Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
There are tons of amazing photographers capturing breathtaking images around Bend every day. In fact, we rounded up nine of them in this blog post.
But sometimes you’re just looking for a simple snapshot you can capture with your iPhone or point-and-shoot camera. You don’t need a photo for your living room wall, you want one for your Facebook wall.
I bribed cajoled begged politely asked a couple local photographers for tips on when and where to snag some of the quintessential Bend photographs so I could share a few tips with you. Here’s what I learned.
To get a great city shot of Bend…
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, though I checked with my photo pals just to be sure. A hike to the top of Pilot Butte (the dormant 500-foot volcano in the center of town) is a great way to get the lay of the land in Bend. To the west, you’ll see the expansive Cascade Mountain Range, the city of Bend, and the sparkling Deschutes River. To the east, you can catch sight of the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and its vast desert terrain.
If you’re an early riser, hoof it up the hill just before sunrise to catch the alpenglow on the mountains as the first light hits them. If you’re not a morning person, you can catch some pretty good sunsets from the top, too. If a middle-of-the day visit is the only thing you can manage, don’t worry! Any clear day will give you the chance to capture lovely views in all directions.
And if it’s not a clear day, even that isn’t the worst thing in the world. I once hiked up just before a thunderstorm hit (something I don’t advise you to try, unless you enjoy the risk of being struck by lightning). Nevertheless, it was spellbinding to watch the thunderclouds roll in and the rainstorm moving slowly toward us as I sprinted down the hill to my car to avoid being drenched.
To get a fab shot of the mountains…
There are a lot of great spots in Bend to capture sweeping views of the mountains, so you’re in luck if your photographic bucket list includes a shot of snow-capped peaks.
If you want to stay right in town, cruise along Mount Washington Drive and pull over when you see the view you want to capture. Summit Park on Awbrey Butte is another terrific spot with terrific views of the Cascade peaks.
If you feel like driving a bit, head for Dutchman Flat Sno Park for an up-close-and-personal view of the mountains (you might have to hike or snowshoe a bit to the north to get the best view). This is also a terrific spot for night photography.
If you’re up for a short hike and a lovely drive through some of Bend’s volcanic landscape, try Bessie Butte. While I’m still a little heartbroken about the fire that scorched a bunch of the trees out there a few years ago, the upside is that you’ll find a ton of spots with completely unobstructed mountain views. To get there, head east on China Hat Road and turn right on the first paved road you encounter (if you hit the Horse Butte turnoff, you’ve gone too far). The trailhead is clearly marked and the trail itself is a gentle traverse of just over a mile to the top. The panoramic view of the Cascades and the Newberry Caldera is well worth the trip.
To get a killer river shot…
The Deschutes River cuts a long, lovely swath through the city of Bend, so there are a million spots in town to snag a terrific photo of it.
Drake Park (the crown jewel of Bend’s park system) spans 13 breathtaking acres along the Deschutes River, and there’s a photo-worthy vista about every three steps. If you’re strolling around Downtown Bend and approach from the Mirror Pond Plaza, keep walking straight ahead until you hit the railing. Bingo! There’s a perfect spot to capture the rivers and the mountains all in one photo. But keep walking, guys, since there are oodles of other great scenes to capture while you’re here.
For another take on the glorious Deschutes, head for Farewell Bend Park near the Old Mill District. From here, you’ll be able to capture the contrast of the river against towering basalt cliffs. Bonus: There’s a great view of the mountains if you look upstream toward the bridge.
To get a stunning desert photo…
I know a lot of folks love Bend for the views of snow-capped peaks and towering Ponderosas, but for me, the quintessential Bend view will always be the desert. I adore the craggy lava formations and the twisted, ancient junipers.
If you share my fondness for Bend’s high desert landscapes, head east to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. I’m partial to heading out near the end of the day when the waning light gives everything an eerie, ethereal glow. Real photographers refer to this as “the golden hour,” and it’s a great time to ensure optimum lighting in all your photos. As an added bonus, your pooch can run leash-free to his heart’s content out here, though be sure to bring extra water—it’s the desert, after all.
If you’re looking to try your hand at night photography and the more advanced star photos, the Badlands are great spot to set up your tripod after daylight disappears. The absence of city lights makes it an excellent spot to really soak in the night sky. Just don’t venture too far from the trail or you might have a tough time finding your way back!
To get an epic waterfall pic…
I devoted a whole blog post last week to the subject of where to see great waterfalls around Bend and Central Oregon, so you can check that out here.
As far accessibility goes, Benham Falls is the easiest spot to reach on a year-round basis. Head out Highway 97 south to the Lava Lands exit. You’ll see signs pointing you to Benham Falls toward the left. Follow the road about four miles to the parking lot. It’s a pretty short hike from there to a great vantage point overlooking a churning stretch of whitewater. You’ll be shooting from above, so please don’t get so distracted by your photographic pursuits that you go tumbling over the edge.
If the waterfall shot you’re seeking is more the classic, cascading stream of water, head for Tumalo Falls. It’s nearly 100-feet tall and glorious from several different angles. Accessing it in the wintertime requires a bit of a hike, but in summertime, you can stroll a few hundred feet from the parking lot to the perfect viewing platform (complete with railing to keep you safe and secure).
If you can arrive around sunrise, you’ll get the perfect backlit shot. If not, just try to arrive when the sun isn’t directly overhead, since that will make lighting a little tricky in your photo.
To get a brilliant sunset pic…
The thing about sunsets in Bend is that you can be just about anywhere and capture a fabulous one—no filter or special camera required! Heck, one of my favorite Bend sunset pics was taken by husband in our driveway in northeast Bend with the dog photobombing it.
All that to say, why not enjoy your sunset from a spot where you’re also certain to enjoy yourself?
Crux Fermentation Project offers Sunset Hour daily. For 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after sunset every day, they have special discounts on drinks and snacks. Their patio makes an amazing place to watch the sky turn pink over the Cascade Mountains, so why not lift a tasty brew with one hand while you snap photos with the other?
If beer isn’t your thing but you still want to be out-and-about experiencing the Bend vibe while the sun drops below the horizon, try heading to the Old Mill District an hour before sunset. Stroll along the river browsing shops or sipping some coffee from Strictly Organic, or snag a table at one of the fabulous restaurants lining the river. Talk about diner and a show!
For more ideas on great spots to see (and photograph!) Bend sunsets, check out this blog post.
I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon on Visit Bend’s Facebook page.
Every time we share a photo of a waterfall in Oregon the post gets three-gazillion likes, shares, and comments.
It’s clear Bend fans are passionate about the idea of water rushing over towering cliffs and rocky flumes, so let’s take a look at some hiking trails with the best waterfalls in Bend and Central Oregon.
At nearly 100 feet tall, this splendor along Tumalo Creek is the most popular waterfall located within the Bend city limits. It’s a little tougher to get to in winter months when the road is closed about two miles from the normal parking area, but it’s a pleasant enough hike and well worth a little extra effort to reach it.
In warmer months, the viewpoint to see the main waterfall is only a few steps from where you’ll park. Hoof it to the viewpoint for a quick snapshot, then keep walking along the trail to see the falls from several different vantage points.
Want to keep going? As you hike upstream, you’ll encounter several smaller waterfalls along the trail. It can be dicey in the winter months, and snowshoes are a good idea if the snowpack is high. When summer rolls around, you can walk four miles to Happy Valley before retracing your steps for a second look at all the majestic beauty.
Tumalo Falls is easy to reach if you follow Galveston Avenue through the roundabout until it turns into Skyliner Road. Cruise for a little over 10 miles until you see Forest Service Road 4601 on your right. The season and the snowfall will determine how far you can get on the gravel road from there, but it ends in 2.5 miles just 50 feet from the waterfall.
Benham, Dillon, and Lava Island Falls
Bend’s mighty Deschutes River boasts three major waterfalls in fairly close proximity to one another, and each one is special in its own way.
The best-known and largest of the three is Benham Falls. Here, the river stairsteps over rocks and ledges as it chugs along through a rocky gorge. The short hike to access it takes you through a lovely pine forest where you’ll enjoy the twitter of birds and the rush of whitewater. Don’t expect the sort of tall, cascading waterfall you’ll see at Tumalo Falls, but do expect a glorious stretch of churning whitewater and lovely views.
The second most popular waterfall along the Deschutes River Trail is Dillon Falls. Like Benham, it’s a more gradual drop of churning whitewater, as opposed to a lengthy cascade plummeting over a cliff. You’ll see a lot more lava features here, and some pretty spectacular views of the surrounding gorge. The sunsets here can be amazing, so bring your camera if you’re visiting near the end of the day.
Lava Island Falls is the least-known of the three, and it’s tricky to access due to steep, dangerous trails and a bunch of private homes lining the edges of the river. That said, it may be the most scenic of the bunch, with a two-stepped cascade dropping about 15 feet and a second channel that’s a little smaller.
The Deschutes River Trail System is probably your easiest access point for these waterfalls. Start at Meadow Camp, which you’ll reach by driving out Century Drive like you’re headed toward Mt. Bachelor. Hang a left on Forest Service Road 41 and follow the signs to reach the waterfall of your choice.
This waterfall is technically closer to Terrebonne than it is to Bend, but it’s well worth a short drive to reach it. (Bonus: You can combine this with a visit to Smith Rock State Park, which is a must-see when you’re in Central Oregon).
The hike from the trailhead to the main waterfall takes you a little over a mile through a winding gorge dotted with sagebrush and ancient juniper. In the summer months, it’s bustling with people looking to swim in the peaceful waters just downstream from the falls. During chillier months, you’ll still see a lot of anglers casting a line in the water and reeling in some pretty impressive fish.
This waterfall is one of my personal favorites, and my step kids could spend hours standing above it and chucking rocks into the churning water. Tread with caution if it’s icy or snowy, but most of the year this is a pretty easy hike. If you have time, bring a picnic lunch and look for a flat spot to spread your blanket.
To get there, head north on Highway 97 and drive a little over 20 miles until you reach the town of Terrebonne. Turn left on Lower Bridge Way and follow it 2.1 miles before turning right onto NW 43rd. After 1.7 miles, go left on Chinook Drive until you see Badger Road on your left about a mile up. You should see a sign at this point directing you to Steelhead Falls, which requires another mile on Quail Road and a mile or so on River Road.
This is another waterfall that’s a bit tougher to get to in the winter months, but it’s totally worth it if you’re up for a couple extra miles of hiking. Paulina Falls is 80-feet tall and surrounded by dramatic volcanic cliffs created from sheets of hot ash and pumice formed during eruptions more than 75,000 years ago.
One thing I love about this waterfall is that you can check it out from the upper viewpoint, which is less than ¼ mile from the parking lot. Once you’ve had enough of that, hoof it down the trail to see what it looks like from below.
Paulina Falls is part of the Newberry Crater, a national volcanic monument, which would be worth a day of exploration even if there were no waterfall at all.
To get there in the summertime, just follow Highway 97 about 20 miles south of Bend to Paulina Lake Road (you’ll see signs for the national monument). Follow Paulina Lake Road a little over 12 miles until you see signs on the left for Paulina Falls. The viewpoint is only a couple hundred feet from where you’ll park your car.
If you’re visiting in the wintertime, you’ll discover the road is closed a couple miles west of the parking area. Don’t worry! Just park your car and hoof it along the highway (which is pretty easy, since there won’t be any cars). Bring snowshoes just in case, though you won’t likely need them in a light snow year.
Whychus and Proxy Falls
I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who’s lived in Bend since 1997, and you know what? I haven’t seen every amazing landmark in Central Oregon. That’s not for lack of trying, I can assure you. It’s just a big, beautiful place, and there’s lots to see!
That’s my way of telling you that although I have not personally visited Whychus Falls (also known as Chush Falls) the photos I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard indicate it’s breathtaking. You’ll find some good info about getting there if you go here.
Proxy Falls is another one I’ve missed, though I made one failed attempt at getting there last fall in the midst of our first blizzard of the season (don’t try this at home, kids). Proxy is obviously on my bucket list, for reasons that should be obvious if you check out photos of it. Learn more about how to find it by going here.
So where’s YOUR favorite waterfall in Central Oregon? Is it one I didn’t list here? Please share!
Welcome to your ninth edition of Mind Bend-ers, a special feature offering you the inside scoop on quirky Bend history and offbeat trivia.
Ever notice how historical tidbits that aren’t actually true can be repeated so often people start to believe them?
It happens often with Bend history, but the myth-busters at the Deschutes County Historical Society have donned their capes and superhero spandex to help us wage war on these so-called “facts.” Here’s the real truth behind several of the peskiest untrue historical Bend tales.
Fake history “fact” #1: Amelia Earhart lived in Bend
FALSE! But here’s the truth:
George Putnam moved to Bend in 1909 and became a prominent member of the community. As editor and publisher of the Bend Bulletin, he married Dorothy Binney (heiress of Crayola Crayons) in 1911 and became the town’s youngest mayor in 1912.
So what does all this have to do with Amelia Earhart? We’re getting to that.
George and Dorothy settled into a lovely home on Congress Street in Bend, and things hummed along okay for the next few years. George’s political work landed him in Salem often, and he spent a lot of time traveling as a war correspondent.
Then George’s dad died in 1917, followed by his brother’s death in 1918. Knowing he needed to take charge of the family business, George sold his shares in the Bulletin, packed up his family, sold his house in Bend, and headed for New York in 1919. That’s where he met a young aviator named Amelia Earhart, and eventually became her publicist.
Things weren’t going so great in George and Dorothy’s marriage by then. She admits in her diaries she was having an affair with a man 19 years her junior, and she asked George for a divorce several times. In 1929, he agreed.
By then, things were getting hot and heavy between Amelia and George. He proposed to her three different times, and she finally said yes in 1931. They married in Connecticut, and settled down on the East Coast.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Amelia never set foot in Bend. Her marriage to George happened over a decade after he left Oregon, making it more than a little perplexing that folks lay claim to the famed aviator as a Central Oregon resident.
Fake history “fact” #2: Brooks Scanlon won Bend’s mill rights on a coin toss
FALSE! But here’s the truth:
Bend was a booming lumber town in the early 1900s, and there was plenty of business to go around for a pair of rival mills. Brooks-Scanlon operated on the east side of the river, and Shevlin-Hixon did their thing on the west bank. It’s possible they occasionally hurled things at each other, but we don’t want to start rumors.
Things turned sour in the late 1940s when it became clear there wasn’t enough timber to go around. There was only room for one lumber mill in Bend, so they had to find a fair way to determine who’d stay. A mud wrestling tournament? A spitting contest? A coin toss?
See, this is how rumors get started.
Turns out the reality was a whole lot simpler. Mr. Shevlin was in ill-health at that point, and some dissension within his company made it a good time to cut and run. They sold the whole operation to Brooks Scanlon in 1950. Since Brooks-Scanlon only wanted the timber, they pretty much abandoned the Shevlin-Hixon Mill and all the brand new equipment the Shevlin folks had just purchased.
The Shevlin-Hixon buildings were razed for good in the 1980s, and today you can walk your dog, dine at a nice restaurant, or enjoy some world-class shopping in Bend’s Old Mill District.
Fake history “fact” #3: Klondike Kate ran a brothel
FALSE! But here’s the truth:
Kate Rockwell earned the nickname Klondike Kate during her illustrious career as a vaudeville performer and showgirl in Alaska, and she moved to Central Oregon in 1910.
She was a colorful character who rolled cigarettes with one hand, married (and divorced) a man half her age, and revisited her days as an entertainer by strolling around Downtown Bend in her showgirl costumes.
As you might imagine, that didn’t always sit well with the prim and proper ladies of Bend, who occasionally spread rumors that Kate was either running a brothel or offering her own services as a lady of ill-repute.
In reality, Kate was just a spirited woman who spit, cussed, wrangled cattle, and picked up bums to do work on her home in Downtown Bend. She also nursed Spanish influenza victims and did a lot of charity for the Bend Fire Department, which put her in close contact with a lot of the town’s strapping young men. Can’t fault a girl for looking, right?
In any case, there’s no record of Kate Rockwell ever having any connection at all to prostitution, but because the nickname “Klondike Kate” is kinda catchy, records indicate several other women claimed it for themselves. There’s no saying for sure what those gals got up to while masked in the cloak of the pseudonym, but rest assured, the real Klondike Kate was neither a hooker nor a madam.
I know you guys are kinda used to Tawna blogging here every week, so I’m sorry to tell you she’s sick. Like she’s piling up all these tissues that taste REALLY AWESOME, but I’m not supposed to eat them because BAD DOG.
Whatever. In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m Tawna’s dog, Bindi, and DON’T WORRY! I have everything under control.
See, I’m an Australian Kelpie, which is pretty much like a herding dog on crack. If I can catch my own tail and keep Tawna’s five cats in line, I can totally ROCK THIS BLOG POST!
A lot of you have dogs of your own, so I’d like to tell you why I think Bend is freakin’ awesome. That way you guys can come here and play and maybe pee on some stuff I’ve marked for you. Just don’t touch that ponderosa in Drake Park. That’s mine.
Dog parks galore!
Look, I can totally walk on a leash. I can heel like nobody’s business, but sometimes I like to RUN FREEEEEE like the wild beast I am.
There are tons of places to do that in Bend. The good folks at DogPac do an awesome job setting up off-leash recreation areas around town, and the people at Bend Parks & Rec have a killer map of all the dog parks right here.
My favorite is the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area in northeast Bend. It has 18 acres of trails, fields, rocks to pee on, trees to pee on, fences to pee on, fetching zones, and even a cool splash park I like to slobber in when the weather’s warm.
Did I mention I’m pretty much the best fetcher EVER?
If you’d rather get off the beaten path and run around in the woods, DogPac has a cool roundup of dog-friendly summer and winter trails here. When the snow is good, I like to take Tawna out to Wanoga to do a little snowshoeing. She wears the snowshoes, not me, because DUH, I can run on snow or mud or the surface of the sun because HELLO, I’m a Kelpie.
Hook a puppy up!
OK, maybe I exaggerated a little bit in that last paragraph. See, occasionally I need a little extra help dealing with the conditions in Bend. Like when we’re out for really long hikes in the snow, I sometimes wear booties to keep my toes warm. I’m hoping for a pair of Louboutin stilettos next, but so far no dice. My best friend, Tanner, wears this waxy goop called Musher’s Secret, which keeps her paws safe in the snow. Our parents buy all that stuff at Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in town and a DELICIOUS selection of dog cookies. I’m just saying.
When summer rolls around, Tawna likes to take me with her on the standup paddleboard because OBVIOUSLY she needs my superior navigation skills. I don’t have to wear my life vest when we’re paddling close to shore in calm water, but if we’re out on a lake or paddling someplace unfamiliar, I always wear one. Did you know RuffWear (the company that makes the K-9 Float Coat) is based in Bend? Like, I can totally smell it from here.
I feel pretty . . . oh so pretty!
Sometimes I get stinky and it’s AWESOME!
Unfortunately, Tawna and The Guy don’t agree. Since they’re the ones who drive the car, I usually end up at Bend Pet Express where they have these special dog wash stations that let my parents do the scrubbing and rinsing. I like it better that way, because seriously—would YOU want a stranger washing under your tail? I didn’t think so.
Anyway, they provide all the tools like aloe shampoo and conditioner, plus these rubber spongy things that feel really great on my rump, plus towels and nail trimmers and even an apron. The people wear the aprons, not the dogs, though I WOULD TOTALLY ROCK AN APRON.
Treats? Did someone say treats?
After my bath, I deserve a treat. I love it when Tawna swings by Newport Market where they always have a selection of freshly-cut beef bones with all this tasty marrow. I like to gnaw on my bone and pretend I’m a wild wolf who just took down an elk, but then I remember I let the cat lick my bone and also that I’m scared of my own farts.
Besides the marrow bones, I totally dig the biscuits from Polkadoodle Dog Bakery. I also totally love Dawg Grog, this special non-alcoholic dog beer that’s made locally from byproducts of the brewing process. Nothing washes down a freshly-killed elk like a cold one, amirite?
*Scratches self. Belches*
Everyone loves me!
Look, I haven’t learned to read yet, OKAY? Sue me, I was busy learning quantum physics and how to distinguish between post-modernism and abstract expressionist art forms.
But if I could read, I’d know Dog Fancy magazine named Bend the dog-friendliest city in America. And the thing is, I don’t need to read to know that. I can walk anywhere in town and people are happy to see me. Like they’d totally be wagging their tails if they had them (and what’s up with that—seriously, how can you live without a tail?)
Anyway, there are tons of restaurants in Bend that let me sit with Tawna and The Guy while they have dinner on the patio. You can check the grid listings here to find one you really like, since most places with patios allow dogs.
Out-of-town visitors will dig the fact that Bend has so many great hotels and vacation rentals that allow dogs. No joke, even really fancy hotels. Like The Oxford Hotel in Bend was just named the #6 hotel IN THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ COUNTRY by the folks at TripAdvisor, and they totally know how to treat a dog right. You get a personal pet bed customized to your size, a couple travel bowls, housemade treats, a map of dog walking trails, and add-on services like pet massage and dog walking. MASSAGE, you guys! Really. Or you can check out the digs at The Riverhouse, where they don’t charge any extra pet fees to let your dog share a room with you, plus they’re right on the river for easy access to all the best splashing and playing.
So I guess that pretty much does it for my blog post. Oh, and if anyone’s looking for something to get me for my birthday, I really want one of these awesome dog-powered scooters they make in Bend. Can’t you see me in one of those sporting a pair of Doggles and a cape?
That would rule.
When it comes to snacking, few things beat the power of popcorn. It’s tasty, it’s filling, and unless you’re popping it in bacon grease (okay, I’ve done that–yum!) it’s a pretty healthy treat.
While it’s unlikely you’ll visit Bend, Oregon solely for the purpose of sampling your way around the city’s best popcorn treats, here are a few things my fellow popcorn fans won’t want to miss in Bend.
Munch popcorn for free at Drake
Yep, you read that right—the popcorn is FREE at Drake in Downtown Bend. They serve it in lieu of a bread basket so you have something to nibble while you make your entrée selections and wait for your meal. It’s oil-popped, dairy-free, and tossed with a scrumptious blend of fresh herbs, spices, and olive oil.
I hesitate to tell you they offer unlimited refills, since the idea here is that you need to save room for other menu items. With that in mind, I highly recommend the shrimp & grits made with roasted peppers, caramelized onion, bacon, escarole, and tabasco pan sauce.
Pop your own and sprinkle goodies from Navidi’s
I eat popcorn five or six days a week, so I like to spice it up sometimes. One of my favorite spots for popcorn-enhancing goodies is Navidi’s in Downtown Bend. I’m a huge fan of their black truffle salt, which I sprinkle on my popcorn for an extra-decadent snack.
They have oodles of other fancy salts ranging from chipotle-flavored to Hawaiian black lava sea salt, and you can taste test all the varieties at their cozy downtown shop.
I’m also obsessed with the flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars at Navidi’s. I have a dozen varieties on my kitchen counter for cooking and salad prep, and I recently discovered the oils are pretty fabulous on popcorn, too. My personal fave is the fernleaf dill flavor, but basil, lime, and even blood orange are also divine when you drizzle it on your snack in lieu of butter.
The manager just gave me a tip I’m dying to try for “pizza popcorn” made by tossing ordinary popcorn with their sundried tomato salt, Tuscan herb olive oil, and parmesan. Yum!
Popcorn and a movie? Yes, please!
Nothing goes hand-in-hand quite like a bucket of popcorn and a good movie, and you can find both things at several spots around Bend. Catch all the latest releases at the Regal Old Mill Stadium and IMAX in Bend’s Old Mill District (which has the added bonus of offering tons of nearby restaurants for a scenic dinner afterward if the movie popcorn doesn’t fill you up).
If you’re partial to indie flicks, documentaries, shorts, local films, and old movies shown in a quainter venue, check out the Tin Pan Theater in Downtown Bend. They have a quirky vibe, a cozy 28-seat setting, and of course, popcorn! They take pride in popping theirs in only canola oil with a dash of salt. Then they drizzle it with freshly melted REAL Eberhards butter and turn you loose on their station of shakers filled with, parmesan, nutritional yeast, braggs, siracha, and other tasty toppings.
Toss it with tasty seasonings from Savory Spice Shop
While their Smoky Hills Cheese Powder is technically meant to be mixed with sour cream to make a dip, it’s phenomenal sprinkled on a great big bowl of butter-drizzled popcorn. Ditto for their savory Dill Dip (which becomes extra-special-tasty when you combine it with the aforementioned fernleaf dill olive oil from Navidi’s).
Even if you don’t intend to misuse their products to enhance your popcorn, this is a great place to browse when you’re shopping in Bend’s Old Mill District. If you’re really on a culinary kick, pop next door to Ginger’s Kitchenware for gifts, gadgets, and even cooking classes.
Sip Caramel Corn tea from Inspired Leaf
Inspired Leaf is a little Bend-based tea company makes some of the most unique blends you’ll ever encounter (Berkshire Apple Fig? Chocolate Strawberry Saffron? Coconut Truffle? Yum!)
But it’s their Caramel Popcorn blend that really rolls my socks up. If you look closely, it has little bits of popcorn in the blend, and you can taste it when you brew yourself a cup. The result is a nutty, toasty, delicious bit of flavor in your mug.
You won’t likely find the caramel popcorn flavor in restaurants around Bend (though you can order it online). If you’re looking to sample some of their other tea varieties while getting a great meal to boot, try Café Sintra or 5 Fusion. You can also purchase it at Newport Avenue Market in Northwest Bend (where they also stock a unique array of salts to dress up your popcorn).
Score kettle corn at Oregon Winterfest
A festival isn’t a festival without a food court that boasts a kettle corn booth wafting heavenly smells throughout the venue. Lucky for you, the 2015 Oregon Winterfest is happening February 13-15 in Bend, and they have plenty to offer besides kettle corn.
Oregon Winterfest is a massive annual celebration of the chilly season, featuring live music, a Wine Walk, ski and snowboard competitions, ice carving, a fire pit competition, motocross with Metal Mulisha, an OMSI kids’ tent, a 5k and 10k race, and much more. You can check out the schedule of events here and buy tickets at the gate when you arrive.
But let’s get back to the kettle corn, shall we? Famous Kettle Korn is providing this year’s booth, and they’ll be popping up several tasty varieties, including caramel corn and their famous lightly-salted, sweetened Kettle Korn. They’ll also have cotton candy if popcorn isn’t your thing, but if that’s the case, seriously—why are you still reading?
Most of us are told a lot of fibs and half-truths throughout our lives: The check is in the mail. You haven’t aged a bit. The Easter Bunny is coming.
Sorry if I ruined anyone’s holiday with that last one.
We strive to be honest in our marketing of Bend, Oregon, as the best tourism destination on the planet. That probably makes me hyper-aware of some of the not-so-true things floating around out there. Fortunately for Bend visitors, the truth is actually better than the reality in many cases. Here are five lies you might have heard about Bend (and the real truth behind them):
Dirty lie #1: You must have snow tires to visit Bend in the winter.
I didn’t own a set of snow tires for the first 15 years I lived in Bend, and even though I make several trips over the Cascade Mountains each winter, I’ve only had to chain up a handful of times in my life as a fourth-generation Oregonian.
It’s true snowstorms happen in the winter months, and that traction devices are sometimes required over the mountain passes. But tire chains aren’t terribly expensive and can be returned to the store if you don’t end up using them. I’m a big fan of Les Schwab, where they’ll not only figure out what sort of chains your vehicle needs, they’ll show you in an idiot-friendly fashion how to put them on. Buy the chains, request a tutorial, then throw them in your trunk and hope you won’t need them at all.
And if you do? Hey, that’s good news for all the snowy winter recreation you might want to enjoy in Bend!
Dirty lie #2: Bend is just a beer town.
The amount of press coverage we get for the Bend Ale Trail might lead you to think that’s the only adult beverage to be had in Central Oregon. Fortunately for those of us with a taste for alternate adult beverages, Bend has a staggering abundance of distilleries, cideries, wineries, and more.
To get a taste-test of all of the above, try the The Local Pour outing with Wanderlust Tours. It’s a guided trip that takes you to one brewery, one cidery, one winery, and one distillery in Bend. They provide transportation to and from your Bend hotel or vacation rental, and each trip includes facility tours, tastings, and appetizers at one of the stops.
Prefer to explore on your own? Check out Drinkable Detours! An offshoot of the Bend Ale Trail, it’s your handy guide to navigating between three local cideries, three distilleries, four wineries, and one kombucha producer. Cheers!
Dirty lie #3: Bend gets 300 days of sunshine a year.
Okay, I’ll admit it—I’ve shared this stat with journalists writing about Bend, and you’ll even see it in a spot or two on our website. It’s one of the most oft-repeated details about Bend, and technically, it’s true.
What it really comes down to is how you define “days of sunshine.” Are we talking “days on which the sun shines for at least a little while?” In that case, I’ll happily defend the claim. It’s pretty rare to have a day in Bend when the sun doesn’t shine brightly for at least an hour or two.
But if we’re talking “the sun is blazing the entire day,” then no—it’s not true. We wouldn’t want it to be, since perpetually cloudless skies would make it tough for snow to accumulate at Mt. Bachelor.
And really, it’s all about perspective. I grew up in Salem, Oregon, so I know winter days on the other side of the mountains can be drizzly and gray without even a flicker of sunshine for weeks on end. Comparatively speaking, sunlight in Bend is blessedly abundant, and makes Central Oregon a fabulous retreat in the winter months when you desperately need a vitamin D fix.
Dirty lie #4: Bend has gotten too crowded.
You hear this uttered most often by folks who’ve moved to Bend in the last couple years and want to slam the door shut behind them so no one else gets in. That’s not how it works, especially not in a city with enough scenic beauty and wide open spaces to go around.
When I moved here in 1997, Bend had a population of 32,000 people. We’ve added about 50,000 more since then, and as you might imagine, the place has changed a bit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
City planners have been smart about growth, and our roadways and landmarks are well-managed and intelligently-planned. Amenities like the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the Old Mill District didn’t exist fifteen years ago, and now I go there constantly to catch a summer concert or enjoy a romantic dinner on the Deschutes River.
If I ever catch myself whining about road congestion, all I have to do is drive to Portland, Salem, Eugene, or Seattle and remember that a “traffic jam” there means a 20-minute drive takes an hour or more. In Bend, a “traffic jam” means it takes 20 minutes instead of 15 to get from one end of town to the other.
Dirty lie #5: Bend is just for outdoorsy people.
There’s no doubt that Bend’s abundance of outdoor recreation is what keeps people coming here to hike, bike, ski, raft, SUP, climb, snowshoe, kayak, or find a gazillion other ways to play outside.
But if you’re the indoorsy sort, there’s plenty here for you, too.
Soak up Bend’s phenomenal arts and culture by browsing galleries, savoring public art exhibits, visiting museums, or taking in concerts and live theater. If shopping is your thing, you’ll find oodles of cool boutiques, local artisans, and major retailers scattered through shopping districts that boast killer mountain views and pathways meandering along the Deschutes River.
Bend’s culinary scene is outstanding as well, and you can enjoy it by dining in one of hundreds of local restaurants and cafes, or by taking a cooking class or culinary tour with The Well Traveled Fork.
For family-friendly activities, you can’t beat the High Desert Museum and its abundance of unique exhibits and cool critters. You can also check out this blog post or this one for more ideas on how to entertain a family on a Bend vacation.
It’s the season of hearts and flowers and making googly-eyes at your snookums from across the table at a swanky restaurant.
Not that I’m dissing traditional celebrations of love this Valentine’s Day. I just think the holiday makes a better occasion to celebrate your love for something other than your honey-poo. Namely? Your love of Bend, Oregon!
Here are eight ways to express your love for Bend this Valentine’s season:
Sport some saucy Bend apparel
Nothing says “I love Bend” quite like a T-shirt that…uh, well, actually says “I love Bend.” You’ll find tons of fantastic Bend-themed apparel at Cascade Cottons in Downtown Bend. The Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon is another great spot to snag Bend-centric apparel, including our super-popular “Girl vs. beer” and “Man vs. beer” T-shirts celebrating the Bend Ale Trail. You can also pick up brewery-specific apparel at any of the 14+ Bend breweries scattered around town.
More interested in earning your shirt? Check Visit Bend’s calendar of events and register for a race or an event that provides commemorative T-shirts for participants.
Spread the love on social media
Can’t get enough of Bend? Neither can our 116,000 page fans on Facebook. We post multiple times a day with photos, articles, and tips about what’s happening around Bend, so follow us there to join the fun.
You can also follow us on Instagram or Twitter for more doses of Bend love. And if you enjoy the Bend Buzz Blog each week, make sure you sign up to receive an email alert each time there’s a new post (we promise not to spam you – truly, it’s just a once-a-week message so you know when the newest post is up!)
Take home a little piece of Bend
Art makes one of the best souvenirs in the world, so it’s lucky for you there are so many fantastic art galleries in Bend. Whether you love paintings, glass, metal work, mixed media, photos, sculptures, or some other art form I’ve forgotten to name, you’re sure to find just the thing for that naked spot on your living room wall.
If photography is your passion, check out our recent blog post featuring some of the most popular photographers sharing work on our Facebook page. The post has links to the photographers’ websites where you can order things like photo calendars and framed prints from the comfort of your living room.
Sharing is caring
Worthy charities are abundant in Bend, so why not give a little something back to the town you love so much? You’ll find a great roundup of non-profit organizations here, so take a look and pick a cause based on your interests.
Love dogs? If you and your four-legged friend enjoy playing in Bend’s abundant off-leash areas, you can thank the folks at DogPAC for that. Their work for dog advocacy and the creation of off-leash parks and play areas is a big part of why Dog Fancy magazine named Bend the nation’s dog-friendliest city.
If the arts and culture scene is more your style, Art in Public Places is a worthy group that helps make it possible for you to enjoy outdoor artwork along the Roundabout Art Route or the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection.
If making a financial contribution isn’t in the cards for you, there are plenty of ways to volunteer your time for good causes in Bend. For opportunities ranging from special cleanup events to fundraiser race setup, check out Volunteer Connect.
Nothing says love like permanent ink
The risk of a breakup makes getting a tattoo of your loved one’s name or face a bad idea, but let’s face it — your love for Bend will never fade. Especially not if you ink it on your body permanently.
While this approach might not be for everyone, the folks at Monolith Tattoo shared that they’ve done quite a few Bend-themed tattoos over the years. Popular choices include nature images like trees, Mt. Bachelor, or the Three Sisters, though they’ve done several versions of the Bend logo. The artists are always willing to do custom designs, so let them know if there’s something special you have in mind.
Plan a Valentiney getaway
You can enjoy a romantic weekend getaway to Bend any time of year, and I encourage you to come out here in April or August or October or December or . . . well, pretty much any time of year.
But I’ve gotta admit, Valentine’s Day weekend is going to be extra special in 2015. For starters, it’s on a Saturday. What a great excuse for a romantic getaway!
Then there’s the fact that Valentine’s Day also falls on Presidents’ Day Weekend this year. That means you’ll be able to enjoy popular events like Zwickelmania (the statewide brewery celebration) and Oregon Winterfest at the same time you’re celebrating the day of hearts and flowers.
Bend hotels and vacation rentals can book up early on the holiday weekend, so find your lodging now. Plenty of places are offering special Valentine’s packages, so check our steals and deals page for more info.
Show your love IN Bend, too!
I know I said we’d be talking about showing your love for Bend, but sometimes the best way to do that is by canoodling, smooching or otherwise getting frisky with your sweetie right here in scenic Central Oregon.
Check out this blog post for a roundup of great places to kiss around Bend. Thinking about popping the question? Bend has oodles of great spots to get down on bended knee, so check out this blog post to learn how (and where!) five couples did it.
Bend also makes a great place to plan a wedding or a honeymoon (I know! I just got hitched here last fall!) This blog post can help get you started if you need ideas for your big event.
Gimme actions, not words
Sure you can say you love Bend, but why not show it by getting out there and enjoying all the things that make being here so amazing. From skiing to rafting to snowshoeing to hiking to SUPing, there are plenty of activities you can enjoy to fully appreciate Bend’s abundance of scenic beauty and recreation. Need ideas? VisitBend.com is chock full of them, so peruse, fantasize, and plan!
I’d like to apologize to all the cows that may have been harmed in the making of this blog post on Bend’s best burgers. I’m sorry for my quest to sample all the most delicious hamburgers in town.
I’m not sorry, however, that I got to taste so much juicy, beefy goodness from Bend’s top restaurants. Wondering who has the best burger in Bend? Here are a few of my top picks:
The Bleu Diamond Burger at The Row
They had several options to choose from, including rotating hamburger specials with beer pairings. But it’s the regular menu that features the star of my show, the Bleu Diamond Burger. It’s made with a half-pound of Cascade Natural Beef and stacked with fried sweet potato crispies, maple bacon, demi-glace, and Rogue Creamery bleu cheese.
The chef didn’t scrimp on any of those accouterments. The bacon was plentiful and crisp, and the bleu cheese was the most flavorful of any I sampled in my burger quest. Considering the quantity of toppings they packed on there, I was surprised by how well the whole thing held together.
The tap list here is nice as well, and I got to sample an IPA from Sunriver Brewing that blew my socks off. Overall, this burger topped the list as one of my very favorites in Bend.
The Dandy Deluxe Burger at Dandy’s Drive-In
Dandy’s Drive-In has been operating in Bend since 1968, and if you’re looking for a fun, old-fashioned experience with servers who arrive on roller skates to take your order through the car window, this is the place to be.
The burgers themselves are made with freshly-ground chuck and prepared as they’re ordered. This isn’t fast food, and you can taste the difference. Don’t expect a lot of frou-frou condiments and crazy toppings here, but do expect a darn good traditional burger.
The Dandy Deluxe is a standard burger with the addition of cheese, tomatoes, and special sauce. It was deliciously drippy and extremely satisfying. The standard burgers were favorites for my step kids, who prefer their burgers without a lot of frills or creative toppings.
While the skating servers and old-fashioned drive-in experience is what makes this place special, the side dishes run a close second. Sip a Cherry Slice with your meal, grab an order of their to-die-for onion rings, and top the whole thing off with a fluffy, scrumptious, fresh banana shake. Groovy!
The Ortega Cheeseburger at Pilot Butte Drive-In
Pilot Butte Drive-In is another longtime Bend staple right at the base of its namesake Pilot Butte (though their newer Westside location is pretty awesome, too). They’ve been around since 1983, and their reputation for having some of Bend’s best burgers is well-earned. Their selections run the gamut from very traditional burgers, to more creative offerings like the roasted garlic cheeseburger and the Hawaiian cheeseburger (mmm, pineapple).
My personal fave here is the Ortega Cheeseburger. It features a 100% angus beef patty topped with grilled mild green chilis, melted jack cheese, mayo, lettuce, and tomato. The chilis add the perfect amount of zing without overwhelming the burger, and I like the option to add grilled onions if I want a little extra kick. You can wash the whole thing down with a tasty malt or shake, or grab a local craft beer at their Westside location.
Bonus: Their breakfasts here are pretty amazing, too, so consider an early morning stop if lunch or dinner isn’t in the cards for you.
The Bleu Ribbon Burger at Red Robin
I know, I know….some of you will take me to task for including a chain restaurant in the mix, but hear me out. The parents among you will understand that sometimes, you just want something familiar, predictable, and family-friendly.
The Red Robin in Bend’s Old Mill District comes with the added bonus of being smack-dab in the center of Bend’s beautifully scenic shopping district on the river, so you can do some birdwatching, browse the shops, catch a movie at Regal Cinemas, and then hit Red Robin when you need to refuel.
The kids’ menu here can’t be beat (especially if you’ve got one kid craving a burger and the other who suddenly decides she hates burgers, but wants mac & cheese or chicken fingers).
For grownup fare, I’m partial to the Bleu Ribbon Burger topped with tangy steak sauce, chipotle aioli, bleu cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and crispy onion straws. The crispy onion straws are my guilty pleasure, and I’ll confess to asking my server to add a few extra.
I’m particularly fond of the whole “bottomless” aspect here. Bottomless fries. Bottomless freckled lemonade. If we could get them to make the cocktails bottomless, this would be my favorite spot in town.
The Rat Hole Burger at Rat Hole Brew Pub
Their oh-so-appetizingly-named Rat Hole burger will appeal to the meat lovers in your party with a patty made from in-house ground fresh beef, pork, and lamb. If you like your burger with an extra-thick bun, you’ll be a fan of the brioche buns they use here. The chipotle mayo on the burger is a terrific compliment to the delicious Southwest potato salad you’ll want to make sure you order as a side.
Don’t forget to sample from their beer menu while you’re here. The $5 sampler tray lets you try four different brews, and if you see the lemon wheat beer on the tap list, order it.
The BBQ Bacon Burger at Pour House Grill
My visit to Pourhouse Grill to sample their burger menu was my first, but it certainly won’t be my last. If you’re looking for a super-diverse tap list to wash down your tasty burger, this is your spot. They have tons of local offerings from around the Bend Ale Trail, as well as unique varieties of beer from around the state and beyond.
But we’re talking about burgers here.
The menu at Pourhouse offers tons of options, and you’ll also find fresh and unique offerings on the daily specials board. I opted for the BBQ Bacon Burger and wasn’t disappointed by this deliciously messy concoction. Both the bacon and the burger patty itself were among the most flavorful I sampled, and the bun was squishy and delightful. Their fresh-cut fries were some of the best I tasted, and the perfect complement to the meal.
But seriously, the beer. Did I mention the beer?
The Ranch Burger from Brother Jon’s Public House
Brother Jon’s Public House has two locations in Bend, and both are wildly popular among locals. There’s a good reason for that. The atmosphere is casual cool, and the food and beer selection is outstanding. I recommend their buffalo mac & cheese if you’re burned out on burgers, but what am I saying? Just come back when your burger gas tank is ready to be refilled, because you won’t want to miss what they’re grilling up here.
The burgers at Brother Jon’s have a fresh-off-the-grill flavor that’s guaranteed to leave you swooning, and their buns (which come from Big Ed’s Bakery) were my favorite out of all the stops. I’m not a fan of big chunks of raw onion on burgers, so the thinly-shaved onion on the Ranch Burger was a nice touch. This was a two-patty burger, with both of them weighing in at a generous quarter-pound. It features bacon, dill Havarti, fresh avocado, ranch dressing, and the usual lettuce, tomato, and aforementioned onion.
The kettle chips accompanying the burgers are a nice switch from fries. The size of this burger makes it great for splitting, but I’ll warn you in advance that you won’t want to share. It’s tasty enough you’ll want the whole thing all to yourself.
The Next Level Burger with Special Sauce at Next Level Burger
Vegans, rejoice! Every single thing on the menu at Next Level Burger is plant-based, so now you can have your cake burger and eat it, too.
As you’ve probably gathered by reading this far into the blog post, I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Next Level Burger as much as I did, so this stop gets high marks for being my most pleasant surprise.
I opted for the Next Level Burger, which features a juicy, meaty-non-meat patty with a whopping 26 grams of protein. It normally comes with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a sprouted-wheat bun, but I picked the Special Sauce version so I’d also get dill pickles, vegan cheese, and of course, the special sauce.
Sidenote: I have no idea what’s in that special sauce, but if it were socially acceptable, I would fill up my bathtub and soak in it.
The burger itself was surprisingly delicious and filling, and the accompanying crinkle fries were crisp and tasty. I also ordered a side of sautéed kale, which made me feel grownup and healthy and hopefully balanced out the 500-pounds of beef I’d consumed up to this point.
The menu here also includes things like vegan hot dogs, soy-based shakes, and an array of organic sodas in an array of unique flavors (mmm, blueberry!) Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian as a habit, this is a great spot to try at least once. Bonus: No tipping is allowed. Like, ever.
The 900 Wall Burger at 900 Wall
900 Wall has one of my favorite happy hours in Bend, so if you happen to visit between 3-6 nightly, you’ll score an extra special deal on this burger (along with extra tasty menu items like their deviled eggs, beef carpaccio, and one of the best freshly-squeezed greyhounds in town).
The 900 Wall Burger featured imperial stock ranch beef, red onion jam, and aioli. You’ll want to pay a little extra to add bacon to this one, and you might as well spring for the gruyere, too, while you’re at it.
If cocktails are your favorite beverage for washing down a good burger, this is your stop. Aside from the aforementioned greyhound, try the Beet Snapper, The Sexy Niner, or the SS Minnow, or choose one of their fabulous wine flights if you’re more of an oenophile.
The Wall Street Burger at Bend Burger Company
No burger blog post is complete without including Bend Burger Company. As you can imagine, there are a lot of burgers to choose from at this burger-focused hotspot in Downtown Bend. You’ll find unique options ranging from the breakfasty Sunrise Burger (mmm, egg!) to the ultra-spicy Lava Butte Burger with pepperjack cheese and chipotle peppers.
My persona fave is the Wall Street Burger made with Swiss cheese, smoked ham, roasted garlic, dill pickles, and their special Bend Burger mustard Sauce. That’s all heaped on a generous patty made with 100% ground chuck steak.
Bonus: You’re mere steps from Bend’s historic and scenic Drake Park, so go for a stroll after your meal to burn off those burger calories.
The Tillamook Bacon Cheeseburger at Pono Farm & Fine Meats
This spot on the northeast end of Bend is a bit off the beaten path for most tourists, but a visit to Pono Farm & Fine Meats is well worth your time if you’re looking for one of the tastiest bacon burgers you’ll ever taste.
Pono Farm is really more a butcher shop than a restaurant, but they have a number of tables and a terrific menu offering hormone-free, antibiotic-free, humanely raised meats grown locally on their Central Oregon family form. They raise Wagyu (Kobe) and red Angus beef, as well as heritage breed pork. The result is some seriously tasty, superior-quality meat. The bacon on this burger is out-of-this-world delicious, and the beef is juicy and fresh, complimented perfectly by the zing of Tillamook Cheddar. This is a great spot for unique side dishes, including their famous roasted Brussels sprouts with a succulent mix of onions and bacon.
Hours here are limited, and they only serve lunch, so make sure you check their Facebook page first to find out if they’re open. If you have a barbecue your Bend vacation rental, make sure you grab a little something extra from their butcher shop to throw on the grill that evening.
The Hogs Burger at Wubba’s BBQ Shack
I’m a huge fan of Wubba’s BBQ Shack—especially their scrumptious hot wings. But I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I’d like the Hogs Burger when I read the description.
Being wrong has never been so delicious. The Hogs Burger features a 1/3 pound beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, juicy pulled pork, grilled onions, and coleslaw. It’s the perfect combination of smoky, creamy, crunchy, and zingy, and I managed to devour nearly the entire thing.
The selection of sides here is outstanding as well. You can get standard French fries if that’s what you’re craving, but it’s way more fun to try things like fried okra, corn fritters, and creamy mac salad.
They’ve also got a pretty awesome tap list here, including an IPA I sampled from newcomer brewery North Rim (mmm, imperial IPA). And since we’re talking about new Bend breweries (and since you’re standing a mere 100 feet from the doorway) why not venture across the parking lot and visit newcomer Bridge 99 Brewery?
How to sync your must-do list with your Bend vacation budget (plus a chance to win a family pass for Oregon Winterfest!)
When you’re planning a winter vacation in Bend, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the “must-do” activities. You simply MUST ski at Mt. Bachelor. You absolutely MUST go shopping in the Old Mill District. You really MUST take the whole family out for a gourmet meal at one of Bend’s best restaurants.
If you’re traveling on a budget, it starts to feel like you MUST take out a second mortgage on your home to afford all that.
I agree a Bend winter vacation should include most of the following activities, and it’s also true there’s usually a good reason the pricier version costs more. That said, here are a few ways you can enjoy variations of some must-do winter activities on a shoestring budget.
Hit the Snowblast Tubing Park at Mt. Bachelor
What’s cool about it?
Mt. Bachelor’s Snowblast Tubing Park is my in-laws’ all-time favorite Bend activity, and no winter visit is complete unless we take the whole family up there for an afternoon of sliding down 800-foot slopes filled with rollers that make your belly flip with glee. With a pull rope that drags you to the top of the hill as you sit comfortably in the massive inner tube they provide, it’s the perfect activity for those who want the joy of sledding, but don’t want to deal with buying sleds or hiking up a slope again and again and again until you’re blue in the face.
As an added bonus, I always feel safe sledding there. Professionals man the top and bottom of the course, and they send people down the lanes in an organized fashion so no one gets squished. Even when the whole family joins hands to slide down together in a big cluster, there’s someone making sure we’re not doing anything sketchy. That’s a big bonus in my book, and generally worth paying $14 for adults or $11 for kids 12 & under to enjoy a two-hour session during non-holiday hours (prices go up for holiday periods or full-day passes).
What if I can’t afford that?
While Mt. Bachelor’s tubing park is a bucket-list item I highly, highly recommend, you don’t have to forego the sledding if you’re pinching pennies.
Just a few miles downhill from Mt. Bachelor is Wanoga Sno Park. For a $5 Sno-Park Permit (which you can purchase at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon) and the cost of a cheap plastic saucer sled (you can find ‘em for around $8 at spots like Dick’s, Big 5 and Home Depot), you’re ready to roll at this family-friendly sledding hill.
Bonus: You’ll get plenty of exercise hiking up the slope at the end of each run, and there’s a nice warming hut at the bottom where you can toast your toes by the fireplace. For more ideas on sledding in Bend, check out this blog post.
Enjoy a guided snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours
What’s cool about it?
When it comes to natural history and geology, the naturalist guides at Wanderlust Tours are like walking encyclopedias. That’s assuming walking encyclopedias could take you to really cool places like ancient caves and a massive amphitheater hand-carved into the snow.
Wanderlust’s winter tours are the crème-de-la-crème if you’re looking for the best snowshoe outing money can buy. You get all your gear, instruction, and transportation to and from your Bend hotel or vacation rental, plus cocoa (if you’re on a non-boozy daytime tour or one of their family-friendly adventures), local beer (if you’re on one of their Shoes, Brews, & Views tours), or other adult beverages and snacks (if you opt for one of their nighttime outings like Bonfire on the Snow or the Moonlight & Starlight trips).
Snowshoe tours range from $55-$75 per person, depending on your age and adventure of choice. I’ve gone snowshoeing with Wanderlust at least half-a-dozen times, and if money were no object, I would snowshoe with them every single day. Whether you’re a brand-new beginner who wants a bit of hand-holding, or an experienced trekker hoping to discover secret spots for launching yourself off snow-covered boulders into a pillowy sea of powder, an outing with Wanderlust is sure to be the highlight of your Bend winter vacation.
What if I can’t afford that?
Okay, okay . . . I get it. Sometimes a tour like that just isn’t in your budget. You’ve got a couple options here. You can rent a pair of snowshoes on your own and set out for a solo adventure. Local rental shops like Mountain Supply and Powder House can give you tips on where to go.
But if a guided snowshoe tour is what you want, drive up to Mt. Bachelor and knock on the door of the U.S. Forest Service shack in the parking lot not far from the main lodge. That’s where they offer free guided snowshoe trips with a Forest Service naturalist.
The good news: They provide snowshoes, instruction, and a pretty awesome 90-minute interpretive tour, where you’ll learn about the winter ecology at Mt. Bachelor, the geology of Central Oregon, the Deschutes National Forest watershed, and the plants and animals found throughout the area. The outing is free, though they accept donations for the Discover Your Forest program.
The not-so-good-news: These tours fill up super-fast, especially around the holidays. You also have to provide your own transportation to and from Mt. Bachelor. But if you’re willing to deal with those inconveniences, this is a pretty cheap way to get a taste of snowshoe adventure.
Go ice skating at Seventh Mountain or Sunriver Resort
What’s cool about it?
Okay, “twirling” might be a slight exaggeration. “Sliding awkwardly and falling down a lot” is probably more accurate.
Still, both of those resorts are a great place to do it. The rinks are large and well-maintained, and they offer amenities like private lessons and parties (Seventh Mountain) and a covered rink that stays nice and toasty (Sunriver). There’s also tons of room to move around without crashing into anyone (always a plus for novice skaters like me).
At Sunriver, the fee is $13 for adults or $9 for kids 5-12, and that includes your skate rental (though they’ll knock $3 off if you have your own skates). At Seventh Mountain Resort, you’ll pay $8 for admission and $6 for skate rental (though their weekly “Cheapskate Tuesday” deal gets you $10 admission with skates included all day each Tuesday, excluding holiday weeks).
What if I can’t afford that?
My step-kids looooove ice skating. Me? I feel so-so about it, which is why I’m sometimes hesitant to shell out much money for the experience. My solution? A 15-minute drive to Redmond, where Redmond Parks & Recreation operates a perfectly lovely (albeit, small) ice skating rink.
Fees are $4 per person, which includes your skates (they knock a buck off if you have your own). Taking the whole family? Nab a $12 family pass for up to six people in the same household, and everyone can enjoy a full day of skating for less than the cost of a pizza.
Hours of operation can vary, depending on weather, so if temps are a little warmer, call first to make sure they’re open.
Check out Oregon Winterfest February 13-15
What’s cool about it?
Oregon Winterfest is a massive annual celebration of the snowy season, and it happens right here in Bend. There’s live music, a Wine Walk, The Playground Games featuring both ski and snowboard competitions, live music, ice carving, a fire pit competition, live music, motocross with Metal Mulisha, an OMSI kids’ tent, live music, a 5k and 10k race, tasty food and beverages, live music, and more.
Did I mention live music? There’s tons of that, including March Fourth Marching Band (described by the Phoenix New Times as “like Sergeant Pepper leading a freaky Cirque du Soleil performance from the bandstand or European Gypsy camps stumbling upon the rhythms of Brazilian Jungle tribes”). You’ll also have the chance to see platinum-selling artists, Filter, in their only Northwest show on the tour. They’re known for their rough-around-the-edges production, lavish bass lines, and jagged guitars set to a backdrop of drum machines punctuated by the unfurling of Richard Patrick’s vocal prowess and signature roar.
Seriously, Oregon Winterfest is one of those awesome winter events you don’t want to miss. Check out the schedule of events here and plan your Presidents’ Day Weekend trip accordingly. Advance buttons are $6 at OnPoint Community Credit Union, or $8 at the Old Mill District’s Ticket Mill and Newport Avenue Market. They’re $10 at the gate. You can also purchase a family pass at the gate, which includes four all-access buttons for $30. Tickets are also available online through BendTicket.com.
What if I can’t afford that?
How about the chance to WIN a family four-pack of buttons? Free is a pretty budget-friendly price.
Here’s how you enter: Go here and “like” the Oregon Winterfest Facebook page so you’ll have up-to-the-minute updates on what’s happening at the event.
Then leave a comment on this blog post sharing what Oregon Winterfest event or activity you’re most looking forward to this year. Need a roundup of ideas? Go here.
You’ve gotta do both things to make your entry count. We’ll draw a winner at noon on Thursday, January 22 so you have plenty of time to plan your trip.
Now get out there and enjoy the season!
Want an offbeat adventure during your Bend vacation? Tattoo studios, psychics, aerial tours, and more await you!
Sure, most folks plan a Bend vacation to enjoy popular activities like hiking, biking, skiing, or sipping suds on the Bend Ale Trail. While I encourage you to do every single one of those things (though not necessarily in that order) why not leave room in the agenda for some of Bend’s less common attractions?
Here are just a few to put on your bucket list.
While permanently inking your body isn’t something you want to do on a whim, visitors already considering some new body art might appreciate the significance of getting a tattoo to commemorate a Bend vacation.
Bend has an abundance of top-notch tattoo studios to pick from, with award-winning artists eager to give you a souvenir you’ll always remember. My personal fave is Monolith Tattoo Studio, which has been named Bend’s best tattoo studio three years in a row by readers of The Source Weekly. They have seven different artists offering distinctive styles and experience, and they’re always willing to do custom designs. Appointments can book up fast, though you can sometimes spot last-minute openings on their Facebook page. Either way, it’s wise to plan ahead if you think you might want some vacation ink.
Another small but worthy studio is Eternal Body Art. For years, my hubby wanted a design of a domestic cat done in a Pacific Northwest tribal style. He shared his vision with Jace, who drew up an incredibly unique design that looked terrific when it was inked into the flesh of my beloved’s forearm.
One more studio worth noting is Mum’s Tattoos. Angela has been tattooing for nearly two decades, and she’s a favorite among many locals (particularly those who fancy a female artist and studio owner). She did a nice piece on the back of my neck several months ago, and I had good luck getting a last-minute appointment during slower winter months.
See a psychic
Whether you’re a staunch believer in all things paranormal, or just someone with a mild curiosity, a visit to a professional psychic, oracle, or other intuitive professional is one of those bucket list items you kinda ought to try at least once. Why not give it a shot while you’re in Bend?
Kaira Sherman of Divine Guidance offers services ranging from tarot card readings to spiritual guidance since 1998. I had the pleasure of doing a short reading with her several years ago at a street fair in Downtown Bend, and I was amazed by her insights and professionalism. She does readings in her local studio or by phone, and even teaches regular classes on tarot and intuitive development.
Brenden Avery Butler is another local intuitive offering readings I can pretty much guarantee will blow your mind. I’ve visited him on two occasions, and also have several friends who’ve walked away from a reading marveling at the depth of insight he offered. (Common refrain: “Seriously, there’s NO WAY he could have known that stuff about me – I’ve never told anyone!”) Aside from the mind-blowing aspect, it can bee a good way to gain insight into a troublesome issue, untie knots, overcome an obstacle, heal, or grow in some fashion. Not a bad way to spend some vacation time, eh?
Brenden does readings by donation, and you can get in touch by phone (541-771-8447), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or telepathy (I’ll leave that one up to you).
When summer rolls around, the Cosmic Depot holds weekly events on the sprawling lawn outside their shop. There, you’ll find an array of tarot card readers, Reiki practitioners, astrology experts, and more, offering services in exchange for donations to the local food bank. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details and dates, or stop by the shop to browse their awesome selection jewelry, tapestries, incense, candles, stones, essential oils, legal herbal smoking pipes, and more.
You may have glimpsed Bend from above by hiking Pilot Butte, but you haven’t truly seen an aerial view of our fair city until you’ve done a scenic aerial flight.
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 do scenic balloon flights in a hand-painted balloon.
For a list of all the tour operators and options, visit our Aerial Tours page on the Visit Bend website.
Oh, and if you’re craving a flight experience, but prefer to keep your feet on solid ground, check out the North Star Flight Lab to try a hydraulic flight simulator that’s amazingly realistic and accurate.
Swill beer at a museum
The High Desert Museum is always on my list of recommended spots for visitors, whether they’re fond of natural history and culture, or fans of critters like porcupines, otters, badgers, birds of prey, and a bobcat.
But from January 16 through Memorial Day Weekend 2015, there’s an extra incentive to stop by for everyone with an interest in Bend’s craft beer scene. The new exhibit titled, “Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer” opens January 16 with an exhibit preview party at 6:30 p.m. that will feature live music, kids’ activities, a panel discussion, and tastings from ten local breweries. Go here to buy tickets and RSVP (which is kinda mandatory, since it’s likely to sell out).
Even if you miss the opening event, the exhibit itself is worth checking out while you’re in Bend. Conceived and designed by the High Desert Museum curatorial staff, it will present the history of brewing, the ingredients used in craft beers, the process of brewing, and the culture of the craft brewing industry. Go here to learn more.
Sample from a hodge-podge of other ideas
Still looking for unique things to try while you’re in Bend? Here are a few more ideas:
- Maverick’s Country Bar & Grill offers regular line dancing, dance lessons, and live music. Check out their Facebook page for up-to-the-minute schedules and info.
- History buffs will love downloading a free app to enjoy The Heritage Walk history audio tour of Downtown Bend. It’s offered by the Des Chutes Historical Museum, and you can read all about it here.
- Want to watch chicks on roller skates shoving each other around? Check the schedule for the Lava City Roller Dolls, and enjoy a fun evening of roller derby action.
- The Well Traveled Fork offers a variety of cooking classes and tours to add some culinary spice to your Bend adventure.
And don’t forget, the Visit Bend Event Calendar is packed full of unique activities ranging from concerts to organized hikes to educational presentations.
Now get out there and do something fun.