a free smartphone app, you can wander from brewery to brewery collecting passport stamps and bragging rights. Once you collect all 11 stamps, bring your passport to the Bend Visitor Center and claim your commemorative Silipint pint glass (plus an additional prize if you visit the 12th brewery in Sisters).
You can pick up your Bend Ale Trail atlas at all participating breweries or at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend, or go here to download the free app for Droid or iPhone. For tips on navigating the Bend Ale Trail, check out this post.
The Roundabout Art Route is a great way to check out Bend’s amazing collection of public art and have little fun while you do it. Pick up a map at the Bend Visitor Center and do a self-guided tour at your own pace, checking off pieces along the way and answering trivia questions as you go.
You can also head out with GETIT Shuttle for John Flannery’s fabulous Bend Art Safari tour. The $25 per person price tag will be money well spent for awesome art insights from one of Bend’s most engaging and entertaining tour operators. Answer 10 of the 20 trivia questions on your Roundabout Art Route map and bring it to the Bend Visitor Center to earn a special chocolate prize!
Bend’s Parilla Grill has been one of my favorite lunch spots for years, but their amazing wraps aren’t the only great reason to go there. Bend residents have invented something dubbed “the Subie game,” and Parilla’s prime location on the roundabout at 14th and Galveston (not to mention their fabulous margaritas!) make this the ideal spot to play. Here’s how you do it: Park yourself in the outdoor seating area or in one of the indoor spots facing the roundabout. Grip your beverage of choice and get ready. The second you see two Subarus in the roundabout at the same time, drink! Given the volume of Subarus in Bend, this will happen often.The winner is determined by…actually, I have no idea how the winner is determined. Maybe that’s not the point of the game?
The Deschutes River is a vital migratory pathway for all kinds of birds, so why not have a little fun with your birdwatching? Stop by the Bend Visitor Center or the Ticket Mill in the Old Mill District and pick up their beautifully-illustrated birdwatching guide.
It’s got little checkboxes beside each photo so you can keep track of what you’ve seen. Turn it into a friendly competition among your group, vying for who spots the most birds or the rarest specimen. The Ticket Mill even loans out free binoculars to help you spot the more elusive species. Go here for hours and location info.
Got a large family or a group of eight or more pals? Hook up with Wanderlust Tours for their GPS Eco-Challenge. This customized tour offering is a twist on geocaching. Teams work together to find clues, solve problems, and help one another across the untracked high desert or in the alpine forests of the Cascade Mountains. It’s a goal-oriented, interactive, physical and mental challenge for any age and ability level. Prices vary, depending on the number of people involved and the type of outing desired, so contact Wanderlust Tours for details.
In the spirit of sharing, here’s a little Bend Bingo game board I made up for you to try (click here to go to a full-sized version). You can park yourself at a brewery and sip beer with pals while you scan for these common Bend sights, or carry the card with you like a treasure hunt as you enjoy your Bend adventures.
Now go out there and get your game on!
This time of year, I find myself clinging fiercely to the final days of summer. I want to be outside constantly, which means eating outdoors every chance I get.
With warm temps still in the forecast for a few more weeks, it’s the perfect time to head out for a picnic in Bend. Here are three ideas for planning your own special outdoor dining experience in and around town.
Bend boasts about 70 parks in the city limits, ranging from sprawling, riverfront green-space to tiny playgrounds tucked in neighborhoods. You’ll find a list of parks here, or a handy map here. There’s a park for every sort of picnic you can envision, from family-friendly outings to small, romantic trysts.
One of my personal favorites is also one of Bend’s most beloved landmarks. DrakePark spans 13 breathtaking acres along the DeschutesRiver in Downtown Bend. Its rolling hills and grassy expanses are perfect for your picnic blanket, or nab one of the tables or benches scattered throughout. You can admire the river from just about any spot, and restrooms are conveniently located just uphill from the footbridge.
I eat my lunch here nearly every day in warmer months, which makes it a great excuse to snag something quick, tasty, and portable from one of Bend’s amazing downtown restaurants. If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, grab a to-go box from Taj Palace and pack it full of delicious offerings from their lunch buffet for just $8.95. If Thai food is your thing, you can’t beat the daily specials at Toomies. They have 35 choices on their lunch menu ranging from soups to noodle dishes to curries, and most feature hearty portions with a side salad and phat thai for $6.50-$8.50. If you’re hankering for something a bit lighter, check out Sally’s Super Salad at Barrio (quinoa, black beans, romaine, greens, avocado, pepitas, citrus, cojito, jalapeño vinaigrette) or the Ahi Poke Salad at 5 Fusion (marinated tuna atop a bed of seaweed, mixed greens, and avocado, sprinkled with crispy wanton bits and tossed with sesame dressing).
And while DrakePark’s tables and benches are nice, I usually opt to kick off my shoes and sprawl on the lawn to savor the grass under my bare feet.
There’s nothing quite like following Century Drive toward Mt.Bachelor to the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. As you might’ve guessed from the name, it boasts a whole lotta lakes. Some require a bit of a hike to reach, but many like Sparks Lake, Cultus Lake Resort or Elk Lake Resort are easy to access by car and offer plenty of great spots for picnicking. This Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Map is an excellent resource to get you started finding the lake of your dreams.
An afternoon at the lake is a great chance for the sort of grazing picnic where you skip the organized meal and just nibble all day. My favorite way to do this is to pack a cooler with ice and arrange to meet friends at Newport Avenue Market before we caravan to our lake of choice. We browse together, selecting fresh deli sandwiches, handmade sushi rolls, pasta salads, and a variety of other goodies to share. Newport also has a great selection of unique sodas, juice, wine, and local beer.
Two Bend-based breweries—Worthy and GoodLife—now sell their beer in cans, which is super handy for picnicking. Throw a six-pack in your cooler and prepare for the ultimate day of sunshine and relaxation!
Maybe you feel like making yourself work a little for your meal. Maybe you just want to nosh atop a mountain or beside a remote lake. Whatever the reason, there’s something to be said for planning a lightweight picnic meal you can stuff in your backpack and enjoy at your destination.
Once you’ve selected your spot, it’s important to be strategic with your picnic planning. If you’re scaling a mountain, this is probably not the time to stick a bottle of wine in your pack (though in the interest of full-disclosure, I should admit I’ve done that). The best option I’ve found for the hiking picnic is a small, insulated lunch bag we bought at Trader Joe’s on the north end of town. We slide in a lightweight ice pack and voila! A small space to keep a few things cool until we reach our destination. We usually fill the lunch bag with sliced meats, cheeses, and carrot sticks or apple slices. Then we fill Ziploc baggies with lightweight nibbles like nuts, crackers, or a few cookies.
Your best option for having chilled beverages on hand is a bottle from Bend-based Hydro Flask. These double-wall insulated, BPA-free bottles are made with stainless steel and absolutely, positively will not leak or sweat in your backpack. That’s key, whether you’re filling it with water, wine, or beer (all of which I’ve done at one time or another, so I know for a fact this baby will keep your drink chilled for HOURS). You can buy online, in the Bend Visitor Center, or at a variety of retailers around Bend.
While Bend’s location in the mountainous high desert makes it a great spot for skiing and hiking, it’s not the world’s greatest location for agriculture. Our chilly nights and dry climate means our growing season is about 90 days long—about half what you get in rainy parts of the state like Portland or Eugene.
But local gardens do yield some pretty impressive produce, particularly when they’re located on the grounds of some of Bend’s best dining establishments. Here’s what’s currently coming out of the ground and onto plates at some savvy Bend restaurants.
This cozy little restaurant on Newport Avenue is one of Bend’s premier examples of locally-sourced, sustainable cuisine done right. Their impressive on-site garden provides much of the restaurant’s produce, with nine raised beds and an additional 400 square feet of garden area. Currently, CHOW is harvesting baby bok choy, purple haze carrots, a variety of greens, basil, kale, spinach, zucchini, and patty-pan squash. Check their specials board for seasonal offerings like the locavore omelet, seasonal salads, or a variety of Asian dishes starring the bok choy and carrots.
My favorite way to dine at CHOW is simply to ask my server to have the chef to surprise me (offering up any dietary restrictions/preferences beforehand, of course). I’ve never been disappointed, particularly this time of year when their garden is teeming with goodies. The scramble is a particularly good choice for breakfast or lunch, or ask for a salad prepared with all their garden bounty. They’re open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
One of Bend’s newest breweries is also one of the greenest, most agriculturally-focused. Worthy Brewing has its own hop growing yard, which doubles as a hop research facility for Oregon State University. Besides hops, they also grow a wide range of produce they use for creating tasty dishes in the kitchen. Right now, they have an abundance of cucumbers, zucchini, sorrel, basil, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. The tomatoes and cucumbers end up in a variety of salads, while the zucchini is a side dish accompanying the blackened salmon entrée. The herbs round out a lot of Worthy’s wood-fired pizzas.
Ask your server about ever-changing daily specials, which always make good use of their garden veggies. If you swing by on a Friday night, don’t miss their prime rib special, which comes complete with an array of their own garden bounty. The Worthy IPA is my personal fave, so grab a pint to go with whatever you choose from the menu.
These two Westside hotspots are adjacent to each other on Columbia Avenue, which makes it handy for them to share a lovely pair of gardens dubbed, “Herban Garden” and “Shasta Garden.” Ripe and ready for picking, they have broccoli, kale, dill, cilantro, and culinary herbs like chives, flowering oregano, sage, lemon balm and lovage. Their tomatoes and potatoes should be ripening in a few weeks. Most of the produce is distributed to employees in what they call their, “employee health plan,” but some of it ends up on the menu, too.
Chef Michael McCann of Real Food Street Bistro uses the dill in the brine for his own housemade pickles served at this cute little street cart, and the cilantro and daikon radishes make it into the housemade kimchi. Baked. owner Gordon Benzer also uses gardening offerings in some of his baked goods, as well as preparing meals to serve folks who volunteer to work in the garden. Stop by for a loaf of bread at Baked. or a cup of soup at Real Food, then meander the gardens and admire some of the new additions like fruit trees and a bee box.
Arguably one of Bend’s best fine-dining options, Ariana Restaurant makes the most of its cozy patio with an impressive little herb garden. They currently have rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, lemon balm, lavender, and hops. Herbs like rosemary and thyme are used in the house-baked foccacia and with roasted meats like porchetta, which is served as a special from time to time.
Lavender flowers are picked and dried and used in lavender ice cream (a current special) and the Provence cocktail, made with gin, lavender, and honey-infused syrup. The basil plays a starring role in the restaurant’s caprese salad, which is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. If the weather’s warm, let them know when you make your reservation that you’d like a spot next to the herb garden for an up-close-and-personal look at where your food comes from.
Another incredible fine-dining restaurant with an amazing array of fresh veggies and herbs, Jackalope Grill manages to fit a whole lotta garden into their little courtyard. Beautiful tiered planters and boxes feature lettuce, kale, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and Jackalope’s impressive selection of herbs go straight into the kitchen to produce fresh and unique cuisine.
The garden boxes also help create some of the best ambiance you’ll find in outdoor dining around Bend.
I’m a huge fan of the salads at Jackalope, and it’s easy to see why when you survey their garden boxes. Unique offerings like nasturtiums and shiso add a spicy kick to greens, and fresh herbs are earmarked for housemade dressings. Try their basil cucumber martini for a super-fresh cocktail option, then order a salad of fresh field greens to get things started right. Though it doesn’t come from their garden, I guarantee any of their beef-based entrees will leave you swooning.
While Dojo’s space in the middle of Downtown Bend doesn’t lend itself to the grow-your-own approach, they do have the advantage of being ten feet away from the Farmer’s Market on Wednesday afternoons. They make the most of this by browsing the market the moment it opens and creating a drink specials around whatever’s fresh that week. The lineup currently boasts a lot of peach and melon-centric offerings, so swing by for a mid-afternoon happy hour.
Though I live in what’s arguably one of the best vacation spots in the country, I do sometimes venture beyond the Bend city limits.
As I was planning a road trip for late September, it occurred to me I’m spending a lot of time pondering how to make wise use of my money. I fret over which activities are worth a splurge, and which I’d be better off skipping.
How will I know?
I can’t say for sure when it comes to my vacation spot, but I can give you the inside scoop on my hometown. Here are seven things I think are well worth the splurge when you vacation in Bend.
For years, friends gushed to me about Bend-made Hydro Flask water bottles. For years, I rolled my eyes and said, “how can a @#$% water bottle be worth $28?” Now that I pack one with me every day, I get it. I can toss in a handful of ice cubes and some water in the morning, and I’ll still have ice water by 10 p.m. Friends who use it for hot beverages report the same thing.
The bottle doesn’t sweat or leak, so I can pack it all day long without gunking up everything in my purse or backpack. The Hydro Flask is double-wall insulated, BPA free, and stainless steel. I’m partial to the 24-ouncer we sell at the Bend Visitor Center for $28, but you can get a smaller 18-ounce size for $25, a 40-ouncer for $36, or a 64-ounce growler for $55. Worth every penny, and the ones we sell here have a cool Bend logo that make it an excellent souvenir.
Whether you’re chilling in the grass beside the river at the Les Schwab Amphitheater or catching a show at the historic Tower Theatre, Bend is a great spot to see a concert. It’s an experience you’ll not only enjoy in the moment, but will savor when it’s a memory (as in, “Hey, Honey, remember that time we danced barefoot in the grass while drinking Mirror Pond at the Counting Crows show?”)
Bend gets some incredible musical acts rivaling those in much larger cities. The lineup for the next month at Les Schwab includes MGMT (August 31), Los Lobos & Los Lonely Boys (September 7), and Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin—October 4). You can buy tickets here. At the Tower, catch Robert Earl Keen (October 1), Suzy Bogguss (October 6), or The Manhattan Transfer (October 29). Tickets are on sale here.
There are plenty of ways to tour Bend on foot, by bike, or in a car, but for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, why not get an aerial view? Several companies offer tours and discovery flights departing the Bend airport by helicopter or small plane, including Professional Air and Leading Edge Aviation. There are even options that allow you to co-pilot the plane with help from an instructor. For a super-unique experience, head to the Redmond airport for a tour with Big Sky Balloon Company. They offer scenic balloon flights in a hand-painted balloon. For a list of all the tour operators and options, check out our Aerial Tours page on the Visit Bend website.
A recently-passed Bend city law dictates there must be a growler fill station on every block. I might be exaggerating a little, but trust me when I say you’ll want a growler of your own for toting fresh craft beer here or back home. You can pick up a cheap one for $3-$10 at most breweries and growler fill stations, but for one that’s a true work of art and a cool souvenir, check out the one they sell at Deschutes Brewery.
This two-liter vessel sports an artsy metal handle referred to as “the drunken man” and a ceramic top with a rubber seal that keeps beer fresh for up to two-and-a-half weeks. You can order online for $30, but it’s much more fun to grab it when you visit the brewery and fill it up with something cold and delicious. If you crave variety in your beer, don’t worry about taking it to breweries besides Deschutes. I’ve dragged my Deschutes growler into almost every brewery along the Bend Ale Trail, and no one bats an eyelash about filling it with their own brew.
This is always a tough one for me when I travel—do I hike or rent a canoe or explore the caves on my own, or am I better off paying someone to take me? For visitors to Bend, my answer is hands-down book an outing with Wanderlust Tours. Seriously, folks, this will be some of the best money you’ll spend during your Bend vacation. Yes, you can explore the outdoors on your own, and plenty of people do it. But it’s infinitely more rewarding to leave the driving, gear-hauling, navigating, and decision-making to someone who knows exactly how to give you the best outdoor experience possible.
Wanderlust’s naturalist guides are experts in explaining geology and landscape and wildlife and history and flora and fauna and a million other details you’d never get on your own. Their trips range from cave tours ($50 for kids, $55 for grownups) to moonlight canoe trips ($65 a person) to winter outings like snowshoeing ($65 a person). Gear and transportation are included, along with snacks on a lot of those trips. Totally worth it.
I blogged previously about places to celebrate special occasions in Bend, and since you can read that post here, I won’t bother reiterating all my favorite splurge-worthy restaurants. For a super-unique dining experience that goes beyond dinner at a great restaurant, consider booking a seat at one of Pronghorn’s Guest Chef Series wine dinners. Each month, Pronghorn brings in a renowned chef to prepare a multi-course meal that showcases the unique talents and regional specialties of that chef. The food is exquisite, the wine pairings delightful, and the setting is gorgeous. For $100 a person, it’s a worthy splurge for foodie travelers.
For another twist on a memorable dining experience, consider booking a cooking class with The Well Traveled Fork. Upcoming topics range from Wood-Fired Cuisine to Italian Date Night. Prices vary, depending on the class you pick, but generally run anywhere from $50-100 a person. It’s a particularly fun experience for couples, and my better half and I still love fixing some of the dishes we learned to make in the Valentine-themed class we took last year.
I’m not a golfer, but considering how many people flock to Bend with their clubs in the trunk, I know this is a popular splurge for area visitors. I asked several of the golfers in our office to name the one course they’d pick for a vacation splurge. “Tetherow is the only links style course in Central Oregon,” explained our Operations Director, Valerie Warren. “The course was designed by award-winning architect David McLay Kidd, who also designed the original, world-famous Bandon Dunes course.”She’s not the only one to think this is a great choice for visiting golfers. Golf magazine named Tetherow the “#1 best new course you can play in the country,” and Golf Digest ranks it among the top 40 U.S. public courses. For non-golfers or those looking for a little post-game snack, the happy hour at Tetherow is outstanding, and their wine list is unbeatable. For prices and tee times, go here.
I just realized it’s been nearly three years since I wrote this post about how to plan the ultimate dog date in Bend
Since then, Bend’s canine-friendly reputation has grown faster than an Italian Mastiff pup on steroids. Dog Fancy magazine named Bend the dog-friendliest city in the nation last summer, and Dawg Grog (a non-alcoholic beer for dogs invented by Boneyard Beer employee Daniel Keaton) became a national sensation with everyone from CNN to Conan O’Brien buzzing about it.
With new dog-centric businesses and events popping up all over town, it seems like a good time to revisit the notion of how to plan the best dog date EVAH for you and your pooch.
My dog date starts early with my canine companion, Bindi, a four-year-old Australian Kelpie. We kick things off with a sunrise walk along the canal in northeast Bend en route to the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area at Pine Nursery Park. It’s an 18 acre fenced dog park with oodles of trails to explore and plenty of wide open spaces for fetching and frolicking.
Now that Bindi’s burned off some energy, it’s time to get to work. Our favorite dog trainer, Bryan Castleberry of Cascadia Canine, swings by the house for a refresher course on house manners. His training has made Bindi one of those dogs everyone stops and watches and asks me, “how do you get your dog to walk so well on a leash?” For visitors to Bend, a quick one-hour Saturday session can be a nice way to give Fido a little help with trouble areas like jumping or leash pulling.
After our session, it’s time for a reward. Bindi and I head to Bend Pet Express for a handful of freshly-baked dog treats. Though their location near Costco is our preferred spot for its proximity to home, they have another location on Bend’s westside that’s convenient for folks en route to the mountains and lakes.
That’s our destination today, as Bindi and I are craving some time exploring the areas of the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway. Both Sparks Lake and Elk Lake are great areas for swimming and picnicking, and my step-kids are happy to give Bindi a good workout with the aid of a sturdy stick. Lucky for us, Bin wears a waterproof, stink-proof collar from Bend-based Ruffwear. The Headwater collar is perfect for dogs that frequent the water, and the coated webbing is flexible, non-absorbent, and boasts a cute reflective pattern that’s handy on nighttime walks.
The collar may not be stinky, but Bindi kinda is. Off we go to Woof Neighborhood Dog Wash, which opened earlier this month on Newport Avenue. This u-wash dog station provides everything we need to get Bindi sudsed up and clean in their super-cute old fashioned clawfoot tubs. The $15 flat fee is worth every penny to avoid covering our own bathroom in hair and mud.
With Bindi clean and blow-dried, we make a quick stop at Healthy Paws on Newport Avenue to grab a few treats made by Polka-Doodle Dog Bakery. We also stop to browse the shop’s cool collection of doggy-themed art.
Souvenirs in hand, we head to one of our favorite dog-friendly breweries. Crux Fermentation Project has an amazing outdoor dining area with a big field for frolicking and plenty of water dishes on hand for four-legged companions. While Bindi snoozes under the table, we order a sampler tray of Crux beers and their to-die-for Grilled Cheesy sandwich—an asiago-cheese crusted panini with mixed ricotta, pepper jack, and white cheddar with diced bacon and spicy pickles on Italian country spent grain bread from DiLusso Bakery.
Of course, Bend has plenty of other dog-friendly dining spots to sample, so check out our listings of Bend restaurants. As you scroll through the grids for different restaurants and types of cuisine, you’ll see notations beneath many of the restaurant names indicating dogs are allowed on the patio. Pretty handy!
After dinner, we get to head home for some doggie snuggle time on the sofa. For those who aren’t Bend residents, there are tons of pet-friendly Bend hotels happy to roll out the red carpet for your four-legged friend. The Riverhouse offers dog treat bags, easy access to river trails, and no extra charge for pets, while The Oxford Hotel greets your pooch with a personal pet bed proportional to his size, two travel bowls—one is your gift to keep!—a map of dog-friendly trails and parks, and samples of goodies like pet salve and dog treats.
For more resources on traveling to Bend with your pooch, check out the Visit Bend Pet Travel page.
Then give your pooch a scratch behind the ears and tell him, “good dog!”
In 2012, 53% of Bend visitors went hiking.
As far as activities go, that’s second only to dining at 70%, and maybe nose-picking (which, to be fair, we didn’t actually survey people on because ew.)
Suffice it to say, hiking is one of Bend’s most popular activities. Visit Bend’s hiking page is consistently in our top ten for page views, which is a pretty good indication you guys are searching for tips and ideas.
Want more? Even if you’re already well-versed on local hiking hotspots, Cascade Hiking Adventures has something for hikers of all interests and experience levels. Created in 2013 by Bend resident Matt Landry, Cascade Hiking Adventures is a treasure trove of great Central Oregon hiking info. What’s so great about it?
There are tons of ways to find the perfect hike when you use this site. Scroll through all the pages, reading details and checking out photos to find something that piques your interest. You can also reference their A-Z trail list to choose by the name of the hike or scroll for a specific area. Another option is to use their handy-dandy trail map to get an idea which Central Oregon landscape you might like to explore. You can even search by specific interests like family hikes or dog-friendly hikes or even overnight backpacking hikes.
When you’re scouting for a good hike, it’s nice to have info like location, mileage, and difficulty. Cascade Hiking Adventures goes way beyond that, offering useful details like difficulty rating, best time of year to visit, suggested wilderness experience, required permits, and even the location of the closest restrooms. You can click through to download a free topo trail map, or pony up $3 to purchase GPS files for each hike. Best of all, the listing for each hike offers a photo album packed with great pictures of what you can hope to see.
I should have mentioned this sooner, huh? One of the best things about Cascade Hiking Adventures is that it doesn’t cost you anything to use it. You’ll pay a small fee if you want to download GPS files for a specific hike, but other than that, you’re not paying a dime for some of the best hiking info you could ask for.
The reason hiking is one of the most popular in Bend is that it’s fun for everyone from couch potatoes to expert climbers. The trick is to pick hikes that work for your skill level, and Cascade Hiking Adventures makes that super-simple. Hardcore hikers will appreciate learning the nitty-gritty details of hikes like South Sister and Lucky Lake Loop, while more mellow recreationists will enjoy learning about easier in-town hikes like Deschutes River Trail or Shevlin Park Loop Trail. The website makes it easy to find what you’re looking for in terms of length, difficulty, or suggested experience level.
I’ve lived in Bend almost 16 years, but I’ve been hiking in the area much longer than that as a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up exploring Central Oregon. I’ve test-driven several of the hikes listed at Cascade Hiking Adventures, so I know firsthand how fab the info is.
I hiked Black Butte for the first time last summer, without the benefit of info from Cascade Hiking Adventures. While the hike went great, there’s oodles of info on the website that would have made things much smoother. Cascade Hiking Adventures offers great tips on how much water to bring (a lot!) and sections of the trail where there’s no shade (which means you probably shouldn’t hit that spot during the hottest part of the day). It also offers blow-by-blow details on what you can expect to see at different parts of the hike.
Since Cascade Hiking Adventures lists a number of cool hikes I’ve never tried, I set out a couple weeks ago to sample one of them. The Cone and Iron Mountain hike is a moderate 6.6 mile loop boasting oodles of wildflowers and great mountain views. While wildflowers were a little scarce in the heat of August, this was still an incredible hike in an area of Central Oregon I hadn’t explored before. (Sidenote: because I’m a moron who doesn’t follow directions I have an acute sense of adventure, we ended up climbing Cone Mountain instead of Iron Mountain, which I do not recommend, since Iron Mountain has much clearer trails and a super cool viewing platform at the top). Overall, the directions were excellent, and I loved scoping out new hiking trails with a handy guide to point the way.
One tip: In addition to reading directions on the website before you set out, it’s a good idea to take a printout of the downloadable trail map for your chosen hike. Many of the most recent postes even have downloadable trail guides, offering a PDF version of the hike description. Plenty of wilderness areas won’t offer you a cell signal, so a printed version can come in handy. Downloading the GPS directions for your chosen hike would also be a smart idea for just $3.
It’s also worth noting that new hikes are added constantly, and there’s a form on the right side of the webpage where you can sign up to get an email each time a new one goes up.
Overall, Cascade Hiking Adventures offers one of the best resources I’ve found for planning a hike in or around Bend. Take a gander, and then come back to share details on YOUR favorite Central Oregon hike!
Bend is awash in festivals this time of year, and they can sometimes blend together in a blur of bouncy houses, hand-dipped corndogs, live music, and craft booths.
But there’s something very different about Art in the High Desert.
Well, more than one something. In fact, here are five reasons you want to think seriously about spending the weekend of August 23-25 in Bend to check out Art in the High Desert.
If you’re picturing a plywood table covered with an array of $2 shell necklaces made in China, think again. This is the real deal for art lovers. Fine Art Fair SourceBook compiles an annual list of more than 600 art festivals in the nation, and according to the guide, Art in the High Desert ranks at #14 for fine art sales. With more than 110 artists from around the country selling paintings, ceramics, fiber art, photography, sculpture, jewelry, furniture, glass, mixed media, print-making, drawings, metalworks, and more, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to this event. There’s something for everyone, and few attendees go home empty-handed.
August in Bend is impossibly beautiful, with clear skies, warm temperatures, and gorgeous scenery. While Bend has an awesome array of art galleries, it’s more fun to be outside this time of year. That’s the great thing about Art in the High Desert. You get to stroll along the banks of the Deschutes River, taking in the scenery while you take in the art. The location on the east bank of the Deschutes is smack-dab between Riverbend Park (where you can rent float tubes and plunk yourself in the river) and the Les Schwab Amphitheater (the perfect spot for a riverside picnic!)
My living room wall is covered with a large painting I bought in Morocco. One end table is adorned with a vase I bought in Mexico, and the other holds a small sculpture from Venezuela. The rest of my house is decorated with art I acquired in Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Germany, Fiji, and beyond. Every time my eye lands on a piece, I smile and remember the trip. I tell you this not to sound like a travel snob, but to assure you that of all the souvenirs I’ve brought home from vacation, art is hands-down the most meaningful thing I’ve acquired. I’ve never regretted purchasing artwork when traveling, but I can wistfully describe half-a-dozen pieces I desperately wish I could go back and buy now. Artwork you acquire at Art in the High Desert will be the sort of memento you’ll treasure for years to come. Trust me on this one.
I know there are plenty of female golfers and plenty of men who love art. But at the risk of stereotyping, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s pretty common this time of year for groups of men to spend full weekends golfing in Bend while their wives shop. We call it the “golf widow” scenario, and while there are plenty of amazing stores and boutiques for shopping in Bend, Art in the High Desert offers an extraordinary opportunity to spend the day browsing vases, jewelry, furniture, scarves, paintings, and so much more. It’s a cornucopia of unique shopping opportunities, and a great way to exercise the credit card.
Did I mention Art in the High Desert is a not-for-profit, community-based endeavor? Money raised by the festival goes back into the festival, gets donated to local arts programs, or into the pockets of artists devoted to creating more art for your enjoyment.
Ready to book your weekend getaway to Bend? Art in the High Desert takes place August 23-25 in the Old Mill District. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the festival is free.
Any questions? Leave ‘em in the comments.
Now go out there and buy some art. You’ll thank me for it later.
Welcome to your sixth edition of Mind Bend-ers, a special feature offering you the inside scoop on quirky Bend history and offbeat trivia.
Whitewater rafting is on the bucket list for many Bend visitors. This goal will inevitably land you on the banks of the Deschutes River where you’ll look down at a mass of churning whitewater and think, Holy cow! I just peed myself. That looks fun!
The water feature you’re staring at is a series of class III rapids called Big Eddy. Representing the only intermediate whitewater on the Upper Desschutes, Big Eddy is located two miles below Dillon Falls and a bit above Lava Island Falls.
But who was Eddy, and what made him so special?
Turns out Eddy wasn’t a who so much as a what.
“Early settlers used to define places by their geographic elements,” explained Dennis Oliphant, owner of Sun Country Tours since the company’s inception 35 years ago.
The term eddy refers to a section of calm water behind a rock or an obstruction. In other words, a mellow spot in the current.
Kinda the opposite of the Big Eddy Run.
Early settlers would shoulder their muskets, pack up their fishing lines, and post to Facebook send a text message shout to their buddies, “Let’s meet at Big Eddy to shoot a bear for supper.”
Apparently that calm spot in the river was a pretty happenin’ place for hunting and fishing.
In the mid-1970s, people began eyeing the area for something else. They cast their eyes downriver, looked at the churning whitewater, and decided to plunge through it in a raft.
It didn’t go so hot at first.
“In the early days, we used to get out, portage halfway down, and put in at the bottom,” Dennis explained. “The equipment and guide skill level wasn’t what it is today, and the rafts were just shy of military-surplus.”
Sun Country’s first test run through Big Eddy in the late ‘70s—long before the era of sturdy, self-bailing rafts—resulted in a bow-to-stern rip in the bottom of the boat, and a vow to hold off on running that section of river until better equipment was available. That happened in the mid-80s, and they’ve been running Big Eddy ever since.
Today, Sun Country Tours takes thousands of happy rafters through the Big Eddy Run each year. They’re proud to have top-of-the-line rafts, safety equipment, and guides with advanced whitewater experience and CPR and First Aid training, and they’ve never had a life-threatening injury on any of their trips.
And despite its somewhat scary appearances, Big Eddy Thriller is actually a very safe outing for families, kids over six, and even fraidy-cats who’ve never rafted in their life. To book your Big Eddy whitewater adventure with Sun Country Tours, visit them online or call 1800-883-8842.
Just don’t shoot any bears from the boat. That’s kinda not done anymore.
You’ve all been planning for months, right? I mean, the biggest day of the year happens in just a few weeks, so clearly you’re looking for the perfect way to celebrate?
OK, fine. It’s possible the world does not revolve around me and my impending 39th birthday. But since I know my Bend-centric birthday wishes might be shared by others with a fondness for this fair city, allow me to share my list of six cool gifts and experiences your loved one might enjoy for your next special occasion in Bend.
You know that cliché about the way to someone’s heart being through the stomach? Totally true. And while I love scouting Bend for cheap lunches and happy hour cocktail deals, I’ll admit I like commemorating special occasions with a dining experience that’s above-and-beyond.
One of my favorite splurgy dinner spots is Ariana Restaurant. When an editor for Travel & Leisure magazine visited several months ago and asked me to name two Bend restaurants he should sample, this was one I suggested. The atmosphere is romantically cozy, and the menu is centered around Northwest cuisine and unique twists on classic dishes. I love grabbing a seat on the sunny patio near their herb garden and sipping a glass of wine from their expansive list.
The second restaurant I recommended to the aforementioned editor is Trattoria Sbandati. You can go here to read my full write-up on this magnificent little Italian restaurant, or just trust me when I say the food here is one of those things you’ll remember for years after you’ve lovingly polished off the last forkful of Tagliatelle al Gorgonzola.
If you’re looking for a special dining experience that goes beyond incredible food, consider an evening drive to Mt. Bachelor followed by chairlift ride to their Pine Marten Lodge. You can watch the sun set over the Cascade mountains while enjoying a gourmet meal and a glass of wine. Then take a moonlight chairlift down the mountain while snuggled under a blanket with your loved one. Reservations are mandatory and available Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 5-8 p.m. July 5 through September 1.
For another scenic dinner option right in Bend, make a reservation at Zydeco. Besides amazing food, they have a romantic rooftop patio offering the most incredible sunset views you can imagine. Seating up there is extremely limited, and while you can make your dining reservation way in advance, you need to call back around 3 p.m. the day of your meal to make sure weather will permit rooftop dining. The restaurant is open seven days a week, but rooftop dining is only available Wednesday through Sunday.
Bend is awash in amazing live music this time of year, so it’s easy to commemorate a special occasion with a little toe-tapping. On Thursday evenings through August 15, check out the free Munch & Music concert series in Drake Park. Shows kick off at 5:30 p.m. and are packed with great food, killer scenery, and fun activities for kids.
On Wednesdays in the Old Mill District, catch the Alive After Five free music series from 5-8:30 p.m. through August 7. Shows take place on the grass near the shops, which makes it a great opportunity to grab dinner or drinks at one of the fabulous Old Mill District restaurants.
If your special occasion falls on a Sunday, plan an afternoon picnic around the Free Summer Sundays concert series at Les Schwab Amphitheater. This is another family-friendly event that kicks off at 2:30 each Sunday through August 4. Bring a cooler packed with treats and a bottle of wine. Then kick back on your picnic blanket or kick up your heels with the other folks groovin’ near the front of the stage.
If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks for your musical experience, check out the Les Schwab Amphitheater’s lineup of ticketed concerts. Upcoming shows include Michael Franti & Spearhead, MGMT, Los Lobos/Los Lonely Boys, and Steve Martin + Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell.
Every year, the universe holds a meteor shower in honor of my birthday, spanning the period between August 9-14.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a birthday meteor shower, Bend is still an awesome place for stargazing.
Wanderlust Tours offers wonderful moonlight canoeing, starlight canoeing, and a fabulous moonshine canoe & beer tour. The tours are available late-June through mid-October, and your $65 fee includes transportation, gear, guides, dessert, a hot drink, and all the breathtaking views you can handle.
If you’re up for a bit of a drive, the Pine Mountain Observatory is located 26 miles southeast of Bend. It’s operated by the University of Oregon physics department, and offers telescopes with apertures of 15, 24, and 32-inches. The facility is open to visitors Friday and Saturday evenings from late May late September. Be sure to go on a clear night, and get there early to snag a seat for the program. Keep in mind the facility is at 6,500 feet, so bring a hat and gloves.
There’s something about art that makes it an extra-special gift or travel souvenir. Bend has oodles of amazing art galleries scattered throughout historic Downtown, the Old Mill District, and beyond. Go here for a great reference guide.
If you’re lucky enough to visit August 23-25, you can catch the incredible Art in the High Desert event on the banks of the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District. It was ranked by as one of the top 15 art shows in the nation, and for good reason. You’ll find tons of amazing paintings, photography, pottery, metal art, and much more. Bring your credit card, and prepare to find a souvenir you’ll treasure for years to come.
Feeling sentimental and a bit creative? Visit Earth Fire Art in Downtown Bend and paint a ceramic masterpiece of your own. Pick out a piece of pottery ranging from mugs to vases to salad bowls, then get to work creating your own unique design.
If bling is your thing, why not go for something that commemorates your Bend visit in a special way? Douglas Fine Jewelry Design offers tons of unique pieces made with a variety of materials, but their specialty is Oregon Sunstone. This Oregon state gem ranges from green to champagne to shimmering coppery “schiller” stones, and it makes gorgeous and unique jewelry. Peruse their selection of rings, pendants, earrings, and more, or have them create a custom piece just for you. If you just want a quickie souvenir, the Bend Visitor Center sells a small selection of their sunstone studs and Bend-logo earrings and charms.
It’s not necessary to drain your wallet to commemorate a special occasion, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate in Bend without spending a fortune. One of the best birthday meals I’ve ever had was prepared by my gentleman friend two years ago. He sliced up juicy chunks of sausage with hunks of red pepper and onion, mixed in a little Dijon, folded it into tinfoil bundles, and stuck them in our campfire. Go here to find a Bend campground where you can enjoy your own inexpensive and romantic meal under the stars.
My favorite summer treat is an afternoon spent floating the Deschutes River on an air mattress. Bring your own from home, or rent deluxe float tube from Sun Country Tours or Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. Then go here for all the details on where to put in and how to float safely.
Another great option is a summer hike on one of the scenic trails surrounding the Bend area. Pick from lakes, rivers, mountains, caves, lava fields, forests, and more. For ideas on hiking around Bend, check out the Visit Bend hiking page or this awesome site from Cascade Hiking Adventures offering hiking suggestions for the area.