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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, 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

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.

6 ways to celebrate the first day of spring 2016 in Bend, Oregon

March 17th, 2016

This weekend marks the first day of spring, with the official change of seasons occurring Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Have you planned a parade?

Okay, so maybe the new season isn’t worthy of that much fanfare, but as you crawl drowsily from your wintery hibernation cave, here are six ways to commemorate the arrival of spring in Bend, Oregon.


Look for flowers

Spring flowers pop up a bit later and with a little less flourish in Bend than they do on the other side of the mountains, but you can spot plenty of pretty little blooms if you know where to look.

Downtown Bend is a great place to look for pretty little spring crocuses.

Downtown Bend is a great place to look for pretty little spring crocuses.

Between the pavers around tree trunks around Downtown Bend is a popular spot to see little yellow and purple crocuses when the ground isn’t covered with snow.

If wildflowers are your thing, meander up Pilot Butte or out into the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. You won’t see lush waves of color, but you will see hardy little blossoms of larkspur and sand lilies threading their way through the volcanic soil.


Book a room and make spring break plans

Spring Break happens at different times of the year for different states and different cities, which is a good thing when it comes to planning a spring vacation in Bend. It would get kinda crazy if everyone showed up at once.

To get started finding a place to rest your head, check out Visit Bend’s lodging pages, where you’ll find a plethora of hotels, vacation rentals, resorts, and B&Bs. Things can book up early during holiday weeks, so be patient and be prepared to try a few places before you find one.

Visit Bend’s Event Calendar is a great starting point to figure out what’s happening during the days you plan to be here. You’ll see everything from concerts to athletic events to art exhibits and more.


There’s still snow, so plan accordingly

Even though spring is here, the snow sticks around at higher elevations for a while longer. That’s worth keeping in mind with a few of the landmarks on most people’s Bend bucket list.

It's a great time of year for a hike up Pilot Butte!

It’s a great time of year for a hike up Pilot Butte!

If you plan to visit Pilot Butte, don’t forget the road leading to the summit is closed to vehicles between November and May each year. That’s actually preferable if you plan to hike it (which I recommend) since it means you won’t have to dodge motorists hell-bent on setting a land speed record for reaching the top.

Newberry Volcanic National Monument is another spot that’s much different (read: quieter) to visit in the springtime than in the middle of summer. The Lava Lands Visitor Center won’t reopen to visitors until May 1, but guests can still park outside and do a self-guided tour of the lava beds or even hike to the top of Lava Butte. Lava River Cave is closed this time of year, but Boyd Cave (just off China Hat Road south of Bend) is open year-round to fill your cave quota, or you can book a guided cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours.

Visiting Tumalo Falls this time of year requires a bit of extra hiking (or snowshoeing, as the case may be). While the road leading to the regular parking lot is closed during snowier seasons, you can still stash your car by the gate, grab your snowshoes, and set out on foot. You’ll likely encounter a mix of snow and bare dirt, but the snowshoes may come in handy as you get closer to the falls and beyond that. Don’t forget to dress warmly and bring plenty of water and snacks.


Go hiking in short sleeves and a fleece

After months of having to bundle up like I’m going on an Arctic expedition every time I want to hike the Deschutes River Trail, I relish the springtime when I realize I can enjoy this little pleasure with a lot less clothing. Not only that, but the extra hours granted to us by daylight savings time make early evening hiking a little more do-able.

On warm spring days, you can skip the coat and hike the Badlands with just a fleece.

On warm spring days, you can skip the coat and hike the Badlands with just a fleece.

But don’t get too cocky just yet. The weather can surprise you in Bend this time of year, so even if you set out in short sleeves under sunny skies, be prepared with a few extra layers in your day pack.

Toss in a fleece jacket and a windbreaker or water-resistant shell to protect against wind-gusts or spring showers. A hat and gloves can come in handy as well when temps drop unexpectedly.


Make some paddling plans

The water on the Deschutes River is still a bit chilly for most of us to think of breaking out the standup paddleboard, but this is exactly the time you want to start getting your gear ready.

It's a little too chilly still for this, but start getting your gear ready now!

It’s a little too chilly still for this, but start getting your gear ready now!

If you’re in the market for a kayak, canoe, or SUPing gear, you’ll find tons of great retailers on our website who’d be happy to take a little extra time educating you on equipment during this slower season.

It’s also not too early to book ahead with local tour companies who can take you out canoeing or whitewater rafting when the weather turns a bit warmer, so plan ahead to have your pick of dates and times.


Keep on skiing!

Before you get too excited about warmer days to come, don’t forget that Mt. Bachelor has one of the longest ski seasons in North America.

Still plenty of skiing and bluebird skies up at Mt. Bachelor this time of year!

Still plenty of skiing and bluebird skies up at Mt. Bachelor this time of year!

In fact, things are just heating up (no pun intended) with bluebird days and plenty of snow still covering 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain and the highest skiable elevation in Oregon and Washington.

Be sure to check the Mt. Bachelor website for details on special packages and promos. You’ll also find handy up-to-the-minute conditions reports and info on catching a shuttle to save you the hassle of driving up the hill.


4 good reasons to get up early in Bend, Oregon

March 10th, 2016

I am a morning person. My night-owl husband is not.

Sunrise in the Old Mill District (or anywhere else in Bend) is worth getting up a bit earlier during your Bend vacation.

Sunrise in the Old Mill District (or anywhere else in Bend) is worth getting up a bit earlier during your Bend vacation.

I was pondering this the other morning when I was out walking the dog under the most beautiful orangey-pink sunrise and thinking, “Too bad he’s missing this.”

On the other hand, there are some things that will lure him out of bed before the birds start chirping or the last starry-pinpricks have faded away. That got me tallying up things in Bend that are worth rolling out of bed early for, even if you have a chronic love affair with your snooze button.

Here are 4 good reasons to get a super-early start on your day at least once during your Bend vacation.


Did I mention the sunrise?

Bend is famous for its breathtaking cornucopia of color in the morning and evening skies. While just about everyone who visits Bend has witnessed a magnificent sunset firsthand, the sunrises can be a bit more elusive for late-risers. Luckily, that will change this weekend.

Sunrise happens pretty darn early in the first weeks of March (ranging between about 6:20 and 6:45 a.m.) but Daylight Saving Time gives you a nice little bonus in mid-March. In 2016, we spring forward on Sunday, March 13, and for about ten days after that, sunrise will happen between 7:20 and 7 a.m. It gets earlier again after about March 24, so the night-owls among you should seize that special date range to get out and catch the sunrise and still catch a couple extra ZZs.

For a handy reference guide to sunrise and sunset times in Bend, go here.


Mmmm . . . breakfast!

Bend has dozens and dozens of amazing restaurants where breakfast is served daily, and options range from a decadent eggs benedict to grab-and-go breakfasts that make it easy for you to hit the hiking trails early (more on that later).

The blackstone benedict at Chow is a darn good reason to get up early.

The blackstone benedict at Chow is a darn good reason to get up early.

But there are certain breakfast hotspots that are insanely popular among locals and visitors alike, and when you show up ravenous at 9:30 or 10 a.m., it can be frustrating to face an hour-long wait. I know I’m not along when I say that makes me pretty “hangry.”

Which is why it pays to get up a bit earlier if there’s a breakfast spot on your wish list that you know is prone to weekend crowds. A few that leap to mind that are well worth a wait, but so much nicer when you get there earlier and don’t have to wait: Chow, The Victorian Café, McKay Cottage, and Jackson’s Corner (the Westside location—Eastside isn’t usually as packed, so that’s a good option to try, especially on a day you plan to head east anyway for a Badlands hike).

It can vary a bit among restaurants, but generally speaking, showing up around 8 a.m. or earlier will help you avoid the crowds.


Time to fly

One of the best ways to get my night-owl hubby out of bed early is the motivation of an early morning flight. When we’re leaving Bend for vacation and heading someplace exotic, we do our best to get on one of the earliest flights in the 5-6 a.m. range.

The arrival waiting area at RDM airport.

The arrival waiting area at RDM airport.

Did you know RDM offers daily nonstop flights from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, and coming soon, Phoenix? Several of those can have you in Bend before noon, which means you’ll be on the ground in time to score a fabulous lunch or hit a few stops along the Bend Ale Trail.

Go here to check flight times in and out of RDM.


Early birds get the worm . . . and the solitude!

Some of the most popular hiking trails around Bend can get pretty packed, particularly once the weather turns warm. That can kinda kill the mood if one of the reasons you’re venturing into the woods in the first place is to commune with nature or find a little peace and solitude.

2014-New-Years-Day-Sunrise-Adventure-5diii-10The earlier you can hit the trail, the better your odds will be of having the place to yourself for at least a little while. Why not kill several early birds with one stone by getting up early for sunrise, snagging the aforementioned grab-and-go breakfast, and then heading out on the hiking trail for your day’s adventure?

This is especially true if you’re hoping to hike at a spot that requires a bit of a drive to reach it. Go here to learn about five spots worth the extra drive time to visit when you’re in Bend. Then plan accordingly and get an early start on the day you want to visit.



7 parks you must visit during your Bend vacation

March 2nd, 2016

Bend locals love to joke that there’s a new brewery opening every week or two in Bend, which isn’t far from the truth.

And while it’s true the legendary Bend Ale Trail helped put this city on the map, that map is also dotted with dozens of outdoor spaces devoted to Bend’s unquenchable need to play outside. It seems like every time I venture from my own backyard, I discover a Bend park that’s either brand new, or new to me.

Bend Park & Recreation District manages more than 80 of our local parks, which make up 2,600 acres of outdoor space that ranges from trails to playgrounds to off-leash areas for your furry friend. To put that into perspective, you could consult their online park directory every week to find a new park to frolic in, and you’d still be discovering new places to play after 18 months. That doesn’t even count state parks like Smith Rock or vast outdoor playgrounds like Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Iconic Drake Park and Mirror Pond should be on your must-see list when you visit Bend.

Iconic Drake Park and Mirror Pond should be on your must-see list when you visit Bend.

But if you have a limited time in Bend and you want to see the best of the best, here’s my not-so-humble opinion of which Bend parks should make your shortlist.


Drake Park

This one’s a no-brainer, and if your Bend vacation time limits you to only one park, this is the one you should pick.

Drake Park spans 13 breathtaking acres along the Deschutes River in Downtown Bend, and you can stroll the entire length of it and discover a postcard-perfect view every three steps. It’s home to Mirror Pond, the scenic section of glassy river that inspired the name of Deschutes Brewery’s famous Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

A visit to Drake Park is a perfect accompaniment to a stroll through Bend’s historic Downtown. Grab a cup of coffee or a bowl of gelato, then mosey west until you reach the entry point along Franklin Avenue or through Mirror Pond Plaza.

Bonus: If your kids aren’t satisfied with tossing pine cones and frolicking in grassy fields, amble across the footbridge to adjacent Harmon Park. There, you’ll find a playground with an awesome centerpiece—a life-sized boat that’s been a fixture there for decades.


Pioneer Park

Not far downstream from Drake Park is its quieter cousin, Pioneer Park. One of Bend’s oldest parks, it boasts a covered group picnic area, formal rose garden, and tons of open lawn and riverfront woods. It’s a popular site for weddings, and was actually the runner up venue choice for my own nuptials a little over a year ago (keep reading to learn where we actually tied the knot).

Pioneer Park is a great place to scope out fall colors in autumn, or to enjoy a picnic and a walk almost any time of year.

Pioneer Park is a great place to scope out fall colors in autumn, or to enjoy a picnic and a walk almost any time of year.

What I love about Pioneer Park is that it feels a bit more tucked away and quiet. I like to go there with a picnic lunch, then wander north along the path until I reach First Street Rapids Park and its iconic footbridge.

Got a little extra energy to burn? Keep walking north along the Deschutes River Trail all the way to Sawyer Park. It’s a great spot for birdwatching, and for wandering a woodsy mix of juniper and pine and some of the coolest rock formations you’ll ever see.


Pilot Butte State Park

Bend is one of the only cities in the U.S. that boasts a dormant volcano in the city limits, and that’s Pilot Butte. A 500-foot cinder cone, Pilot Butte is part of the larger Pilot Butte State Park, which also includes a playground, running track, and expansive trails.

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.

But you’re coming here for the views you’ll get from the top of this majestic peak, so start walking! In the warmer months (May through November) you can drive to the top, but hiking it is a great way to get your heart pumping and your body acclimated to the higher elevation in Bend.

The viewing area at the top is handy for orienting yourself to Bend and the surrounding areas. On a clear day, you get stunning views at the Cascade Mountains to the west, the Oregon Badlands Wilderness to the east, and all the little subdivisions and shopping areas scattered around the rest of the city.

Depending on your hiking speed, you should be able to make it up and down in about an hour, so try timing it out to reward yourself afterward with a burger at Pilot Butte Drive In.


Pine Nursery Park

One of Bend’s most expansive parks, Pine Nursery Park offers a little (or a lot!) of everything. This 159-acre whopper of a park boasts softball fields, soccer fields, pickleball courts, a disc golf course, a fishing pond, a playground, and a 14-acre dog park known as the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

The Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash area is one of many amazing features of Pine Nursery Park.

The Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash area is one of many amazing features of Pine Nursery Park.

I’ll confess a certain fondness for this park since it’s about 200 yards from my front door, so I quite literally walk here every day. But even when I used to have to drive here, I used to do so at least a couple times a week.

My dog goes nuts for the Off-Leash Area and its cool spray park, woodsy trails, and endless fields for fetching. My step-kids love the paved trails for bike riding and skateboarding, which they usually enjoy en route to the brand-spanking-new playground. Our whole family loves the pickleball courts, and the fact that the four of us can usually find a court and play for free pretty much any day of the week.

Bonus: Bend tourists tend to stick to the uber-popular Westside of town, but Pine Nursery is on the Northeast side where very few vacationers venture. In other words, this is a good spot to visit if you want to see Bend from a slightly less-touristy angle.


Tumalo State Park

As you probably gathered from the name, this is a state park, rather than one operated by Bend Parks & Rec. Also worth noting: Tumalo State Park and Tumalo Falls are NOT the same thing, and in fact, are separated by about 15 miles).

Blogger Tawna got hitched at Tumalo State Park a little over a year ago.

Blogger Tawna got hitched at Tumalo State Park a little over a year ago.

But Tumalo State Park is the aforementioned site of my Sept. 2014 wedding, and for good reason. The day use area spans some of the most breathtaking riverfront acreage you could ever hope to see, and the adjacent campground allows you to park your tent just a few hundred yards away.

Fishing, birdwatching, looking for deer, or just lazing around on the riverbank are all great options here. It’s a terrific spot for a small family picnic or a big event like a wedding or family reunion (which require only a small fee and a reservation to ensure you have dibs).

Tumalo State Park is also a great place to visit year-round, whether you’re strolling the river banks in your puffy coat during the winter months, or wading in the Deschutes on a sunny day in August. Campsites book up fast at the nearby campground, so plan ahead and book a reservation if you hope to stay the night.


Shevlin Park

Another cherished Bend park that’s been part of the community since the 1920s, Shevlin Park offers a terrific mix of undeveloped forest and developed picnic areas, along with historic Aspen Hall (the site of many local weddings and family events).

Shevlin Park makes a great place for snowshoeing after a winter storm in Bend.

Shevlin Park makes a great place for snowshoeing after a winter storm in Bend.

It’s a popular spot for snowshoeing when the white stuff blankets the ground in winter months, and trail runners are especially fond of its elaborate network of great running routes.

Pick this park if you want a little room to spread out and explore with your mountain bike, cross country skis, or running shoes. If you’re here in the fall, this is an incredible spot to watch the aspens change color.


Riverbend Park

While “beautiful” is certainly an adjective that describes Riverbend Park, it’s actually not the first one that comes to mind for me. “Convenient,” is how I’d describe this sprawling expanse of riverfront property along the Deschutes River Trail.

Most SUPers put in at Riverbend Park to paddle this section of the Deschutes River.

Most SUPers put in at Riverbend Park to paddle this section of the Deschutes River.

The sandy beach in the middle of it is the most common spot for river floaters, kayakers, and SUPers to put in during the warm months. From there, you can paddle upstream toward Farewell Bend Park (which has a terrific playground), or drift downstream toward the amazing Bend Whitewater Park.

But even if you’re not looking to hop in the water, there’s plenty to do here. Stroll along the paved path to reach the Old Mill District for a bite of lunch or a bit of shopping. Walk the opposite direction for a stunning look at towering basalt cliffs lining the edge of the Deschutes River Trail.

If you have your pooch in tow, wander over to the fenced off-leash area to let Fido frolic for a bit. Then plop down in the grass and read a good book or let the kids tear around like wild banshees on the riverbank.

6 ways to feel beautiful in Bend

February 25th, 2016

I recently had to film some video footage for a promotion tied to my other life as a romantic comedy author. “Do I have time for a workout?” I asked my video producer husband beforehand.

“Sure,” he said, “but won’t you end up all sweaty for the shoot?”

“I won’t be sweaty,” I assured him. “I’ll be glowing with health and vigor.”

I was only half joking. While a hardcore, intense workout is likely to leave me looking like a boiled Dungeness crab, a little bit of exercise is just the thing to leave me feeling (and looking) rejuvenated.

It’s the same sort of happy glow every traveler hopes to go home with after an awesome vacation, so here are five ways to achieve it during your visit to Bend, Oregon.


Get that fabulous outdoorsy glow

Here's one way to achieve the perfect windblown tresses.

Here’s one way to achieve the perfect windblown tresses.

As you probably gathered from the intro, I prefer exercise over rouge when it comes to adding a healthy-looking flush to my cheeks. And who needs a fancy Brazilian Blowout when you can achieve the same effect with a little Central Oregon breeze in your hair? (Sidenote: I actually had to google Brazilian Blowout to know what the heck it is, and it’s apparently a hair smoothing treatment. Okay, fine, you can’t achieve the same effect by standing in the wind, and if you reeeeally want that treatment, Zante Salon in Bend does Brazilian Blowouts).

But you get the idea, right? There’s nothing quite like the healthy glow you get after a brisk hike, an afternoon of snowshoeing, or some paddling around a lake. For hiking ideas, go here. You can learn more about snowshoeing on this page, or scope out the offerings from Wanderlust Tours if you prefer to leave the guiding, gear, and transportation to someone else. They also offer canoe trips in the warmer months, or you can go here to find paddling opportunities on your own.


Score some Bend-made beautifiers

There’s something about Bend that seems to inspire artisans to create luxurious bath and beauty products. Maybe it’s the dry high desert climate that prompts us all to want to baby our skin a little, or maybe it’s the abundance of awesome local ingredients.

Ooodles of awesome soap that's made in Bend!

Ooodles of awesome soap that’s made in Bend!

That’s definitely the case with Boneyard Beer soap made by LeCol’s, which is an amazing, fragrant, wonderfully lathery bath bar made with beer from Bend’s own Boneyard Brewing. The hops and amino acids in beer soften and soothe irritated skin, while the polyphenols have antibacterial properties.

Another unique option is Lava Love. These soaps and bath products are made from natural volcanic ingredients, including bentonite clay, zeolite, and activated charcoal. The ingredients come from Oregon volcanoes, and promise to restore your body to its natural balance, leaving your skin clean, soft, and kissable.

If you like to keep things beautifully simple, Bend Soap Company makes exquisite bath products using moisturizing fresh goat’s milk (yep, they milk the goats themselves!), saponified coconut, olive and palm oils, and essential oils. Goat milk is easily absorbed by the skin, and is full of vitamins and minerals your skin craves, along with capric and caprilic acids that closely match the PH of your skin. The result is a supremely moisturizing, nourishing bar of soap.

For a more expansive line of locally-made skincare products, check out Angelina Organic Skincare. From cleansers to masques to lotions to facial serums, you’ll find everything you need to get your skin looking and feeling beautiful.


What’s that smell?

Sometimes smelling nice is what it takes to feel foxy. I love wandering through Oregon Body and Bath and hitting their expansive bar of fragrance oils. Pick out a single scent that makes you swoon, or create a custom blend that they’ll happily write down for you and store for your next visit so you’ll remember what you created.

Yummy smelling essential oils at Utilitu Sewing and Design.

Yummy smelling essential oils at Utilitu Sewing and Design.

My husband loves when I make a custom blend just for him and have it added to their invigorating spray that he mists on himself each morning. As an added bonus, I not only get to smell him, but I get to browse Oregon Body and Bath’s awesome selection of Yala Bamboo Dreams sleepwear made from breathable, anti-microbial, temperature-regulating bamboo.

If essential oils are your passion, Allison Murphy at Utilitu Sewing & Design creates some amazing blends. I’m a huge fan of her blend called Coven’s Blend, with delightful notes of clary sage, patchouli, and orange. A roller ball vial is only $12, plus your visit to Utilitu is the perfect excuse to take advantage of my next suggestion…


Score a unique piece of clothing

You don’t need to splurge on a whole new wardrobe in Bend to feel foxy (though if you’re in the mood to do that, I’m pretty sure the retailers in Downtown Bend and the Old Mill District wouldn’t object).

Guaranteed you'll get a million compliments wearing a one-of-a-kind skirt from Castaways (made from repurposed sweaters).

Guaranteed you’ll get a million compliments wearing a one-of-a-kind skirt from Castaways (made from repurposed sweaters).

But have you ever noticed how one perfect, super-unique accessory or article of clothing can leave you feeling like a million bucks? Throw in the added bonus of giving yourself a wearable souvenir of your Bend vacation, and you’ve got a great reason to do a little shopping in Bend.

Rescue Moderne Consignment sells a variety of unique locally-made clothing and accessories, like Hangr Supply jewelry made from recycled skateboards. Check out Clementine Urban Mercantile for a cool selection of scarves, socks, and sweaters, or visit Hot Box Betty to score some killer denim or a cute top.

On the guy side of things, my husband digs the selection of shirts and shorts at Outside In (the clothing and lifestyle branch of popular footwear retailer, FootZone). You’ll find cool brands like Prana and Arc’Teryx, which are great for striking that perfect balance between outdoorsy, hip, and a little dressy.

If you’re looking for a really cool statement piece, stop by Utilitu Sewing & Design in the Maker’s District. That’s where you’ll find Castaways one-of-a-kind handcrafted fashions made from castoff sweaters. The sweaters are meticulously deconstructed and revamped into completely original, wearable art. I’m obsessed with the adorable skirts, and wish I could own an entire closet full of them. No two are alike, and I guarantee you’ll get loads of compliments anytime you wear one.


Plan a spa day

Brasada Ranch is one of many places you can get an amazing massage while staying in Bend.

Brasada Ranch is one of many places you can get an amazing massage while staying in Bend.

Sometimes a spa day is what you need to feel your foxiest. Luckily, Bend has tons of full-service day spas offering everything from mani/pedis to deluxe facials and massages. Go here to start your search, and prepare to be pampered no matter where you go.


Get some sun (but not too much!)

We like to boast that Bend sees an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, and while I won’t claim the sun is blazing every single hour of those 300 days, it’s true that we have an abundance of sunshine here in the mountainous high desert.

All that glorious vitamin D is nice to soak up for a healthy glow, but be careful out there! Bend’s high altitude (along with the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow) can lead to a nasty sunburn.

One healthy option for protecting yourself is with naturally-made sun care products from T’s Tonics. Made in Bend, they offer sweat-proof SPF 30 protection with the added bonus of healing oils that leave your skin soft and nourished. You can find them online or at the Wanderlust Tours headquarters when you show up for your cave tour or snowshoe adventure.

8 reasons your cat wants you to vacation in Bend, Oregon

February 18th, 2016
Meet Marilyn, blogger Tawna's newest cat. She wants you to vacation in Bend, too.

Meet Marilyn, blogger Tawna’s newest cat. She wants you to vacation in Bend, too.

I got a new cat last weekend. This might not be noteworthy if I didn’t already have five cats, so I’m pretty sure six earns me official status as a crazy cat lady.

I’ve talked endlessly on this blog about how Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city, and spending time with your pup in Bend is a fabulous way to enjoy a Bend vacation. Heck, I even let my dog blog about it once.

But there are also many ways your Bend vacation is great for your cat, too. Here are eight reasons your feline pal wants you to vacation in Bend.


When the humans are away…

Generally speaking, cats are more solitary than dogs.

You can leave us home alone. We're totally trustworthy, honest.

You can leave us home alone. We’re totally trustworthy, honest.

While the dining needs of my household cat population requires an in-home pet sitter for overnight trips, a lot of cats are just fine with a few bowls of food and water and a weekend of solitude. In fact, some of them prefer it.

Another upside, as far as your cats are concerned, pertains to those mice you’re always scaring away with your noisy footsteps and blaring TV. Those rodent jerks come out to play when you’re gone, and FiFi was this close to catching one the last time you left.

Besides, isn’t it kinda nice to see how much love your cat heaps upon you if you’ve been gone for a night? After he’s done shunning you, that is.


On the other hand, there are road trippin’ cats

Matt the Cat, Tawna's road trippin' cat.

Matt the Cat, Tawna’s road trippin’ cat.

Maybe you’re not comfortable leaving Tiger alone for the weekend. In fact, maybe Tiger actually likes to travel. Hey, I’ve got one of those in my brood of six. Load Matt the Cat into the car and he’s immediately like, “Dude, yes! It’s about time we went somewhere!” Give him a portable litter box and a seat on the driver’s lap and he’ll purr the entire duration of a six-hour road trip.

Most pet-friendly Bend hotels and vacation rentals don’t actually specify the type of pet (though presumably your camel would not be welcomed with open arms in one of the newly-refurbished suites at The Riverhouse). Check in advance with your lodging property to make sure your kitty friend is permitted to join you. If you get the green light, Fuzzy’s goin’ on a road trip!


Howza ‘bout a little prezzie?

Assuming your cat doesn’t join you on your Bend vacation, the least you can do is score him a souvenir.

Tawna's cats loooove these knitted cat toys stuffed with catnip. You can find 'em at Bend Pet Express.

Tawna’s cats loooove these knitted cat toys stuffed with catnip. You can find ’em at Bend Pet Express.

You already know he loves presents, since he gives them to you regularly in the form of a dead lizard left on your pillow or that thoughtful nugget of Kitty Roca left on the floor by the litterbox.

Why not use your Bend vacation as a chance to bring Fluffy a special gift? You’ll find oodles of local retailers devoted to pet products. I’m a big fan of locally-owned Bend Pet Express, which has both Eastside and Westside locations. My cats go crazy-nuts for the little hand-knitted catnip critters they sell for $3. Something about the combo of catnip and the claw-friendly texture of the yarn turns even the most curmudgeonly kitty into a fluffy ball of drool-purring. You should also nab a container of their popular catnip, Kitty Hooch. Just make sure you don’t mix up the package with anything you’ve purchased at Oregrown, K?

Downtown Bend merchants like Clementine Urban Mercantile have oodles of kitty-themed merchandise waiting for you.

Downtown Bend merchants like Clementine Urban Mercantile have oodles of kitty-themed merchandise waiting for you.

If you’re browsing in Downtown Bend, you’ll find oodles of unique boutiques offering cat-themed décor and gifts. Clementine Urban Mercantile has an entire section devoted to kitty items, ranging from tumbler glasses to coin purses to novelty books to the most adorable paper kitty kit you’ve ever seen.


Does Mittens need a playmate?

Cats can be solitary animals, and with six of them in my household, I can tell you all about the challenges of adding a new kitty to a home with a feline or two already in residence.

What's one or two more cats, right?

What’s one or two more cats, right?

But if you’ve been planning ahead, you’re already on the lookout for a fuzzy new addition, and you don’t have an animal shelter to support in your own town, the Humane Society of Central Oregon always has special kitties in need of forever homes.

While you never want to adopt a cat on a whim, sometimes you spot a pair of heart-melting kitty eyes in a photo on an animal rescue website and you just know the two of you were meant to be part of each other’s lives. That’s how I once ended up driving almost six hours round trip to adopt an orange polydactyl cat in Klamath Falls (something I still regard as one of the best decisions I ever made, right up there between marrying my husband and accepting a job at Visit Bend).


You like the smell of cat pee, right?

When a business colleague stepped off the airplane on her first visit to Central Oregon, she noticed a peculiar smell. “It’s a little like cat pee,” she told me. “Only nicer.”

Whether you love the smell or hate it, you've gotta admit the juniper is a darn pretty tree.

Whether you love the smell or hate it, you’ve gotta admit the juniper is a darn pretty tree.

Ahh, the scent of juniper. It’s one of my favorite smells on earth, especially after a desert rainstorm. Admittedly there’s something about it that’s a little like cat pee, but in a pleasant way. No really. If nothing else, it’s one of those scents that will stick in your brain and forever remind you of your Bend vacation. (Go here for an entire blog post devoted to Things you’ve gotta smell in Bend).

If you want to go all out on your juniper experience, plan a hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and cuddle up to one of the gorgeous, gnarly ancient junipers out there. Then bring those clothes home for Mr. Whiskers to roll around on to celebrate your return.


Seafood? Did someone say seafood?

Considering Bend is landlocked in the center of the state with more than three hours separating us from the nearest coastal town, you wouldn’t think of Bend as being a seafood mecca.

But there are actually quite a few terrific seafood restaurants in Bend. If you’re in the Old Mill District, check out Anthony’s for killer river views and spectacular seafood. If you show up for happy hour, make sure you try the Ahi Nachos and one of their to-die-for specialty cocktails. Then stick around for dinner, which offers a huge array of options ranging from lobster to scallops to lingcod to the fresh catch of the day. They’re even open for daily lunch and for breakfast on Sundays, so you can get your seafood fix any time of the day.

Mmmm....Kitty wants some salmon! This dish comes from Jackalope, but you'll find plenty of other seafood options in Bend.

Mmmm….Kitty wants some salmon! This dish comes from Jackalope, but you’ll find plenty of other seafood options in Bend.

If you’re in Downtown Bend, don’t miss High Tides Seafood Grill. They don’t have a website, and they’re easy to miss on a tucked-away little spot at 1045 NW Wall St. But they’re a hidden gem if you’re looking for fresh seafood options that run the gamut from fish and chips to oysters to prawn curry. My personal fave here is the razor clams, and don’t miss the bacon wrapped scallops for your appetizer.

Go here for more ideas on seafood restaurants in Bend. And if there’s a little bit left over after your meal, don’t forget to ask for the kitty bag.


He’ll know what you did here

Cats just seem to know what you’ve been up to, don’t they? Like if you eat salmon for dinner and don’t share, he’ll be all up in your face trying to lick the corners of your mouth (or is that just my rude cats?)

So how about eating some spaghetti for Tiger? Since February is National Spay & Neuter Month, Brightside Animal Center is holding their annual Spay-Ghetti Benefit Dinner on Feb. 28. Your $20 entry gets you a complete spaghetti dinner (with vegetarian options if you need ‘em), plus dessert and the satisfaction of supporting shelter animals and their low-cost spay/neuter program.

Won’t your kitty be proud?


Pleeeeeeese show me your vacation photos?

It’s annoying to look at other people’s vacation photos and videos, right?

It’s not if you’re a cat and if the videos were taken while your human was birdwatching in Bend. Central Oregon’s high desert is home to dozens of amazing species of birds, including red-winged blackbirds, the belted kingfisher, cedar waxwings, and even bald eagles.

The area along the Bend River Trail near the Old Mill District is an ideal spot for birdwatching. Make sure you stop by the Ticket Mill to grab a birding guide and check out a set of binoculars for FREE.

If birds of prey are more your thing, visit the High Desert Museum and check out one of their raptor shows. You’ll see owls, hawks, eagles, and more, and you can record video of all of them.

Then bring it home and show it to your cat on a continuous video loop. That’s hours of kitty entertainment right there. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of my cat, Luna, watching bird videos on our iPad.

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