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Ready to rock? Add some rockhounding to your Bend vacation!

July 30th, 2015
Cedar (age 13) and Violet (age 9) pose in front of a display of thundereggs in the gift shop at Richardson's Rock Ranch before heading out for a morning of rockhounding.

Cedar (age 13) and Violet (age 9) pose in front of a display of thundereggs in the gift shop at Richardson’s Rock Ranch before heading out for a morning of rockhounding.

The Bend Visitor Center has seen a surprising surge in inquiries about rockhounding in recent months.

Actually, I should take back the word “surprising,” since it’s an activity my step-kids have been nuts about for the last three years. But I’m delighted to see a wider burst of interest in this fun, educational way to see Central Oregon’s great outdoors, and I figured folks could benefit from a few of the things we’ve learned along the way.

The basics

First off, rockhounding in the city limits of Bend isn’t really a thing. You’ll need to drive at least an hour to reach any major rockhounding site, but Bend makes an excellent home base to explore many of the top spots.

Craig and Violet hunt for thundereggs at White Fir Springs outside Prineville.

Craig and Violet hunt for thundereggs at White Fir Springs outside Prineville.

Though you don’t need any serious equipment to go rockhounding, here are a few things we’ve found helpful in our explorations:

  • The Central Oregon Rockhounding Map available for purchase in the Bend Visitor Center or online from the S. Forest Service website. This thing has become our Bible for rockhounding, so don’t leave home without it.
  • Sturdy gloves for each family member
  • Plenty of water and snacks. Most of the areas you’ll visit are remote parts of the desert without facilities nearby, so plan accordingly.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray. The latter won’t be necessary in most places you’ll visit, but it’s handy to have just in case.
  • Buckets or backpacks to carry your rocks (unless you’re visiting Richardson’s Rock Ranch, where they provide this for you).
  • Small hand tools like chisels and spades are handy, but not mandatory (and again, Richardson’s Rock Ranch gives you loaner chisels for free).
  • A snakebite kit. I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian and 18-year Central Oregon resident and I have never once run across a rattlesnake in the high desert. That said, I believe in being prepared, so I usually have one in my backpack.


What can I find?

A hunk of obsidian from Glass Butte.

A hunk of obsidian from Glass Butte.

The aforementioned Central Oregon Rockhounding Map spells it out beautifully, but generally speaking, the primary treasures you’ll be seeking include thundereggs, obsidian, and various forms of jasper. You can also find petrified wood, calcite, and moss agates, depending on where you’re searching.

Be sure to scope out photos in the Central Oregon Rockhounding Map or online so you know what you’re looking for. Thundereggs (one of the primo finds in Central Oregon) actually look quite ugly on the surface, so kids who prefer seeking out sparkly, colorful stones might lose interest quickly on a thunderegg quest.


Where do I go?

Your Central Oregon Rockhounding Map will include tons more ideas, but here are a few of my faves.

Richardson’s Rock Ranch for thundereggs (roughly 1.5 hours from Bend)

Cedar and Violet hunt for thundereggs in the South Blue Bed at Richardson's Rock Ranch.

Cedar and Violet hunt for thundereggs in the South Blue Bed at Richardson’s Rock Ranch.

My personal favorite rockhounding spot is Richardson’s Rock Ranch. The shop is located 11 miles north of Madras, though you’ll drive another 20 minutes on dirt roads to get to the actual rock pits.

The shop has oodles of rocks to admire and purchase, plus some lovely scenery and glorious peacocks strutting around the grounds. If these three things are all you’re after, you might prefer to stick closer to Bend by visiting Petersen Rock Gardens halfway between Bend and Redmond.

But if you want to actually hunt for your own rocks, Richardson’s is worth the extra drive time. You start off in the shop, where they’ll give you an idiot-friendly tutorial on where to drive, what to look for, and what it will cost you to lug back a bucket of rocks. They also loan you the buckets and chisels, which are handy for folks who don’t travel with those things in the trunk of the car.

(Sidenote: If you actually do travel with a chisel in your car, I might be a little afraid of you).

Smashing rocks at the Richardson’s dig site is strictly forbidden. You’ve gotta wait until you get home or get back to the shop where they’ll cut them for you. In addition to whole thundereggs, you’ll find plenty of crunched up thundereggs, jasper, and sparkly crystals I couldn’t possibly name, but that caught the eye of my 9-year-old stepdaughter.

The outside of a thunderegg found at Richardson's, alongside a photo of the same thunderegg cut open at the ranch.

The outside of a thunderegg found at Richardson’s, alongside a photo of the same thunderegg cut open at the ranch.

My 13-year-old stepson had a little more patience for seeking out the ugly-on-the-outside thundereggs that would eventually prove to be much prettier when sliced open in the shop. The fact that they actually cut thundereggs for visitors on-site is a huge bonus in my book, since it gave us a chance to see what our treasures looked like on the inside.

Prices are subject to change, and you can scope those out here, but when we were there July 2015, there was a $1 per pound price with a $10 minimum. A full 5 gallon bucket weighs about 50 pounds, but between myself and the two kids, we only hauled out 17 pounds. We chose 10 or so small thundereggs to have sliced open on-site, and at a rate of 35-cents a square inch, we paid less than $15 for the cutting. All told, for the rocks, the cutting, several stones and trinkets from the gift shop, and the pleasure of exploring their well-maintained rock beds, we paid $48. Totally worth it, in my opinion.


White Fir Springs for thundereggs (roughly 1 hour from Bend)

If freebie rockhounding is more your speed and if you know what you’re looking for, a trip to the Ochoco Wilderness might be in order. We followed the directions in our Central Oregon Rockhounding Map to reach White Fir Springs outside Prineville.

Craig and Cedar show off their thundereggs at White Fir Springs.

Craig and Cedar show off their thundereggs at White Fir Springs.

The rocky, uphill dirt road leading there is a little tricky to navigate, but we made it just fine in my little 2013 Honda Fit without four-wheel-drive (though I suspect winter/fall/spring conditions might make it tougher).

Once you’ve reached the site off the rugged Forest Service road, you’ll find several pits where you can dig. We showed up with only small hand trowels for digging, and kinda wished we’d brought full-sized shovels instead. Even so, we had a blast poking around in the dirt and unearthing small thundereggs.

The more experienced thunderegg hunters we met seemed to have no trouble hauling out a dozen or more larger rocks to take home for cutting. Since the kids were more interested in smashing open small grape-sized geodes to find the crystals inside, we let them go nuts whacking the rocks open using other small rocks (don’t worry, we used eye protection).

Meanwhile, I explored well-treed forest in search of morel mushrooms while my husband snapped photos from the lovely hilltop location. Afterward, we let the kids splash around in nearby Prineville Reservoir.


Fischer Canyon for jasper, calcite, petrified wood, and agates (roughly 1 hour from Bend)

Even if you don't find any rocks at all when visiting Fischer Canyon, a springtime outing will give you great views of budding desert flowers.

Even if you don’t find any rocks at all when visiting Fischer Canyon, a springtime outing will give you great views of budding desert flowers.

Another site on the fringes of the Ochoco Wildnerness, Fischer Canyon is further north than White Fir Springs and reachable via several routes you’ll find in the Rockhounding Guide (we opted to take Highway 20 east from Bend and cut north on 27, though there are other routes that take you through Prineville instead).Be prepared for more dirt roads, but again, we made it fine in my little Honda.

This spot is perfect for seeking out red and green jasper, orange-tinted agates, white crystalline calcite, and petrified wood. In contrast to the dense forest of White Fir Springs, this area is more desert-like mesa and plateau, with rock-covered hills the kids found fun to scramble up and poke around for rocks.

Most of what we found was small but colorful, and it’s the perfect place for a kid to add to (or start) a nice rock collection with a lot of colorful variety.


Glass Butte for obsidian (roughly 1.5 hours from Bend)

This is a site I haven’t visited personally, but since many guests in our Visitor Center ask about places to pick up obsidian, I wanted to include it.

I sought the advice of Visit Bend volunteer, Vic, who spent an afternoon there hunting for glassy obsidian. Glass Butte is located about 70 miles east of Bend off Obsidian Road (mile post 77). Refer to your Central Oregon Rockhounding Map for more detailed directions.

Visit Bend volunteer Vic and some obsidian he brought back from Glass Butte.

Visit Bend volunteer Vic and some obsidian he brought back from Glass Butte.

Vic described the roads as “decent,” but they’d likely be dicey in adverse weather. He suggested bringing a shovel and a backpack to haul rocks. Visitors can easily find rainbow, black, mahogany, and double-flow obsidian pieces that are quite large. There’s a 200-pound limit, so you can gather quite a bit out here without any trouble.

Bring plenty of water and a lunch, since there’s no place nearby to purchase anything.


Other rockhounding resources

Want to just buy rocks and/or gems? Here are a few places to do that:

Want to score some rockhounding equipment? Try The Lifestyle Store off Hwy 20 in Northeast Bend.

Want to buy me a piece of Oregon Sunstone jewelry? Why than you! I’ll take anything they have in the case at Douglas Fine Jewelry Design in Downtown Bend.

Happy rockhounding, everyone!


Hurry, hurry, hurry! 5 things to do in Bend before summer ends

July 23rd, 2015

Each year in late-July, stores bombard us with back-to-school ads and displays of school supplies. It always sends me cowering in the corner and whimpering at the thought that summer is half over.

But it’s a good reminder that now’s the time to get a jump on your summertime checklist in Bend. Several of the city’s best events and activities are the limited-time-only variety, so here’s what you simply MUST do in Bend in the coming weeks.

The Bend Farmer's Market is teeming with fresh produce and locally-made goods every Wednesday through mid-October.

The Bend Farmer’s Market is teeming with fresh produce and locally-made goods every Wednesday through mid-October.


Browse the Farmer’s Market

The Bend Farmer’s Market takes place each Wednesday in Downtown Bend in the Brooks Street Plaza above the city’s iconic Mirror Pond. It typically runs from early June through mid-October each year, and the 2015 end date is slated to be October 14.

While that means you’ve still got plenty of time to hit one before summer ends, now’s a pretty ideal time to go. The produce vendors are hawking oodles of fresh fruits and veggies grown at nearby farms. Fresh flowers are in abundance, and the weather is perfect for a leisurely stroll through the market.

One thing I’ve noticed this season is that 2015 boasts one of the most impressive lineups of vendors I’ve seen at the Bend Farmer’s Market in previous years. In addition to fresh, locally-grown produce, you’ll find unique offerings like artisan cheese, locally-raised meats, fresh honey and jellies, baked goods, handmade pastas, and much more. Plan on spending at least an hour browsing the booths and enjoying live music between 3 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday.


Attend a concert             

You’ve still got oodles of great concerts to choose from in the 2015 summertime lineup, including a lot of great free music (yes, FREE!)

Alive After Five is a free concert series happening in the Old Mill District each Wednesday through August 5.

Alive After Five is a free concert series happening in the Old Mill District each Wednesday through August 5.

Munch and Music (a free summertime concert series in Drake Park each Thursday evening) has shows booked through August 13, so check out their lineup and pick on that works for your schedule. In the Old Mill District, the Alive After 5 music series offers free concerts on Wednesday evenings though August 5, so scope out the remaining shows and plan accordingly.

There’s also the popular Free Summer Sunday music series at the Les Schwab Amphitheater most Sundays through August 2 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. I’ve found this often fits nicely with an early afternoon river float, which we’ll get to in just a moment.

If you’re willing to pony up a few bucks for concert tickets, check out the remaining lineup at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. The 2015 agenda still has shows from Pink Martini, Wilco, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ben Harper, so go here to check the schedule and buy tickets.


Float the river  

As I’ve said many times, floating the Deschutes River in Bend is one of the most divine summer pleasures you can imagine.

Nothing beats floating the river on a hot summer day.

Nothing beats floating the river on a hot summer day.

It’s also something you can’t do in, say, December, so you want to make sure to check this off in the next couple months.

Pick a sunny afternoon, plunk your inner tube or air mattress in the water at Riverbend Park, and spend the next hour or two drifting blissfully through the Old Mill District and several scenic neighborhoods before ending up in Bend’s beautiful Drake Park

For tips on floating the river like a local (including how to get around the Colorado Avenue spillway) go here.


Have a gourmet dinner at 7,800 feet      

Sunset dining at Mt. Bachelor is only available through Labor Day Weekend.

Sunset dining at Mt. Bachelor is only available through Labor Day Weekend.

There’s a limited window of time each year between July 5 and Labor Day weekend when Mt. Bachelor lets guests ride the chairlift to the Pine Marten Lodge for an exquisite Sunset Dinner. We’re right in the middle of that period now, and reservations are going fast for the unique opportunity to enjoy a gourmet meal at 7,800 feet.

Seatings are offered every 15 minutes between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and reservations are required. The menu features Northwest-style cuisine and a tempting variety of creative cocktails, appetizers, desserts, and locally-grown ingredients. Of course, the highlight of the experience is the sunset itself, which you can enjoy from your table, or step out onto the balcony to bask in the golden glow and the fresh mountain air. Afterward, enjoy a starlight chairlift ride back down the mountain (Note: It gets chilly up there at night, so dress wisely!)

If you can’t make it to Mt. Bachelor, go here to peruse other listings for restaurants with decks and patios available for outdoor dining. Some of my personal faves include Anthony’s and Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill District, Worthy Brewing on the east end of town, and 900 Wall and Pine Tavern in Downtown Bend.


Enjoy those hikes you can’t do all winter

Winter may seem like it’s still a long way off in the future, which might tempt you to procrastinate some of those high-elevation hikes on your bucket list.

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

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

Don’t do that.

I learned this the hard way last year when I put off the Proxy Falls hike I’d been meaning to do all summer. I finally found time in October, but had to turn back en route to the trailhead when an early season blizzard made driving there too dangerous. Don’t let that happen to you.

Act now if your bucket list includes a hike at any of the areas along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, including Todd Lake, Sparks Lake, Elks Lake, Green Lake, Devil’s Lake (wow, are we running out of lakes yet? Answer: Not even close). Ditto that if you want to explore along the McKenzie Pass, including Proxy Falls or Scott Lake. Same thing with the Newberry National Volcanic National Monument, particularly Paulina Peak with its 8,000-foot altitude that makes it inaccessible except at the height of summer.

Snow and ice can start hitting all the high-altitude areas in the very early fall, so don’t miss your chance to explore them safely and without the need for a million layers of clothing.



15 tips for attending a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater

July 16th, 2015

I’m lucky enough to attend nearly every concert booked at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, which I realize is pretty much the coolest job perk on the planet.

Last week, a guest at the Bend Visitor Center peppered me with questions about an upcoming concert, wondering what to bring, when to arrive, and which bra to throw at Lyle Lovett. It occurred to me that not everyone knows the ins and outs of the amphitheater named by Travel + Leisure as one of America’s coolest music venues.

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, have attended roughly 95% of the Les Schwab Amphitheater concerts in the last five years, so they might have a few words of advice to share.

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, have attended roughly 95% of the Les Schwab Amphitheater concerts in the last five years, so they might have a few words of advice to share.

Though we’re mid-way through what is arguably the best season of concerts ever booked in Bend, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind anytime you’re hitting a show at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.


DO buy tickets in advance. Several concerts have sold out in 2015 including the Willie Nelson/Alison Krauss show and both Phish performances. If there’s a show you really want to see, check the concert lineup here and follow the links to buy tickets in advance. You can also buy them in person at the Ticket Mill in the Old Mill District, which is open daily during the summer months.

Many of the 2015 shows still have tickets available as of today (Thursday, July 16, 2015) including Pink Martini, Wilco, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Weird Al Yankovic, and Ben Harper (though I’m typing this reluctantly, since any of those shows could sell out at any time).

If you really want to plan ahead, make sure you’re following Visit Bend’s Facebook page. Each spring when the concert announcements start flying, we’re quick to tell you about upcoming performances and pre-sales.


DON’T buy from scalpers. Seriously, guys—that’s a recipe for getting hosed and losing your money.


DO hit Will Call instead of the Ticket Mill for last-minute tickets. If you decide to risk it and not purchase tickets ahead of time, you’ll score a slight discount if you hit the Will Call booth right outside the venue instead of the Ticket Mill outlet on the day of the event (though they’ll still cost slightly more than they would have if you’d bought in advance). Will Call opens at 4 p.m. just before each concert begins.

Many concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are family-friendly!

Many concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are family-friendly!

DON’T think you can lurk outside the venue and poach the show for free. Back in the early days of the Les Schwab Amphitheater, thrifty folks parked their lawn chairs on the sidewalk outside the venue so they could listen for free. Unsurprisingly, artists who’d busted butt to actually get paid for their talents did not appreciate this. Several complained to the powers-that-be, and the powers-that-be listened and banned the practice (totally do-able, since the Old Mill District is private property).

Despite some initial grumbling, a funny thing happened. The promoter for some super-duper-famous artists (*ahem* Dave Matthews Band and Jack Johnson) got wind of the new policy and called the Les Schwab Amphitheater folks. “So I see you’ve decided to start being a real venue,” he reportedly said. “In that case, we’d like to play there.”

That’s right, folks—all those big-name performers we’ve been seeing lately? Many of ‘em wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the ban on concert poachers. Respect the artists and their crews, pay your ticket fees, and enjoy the show.


DO get yourself a low-backed chair. This comes with the caveat that you first need to check the details page for your specific show, since some like this year’s sold-out Phish concerts don’t allow chairs and blankets.

Rockin' hard with Robert Plant at the Les Schwab Amphitheater earlier this year.

Rockin’ hard with Robert Plant at the Les Schwab Amphitheater earlier this year.

But for most concerts, blankets, towels, and low-backed chairs are totally cool. Trust me, you want the chair. It’ll not only save your back, but it’ll keep you from getting stuck grumbling on your blankie while some tall guy in a sand chair plunks himself in front of you.

By low-backed chair, I mean no more than eight inches from the ground to the seat, and no more than 33 inches from the top of the chair to the ground. Save yourself the hassle of measuring (or getting turned away at the gate from the attendants who’ll definitely be measuring) and grab one of those Tommy Bahama chairs they sell at Costco. They’re cheap, sturdy, and easily recognizable to the attendants who’ll often wave you through without whipping out the yardstick.


DO expect to have your bag searched. This is part of the process when you enter the venue, along with having your chair measured. Make it easier on everyone by not bringing too much stuff, and by leaving any of the following items at home…

Insider's Tip: The spots near the river are extra scenic with great views of the water to the east and the sunset to the west.

Insider’s Tip: The spots near the river are extra scenic with great views of the water to the east and the sunset to the west.

DON’T try to bring this stuff to the concert. Recording devices, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, outside food or drinks, umbrellas, Frisbees, or farm animals. And again, check the listing for your specific concert to find out if it’s one of the shows restricting things like strollers or chairs or blankets. You’ll also see the occasional performer who bans things like disposable water bottles for the sake of the environment. Just know before you go by checking here.


DO bring an empty, refillable water bottle. It can get hot out there, so I always pack my trusty Hydro Flask for any concert. You’ll find the drinking fountain straight ahead of the entrance, which makes it handy to fill up before the show starts. There are also plenty of vendors selling bottled water, or you can get through security with any sealed bottle of H20.


DON’T think Oregon’s new marijuana laws let you toke at a concert. Sorry, guys, but that’s not how it works. You can’t blaze up in public, so don’t even think about smuggling your joint into the venue. For more info on how the law works, go here.


DO check the weather before you go. Temperatures can drop quickly in the high desert, so even if it’s 80 degrees when you head to the venue at 5:30 p.m., it might be bitterly cold at the end of the encore. Bring a sweater, a jacket, or even a blanket.

My fellow four-eyed friends would also be wise to bring prescription sunglasses to wear as the sun arcs brightly over the west side of the stage. Make sure you also have your regular eyeglasses so you can see after the sun goes down.


There's nothing quite like sunset at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Don't forget your sunglasses!

There’s nothing quite like sunset at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Don’t forget your sunglasses!

DON’T eat at home before you go. I used to do this in an effort to save a few bucks, but realized after years of drooling over other people’s food that it’s better to buy dinner at the venue.

Besides that, there are plenty of delicious options that won’t break the bank. Parilla Grill makes these amazing rice bowls packed with veggies, beans, herbs, special sauces, and oodles of slow-roasted meat for only $8. Jumbo Tamales makes amazing, HUMONGOUS $8 tamales packed with veggies and/or meat, and you can cruise through their well-stocked condiment bar to load up on fresh salsas, sour cream, cheese, and more.

Tons of other vendors have tasty treats that will give you a chance to sample the best of Bend’s culinary scene, so show up hungry!


DO bring cash. There are a handful of food vendors that accept credit cards (The Pizza Cart is one of them) but most of the food and beverage booths require cash. There’s an ATM in the venue, but you’ll pay a fee to use it. You’re better off snagging a couple $20s from your own bank’s ATM before you head in.


DON’T drink like a moron. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this blog post.

Most folks at the concert have paid a lot of money to enjoy the music—not to have drunk jerks spilling beer in their laps and shouting at each other over the music (I know, surprising!)

That said, it’s totally cool to enjoy a drink or two at the show. The beverage tent always has a couple mixed drinks available like lemon drops and on-the-rocks margaritas, plus a few different beer options (I’ve been diggin’ the Joe IPA from 10 Barrel this season!) You can also purchase wine by the glass or by the bottle, and selections from Naked Winery include a surprisingly diverse array of reds and whites. Keep in mind that bottle sales stop at 8 p.m., so plan accordingly and buy early if you want a bottle of vino to share with friends.

The Decemberists put on a fine show earlier this summer at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

The Decemberists put on a fine show earlier this summer at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

DO pay attention to what others are doing. Each concert has its own special setup. Some have roped-off areas of reserved seating surrounded by general admission and dancing areas off to the side, while other setups feature a huge sea of general admission areas and a big free-for-all dancing spot up front.

Watch what other folks are doing and follow suit. If you want to shake your groove thing, join the existing sea of dancers instead of creating your own boogie zone in front of folks who want to sit. If you want to sit, don’t plunk your chair down behind the dancers and snarl at them to sit down.

Which brings me to my final item on your list of things to bring…


DO bring common sense, courtesy, and respect for the artists and each other. Enough said.

5 ways to avoid drinking like a moron in Bend, Oregon

July 9th, 2015

Bend is teeming with opportunities to use booze as an excuse to behave like a bonehead. I can say this with authority because (ahem) I may have been a bonehead once or twice in my life.

That’s not to say you can’t have tons of fun exploring the Bend Ale Trail, attending boozy concerts and events, or scoping out cideries, distilleries, and wineries with your Drinkable Diversions passport in hand.

There are many excellent ways to refrain from drinking and driving in Bend, and the Bend Brew Bus is one of the best.

There are many excellent ways to refrain from drinking and driving in Bend, and the Bend Brew Bus is one of the best.

It just means there are a few things you can do to avoid being a complete moron while you do it.

Moron move #1: Drinking and driving

First things first. Never, ever, under any circumstances should you drink and drive in Bend. You shouldn’t do it anywhere, for that matter, but let’s focus on Bend for now.

There are tons of ways to get around our fair city if you plan to enjoy a few adult beverages. Here are a few worth noting:

Seriously guys, don’t mess around with this one. Winding up dead or in jail would put a pretty big damper on your Bend vacation.

Blogger Tawna's handbag with its ever-present Hydro Flask. Don't leave home without your own stash of water if you're planning a night (or a day) on the town.

Stashing a water bottle in your purse or backpack is a great way to stay hydrated and pace yourself if you’re boozing it up in Bend.


Moron move #2: Rendering yourself too blitzed to remember anything

Raise your hand if you’ve ever over-imbibed in adult beverages.

I’ll admit my hand is in the air, which makes it pretty difficult to type. Many of us have done it, and it can kinda kill your Bend vacation mojo.

If you’re old enough to drink legally, you’re old enough to know how to do it responsibly, but we all need a reminder every now and then. A few tips:

  • Drink tons of water. Toting a Hydro Flask in your purse or backpack does wonders, and you’ll never catch me without one if I’m pub crawling or attending an event where booze will be served.
  • Eat something. Bend has tons of amazing happy hours and great food along the Bend Ale Trail, so keep your belly filled with grub to soak up the booze.
  • If you’re out on the Bend Ale Trail, keep in mind that no purchase is necessary to get your passport stamp. Yes, it’s fun to sample beers from 16 amazing breweries, but you don’t have to pound a pint at every stop. If you’re determined to sip at each brewery, ask for a small taster, or order a schooner instead of a pint.
Local cider can be found in bottles all over Bend. Perfect for sipping on your private patio!

Local cider can be found in bottles all over Bend. Perfect for sipping on your private patio!

And if you do end up overindulging, check out this blog post on Bend’s best hangover cures. You’re welcome.


Moron move #3: Embarrassing yourself in public

Wine from Bend's own Volcano Vineyards – another great take-home option!

Wine from Bend’s own Volcano Vineyards – another great take-home option!

This kinda goes hand in hand with the last one, and again, most of us have done it. But if you plan to drink and would prefer not to risk making a public spectacle, why not confine it to the privacy of your Bend hotel or vacation rental?

Plenty of Bend lodging spots have lovely patios and balconies where you can sip your beverage with a view of the river or mountains. Stop at one of Bend’s growler fill stations to fill up on local craft beer, or hit a local cider producer for something crisp and refreshing.

If spirits are your passion, there are several amazing Bend distilleries with tasting rooms where you can purchase bottles of vodka, gin, whiskey, or other tasty beverages. You’ll also find them stocked at our local liquor stores, so pick up a couple bottles of special spirits to take home.


Moron move #4: Annoying other people

Have you ever splurged on a pair of concert tickets to see your favorite musical act, only to have the experience spoiled by a cluster of drunk jerks standing with their backs to the stage and talking so loudly you begin to suspect they’re unaware there’s a concert happening?

The Les Schwab Amphitheater has an incredible lineup of concerts this summer. Feel free to get your drink on – just don't get it on your neighbor.

The Les Schwab Amphitheater has an incredible lineup of concerts this summer. Feel free to get your drink on – just don’t get it on your neighbor.

Don’t be those guys.

Seriously, the Les Schwab Amphitheater has some KILLER concerts in this summer’s lineup, and most folks attending are there to enjoy the music. Yes, there’s a plethora of great wine and beer and mixed drinks available for purchase, and I encourage you to hit the beverage tent a time or two. Just be smart about it, okay? Your fellow concertgoers will appreciate it.


Moron move #5: Singing karaoke

Blogger Tawna's husband, Craig, was NOT drinking like a moron while doing karaoke in Bend, but his spouse who threw the bra at him may have been.

Craig Zagurski, husband of blogger Tawna, was NOT drinking like a moron while singing karaoke in Bend, but his spouse who threw a bra at him may have been.

Wait, what am I talking about? This is no moron move. I love watching karaoke (note: the operative word there is “watching,” not “singing.”)

Provided you drink responsibly, there’s no shame in using a bit of liquid courage to get up the guts to sing your little heart out to cheesy ‘80s pop or country ballads.

Spots in Bend where you can regularly find karaoke nights include Corey’ Bar & Grill, Kelly D’s Sports Bar & Grill and Maverick’s Country Bar. Check their websites and Facebook pages for up-to-date info about times and dates (and check item #1 one more time before you go).



Six unique ways to find splashy, wet fun in Bend

July 3rd, 2015

It’s officially July in Bend, and since this is the high desert, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out it’s pretty hot and dry.

(As a sidenote if you happen to actually be a rocket scientist, maybe you know how to hook up air conditioning at my house?)

Actually, the AC isn’t necessary. There are plenty of ways to cool off in Bend, ranging from things you can eat or drink to other ways to escape the heat.

A lovely fountain in Downtown Bend near the junction of Minnesota Ave. and Lava Ave.

A lovely fountain in Downtown Bend near the junction of Minnesota Ave. and Lava Ave.

But today I want to talk about water. There’s something about it that makes me feel instantly cooler even if I’m not actually submerging myself in it. Here six of my favorite aquatic spectacles in Bend.


Lovely, splashy fountains in Downtown Bend

The Bend Visitor Center is smack dab in the middle of Downtown Bend (and conveniently open 9-5 weekdays and 10-4 weekends if you’d like to stop by when you’re here!)

When I stroll around at lunchtime, I’m treated to an amazing array of public art, some of which includes the lovely splish-splash of flowing water. There are two awesome water features near the corner of Greenwood Ave. and Wall Street, but my personal favorite is the one just a bit south of our office on Lava Avenue. It’s just below the DoubleTree by Hilton and a stone’s throw from Bend’s award-winning Oxford Hotel, so it’s easy to find if you’re staying nearby.

The shady park bench beside it is one of my favorite places in the universe, and the lovely, cool spatter of water makes me feel refreshed even when not a single drop of it hits me. For an added treat, walk a few hundred feet east and grab a scoop of gelato from of Bontá Gelato before you claim your spot on the bench. Ahhh, paradise!

The water feature at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

The water feature at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.


Treat Fido to some special splashing

There are plenty of fun spots along the Deschutes River to frolic with Fido, but one of the most unique places to splash with your pup isn’t a body of water at all. Head to the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area to enjoy this fully-fenced 18-acre paradise of trails, fields, and a pup-centric water feature comprised of three spritzy fire hydrants guaranteed to have your pooch leaping and yapping and barking his fool head off.


Float the river like a local

'Tis the season to float the river!

‘Tis the season to float the river!

This time of year, there’s no greater pleasure than plopping an inner tube into the calm shallows at Riverbend Park and floating your way through the Old Mill District and on to Drake Park. You’ll see some of Bend’s most breathtaking scenery, and you’ll stay cool while you do it. For details on floating the Deschutes River in Bend, check out this post.


If turquoise water is your thing . . .

I’d need to remove my shoes to tally up Central Oregon’s lakes using my own digits, and even then, I’d still have to count a few fingers and toes more than once.

Blogger Tawna on the shore of Paulina Lake (and yes, the water really looks that turquoise!)

Blogger Tawna on the shore of Paulina Lake (and yes, the water really looks that turquoise!)

But since I’m barefoot now anyway, it’s a great excuse to choose a lake and set out for an afternoon of aquatic fun. I’ve blogged endlessly about hotspots like Elk Lake and Cultus Lake, but if you’re hankering for something super unique, how about dipping your toes in a body of turquoise water?

OK, technically I suppose the water itself isn’t turquoise. I’m sure there’s some complicated geological explanation for why several Central Oregon lakes appear to have a deep blue-green hue, but I’m too busy frolicking in the water to bother looking it up.

If splashing in a turquoise paradise is your thing, try Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. You can stop by the Paulina Lake Lodge for a great lunch, then rent a boat or a paddleboard at the marina and set out for a day of play.

If you’re looking for a quieter option, try Devils Lake. You won’t find any restaurants or boat rentals here, but you will find some nice solitude and a great spot to SUP or fish in the lovely turquoise shallows.


Break out that waterfall bucket list

Whychus Falls, as seen by Pete Alport Photography.

Whychus Falls, as seen by Pete Alport Photography.

This blog post on exploring waterfalls around Bend is one of our most popular posts of all times, and it’s not hard to figure out why. There’s something miraculously cooling about watching swirling whitewater plunge wildly over a cliff. From the dramatic thunder of Paulina Falls to the more subtle splendor of Dillon Falls, you’ll find more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at around Central Oregon. Check out the post to learn more.

Worth noting: The trail to Tumalo Falls is currently closed until late summer 2015, so you might want to pick a different waterfall from the list if you’re visiting Bend in the next month or so!


Diving boards and waterslides and lifeguards, oh my!

BrasadaPoolIf you prefer your body of water with added chlorine and a lifeguard or two, Central Oregon has a number of resorts and hotels that feature swimming pools for guests to use. You’ll also find some nifty water parks around Central Oregon, including the mineral pools at Kah-Nee-Ta resort in Warm Springs or the SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic and Recreation Center) in Sunriver.

Bend also has a terrific community facility at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center with steam rooms, hot tub, kiddie pool, and both indoor and outdoor pools (the latter with a fab waterslide).

For details on finding the perfect pol around Central Oregon, check out this post.


Celebrating Fourth of July 2015 in Bend? Here’s what you need to know!

June 25th, 2015
The annual Pet Parade is one of Bend's most popular July 4 traditions.

The annual Pet Parade is one of Bend’s most popular July 4 traditions.

Admittedly, I’m biased after living in Bend for nearly 18 years and enjoying childhood summers here through the 70s and 80s. But can I just say there’s no place on earth more magical to spend the fourth of July than Bend, Oregon?

It’s true. From old-fashioned pancake feeds and sack races, to bountiful opportunities to hike, bike, paddle, and explore the great outdoors, Bend has everything you could possibly want for an Independence Day celebration.

And lucky for you, you’ve chosen to spend your holiday here! Pat yourself on the back, then check out this roundup of what’s happening in Bend for Independence Day 2015!


Q: Where can I watch Fourth of July fireworks in Bend?

Which side of Pilot Butte will catch on fire this year?

Which side of Pilot Butte will catch on fire this year?

A: Each year, fireworks are launched from the top of Pilot Butte at 10 p.m. If you have any friends who live in an elevated area of northeast Bend, try to procure an invitation to their Independence Day barbecue. Bring beer.

If that’s not an option, you can see fireworks from just about any spot in town with a view of Pilot Butte. City parks are popular viewing spots, so check the Parks & Rec site to find one near you. Al Moody Park (near the base of Pilot Butte) is a locals’ favorite, but you’ll want to get there early with a blanket or chairs.


Q: What special events are happening for July 4?

A: Bend’s old-fashioned 4th of July celebration is like something out of a Normal Rockwell painting. Watermelon-eating contests, dunk tanks, scavenger hunts, and sack races will keep you hopping (so to speak) all day long.


The route for the 2015 Pet Parade.

Things kick off early with the annual Pancake Breakfast in Drake Park sponsored by the Bend Sunrise Lion’s Club. This all-American meal is served from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and proceeds support local charities.

Once you’ve stuffed your face with hotcakes and bacon, stroll into Downtown Bend for the annual Pet Parade. It’s Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000 spectators and participants, and it’s been happening since the 1930s. Starting at 10 a.m., the parade winds its way through downtown with a kooky array of humans, canines, and farm animals, many of whom will be attired in bizarre costumes. If you or your kids want to march in the parade, the lineup and decorating party takes place at 9 a.m. in the parking lot between Bond and Wall across from the Deschutes Public Library. If you just want to watch, you can park your chair pretty much anywhere in Downtown Bend. Streets will be closed starting at 9:15 a.m. and parking can be tough to find, so get there nice and early.

After the parade, head over to Drake Park for the aforementioned Old Fashioned July 4 Festival. From 11-4, enjoy games, live music, a variety of food booths, kids’ activities, and more than 130 artisan booths.

Craving a more intimate celebration? Brasada Ranch (just 16 miles northeast of Bend ) is hosting a variety of Independence Day events including a traditional county fair and old-fashioned barbecue. You can enjoy great food, live music, lawn games, and panoramic views of three (yes, THREE) firework shows across the region. Go here for pricing and event schedule.

For the fitness-minded among you, the annual Spark Your Heart 5K run/walk will kick off at 8 a.m. in Riverbend Park. Details and registration are here.

Need more ideas? Check out Visit Bend’s event calendar or previous posts on the Bend Buzz Blog for oodles of options!


Q: Uh-oh…Tumalo State Park is full. Where can I camp?

A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, and 2015 will be especially crazy with the holiday falling on a Saturday. A good starting point is Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:

An early, spring morning stretch at Chambers Lake near Bend, Oregon

An early, spring morning stretch at Chambers Lake near Bend, Oregon


Q: What about hotels?

A: Bend has tons of amazing hotels, but the odds of you scoring a last-minute room for 4th of July weekend are about the same as the odds it will snow that day.

Luckily, there are a number of neighboring towns that may (emphasis on may) have rooms available. Try Redmond (20 minutes away), Sisters (25-30 minutes away), Sunriver (25-30 minutes away), La Pine (45 minutes away), or Prineville (45 minutes away).


Q: Where can I play in the Deschutes River?

The Deschutes River is a spectacular spot to enjoy on a hot summer day.

The Deschutes River is a spectacular spot to enjoy on a hot summer day.

A: We have a whole web page devoted to this! Find out about canoeing, kayaking, standup paddling, and river float trips in Bend. To get the inside scoop on floating on the Deschutes River the way the locals do it, check out this blog post.


Q: What hikes are open?

A: This page from the Forest Service offers up-to-the-minute trail conditions and closure info. You can also refer to Visit Bend’s hiking page for ideas about where to go. Cascade Hiking Adventures is another terrific resource for hiking ideas.

Q: Are things like the High Desert Museum and Lava Lands Visitor Center open on July 4?

A: Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. They have several brand new exhibits opening, plus a new lineup of critters that includes a raccoon, a mustang, turkey vultures, a peregrine falcon, and even a baby porcupine (called a porcupette, in case you’re wondering!)

Is there anything cuter than the new baby porcupine at the High Desert Museum?

Is there anything cuter than the new baby porcupine at the High Desert Museum?

Lava Lands Visitor Center is Open July 4. The Des Chutes Historical Museum is not only open, but offers free admission and free ice cream cups all day on July 4.


Q: We enjoy the Bend Buzz blog so much that we’d like to buy you a beer. What kind do you like?

A: Why thank you! I’ll take anything from around the Bend Ale Trail, but my personal faves are Hop Venom from Boneyard Brewing, Off Leash from Crux Fermentation Project, Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Company, and pretty much any sour they happen to be serving up at 10 Barrel.

What do kids love doing in Bend? We’ll let them tell you!

June 17th, 2015

While I’ve blogged many times about family-friendly travel and fun things to do with the kids in Bend (both warm weather and cool weather options), it occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t given you the full story.

Cedar (age 13) and Violet (age 9) are rounding up their favorite things to do in Bend (including play time on Elk Lake).

Cedar (age 13) and Violet (age 9) are rounding up their favorite things to do in Bend, including play time on breathtaking Elk Lake.

I thought of this as I was stuffing my car full of coolers, floaties, standup paddle gear, and oh yeah—kids—before heading to Little Lava Lake for the day. Thusly inspired, I ran back inside for notepads and pens.

“I have a job for you guys,” I said to Violet (age 9) and Cedar (age 13) as they climbed into the car. “I need you to write down your favorite things to do, see, and eat in Bend.”

They eyed the notepads warily, probably wondering how they got stuck with homework four days after school let out. But then they thought about the assignment.

“So you mean we get to write down all our favorite stuff so you’ll know what we like doing best and we can do it all the time?” the 9-year-old asked.

“Pretty much,” I agreed. “But also so other kids and parents will know what they might like doing.”

That sounded like a good thing to them. So with that introduction, here are 12 things your kids are sure to love doing in Bend.


The Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center (SHARC)

Fun for the whole family at SHARC in Sunriver.

Fun for the whole family at SHARC in Sunriver.

I wasn’t surprised to see SHARC in the top spot on both kids’ lists. “It’s fun if you like swimming,” wrote the nine-year-old, while the 13-year-old noted, “Great water slides.” In case you’re unfamiliar with it, SHARC is a mecca of cool water and warm sunshine open to the public year-round, even if you aren’t staying at the Sunriver Resort. SHARC features more than 2.5 acres of grass, indoor and outdoor recreation pools, a hot tub, two water slides, a lazy river, and a tubing hill. The outdoor pool sports a veritable water playground of kid-friendly goodies, while the lazy river makes an excellent spot for folks seeking a more laidback experience. It’s a great little day trip from Bend, since it’s a short 25-minute drive (plus you’ve got an excuse to hit one of the newest additions the Bend Ale Trail with a visit to Sunriver Brewing Company).


Cascade Indoor Sports

Roller skating is fun for all ages at Cascade Indoor Sports.

Roller skating is fun for all ages at Cascade Indoor Sports.

I actually had to ask the 13-year-old what Cascade Indoor Sports was when I saw it on his list. “It’s that place you took us rollerblading,” he reminded me in a tone that was blessedly devoid of “duh.”

See? This is why it’s great to have the kids make their own lists. I’d totally forgotten our skating adventure more than three years ago, but he hadn’t!

You can pick between roller skates and rollerblades, and there are special prices for birthday parties or skaters who bring their own equipment. It’s a terrific way to burn off a bit of energy or kill time when the weather is too hot or too cold to be outdoors. For skate times and fee info, go here.


Mt. Bachelor

The Snowblast Tubing Park at Mt. Bachelor is a guaranteed good time when winter rolls around, or enjoy hiking and biking in the summer.

The Snowblast Tubing Park at Mt. Bachelor is a guaranteed good time when winter rolls around, or enjoy hiking and biking in the summer.

This one made the list for both kids even though it’s currently 85-degrees outside and we’re all wearing shorts. “In the winter I like inner-tubing, snowboarding, and skiing at Mt. Bachelor,” shared the 13-year-old, though his sister was quick to point out the warm-weather options, too. “Bachelor is fun if you like hiking,” she added.

I’ll second the hiking idea for summertime adventures, and also add that their downhill bike park, sunset dinners, and sled dog rides available on both dry land and snow are all outstanding as well.


Sun Mountain Fun Center

It was no big shocker to see this one made both kids’ lists. With a plethora of arcade games, bumper cars, and bowling facilities, plus warm-weather activities like mini-golf, go-karts, and batting cages, Sun Mountain Fun Center is pretty much a kids’ paradise.  “It’s fun for family play time,” the 9-year-old noted.

The Deschutes River – not a bad place to be any time of year!

The Deschutes River – not a bad place to be any time of year!

Since they also serve pizza and a lot of really good local craft beer, I’m inclined to agree.


The Deschutes River

Both kids wrote this one on their lists, and I had to ask them to be more specific about what they liked. “Floating,” they both agreed. “Especially when we rent those tubes.”

Ah, yes—the tubes. While we have a plethora of floating devices in our own garage, nothing quite compares to the cool float tubes we rent right in Riverbend Park from the folks at Sun Country Tours.

And while these two clearly had splashing and water play on the brain since we were en route to a lake for the day, it’s also worth noting the Deschutes River is a lovely place to be even when you don’t dip your toes in the water. Take a leisurely after-dinner stroll along the riverfront, or rent a surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals to cruise through the Old Mill District. Which leads me to the next item on the list…


The Old Mill District

I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see this one made the 13-year-old’s list. Not that Bend’s Old Mill District isn’t a fabulous place to shop and dine, but I hadn’t realized those were activities that piqued his teenage interest.

On the contrary, he not only digs Old Mill dining spots like Flatbread Community Pizza (where kids can make their own pizzas), but he likes browsing shops like American Eagle, Buckle, Gap, GameStop, and Zumiez.

The Old Mill District is a great place for strolling and shopping.

The Old Mill District is a great place for strolling and shopping.

And while the 9-year-old didn’t actually include this one on her list, I know she’s nuts about girly spots like Claire’s and Bath & Bodyworks, since we managed to hit both on Friday night after our family’s celebratory “school’s out” dinner at Red Robin.


Widgi Creek Golf Course

A budding golfer, the 13-year-old included Widgi Creek on his list. Since I’ve never been there myself, I’ll have to take his word for it (though I am quite fond of hiking the section of the Deschutes River Trail that runs right below the area).

For a full roundup of golf courses around Central Oregon, go here.


Elk Lake, Devil’s Lake, Little Lava Lake

We’re frequent visitors to Bend’s High Cascade Lakes in the summer months, but Elk Lake took the prize for both kids. They like the wide array of boat rentals and paddleboards, plus a cool lodge that makes tasty lunches. When winter rolls around, it’s a great spot for snowmobiling.

Violet (age 9) and Cedar (age 13) and Bindi (age 42 in dog years) SUPing on Little Lava Lake.

Violet (age 9) and Cedar (age 13) and Bindi (age 42 in dog years) SUPing on Little Lava Lake.

One kid also mentioned Devil’s Lake, which is one of my personal faves. It has glorious turquoise water and a lovely hiking trail that runs around the perimeter.

Since the kids wrote their lists as we were on our way to their first visit to Little Lava Lake, that spot didn’t officially make the list for either of them. However, based on how much they loved paddling around this mellow little lake using our own boards brought from home, I’m going to say this was another favorite. Like Devil’s Lake, there’s no motorized boat traffic here, so it’s a nice, mellow, relaxing spot to picnic and spend a quiet day playing in the water.


Bend Summer Festival, Oktoberfest, Fall Festival, Munch & Music, Spring Festival, Winterfest

While the kids didn’t rattle them all off by name, both of their lists included some mention of Bend’s festival scene. I sometimes joke that Bend has more festivals than anyplace on earth, but it’s a definite plus when you have kids in tow. Bend’s festivals do a terrific job of establishing kids’ areas complete with bouncy houses, games, face painting, craft booths, and more. Check the Event Calendar to see if there’s a festival happening during your Bend vacation.


Pilot Butte

Bend is one of the only cities in the continental U.S. with a dormant volcano in the city limits, which carries a few cool points right there. But the biggest reason my step-kids love it is our family tradition of hiking to the top with a carton of bubbles. No matter how old they get, they never seem to tire of scurrying around the summit chasing rainbow-tinted bubbles that drift on fragrant mountain breezes.

Chasing bubbles on Pilot Butte.

Chasing bubbles on Pilot Butte.

Getting up there is good exercise for all of us, plus there’s the added bonus of providing glorious views of the city and mountains. We usually take the dog, who enjoys the hike as much as the rest of us do. Though we always hoof it to the top, some folks opt to drive between May and October when the road is open to motorized traffic.


Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center

I was a little surprised to see a hotel make the list, since these kids reside in Bend full time. But the 13-year-old reminded me that he attended a birthday party at The Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center, and it made a lasting impression on him. “They have two swimming pools—one inside and one outside,” he shared, which is clearly a big selling point for most kids. He also spoke highly of the food, a claim I can back up after enjoying many lovely meals happy hours on the stunning riverfront deck at Crossings.

The waterslide is a kid favorite at Juniper Swim & Fitness.

The waterslide is a kid favorite at Juniper Swim & Fitness.


Juniper Swim & Fitness Center

This one made the list for the 9-year-old, who loves accompanying me to Juniper Swim & Fitness for regular yoga classes and their special kids’ fitness classes. They also have an indoor pool that’s open year-round (complete with steam rooms, hot tub, and kiddie pool) plus a terrific outdoor pool that’s open in the summertime with kids’ play areas and a great waterslide. It’s operated by Bend Parks & Rec and offers super low drop-in rates for out-of-town visitors craving a workout or a dip in the pool. Go here for rates, hours, schedules, and more.



Are you hot? Eat THIS and drink THAT to cool off in Bend!

June 11th, 2015

We’ve reached the time of year in Bend when our high desert weather can get hotter than two squirrels smooching in a wool sock.

Not that I’m complaining.

I’ve blogged before about chilling out in Bend’s best swimming pools and other great ways to cool off in Bend, but what if you don’t want the hassle of donning a bikini or driving to the lake? Here are seven things you can eat or drink in Bend that I guarantee will ice you down from the inside out.

Blogger, Tawna, with her family and their Bonta gelato in Drake Park.

Blogger, Tawna, with her family and their Bontá gelato in Drake Park.

Bontá Gelato

Chill out with Bontá Gelato

I’ve been a fan of Bontá Gelato since the company’s inception, but for years I could only find their scrumptious creations at street fairs and the Bend Farmer’s Market. Fellow foodies, rejoice! They’ve opened a dedicated shop on Minnesota Avenue in Downtown Bend, so folks can get their gelato fix any ol’ time they like.

The unique flavors here are what really roll my socks up. Tumalo lavender and honey, coconut lime, salted caramel, maple bacon, and even a vanilla porter crafted with Deschutes Brewery beer. I like to stroll in with my whole family and have each of us order a cup with three different flavors. Then we walk a few blocks to Drake Park sampling from each other’s cups and deciding who’s got the best flavor combo.

The old-fashioned soda fountain at Goody's will leave you swooning on a hot summer day.

The old-fashioned soda fountain at Goody’s will leave you swooning on a hot summer day.


Grab an old-fashioned soda at Goody’s

Goody’s has been a family-owned and operated staple in Central Oregon since 1984, with several locations in Bend. While you can stock up on delicious sundaes, shakes, candy, sno-cones, hand-dipped chocolates, and more, it’s their old-fashioned soda fountain that really hits the spot for me on hot summer days.

When I want something tart, I opt for a green river lemon-lime soda with a healthy sprinkle of phosphate for more pucker power. If I’m craving something richer, I go for an egg cream. It actually has no egg at all, but is a delicious mash-up of chocolate syrup, cream, and soda water.

Need something to nibble while your soda cools you down? Pick up a hand-dipped truffle or a baggie of licorice or gummy candy.


Gulp a malt at Pilot Butte Drive-In

Like Goody’s, Pilot Butte Drive-In is a longtime Central Oregon stable with more than one location in Bend. Also like Goody’s, they specialize in nostalgic classics like milkshakes and malts.

Malts at Pilot Butte Drive-In are great for all ages!

Malts at Pilot Butte Drive-In are great for all ages!

Since a malt isn’t something I get to indulge in every day, that’s my usual pick when I find myself here on a hot summer day. The classic chocolate is nice, though I’m partial to unique flavors like pineapple, Oreo, or butterscotch. They’re served the old-fashioned way in the big can, and they’re generous enough to share. If you’re here for lunch or dinner, pair your malt with the Ortega burger for a super filling meal that’ll make you feel like you’re at a backyard barbecue.


Sip a summery cocktail on the riverfront patio at Anthony’s

One of my favorite summertime hangouts is the patio at Anthony’s in the Old Mill District. It’s a great spot to sip a cool drink and watch the floaters and paddlers cruise past on the Deschutes River. Bonus for dog-lovers: your pup is allowed to join you on the patio, and your server will likely bring Rover his own happy hour beverage in a doggie dish.

Chill out on the patio at Anthony's with a summer cocktail and watch the river floaters go by.

Chill out on the patio at Anthony’s with a summer cocktail and watch the river floaters go by.

One thing I love about the cocktail menu at Anthony’s is that they always change it up seasonally. My current favorite summer pick is the Cucumber Cooler made with muddled mint and cucumber with gin, St. Germain liquer, and a bit of Rose’s lime juice shaken over ice, strained, and served with a bit of soda water.  It’s the epitome of summertime cool, and it’s served in a tall, icy glass you’ll want to wrap your hands around for an extra chilly effect.

Since strawberry season is in full swing right now, they’ve also got a tasty array of strawberry-themed cocktails. Choose from fresh strawberry mojitos or cosmos, or opt for a non-alcoholic option with their strawberry lemonade. Then sit back, nibble some tasty calamari, and gaze out over the Deschutes River.


Feast on cool gazpacho at Barrio

Get your chill on with a cup of watermelon gazpacho at Barrio.

Get your chill on with a cup of watermelon gazpacho at Barrio.

The first time I had chef Steven Draheim’s amazing watermelon gazpacho was four years ago when he was serving it up at a little street cart in Downtown Bend. Fast forward to present day, and you’ll discover both the location and this scrumptious chilled soup have improved even more.

If you’re lucky enough to hit Barrio when watermelon gazpacho is on the menu, do not leave without ordering it. Chunks of fresh watermelon and cucumber swirl in a tomatoey sea dotted with corn, black beans, onion, cabbage, and radish. A simple cup of this nectar-of-the-gods will set you back a whopping $3, which is insane considering how much food they manage to pack into the dish.

A pal I dined with felt satisfied making a cup of gazpacho her whole lunch, but I couldn’t resist the siren call of their amazing Sally’s Super Salad, which paired beautifully with it and gave me some leftovers for the following day. If you don’t have to get back to work, order a chilled glass of white wine for the ultimate summer cool-down.


Snag sushi from Kanpai or Shinsei

Yummy sushi at Kanpai.

Yummy sushi at Kanpai.

What is it about hot weather that makes me crave sushi? Luckily, Bend is teeming with tons of great sushi spots (which is weird, considering our lack of proximity to the beach, but I’m not complaining).

If I’m in the mood to dine in, I head to Kanpai and order either the sushi combo (a great way to sample lots of different rolls) or a variety of their specialty rolls (the Orgasm Roll and the High Roller are my personal faves). They’ve got a nice wine list here as well, or opt for a chilled sake to wash down your freshly-prepared delicacies.

If I’m in the mood to take my tasty sushi home or to a park, I’ve found Mio Sushi in the Old Mill District to be both convenient and tasty for takeout. The Bubble Bubble roll is my personal fave, made with avocado, tobiko, salmon, lemon, and ikura. The paper-thin slice of lemon atop the roll gives it an extra summery flavor, making it the perfect cool-down meal for a hot evening.


Gobble up an Ahi Poke salad at 5 Fusion

Cool and tasty Ahi Poke salad from 5 Fusion.

Cool and tasty Ahi Poke salad from 5 Fusion.

There’s something about a perfect summer salad that cools me down on a hot afternoon, and there’s something about the Ahi Poke salad at 5 Fusion that makes my taste-buds swoon. Put the two together and you’ve got a set of uber-chilled, super-giddy taste-buds, and isn’t that a great way to spend a summer day?

The Ahi Poke salad consists of marinated tuna atop a bed of seaweed, mixed greens, and avocado, sprinkled with crispy wanton bits and tossed with sesame dressing. It’s huge, flavorful, and unique, and the mix of textures and flavors will leave your palate feeling happy and refreshed.


4 little white lies to help you play hooky in Bend

June 4th, 2015

We’ve officially reached the season when I spend roughly 50% of my workday glancing out my window and sighing, “Why am I not out there?”

Luckily, a good chunk of my job actually does require me to get out there, so it’s not such a stretch to make it happen. But for those of you stuck in offices that aren’t located in Bend, the urge to skip work and frolic in the outdoor mecca of Central Oregon can be even stronger.

This is what a "board meeting" can look like in Bend.

This is what a “board meeting” can look like in Bend.

To help you craft a believable excuse for your boss, professor, significant other, or even your own conscience, here are four totally legit (and mostly truthful!) little white lies that will let you play hooky in Bend, Oregon.


EXCUSE #1: I have a board meeting to attend in Bend

The beauty of this one is that it works year-round. In the wintertime, throw that snowboard on the roof rack and point your car toward Mt. Bachelor. There, you’ll spend endless hours getting acquainted with “the board” as you glide down the slopes enjoying 3,365 vertical feet of snowy goodness.

When warm weather rolls around, it’s a standup paddleboard that helps solidify this excuse. Perhaps your “board meeting” takes place on one of the high Cascade Lakes where you’ll enjoy solitude and peace of paddling on flat water. Or maybe you and the board would prefer an outing on the Deschutes River, where you can rent all the necessary gear at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe before hopping in the river right outside their shop. Paddle upstream until you reach the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge, then float back through the Old Mill District to check out all the restaurants offering riverfront dining. Pick one you like the look of, and treat yourself to a post-paddle happy hour after you’ve turned in your gear. Nothing caps of a good board meeting like a cocktail, right?


EXCUSE #2: I’m feeling a bit under the weather

This is a good excuse to use if you’re phoning the boss from the balcony of your Bend hotel or from the hot tub at your Bend vacation rental. If you can, try to muster up a few sniffles or a hacking cough.

Here's what getting under the weather can look like in Bend.

Here’s what getting under the weather can look like in Bend.

Then get out there and really get under the weather. In the summer months, bask beneath blue skies, warm temperatures, and endless sunshine as you hit the mountain biking trails, set out for an afternoon of hiking, or paddle your worries away in a kayak or canoe. Look up from time to time to watch a puffy white cloud drift past as you fully absorb being under all that glorious high desert weather.

If it’s wintertime, the weather is likely to be a bit snowier. Get under, over, and all around it when you trek out for a snowshoe adventure or hit the trails for some Nordic skiing. Just be sure to bundle up well. You wouldn’t want to get sick or anything.


EXCUSE #3: I need to help out at Grandma’s House

This one is admittedly a stretch, but Bend doesn’t have any bars with conveniently clever names like “The Office” or “The Recovery Room,” so we’ll make do with what we have.

This  excuse is perfect for those who like to include a bit of charity in their Bend vacation. Grandma’s House of Central Oregon is a non-profit organization providing safe shelter to homeless or abused pregnant and parenting teen girls. They’ve been part of the Bend community for more than twenty years, and they’re always seeking donations of cash or much-needed baby supplies. You can get in touch through their website or their Facebook page.

Now pat yourself on the back for helping out a good cause. It pretty much cancels out any guilt you might be feeling over your slightly shady excuse for a Bend vacation, right?


EXCUSE #4: My dog is sick

Is Rover sick and tired of being cooped up in the backyard? Does Fido desperately need a day of running and playing and breathing bountiful fresh air in the high desert wonderland of Bend?

Your dog called. He says he's sick of being cooped up in the backyard and would like a trip to Bend.

Your dog called. He says he’s sick of being cooped up in the backyard and would like a trip to Bend.

For the sake of your pooch’s health, you owe it to him to spend a few days in the town named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine.

My own dog, Bindi, wrote a lovely post about all the great things dogs can enjoy in Bend, so you can read that here (or have your dog read it to you—I hear it was quite popular in canine book clubs).

Whether you’re looking for dog-friendly hiking trails or off-leash dog parks (we’ve got seven!), you’ll find plenty of places for your pup to frolic. When dinner rolls around, lots of Bend restaurants allow dogs to join their owners for meals on outdoor patios, so scope out the grid listings on our restaurant pages to find the best spot. Need a dog-friendly hotel? You’ll find plenty of them here.

Incidentally, this excuse also works if you swap out your dog for your kids. A child who’s sick of gray skies and rain will find plenty of healing power in the sunny oasis of Bend!

I HATE BEND! Or do you? Here are 7 things you may not know.

May 28th, 2015

Have you ever noticed the phenomenon where something becomes so popular that’s it’s suddenly cool to hate on it?

We’re seeing a bit of that in Bend these days, and it’s no big shocker. Bend is booming as a travel destination, fueled in part by articles like the New York Times declaring it one of 52 worldwide destinations you should visit in 2015 (we’re right there between Papua, New Guinea, and Rabat, Morocco).

And while haters are always gonna hate, here are seven situations where the animosity might be a bit misguided.


I hate beer!

Bend’s reputation as a beer town is well-deserved, and the Bend Ale Trail is one of the city’s biggest draws with more than 50% of Bend visitors hitting at least one brewery during a stay.

Think Bend is just a beer town? No way! Get to know Bend's wineries, cideries, distilleries, and a kombucha brewer through Drinkable Diversions.

Think Bend is just a beer town? No way! Get to know Bend’s wineries, cideries, distilleries, and a kombucha brewer through Drinkable Diversions.

But if beer isn’t your thing, that doesn’t mean Bend isn’t for you.

If you crave adult beverages of another sort, Drinkable Diversions is the way to go. Launched as a sister program to the Bend Ale Trail, Drinkable Diversions includes four wineries, three cideries, three distilleries, and even a kombucha brewery. You can sip yourself silly without ever having to touch a sudsy pint of pilsner.

Not a fan of booze in general? Bend has such an impressive array of coffee houses and roasteries that Wanderlust Tours recently added a new Coffee Tour. You’ll visit three local coffee houses stopping for delicious samples and education (plus oddles of great info about Bend history and culture). The $30 price tag includes transportation, guide, tastings, behind-the-scenes roastery access, and a delicious local treat.


I hate the outdoors!

Though it’s hard for me to fathom not wanting to play outside in Bend’s glorious high desert mountain air, I realize there are some who consider themselves more “indoorsy.” If the idea of fresh air and fitness gives you the heebie jeebies, there’s still plenty to do in Bend.

An abundance of art galleries in Bend will allow you to be as "indoorsy" as you like.

An abundance of art galleries in Bend will allow you to be as “indoorsy” as you like.

Arts and culture have become a big draw for Bend in recent years, with programs like the Roundabout Art Route and the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection offering plenty of artistic eye candy. Visit Bend’s Arts and Culture page will give you a variety of artsy ideas ranging from galleries to concerts to film festivals.

If museums are your thing, stop by the Deschutes Historical Museum for a glimpse at the area’s rich history, or visit the High Desert Museum to see an amazing array of animal exhibits, natural history, and more.

Are you more of a culinary geek? You’ll be right at home in Bend. Search the Drinking and Dining category on this blog for a huge array of posts featuring restaurant reviews and tips on places to go for sunset dinners, Bend’s best gluten-free dining, vegan and vegetarian meals, or even specific dishes like burgers, bacon, hot wings, and mac & cheese. To fully embrace Bend’s foodie scene, book a culinary tour or cooking class with the Well Traveled Fork.


I hate hipsters! And yuppies! And old people! And kids! And, uh….my fellow tourists?!

The Eastside location of Jackson's Corner has a much different vibe (but the same great food) as the Westside location.

The Eastside location of Jackson’s Corner has a much different vibe (but the same great food) as the Westside location.

There’s always someone in the crowd who hates a certain type of person. I’ll confess that in my late teens I went through a brief “I hate skiers” phase, which was easily remedied by both the evolving open-mindedness that comes with age, and the brilliant discovery that I could simply not go to a ski hill.

Jokes aside, if you’re harboring the delusion that Bend is overrun by a certain type of person, you might just be hanging out in the wrong places. Not a fan of the crowd that spends Saturday mornings sipping coffee and eating veggie scrambles at Jackson’s Corner in Downtown Bend? Head to their eastside location and you’ll discover the same great menu with a totally different scene. It’s the same deal with other local eateries that have both Eastside and Westside locations sporting their own unique ambiance, including Baldy’s Barbecue and Longboard Louie’s.

Not a kid fan? Boneyard Brewing is one of several breweries along the Bend Ale Trail where you won't find a lot of anklebiters.

Not a kid fan? Boneyard Brewing is one of several breweries along the Bend Ale Trail where you won’t find a lot of anklebiters.

If you’re craving incredible Mexican food, La Rosa has locations in Northwest Crossing and on the south end of Bend, with two totally different crowds frequenting each locale. If you’re a fan of Cibelli’s Pizza (and who in their right might wouldn’t be?) you’ll be happy to know they not only have Eastside and Westside locations, but a Southside and a Redmond shop to boot. Visit them all and pick the vibe that feels right to you.

If you’re traveling with kids want to visit Bend Ale Trail stops that make it easy to bring the ankle-biters, try Crux Fermentation Project, Cascade Lakes, Deschutes Brewery, or Bend Brewing Company (which has one of my favorite kids’ menus in town). But if you’d prefer to swill your suds in places a little less likely to attract families, opt for Boneyard Brewing, Riverbend Brewing, Silver Moon Brewing, or one of the growler fill stations that let you take your beer back to a cave so you can avoid human contact.


I hate crowds!

Not a fan of crowds? Visit Bend in the fall or spring for a better shot at having the place all to yourself.

Not a fan of crowds? Visit Bend in the fall or spring for a better shot at having the place all to yourself.

Here’s a little secret: Everyone wants to visit Bend in the summer months when it’s perfect for rafting, hiking, standup paddleboarding, and other warm weather activities. On the average summer day, Bend sees an influx of 18,000 visitors. There’s also a surge of visitors at the peak of winter season when everyone wants to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and sled.

But fall and spring are known as “the shoulder season” in the tourism biz, and they’re fabulous times to show up and have the place to yourself. You’ll score screamin’ deals on hotel stays, encounter much milder weather than you’ll get during peak seasons, and discover a more mellow, laidback version of Bend than you’ll see in mid-August or mid-December. To learn more about planning a shoulder season vacation in Bend, go here.

Having fun is pretty much the only requirement when you're in Bend.

Having fun is pretty much the only requirement when you’re in Bend.


I hate snow!

Come to Bend in the summer.


I hate the heat!

Come to Bend in the winter.


I hate fun!

Huh. You know what? I can’t help you with this one.







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