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7 spots to enjoy live music outdoors in Bend this summer

July 13th, 2017

Is there anything as magical as an outdoor concert with sunshine on your bare arms and a warm breeze carrying a melody out over the sparkling river?

Bend’s summer months are brimming with opportunities to enjoy music in the great outdoors, and here are 7 of my favorites.

 

Ticketed concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater

Let’s start with the big dog, the Les Schwab Amphitheater. The venue has attracted some pretty huge talent over the years, including the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Phish, Willie Nelson, and Paul Simon.

Get ready to rock at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

The 2017 lineup has already included tons of great shows, with more on the horizon from Slightly Stoopid, Jack Johnson (sold out—sorry!), the Avett Brothers, Diana Krall, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Modest Mouse. Check the Les Schwab Amphitheater for dates, ticketing info, and pricing.

And that doesn’t even include all the awesome Free Summer Sunday Concerts happening through mid-July (more on that later!)

Make sure you bring a low-backed chair and plan on arriving a bit early to snag a good spot. You can buy food and drinks at the venue, as well as a reusable, limited-edition Silipint for beer, cider, wine, or cocktails for $20. Your first beverage is included in the price, and you get $1 off all subsequent beverages.

For more tips on attending shows at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, check out this post from last year.

 

Clear Summer Nights at the Athletic Club of Bend

A smaller, more intimate venue than Les Schwab, the Athletic Club of Bend sounds like an odd spot for a concert series. But the Clear Summer Nights Series attracts some surprisingly big and well-known talent. (For the record, last year’s Lord Huron/Trampled by Turtles show topped my personal list of favorite shows of the 2016 season, and that’s coming from someone who attended more than two dozen concerts last summer).

The Athletic Club of Bend attracts an impressive array of talent for their Clear Summer Nights Concert Series.

UB40 kicked off the series earlier this week, but there’s plenty more coming. In 2017, we’ll have the John Butler Trio on September 10, Phillip Phillips September 19, and The Shins September 26.

One cool perk at this venue is the chance to purchase dinner tickets so you get a killer meal and even a glass of wine to enjoy with the show. The small size of the venue means many shows sell out, so act quickly if any of those names caught your eye.

 

Munch and Music

Bend’s free music scene is surprisingly awesome for a town this size, and the crown jewel of it all is Munch and Music.

Family-friendly concerts like Munch & Music are a great opportunity for the whole family to enjoy live music together.

Enjoying its twenty-seventh anniversary in 2017, the series takes place Thursday evenings in Drake Park and is open to all ages free of charge. You’ll pay for food and drinks at the plentiful food booths, or you’re welcome to bring a picnic supper (though no outside alcohol is allowed into the venue). Dogs are also not allowed at the shows, but they’re very kid-friendly and feature added amenities like bouncy houses to help get the wiggles out.

The series kicked off last week with an awesome Abba cover band and continues this week with Cowboy Junkies on July 13. Next is Ozomatli on July 20, The Brothers Comatose on July 27, and Too Slim and the Taildraggers on August 3.

Music begins at 5:30, and you should plan on arriving early with your low-backed chair to snag a good seat. Oh, and did I mention it’s FREE?!?!

 

Free Summer Sunday Concerts

The Old Mill District’s answer to Munch & Music, the Free Summer Sunday Concert Series starts each year in early-June and spans through mid-July.

More family fun can be found at the Les Schwab Amphitheater’s Free Summer Sunday Concert Series.

The last one is happening this Sunday, July 16, with classic rock & roll from Streetlight Moon, so this is your last chance to sample this awesome event for the season.

Besides the music, the event features food vendors, bouncy houses, and other family-friendly activities. You can also bring a picnic of your own if you’d prefer. Concerts start at 2:30 and run through 4:30, and are super family-friendly (my stepdaughter has turned many-a-cartwheel in front of that stage during these shows!)

 

Worthy Brewing Twilight Tunes

Bend’s northernmost brewery has some pretty cool features like on-site gardens and their new Hopservatory.

Rock your socks off at Worthy Brewing.

But they also boast a robust concert schedule that includes Twilight Tunes and Worthy Wednesdays. Musical acts range from local talent to acts from outside the area, and their outdoor stage is impressive for such a small venue.

Most shows go from 6-9, and you can consult the schedule to see when the next event is happening. Grab a brew and some of their mouthwatering fish tacos (among the best in town!) and park yourself on their sunny patio.

 

Crows Feet Commons

Another smaller venue with a happenin’ music scene is Crows Feet Commons. Part bike shop, part café, ALL awesome, Crow’s Feet Commons offers regular outdoor shows right outside their shop in the Mirror Pond Plaza.

Matisyahu is one of several well-known acts to perform at Crow’s Feet Commons.

The size of the venue and the popularity of many of their acts means you’re smart to buy ahead. For instance, the Matisyahu show happening Sunday, July 16 is almost certain to sell out, so snag tickets beforehand for this or any other show that piques your interest on their event calendar.

They also have a great selection of local brews on tap, along with wine and a full espresso bar.

 

Oodles of other options

Tons of other local hotspots offer outdoor music on a more sporadic basis. GoodLife Brewing and 10 Barrel Brewing’s new Eastside locations both boast regular live music in the summer months.

Scenes from the recent six-year anniversary party at GoodLife Brewing.

If you’re a wine lover who doesn’t mind a bit of a drive, Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyards and Maragas Winery both have regular musical entertainment at their scenic vineyard locations.

For a great roundup of musical happenings all over Central Oregon, check out Visit Bend’s event calendar. You can search by date or by type of event to find exactly what you’re after.

6 extra reasons to smile in Bend this summer

July 6th, 2017

Summertime in Bend is when I catch myself walking down the street and smiling for no apparent reason.

Well, there is a reason. Did I mention the part about it being summertime in Bend?

But this summer—the summer of 2017—we all have a few extra reasons to grin like goobers. Here are six of them.

 

Getting around got easier

The increased volume of tourists between June and September has always made traffic more challenging in summer, but three things went into effect recently to make it all a bit easier.

The new Ride Bend shuttle is free and convenient!

The first was the arrival of Uber back in May 2017, followed by Lyft a few weeks later. While Bend has had regular taxis and cabs for eons, these rideshare programs offer added options at the click of an app. I’ve Ubered and Lyfted for several of this summer’s concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, and found it speedy, convenient, and inexpensive. Bonus: no need to fight for parking or get behind the wheel after an evening of sipping wine in the grass.

The next traffic-related source of smiles is the new Ride Bend shuttle connecting greater Downtown Bend destinations from June 23 through Labor Day. The shuttle is free of charge, and runs every 15 minutes from 2-10 p.m. circulating in a clockwise loop between Downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, OSU-Cascades Campus, and Galveston Avenue. The free shuttle is made possible by a partnership between Visit Bend, the City of Bend, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.

Thirdly, bike share programs have been popping up all over town in recent weeks, including in the Old Mill District, at Crux Fermentation Project, OSU Cascades, and in Downtown Bend at the corner of Franklin and Bond. There’s a new one coming to Drake Park in early-September near the parking area on Franklin. To use, download the Zagster app for your phone, head to a bike station, grab a bike, and go. When you’re done, return it to any Zagster staion.

 

So many new places to try!

In 20+ years of living in Bend, I’ve seen plenty of cycles with businesses opening and closing at a frantic rate. But I’ve never seen anything like 2017 where it seems there’s a hot new restaurant or retail shop opening almost every week.

Tasty salads from the new French Market restaurant in Bend.

Swoon-worthy dining establishments that popped up during the first half of the year include French Market (perfect date night dining!), Sora Sushi (yay for sushi trains!), and Moose Sisters (hooray for awesome north-end options).

On the retail front, my favorite newcomers include Hello Sunshine gift boutique in the Old Mill District (hint: it’s the same owners as uber-adorable Clementine Urban Mercantile in Downtown Bend) and Roundabout Books in Northwest Crossing (who doesn’t love a locally-owned indie bookstore awesome décor, great selection, and fab local author events?!)

 

We be jammin’ all summer

The summer may be almost half over, but concert season at the Les Schwab Amphitheater is just getting started.

So far, the 2017 season’s lineup has included John Mellencamp, Paul Simon, Pink Martini, Ween, and Deftones with Rise Against. I saw four of the five shows, and they all pretty much rocked my socks off.

But there’s plenty more to come!

Blogger Tawna and her husband, Craig, grinning from ear to ear at the recent Paul Simon concert in Bend.

Still on the docket are Slightly Stoopid, Jack Johnson, Avett Brothers (my personal fave!), Diana Krall, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Modest Mouse. As of today (July 6) tickets are still available for all of them except the sold-out Jack Johnson show.

And that doesn’t even include all the awesome Free Summer Sunday Concerts happening through mid-July.

Bonus: For the second year in a row, the Amphitheater is offering the Take Note Initiative to promote a more environmentally-friendly concert experience. Purchase a reusable, limited-edition Silipint for beer, cider, wine, or cocktails for $20. Your first beverage is included in the price, and you get $1 off all subsequent beverages. I bought mine last season, and was thrilled to discover it’s still good this season.

 

Farmers Market selection

I’m not sure whether to credit lingering moisture from one of the best snow seasons on record, or the fact that we’ve had surprisingly consistent temperatures from late spring through early summer, but 2017 is shaping up to be one of the best seasons I’ve seen in my home garden.

So much juicy goodness this year at the Farmers Market!

That doesn’t mean I’m inviting you all to my backyard to snack on tomatoes and squash, but it does mean I’m seeing similar abundance at this year’s Bend Farmers Market. The berries look plumper, the kale looks leafier, and the overall harvest looks more plentiful.

The Bend Farmers Market takes place from 3-6 p.m. every Wednesday in the Brooks Alley just above Drake Park. The 2017 season will go through October 11.

 

New stuff on the Bend Ale Trail

Summertime is one of my favorite seasons to hit the Bend Ale Trail, since local breweries launch their flavorful, seasonal sippers that are perfect for enjoying on the patio on a warm summer evening.

The new Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing is a good reason to smile.

Right now, I’ve been diggin’ the SUP Seasonal Ale from Sunriver Brewing, the French Connection from Crux Fermentation Project, and the Peaches Everyday sour at 10 Barrel (which has a brand new Eastside pub that’s been making me smile quite often by being mere steps from my front door).

Also new and worth a gander is the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing. Guided tours offer an overview of our night skies and a chance to gaze through a high-powered telescope with the aid of experts from the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver. Kick off your stargazing experience with a stop in the brand new Star Bar and a pint of their tasty seasonal IPA, Strata.

 

Smile at a stranger

Ask regular visitors to Bend what they love best about this place and odds are good you’ll hear one answer again and again: The friendliness of the people.

Smile at a stranger. It’ll make you feel good.

It’s something you’ll see personified every time you stroll the streets of Downtown Bend or pass someone on a hiking trail—people smile at you. Like, total strangers, just grinning a greeting at everyone they see.

Don’t panic if that’s not the norm where you come from. Just smile back and give a little wave. If you’re feeling bold, try out a casual “hello!” or “have a great day!”

For more ideas on how to #VisitLikeALocal when you’re in Bend, check out this page.

How to do Independence Day 2017 in Bend!

June 29th, 2017

Everyone has a favorite holiday. Maybe it’s Christmas or Valentine’s Day for you, but for me it will always be July 4.

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

The fact that I spend it in Bend every year has a lot to do with that.

From the waggy-tailed joy of the Pet Parade to the breathless speculation over which side of Pilot Butte will catch on fire (it’s a thing, people) I adore Independence Day in Bend.

Here’s what you should know if you plan to join us in 2017.

 

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

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.

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

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 zones, 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. Pie-eating contests, dunk tanks, scavenger hunts, and sack races will keep you hopping (so to speak) all day long.

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.

The 2017 Pet Parade map.

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. Temps will likely be in the 80s this year, so keep your kids’ and pets’ comfort in mind when planning costumes.

If you just want to watch, you can park your chair pretty much anywhere in Downtown Bend. Streets will be closed from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and parking can be tough to find, so it’s a great chance to use alternative transportation like biking or walking.

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.

Want to support a good cause with your July 4 festivities? Attend a benefit for the Central Oregon Veterans Organization from 6-10 p.m. at The Collective (62070 27th Street). Your $50 ticket gets you food, drinks, dancing, and a killer view of the fireworks, but hurry—the event is limited to 200 tickets. You can learn more by calling 541-390-5833.

If music is your jam, there are still tickets available for the July 4 Deftones concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.

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…I don’t have a place to stay.

A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, so pat yourself on the back if you’ve already nailed down lodging reservations.

Campsites can be tough to come by during the 4th of July holidays, but knowing where to look can help.

If you haven’t, you can scope out our lodging pages as a starting point for deciding who to call about last-minute availability and cancellations. If you strike out in Bend, try one of our neighboring towns like Redmond (20 minutes away), Sisters (25-30 minutes away), Sunriver (25-30 minutes away), La Pine (45 minutes away), or Prineville (45 minutes away).

If you’re hoping to camp, check out Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these campgrounds might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:

 

Q: Where can I play in the Deschutes River?

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 on how to float the river like a pro.

 

Fourth of July is a great day for a river float!

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: What else is open July 4?

A: Mt. Bachelor has a special treat this year for fans of both summer and winter sports. Bend’s record winter snowfall means the snow is still 10 feet deep in some spots at Mt. Bachelor, so the mountain will be open July 2-July 4 for skiing and snowboarding. Learn more about lift ticket prices and schedules right here. In addition, Bachelor’s summer sports season kicks off July 1, including the downhill mountain bike park, disc golf, and lunches at the Pine Marten Lodge. Basically, it’s the first time in the resort’s 58 year history that you can ski and downhill mountain bike on the same visit, so you won’t want to miss it.

Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. Check their schedule and time your visit for one of their stellar Raptors of the High Desert shows. Lava Lands Visitor Center is Open July 4. The Deschutes Historical Museum is not only open, but offers free admission and free ice cream cups while supplies last on July 4.

Nachos and Life’s a Peach beer from Riverbend Brewing make an excellent gift for travel bloggers. Just saying.

And of course, the Bend Visitor Center will be open on Independence Day from 9-5 for all your visitor information needs (and to redeem Bend Ale Trail atlases, of course!)

 

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

A: Why thank you! I’ll take anything from around the Bend Ale Trail, but my current favorites include Life’s a Peach and Then You Die (a Milkshake NE IPA from Riverbend Brewing), the Half Hitch Imperial IPA from Crux Fermentation Project, the Cherry Card-a-Bomb from Worthy Brewing, Ching Ching from Bend Brewing Company, and pretty much any sour they happen to be serving up at 10 Barrel.

Summer 2017 has arrived in Bend! Now what?

June 22nd, 2017

This past Wednesday marked the official first day of summer, which means Bend’s peak season is officially in full swing. Planning a summer vacation to the outdoor playground of the West? Here’s what you need to know!

 

Visit Like a Local

Want the inside scoop on everything from trail etiquette to the right way to navigate Bend’s roundabouts? Check out our Visit Like a Local page!

Following the tips from our Visit Like a Local page (like leashing your dog or using reusable water bottles) is a great way to ensure you have a perfect summer vacation in Bend.

In a matter of minutes, you’ll be an expert on leash laws, the best beverage receptacles, and the proper footwear to don for a river float (hint: NOT flip-flops)!

 

Plan ahead

There’s a lot happening in Bend during the summer months, from concerts to art festivals to sporting events. Many’s the time I’ve heard visitors lament that if only they’d known the dates for Bite of Bend or the Michael Franti concert, they would have planned their trip around it.

Here’s a tip: Check out the Visit Bend Event Calendar to see the full scope of what’s going on during the times you’re considering a visit.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Bite of Bend is this weekend (June 23-25, 2017) and the Michael Franti concert is Sept. 8, 2017.

 

Getting around

I won’t lie—traffic can be tricky in Bend’s peak summer months, with everyone scrambling to see the same sights, shop the same stores, and dine in the same fabulous restaurants. This summer, you have two brand new options for navigating without the need to drive your own car.

The map for the brand new FREE Ride Bend shuttle.

The first is the new Ride Bend shuttle connecting greater Downtown Bend destinations from June 23 through Labor Day. The shuttle is free of charge, and runs every 15 minutes circulating in a clockwise loop between Downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, OSU-Cascades Campus, and Galveston Avenue. The free shuttle is made possible by a partnership between Visit Bend, the City of Bend, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.

The second option is a new bike share program that has stations popping up all over town, including in the Old Mill District, Downtown Bend, and at OSU-Cascades. Download the Zagster app for your phone to get started.

And of course, an organized tour is another way to make sure you don’t have to haggle for parking at popular trailheads. Book a canoe outing or volcanic adventure with Wanderlust Tours and leave the driving, planning, and gear to someone else.

 

Yes, you really do need reservations

Folks with fond childhood memories of cruising into Bend on a Saturday and having plenty of Bend hotel rooms to pick from can get a pretty rude awakening in mid- summer.

Making reservations for Bend lodging is crucial for summer travel. Mt. Bachelor Village Resort is shown here.

Times have changed, and the city’s lodging operates at or near capacity from June through September. That means you need to plan ahead, especially if there’s a special Bend vacation home or bed and breakfast you’ve been eyeing.

Don’t risk having your summer vacation plans torpedoed by a lack of lodging. Plan ahead, then kick back and relax knowing you have a place to bunk down for the night.

 

Pick your play

Bend is a cornucopia of outdoor activities year-round, but that’s especially true in summer. On a shorter trip, it can be tough to choose between activities, so you owe it to yourself to study up.

Consider what forms of water recreation you want on your roster—Kayaking? Canoeing? Standup paddleboarding? Fishing? Pick your faves, and study up. It’s especially crucial to understand the rules of floating the river if that’s on your agenda.

Is floating the river on your summer agenda?

Investigate your options for hiking and identify a top choice hike or two.

If you’re planning a guided experience like whitewater rafting or a lava cave tour, make reservations beforehand.

Knowing you have at least one designated day for play (and what it’s going to be) is a great way to give yourself something to anticipate for your Bend vacation.

 

 

Indoorsy options for all

The High Desert Museum is a great spot for families!

The dry heat of our Central Oregon high desert takes some getting used to, so it’s smart to plan at least one “indoorsy” day filled with air conditioning and a bit of culture.

Visit the High Desert Museum to scope out the cool critters and exhibits. Explore art galleries or see a show at the Tower Theatre. Learn about Bend history with a visit to the Deschutes Historical Museum.

Then get back out there and soak up the sun. With sunscreen, of course.

 

 

 

 

How to float the Deschutes River like a pro!

June 8th, 2017

Whether you’re drawn to Bend by the breweries, the hiking trails, or the mountain biking, there’s one activity that’s almost certainly on your to-do list if you visit between June and September: Floating the river.

I know this because previous blogs I’ve written on the subject remain our most highly-trafficked posts even seven years later. Since the rules and even the river change from year to year (more on that in a sec!), it’s time for an updated, latest-and-greatest blog post featuring everything you need to know about floating the Deschutes River in the summer of 2017.

Having the right gear is a crucial part of having fun floating the Deschutes River.

 

Start with the right gear

First things first: Here’s what you’ll need to safely (and legally) float the river:

  • A high-quality inner tube or floatation device. While you’ll see plenty of folks out there on pool toys, that’s risky if you want to cruise through the passageway channel in the Bend Whitewater Park. Rocks and rapids lead to popped and tumbled cheap floaties (which leaves us with garbage bins stuffed with ruined inflatables). You can rent durable float tubes from a number of local retailers including Sun Country and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.
  • I’ve witnessed many a ruined vacation when visitors didn’t realize the strength of the sun in our high-altitude desert town. Slather up, guys. You’ll thank me later.
  • Proper footwear. You’ll want something on your feet for hoofing it back to your car or around the passageway, but whatever you do, DON’T WEAR FLIP FLOPS! They’ll come off in the water or mud to become litter in our pristine river. Instead, opt for sturdy footwear like Keens or Tevas.
  • Secure your personal items. Plan to keep your keys, phones, trash and other belongings with you, not on the river’s bottom. Want to ruin your trip in a hurry? Just lose your car keys (or wallet, phone, camera, prescription glasses and so on) in the passageway. No Bueno.
  • Life jacket. State law requires that each boat or paddleboard carry one Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board, and children age 12 and under are required to wear life jackets. If you lash several float tubes together, that counts as a boat. Play it safe and snag yourself and the kids a free rental life jacket from the Sun Country kiosk at Riverbend Park.

 

Okay, now what?

Since the Deschutes River does not flow in a circle like a carnival ride, you need to make a plan before you set foot in the water. While some folks opt for a long walk back to their car, or do the multi-car shuffle by leaving a vehicle at the takeout point, you’ll be much, much happier if you leave the driving to someone else by taking the Ride the River Shuttle. It’ll save you tons of headaches with parking.

Nothing beats floating the river on a hot summer day. Keep in mind that if you plan to head through the passageway channel, standard pool toys and air mattresses won’t cut it. Just hop out and jump back in on the other side of the Colorado Avenue Bridge.

Now that you’ve got a plan, you’re ready to roll!

Most floaters put in at the shallow beach area in Riverbend Park. Paddle out into the water and let the current start your journey downstream. Keep in mind the water is fed by snowmelt and icy springs, so it’ll be chilly even at the height of summer.

As you approach the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ve got a decision to make . . .

 

To ride or not to ride?

In 2015, the Bend Whitewater Park opened at the site of the former Colorado Avenue dam, opening up an access that previously didn’t exist. It has three distinct channels that include a habitat area for wildlife, a whitewater channel for surfing and whitewater kayaking, and a passageway meant for river floaters.

Wooohooo! The passageway channel is a fun spot to ride the rapids.

If this is your first time through, hop out here and study the passageway. It includes a series of rapids that’ll be a little bumpy and could wreck your ride (not to mention your backside) if you’re not using a sturdy floatation device. If you’re on a flatwater boat or paddleboard instead of a float tube, you’ll want to exit the river here as the rapids will likely damage your boat or board.

Feeling up to it? If you’re riding on through the passageway, do your best to keep your feet downstream and your float tube in the whitewater section of the channel.

If you have small children with you or if you’d rather walk around it, just hoof it along the portage trail and hop back in the water on the other end of the channel.

You can also call it a day at the bridge and enjoy a relatively short walk back to the put-in point.

Or you can keep on floating . . .

 

Got it. Let’s keep going!

If you choose to continue floating past the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ll eventually find yourself drifting into Drake Park. As you approach the Galveston Avenue Bridge, start making your way to the right.

When you finish your float in Drake Park, catch the Ride the River shuttle back to Riverbend Park.

Just past the bridge, you’ll see a small beach on the right side of the river. That’s where you’ll want to hop out.

And since you already made plans to Ride the River Shuttle, you’ll have an easy time getting back to your vehicle or to the put-in spot so you can do the whole thing all over again.

 

What else do I need to know?

A few more rules, tips, and general advice to avoid breaking the law or being a jerk:

  • There are local ordinances that make it illegal to drink alcohol on the Deschutes River or in a Bend park, so leave the brews at home. You know what’s also illegal? Sinking your beer cans or bottles in the water. If the cops catch you doing it, they’ll fine you. If a local catches you doing it, you’ll get a pretty serious tongue-lashing about littering and the importance of protecting Bend’s natural beauty.
  • Despite the fact that marijuana is legal in Oregon, it’s not legal to blaze up in public places. Leave the bong behind, guys.
  • Keep in mind that the full float will take anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes. Plan on half that time if you jump out at the Colorado Avenue Bridge.
  • Parking can be crowded at Riverbend Park, but it’s downright insane at Drake Park. Seriously, Ride the River Shuttle. I promise you’ll thank me.
  • Bend Park and Rec offers an amazing virtual tour for how to float the river. You can check that out here.
  • Want a big-picture overview of the Deschutes River and where all the hazards lie? The Bulletin recently ran an excellent graphic you can scope out right here.
  • Want more tips on navigating Bend like a pro? Check out our Visit Like a Local page!

Happy floating, everyone!

 

 

 

 

11 spots for great sushi in Bend, Oregon

June 1st, 2017

For some, it’s weird to imagine finding good sushi in a landlocked city nearly 200 miles from the nearest ocean.

But you don’t just find good sushi in Bend—you find AMAZING sushi in at least 11 different places around town. And I made it my mission to dine at every single one to ensure I’m giving you a fair and balanced overview. (Related: My job does not suck).

Here—listed from north to south—are 11 fab places to find sushi in Bend, Oregon.

 

Shinsei Sushi

Since I’m a longtime resident of northeast Bend, Shinsei Sushi is my go-to spot for quick takeout on my end of town. They have an impressive selection of not just sushi, but also yakisoba, stir fries, lunch specials, and more.

Blogger Tawna enjoys takeout sushi from Shinsei while her thieving cat lurks nearby.

But it’s the sushi that pulls me in, and I almost always pick from the day’s selection of specials. There are typically three, and it’s a great way to try something new and so-fresh-it’s-still-flopping.

The Bachelor Roll is my personal fave, made with real crab, avocado, and cucumber, then topped with fresh tuna, fresh salmon, and unagi sauce. Their spicy tuna rolls are also excellent.

The sushi chefs here offer the warmest greeting in town, with shouted hellos as you enter and a cheerful chorus of thank yous as you depart.

Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar

This restaurant on the edge of the Deschutes River made my list of 11 great spots for river view dining in Bend, so there’s more than just great sushi to be had at Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar.

Enjoy cocktails and sushi with a river view at Chi.

The happy hour here is one of the best in town, and their creative cocktail menu makes it tough to choose just one (so don’t pick—order both The Emperor and Mr. Chu and share with me!)

Not just a sushi joint, Chi offers traditional Chinese fare with a gourmet flair. They also have some pretty cool river views from the outdoor patio. If the weather isn’t great, their indoor dining room is also quite lovely (and for some reason I’m especially fond of the bar seating).

My favorite roll is the Last Samarai, which is made with tempura jalapeño, unagi, asparagus, butterfish tempura fried, then topped with spicy salmon poke, soy infused tobiko, and unagi sauce. Yum!

 

5 Fusion & Sushi Bar

There’s a reason Chef Joe Kim of 5 Fusion has racked up multiple James Beard nominations (sorta like the Oscars of the culinary world). Actually, there are many reasons, and many of them can be found on the sushi menu.

The cool overhead water feature at 5 Fusion is one of many reasons to make sure this hip dining spot is on your list.

5 Fusion offers an eclectic mix of creative fusion dishes, mouthwatering sushi rolls, and plates that will appeal to non-fish-loving members of your party (order them the filet mignon lollipops for your sushi-skeptic uncle and watch him start to drool).

Besides amazing food, 5 Fusion boasts a stunningly beautiful dining room space with a unique water feature on the ceiling. They also have an incredible happy hour, which makes this a great spot to get your evening started before you spend a night strolling Downtown Bend.

Enjoy more tastiness from chef Joe Kim with a noodle bowl from Ajii.

Keep an eye out for their regular charity dinners, which are a great way to score a fabulous multi-course meal while supporting great local causes.

Sidenote: Though not a sushi spot, it’s worth mentioning the brand new Ajii Asian Kitchen in Bend. It’s owned by 5 Fusion’s Joe Kim, but offers a much more casual dining experience than 5 Fusion. Noodle and rice bowls abound, and prices are super-affordable. The food is hearty, nourishing, and delicious, and it’s a great lunch stop for families who love the simplicity of a one-dish meal.

 

Kanpai Sushi & Sake Bar

When my sushi-loving sister-in-law visits from Seattle, Kanpai Sushi & Sake Bar is always on her shortlist of restaurants to hit.

Yummy sushi at Kanpai.

Small and cozy with a sunny outdoor patio, the sushi is always super-fresh, and the sake is plentiful. Sushi superfans will find plenty to choose from here, and they boast an impressive wine list to boot.

If you’re a sushi newbie who’s not super-adventurous just yet, try ordering their sushi combo that includes three nigari, sashimi, half a California roll, and a spicy tuna roll. It’s a great way to get your feet wet if you can’t decide what to order.

Personally, I adore the Orgasm Roll (and not just for the name). It’s made with tempura unagi, crab, and cucumber topped with avocado, creamy scallops, tobiko, and sweet soy reduction. So tasty!

 

Sora Sushi Restaurant

The newest newcomer to Bend’s sushi scene, Sora Sushi Restaurant has the added bonus of offering our city’s only sushi train (ie. the sushi conveyor belt that provides a rotating roundup of delectable sushi you can grab as it goes by).

Checking out the sushi train at newcomer Sora Sushi.

The visual appeal of the conveyor belt makes this a great place to bring kids, and my stepdaughter loves seeing her options roll past so she can snag what looks yummy. The prices are good, too, with a handy pricing structure that lists the price of the dish according to the color of the plate.

There’s a regular menu, too, plus a popular happy hour seven days a week. But if you’re in a hurry, sit at the conveyor belt and grab what catches your eye. Save a little room for one of the tasty tiny dessert bites you’ll see rolling past.

 

Juno Japanese Sushi Garden

Another sushi newcomer in Bend, Juno Japanese Sushi Garden is the smallest, coziest restaurant in the roundup. But don’t let the size fool you (and don’t let the “reservation only” signs on the door scare you. While it’s true you’ll need one on busy nights, there’s a good chance you can stroll in and make a reservation on the spot if you show up on a slower night).

Enjoying fresh, flavorful sushi in the dining room at Juno.

The restaurant is the baby of Michi Nakanishi, a native of Kyoto, Japan who moved to Bend at 17 and worked in three different sushi spots around town before starting her own. Focusing on “true Japanese food,” the menu is small but mighty (tasty).

Everything they offer tastes unbelievably fresh, and the interesting addition of mild jalapeño peppers gives many of the rolls a refreshingly bright pop. The El Sancho roll was my personal favorite, with soft shell crab, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, and lettuce. Also outstanding was the Ninshi Jin (a “non-everyday special” made with seared albacore, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, mango, avocado, and cucumber).

And if you’re looking for a unique appetizer, try the Cream Corn Korroke, which is a deep fried potato and corn croquette covered in panko bread and served with the most delectable sauce imaginable. Top it off with a small carafe of sake, and you’re good to go!

 

Mio Sushi

Located in the Old Mill District, Mio Sushi is one of my favorite spots to drop by with my stepdaughter for a kid-friendly sushi lunch. She loves the mango iced tea, and I love the fact that the menu spells out very clearly what’s in each roll (and what non-sushi options are available if she isn’t in the mood—she swoons for the tempura!)

Blogger Tawna at Mio Sushi with stepdaughter Violet.

This is also home to one of my favorite sushi rolls in town, the Bubble Bubble. Made with avocado, tobiko, salmon, and ikura, it’s topped with the thinnest, most scrumptious slices of fresh lemon you can imagine. Trust me when I say the lemon adds a whole new dimension to the dish that’ll have you ordering it again and again (and possibly commanding your husband to swing by on his way home from work to grab a double order—what, that’s just me?)

Bonus: Coming here will give you a great excuse to stroll the Deschutes riverfront and check out the cool shops in the Old Mill District. Not that you need an excuse.

 

Okawa Japanese Steak House & Sushi

I made my first visit to Okawa Japanese Steak House & Sushi quite recently, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The former home of Outback Steakhouse, this expansive restaurant is much more than a sushi joint. It’s a hibachi grill where the entertainment value from the chefs is every bit as awesome as the food.

Don’t miss the sushi at Okawa, but also make sure you order a hibachi meal cooked right at your table.

Make sure at least one member in your party orders a hibachi dish, and that you request a seat next to the grill. Be prepared for an acrobatic display of tool flipping and flames, not to mention a tasty and hearty dish. Also be prepared for leftovers, as these meals are HUGE.

If you’ve come for the sushi, you won’t be disappointed. The menu boasts some of the most creatively-named rolls in town, including the Stinky Roll (spicy crabmeat, asparagus, and avocado inside Cajun albacore and topped with garlic ponzu sauce), and the One Night Stand roll (spicy tuna, asparagus, and avocado, topped with seared salmon and served with basil sauce).

Expect to see a few rowdy groups of birthday parties or girls’ night gatherings. Better yet, schedule your own.

 

Tomo Sushi

A locals’ favorite on the south end of town, Tomo Sushi is best known for offering half-priced sushi on Mondays from 4 to close (sorry, no to-go orders, and wait times can be long).

But paying full price won’t break the bank here anyway, as the sushi and non-sushi dishes are all reasonably priced and plentiful. The ambiance is surprisingly cool and funky, and the cocktail menu is impressive.

This is also another kid-friendly spot where you won’t get dirty looks for bringing in youngsters who haven’t fully mastered chopsticks.

Try the Back in Black roll with tempura shrimp, avocado, and spicy tuna, topped with blackened tuna, spicy aioli, unagi sauce, and spicy masago. And scope out their selection of local beers on draft, which make a nice accompaniment to many of the sushi rolls.

 

Grocery store sushi

I know, I know . . . there’s a stigma that comes with grocery store sushi, and it’s not great.

But trust me when I say there are two spots worth a second look, especially when you’re seeking an on-the-go sushi meal to take with you on a picnic or a day drive from Bend.

Customers survey the selection at Market of Choice on $4.99 Sushi Wednesdays.

The first is Newport Avenue Market, which is a local favorite for fresh, gourmet ingredients and unique grocery items you won’t find in other stores. Their sushi is made fresh daily, and ranges from tempura rolls to sashimi balls to specialty rolls. My favorite perk is the fact that you can always find rolls made with brown rice, which adds a nutty flavor and unique texture I find appealing.

Another good grocery store option is the new Market of Choice on Bend’s west side. They have an on-site sushi kitchen, and a surprisingly good (and well-priced!) variety of rolls to pick from in their deli case. But the best deal of all is their $4.99 Sushi Wednesday special, which offers up to 10 varieties for $4.99 all day each Wednesday. Just look for the special red Sushi Wednesday sticker.

What you should know about the 2017 solar eclipse in Bend

May 25th, 2017

Three years ago, a hotelier in a town near Bend told me every room in their small city was already booked for the 2017 solar eclipse. Pretty sure I’d heard wrong, I asked him to repeat that.

“We started getting calls from all over the world back in 2011,” he said somberly. “It’s going to be huge.”

The path of totality for the 2017 solar eclipse in Oregon.
Graphic courtesy of Xavier Jubier/Eclipse2017.org

No kidding.

While the Total Solar Eclipse happening August 21, 2017 will be viewable all over North America (and even in parts of South America, Africa, and Europe), Central Oregon has been touted as one of the best spots on earth to see it. It’s partly our reputation for cloudless summertime skies, and partly that Madras, Oregon (45 miles northeast of Bend) is smack-dab in the direct line of totality. That means they’ll see approximately two minutes and two seconds of complete darkness around 10:19 a.m.

Crazy, right?

It’s the first Total Solar Eclipse since 1979, and there won’t be another viewable from the U.S. until 2024. Here’s what you need to know about seeing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in Central Oregon.

 

Got a place to stay?

What that hotel owner told me three years ago wasn’t an exaggeration. Hotels in Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Bend, and La Pine have been fully booked for ages. Ditto that for campgrounds at all the state parks.

There’s a slim, slim chance you can still find a few private campgrounds with spots available, and I’ve seen several Central Oregon ranchers offering “self-contained RV sites” on their property.

Make sure you’ve booked ahead for your campsite during the eclipse!

If someone cancels a hotel room and you’re lucky enough to snag it, expect to pay a premium. Supply and demand is in full force, and I’ll admit I’m mind-boggled by the prices I’m seeing for rooms.

EDIT: A few lodging options have popped up in the comments on this blog post, so you may want to check there to see if they’ve booked up since then.

 

So where can I watch?

While the eclipse will be viewable from towns all over Oregon, it’s Madras that’s getting all the press as the town in the line of totality. As the moon begins to pass between the sun and the earth starting around 9:06 a.m., viewers in Madras will witness the shadow darkening the peak of nearby Mt. Jefferson before everything goes black and the area is plunged into total darkness for about two minutes at 10:19 a.m.

Sounds awesome, but getting there will be the trick. If you’re staying in an outlying town like Bend or Sunriver, don’t expect to jump in your car that morning and cruise to Madras. Experts predict traffic will be at a standstill, and a drive that would normally take an hour could take nine or ten hours. Seriously.

You can try driving out the previous evening, or you can settle for chilling at your hotel or campsite in Bend or surrounding areas and enjoying what will still be pretty darn fine views of the eclipse.

If you’re dead set on being on the line of totality, visit http://madraseclipse.com/ for everything you could possibly want to know about festivals, amenities, transportation, and more.

 

Traffic will be nuts, guys

I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one—traffic is going to be insane. Our towns in Central Oregon are small, which is why most of us love it here. The roadways weren’t designed for an influx of 100,000 to 500,000 vehicles in one weekend (which is what experts currently predict).

Bringing or renting a pedal-powered or electric bike is a great way to beat traffic and get around town easily during the eclipse.

Fortunately, Bend is a pretty bike-friendly town, and weather in August lends itself to cruising everywhere on two wheels. Bring your bike from home, or make a reservation to rent a ride from one of our local bike shops.

Not sure you’re up for quite so much pedaling? Both Let It Ride and Bend Electric Bikes have electric bikes for rent that’ll let you choose between pedal power and revving the throttle.

Fighting traffic to get into Central Oregon before the eclipse will be challenging, but authorities predict getting out after the eclipse will actually be trickiest. Pro tip: If you can remain in Bend for a few days after August 21, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration fighting traffic. Besides, it’s a pretty awesome place to hunker down.

 

How can I prepare?

Central Oregon authorities are regarding eclipse preparations like the ramp-up to a natural disaster, but their advice is spot-on. We don’t really know what to expect, so it’s smart to be ready for anything.

Following the tips from our Visit Like a Local page (like leashing your dog or using reusable water bottles) is a great way to ensure you have a pleasant Central Oregon visit.

If possible, fill your gas tank 5-7 days before the eclipse, since there’s a possibility of shortages or super-long lines. Ditto that for stocking up on things like groceries, medications, or any supplies you might need for your trip.

Most importantly, be flexible and patient. There will be thousands of folks here vying for tables at restaurants, spots on coveted tours, and viewpoints at major landmarks. Just go with the flow and use the opportunity to put our Visit Like a Local tips into practice.

 

Need more info?

To learn more about the eclipse and to see the source of the map we shared above explaining the path of totality, check out this site: http://www.eclipse2017.org/ 

If you’re planning to stay in Bend, bookmark www.visitbend.com for everything you could possibly want to know about shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation in Bend, Oregon.

Want to check traffic conditions en route to, from, or around Central Oregon in the days surrounding the eclipse? The Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck site is a great resource: https://tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp

And once again (because I can’t say it enough) this really is an awesome site dedicated to seeing the eclipse along the line of totality in Madras: http://madraseclipse.com/

 

What’s open for Memorial Weekend 2017 in Bend?

May 18th, 2017

It’s that time of year again, kids. ‘Tis the season for waking up to frost on the ground, and by lunchtime, stripping off those extra layers to bask in 80-degree sunshine.

The weeks surrounding Memorial Day Weekend also signal the opening of roadways and landmarks that have been buried under snow for the last five months. Heavy snowfall in 2017 has pushed many opening dates later and later, with some still up in the air as snow continues to fall in the mountains.

Here’s the current roundup of what’s open, what’s opening soon, and what’s still snowy in and around Bend as of May 18, 2017.

 

Already open and ready for play!

The road allowing guests to drive up and down Pilot Butte opened on April 15 in 2017, which is on par with a normal snow year. Watch for icy spots on cold mornings, but otherwise, you should be ready to roll.

The Lava Lands Visitor Center is open and ready for you to visit!

The Cascade Welcome Station (operated by the Forest Service near milepost seven on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway) is also open, and operating Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. That schedule will continue through May 30, when they’ll shift to summer hours and be open daily during those same hours.

Lava Lands Visitor Center is also open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The road to the top of Lava Butte is open and drivable, and the shuttle will start Memorial Day weekend this year. Lava River Cave is also open already, and currently operating from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday until they shift to summer hours on Memorial Day weekend. New this year, there’s a 10-minute required orientation that all visitors must attend. You can learn more about that here.

The Tumalo Falls Trailhead is also open for the season, but be aware that the trail is still pretty packed with snow just above the overlook. Dress warmly, bring proper footwear, and be prepared to turn back when the snow gets too deep for hiking.

 

What’s opening soon?

Several weeks ago, folks were speculating the Cascade Lakes Highway would open on its usual timeframe around Memorial Day Weekend. Then Mother Nature laughed and laughed and laughed and dumped another couple feet of snow on us.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is open in some areas, but be aware there’s still lots of snow up there.

As of today (May 18, 2017) they’re predicting an “early June” opening for the Cascade Lakes Highway between Mt. Bachelor and Elk Lake. As of now, the gates are still in place at Lava Lake. Crews are working nonstop on clearing the snow, and you can keep your eyes on this page for the latest updates.

Another hotly-anticipated opening date each year is the Old McKenzie Pass (242). Right now, they’re predicting a late-June opening date for roads to be cleared and the gates to open for cars. Cyclists, on the other hand, are welcome to head up now to enjoy car-free roads.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is at least a little bit accessible right now. Paulina Lake Road (FS Road 21) will open the gate at 10-Mile Sno-Park on Friday, May 19, but access to the lakes is still limited by snow. The Paulina Peak Visitor Center is expected to open on May 27, but don’t expect Paulina Peak Road to open anytime soon—that bad boy is going to take a lot of clearing and snowmelt this year!

 

What if I still want to play in the snow?

You’re in luck! Spring skiing is in full swing at Mt. Bachelor, with lifts running every day from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through Sunday, May 28. They’ve seen 604-inches of snow at mid-mountain since October 1, which is pretty impressive. Almost as impressive as their spring lift ticket prices, which are in effect for the remainder of the season.

There are still plenty of bluebird days up at Mt. Bachelor this season.

Can’t make it out for spring skiing? Prepare yourself for summer skiing. That’s right—Mt. Bachelor recently announced plans to open the Sunrise and Summit lifts from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from July 2 through July 4. And while those lifts are spinning for skiers and snowboarders, the Pine Marten lift will be open (snowmelt permitting) for scenic rides and mountain biking.

How’s that for having the best of both worlds?

 

6 things you must eat or drink in Bend, Oregon

May 11th, 2017

Visiting a new city always sends my inner foodie into a frenzy, a fact I rediscovered last week when traveling to Barcelona. It’s not enough to know that I must try paella. I must find the absolute perfect spot to enjoy the classic paella experience with views of the cathedral and maybe a flamenco guitarist serenading me while I eat.

Figuring out a region’s signature dishes and the best place to enjoy them can be exhausting, I’ll admit. So I’ve helped you get rid of the guesswork with these suggestions of dishes and drinks you absolutely must add to your Bend bucket list.

Grab a burger at Dandy’s or Pilot Butte Drive In

Bend is home to a zillion amazing hamburgers, and I blogged about 12 of them right here.

Dandy's-Bend-Oregon

Servers on roller skates have been delivering burgers right to your car at Dandy’s 1968.

But if you’re seeking the quintessential Bend burger experience, I suggest you try one of two places.

The first is Pilot Butte Drive In. Located next to Bend’s iconic Pilot Butte State Park, this cozy little diner has been a Bend landmark since 1983. You’ll find tasty goodies like homemade malts, scrumptious steak & eggs, and of course, a delicious variety of burgers.

My personal fave is the Ortega Cheeseburger, piled with grilled mild green chilis and melted jack cheese with mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Go inside and grab a cozy booth by the fire, or park and order from your car for a true drive-in diner experience.

And speaking of the drive-in experience, that’s the specialty at Dandy’s Drive-In. This nostalgic little burger joint has operated in Bend since 1968, with servers who arrive on roller skates to take your order through the car window. Don’t expect a lot of frou-frou condiments and crazy toppings here, but do expect a darn good traditional burger.

The Dandy Deluxe is a standard burger with the addition of cheese, tomatoes, and special sauce. It’s deliciously drippy and extremely satisfying, especially when paired with an old fashioned Cherry Slice and an order of their to-die-for onion rings.

 

Eat the sourdough scones at Pine Tavern

One of the oldest restaurants in Bend, Pine Tavern has been operating since 1936. The name hails from the two ponderosa pine trees (one living, one not so much) that jut up through the center of the restaurant.

Bend’s iconic Pine Tavern is a great dining spot to have on your bucket list.

But even more than the trees, what Pine Tavern is best known for are its sourdough scones with honey butter. Fluffy and light and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, they’re paired with homemade honey butter that will leave you swooning at your table. Be forewarned that the scones are only available with dinner, so don’t show up at lunch expecting to order them.

But dinner is a great time of day to be there anyway, especially if you can nab a river-view table on their patio. Their meatloaf is especially tasty, as is their classic prime rib. Plan on taking home a doggie bag after you’ve filled up on those scones!

 

Grab a beer at Deschutes Brewery

Beer fans trekking the trail of suds along the Bend Ale Trail will debate furiously over which of the 15 breweries has the best beer.

Deschutes-Brewery

Grab a taster tray at Deschutes Brewery and discover where Bend’s beer revolution began.

But one thing that’s not up for debate is who started it all. Deschutes Brewery is the granddaddy of Bend’s beer scene, establishing the first Bend brewery in 1988 and eventually growing to become one of the nation’s largest craft breweries.

These days you can nab a table in the very same pub where the first beers were brewed, ordering a taster tray that includes originals like Black Butte Porter and Jubelale as well as seasonal selections and nitro brews available only in the pub. Pair your brew with a tray of tasty hot wings or one of their scrumptious salads to make it a lunch or dinner affair.

Honorable mention: While there’s no question Deschutes kicked off Bend’s beer scene, Bend Brewing Company wasn’t far behind when they opened their doors in 1995, making them the city’s second oldest brewery. It has the vibe of a friendly, cozy local watering hole and a darn fine meal menu. Order a pint of Ching Ching or Elk Lake IPA, along with their scrumptious sriracha seasoned cauliflower or a steak and spinach salad.

 

Devour a Nacho Mountain at Mt. Bachelor

If your visit to Bend includes a ski day at Mt. Bachelor, no trip to the mountain is complete without a Nacho Mountain at the Clearing Rock Bar.

The Bloody Marys at Mt. Bachelor are almost as legendary as their Nacho Mountain.

This legendary, culinary treat is made with your choice of chipotle chicken tinga, hearty beef chili, or smoked pork. That’s piled atop a hearty plate full of chips, cheddar-jack cheese, fresh tomato, olives, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeños, and red salsa.

Pair it with one of Mt. Bachelor’s famous bloody marys or a local brew for the ultimate après ski treat.

 

Savor an ice cream sundae at Goody’s

Goody’s Chocolates has been Central Oregon’s go-to sweet spot since 1984, and now boasts several locations that manufacture a whopping 20 tons of chocolate a year.

Belly up to the old-fashioned soda fountain at Goody’s for a taste of nostalgia with your ice cream treat.

But it’s their ice cream that holds the most nostalgic qualities for folks who’ve been vacationing in Bend and Sunriver for decades. Grab a waffle cone brimming with creamy Oreo cookie goodness to enjoy as you stroll to nearby Drake Park, or park yourself at the counter to share a banana split with your favorite family member.

They also have an old fashioned soda fountain serving up treats like phosphate sodas and egg creams, plus an impressive array of candy you can buy by the pound.

 

Salmon and steelhead and trout, oh my!

When people ask about local cuisine in the Pacific Northwest, my first thought always jumps to fish. Salmon, steelhead, and trout make appearances on plenty of local menus, each prepared in uniquely Central Oregon style. Three spots with the most Bend-esque flair for fish dishes include Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill District, 900 Wall in Downtown Bend, and Ariana Restaurant just outside the Downtown zone.

One of several great spots to feast on fish in Bend.

The latter (Ariana) gets an additional shout-out as a foodie’s paradise with oodles of critical acclaim. Named one of the top 100 restaurants in America by Open Table, they boast an impressive wine list and classic European dishes mixed with specialty Northwest cuisine. Try their rainbow trout with pan-roasted, smoked fingerlings, sauce gribiche, and dill oil, and prepare to be blown away.

 

6 reasons it’s great to be a tourist in Bend, Oregon

May 5th, 2017

I’m writing this post from 5,570 miles from Central Oregon, which seems weird for a tourism blog devoted to Bend.

Visit Bend blogger Tawna with her Bend Hydro Flask on the beach in Barelona, Spain.

But being in Barcelona right now has me in “tourist mode” instead of “tourism promotion mode,” which spurred a few observations worth sharing. While I’ve bopped my way between countless foreign lands and U.S. cities over the last few decades, here are 6 reasons I’m convinced Bend is one of the best places on earth to be a tourist.

 

One heck of a great visitor center

My work station back home is spitting distance from the front desk of the Bend Visitor Center, so I’m a perpetual eavesdropper on conversations between Bend visitors and the volunteers and staff members answering their questions.

One of Visit Bend’s many talented volunteers helps a tourist in the Bend Visitor Center.

That’s how I know the tips they dole out daily aren’t canned marketing statements they’re forced to spew because someone’s paying for it. They’re genuine, heartfelt endorsements from locals who live and play in Bend.

When a Visit Bend team member suggests where to hike, bike, dine, ski, shop, or anything else in Bend, you know you’re getting someone’s unbiased, personal endorsement. That’s a rare thing, and it’s why I always tell Bend visitors to stop by the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend (weekdays 9-5, weekends 10-4) at the start of any Bend vacation.

 

Make your belly happy

Some tourist destinations can be challenging when it comes to dining. Maybe the cuisine is super-greasy or made with unfamiliar ingredients that generate howls of protest from picky eaters in your family, or maybe restaurant hours just don’t mesh with your vacation schedule.

This raw, gluten-free, almost-vegan (minus the honey) cheesecake at Salud! will leave you swooning.

But one thing I love about Bend is that you’ll find pretty much anything your tummy might need. Looking for gluten-free or vegetarian dining in Bend? Bend has oodles of options. Want a grab-and-go breakfast for mornings you’re en route to Mt. Bachelor or a full-day hike? I can name nearly a dozen ideas off the top of my head.

You’ll also find a variety of restaurants in Bend, from Asian to Italian to Mexican and everything in between. Bottom line—your belly will always be happy on a Bend vacation.

 

What’s that smell?                 

Researchers have studied why certain scents have the power to trigger powerful emotions, finding some fascinating links between olfactory senses and memories.

I don’t doubt it. The places I’ve visited that have the most unique odors are the ones I remember most clearly. You could drop me blindfolded into the souks of Marrakesh, Morocco, and I would instantly know my location from the unique scent of exotic spice and leather and livestock. Ditto that for the briney, seaweed aroma of the Oregon Coast or the strange blend of botanicals and diesel exhaust in Caracas, Venezuala.

But no place in the universe smells like Bend, Oregon.

An ancient juniper in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. The scent of juniper is part of Bend’s unique perfume.

There’s something magical about the heady fragrance sun-warmed sage and bitterbrush mixed with the weirdly pleasant cat-pee smell of juniper. Blend in a hint of volcanic dust and ponderosa pine bark, and you could bottle it as Bend perfume.

It’s why I always roll my car window down as I pull into town after a long trip away. It’s the scent of happiness and fresh air and of home, and it’s one of the best sensory experiences I know.

 

No shortage of banks

Bend’s plethora of banking institutions might seem like a strange benefit to tout, until you find yourself in a lesser-endowed city spending precious vacation time in search of an ATM. That’ll never happen in Bend, where there’s a credit union or major bank chain on nearly every corner.

That’s a big plus for travelers who prefer to pay with cash (which is a great way to track your vacation budget, not to mention supporting small local businesses who appreciate not getting hit with credit card charges).

 

Guided tours galore

When orienting yourself to a new city, there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than with a guided tour.

Get oriented to Central Oregon with a canoe tour (or any other guided outing) from Wanderlust Tours.

Luckily for Bend visitors, there are tons of unique ways to do that. Outdoor enthusiasts can book an outing with Wanderlust Tours to see the area’s caves, snowshoe trails, or top canoe spots. You’ll also find walking tours, electric bike outings, and specialty options like Jeep tours and brewery excursions.

For a complete list, check out our guided tours page to find the one that’s right for you.

Smile. You’re in Bend.


 

More smiles than anyplace else

While disembarking the plane on one of my many layovers en route to Barcelona yesterday, the passengers began to shove. Several folks surged from the back of the plane, prompting surly shouts from those near the front.

“That would never happen in Bend,” I thought.

While I can’t claim Central Oregon is an idyllic land free from road range and bad moods, it’s true that folks seem a little more laidback in Bend. Maybe there’s something in the air, or maybe it’s Bend itself that makes folks kinder, more patient, and generally more joyful.

Whatever it is, Bend is just one of those places that makes your heart a little happier.


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