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

June 17th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center (SHARC)

Fun for the whole family at SHARC in Sunriver.

Fun for the whole family at SHARC in Sunriver.

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


Cascade Indoor Sports

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

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

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

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

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


Mt. Bachelor

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

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

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

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


Sun Mountain Fun Center

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

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

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

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


The Deschutes River

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

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

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


The Old Mill District

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

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

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

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

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


Widgi Creek Golf Course

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

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


Elk Lake, Devil’s Lake, Little Lava Lake

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Pilot Butte

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

Chasing bubbles on Pilot Butte.

Chasing bubbles on Pilot Butte.

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


Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center

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

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

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


Juniper Swim & Fitness Center

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



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

June 11th, 2015

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

Not that I’m complaining.

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

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

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

Bontá Gelato

Chill out with Bontá Gelato

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

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

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

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


Grab an old-fashioned soda at Goody’s

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

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

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


Gulp a malt at Pilot Butte Drive-In

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Feast on cool gazpacho at Barrio

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

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

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

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

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


Snag sushi from Kanpai or Shinsei

Yummy sushi at Kanpai.

Yummy sushi at Kanpai.

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

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

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


Gobble up an Ahi Poke salad at 5 Fusion

Cool and tasty Ahi Poke salad from 5 Fusion.

Cool and tasty Ahi Poke salad from 5 Fusion.

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

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


4 little white lies to help you play hooky in Bend

June 4th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


EXCUSE #4: My dog is sick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 28th, 2015

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

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

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


I hate beer!

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

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

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

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

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

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


I hate the outdoors!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I hate crowds!

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

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

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

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

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

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


I hate snow!

Come to Bend in the summer.


I hate the heat!

Come to Bend in the winter.


I hate fun!

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







How to rock your 2015 Memorial Day Weekend in Bend

May 20th, 2015

Every year, Memorial Day Weekend marks the kickoff of peak tourism in Bend. It’s when the Bend Visitor Center switches to being open seven days a week (9-5 weekdays, 10-4 weekends) so visitors can meander by for maps, brochures, and tips.

There’s a lot going on in Bend every Memorial Day Weekend, and 2015 is no exception. Here are seven things you might want to have on your agenda.


Shake your groove thing with The Decemberists, Ryan Adams, and Robert Plant

Sunset at the Les Schwab Amphitheater is one of many reasons to attend at least one concert there this Memorial Day Weekend.

Sunset at the Les Schwab Amphitheater is one of many reasons to attend at least one concert there this Memorial Day Weekend.

I’ve been hitting the Les Schwab Amphitheater for Memorial Day Weekend concerts every year since the venue opened, and I’ve gotta admit—2015 has one of the best lineups I’ve ever seen.

On Friday night (May 22) The Decemberists return to Bend to share their unique brand of American folk rock. I’ve seen this awesome Grammy-nominated band there once before, so I know the show is going to be fab (doubly so with the presence of opening act Spoon).

The Saturday night (May 23) show will feature Ryan Adams, another Grammy-nominated musician known for his unique country/rock/folk style and a name that’s easily confused with ‘80s musician Bryan Adams (not the same guy). My husband is actually more excited about opening act Jenny Lewis, so luckily, we get to enjoy both for the price of one ticket. Well, two tickets, unless we decide to rent a gorilla suit and cram both of us inside so we can get in for the price of one, but that just sounds hot and itchy.

Sunday night is a chance to give your liver a break from all those trips to the beer gardens and wine tent at the concert venue. On Monday (May 24) the Les Schwab Amphitheater will welcome the legendary Robert Plant (yes, THAT Robert Plant—former front man for Led Zeppelin, and winner of so many rock awards he’s probably stopped keeping track). If I were a betting woman, I’d say there’s a chance this show could sell out, so go here to get ticket info for this show or any other that piques your interest.


Play outside with temps in the upper 60s

OK, I'm not nuts about the possible rain on Friday, but the rest of this forecast looks pretty killer for Memorial Day Weekend.

I’m not nuts about the possible rain on Friday, but the rest of the forecast looks pretty killer for Memorial Day Weekend.

Unless the weatherman is lying, it looks like Bend has ordered up the perfect weather for Memorial Day Weekend 2015. Temps are expected to be in the upper 60s, which makes it perfect for some spring hiking or a round of golf on one of 26 courses scattered around Central Oregon.

Our marketing director and his wife will probably be out mountain biking or trail running, while my hubby and I are gearing up for an afternoon of standup paddleboarding on the Deschutes River.


Kick off Central Oregon Beer Week along the Bend Ale Trail

Cheers to Central Oregon Beer Week and the Bend Ale Trail!

Cheers to Central Oregon Beer Week and the Bend Ale Trail!

You can make your way around the Bend Ale Trail pretty much any day of the year, gathering passport stamps and collecting prizes for sipping your way along an impressively diverse group of breweries.

But Memorial Day Weekend also marks the start of Central Oregon Beer Week 2015. The event spans May 22-31 and includes tours, tastings, live music, parties, food specials, beer education, contests, and more. You can view a complete calendar of events here.



Who’s ready for some trout fishing?

Let’s go fishing

Bend is known around the country as a fishing mecca, with Fly Fisherman magazine naming the city one of the top fly fishing towns in the nation. Trout season is already open on the lower Deschutes River, but this weekend it opens on the upper Deschutes as well. Now’s a great time to get out there on your own, or book a fishing excursion with one of the reputable fishing outfitters in Bend.




Hit opening day at the Central Oregon Saturday Market

Kick off the 2015 season of the Central Oregon Saturday Market across the street from the Deschutes Public Library. Browse handcrafted jewelry, artwork, clothing, household goods, and more.

It's opening weekend for the Central Oregon Saturday Market, so you get a bonus day!

It’s opening weekend for the Central Oregon Saturday Market, so you get a bonus day!

Normally, this is a Saturday-only event (as you might’ve guessed from the name) but for Memorial Weekend they’re open both Saturday and Sunday. This is always a great spot to grab gifts to take home to friends and family, so bring an extra shopping bag.


Catch a ballgame at the Bend Elks Youth Baseball Tournament

Since 2005, the Bend Elks (our local baseball team) have hosted one of the Northwest’s biggest youth baseball tournaments. Even if you’re not the world’s greatest fan of the sport, it’s hard not to be impressed by the backdrop of the Cascade Mountains and the sheer volume of high school athletes journeying here to play their young hearts out.

If you’re just showing up to watch, you’ll be happy to know there’s no gate fee. Catch a game or two, eat a hot dog, and feel happy knowing proceeds from team entry fees help support youth baseball in Bend. You can find details and game schedules here.


Two great bike races for the cycling crowd         

Road cyclists rejoice on Saturday, May 23, in the fast and furious Bend Don’t Break circuit course bike race. A beginner’s clinic that morning gives newbies a chance to prepare, or race hard in the more elite categories. The race is part of the 2015 Oregon Women’s Prestige Series, though there are plenty of men’s categories as well. It’s also part of the Oregon Senior Games this year, so folks in the 50+ category have a chance to vie for a spot in the National Senior Games.

Only at the Sisters Stampede do horses and mountain bikes ride side by side.

Only at the Sisters Stampede do horses and mountain bikes ride side by side.

On Sunday, May 24, head west to Sisters with your mountain bike strapped to your car, and get ready for the Sisters Stampede. This uniquely-Sisters event lets you race your bike on the beautiful Peterson Ridge Trail in Sisters. This is Oregon’s largest cross country mountain bike race, with 23 different race categories, and a party at the finish line. Each racer gets a goody bag filled with cool schwag, and there’s $1000 in cash prizes up for grabs for the top three men and women in the Pro or Cat 1 categories. There’s also a free kids’ race. For event details and registration, go here.

Believe it or not, that’s only a sampling of events happening in and around Bend this weekend. For a complete list, check out the Visit Bend Event Calendar. You can search for cool happenings this weekend or any other weekend you plan to Visit Bend.








10 vegan dishes you’ll love in Bend (even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian!)

May 14th, 2015
Cheesecake at Salud: Raw, vegan, and totally delicious.

Cheesecake at Salud: Raw, vegan, and totally delicious.

As you might have guessed from my previous blog posts on Bend’s best burgers, best bacon dishes, and best hot wings, I like meat.

But I have friends who avoid all meat and dairy, and I routinely field questions about the best spots in Bend, Oregon for someone who is on a strict vegan diet or who just enjoys vegetarian dining. While carnivores accompanying vegetarian companions can sometimes feel dread at the thought of forgoing critter flesh at mealtime, there are lots of restaurants in Bend whipping up vegan cuisine that’s sure to please the palates of meat lovers and plant-based diners alike.

Here are 10 vegan dishes from Bend restaurants you’re guaranteed to love whether you prefer to eat your animal friends or cuddle them.

Taco salad and dessert at Salud! Raw Food

I’m leery of any vegetarian restaurant that serves nothing but raw, vegan chow, and I’m also not a big fan of dessert. In theory, that should make me the last person in the world to enjoy Salud! Raw Food, but the truth is that I really dig this place.

Everything here is raw, vegan (though they do occasionally use honey), and organic, and you’ll find a plethora of wraps, salads, and smoothies on the menu.

Yummy taco salad from Salud.

Yummy taco salad from Salud.

My personal fave is the tropical taco salad made with organic greens, cabbage, cilantro, mango-pineapple salsa, spiced pepitas, and seasoned walnut taco “meat.” Yes, that’s “meat” in quotes, and while I won’t pretend it tastes like real ground beef, it’s pretty darned delicious, and adds a nice texture and flavor to the dish that meat lovers will find comforting. The whole thing is tossed with a chipotle-lime cashew cream dressing that’s zingy, creamy, and super flavorful. It’s also HUGE.

But make sure you save room for dessert. As someone completely devoid of a sweet tooth, I’m still a bit dumbfounded to realize how much I love everything that comes out of the desert case at Salud. Their “cheesecake” (again with the quotes) is particularly divine, with a crust crafted from almonds, dates, and a blend of spices. The filling is a mix of soaked cashews, raw agave, almond milk, and a variety of spices and essential oils, depending on the flavor of the day. Trust me when I tell you not to leave without sampling one.


Khi Mao Noodles at Noi Thai cuisine

Tasty noodles at Noi.

Tasty Khi Mao noodles at Noi.

I’m a big fan of the happy hour at Noi, so if you’re heading out on the town with a mixed bag of meat eaters and vegan pals, this is a great starting point. Most dishes can be prepared vegan, vegetarian, or with your choice of meat, but several dishes are designed to be vegan from the get-go. My personal fave is the Khi Mao Noodles (say that five times fast, then tell me how to pronounce it). These wide, stir-fried noodles are mixed up with basil, bell peppers, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and tomatoes. I added a bit of tofu, but meat-eaters can mix in other protein, while vegetarians can opt not to skip the egg that’s usually mixed in.

The noodles are unbelievably soft and tender, and there’s a great contrast of crunchy veggies and squishy noodles. The flavors are divine, too, with just the right mix of spicy and salty. You can pick the heat level from 1-5, and 3 felt like the perfect spice to me. The portion was big enough to be filling, but small enough I didn’t feel like I was gorging myself.


Peanut Curry and Lomo Saltado at Spork

Oh-so-delicious peanut curry at Spork.

Oh-so-delicious peanut curry at Spork.

Unquestionably one of my favorite stops on this quest for Bend’s best vegan food, Spork has a nice array of menu options and a staff that’s knowledgeable about how to make the non-vegan choices in vegan form.

Two things on the menu sounded too good to pass up, so I enlisted a vegan pal to help me try both. The West African peanut curry features peanut tomato curry with chickpeas, yams, cabbage, grilled onions & peppers, cilantro, and jasmine rice. It was flavorful, zingy, filling, and so generous I ended up with a nice pile of leftovers I devoured in secret several hours later so I wouldn’t have to share with my husband. Don’t judge.

The vegan version of Spork's Lomo Saltado.

The vegan version of Spork’s Lomo Saltado.

Lomo Saltado is a Peruvian stir-fry that’s not typically vegan, since it includes both seared steak and a fried egg. But we wanted to see how Spork turned a meat-heavy dish into a palatable vegan option, and we definitely weren’t disappointed. The dish was hearty and saucy, with red potatoes, sweet peppers, onion, grilled tomatoes, soy, radish, green onion, and jasmine rice. Instead of tasting like something was missing, it tasted like a complete, perfectly-balanced, delicious dish that was every bit as scrumptious sans animal protein.


Pretty much ANYTHING at Next Level Burger

Think you can’t get a delicious burger unless it was previously mooing in a pasture? Think again, then get your butt over to Next Level Burger where they’re serving up some of the best plant-based burgers you’ve ever tasted. Actually, scratch that—they’re serving up some of the best burgers, period.

Hard to believe it's all plant-based, but everything is at Next Level Burger.

Hard to believe it’s all plant-based, but everything is at Next Level Burger.

All items on the menu at Next Level Burger—from fries to hot dogs to burgers to milkshakes—are made from plant-based sources, so devout vegans won’t have to fret about that accidental piece of sausage slipping into your fry basket.

The standard Next Level Burger features a juicy patty with a whopping 26 grams of protein, along with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a sprouted-wheat bun. I picked the special sauce version for a few cents extra to get dill pickles, vegan cheese, and of course, the special sauce. The burger itself was delicious and filling, and the sauce left me licking the wrapper before trotting up to the counter to ask for more so I could dip my crispy crinkle fries in it.

You’ll find a surprising variety of burgers, salads, sides, and snacks on their menu, and the casual, unpretentious vibe makes it a fun spot for vegetarians and non-vegans alike.


The Karnabeet at Kebaba

You haven't lived until you've eaten cauliflower here.

You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten cauliflower here.

I know I should probably focus on some of the flashier vegan options at Kebaba like the falafel, the tabouli, or the curried tempeh. And while those are all delicious middle-eastern dishes vegans and non-vegans will surely love, I honestly can’t stop thinking about their karnabeet. Like, seriously—I dream about it.

Karnabeet is pan-seared cauliflower seasoned with tahini, parsley, and sumac. It sounds simple, but the flavors in this dish are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Maybe it’s that Kebaba makes the best tahini around (totally true), or maybe it’s just that Kebaba has perfected the fine art of getting the perfect texture on the cauliflower. Whatever it is, your stay in Bend will not be complete unless you stop in and order this dish at Kebaba. Make it a double serving, then stop by the Visit Bend office and share with me.


The BBQ Tempeh Sando at Broken Top Bottle Shop

A chance to sample local beer from breweries along the Bend Ale Trail, plus a chance to get my barbecue fix despite my quest for vegan chow? Sign me up!

The BBQ Tempeh Sando at Broken Top Bottle Shop will leave you drooling with desire.

The BBQ Tempeh Sando at Broken Top Bottle Shop will leave you drooling with desire.

Then take me to Broken Top Bottle Shop, where you’ll discover a menu that’s super friendly toward folks with dietary needs ranging from gluten-free to vegan to pile-as-much-pork-as-you-possibly-can-on-these-nachos.

The vegan dish that really knocked my socks off at BTBS was the BBQ Tempeh Sando. It’s a soft, scrumptiously squishy brioche bun piled high with house-smoked shredded tempeh, vegan Georgia red BBQ sauce, and Carolina red slaw. You get your pick of sides, but I highly, highly recommend the crispy roasted Brussel sprouts with lemon zest.

It wasn’t until halfway through stuffing my face with this tangy, deliciously messy sandwich that I forgot I was eating a vegan meal and not something off the menu at my favorite barbecue joint. Added bonus: between their 12 rotating taps and the massive wall of coolers featuring every beer known to man, you will find yourself in Beervana when you come here.


The Cuban bowl at Laughing Planet Café

This is a favorite spot for a vegetarian friend of mine, so I’ve lunched here several times since the Bend location opened in 2014. There are oodles of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu at Laughing Planet, and while my pal is partial the Korean BBQ bowl with tofu, I’m a big fan of the Cuban Bowl.

The dish consists of plantains and sweet potatoes on a bed of brown rice and black beans, topped with pico de gallo and served with your choice of fresh salsa. It’s got that comfort-food combo of sweet, nutty, and zingy that makes me feel warm inside. Throw in a Highway to Kale salad (lacinto kale tossed with cojita cheese you can skip to make it vegan, plus organic carrots and a lemon-parsley vinaigrette, topped with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds) and you’ve got yourself a tasty meal.


Smoothies at Sarah’s Raw and Vegan Café

So many smoothies to choose from at Sarah's Raw and Vegan Café.

So many smoothies to choose from at Sarah’s Raw and Vegan Café.

Admittedly I spent a lot of my vegan meal quest seeking out options that didn’t feel vegan. I wanted to skip places that felt like I might be denied entry if I wasn’t wearing a tie-dyed peasant skirt and boho braids. While I’m not suggesting those are requirements to enter Sarah’s Raw and Vegan Café, this place definitely has more of that vibe than any of the others on the list.

The focus here is on meal-replacement smoothies, though in the summer months they also offer a daily lunch special featuring items like raw mac & cheese (bites of yellow squash, olive oil, nutritional yeast), zucchini pasta ribbons, or collard wraps.

A platter of samples by the front door gave me the option to try a fun variety of smoothies. The Super Green is a tasty blend of coconut, hemp protein powder, Vitamineral Green, carrot, apple, spinach, celery, avocado, banana, dates, vanilla and sea salt. I also enjoyed the Women’s Passion, which features a blend of soaked almonds, dates, banana, goji berries, mulberries, Warrior Food, maca, eleuthero, satavan, vanilla, raspberries, and sea salt. My personal fave, though, was the Mesquite Magic made with soaked cashews, dates, banana, avocado, mesquite, maca, cacao, chipotle, vanilla, toffee, stevia, raw honey, and sea salt. It has a deliciously creamy, mildly-smoky flavor and turned out to be a lot more filling than I expected.


Falafel wrap at Mazza Bistro

The tasty (and budget-friendly!) falafel wrap and manakeesh at Mazza Bistro.

The tasty (and budget-friendly!) falafel wrap and manakeesh at Mazza Bistro.

Half the fun of ordering at this cute little middle-eastern café is trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Manakeesh? Madjadara? No matter, it’s all delicious, and a great deal of it is vegan.

I almost didn’t order the falafel wrap at Mazza Bistro because it sounded so . . . I don’t know, ordinary. But I’m glad I did, since it turned out to be quite delicious. The cucumbers are cool and crisp, the sauce is creamy and tangy, the falafel is crunchy and warm, and the lavash bread that holds the whole thing together is soft and pillowy. Put it all together and you’ve got a pretty delicious wrap that’s both inexpensive and filling.

I also sampled the manakeesh (olive oil, roasted sesame seeds, zaatar paste spread on a pita, topped with cucumber, tomato, olives, onion and parsley). Non-vegans can get it with feta, but it was quite tasty without, and made a perfect appetizer to a tasty and bargain-priced lunch.



Edamame Bowl at Café Yumm

I’ve always been a huge fan of Café Yumm in Bend’s Old Mill District, and I became an even bigger fan when they opened their second location on Bend’s eastside.

Don't forget to snag a jar of the delicious (and vegan-friendly!) Yumm Sauce when you're at Café Yumm.

Don’t forget to snag a jar of the delicious (and vegan-friendly!) Yumm Sauce when you’re at Café Yumm.

Given my longstanding love of the Edamame Bowl, I wasn’t sure my fondness would hold up if I tried to make the dish vegan as suggested by countless vegan pals who pointed out this is an easy place to vegan-ify any dish. But I gave it a shot, and was pleasantly surprised.

The regular dish consists of organic brown rice, edamame, Yumm Sauce, shredded Tillamook cheddar, diced tomatoes, fresh avocado, sour cream, black olives, cilantro, and crumbled nori. It’s the perfect meal for vegetarians, but vegans need to ditch those pesky (albeit, delicious) dairy items. To do it, Café Yumm recommends substituting extra avocado, carrots, or cabbage. I figured I’d just ignore the “or” part and go for all three, which turned out to be a nice change. The avocado made up for the creaminess of the sour cream, while the carrots and cabbage weren’t quite the same as cheddar cheese, they added a nice crunch and pleasant bit of texture to the dish. As a sidenote, the Yumm Sauce is naturally vegan and can be purchased at the café to take home and spruce up all your own recipes.

How to celebrate Mom for Mother’s Day 2015 in Bend (you can start by winning rental gear from Tumalo Creek!)

May 7th, 2015

Mother’s Day 2015 is fast approaching, which means we’ve got a few extra options for celebrating moms and motherhood over the next few days.

While there are oodles of kid-friendly things to do in Bend throughout the year (and I’ve rounded up a bunch of them in this post and this one) here are a few things focused purely on celebrating the woman of the hour—hey, hot mama!


Treat Mom to a Mother’s Day brunch

Brasada Ranch makes a beautiful setting for Mother's Day brunch.

Brasada Ranch makes a beautiful setting for Mother’s Day brunch.

While bacon and mimosas might not make up for the 2 a.m. diaper changes, they sure go a long way toward letting Mom know she’s appreciated. Luckily, you’ve got a lot of options to pick from around Central Oregon.

Brasada Ranch is offering a fabulous brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Sunday for moms who enjoy killer views and serenity along with their eggs. The meal will feature farm-fresh omelets, local artisan cheeses, meats, and produce, plus deserts and even a 10% discount on spa services booked between May 10-June 10. Brunch tickets are $43 for adults, $23 for kids 5-10, and free for young’uns 4 and under. You can make reservations by calling 541-526-6870.

For moms who prefer to stick close to the Bend Ale Trail, McMenamins is also hosting a Mother’s Day Brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The scrumptious meal will be served buffet style, and you’ll earn bonus points with Mom if you fetch her a pint of Ruby to wash it down.

Other local hotspots offering special Mother’s Day meals include Pronghorn Resort, Five Pine Lodge, and Faith, Hope & Charity Vineyards. You can learn more about each of them by clicking those links.


CUTE ALERT! Show Mom some baby animals

Happy Mother's Day to Honey the porcupine and her new porcupette. You can see both at the High Desert Museum!

Happy Mother’s Day to Honey the porcupine and her new porcupette. You can see both at the High Desert Museum!

The only thing cuter than a baby porcupine is the fact that it’s actually called a “porcupette.”

As luck would have it, one of the porcupines at the High Desert Museum just gave birth to a wee one last week. Honey (that’s the new mom) and her porcupette are among many cool critters and exhibits moms can enjoy AT NO COST on Mother’s Day when all moms get FREE admission to the High Desert Museum May 10.

Now, as a stepmom whose young’uns won’t be with me on Mother’s Day, I felt inclined to ask if the “free admission for moms” applies to those of us who haven’t actually given birth or to those whose kids won’t be accompanying us to the museum. The answer is a resounding “yes!” though they added the caveat that the kids must be human—in other words, no dog-moms (though we’ll get to you later, I promise!)

A baby great-horned owl (and his mama) can be seen around Drake Park.

A baby great-horned owl (and his mama) can be seen around Drake Park.

If you still haven’t gotten your fill of baby animals, take a stroll through Drake Park and stare up into the trees. Odds are good you’ll see the mama great-horned owl and her fuzzy little owlets celebrating Mother’s Day in their nest. Those heading to the aforementioned brunch at Faith Hope and Charity Vineyard should also make a stop at Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch to check out the baby alpacas (called cria, in case you’re wondering).


Don’t worry, dog-moms—there’s stuff for you, too!

Until my late 30s when my stepkids entered my life, I considered myself a proud “dog-mom,” content never to procreate. Truth be told, I still consider my pooch to be my real baby, and I know I’m not alone. Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine, so you know it’s a great place to be for Mother’s Day if your kids have fur and four legs.

Blogger Tawna and her dog-baby, Bindi.

Blogger Tawna and her dog-baby, Bindi.

I’ve blogged numerous times about fun things for dogs to do in Bend, but here’s a link to a recent post written by my dog (yes, really) about her favorite Bend activities. From seven off-leash dog areas to dog-friendly restaurants and shopping areas, you know there are plenty of fun things to do with Fido for Mother’s Day.

But for those dog-moms who prefer an organized event, check out the Downtown Doggie Daze from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 9 (the day before Mother’s Day). Dogs and their companions begin at Mirror Pond Plaza and fetch paw prints at participating businesses. Those who gather all the paws will be entered to win prizes valued at more than $300. There’s also a 5k run/walk and a variety of demos and family-friendly activities for two-legged and four-legged participants.


Moms play outside in Bend—and they deserve a FREE kayak or paddleboard rental, right?!

I’ll be honest—my idea of a perfect Mother’s Day in Bend doesn’t involve fancy meals or elaborate gifts (unless someone’s figured out how to put a bow on a box of fresh air?)

Ahhh....this is the life! If you or a special mom in your life deserves to enjoy it, comment for a chance to win a free canoe, kayak, or SUP rental from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.

Ahhh….this is the life! If you or a special mom in your life deserves to enjoy it, comment for a chance to win a free canoe, kayak, or SUP rental from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.

Take me hiking. Plan a simple picnic in one of Bend’s countless city parks. Drive me to the Deschutes River or one of the high Cascade Lakes for an afternoon of standup paddleboarding.

Does the last idea sound good to you, but you’re lacking the basic gear? The folks at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe can help with that! Comment here with why you (or a special mom in your life) deserves a free rental of a canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard and we’ll choose one lucky winner to get her wish!

Now get out there and thank your mama!

Mind Bend-ers: Which movie star played baseball in Bend?

April 30th, 2015


Photo courtesy of the Bend Elks.

Photo courtesy of the Bend Elks.

Welcome to your tenth edition of Mind Bend-ers, a special feature offering you the inside scoop on quirky Bend history and offbeat trivia.

Bend is famous for . . . well, having a lot of famous people.

Some were born here in the first place, and some showed up to live and play in the high desert. Google “celebrities in Bend” and you’ll find oodles of gossipy details about actor Matthew Fox’s DUI or retired NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s wine.

And while it’s easy to see why pro mountain biker Adam Craig might choose to reside in BikeTown USA, or why famed surfer Jerry Lopez would feel at home in the city Outside magazine named the world’s top SUP getaway, it’s a little less clear why a famous actor might move to Bend to play baseball.

Kurt Russell in his most recent film role, Furious 7.

Kurt Russell in his most recent film role, Furious 7.

Just a few of Kurt Russell's famous flicks

Just a few of Kurt Russell’s famous flicks

But that’s what happened in 1971. Back then, actor Kurt Russell was already a Hollywood success with appearances on several TV series and nearly a dozen movies under his belt. He also had a talent and a passion for baseball that left him straddling the line between the two worlds (which sounds like a recipe for a groin injury, but let’s not dwell on that).

While 20-year-old Kurt Russell was already an established actor, he also had the baseball chops to have teams like the Cardinals, Giants, and Twins scouting him. Naturally, he chose to play for . . . the Bend Rainbows?

Yep, it’s true. The Rainbows were a Class A minor league team in Bend that agreed to sign the young switch-hitter dubbed “a part-time player” by The Sporting News. Since Kurt had to miss spring training while filming Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, the assessment wasn’t too far off the mark.

Nevertheless, Kurt went on to play in 51 games for the Bend Rainbows, hitting .285 with one home run and 14 runs batted in with 179 times at bat. He was considered one of the better players in the league, and was even named to the All-Star team.

But with his film career taking off, Kurt reached a point where he needed to choose between baseball and Hollywood. But how to decide?

Tear a rotator cuff, of course!

By then he’d left Bend and was playing for the El Paso Sun Kings. He didn’t grasp the magnitude of the injury at first, and even flew to LA a few days later where a doctor checked him out. “He looked at me and he said, ‘Aren’t you also an actor?’” Kurt recalled later in an interview. “And I said, ‘yeah,’ and he said, ‘well you’re an actor all the time now.’”

So that was the end of Kurt Russell’s baseball career, but the beginning of a long and lucrative film career. The Bend Rainbows, too, came to an end in 1971, and though other minor league teams cycled through Bend’s Vince Genna Stadium over the years, the Bend Elks have called Bend, Oregon home since 2000.

While you won’t see Kurt Russell on the field these days, Bend is a terrific place to get your baseball fix during the annual Triple Crown Memorial Day Baseball Tournament, or at a regular season Bend Elks game. Check the schedule here, then make your weekend plans accordingly.

Just make sure you leave time to rent a Kurt Russell flick, too.



How to impress 4 important people with your Bend vacation

April 22nd, 2015

There are plenty of good reasons to plan that Bend vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Fun. Fresh air. Relaxation.

But there’s another good reason to crack open that day planner and start making hotel reservations. Did you know a Bend vacation can help you impress important people?

Don’t believe me? Here’s a roundup of four people I promise will be wildly impressed by your plans to frolic in Central Oregon’s mountainous high desert.


Impress your boss!

Working from home takes on a whole different dimension in Bend.

Working from home takes on a whole different dimension in Bend.

In my non-Visit Bend life, I’m a romantic comedy author. On the days I’m not writing blog posts giving you tips on fun things to do around Bend, I’m writing funny smut.

Or trying to, anyway. See, sometimes I get stuck. In my younger days as an author, I’d force myself to sit at my desk gnawing on that plot knot until I fixed it. Most of the time, gnawing off my own foot would have been preferable.

Eventually it occurred to me that every time I gave myself a break and took the dog for a long walk, something magical happened. Blame it on Bend’s fresh air or the beautiful scenery, but within a few steps of my front door, I’d almost always solved my plot problem.

This is what brainstorming looks like in Bend.

This is what brainstorming looks like in Bend.

Okay, so most of you probably aren’t romance authors. That doesn’t mean your professional brain can’t be refreshed and rejuvenated in the same way. Explore Bend’s hiking trails. Spend an afternoon fishing. Take a bike ride. Whatever you do, get out of your element and into Bend’s great outdoors. I guarantee it’ll work wonders for your creativity, productivity, and probably a few other –ivities I can’t even think of right now.

See? I totally need to rejuvenate my vocabulary by ducking out early to go standup paddleboarding.


Impress your neighbors!

Look, I’m not one to advocate for keeping up with the Joneses. Just because Jim and Sally next door bought a new BMW doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

Your neighbors will be envious when they see your car loaded up with gear for your Bend vacation.

Your neighbors will be envious when they see your car loaded up with gear for your Bend vacation.

That said, is it really the worst thing in the world to want your neighbors to feel just a teeny, tiny bit jealous of you? Like if they see you loading up the roof rack with all your bikes, kayaks, skis, and sporting equipment, is there a small part of you that kinda wants them to feel a twist of envy?

Maybe that’s just me. Or maybe you’re a kind and generous soul who would never, ever want to inflict those kinds of feelings upon your dear, sweet neighbors. In fact, if you love your neighbors that much, why not rent a Bend vacation home with them? There are oodles of them around town, ranging from private residences with hot tubs to little cottages on the fringe of popular hiking and biking trails.

Just make sure the Joneses know you’ve got dibs on the biggest room.


Impress your significant other!

Planning a wedding in Bend is a surefire way to romance your sweetie.

Planning a wedding in Bend is a surefire way to romance your sweetie.

I didn’t realize until I started plotting out this blog post how frequently I’ve written about romance in Bend. Like this post on planning a romantic Valentine’s Day. Or this post on unique date ideas in Bend. Or this post on the best spots to kiss. Or this post featuring five adorable stories of couples who got engaged in Bend. Or this post on how to plan a fabulous proposal, honeymoon, or wedding in Bend.

In my defense, I’ve been blogging here nearly five years, and I am a romance author. Still, that’s a whole lotta romantic ideas at your fingertips. Really, you have no excuse not to use them to prove to your loved one that you’re all that and a bag of chips.


Impress your parents!

A cooking class with The Well Traveled Fork is a great way to impress your parents with your new culinary skills.

A cooking class with The Well Traveled Fork is a great way to impress your parents with your new culinary skills.

This one’s a little tougher, depending on who your parents are. Like maybe mom and dad have always pushed you toward self-improvement. Why not use your Bend vacation as an excuse to learn a new skill? You can take a cooking class from The Well Traveled Fork or learn to snowshoe or kayak with the naturalist guides from Wanderlust Tours.

If it’s professional development your parents want you to work on, check out the continuing ed classes from Central Oregon Community College or consult Visit Bend’s event calendar for a roundup of educational opportunities during your planned vacation.

Maybe mom and dad have been nagging you to change your wardrobe or cut your hair. There’s tons of great shopping in Bend, and you can get that haircut while you enjoy a tasty Bend craft beer if you stop by Bond Street Barber Shop.

Oh, and if your parents are nagging you for grandkids? Er, go back and read that last section on romance. You’re welcome.



6 ways to love the planet this Earth Day (and every day!) in Bend

April 15th, 2015

Earth Day is April 22 this year, and while I’m not in the habit of throwing a black-tie cocktail party to celebrate, there are a few ways I plan to mark the occasion in 2015.

In case you’d care to join me, here are 6 great ways to celebrate the earth when you’re in Bend.



Prowl thrift stores and consignment shops

I love supporting Bend retailers selling new goods from handbags to household décor, but there’s something about thrift stores that makes my thrifty green heart feel giddy. It’s recycling at its best, and a great way to save a few bucks.

Bend has a nice abundance of thrift stores ranging from Goodwill and the Humane Society Thrift Store on the south end of town, to the Opportunity Foundation Thrift Store in northeast Bend. You can see a pretty good roundup here and find treasures in every single one.

Rescue Modern Consignment is one of dozens of Bend shops packed with fabulous secondhand goodies.

Rescue Modern Consignment is one of dozens of Bend shops packed with fabulous secondhand goodies.

If you prefer to restrict your secondhand shopping to treasures that have already been whittled down by professionals, consignment shops can come in handy.  My personal fave is Rescue Modern Consignment located in Downtown Bend just a couple blocks from the Bend Visitor Center. They have a huge array of clothing, shoes, and accessories, and clearance racks that can’t be beat. Another Downtown fave for attire is Dalia’s. It’s a smaller boutique with a particularly great selection of denim and dresses.

For those who prefer used sporting goods or previously-loved home furnishings, check out the Gear Peddler or Déjà Vu Consignment Furniture. I’ll let you guess which one has the sporting goods and which features home furnishings.

If you have goodies of your own you’re looking to recycle, check with the individual stores and ask about their consignment programs.



Shop for upcycled products

Sara Bella Upcycled makes tons of great products from castoff plastic bags.

Sara Bella Upcycled makes tons of great products from castoff plastic bags.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, upcycling is the practice of taking used items or waste products and turning them into something new.

There are a number of creative Bend companies practicing upcycling, and two of my favorites are Sara Bella Upcycled and Spoke Bracelet.

Sara Bella takes plastic bags and banners and turns them into totes, zip pouches, fashion wear, and more. At last count, her products have kept more than 31,000 bags out of the landfill. You can shop online for Sara Bella products, or even have her custom make something using your own banner or bag. You can also visit her shop in the Bend’s Makers District or pick up some of her cute wallets at the Bend Visitor Center.

How about  some bling made from old bike parts by Spoke-Bracelet?

How about some bling made from old bike parts by Spoke-Bracelet?

Speaking of the Bend Visitor Center, that’s also a great place to find Spoke-Bracelet jewelry for that bike fanatic in your life. As you can probably guess from the name, Spoke-Bracelet makes beautiful bracelets from used bicycle spokes. We have a terrific selection in the Visitor Center, or you can shop online or scope out the selections in a variety of Bend shops. Like Sara Bella, they also offer custom work, so get in touch if there’s a special something you’d like to have made for you.



Bid bye-by to plastic water bottles

With so many amazing reusable water bottles on the market these days, there’s really no excuse for cluttering up landfills with disposable ones.

From Hydro Flask to DrinkTanks to Cosco Cups, tons of Bend companies make reusable beverage vessels.

From Hydro Flask to DrinkTanks to Cupsco, tons of Bend companies make reusable beverage vessels.

You’ll pretty much never catch me without my trusty 21-ounce water bottle from Bend-based Hydro Flask. I’m sipping from mine while I type, and it’s still swirling with ice cubes I put in there at noon yesterday. My husband is fond of the flip-top 18-ouncer for his morning coffee, which he swears keeps it hot until late afternoon.

When you’re looking for something a little burlier to fill with Bend craft beer, cider, or kombucha, DrinkTanks makes a terrific 64-ounce growler, or you can pre-order the party-sized 128-ouncer.

And rather than using your growler or mini-keg to fill paper cups that will end up cluttering the landfill, substitute stainless steel cups that feature the Bend logo. They’re made by Cupsco and sold in the Bend Visitor Center.




Leave only footprints, take only photographs

Wrappers from this picnic were packed out after this hike on Black Butte. Promise.

Wrappers from this picnic were packed out after this hike on Black Butte. Promise.

It goes without saying that leaving trash behind along Bend’s hiking trails and recreation areas is a big huge no-no even when it’s not Earth Day. If you pack in those picnic fixins’, make sure you also pack out the empty containers. If Fido does his business behind a bush, use your compostable doggie doo bags to remove his malodorous calling card.

And hey, if you spot someone else’s trash along the trail, earn yourself a few good karma points by picking it up and packing it out.




Don’t toss it, mend it!

Once upon a time, an unraveling hemline was the signal I needed to pack up my favorite skirt and haul it off to Goodwill. No more!

Allison at Utilitu Sewing & Design can hem up those yoga pants so you don't have to toss them. (photo courtesy of Krystal Collins).

Allison at Utilitu Sewing & Design can hem up those yoga pants so you don’t have to toss them. (photo courtesy of Krystal Collins).

Since I discovered Utilitu Sewing & Design, I’ve had jeans patched, sweaters repaired, and skirt hemlines altered to a more fashionable length. Though Allison of Utilitu is committed to keeping local clients happy with speedy turnaround times, she’s also open to helping out Bend visitors as her schedule allows (particularly if you’re in town for a longer stay). Drop her a line if you bust a zipper or need a patch on your favorite pair of hiking pants.

And while this isn’t necessarily a travel-friendly suggestion, have you ever tried dyeing old garments to make them look new again? Seriously, my closet is filled with skirts, sweaters, t-shirts, and even undies that became brand new to me again with a little hot water and a packet of Rit Dye.




Check out Bend’s Earth Day Parade April 25

The annual parade is one of many don't miss events celebrating Earth Day in Bend.

The annual parade is one of many don’t miss events celebrating Earth Day in Bend.

In case all that environmentally-friendly shopping, sipping, hiking, and mending isn’t enough for you, don’t miss Bend’s annual Earth Day Fair and Parade in Downtown Bend. Sponsored by the Central Oregon Environmental Center, the event goes from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and features live music, local food, family-friendly activities, and more.

The parade kicks off at 10:30 on Louisiana Avenue by McMenamins and proceeds through Downtown Bend. Folks wanting to participate should come dressed as your favorite species (though parade rules prohibit written words, motorized vehicles, and live pets).

Want to kick things off a little earlier in true BikeTown USA fashion? There’s a community bike ride leaving Juniper Swim & Fitness Center at 9 a.m. and cycling to the parade site. Check out details here.

The big day will also include drumming and art workshops as well as a variety of other activities. Keep an eye on the Environmental Center’s event page for more details.

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