Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
Traveling with kids can be a roller coaster ride.
You love the shared adventure, but you don’t love guessing which restaurant is your best pick to avoid the glares of diners unaccustomed to young voices pitched with excited energy. You love exposing the young’uns to new experiences, but you don’t love the prospect of selling a kidney to afford it.
Rest easy. Here are 7 lifehacks (kidhacks? Er, no) to make traveling with kids a little easier in Bend.
Let someone else help you
Ahem. A story.
When my husband and I decided to take the kids to Mexico this past summer, my brain went into a tizzy. I traveled Mexico a ton in my pre-kid life, so I wanted to plan jungle hikes and beach excursions and cram ALL THE THINGS into our 7-day trip.
As you might imagine, I burned out fast. Luckily, I did it before we left town, which gave us time to schedule a few organized tours that took the burden off the grownups for planning and logistics.
Did it cost a little more? Yes. Was it worth every penny as far as my own peace of mind and relaxation went? Oh, dear Lord in heaven, YES.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t cram the car with kayaks or snowshoe gear and spend your time studying maps and getting lost on forest roads. Book an outing with Wanderlust Tours and let them handle all the details (including gear, transportation, and really fun, educational narratives during your adventure).
Ditto that if you want to go mountain biking (Cog Wild can hook you up!) The Bend Tour Company offers a variety of organized outings ranging from Segway tours to art exploration. Cowboy Carriage Company has a cool family-friendly outing called Pizza and a Wagon Ride Wednesday, which includes dinner for the whole family and a ride through Downtown Bend in a horse-drawn carriage.
But seriously, let someone else play tour guide for your family, at least for an afternoon. I promise you’ll thank me for it.
Time to eat!
Mealtimes can be a challenge when vacationing with kids, particularly if you have picky eaters, food allergies, or super young ones still learning when to use inside voices.
Luckily, you’ll find plenty of Bend eateries prepared to handle your brood. At Flatbread Community Oven in the Old Mill District, kids build their own pizzas, then watch with giddy glee as their creations bake in big wood-fired ovens.
If someone in your family has special dietary needs, you’ll find a cornucopia of options in Bend, ranging from vegan and vegetarian to gluten-free dining. Kids who only eat specific foods like burgers or grilled cheese will find plenty of spots for those delights, or check out our roundup of on-the-go breakfast picks for morning grub you can eat en route to your next adventure.
Budget-conscious families will be thrilled to know that kids eat free all day on Sundays at Fire in Bend, and their pizzas, wings, and salads will tempt most palates. Kids also eat free at 900 Wall after 5 p.m. on Sundays, so that’s a great spot to score creative Northwest cuisine with a “date night” vibe and enough kid-friendly choices to keep everyone happy. Seeking a more casual kids-eat-free scenario? Your young’uns will gobble up burritos and tacos at Longboard Louie’s, which offers free kids meals on Saturdays and Sundays. Keep in mind that all of these deals are contingent upon the parents ordering adult meals of their own.
And don’t think you have to miss out on the legendary Bend Ale Trail just because you have toddlers in tow. Check out the drool-worthy kids’ menus at Deschutes Brewery (which brews their own non-alcoholic root beer and ginger beer) and the kid-friendly fare at Bend Brewing Company, or set the wee ones loose on the wide, grassy lawn at Crux Fermentation Project while mom and dad sample some of the best beers in town.
Know where the toy stores are
Time for a special reward for kids who’ve been extra good?
Bend has several shopping zones, but the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend are the ones you’re most likely to visit during your Bend vacation. Lucky for you, they both have toy stores packed to the gills with unique offerings for all ages.
In the Old Mill, check out Wonderland Toy Shop. In Downtown Bend, don’t miss Leapin’ Lizards. If the kids are extra well-behaved, it’s worth knowing there’s a candy shop close by each shop (that’s Sweet Tooth Candy Shoppe in the Old Mill and Goody’s Chocolates downtown, with Powell’s Sweet Shoppe just a couple blocks from that).
Kids ski free at Mt. Bachelor
The snow hasn’t begun flying yet this season, so we’re a couple months away from knowing yet what sort of snow year we’ll have at Mt. Bachelor.
But one thing for certain? Mt. Bachelor will keep their kids ski free offer running. To learn more about it (and to start planning ahead for your winter vacation) go here!
Want more free stuff?
Plenty of fun things in Bend don’t cost you a penny. Take a family hike up Pilot Butte (and to make things extra fun, pack a bottle of bubbles and let the kids chase them around in the breeze at the top).
Go for a stroll through the Old Mill District and stop by the Ticket Mill to grab their free birdwatching guide and a pair of rental binoculars (also free!)
If your kids are nuts for volcanos (and who isn’t?!) cruise over to Newberry National Volcanic Monument and spend the day exploring a volcano the size of Rhode Island. There, you’ll see ancient lava flows, jagged volcanic glass, rivers, lakes, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, and forests.
If you’re feeling more indoorsy, keep an eye on the Facebook page for the High Desert Museum to see when their next free admission day is coming up. Or better yet…
Buy a family pass for the High Desert Museum
The High Desert Museum has long been one of my family’s favorite spots for fun, and we never seem to tire of checking out the otters, watching a birds of prey demo, or seeing what new exhibits they have on tap.
Want to support the museum AND get in as many times as you want throughout the year?
Become a Member! A family membership costs less than $100, and ensures your whole fam (that’s parents and all kids 19 and under) get in as many times as you want throughout the year. It’s a screamin’ deal, it helps keep the museum up and running, and makes an excellent holiday gift. Win/win!
Schedule something super-memorable
Without a doubt, your Bend vacation will be memorable. But with every family trip I take, I like to plan one special activity that’ll keep us talking around the dinner table for years to come.
For some families it’s something daring like bungee jumping or a scenic flight. For others it’s an evening telling ghost stories and making s’mores by a campfire. For some it’s a family photo shoot with a talented local photographer.
The possibilities are endless, and whatever you choose is sure to fix this vacation in your memories for as long as you’re all still kickin’.
Tons of travelers visit Bend with growlers in hand and their sights set on tackling the Bend Ale Trail. Others sip their way through distilleries and cideries that make up Drinkable Diversions.
But what if you want your liquid libations with no risk of hangover the next morning?
Whether you don’t dig alcohol in general, or you’re taking a break for some reason, there’s no need to stick with water. Here are thirteen tasty booze-free beverage options in Bend.
Passionfruit limeade at El Sancho
They have some of the tastiest tacos in town, and their candied yams are to-die-for. But El Sancho also makes one of the most flavorful, refreshing alcohol-free beverages in town. Each day, the folks at El Sancho squeeze a buttload of fresh limes to make their limeade base. You can order it just like that, but to really have your socks knocked off, order a passionfruit limeade. It’s blended with real passionfruit puree and so flavorful you’ll polish the whole thing off before your meal arrives.
Tasty, locally-made kombucha
Bend has at least half-a-dozen kombucha breweries in town, and you’ll find this healthful, fermented beverage on tap at lots of local pubs and restaurants. Parilla Grill (one of my favorite lunch spots) has three taps flowing with kombucha from Caboost, Bucha Buena, and Humm Kombucha—all of which are based in Bend. You can also fill a growler with kombucha at places like The Growler Guys and Food 4 Less (both of which have Humm Kombucha and Brew Dr. Kombucha on tap). Taste test all the flavors and pick a favorite (or 12!)
Blueberry mojito at Brickhouse
Plenty of upscale Bend restaurants will be happy to mix you a “mocktail” version of your favorite cocktail on their menu, but one of my favorites is the Blueberry Mojito at Brickhouse Steak House.
It’s made with freshly-muddled mint, fresh lime, oodles of plump blueberries, and a healthy splash of ginger beer. Bonus: It looks just like its alcoholic counterpart, and as plenty of women can attest, that’s handy if you want to swill a booze-free beverage without fending off unwanted inquiries about pregnancy.
Elderflower soda at Ariana
The first time I tasted this, I’d taken two food journalists to dinner at Ariana Restaurant to show them one of my favorite Bend culinary gems. Since I prefer to stay sharp when I’m in work mode, I asked the server for a non-alcoholic option. I was so blown away by their simple concoction of soda water, elderflower syrup, and lime that I wanted to drink this all night and skip the wine (which is a shame, considering Ariana’s wine list, but I digress). So simple, yet so flavorful, this little n/a soda puts most boozy cocktails to shame.
Fancy French cider at Jackalope Grill
Want to feel like you’re sipping something extra-special on a romantic date night, but skip the booze that might sabotage the romance? Order a glass of Duche de Longueville non-alcoholic sparkling cider at Jackalope Grill.
This alcohol-free cider comes from a 50-year-old apple orchard near Dieppe, France, where 15 chosen apple varieties are used to produce it. It’s served in a fancy wineglass to make the whole experience feel more luxurious.
Smoothies at Mother’s Juice Café
As the name implies, Mother’s Juice Café has plenty of freshly-squeezed juice to pick from. But my favorite libations here come from the smoothie menu. Pick from creative concoctions like the Little Bear (apple, strawberry, peach, vanilla yogurt, honey, fresh orange juice) or the Lavender (apple, mixed berries, banana, vanilla yogurt, hemp milk). But my favorite thing to do is to ask the smoothie experts at Mother’s to mix up something special. I spotted the cardamom syrup behind the counter recently and asked what would taste good with that. A few minutes later, I was sipping a delightful blend of fresh coconut meat, banana, almond milk, and the aforementioned cardamom. Delicious!
Freckled lemonade at Red Robin
Some people get snarky about chain restaurants, but the parents among you know sometimes that’s part of the package when you’re traveling with young kids. The familiar comfort of Red Robin’s bottomless freckled lemonade (complete with juicy hunks of strawberry) is made more delightful by the killer views of the Deschutes River you’ll soak up if you’re lucky enough to snag a window seat or a spot on the patio.
Bonus: Catch a movie or do some shopping in the Old Mill District when lunch is done.
Egg Cream at Goody’s
I’ve always been amused by the name “Egg Cream,” since the beverage contains neither egg nor cream. Popular on the East Coast, Egg Creams are made with soda water, chocolate syrup, and half-and-half. Locally-owned Goody’s Chocolates is a great place to grab one, with locations in several spots around Bend and Sunriver. I recently introduced my 10-year-old stepdaughter to the beverage, and upon her first sip, she declared it her new favorite drink.
Fresh-brewed root beer or ginger beer at Deschutes Brewery
I’ve always said the facility tours at Deschutes Brewery are fun for kids from a science/how-things-work perspective, but they recently made things even more kid-friendly with the addition of their own craft-brewed ginger beer and root beer.
Even the grownups among you will appreciate having a couple alcohol-free options available. When I swung by during a mid-afternoon outing with Bend Electric Bikes, it was nice to do a little beverage tasting without sucking down anything that would render me groggy for the remainder of my workday.
Thai iced tea at Toomie’s
Bend has tons of terrific Thai restaurants, and all of them offer some variation on the classic Thai iced tea. But there’s something about the one at Toomie’s that always seems extra special. Maybe it’s the aesthetic of the tall glass it’s served in, or the sweet, slightly-smoky flavor. Maybe it’s the way it pairs so perfectly with the green curry chicken I adore so much.
Fresh juice at Salud Raw Food
I’ve gushed previously about my fondness for this cozy little café specializing in raw and vegan food (which is noteworthy since I’m a devoted carnivore). In addition to having an awesome array of salads, wraps, and desserts, Salud Raw Food has a killer selection of fresh, organic juices. They expertly blend fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices for optimum flavor and zing. Try unique concoctions like the Hippy Hoppy (apple, carrot, spinach, lemon, beet, and ginger) or the Heavy Metal Detox (cilantro, lime, apple, pineapple, mint, and celery). And save room for dessert.
Dog beer from Dawg Grog
This one’s not for humans (though it’s totally safe to drink if you did want to try it). Dawg Grog is the original “dog beer,” a delicious and nutritious liquid treat supplement for dogs that’s made right here in Bend. Crafted with brewers wort, vegetarian k9 glucosamine, and vegan trace minerals, it’s a fun and alcohol-free way to share a cold one with your pup.
Pick some up at retailers all over Bend, including the Bend Visitor Center.
Italian Sodas at Bellatazza
Italian sodas were my go-to booze-free beverage for many years, with their simple blend of soda water, flavored syrup, and (optional) half-and-half. Unique flavors have always been my favorite, so I fancy the Italian sodas at Bellatazza Coffee in downtown Bend. Their syrups are produced by a local maker, who creates intriguing offerings like cardamom, lavender, and pumpkin spice. If Italian sodas aren’t your thing, have some of the syrup added to your coffee or chai.
It’s not autumn yet, but you can feel the season already whispering its way into Bend. Kids are back in school. Our nights and mornings are chillier. The crowds that show up to celebrate Bend’s peak summer season have drifted back home, leaving the city a little more mellow.
It’s my favorite time of year.
And it’s clear I’m not alone, if you judge by the plethora of special events commemorating fall in Bend. Here are four of my favorite autumn celebrations in Bend, Oregon.
Oktobercrest at Eagle Crest September 10
Technically not in Bend-proper, this jubilant little fall celebration at Eagle Crest Resort is well worth the 25-minute drive it takes to reach the site from your Bend hotel or vacation rental.
Eagle Crest’s annual Oktobercrest (clever name, eh?!) kicks off its fourth season on Saturday, September 10, 2016 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The event features an impressive array of German food, wine, and local beer. There’s also live music from The Happy Hans Band.
This is an especially family-friendly event, and kids get in free. For grownups, the $10 admission includes a commemorative pint glass and one pour. For more info, check out their website.
Bend Oktoberfest September 16-17
Ever wondered why most Oktoberfest celebrations happen in September? There’s a reason! The first Oktoberfest happened in Germany in 1810 to commemorate the Bavarian crown prince’s wedding in mid-October. When they decided to make it an annual affair, they bumped it earlier to take advantage of nicer weather in September.
That makes sense for Bend, too! Our city’s annual Oktoberfest in downtown Bend is a two-day celebration from September 16-17. It features games, food, beer, cider, live music, and kids’ entertainment like bouncy houses and face painting.
Probably the most popular event is the annual Wiener Dog Races, which will have you in stitches as you watch each gaggle of short-legged, tongue-flopping canines scurry to the finish line. Get there early if you want a good spot for viewing.
My favorite aspect of Bend’s Oktoberfest is something termed “absurd games of skill.” There are prizes for yodeling, tricycle races, a costume contest, and bendhamerschlagen (a race to hammer a nail into a custom table). They’re all hilarious, and you can scope out the schedule right here.
Bend Fall Festival September 30-October 2
Whether you require an extra dose of fall festivity, or you can’t make it for one of the aforementioned celebrations of autumn, the annual Bank of the Cascades Bend Fall Festival is a three-day affair that kicks off on Friday, September 30 in downtown Bend.
It’s similar to the other festivals with its live music, abundant food, and plenty of things to do for kids. But this festival also features a Harvest Market, a Fine Artist Promenade, and a variety of fun competitions like pie baking and a pumpkin carving contest.
You can scope out the full schedule here.
Bend Farmers Market through October 12
I know this isn’t a festival like the other three, but I’m including it because there’s something so . . . festive (for lack of a better word) about the Bend Farmers Market this time of year.
Every Wednesday from May through mid-October, local vendors gather in Bend’s Mirror Pond Plaza above Drake Park to sell local veggies, fruits, jams, flowers, meats, soaps, baked goods, and so much more. There’s live music and much merriment, but the months of September and October have something a little different.
Maybe it’s the brightness of turning leaves and pumpkins propped up on hay bales. Maybe it’s the joy of bundling up in colorful scarves and new boots. Maybe it’s the knowledge that we only have a few weeks left to snag farm fresh goodies in this quaint, friendly market.
But it’s probably all of those things combined that make a September stroll through the Bend Farmers Market the perfect way to usher in the fall season.
You know those heart-tugging stories on the evening news that make you feel happy to be a member of the human race?
While I won’t claim the folks in Bend are shiny-happy people 24/7, most of us spend a fair amount of time feeling darn grateful to be here. If the following 7 examples don’t make you smile at least a little, you might be dead inside.
We take care of our toys
Recreation lovers flock to Bend in droves, so our outdoor spaces need a little extra tending to keep them healthy. Thankfully, folks here are good about stepping up to the plate.
The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council has held an annual river cleanup for 20 years. Their most recent one in July resulted in more than 200 volunteers removing 1,400 pounds of garbage from the Deschutes River and its banks. Keep an eye on their website to learn how you can participate next year.
The Annual Smith Rock Spring Thing has also been going strong for more than two decades at Smith Rock State Park, with volunteers pitching in on cleanup efforts, special projects, and trail maintenance. The burrito supper afterward makes it even sweeter!
If fighting invasive weeds is your passion, join a Let’s Pull Together event in May or June to help eradicate those noxious plants.
And speaking of that . . .
It’s a team effort
When I reached out to Wanderlust Tours owner Dave Nissen for details on his company’s efforts to preserve our outdoor spaces, he wrote such a lovely response about Bend’s spirit of collaboration and corporate responsibility that I asked to share it with you. Take it away, Dave!
“A massive smile comes to my face knowing the volunteer efforts that take place in Bend. Bendites find a passion to take part in, and once this happens, they give of their time to improve the circumstances surrounding that passion. I see this made manifest in innumerable ways. One event that I am passionate about is Wanderlust Tours’ cave cleanup day. We simply clean up the environment around our cave systems. The sweetest thing about this is witnessing disassociated locals coming to be a part of this event. What used to be just Wanderlust Tours staff caring for the environment spread to passionate people at our local REI who jump on board to go “play” underground with us. Then a local restaurant, Jimmy Johns, got involved by asking if they could provide food for hungry volunteers, and their staff have joined in the day of community service. A local realtor, John Furrow with Fred Realty, got wind of our efforts and not only do John and his family join in, but he brings his associates and personal friends along to help foster Bend as a shining star of community fulfilling its passion through local service. Through a volunteer effort like this, relationships are built and our community is stronger for it. This infectiously makes me smile.”
Now I’m not just smiling. There might be a little something in my eye.
Dog lovers unite!
There’s a camaraderie among dog owners in Bend, and it’s part of the reason we were named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine.
Dog owners smile at each other whether they’re strolling the Old Mill District with their pooches on-leash, or visiting one of Bend’s eight dog parks.
Since I live near the city’s largest off-leash area, I’ve come to rely on it as my go-to mood brightener. If I’m having a crummy day, I grab my pup and head over there for an instant infusion of wagging tails and smiles from dog owners who always offer friendly pooch-related chatter.
Another bonus? Folks are serious about picking up after Fido, which you can see from the abundance of free doody bags in most Bend parks. The Downtown Bend Business Association recently added several doody bag dispensers around Downtown.
Make sure you grab one on your way into the Bend Visitor Center (which is dog-friendly, of course). While you’re here, you and Rover can snag a free dog biscuit donated by Mud Bay and a free collapsible dog bowl donated by Bend Pet Express.
Bend keeps you young
On Wednesday, a 98-year-old gentleman stopped by the Bend Visitor Center and mentioned how excited he was about purchasing his Mt. Bachelor season pass this year.
This was as he was on his way out to go jet-boating.
Oh, and have you ever looked at the results of the annual Pole, Pedal, Paddle and noticed how many competitors there are in the 70-74 age category or even 80+?
Think about that the next time you catch yourself muttering that you’re too old to do something.
Fresh from the garden
From May to October, I make it a point to stroll over to the Bend Farmers Market every Wednesday afternoon. It’s not because I desperately want fresh fruits, veggies, locally-sourced meats, cheeses, flowers, and jams (though there’s that, too).
But half the time I don’t even buy anything. I go because everyone there is smiling. There’s live music and cheerful mothers pushing strollers and the smell of fresh herbs in the air.
If you could bottle the vibe at the Bend Farmer’s Market, you could make millions selling it as an antidepressant.
So much free stuff
Of course we want you to stimulate Bend’s economy by spending money with locally-owned retailers who rely on it. But one of the cool things about Bend is how many amazing experiences don’t cost a dime.
Love art? You’ll dig the plethora of public art in Bend, ranging from the Roundabout Art Route to the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. If music is your scene, check out the wide range of free summertime concerts including Free Summer Sundays in the Les Schwab Amphitheater and Munch & Music in Drake Park (which segues into Munch & Movies as summer comes to a close).
Sun Country Tours offers free rental life jackets to anyone floating the river from Riverbend Park—even if you don’t rent gear from them!
Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream (a Bend staple for more than 30 years) offers free factory tours, which include a free sample of chocolate.
And of course, there’s the great outdoors. Hiking, swimming, and exploring in Bend are all totally free, and the return-on-investment is immeasurable.
The smiles . . .
Do something for me, okay?
The next time you’re out on the trail or strolling around Downtown Bend, pick a random stranger and smile.
This is assuming the random stranger hasn’t already smiled at you first, which isn’t a safe assumption.
If the recipient of your unsolicited grin doesn’t smile back, consult your Smartphone’s location tracker. You are not in Bend.
The headlines are freaking me out, guys. No, it’s not the politics.
It’s a scary uptick in the number of hikers, river floaters, and other recreation lovers forced to summon Deschutes County Search & Rescue when a day of outdoor play goes awry in Bend.
Our VP of Sales & Marketing suggested we share the “Ten Essentials” for camping and hiking in the wilderness, which is a darn fine idea. In fact, you should have it tattooed on your forearm.
But since not everyone visiting Bend has outdoor adventure on the agenda, I assembled my own “Ten Essentials” for the laidback traveler. The un-adventurer, if you will.
Behold, we give you Ten Essentials for an active (and a not-so-active) Bend vacation.
Ten Essentials, Nate Wyeth style
I live for exploring Bend’s outdoor landscapes, so I know the weather can change in mere seconds. That’s why it’s crucial to have the following ten items in your pack anytime you’re heading out camping, hiking, or exploring.
- A map and compass. Don’t count on Siri to get you where you’re going in the great outdoors. Coverage can be spotty in the wilderness, and you’re better off with one of the sturdy hard-copy maps you’ll find in the Bend Visitor Center or the Deschutes National Forest Welcome Station.
- Sun protection. The sun can be fierce in the high desert, so remember your shades and sunblock even if it’s cloudy.
- Extra clothing. Temps can fluctuate wildly in Central Oregon, so don’t forget layers. Gloves, hats, jackets, sweatshirts—even if you think you don’t need them, you want to be prepared.
- Illumination. Again, don’t rely on your cell phone. Pack a headlamp in case of an unplanned sleepover or a hike that goes later than expected.
- First aid supplies. You can find awesome little kits at outdoor equipment retailers like REI.
- Fire. A lighter or waterproof matches are essential when venturing into the outdoors. Just make sure you check first to be sure fires aren’t restricted in the area you’re hiking or camping.
- Tools. No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your hiking adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife.
- Extra food. Snacks, particularly high-protein ones, are essential. Think about how hungry you might get if your four-hour hike turned into a twenty-four-hour hike and pack accordingly.
- Extra water. This is a biggie, especially here in the high desert. Plan on drinking at least ½ cup to a cup of water every 30-40 minutes. A good water filtration system can work if you’re hiking along creeks or lakes, but don’t count on finding water everywhere. Always pack more H2O than you think you’ll need.
- Emergency shelter. Day-trippers getting caught unexpectedly overnight is frighteningly common, and smart adventurers always pack an ultralight tarp or emergency space blanket. Even a large plastic bag will do in a pinch (plus you can use it to collect trash and feel good about leaving your favorite adventure spot nicer than you found it).
Ten Essentials, Tawna Fenske style
I’m not lazy. Okay, I’m not always lazy. I do love hiking and snowshoeing and standup paddleboarding, and you’ll find me enjoying those things pretty often in Bend.
But there are times I just want to go full-on vacation mode when reveling in my hometown. For those who want to experience Bend in a more laidback fashion, here are my ten essentials:
- A good book. First things first. If you’re lounging lakeside or by your hotel pool, you need good reading material. Hit a quirky local bookstore like Dudley’s Bookshop Café (where they also make a mean cup of coffee).
- Super-cute sandals or slip-ons. If you’re a dude, omit “super-cute.” But you do need good slip-ons, because tying shoes is sooooo tedious. Resist flip-flop temptation, since those slip off when floating the river. Tevas, Chacos, or Keens are perfect for summer. In wintertime, Downtown Bend retailers like North Soles and CC McKenzie have a great array of clogs and loafers.
- Sunscreen. Here’s one of several items you’ll find on both lists. To make things easier, opt for a locally-made spray like T’s Tonics SPF 30 Sunscreen so you don’t have to rub in a pesky cream. You can also go the pampering route with luxurious suncare products from local fave Angelina’s.
- Tickets. Even if you plan to spend 90% of your Bend vacation lazing in a float tube on the river, save one evening for dinner and a show. Maybe it’s a concert at the Tower Theatre or an indy movie during BendFilm, but you’re gonna want to sample Bend’s lively arts and culture scene.
- Postcard stamps. You want to gloat to all your friends about how awesome your vacation is, right? Hit the Bend Visitor Center for a great selection of postcards. And if you forget the stamps, we’re just 100 feet from the closest post office.
- Waterproof case for your iPod or phone. Whether you’re on the river or near a pool, there’s a good chance you’ll interact with a body of water in Bend. I’ve lost enough phones to know a LifeProof case or OtterBox is a smart idea.
- Gourmet snacks. When you’re treating yourself, no ordinary Doritos will do. Hit Newport Market for the best selection of gourmet goodies and locally-made specialty items, or hit Devore’s across the street for killer wraps and salads.
- Beverages in good containers. Water is essential whether you’re trudging up a mountain or lounging by a lake, but don’t forget to sample Bend’s craft beer scene, too. Fill a couple Hydro Flasks with ice and water, then stock a DrinkTank Growler with Keg Cap Accessory Kit with your favorite brew from the Bend Ale Trail. Just make sure you pack out all cups and trash or I will hunt you down and pee on your lawn.
- Cash. Whether you’re tipping the bartender or just trying to keep track of your vacation budget, an ample stash of cash is a good idea for a lazy vacation. Bonus: When small local retailers aren’t hit with credit card fees, it helps keep prices low for all of us.
- Cozy loungewear. Yala Bamboo Dreams clothing made from breathable, anti-microbial, temperature-regulating bamboo is the most comfortable stuff imaginable. I have nighties, a robe, and even a skirt purchased from Oregon Body and Bath in Downtown Bend. Bonus: they have a great stock of bath products so you can really pamper yourself.
Sometimes, you just want to be dirty. I mean really dirty.
Those of you who don’t have your minds in the gutter know I’m talking about mud, dust, dirt-inspired culinary treats, and all the ways you can enjoy those things in Bend.
Here are six ideas for how to get your fill of dirty deeds and delights in Bend.
Gobble some gravel on a mountain bike trail
Mountain biking is one of those sports where you kinda expect to get a little grubby. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ll be delighted to know Bend has nearly 300 miles of singletrack ranging from sweet, flowy dirt to kid-friendly trails to epic dirt jumps. Scope out our mountain biking page for details.
Remember to follow respectful trail etiquette by staying off muddy trails so ruts don’t form, and never skid on corners or blow out berms.
Want to enjoy Bend’s epic mountain biking dirt to its fullest? Book a guided trip with Cog Wild. They’ll not only hook you up with all the right gear, but they’ll show you where to go and how to ride whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned expert. They also offer shuttles for mountain bikers who want to avoid the need to do the double-car shuffle.
Let your young’uns get filthy
Kids love mud, and while parents might not always love doing the laundry, you’ve gotta admit it’s pretty fun to see your offspring grinning ear-to-ear while covered head-to-toe in dirt.
For the ultimate kid-friendly mud adventure, sign your child up for the Kids Obstacle Challenge at Mt. Bachelor on August 20, 2016. Kids ages 5-16 will have a chance to rope swing into a mud pit, army crawl through tough terrain, scale up rugged cargo nets, and slide into a muddy paradise.
But the very best thing? Parents are invited to run for FREE! You can pretend you’re just supporting your offspring, when in reality you’re seizing the opportunity to get just as muddy as your kiddo.
For details and signup info, go here.
Let mud make you glow
If mud is your thing, you’ll find a number of Bend day spas that can leave you feeling dirty and pampered all at once.
Spa W offers a Moor Mud Body Mask that’s simply divine. They start with a dry brush exfoliation before smoothing on generous portions of Moor Mud and wrapping you in a cocoon. Next comes a facial massage, followed by a serene Vichy shower and light moisturizing application. You can read more about it here.
Prefer to get your mud on in the privacy of your Bend vacation home or hotel? Bend favorite Angelina Skincare has a Terramoor Restorative Herbal Mud Mask designed to remove impurities and leave skin feeling refreshed and smooth. Swing by their shop in Downtown Bend to check it out in-person.
Scope out the cyclocross scene
If you’re not familiar with cyclocross, it’s a type of off-road bike racing with competitors navigating grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, and a variety of obstacles along the course. In other words, it’s crazy fun to watch.
If you are familiar with it and you feel like scoping out the scene, you’ll find all kinds of cyclocross listings on Visit Bend’s event calendar. Most events take place in late-fall through early winter, offering a fun shoulder-season activity whether you’re warching or participating.
Bend’s biggest and most spectator-friendly cyclocross event is the Halloween Cross Crusades in October. Check out the schedule online, then show up to watch riders get covered head-to-toe in dust and mud and sweat and blood.
Er, that sounded more sadistic than I meant it to.
Need more mud-themed events?
Cyclocross isn’t the only mud-sport around.
You’ll see other mud-themed races popping up from time to time on the calendar, so try searching the keyword “mud” at www.visitbend.com and look for events happening in the coming year.
Fill your belly with dirt
It might not sound appetizing, but there are lots of ways to get a delicious dirt fix around Bend. Plenty of local watering holes can hook you up with a delicious mudslide or a dirty martini. Make sure you request locally-made spirits from Bendistillery, Oregon Spirit Distillers, or Cascade Alchemy.
Looking for a dirt-inspired entrée? You can make these scrumptious Sloppy Joes using Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Porter. Yummy! You’ll also find dirty rice popping up alongside Cajun-inspired entrees at places like Zydeco or Fat Tuesday’s.
Ready for dessert? Don’t forget the famous Mud Pie at the Pine Tavern (one of Bend’s longest-standing restaurants in business for more than 80 years). It’s creamy and sweet and oh-so-delicious when paired with a selection from their impressive list of dessert wines.
Get dirty, then clean, then dirty again on the Paulina Plunge
If you ask my stepkids their favorite Bend activity they’ve enjoyed over the years, I guarantee they’ll mention the Paulina Plunge. This is a full-day adventure tour that includes mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, splashing, jumping, and sliding.
As you might imagine, splashing in a waterfall and then hopping on a mountain bike will leave your legs a little muddy. And your arms. And probably other parts of your body, too. But that’s half the fun, and if you find yourself feeling too gritty, there’s bound to be another waterfall to rinse off in along the way.
Make sure you book your Paulina Plunge outing in advance of your vacation, since this family-friendly adventure tends to fill up early. And if you want my full recap on my family’s experience with the Paulina Plunge, go here.
Time to clean up now!
Cleaning up after a full day of frolicking in mud can be half the fun if you know how to do it right.
You’ll find many Bend hotels, Bend vacation homes, and Bend B&Bs have bike wash stations, so phone ahead and make sure your chosen home-away-from-home has what you need if you’re planning to get grubby on a bike.
Did you bring your four-legged friend with you? You’ll find plenty of awesome u-wash dog spots in Bend. I’m partial to locally-owned Bend Pet Express where the oatmeal shampoo leaves my pup smelling like cookies for days afterward.
And speaking of cleaning up, make sure you’re practicing leave-no-trace ethics when you’re out there enjoying the wilderness. Bring a trash bag with you when you hike and leave your favorite trail even nicer than you found it.
Now go out there and get dirty!
It turned out to be pretty popular, which makes sense since the venue itself can draw up to 8,000 patrons per show.
But there’s more than one concert venue in Bend, a fact I’ve been reminded of over the last couple weeks as I’ve purchased tickets to see The Wailin’ Jennys at The Tower Theatre, Lord Huron at the Athletic Club of Bend, and Band of Horses at Century Center.
Every single one of those venues has different rules for seating, purchasing tickets, and what you’re allowed to bring inside, and I encourage you to check their websites for specifics.
But I wanted to offer a bit of broader advice to help you (and everyone around you!) enjoy your concert experience to the fullest.
Where can I park my butt, and where can I shake it?
Some concerts are hard-rockin’ parties where everyone smooshes together to dance like some big multi-headed groove monster. Other concerts have attendees sitting quietly in their numbered seats with their hands folded in their laps.
Since you’re not likely to see “multi-headed groove monster” on a venue’s website, you need to do some homework.
First things first. Check the website not just for the venue where the concert is being held, but for that specific artist. A Phish concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater might not allow blankets or chairs at all, while a Jackson Browne concert at the same venue might have separate areas for numbered seats, dancing zones, and the general admission zone where folks stake out spots with blankets and low-backed chairs. Find out what’s allowed at that exact venue for that exact show.
But that’s only half the story.
Every concert has its own vibe and its own unspoken rules, so this is where you’ll have to do some people watching. Once you’ve purchased your tickets and arrived at the show, study the folks around you. See that couple seated on the blanket? Don’t put your tall chair in front of them. That’s bad concert karma.
Go find a nice spot in front of some other folks with chairs. (Sidenote: Make sure you measure the height of your chair beforehand to be sure it conforms to the venue’s rules. I’ve seen many-a-concertgoer get turned away for a chair that’s too tall).
Okay, so now what? Well, you’ve gotta wait for the music to start. If everyone around you stays seated, you should do the same. But if you’re itching to shake it like a Polaroid picture, odds are good you’re not alone. Watch the crowd to spot your fellow boogie buds. If they start popping up like prairie dogs to dance in place, go ahead and do the same. You’ll likely spark a big wave of happy feet.
But if the dancers start streaming to a spot at the front of the stage or off to the side, go join them there. That way the folks who want to stay seated can do that, while you and your new dance pals rock it hard in your own little dance zone.
Shhh! No talking
It doesn’t matter if you’re watching an opera performance at the The Tower Theatre or a hip-hop performer in the middle of the street at the Bend Fall Festival. Carrying on a conversation that lasts the whole concert is soooo not cool. A few quiet remarks to your buddies is fine. A whispered observation to your spouse is no problem.
But yammering at your friends through the whole show is a good way to add “enemies” to the list of souvenirs acquired on your Bend vacation.
About those assigned seats…
Some shows are general admission and some have ticketed seats. Some have a mix of both. You’ll know which kind of ticket you’re holding before you walk into the venue.
But there’s a funny thing I’ve seen happen at ticketed shows. Folks with several people in their party will go shopping online and realize there aren’t enough seats all together in the row they want. “I’ll just buy these three single seats in row two,” the concertgoer thinks to himself. “We can ask everyone to shuffle around so we can sit together.”
Guys, no. This isn’t an airplane. The folks who’ve purchased front-and-center seats in that aisle did so because that’s where they wanted to sit. And the guy a few seats down isn’t too eager to scooch to a spot that requires him to crane his neck for a good view of the stage.
If your concert ticket has a seat assigned to it, please sit in that seat. You can meet up with your pals along the Bend Ale Trail after the show to talk about how much the experience rocked.
Kids and concerts
Just because you have a couple mini-mes in tow doesn’t mean you should miss out on your favorite concert.
But it does mean you have to pay extra-close attention to the whole “assessing the vibe around you” stuff I mentioned above. It also means you have to check the concert website extra-super-duper close to make sure it’s not an 18-and-older or 21-and-older show.
But assuming you’ve done that, here’s the deal: I’ve taken my step-kids to oodles of shows at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Sometimes there’s a big mob of kids doing cartwheels off to the side, and as long as they’re not bugging anyone and you’re watching to make sure they’re safe, it’s cool to let your offspring join the fun.
Where problems arise is when you park screamy, squirrelly kids in front of that childless couple who just wants to sit quietly and watch the concert. That’s no bueno. Keep your eyes peeled for other families at the venue, and go sit nearby. Folks who don’t want to sit near kids will know to steer clear, and your youngsters might even make new friends.
It’s also worth noting there are tons of Bend concerts that are super-duper kid-friendly. Check out the Free Summer Sundays concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater on Sundays, or the Wednesday shows in Drake Park for the Munch & Music concerts. Those are great places to let your young’uns get up and groove while you enjoy the live music in your own way.
Preferably with a glass of wine in hand.
August is here, so it’s officially my birthday month in Bend.
Thank you, thank you . . . you can go ahead and send gifts to the Bend Visitor Center.
In all seriousness, just being in Bend right now is a gift for me. The weather is warm, the nights are starry, and there’s an air of festivity that (much to my amazement) has little to do with strangers wanting to celebrate the month of my birth.
Here are five reasons I love August—my birthday month—in Bend, Oregon.
A high-altitude dinner
One of my favorite summertime rituals is dining at the stunning altitude of 7,800 feet above sea level. If you think the views would be incredible, you’re absolutely right. If you think August (with its warm temps and getting-earlier-every-evening sunsets) would be the best time to enjoy it, you’re also right.
Each year, Mt. Bachelor serves up sunset dinners at their Pine Marten Lodge beginning in July and going through early September. It’s a narrow window of time, and reservations go super-quick, but oh, what a view!
The food is spectacular, the wine and beer list impressive, and did I mention the views?
Visit their website for dates, times, and reservation info. Also, remember to bundle up and bring extra layers. It gets chilly up there!
The sunsets, oh, the sunsets!
Sunsets are spectacular all year long in Bend, but there’s something about sunsets in August that makes them extra colorful.
Okay, fine. That “something” might be smoke from forest fires around the Pacific Northwest, which turns normal sunset hues into Technicolor glory. Reds, oranges, pinks, purples . . . you’ll see all the colors of the Crayola box in August’s evening skies.
Check out this post for ideas on the best spots to catch a summertime sunset in Bend.
Wanna get fresh?
Our growing season is short in Central Oregon, which can be tricky for local restaurants that specialize in locally-sourced food. But August is a time of bounty, so it’s a great time to hit dining spots with on-site gardens or a reputation for snagging the best local produce.
Chow has a glorious array of garden beds on their property, and their menu reflects it this time of year. Ask your server what’s fresh that day, and choose your meal based on what’s being harvested just a few feet away at that very moment.
Worthy Brewing is another spot with on-site gardens that yield much of the restaurant’s produce. They also have their own hop growing yard, which doubles as a research facility for Oregon State University. That means you can eat and drink the best of what’s fresh and local.
Some like it hot
I’m perpetually freezing, which might be attributable to a low-functioning thyroid or to my co-workers’ great love of air conditioning. Take your pick.
But since August brings some of the high desert’s toastiest temperatures, I absolutely revel in it. I could spend all day out on my standup paddleboard letting the bright sun beat down on me, and then head to happy hour at Anthony’s or Greg’s Grill or one of Bend’s other amazing riverfront dining spots (there are 11 of them!) to soak up the last rays of sunshine.
If you share my fondness for long days with glorious, warm sunshine, you’ll love August in Bend.
What’s got everyone so giddy?
There’s a noticeable jubilation in the air when it’s August in Bend. People are skipping along hiking trails or dancing at concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. They’re strolling hand-in-hand around Downtown Bend, and they’re splashing on the beach at Riverbend Park.
Yes, I’ll be the first to admit there are a lot of people in Bend when August rolls around. It’s peak tourist season, and that means a whole lot of bodies are packed together.
But the happy, smiling, laughing faces attached to those bodies? Priceless.
I’m currently on a family vacation in Mexico, and as you might imagine, there was a whirlwind of packing chaos in the days before the trip. Should I squish sunscreen into TSA-approved 3oz bottles, or just buy it when I get there? Do I need something fancy to wear, or will a simple sundress suffice?
While I don’t yet know the answers to those questions, I do know what you should pack for a Bend vacation. In fact, I blogged a whole packing list a couple years ago.
But the flip side of that is equally important. What are the things you shouldn’t bother packing? The stuff that’ll only take up space you should be saving for all those souvenirs you’ll bring back?
Here are six things that made my do-not-pack list.
Let me be clear that I’m not saying you shouldn’t wear sunscreen. You definitely should, even in the dead of winter. Bend’s altitude and high desert climate make you extra susceptible to sunburn, so be sure to grease up whether you’re lounging by the pool or hitting the slopes at Mt. Bachelor.
But there are tons of places to load up on SPF once you arrive in Bend, so there’s no sense risking a ruptured bottle in your duffle bag or a frustratingly crammed TSA-approved baggie in your carry-on luggage.
Consider it an opportunity for you to scope out Bend’s shopping scene while supporting the local economy. Try a great locally-made product like T’s Tonics SPF 30 Sunscreen or the variety of sun care products from Angelina’s (which has a shop in Downtown Bend). Both companies’ goodies are made with all-natural, organic ingredients and will leave your skin feeling oh-so-nice.
I love throwing on a cute sundress and strappy sandals for a summertime date night, but you know what? It’s not necessary. Walk into any Bend restaurant—even the fanciest ones—and I guarantee at least half the people will be wearing shorts or jeans.
All that to say that if you like to be dressy, rock on with your fancy-pants self. But if you’re wondering whether you need to cram in a pair of khakis or a little-black-dress for that dinner at 900 Wall or Zydeco or Jackalope Grill or Ariana or one of countless other amazing restaurants in Bend, the answer is “not unless you want to!”
This sounds counterintuitive, since I most definitely encourage you to fill a growler while you’re out swilling beer on the Bend Ale Trail.
It’s mostly that I know how cool it is to have a souvenir growler from someplace I’ve visited and want to remember fondly. So many local breweries have super-unique growlers (Deschutes Brewery and Crux Fermentation Project spring to mind). You can also splurge on a deluxe growler from Hydro Flask or DrinkTanks to ensure your brew stays icy cold and fresh. That means you can take some home, along with your sudsy memories.
I’ll admit I’m guilty of cramming my purse and carry-on with snacks when I travel. Like I honestly think there won’t be food where I’m going?!
While little kids and low blood sugar certainly warrant a snack or two tucked away in a bag, don’t make the mistake of bringing so many crackers and cookies and mixed nuts from home that you neglect to get out there and sample Bend’s local cuisine.
By all means, bring gadgets to keep the kids occupied on the road trip, or toss in a pack of playing cards to enjoy around the campfire.
But make sure you encourage the little darlings to set down the iPad and spend time looking out the window at the amazing natural beauty en route to Bend. Ditto that for the grownups in the group. There’s so much to do in Bend’s great outdoors that you won’t want to spend even a minute holed up in your hotel room playing Cards Against Humanity. I promise.
If you clicked through on my link above about what you should bring on your Bend vacation, you’ll notice I encouraged you to bring your laptop, sketch pad, musical instrument, or camera. There’s something about Bend that fosters great creativity, and as an author who spent part of her honeymoon working on a book with a tight deadline, believe me—I’m the last person in the world to tell you not to bring work on your vacation.
But do it in moderation. If you’ve promised your boss you’ll do a little work on vacation, consider the amount you think you’ll do and cut it in half. Seriously. Don’t shortchange your Bend vacation by spending too much time keeping up on work email. It’ll still be there when you get back, but your time in Bend is precious and short. Use it wisely.
Is there anything more serene, more inspiring, more enchanting, than an evening spent gazing up at the stars in wonder?
While you can check out the astral wonders almost any time of year in Bend, summer is primo season for stargazing, with warmer nights and clear skies. Here are 6 spots in Bend and Central Oregon to get your star fix.
Pine Mountain Observatory
The crème de la crème when it comes to Central Oregon stargazing, the Pine Mountain Observatory is located 26 miles southeast of Bend at an elevation of 6,500. To put that into perspective, Bend is at 3,600 feet, so even during the warmest months of summer, you’ll want to pack a few extra layers to avoid freezing your butt off.
But oh what a view you’ll have once you get there! Since this observatory is part of the University of Oregon Physics Department, they have the biggest and best equipment you could possibly imagine. You can try out a telescope of aperture 15, 24, and 32-inches, or just wander around staring up at the sky with your naked eyes.
The facility is open to the public May through September, and hours are limited. Go here for schedule info, directions, and more useful details.
The Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center
The stargazing in Central Oregon is so awesome, we have not one, but two observatories within 30 minutes of Bend!
Like Pine Mountain, the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center (which you’ll also see referenced as the Sunriver Observatory) requires a little drive time to reach. Located at the Sunriver Nature Center, the Observatory is about 19 miles southwest of Bend. They boast the largest collection of telescopes for public use in the entire country, which is pretty impressive. There are too many to describe them all, but you can go here to see a complete list of both lunar and solar telescopes.
The Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center also boasts a nice, long season, with a schedule that spans from spring through fall and even offers some occasional wintertime hours. Their website has up-to-date info on everything from scheduled hours to private parties to school programs and more.
Bonus: Daytime viewings and solar telescopes give you a chance to scan the skies long before the sun sets.
Nighttime adventures with Wanderlust Tours
Looking for a way to combine outdoor adventure with a chance to be dazzled by the night sky? Wanderlust Tours has you covered whether it’s the height of summer or the chilly days of winter!
During the summer months, head out on one of the high Cascade Lakes with an epic Starlight or Moonlight Canoe Tour (the difference being the phase of the moon, of course). Your naturalist guide will point out constellations and planets, and pack your brain full of awesome information about everything from trees to animals to the geology of Central Oregon.
In the wintertime, take your pick between the Moonlight or Starlight Snowshoe Tours, or their ever-popular Bonfire on the Snow snowshoe tour. Both are a terrific way to revel in glittery fields of snow underfoot and glittery blankets of stars overhead.
No telescopes are needed, but they do provide all the gear you’ll need for canoeing or snowshoeing, plus snacks, transportation, and the best education you could possibly ask for on Bend’s natural wonders.
High Desert Museum
While there’s no planetarium or permanent exhibit devoted to the stars, you’ll frequently find programs and temporary exhibits celebrating the night sky at the High Desert Museum.
For instance, next week (July 25-29, 2016) there’s a Kids’ Camp for second and third graders called Out of This World. Kids will learn about Sir Isaac Newton, investigate zero gravity, explore the solar system, and even launch a rocket. While next week’s camp is full, there’s currently a wait list, so contact them if your little astronaut would like a shot at getting called up.
And in the meantime, keep your eyes on their website for more amazing programs and exhibits being added to the schedule constantly.
Set out on your own
Prefer to have a little privacy for your stargazing adventures? There are lots of spots to throw down your blanket and gaze heavenward for a clear view of the night sky.
If you want to stick close to the center of Bend, just seek out spots a bit removed from the bright lights of downtown or surrounding neighborhoods. Sprawl out on a soccer field at Pine Nursery Park, or don your headlamp for a sunset hike up Pilot Butte (uh, you’ll want to switch off that light for the best star views!)
Willing to drive a bit? The Oregon Badlands Wilderness just east of town is a nice wide-open area away from the city lights. Keep in mind you’re venturing into a wilderness area at night, so be smart about staying on the trails and sticking close to your vehicle.
Other primo spots for solo stargazing include the Dee Wright Observatory, anyplace east of Horse Butte, and any campsite up at the high Cascade Lakes.
Also, Brasada Ranch makes an excellent spot to enjoy a nice dinner and a bit of stargazing on the lawn before you head back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.
Coming soon to Worthy Brewing
I’m jumping the gun a bit with this one, but I’m so freakin’ excited that it’s worth including!
Worthy Brewing is known for its killer beers, fabulous food, and unique location on the Northeast edge of Bend. It’s the unique location that puts them in a primo spot for stargazing, so the powers-that-be decided to do something about that.
Earlier this summer, they began construction on a brand new Hopservatory. The dome was installed earlier this week, and the brewery has ordered a state-of-the-art telescope that customers will be able to use.
The Hopservatory is expected to be complete sometime in the fall of 2016, but for those who want to scope things out a little early, Worthy has partnered up with the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center. From 8:30-10 p.m. on Monday, July 25, and Mondays August 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, Observatory staff will be on hand with a telescope for customers to use. They’ll also offer solar viewing on Saturdays from 12- 2 p.m. July 16, 23, and 30 as well as August 6, 13, 20, and 27.
Keep an eye on the Worthy Facebook page for news on grand openings and special star viewing parties. In the meantime, you’d better start sampling some Worthy beers so you know which pairs best with a heaping scoop of stars.