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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.

5 ways to make your heart happy in Bend this Valentine’s Day

February 10th, 2016

With just a few days to go until Valentine’s Day 2016, I’m seeing hearts everywhere I look. They’re on greeting cards at the store, and scratched in the frost on car windshields.

In this season of hearts and flowers and other schmoopy stuff, here are five things you can do to make your heart happy in Bend.

 

Hit the hiking trail for some cardio love

I’m well aware that cardiac fitness is good for my heart, but hearing the word “exercise” makes me want to crawl under the bed with a bottle of wine and a bag of Cheetos. But if you utter the word “hike,” and I’ll be lacing up my boots faster than you can say “let’s hit the trail, guys!”

Hiking Pilot Butte is an excellent way to get the blood pumping, plus it can be a romantic couples' adventure, too!

Hiking Pilot Butte is an excellent way to get the blood pumping, plus it can be a romantic couples’ adventure, too!

Luckily, there are a gazillion great hikes you can enjoy in and around Bend that will be fab for your cardio health, but won’t feel like exercise at all.

If you want to stick close to town and get killer views of the city while you’re at it, hike Pilot Butte. It’s that 500-foot cinder cone in the center of town, and the incline and distance make it a pretty good workout that doesn’t feel like a workout. Your reward at the top is an amazing 360-degree view of Bend and surrounding areas.

Tumalo Falls is another awesome Bend hike (though snowshoes are usually required if you attempt it in the winter months). Ditto that for the Deschutes River Trail, which offers several options for starting points ranging from Farewell Bend Park to Lava Island Falls to the Dillon Falls area (and everything in between). Check out Visit Bend’s hiking page for more detail about those areas.

And if you feel like exploring a bit farther afield, the folks at Cascade Hiking Adventures have a lot of great suggestions for short road trips you can take from a Bend home base to explore some truly magnificent landscapes nearby.

 

 

Drink beer. Seriously.

You’ve probably heard that drinking wine comes with certain health benefits, but did you know you can get some of the same heart-healthy properties from drinking beer? That’s pretty handy here in the land of the Bend Ale Trail!

Beer is great for your heart. No, really.

Beer is great for your heart. No, really.

A recent Italian study shows moderate consumption of beer decreases the risk of heart disease by 31%, which is the same as what you see from the consumption of wine.

So if you’re a beer fan, drink up! While it’s always easy to find tasty brews along the Bend Ale Trail, it’ll be even easier the weekend of Valentine’s Day. That’s when Zwickelmania happens every year. It’s the statewide celebration of craft breweries taking place Saturday, Feb. 13, and you’ll find tons of live music, tasty food, brewery tours, and of course, beer samples. Scope out the 2016 Zwickelmania schedule here.

 

Do good deeds to make your heart feel warm and fuzzy

Ever notice how doing good deeds makes your heart feel all squishy and nice? While you probably don’t want to turn your whole Bend vacation into a charity endeavor, there are lots of little ways you can warm your heart with kindness during your visit to Bend.

You already know Oregon Winterfest is fun, but did you know the event benefits charity? That's one more reason to attend Feb. 12-14, 2016!

You already know Oregon Winterfest is fun, but did you know the event benefits charity? That’s one more reason to attend Feb. 12-14, 2016!

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new town is prowling consignment shops and thrift stores. If that’s your jam, you’ll find quite a few Bend thrift stores that donate a portion of the proceeds to local charities. Try the Humane Society Thrift Store, Goodwill, or the Teen Challenge Thrift Store. For a complete list, go here.

Many local restaurants have regularly-scheduled charity events where the proceeds are donated to local non-profits. Keep an eye on the calendar at 5 Fusion, where I can pretty much guarantee any meal will leave you swooning. Another spot that routinely hosts charity dinners and events is 10 Barrel, so you can get a two-for-one cardio punch with the aforementioned beer bonus. Sign up for their email list or watch their Facebook page for info on charity events.

You’ll also discover Bend has plenty of big charity events happening year-round. Oregon Winterfest (which takes place this weekend February 12-14) benefits Saving Grace, an organization devoted to preventing and dealing with family violence and sexual assault. The Ghost Tree Invitational in August benefits the Ronald McDonald House, while the annual Gala at the Riverhouse each January has raised more than $2.3 million for local charities over the years. Animal lovers won’t want to miss Brightside Animal Clinic’s annual Spay-ghetti Benefit Dinner in February.

 

Eat your heart out

Eating healthy means different things to different people, but it’s safe to say a vegan and vegetarian dining is considered pretty heart-healthy due to lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Think burgers are bad for your heart health? Think again? This plant-based version from Next Level Burger is heart-healthy and deeeeelicious!

Think burgers are bad for your heart health? Think again! This plant-based version from Next Level Burger is heart-healthy and deeeeelicious!

Visit this page for a listing of all restaurants in Bend offering vegan or vegetarian cuisine, and check out this blog post for a roundup of 10 amazing vegan dishes you’ll love even if you’re a meat-lover (I promise!)

But if you’re less interested in eating for heart health and more interested in a romantic Valentine’s dinner, plenty of Bend restaurants have special meals planned for Valentine’s Day evening. The one that keeps catching my eye this year is at Pronghorn Resort, where the special event menu includes items like smoked duck confit ravioli, lamb osso bucco, seared diver scallops, and flourless chocolate torte. Go here to scope out their special menu, or here to peruse all your dining options in Bend.

Bend is the city of love!

Bend is the city of love!

 

Make your heart throb with romance

A couple years ago, Livability.com named Bend one of the 10 most romantic cities in America, and it’s no surprise. There’s something about fresh air and abundant sunshine that puts a wiggle in your walk.

Check out this blog post for a fun roundup of great places to kiss in Bend and Central Oregon, this post for 7 reasons Bend’s a great place to get hitched or honeymoon, and this post for a cute collection of stories from couples who got engaged in Bend.

If you’re coming to Bend for Valentine’s weekend and you’re looking for a little extra romance, ask your Bend hotel or vacation rental if they have any romance packages, or check this page to read about any special lodging deals that include perks like chocolate-dipped strawberries or rose petals on the bed.

 

 

 

7 days of perfect lunch in Bend, Oregon

February 4th, 2016

I ate a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich at a food cart in Portland five days ago and I’m still thinking about it.

Why is this relevant on a blog about visiting Bend, Oregon? Because it got me thinking about lunch. Not just lunch, but those lunches that leave you feeling so satisfied, so blissfully happy, that you’re still patting your tummy a week later.

The scrumptious green curry lunch special from Toomie's.

The scrumptious green curry lunch special from Toomie’s.

I can think of seven lunches I enjoy regularly in Bend that totally fit the bill, which means this blog post is essentially a field guide of what to eat every day for a week. May these delicious dishes give you even a fraction of the food fantasies they’ve provided for me over the years.

Day 1: Green curry with chicken from Toomies

Every time I crave Thai food, I call Toomies and ask what their discounted lunch special is that day. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, because nothing ever sounds as magical to me as their green curry with chicken. It’s what I’ve ordered nearly every time I’ve eaten there for 18+ years, and it’s probably what I’ll request as my last meal if I’m ever in prison on death row.

This flavor-packed curry is brimming with eggplant, bell pepper, and basil cooked in coconut milk. If you’re a vegetarian, you can skip the chicken altogether, or meat lovers might favor beef. The chicken is my personal fave, because they’re always quite generous with tasty hunks of breast meat. The balance of veggies and protein makes this the perfect all-in-one meal.

The lunch special is served with rice, Thai salad, and a side of their scrumptious phat Thai noodles. This glorious abundance of food is part of what makes it such a perfect lunch. When I order the green curry lunch to go, I can usually manage to gobble up the salad, half the noodles, and half the green curry with rice before I’m stuffed. That means I get two lunches for the price of one (which is a pretty low price to start with at $7.95 or even cheaper if it does happen to be the day’s lunch special).

Of course, if this is your last meal in prison, you’ll probably want to snarf it in one sitting. Just sayin’.

 

Day 2: The Recession Buster Burrito at Longboard Louie’s

You won’t find this one on the regular menu, so listen up and take notes.

The Recession Buster Burrito from Longboard Louie's is both delicious and cheap!

The Recession Buster Burrito from Longboard Louie’s is both delicious and cheap!

First, head to either the Westside or Eastside location of Longboard Louie’s in Bend. Walk up to the counter and tell ‘em you want the Recession Buster Burrito. You’ll immediately be pegged as a local, so just go with the flow.

Next, ask to add a few things. The Recession Buster itself is a simple bean and cheese burrito for $3, so you can afford to snazz it up a bit. For another $1.50, you can add your choice of chicken, shredded beef, or pork. Why stop there though? The menu is packed with oodles of tasty 50-cent add-ons like rice, sour cream, fajita veggies, or fresh pico de gallo.

The fajita veggies are a must have, both for the nutritional value and the flavor. I’ll leave the rest up to you, but don’t forget to hit their incredible fresh salsa bar for an extra punch of flavor. Options range from black bean and corn to roasted tomatillo lime to a tasty tropical salsa.

You can see from the photo that this bad boy is HUGE, so make sure you’re extra hungry on the day you hit this lunch stop. Oh, and grab extra napkins. You’ll thank me later.

 

Day 3: The Edamame Bowl at Café Yumm

I know it’s a franchise, and some folks can be particular about that. But you know what’s great about established chain restaurants? You know what you’re getting, and you get to enjoy it in different locales. In this case, there are two Café Yumm locations in Bend, so you can put this on your list whether you’re strolling the Old Mill District or heading east to stock your vacation rental with supplies from Costco or to hike around the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

The Edamame Yumm Bowl from Cafe Yumm.

The Edamame Yumm Bowl from Cafe Yumm.

So back to Café Yumm. My personal favorite here is the Edamame Bowl. It’s layered with organic brown rice, Yumm Sauce, and edamame, topped with nori (seaweed), shredded Tillamook cheddar, diced tomatoes, fresh avocado, olives, and sour cream. The medium is the perfect-sized lunch for me, though there are oodles of other options and various Yumm bowls for vegetarians, vegans, or even folks who prefer sandwiches or salads.

But the nourishing bowls of yummy goodness are the real treat here, so put this on your list for a day you’re craving healthy comfort food.

 

Day 4: Sally’s Super Salad at Barrio

I’ll confess this one was a toss-up between Sally’s Super Salad from Barrio and the Ahi Poke Salad from 5 Fusion, but Barrio won out because they’re open for lunch year-round.

Packed with flavor and nutrition, it's Sally's Super Salad from Barrio.

Packed with flavor and nutrition, it’s Sally’s Super Salad from Barrio.

Well, they won out for other reasons, too. There’s something about Sally’s Super Salad that makes me feel simultaneously healthy and indulgent, plus it puts a little extra zing in my day thanks to the masterful blending of flavors and textures in this seemingly simple dish.

Sally’s Super Salad is a mix of quinoa, black beans, romaine, greens, avocado, pepitas, citrus, cojito, and jalapeño vinaigrette. Each bite of this delicious salad offers a little bit of everything—tartness, crunch, spice, creaminess, and an earthy, nutty flavor. Melded together, it’s the perfect blend of deliciousness.

The salad alone is huge, but if you like a little variety, consider getting a half order and pairing it with one of their seasonal soups. Don’t miss the watermelon gazpacho in the summer months, or opt for their luscious squash soup if you spot it on the menu during chillier seasons.

 

Day 5: The Grilled Cheesy at Crux Fermentation Project

I’ve mentioned Crux’s amazing Grilled Cheesy sandwich so many times on this blog, it should probably have its own category.

The Grilled Cheesy from Crux Fermentation Project. It'll change your life, I swear.

The Grilled Cheesy from Crux Fermentation Project. It’ll change your life, I swear.

But in case you’ve missed me waxing poetic about this sandwich the other 2,398 times, allow me to swoon a bit. The Grilled Cheesy features asiago-cheese crusted panini with mixed ricotta, pepper jack, and white cheddar with diced bacon and spicy pickles on Italian country spent grain bread from DiLusso Bakery. I know, the pickles threw me the first time, too. But don’t leave them off! They add a perfect dash of zing and crunch to this decadent, crispy sandwich filled with all the right textures and flavors.

Pair it with a side salad and a pint of one of Crux’s amazing brews, and don’t forget to ask for a stamp in your Bend Ale Trail passport. Cheers to another great lunch!

 

Day 6: The Santa Fe Salad and Granny Smith Flatini at Croutons

The first time you walk into this little soup/salad/sandwich joint, it can be a little overwhelming. So many options to choose from! Do you want a soup and sandwich combo, or are you better off with a great big salad?

Mmmm....the Granny Smith Chicken Salad Flatini from Croutons will make your belly say "thank you!"

Mmmm….the Granny Smith Chicken Salad Flatini from Croutons will make your belly say “thank you!”

There are endless combinations at Croutons, but the one that always leaves me happiest is a pairing of half a Santa Fe Salad (romaine and spring mix with apple, corn, red onion, smoked gouda, toasted walnuts, cornbread croutons and fiesta ranch dressing) served with a Granny Smith Chicken Salad Flatini (their version of a panini, stuffed with the most divine chicken salad you’ll ever taste, complete with walnuts, cheddar cheese, tart Granny Smith apples, and moist chicken breast).

Ask ‘em to add cilantro to the salad if they happen to have it, and don’t forget there are two Croutons locations in Bend, so this is another great choice if you’re exploring different parts of town.

 

Day 7: The Bombay Bomburrito Wrap at Parilla Grill

While I’ve tried other wraps at this cozy little dining spot on 14th, I always come back to the same favorite at Parilla Grill.

Admittedly the lines at Parilla Grill can be long sometimes, but it's well worth the wait for the Bombay Bomburrito with Chicken.

Admittedly the lines at Parilla Grill can be long sometimes, but it’s well worth the wait for the Bombay Bomburrito with Chicken.

The Bombay Bomburrito starts out with a smear of their luscious ginger banana chutney on a soft flour wrap (though you can request gluten-free if you need it). Next, they pile it with cilantro lime rice, purple cabbage, and bamboo shoots with your choice of protein (I’m partial to chicken). For a little extra nutrition, ask for a handful of spinach at this stage.

Next, they smother it in a green curry sauce and top it with wasabi vinaigrette, gorgonzola, and their chili corn salsa. They wrap the whole thing up tight to make the perfect, portable meal.

If you’re dining with kids or have a slightly smaller appetite, ask for a bambino size and save a buck. Plus it’s tons of fun to say Bambino Bombay Bomburrito in public, so there’s that.

4 fun date options for you and your Valentine in 2016

January 28th, 2016

Just 16 days, 9 hours, and 53 minutes until Valentine’s Day. Er, not that I’m counting.

Okay, I’m totally counting. When I’m not here singing the praises of Bend, Oregon, I make my living as an author of romantic comedy, so I kinda live for the schmoopy stuff.

Get romantic under the stars with Wanderlust Tours!

Get romantic under the stars with Wanderlust Tours!

When you mix my love of Bend with my love of…well, love…it’s a recipe for finding some of the coolest romantic dates in Central Oregon. Here are a few to consider as we approach Valentine’s Day 2016.

 

Get smoochy in the snow

The naturalist guides at Wanderlust Tours can tell you plenty of tales about marriage proposals unfolding during canoe trips, snowshoe outings, and even cave tours. Considering how magical a Wanderlust adventure can be, it’s not surprising they get folks feeling the love. Their guides have even married people in the forest on snowshoes!

Who wants to snuggle by a bonfire in the snow?

Who wants to snuggle by a bonfire in the snow?

That’s why their special Romance on the Snow package is the perfect option for lovers looking to add a little extra amour to a standard snowshoe tour. This couples-only outing is offered February 13 and 14, with tours departing at 7 p.m. and returning home by 11 p.m. The $95 price tag includes all transportation and gear, a snowshoe adventure with a naturalist guide, a seat by the crackling bonfire in a glittering amphitheater hand-carved into the snow, hot cocoa with hazelnut espresso vodka, chocolate-covered strawberries, and champagne.

If you want to propose, hey, that’s up to you. If you just want to have fun with your longtime love or that special guy or gal you just started dating, that’s cool, too. Keep in mind that space is limited on the Romance on the Snow tours, so book early to make sure you and your sweetie aren’t left out in the cold.

And if those dates don’t work for you, a Wanderlust Tours gift certificate still makes an excellent Valentine’s gift.

 

Rub each other down

Admittedly I’m still a newlywed (17 months in February!) but one of the coolest romantic experiences of our marriage thus far was the Couples Massage Workshop at Brasada Ranch.

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, enjoy the glorious Couples Massage Workshop at Brasada Ranch.

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, enjoy the glorious Couples Massage Workshop at Brasada Ranch.

This is a special workshop designed by the Brasada Ranch Spa to give couples a special experience and new skills to take home and enjoy for years to come.  It was the highlight of our recent stay at Brasada Ranch, and it unfolded like this…

The hubs and I kicked off the experience by slipping into plush robes and spending a few minutes unwinding in the steam rooms of our respective dressing rooms. Then we met up in the Relaxation Room where we nibbled lavender honey shortbread cookies and sipped tea by the fountain until it was time for the separate one-hour massages we’d booked to get us into the zone.

After that, we joined a massage therapist who chatted with us for a while to determine our interests, goals, and familiarity with massage techniques (zero).  I got to go first, lying facedown on the massage table, tastefully draped, while the therapist showed my husband how to perform a variety of massage strokes on my neck, back, shoulders, and legs.

Gourmet s'mores by the fire at Brasada Ranch? Yes, please!

Gourmet s’mores by the fire at Brasada Ranch? Yes, please!

After 30 minutes or so, we switched spots and I got to learn how a 5’4” female (me) can use leverage and technique to exert the right amount of massage pressure on a 6’1” male (my husband) who prefers a firm massage touch. Since we don’t happen to own our own professional massage table, the therapist gave us tips for replicating our newly-acquired massage skills in our own home.

While you can book the Couples’ Massage Workshop even if you’re not staying at Brasada Ranch, it’s worth a splurge to book a room in one of their Ranch House Suites or luxury cabins. If that’s not in the cards for you, at least stick around for dinner or go straight to dessert with gourmet s’mores you can toast over the open campfires beneath sparkling stars.

 

What’s cookin’, good lookin’?

Over the last five years, the hubby and I have given each other Well Traveled Fork gift certificates for so many special occasions that if a holiday slips past with no fork-adorned slip of paper, one of us asks, “Wait, where’s the cooking class?”

A cooking class with the Well Traveled Fork makes a fun way to learn new skills as a couple.

A cooking class with the Well Traveled Fork makes a fun way to learn new skills as a couple.

Experts have said one of the best ways to bond a couple is to learn a new skill together, and I believe it. No matter how many classes we take together with the Well Traveled Fork, we always come out with something new. Maybe it’s a special knife handling technique or a tip for finding the best produce, or maybe it’s just the packet of recipes we go home with and try out again and again to remember how much fun we had.

Though the Couple’s Class scheduled near to Valentine’s Day is already sold out, there are plenty of other options on the 2016 docket. Classes range from Cooking With Bourbon to Easy Weeknight Meals and more. Check out the schedule to choose one that looks fun, then sign up with your sweetie so you have something to look forward to in the coming months.

 

Dinner and a show

Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of a cliché, but there’s a reason the old “dinner and a show” date never gets old for most of us. It’s a perfect blend of good food and dinner conversation, followed by a couple hours of entertainment that’ll give you a shared memory to talk about for months to come.

Bend offers dozens of spots for romantic dining (including Bistro 28, shown here).

Bend offers dozens of spots for romantic dining (including Bistro 28, shown here).

Reservations go fast on Valentine’s Day for a lot of Bend restaurants, so consider dining out the night before or after if your schedule allows it. If it doesn’t, you’ll still find a few slots available at many local dining hot-spots. Culinary options range from creative Northwest cuisine to Asian fusion to Italian to Middle Eastern to seafood to vegan cuisine and more. Scope out our Bend dining page to find something that piques your interest, or peruse the dining and drinking category on this blog for ideas.

As for the “show” component, you can search for musical performances at great venues like The Tower Theater or Silver Moon Brewing. If it’s a movie you’re after, head to the Old Mill District to catch the latest blockbuster, or opt for an indie film at the artsy little Tin Pan Theater. You can also scope out an array of live theater performances at places like Second Street Theater, Volcanic Theater Pub, and Cascades Theater (which has a special one-night-only performance of Venus in Fur on Valentine’s Day).

For more ideas, check out Visit Bend’s Event Calendar and search the date night you have in mind.

Oh, and when you call to make reservations at your Bend hotel or vacation rental, be sure to ask about romance packages or sweetheart specials. Many places have them, and they can range from rose petals on the bed to chocolates and an assortment of local craft beer or wine. Go here to start your Bend lodging search.

 

SAY WHAT? 5 unexpected spots to find amazing food and drinks in Bend, Oregon

January 21st, 2016

It’s a given that if you show up someplace like 5 Fusion or Ariana in Bend for a meal prepared by their award-winning chefs, you’re going to have your socks knocked off.

But what about those unexpected dining hot-spots? Those hidden gems so unassuming, so unlikely, that you totally don’t expect to have them rock your culinary world.

Ribs and eggs and house potatoes and a homemade biscuit and ohmygosh is anyone else drooling? You'll find it at the Baldy's eastside location.

Ribs and eggs and house potatoes and a homemade biscuit and ohmygosh is anyone else drooling? You’ll find it at the Baldy’s eastside location.

I love finding treasures like that when I’m traveling, and it’s great to find them in my own town, too. Here are five such secrets in Bend that I guarantee will leave your taste buds swooning.

 

SAY WHAT?
Scrumptious breakfast at a barbecue joint?

When I first heard Baldy’s BBQ was doing breakfast at their eastside location, I’ll admit I did a little grimace. Barbecue? For breakfast?

In a word, YES. Wait, I have a better word—YUM! If you haven’t had ribs and eggs as your first meal of the day, you haven’t lived. If you haven’t had them from Baldy’s (with fall-off-the-bone tender meat and a side of perfect house potatoes) you haven’t lived well.

A waffle with bacon cooked into it. Your prayers have been answered.

A waffle with bacon cooked into it. Your prayers have been answered.

If you still can’t wrap your brain around the barbecue thing at 8 a.m., don’t worry. They have plenty of other offerings like pancakes, chicken fried steak, cinnamon French toast, and traditional eggs benedict (though they also make one with pulled pork if you want a slight barbecue twist). There’s even a bacon-flecked waffle with bits of bacon cooked right into the batter. Genius! And so delicious.

And their $4 mimosas are the icing on the cake (or the sauce on the ribs. Whatevs). Check their website for hours and locations, but make sure this is on your list for your a.m. meal.

 

SAY WHAT?
Mouthwatering, creative cuisine from a trailer?

You know how the food truck scene is kinda hot in cities like Portland and Eugene? Right. Well you know how it gets kinda cold in Bend in the wintertime?

Browse the trailers and food trucks at The Lot for a real culinary treat.

Browse the trailers and food trucks at The Lot for a real culinary treat.

In order to have a year-round food truck scene in Bend, we had to get creative, and that’s just what the founders of The Lot have done. Not just a collection of food trucks (though it’s also that), The Lot offers 16 taps, an open-air covered eating structure, built-in tables, fire pits, heaters, regular live music, and even booty-warming benches. Best of all, it’s got a hip, unique vibe that makes it a fab spot for people-watching or interacting with locals.

One of the appealing things about The Lot is that members of your party with differing culinary tastes don’t have to order from the same spot. Send your gluten-free mom over to Real Food Street Bistro for their scrumptious Sticky Chicken. Point the kids toward the Bleu Dragon for tasty sammies, or satisfy your craving for curry at the Thailandia trailer.

Mmmm....gorgonzola bacon fries from A La Carte at The Lot!

Mmmm….gorgonzola bacon fries from A La Carte at The Lot!

I’ll admit a special fondness for the unique tacos at A La Carte. The pork curry taco, for instance, features slow-cooked shredded pork, coconut milk curry, roasted peanuts, green onions, cilantro, radish, sesame seeds, cabbage and feta.

If you’re not counting calories (or if you’re kinda hung over) try the gorgonzola bacon fries cooked in peanut oil served with gorgonzola aioli, chopped bacon, green onions, Cajun seasoning, and fresh gorgonzola.

Once everyone’s got their grub, nab a seat in the covered area. The benches around the edges have warmers in them, while the central tables have overhead heaters that’ll keep you basking in a toasty glow. Or maybe that’s the beer?

 

 SAY WHAT?
Amazing beer and the best grilled cheese imaginable in an old auto transmission shop?

I love every stop along the Bend Ale Trail for different reasons, but if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to pick my favorite . . . well, first I’d call the police, because that’s seriously messed up.

Hard to believe this magical place used to be a transmission shop. Be sure to add Crux to your list for great beer and food!

Hard to believe this magical place used to be a transmission shop. Be sure to add Crux to your list for great beer and food!

But then I’d probably admit my great love of Crux Fermentation Project. It doesn’t look like much from a distance. Housed in a building that was first a lumber supply store, then a transmission shop, it has a rustic, unassuming flair that makes you feel cozy right off the bat.

But you’ll want to hold on tight to that battered wood bench, because you’re about to be blown away. Crux makes some of the best beers in town, from pilsner to saison to Scotch Ale to porter to IPA. They’ve got all the craft beer bases covered, so get a sampler and try more than one. You should also save room for their Grilled Cheesy, which features asiago-cheese crusted panini with mixed ricotta, pepper jack, and white cheddar with diced bacon and spicy pickles on Italian country spent grain bread from DiLusso Bakery.

Tables here can fill up fast, and sometimes you’ll have to wait a while to find a spot or place your order. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

 

SAY WHAT?
Killer cocktails in a basement?

As the name suggests, 10 Below Restaurant & Lounge is literally 10 feet below street level. But if the idea of dining and drinking in a basement seems seedy to you, think again.

You'll love the swanky vibe and killer cocktails at 10 Below.

You’ll love the swanky vibe and killer cocktails at 10 Below.

10 Below has a swanky, hip vibe and the menu to go with it. It’s a good spot to go for happy hour, since that happens twice a day from 4-6 p.m. and again from 9-11 p.m. My personal faves from the happy hour drink menu include the Grapefruit Gem (vodka, orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and a splash of lime) or the Blackmaker Hard Rootbeer (spiced rootbeer liqueur created with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and sweet birch, then topped with sparkling water).

But straying from the happy hour menu to the regular cocktail menu opens up a mouthwatering realm of creative options. Try the Hip Hop Beer Cocktail (Bend Distillery Desert Juniper Gin, grapefruit juice, and passionfruit puree topped with Boneyard IPA, served on the rocks) or the Secret Garden (muddled cucumber and lime, Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit liqueur, and thyme simple syrup served “press style.”)

Iceberg wedge salad, tacos, and more at 10 Below.

Iceberg wedge salad, tacos, and more at 10 Below.

With your drink in hand, peruse the tasty happy hour menu for a bite to eat. Their iceberg wedge salad is legendary, featuring a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with housemade 1000 Island dressing, sweet Oregon smoked bacon candy, garlic breadcrumbs, and fresh black pepper. Opt for calamari or truffle fries if you’re feeling nibbly, or go for something heartier with the pork belly tacos made with Carlton Farms pork belly braised with ancho peppers and topped with citrus slaw.

10 Below is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well, so make sure this one’s on your list no matter what time of day you can make it there.

 

SAY WHAT?
Great gourmet dining in a gym?

“Hey, honey! What do you say we dress up nice and go out for a fancy dinner where people wear gym shorts and get sweaty?”

Hard to believe Bistro 28 is located in an athletic club, eh?

Hard to believe Bistro 28 is located in an athletic club, eh?

Okay, so this is probably not a conversation you’ve ever had, which means you’ve been sorely deprived of the opportunity to dine at Bistro 28. Yes, this dining hotspot is technically located within the Athletic Club of Bend, but dining there doesn’t require membership or a need to cross paths with anyone pumping iron.

If you’re familiar with uber-trendy, uber-tasty Zydeco restaurant in Downtown Bend, then you’ll recognize a number of items on the Bistro 28 menu. It’s the same owner, so you can expect the same creative, locally-sourced cuisine laced with ample zing and spice.

But the atmosphere at Bistro 28 feels a little homier. You can cozy up beside the fireplace, or hang out near the wood-fired oven to watch dinner being made. While this is an excellent spot to come for a scrumptious date-night meal, it also makes a great ladies’ night hangout (particularly if you’ve got some gluten-free diners in the mix).

Will it be the S'mores Tart or the Godiva Chocolate Panna Cotta?

Will it be the S’mores Tart or the Godiva Chocolate Panna Cotta?

For dinner, choose from options like steak, crab cakes, pork tenderloin, rack of lamb, grilled trout, and more. No matter what you choose for your entrée, make sure you pair it with an order of their crispy Brussel sprouts with bacon. You’ll also be impressed by their wine list, which features a good mix of Oregon varietals and imports.

Oh, and don’t forget dessert. The Godiva chocolate pana cotta and the s’mores tart are melt-in-your-mouth decadent, and worth saving room for.

 

5 reasons you should get the @#$% out of Bend, Oregon

January 14th, 2016

Get out of Bend. I’m serious.

I know that seems like a crazy thing for me to suggest, considering it’s my job to promote Bend tourism. For the record, I do want you to come to Bend. I want you to find yourself an amazing Bend hotel or vacation home and book that bad boy for at least a week. Dine at Bend’s fabulous restaurants, stroll along the Deschutes River, and spend some time biking, skiing, and paddling.

Smith Rock State Park is a fab place for a hike, and less than 40 minutes from Bend.

Smith Rock State Park is a fab place for a hike, and less than 40 minutes from Bend.

Then use your Bend home base to visit some of the most amazing landmarks and attractions within a short drive. Here are my top five.

 

Smith Rock State Park

Let’s start off easy with a drive that’s less than 40 minutes from Downtown Bend, Oregon. Smith Rock State Park is located 27 miles northeast of Bend in the little town of Terrebonne, and it’s best known as the birthplace of sport climbing.

But even if you don’t climb, it’s an amazing day trip to see sights you won’t find anyplace else on earth. Hike around the towering red basalt cliffs and snap photos of Monkey Face (yes, it really does look like a monkey’s face). Watch the climbers do their thing, or wander along the Crooked River scoping out otters, golden eagles, lizards, marmots, falcons, and other desert-dwelling critters. Hoof it up Misery Ridge for killer views of the Cascade Mountains.

Smith Rock is a great spot to enjoy a picnic, so don’t forget to grab sandwiches or other goodies back in Terrebonne. You’ll also want to pack water and a sturdy pair of shoes so you can explore to your heart’s content.

 

The Painted Hills

The reason this is one of my favorite day trips from Bend may or may not have something to do with the fact that it’s the first place my husband professed his love for me. Dizzyingly beautiful scenery can have that effect on a guy. Or a gal, for that matter.

Blogger Tawna and her dog, Bindi, take in the views at the Painted Hills.

Blogger Tawna and her dog, Bindi, take in the views at the Painted Hills.

Less than two hours northeast of Bend lies the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The glorious layers of gold, yellow, red, and black soil reveal millions of years of history, and yes, they’re even more jaw-dropping in person than they are in photos.

While the Painted Hills are definitely worth a day trip from Bend, keep in mind this little gem is kinda out there without any major towns close by. Pack snacks and plenty of water, and try to avoid driving home too late at night when suicidal deer like to leap out in front of cars. Bonus points if you can time your visit for spring when the wildflowers add an extra layer of colorful splendor to this already rainbow-like spectacle.

 

Crater Lake National Park

One of the most pristine national parks on the planet is located just a little over two hours from Bend, so if you’re here for a week or so, it’s definitely worth a day trip.

Beautiful Crater Lake.

Beautiful Crater Lake.

Crater Lake National Park features towering cliffs, stunning volcanic islands, and the most shockingly blue water you’ll ever see. At 1,943-feet deep, it’s the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the world. It formed when Mt. Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago and then the whole thing collapsed on itself, creating a big hole that eventually filled with water to become the amazing lake you see today.

Personally, I love visiting Crater Lake in the summer months when roads are clear of snow, chipmunks are scurrying through the pine needles, and brave souls can go swimming in the icy water. If you find yourself there in the winter months, you can explore the area with a free ranger-guided snowshoe tour. Keep in mind the north entrance is closed during the winter months, so you’ll have to drive a little bit further to reach the lake.

No matter when you choose to go, make sure you’ve got plenty of room on your camera card to snap tons of photos. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime views you’ll want to remember forever.

 

The Metolius River

The beautiful Deschutes River is a spectacle to behold, and you’ll want to save plenty of time to check it out while you’re staying in Bend.

The mighty Metolius River is definitely worth a day trip when you're staying in Bend.

The mighty Metolius River is definitely worth a day trip when you’re staying in Bend.

But the mighty Metolius River is spectacular enough to justify the hour of drive-time it’ll take you to get there (plus you’ll have the excuse to grab lunch in the historic little town of Sisters, where you’ll also want to do a bit of souvenir shopping).

The Metolius River springs out from beneath a mossy hillside at the base of Black Butte. Stop and snap a few photos of this magical phenomenon before continuing on toward the West Metolius Trailhead. You’ll meander along for about two miles, scoping out gushing springs, towering ponderosa pines, and killer river views. Keep going until you reach the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery. Stroll around peering into the open-air concrete ponds to check out the fish (you can buy a handful of fish food for a quarter).

Make sure you check out Wizard Falls itself, which is more a series of rapids than an actual waterfall, but the turquoise-hued water is truly stunning and you can snap some great photos to show the folks back home.

 

Tamolitch Pool (aka the Blue Pool)

Another one of my favorite hidden gems, Tamolitch Pool (also known as the Blue Pool) is about an hour-and-a-half southwest of Bend along the McKenzie River.

Tamolich Pool, also dubbed The Blue Pool, along the McKenzie River about an hour from Bend.

Tamolich Pool, also dubbed The Blue Pool, along the McKenzie River about an hour from Bend.

You can start at the Koosah Falls parking area for a longer hike and a view of the falls, or start at the trailhead near the Carmen Reservoir for a shorter hike. Either way, you’ll be treated to spellbinding river views, breathtaking cliffs, and more trees than you could ever count in a lifetime.

The real treat awaits you at the end when you reach the azure waters of the Blue Pool. Yes, it really does look bright blue, and you can hike around it for a few different views. We usually bring cheese and crackers and fruit to enjoy while sitting on the rocks along the rim above the view, and if you opt to do this, make sure you pack out all your trash.

If you have a little extra time, stop off at Belknap Hot Springs for a quick soak before you drive back to Bend.

Your winter weekend itinerary for a family vacation in Bend, Oregon

January 7th, 2016

I hosted a houseful of out-of-town relatives over Christmas, an endeavor that left my living room looking like someone detonated an explosive filled with pine needles, giftwrap, and empty beer growlers.

Blogger Tawna and her sister-out-law, Tamara, at Mt. Bachelor's Snowblast Tubing Park.

Blogger Tawna and her sister-out-law, Tamara, at Mt. Bachelor’s Snowblast Tubing Park.

But one upside to hosting guests who visit Bend once a year is the opportunity to experience the town through the eyes of a tourist.

Comes in handy when you work in tourism.

If you’re looking for a Bend winter vacation itinerary to entertain family members ranging from 5 to 65, here’s what I suggest.

 

Day one: hiking and sledding and eating, oh my!

Round up the early risers and go for a morning walk. There’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise in Bend, whether you’re strolling along the Deschutes River near the Old Mill District with a cup of coffee in hand, or taking Fido to the 18-acre Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area in northeast Bend. The sun rises late this time of year, so bring a headlamp if you need to, and make sure you’re bundled up nice and toasty warm.

Cedar and Violet enjoy their grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches from Big O Bagels.

Cedar and Violet enjoy their grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches from Big O Bagels.

Time for breakfast! You’re headed up to Mt. Bachelor today, so nudge the late sleepers awake and grab something quick you can eat in the car. Check my post on 9 spots for a grab-and-go breakfast in Bend if you need ideas.

The best thing about Mt. Bachelor is that there’s something for everyone. The ski bums and snowboarders will love shredding 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain with the highest skiable elevation in Oregon and Washington. Non-skiers will appreciate activities like snowshoeing, sled dog rides, and my family’s personal fave, the Snowblast Tubing Park. Be sure to check Mt. Bachelor’s website for hours and condition reports before you head up.

Craig and Violet wait in line to be hauled to the top of the Snowblast Tubing Park at Mt. Bachelor.

Craig and Violet wait in line to be hauled to the top of the Snowblast Tubing Park at Mt. Bachelor.

If you opted for a two-hour session in the tubing park, you should be back in Bend by lunchtime. Reward yourself with a stop at Longboard Louie’s, where you’ll find options for everyone from picky kids to vegans and gluten-free diners. (Pro-tip: Ask for the Recession Buster Burrito. It’s not on the menu, but it’s a basic bean and cheese number you can trick out to make it the perfect lunch. Have ‘em toss in some meat, fajita veggies, and guac, then hit the salsa bar for a delicious all-in-one meal for under $6).

With bellies full and fingers still a bit chilled from your morning on the mountain, it’s a good time for something indoorsy. Sun Mountain Fun Center is a fun option with kids in tow, or try the High Desert Museum for a good mix of education and critter love. For something active and super unique, head to Peak Airsoft for some family warfare at their indoor arena, or see if you can solve your way out of Bend Escape Room.

Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is a great place for some after-hours grownup time.

Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is a great place for some after-hours grownup time.

By now, you’ll have a few members of the family feeling tuckered out, so grab takeout from Cibelli’s Pizza and head back to your Bend vacation home or hotel for an evening of games or soaking in the hot tub.

Got a few family members who aren’t ready to call it a night? Leave the grandparents in charge of the young’uns and head out on the town for an evening cocktail. Try Dogwood Cocktail Cabin if you’re looking for some of the most unique concoctions in Bend, or if you’re craving a late-night happy hour, hit 10 Below or The Blacksmith to wind down your day in style.

 

Day two: more food, more snow play, and beer!

After the hustle and bustle of your first day, you’re due for a more leisurely breakfast. Check out my post on 6 spots for Bend’s best eggs benedict. Then get ready to lick the plate clean.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a great spot for winter hiking.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a great spot for winter hiking.

Now you’re ready to hike off a few of those extra calories. The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is one of my favorite spots this time of year to explore craggy lava flows and ancient junipers. If you prefer a snowier scene, strap on the snowshoes and sashay out to Tumalo Falls. Winter road closures mean you’ll need to park at the gate and hoof it 2.5 miles each way, but it’s well worth the trip.

Lunchtime? If your family is like mine, you’ve got a crazy mix of dietary needs ranging from carnivore to vegetarian to allergies that can make dining out a little scary. Simplify things by checking out this blog post featuring 10 vegan dishes you’ll love even if you’re a meat-eater (I promise!) or this post offering 7 gluten-free eats you should devour even if you’re not gluten-free. Of course, if you’re a family of carnivores, you can also reference this post on Bend’s best burgers or this one on Bend’s best hot wings.

A snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours can be a treat for the whole family.

A snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours can be a treat for the whole family.

Feeling full? Time for more exercise! If you’re craving another round of snow play, leave the driving, gear-wrangling, and decision-making to Wanderlust Tours when you book a family snowshoe adventure with them. Not so keen on the white stuff? No problem! Opt for a snow-free outing with one of their lava cave tours instead.

If the Bend Ale Trail is on your wish list, don’t feel like you have to miss it just because you have little ones in tow. Bend Brewing Company and Deschutes Brewery both boast excellent kids’ menus, scrumptious grownup offerings, and beer taster trays that will give your family a chance to sample a variety of styles and flavors.

If you’re feeling fancy for dinner, cap off your vacation with a meal at one of Bend’s best dining establishments. Among those I routinely recommend to foodie journalists: 5 Fusion, Zydeco, Jackalope Grill, Ariana Restaurant, and Trattoria Sbandati. Relative newcomer Fire in Bend has a kids-eat-free deal on Sundays, so head there if your party includes a few members 13 or younger.

The saltwater soaking pool at McMenamins is a great place to soak your bones after a long day of play.

The saltwater soaking pool at McMenamins is a great place to soak your bones after a long day of play.

Cap off your night with a soak in the glorious turquoise-tiled saltwater pool at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Study the stars though the open-air ceiling, and admire the luminous stained glass and hand-painted artwork. Ahh . . . this is living!

 


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