Visit Bend Blog

Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz Blog by Visit Bend

Get happy! Finding Bend’s best happy hours in Downtown Bend and the Old Mill District (part 1 of 2)

August 7th, 2014

It was recently brought to my attention that Bend Buzz Blog readers continue to seek out my 2010 blog post on finding the best happy hour in Bend. While that’s awesome to hear, it’s alarming to realize you guys are relying on four-year-old information to get your drink on.

The dirty dog, a bacon-wrapped hot dog with caramelized onion, bell pepper, cheese, and fried jalapeños. You'll find it on the happy hour menu at Level 2 in the Old Mill District.

The dirty dog, a bacon-wrapped hot dog with caramelized onion, bell pepper, cheese, and fried jalapeños. You’ll find it on the happy hour menu at Level 2 in the Old Mill District.

That just won’t do.

Bend’s happy hour scene has changed a lot in four years—so much that it makes sense to split this new blog post into two sections. This week, I’m focusing on happy hours in Bend’s popular Downtown area and the Old Mill District.

Be sure to check back next week when we’ll spotlight happy hours outside those zones, including spots like Crossings at the Riverhouse, some great finds in Northwest Crossing, and more. We’ll also tell you about finding killer happy hour deals outside the traditional post-work time-frame, including hotspots like 10Below and Joolz.

But for now, let’s focus on drinking our way through Downtown and the Old Mill District.

 

Lift a glass in Downtown Bend

    • 900 Wall’s happy hour (3-6 p.m. nightly) has been one of my favorites from the moment they opened. The menu changes seasonally, but one thing you can always count on is that they make one of the best greyhounds in town. They also mix it up with unique offerings like the beer cocktail “Michelada” for $5 or a Pearl Plum Vodka Kamikaze for $6. The best deals are found on their food menu, however. On the cheap end of the spectrum, go for the deviled eggs at $1.50 each. Other great bets are the Caesar salad or the tempura fried green beans for $6. Their beef carpaccio is a splurge at $10, but it’s one of the best you’ll find in town.
The carpaccio at 900 Wall is one of the best in Bend, and you'll find it on the happy hour menu.

The carpaccio at 900 Wall is one of the best in Bend, and you’ll find it on the happy hour menu.

  • Founded in 1936, Pine Tavern is one of Bend’s oldest restaurants, but it recently came under new ownership. One result is a pretty stellar happy hour that’s worth investigating from 3-6 weekdays, noon to 5 Saturdays, or Sundays 3-close. It’s only available in the bar, so you won’t get to sit next to those landmark pine trees jutting through the roof or take in the killer river views from the patio, but the great deals more than make up for it. Try the scrumptious Cajun shrimp & grits for just $4.95 or the tasty spinach & artichoke dip for $3.95. The house-made hummus plate is a steal at $2.95, and if you ask nicely, they’ll even bring you extra flatbread or veggies. Your best bet on the drink menu is to opt for a well-drink for $4.50, then have them add freshly-squeezed juice for just 50-cents more.
  • Noi Thai Cuisine is one of those spots I never seem to go except during happy hour (3:30-6 daily), which is not any sort of commentary on their regular menu. It’s just that their happy hour is too good to miss. I’m especially fond of their fresh rolls (made with tofu, prawn, or BBQ pork) and their small portions of red or yellow curry. The Tom Kah soup is also delightful, especially when washed down by one of their fun cocktails (try the pumpkin martini when the weather turns cooler, and prepare to be blown away).
  • Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is one of Bend's newest (and tastiest) places to grab a drink.

    Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is one of Bend’s newest (and tastiest) places to grab a drink.

    Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is a newcomer to Downtown Bend, though they’ve had a successful restaurant in Colorado for a number of years. Admittedly the drinks are on the pricey end of the spectrum during regular hours, which is why you don’t want to miss happy hour from 4-6 Tuesday through Sunday. That’s when all their martinis are $4 off (regularly $10). My personal faves (and yes, I’ve tried them all) are the summer squash (vodka, butternut squash, lemon, and spices), the fennomial (vodka, fennel, strawberry). Those who prefer something sweeter will dig the Portuguese (rum, port, fig) or the yellow rose (vodka, rosemary, lemon). Their rosemary-spiced nuts make an excellent thing to nibble for just $6, or for an extra special treat, try their fried mac-and-cheese balls (gruyere, sage, green apple, truffle oil, greens) for $12.

  • When out-of-town guests come to visit me, one of the places they always ask to go is5 Fusion. Head chef Joe Kim was recently a James Beard finalist (kinda like the Oscars for chefs) so it’s no wonder my pals drool at the thought of going there, and their happy hour (4-6 weekdays) is a great way to save a few bucks. Their cucumber gimlet is a steal for $6, or try the lavender lemondrop if you like your happy hour cocktail a bit sweeter. Most of the items on their happy hour menu are $5-$6, so it’s easy to order four or five and make a meal of it. My top picks include the crispy lobster fritters in red pepper sauce, the filet mignon lollipops with mashed potatoes, and the ebi tempura roll with tempura shrimp, avocado, and tobiko.
  • Brickhouse is known for having some of the best steaks in Bend, but they’ve also got a pretty impressive happy hour (4-6 weekdays) offering plenty of things that don’t moo. The zucchini tempura is a steal at just $3, and the heirloom tomato bruschetta is divine for just $6. My drink of choice here is the huckletini (a huckleberry martini) for just $6 during happy hour.

 

Drink up in the Old Mill District

  • The outdoor patio with riverfront seating make Anthony’sone of my favorite happy hour spots in Bend during the summer months. The ahi nachos made with sashimi-grade ahi tuna, wasabi, and pineapple chutney served on taro chips is my absolute favorite treat, particularly when combined with one of their $5 wine flights. Their cocktails are tasty here as well, especially the garden cocktail made with vodka, St. Germain, pineapple juice, bitters, Sprite, and plenty of fresh mint for just $5.
  • The lavender love cocktail at Level 2 is delicious and lovely.

    The lavender love cocktail at Level 2 is delicious and lovely.

    Another great Old Mill hotspot with killer river views, Greg’s Grill has the added bonus of offering their happy hour bar menu from 3-close anytime you dine in the bar. The wine selection here is especially good, so grab a glass to pair with their classic burger sliders with frizzled onions for just $5.95. The sweet potato fries with sweet chili aioli is another great choice for just $4.95.

  • Located in the second floor space above Saxon’s Jewelry, Level 2 Global Food & Lounge has a swanky, intimate vibe that makes it a great happy hour spot for couples. From 3-6 daily, choose from a fairly expansive happy hour menu that includes unique offerings like the dirty dog (a bacon-wrapped hot dog with caramelized onion, bell pepper, cheese, and fried jalapenos) for just $5. The grilled Caesar salad is another tasty option for $5, or get a pair of scrumptious fish tacos with smoked fish, black beans, Napa cabbage, salsa, and chipotle aioli for just $5. Draft beer is just $3.50 during happy hour, so that’s an excellent choice here, or try the lavender love cocktail (vodka, house-infused lavender syrup, and citrus juice) for $6.
  • Don't miss the maple fennel pizzetta at Flatbread Community Oven.

    Don’t miss the maple fennel pizzetta at Flatbread Community Oven.

    Flatbread Community Oven not only offers a terrific happy hour menu (3-6 daily and 9-close Friday and Saturday) but they’re also one of the most family-friendly spots in the lineup. While the kids assemble their own pizzas to stuff in the wood-fired oven, mom and dad can pick from an awesome array of cocktails like the strawberry basil martini or the cucumber sage cooler ($9). There’s also a terrific lineup of wine flights and draft beer (local drafts are just $3.50 during happy hour). The happy hour food menu has a great roundup of items starting at $3.50 for a cheese pizzetta or $4.50-$5.50 for some of their more specialty pizzettas like the chopped veggie or the maple-fennel (my personal fave).

  • Mio Sushi is a cozy little sushi spot offering a surprisingly terrific happy hour menu (4-6 weekdays).  The lineup includes a choice of five premium rolls for $6.95 (regularly $8.95 to $9.95) and a wide range of appetizers and salads, plus sake, beer, and wine ranging from $2.50 to $5. The sushi and roll combo for $6.95 is a great way to sample three kinds of nigiri (tuna, salmon, shrimp) plus a choice of California roll or spicy tuna roll. Happy hour is also a great time to sample sake for super-fab prices starting at less than three bucks.

12 ways you know you’re in Bend, Oregon

July 31st, 2014

Saying Bend has a unique vibe is kinda like saying there’s beer on the Bend Ale Trail. It goes without saying. Nearly every day, I’ll see or experience something that makes me smile fondly and think, “that could only happen in Bend.”
Here are twelve things that make you absolutely, positively certain you’re in Bend (and loving every minute of it).

 

  1. The new spray park for dogs at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

    The new spray park for dogs at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

    Even the dogs have a waterpark. You know Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine, but you haven’t fully grasped the magnitude of this until you visit the 17-acre Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area—one of seven dog parks in the city limits—and witness Fido and Rover frolicking in their very own canine spray park. For more info and a map to the park, go here.

  2. A pretty common sight to see in Bend, particularly near the Colorado Avenue Bridge.

    A pretty common sight to see in Bend, particularly near the Colorado Avenue Bridge.

    Have air mattress, will travel. You see a giant air mattress walking down the street and instead of thinking “what the @#$% is that?” you think “I’d better learn everything I need to know about floating the Deschutes river.”

  3. Free beer and a bike repair. You belly up to the bar at Hub Cyclery and enjoy a complimentary Bend draft beer while you wait for your bike to get fixed.
  4. Your restaurant, bike trail, and art gallery all have fresh air and mountain views. In Bend, we take our outdoor pursuits seriously. From oodles of Bend restaurants with patio seating to 277 miles of singletrack bike trails, Bend offers everyone the opportunity to play outside—even the art. Check out the Roundabout Art Route (a collection of sculptures in the city’s traffic circles) and the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection (an awesome array of paintings scattered throughout Downtown Bend).
  5. Scenes from Tawna's evening paddleboard outing this past Tuesday night (complete with shirtless fiancé eye candy).

    Scenes from Tawna’s evening paddleboard outing this past Tuesday night (complete with shirtless fiancé eye candy).

    Sunsets, fitness, romance, and beavers? You head out on the Deschutes River for some standup paddleboarding with your fiancé just before sunset. Over the course of an hour, you enjoy passionate conversation, a brisk core workout, the joy of paddling through water tinted pink-orange by the setting sun, and the sight of three large beavers dragging hunks of river weed to shore for a dinner salad. This is how I spent both Monday and Tuesday evening this week, and it’s how I plan to spend a lot more evenings this summer. Did I mention this was all within a few hundred yards of a killer shopping district and dog park in the Old Mill District?

  6. Making friends on the Bend Ale Trail. You show up at the Bend Visitor Center with a completed Bend Ale Trail Atlas at the same time as a couple from Austin, Texas, and another set of beer fans from Canada. You all become fast friends while chatting about your favorite breweries, and agree to walk down the street to Deschutes Brewery to discuss the issue in more depth.
  7. Visit Bend Facebook fan Jerry Hannon captured this photo of a rather impressive buck outside his dentist's office in Bend.

    Visit Bend Facebook fan Jerry Hannon captured this photo of a rather impressive buck outside his dentist’s office in Bend.

    Deer and dentistry. You go to the Bend office of Mark E. Jensen, DMD, for a routine dental checkup and see a family of deer in the parking lot.

  8. One Subaru, two Subarus, three Subarus. You realize at least half the cars on the road at any given time are Subarus, and that most have bike racks attached.
  9. You hike a volcano on your lunch break. Bend is one of only a handful of cities in the continental U.S. with a dormant volcano in the city limits, so visitors and locals alike enjoy hoofing it up this 500-foot cinder cone for sweeping city and mountain views.
  10. It's not uncommon to see someone biking up to Mt. Bachelor for a day of snowboarding.

    It’s not uncommon to see someone biking up to Mt. Bachelor for a day of snowboarding.

    Double-duty recreation. En route to Mt. Bachelor, you see someone peddling uphill with a snowboard strapped to the back of his bike. On the way home, you see a car loaded down with mountain bikes, a canoe, and fishing gear.

  11. River views abound from the styling chairs at Luminescence Salon in Bend.

    River views abound from the styling chairs at Luminescence Salon in Bend.

    Is it a bar or a bike? Driving your car through downtown on a Saturday night, you’re passed by three different CyclePub vehicles en route to the next brewery. All the riders cheer for no apparent reason, peddling gleefully while sipping ale from their Silipints.

  12. River views and a bang trim. You enjoy killer views of the Deschutes River while having your hair trimmed and highlighted at Luminescence Salon.

5 great places to find a swimming pool in Bend & Central Oregon

July 24th, 2014

When summertime is in full swing in Bend, you look for lots of ways to beat the heat. Floating the Deschutes River is a popular option, along with standup paddleboarding, whitewater rafting, or a dozen other outdoorsy options you can read about on our water recreation page. But sometimes, you just want a swimming pool. Maybe it’s the childhood nostalgia you get from the whiff of chlorine, or maybe you just want to park your towel someplace no muddy dog could roll on it. If you need a pool to get cool, here are five great options in Bend and Central Oregon:

The SHARC in Sunriver

SHARC stands for Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center, but this mecca of cool water and warm sunshine is open to people who aren’t homeowners. In fact, the general public is welcome year-round, even if you’re staying in a Bend hotel or vacation rental.

Fun for the whole family at SHARC in Sunriver.

Fun for the whole family at SHARC in Sunriver.

Located just 20 miles south of Bend, 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 is adorned with a veritable water playground of kid-friendly goodies, while the lazy river makes an excellent spot for folks seeking a more laidback experience. I love being able to sprawl on a lawn chair in the grass with a good book while the young’uns make dizzying loops down the two waterslides. There’s an on-site snack bar offering things like nachos, hot dogs, and plenty of cool drinks. If you get tired of swimming, check out the tubing hill (which is included with your SHARC admission). A visit to SHARC is a bit on the pricy side, at $25 per person 4 and older, but it’s worth it for a full day of cool, watery bliss and kids who’ll sleep in the car all the way back to Bend.

The public pools at Juniper Swim & Fitness

Frugal families are especially fond of this gem in the middle of Bend. Operated by Bend Parks & Rec, the public pools at Juniper Swim & Fitness offer an excellent option for locals and thrifty visitors alike.

Frugal fun in the kids' pool at Juniper Swim & Fitness.

Frugal fun in the kids’ pool at Juniper Swim & Fitness.

Out-of-district residents (i.e. vacationers!) pay just $7 a person to access an Olympic 50-meter pool that’s indoors in the winter, outdoors in the summer, plus another indoor 25 meter pool with diving boards and rope swing and an indoor children’s pool. There’s also a seasonal outdoor activity pool complete with waterslide and a kid-friendly aquatic playground. On chillier days, grownups in particular will appreciate the indoor co-ed hot tub, sauna, and steam room. As an added bonus, your admission gets you access to the exercise facilities, or pay $1 more to join a variety of fitness classes including barre, yoga, and more.

The Athletic Center at Brasada Ranch

The bad news: this one’s only open to folks who are staying at Brasada Ranch. The good news: this one’s only open to folks who are staying at Brasada Ranch. BrasadaPoolThe amazing news: holy cow, you have an excuse to stay at Brasada Ranch! If you’re looking for an incredible oasis in Central Oregon, Brasada Ranch is it. The ranch offers championship golf, equestrian trail riding, panoramic mountain views, killer hiking trails, farm-to-table dining, a state-of-the-art spa, and luxury cabins that will make you never want to leave. But the gem in the middle of it all is their 17,000-square-foot athletic center. Besides the fitness facilities, it includes two oversized, seasonal outdoor pools with a fun waterslide, a lazy river, and the coolest design imaginable. The pictures don’t do it justice, and that’s saying something considering the pictures make me do a happy little sigh. There’s even a waterfall you can stand under for a killer shoulder massage, or pick a lounge chair in the sunshine and order one of their gourmet wraps from the on-site snack bar. There’s also a year-round indoor lap pool, indoor kiddie pool, and five year-round outdoor hot tubs. You’ll also find private hot tubs at most of the luxury cabins, which means you pretty much never need to leave the water. Well, maybe to go to the bathroom. Please.  

The hot springs mineral pool at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa

This one’s a bit of a drive from Bend, but it’s a nice day trip if you want the bonus of some Central Oregon sightseeing. Located on the Warm Springs reservation 69 miles northeast of Bend, Kah-Nee-Tah offers a hot springs mineral pool that’s both soothing and thrilling. It’s heated to 92 degrees in the winter months, and cooled during the summer to make it refreshingly perfect.

Fun times at Kah-Nee-Ta's enormous hot springs mineral pool.

Fun times at Kah-Nee-Ta’s enormous hot springs mineral pool.

There are two awesome slides, including a 184-foot enclosed tube and a 140-foot slide with an open top for claustrophobic fraidy-cats like me. There are a couple hot tubs, a kids’ wading pool, and these adorable bear statues that have been squirting water into the pool since my parents first brought me here in a swim diaper. Don’t forget tons of sunscreen and an air mattress, and remember your camera to snap scenic shots of the landscape surrounding the Warm Springs reservation. Rates for the hot springs pool are $15 for those 11 and older, and $10 for kids 10 and under. Unlimited use of the waterslides is $4 extra.

Bend vacation rentals, motels, and hotels with pools

Sure, waterslides and lazy rivers are awesome, but there are tons of other options if you’d prefer the convenience of having a pool within walking distance of your bed.

The pine-fringed pool at Mt. Bachelor Village Resort is one of many places you can splash just a short distance from where you snooze.

The pine-fringed pool at Mt. Bachelor Village Resort is one of many places you can splash just a short distance from where you snooze.

There are more than two dozen Bend hotels and motels with swimming pools on-site. Some are indoor, some are outdoor, but all offer the luxury of being mere steps from where you rest your head. Mt. Bachelor Village Resort has a particularly lovely outdoor pool nestled among towing Ponderosa Pines, while the Hilton DoubleTree offers an indoor pool and a convenient location in the middle of Downtown Bend. Check out the grid listing on our Bend Lodging page to find a hotel pool that fits your family’s needs.

The Paulina Plunge: Fill day 2 of your Newberry National Volcanic Monument adventure with this once-in-a-lifetime experience (part 2 of 2)

July 17th, 2014

Last week I told you all about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and how to make the most of a one-day itinerary.

Craig Zagurski adjusts Cedar Zagurski's helmet while Violet Zagurski looks on after the first bicycle leg of the Paulina Plunge.

Craig Zagurski adjusts Cedar Zagurski’s helmet while Violet Zagurski looks on after the first bicycle leg of the Paulina Plunge.

But I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t tell you that you absolutely, positively MUST stick around for a second day and add the Paulina Plunge to your agenda. I promise, you’ll thank me for this later.

What’s the Paulina Plunge?

It’s honestly one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in 17 years of living in Bend and nearly 40 years spending summer vacations here. I can’t believe it took me this long to try this full-day adventure tour that includes mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, splashing, jumping, and sliding.

We kicked off our morning at 10 a.m. by meeting our tour group at the Paulina Plunge office in Sunriver. Participants ranged in age from a five-year-old who spent much of his ride time hitched to the back of dad’s bicycle, to a retired couple on an anniversary adventure.

Roughly 40 of us loaded into a school bus and rode to our starting point as one of the tour guides shared a bit of history about Chief Paulina and the area we’d be visiting on the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. After a 25-minute ride, we disembarked and got outfitted with appropriately-sized bikes and helmets.

Cedar belly-slides down one of the waterfalls on the Paulina Plunge.

Cedar belly-slides down one of the waterfalls on the Paulina Plunge.

My eight-year-old stepdaughter is a fairly new bike rider, so she was nervous about the cycling aspect of the trip. We were relieved to see how thoroughly they checked her skill level and made sure she was comfortable with hand brakes. They also split the 40 of us into two groups of 20—one with more experienced riders, and one with young kids and less-confident cyclists. Our group also got two tour guides instead of one, and it was clear they both had a knack for wrangling kids.

The biking portion of the trip is split into four segments of roughly 1.5 miles each, and most of it is downhill. The short uphill climb in the first segment gave us a good chance to assess everyone’s fitness and experience level so we had a better idea how to space ourselves in the pack. I’ll admit the cycling portion was the part I most fretted about (not being much of a bike rider myself) but it was way easier than I expected.

Crag takes the plunge down one of the bigger waterfalls.

Crag takes the plunge down one of the bigger waterfalls.

The waterfalls along the Paulina Plunge route range from 10 feet to 40 feet tall. The first one on our list required a short half-mile hike to reach and gave everyone a chance to splash around, wade, or lie down in the water.

We got back on our bikes and pedaled another 1.5 miles to the next waterfall. This one was more interactive, with lots of space for swimming and wading. The guides led a few brave kids to a spot at the bottom edge of the waterfall where it’s safe to jump. After a few minutes, all the grownups started muttering, “that looks fun,” and pretty soon everyone was in line to give it a try.

After we’d all cooled off in the water, we hiked the half-mile back to our bikes and pedaled a short distance to a spot the guides had chosen for a lunchtime picnic. We had spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains and surrounding volcanic landscape while we enjoyed the lunch we’d packed that morning. For $10 extra per person, the Paulina Plunge folks will pack a lunch for you.

By the time the meal was over, we were all air-dried and ready to hit the water again. We pedaled another 1.5 miles or so for the portion of the outing the kids had been squealing about all week—natural waterfall slides!

The whole family takes a break at one of the last waterfalls.

The whole family takes a break at one of the last waterfalls.

There are two different slides to try. The first is a smooth, sloped plane that lends itself well to both upright sliding or going down on your belly. Not wanting to lose my top, I stuck with the former.

The second slide just a bit downstream is a more twisty, turny waterfall with separate sections allowing two people to converge at the midpoint in a splashy, giggly mess. We stayed here until everyone was exhausted and drenched and possibly a bit butt-bruised.

The next leg of our journey took us to a great big waterfall with a pool at the bottom for swimming. This was a more relaxing segment of the trip, and my fiancé enjoyed sitting under the pounding water for a natural massage.

We ended the journey with a longer downhill bike leg and a cold soda at the end. We were back at our car by about 4:30 p.m. with the kids fast asleep in the backseat about two minutes later.

The price per person for the Paulina Plunge is $65, which is a screamin’ deal considering it includes all your transportation, bike and helmet, a day pack if you need it, tour guides with CPR and first aid training, and a full day of the sort of once-in-a-lifetime you’ll only find in the volcanic wonderland of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

There’s a great FAQ page that covers a lot of ground, but allow me to add a few tips of my own:

  • The FAQ page advises people to dress in shorts, t-shirts, and old sneakers. Admittedly, that outfit provides adequate protection, but it made me feel like a soggy dork with sand in my socks. Regular sandals or Tevas aren’t a good option (the most common injury is to the big toe) but if you’ve got a pair of Keen sandals with burly toe protection, wear those instead. I also opted to wear a bikini with a super-supportive top (bike riding can be bumpy!) with shorts and a top with a built-in bra, plus a lightweight sweatshirt in my pack. That provided a pretty good system for donning and removing layers, and I didn’t have to pedal anywhere in a dripping t-shirt.
  • The FAQ page downplays the necessity of sunscreen a bit, but trust me, you need it. A LOT. You’ll be at a high altitude with several long stretches without the protection of a forest canopy. Make sure you’ve got plenty of water-resistant stuff and reapply often!
  • Bring plenty of water—follow the guidelines on the FAQ page, and don’t forget to add a little extra for your lunchtime stop.
  • Remember to bring a little cash to tip your guide(s) at the end. It’s not mandatory, of course, but it’s a nice gesture, and trust me—these guys earn it.

For more info on the Paulina Plunge, check out their website or call 1-800-296-0562.

Here are a couple videos of the kids having a ball in the waterfalls.

How to do the ever-loving-heck out of Newberry National Volcanic Monument in two days (part 1, day 1)

July 10th, 2014
Blogger Tawna on the shore of Paulina Lake (wearing a Bend Ale Trail "Girl vs. Beer" shirt, of course!)

Blogger Tawna on the shore of Paulina Lake (wearing a Bend Ale Trail “Girl vs. Beer” shirt, of course!)

When the boss asked me to spend a couple days visiting Newberry National Volcanic Monument to give a first-hand report on what it’s like to explore the area with a family, I wept with misery at how much my job sucks.

That’s so obviously a lie that I can’t even type it with a straight face.

Truth is, I immediately texted the kids with the all caps message: GUESS WHAT AMAZING THING WE GET TO DO?!?!

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a breathtaking natural playground just south of Bend, teeming with ancient lava flows, cinder cones, caves, obsidian flows, lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains. I’ve been there many times, but never with the intent of mapping out the absolute perfect agenda for a limited time.

Next week’s post will spotlight the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of the Paulina Plunge, but today I’m giving you an easy itinerary to maximize a single fun-filled day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Here’s how we did it:

 

8:45 a.m.: Breakfast at Sparrow Bakery

Scrumptious ocean rolls from Sparrow Bakery – the perfect fuel to kick off a long day of exploring Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Scrumptious ocean rolls from Sparrow Bakery – the perfect fuel to kick off a long day of exploring Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

As we headed south on the Bend Parkway, we took exit 138 and popped in at Sparrow Bakery. The kids are crazy about their famous Ocean Rolls, and I opted for their bacon breakfast sandwich (a poached egg, bakery-smoked bacon, avocado, arugula, and aioli served on a hand-rolled croissant). The meal was easy to eat in the car, and provided the perfect sustenance for our morning journey.

 

9:15 a.m.: Arrive at the Lava Lands Visitor Center

The view from atop Lava Butte.

The view from atop Lava Butte.

Knowing the Lava Lands Visitor Center gets busy with folks jockeying for the chance to drive to the top of Lava Butte, we wanted to hit this stop first thing. We flashed our Northwest Forest Pass for access (though a three-day Monument Pass is just $10 and gets you in to all the areas. A one-day Northwest Forest Pass will do the trick as well if you plan to stick with this itinerary). The attendant granted us a 30-minute permit to drive to the top of Lava Butte.

Cedar and Violet use the big map in the Lava Lands Visitor Center to scope out where our adventures will take us that day.

Cedar and Violet use the big map in the Lava Lands Visitor Center to scope out where our adventures will take us that day.

The kids loved exploring the fire lookout tower at the top of the butte and snapping photos of the panoramic views. We opted to burn off a little energy with the ¼ mile hike around the rim of the caldera, oohing and aahing over the different types of lava rock and the fact that we were standing on the largest volcano in the Cascades.

Back at the bottom, we headed into the Visitor Center facility for a bathroom break and a chance to check out the interpretive exhibits, a short film, and a giant map showing us all the areas we’d be exploring that day.

 

10 a.m.: Explore Lava River Cave

I’ve had the pleasure of doing several Cave Tours with the folks from Wanderlust Tours, and I’m always in awe of the knowledge and experience offered by their naturalist guides, and impressed by the fact that they’re the only group permitted to take folks into some of Central Oregon’s most pristine natural caves.

Cave selfie! (Lighting provided by the super cool lantern we rented at the entrance).

Cave selfie! (Lighting provided by the super cool lantern we rented at the entrance).

But if you’re short on time or cash, or you just want to explore on your own, the Lava River Cave at Newberry National Monument is a good option. Located adjacent to the Lava Lands Visitor Center, the cave is one mile long and the longest lava tube in Central Oregon. You can bring your own headlamps or flashlights if you’ve got them, but I love the experience of renting a propane-fueled lantern for just $5 at the entrance.

The kids both told me the Lava River Cave was their favorite part of our day, and it was easy to see why. We hiked all the way to the end, making spooky noises and shadow-puppets as we went. A few scattered signs along the way shared interesting tidbits like the spot where we were standing directly under Highway 97.

Closed-toe shoes are a good idea for this hike, and a lightweight sweatshirt is a must, since it’s 45 degrees in the cave all year-round. Claustrophobes who feel nervous in smaller caves will appreciate the relatively open spaces in this one.

 

11 a.m.: Drive to Paulina Falls

12-year-old Cedar captured this lovely pic of Paulina Falls.

12-year-old Cedar captured this lovely pic of Paulina Falls.

We emerged from the cave and drove 12.5 miles to Paulina Lake Road. From there, it was another 12.5 miles to the Newberry Welcome Station where we kicked off the next portion of our journey.

Since tummies weren’t rumbling yet, we decided to see Paulina Falls before lunchtime. The lookout over the top of the 80-foot waterfall is just a short walk from the parking lot off road 21, and I expected the kids to be satisfied with a 10-minute stop for snapping some photos and chucking pine cones over the falls.

They surprised me by loving the waterfall so much they wanted to see it from all angles. We made the short hike to the bottom where they saw the falls from a different viewpoint. 12-year-old Cedar snapped a lovely waterfall photo we shared on Visit Bend’s Facebook page, promptly racking up more than 1,000 likes and making the kid’s day.

 

Noon: Lunch at Paulina Lake Lodge

A tasty lunch overlooking the lake at Paulina Lake Lodge.

A tasty lunch overlooking the lake at Paulina Lake Lodge.

I’d stopped at this lodge plenty of times for a potty break or a snack at the gift store, but I’d never bothered to sit down for a meal. What a treat!

We sat on the deck outside to enjoy panoramic views of the lake and mountains while we studied the surprisingly expansive menu. The kids’ menu boasted standard kid-friendly fare like chicken strips and grilled cheese, both of which were deemed delicious by my traveling companions. I opted for a pulled pork sandwich with homemade coleslaw. It was zingy and tasty, and the views made everything that much more scrumptious. After we ate, the kids enjoyed a few minutes of skipping rocks from the edge of the dock beside the lodge.

Cedar and Violet skip rocks by the lodge before we set out on the next stage of our adventure.

Cedar and Violet skip rocks by the lodge before we set out on the next stage of our adventure.

Added bonus: the staff was so friendly and helpful they provided detailed instructions for reaching the next stop on our adventure and recommended a shovel to help scoop gravel from the hot springs. When we admitted we didn’t have one, they helpfully cleaned out an empty coffee can for us to use.

 

1 p.m.: Hike from Little Crater Campground to Paulina Lake Hot Springs

This is one of those “locals’ secrets” I’m probably going to get yelled at for revealing to you, but I don’t believe in hoarding all the good spots for myself. Besides, you have to work a little to find this one, so it’s unlikely to be overrun by a million beer-guzzling graffiti artists.

Tawna and Violet soak their toes in the hot springs after a two-mile hike around Paulina Lake to reach the spot.

Tawna and Violet soak their toes in the hot springs after a two-mile hike around Paulina Lake to reach the spot.

After lunch, we drove a short distance from Paulina Lake Lodge to the Little Crater Campground on the edge of the lake. There’s a day-use area at the very end of the campground, and that’s where we parked to begin the roughly two-mile hike along the lakeshore to the hot springs. At the point where the trail veers uphill, stick to the shoreline and watch for shallow pools fringed with logs. There are several hot springs along the way, and you’ll usually find a few folks soaking in them.

Don’t go expecting a deep soaking pool with seats and towel racks. The springs are shallow and rustic, and it’s a good idea to have something to dig with so you can make a larger spot for soaking and optimize the mix of chilly lake water and piping hot spring water.

Remember your sunscreen before heading out, and don’t forget a bottle of water and sturdy water shoes.

 

3:45 p.m.: Scope out the Big Obsidian Flow

Big, glassy hunks of obsidian adorn the trail at the Big Obsidian Flow.

Big, glassy hunks of obsidian adorn the trail at the Big Obsidian Flow.

By the time we’d hiked to and from the hot springs and expended a fair amount of energy splashing in the water, we were feeling pretty wiped. Luckily, The Big Obsidian Flow was just a short drive up the road and a fairly easy walk to the trailhead.

From there you can scope out views of glassy obsidian and a breathtaking hidden lake. This is Oregon’s youngest lava flow, where more than 170 million cubic yards of obsidian and pumice erupted from a vent in the caldera. A one-mile loop interpretive trail covers one corner of the flow.

The Big Obsidian Flow is one of several sites covered in the Volcano Tour from Wanderlust, so if you’d rather have someone else handle all the driving, planning, navigating, and narrating of cool geological facts, that’s a handy option.

 

4:30 p.m. A trip to East Lake? A drive up Paulina Peak? Or time to head home?

All in all, a great day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument!

All in all, a great day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument!

We briefly considered a short drive to East Lake for more sightseeing or a trip up 8,000-foot Paulina Peak for 360-degree volcanic views, but we had tickets to a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, so it was time to head home.

Visitors without concert tickets could probably manage either (possibly both) of these additional side trips. Those with an interest in seeing the Lava Cast Forest (a 7,000-year-old basalt lava flow that enveloped a mature forest and took the shape of trees while it cooled) would be wise to tack on that detour near the start of the trip while still near the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

But overall, we were satisfied with what we managed to pack in on day one of our Newberry National Volcanic Monument tour.

 

STILL TO COME NEXT WEEK:

Read about day two of our Newberry National Monument adventure, which includes a full day of biking, hiking, splashing, jumping, and sliding in waterfalls on the Paulina Plunge!

Bringing the kids to town? Here’s a roundup of ideas for your kid friendly vacation in Bend!

July 3rd, 2014

On the master list of my favorite childhood vacation memories, more than half are in Bend.

For a kid growing up on the rainier side of the state, there’s something magical about the bright desert sun, towering mountain peaks, and sage-scented air in Central Oregon. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation whether you’re herding toddlers or corralling rowdy teens.

Here are some of my favorite ways to explore the kid friendly side of Bend for families.

 

Find yourself some family-friendly digs

Bend offers hundreds of amazing hotels, motels, vacation homes, resorts, campgrounds, and more that cater to families. You’ll find a great starting point here.

8-year-old Violet gets her giddyup going during the Cowboy Cookout at Brasada Ranch. Meanwhile, happy parents are enjoying a romantic meal just up the road at Range Restaurant.

8-year-old Violet gets her giddyup going during the Cowboy Cookout at Brasada Ranch. Meanwhile, happy parents are enjoying a romantic meal just up the road at Range Restaurant.

I recently got the opportunity to play tourist in my own town with a stay at Brasada Ranch. The luxury cabins made the perfect home base for all the hiking, biking, and horseback riding we could handle, and the kids went nuts for the massive swimming pools and waterslide. Our highlight was a romantic dinner for two at Range while the kids were busy roasting s’mores and riding horses at the Cowboy Cookout.

Mt. Bachelor Village is another nice option for families craving the amenities of a resort. For families who prefer the privacy of a vacation home in Bend, you’ll find dozens of Bend rental homes offering perks ranging from hot tubs to bikes to barbecues.

Looking for a cool camping option? These trailers from Cricket Rental can be towed with a regular old 4-cyl automobile.

Looking for a cool camping option? These trailers from Cricket Rental can be towed with a regular old 4-cyl automobile.

If you like the ease and simplicity of a hotel, you’ll find tons of great Bend hotels and motels catering to families. Enjoy the free hot breakfast buffet each morning at Riverhouse Hotel and Convention Center, or let the kids splash in the indoor pool at the Doubletree by Hilton in the middle of Downtown Bend.

And for families who want a unique spin on camping, check out the luxury camper trailers available from Cricket Rentals.

 

 

Go play outside

Now that you’ve got a place to lay your head, it’s time to get serious about the real reason you came to Bend—frolicking in the great outdoors.

11-year-old Cedar frolics with Bindi on Elk Lake.

12-year-old Cedar frolics with Bindi on Elk Lake.

Water play is a popular activity in the summer months, and you’ll find plenty of that around Bend. To cool off like a local, rent a float tube from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe or Sun Country Tours (don’t forget your free life vest rental for the kiddos). Then learn everything you need to know about floating the river here.

The High Cascade Lakes are another great place to splash in the summer months. Elk Lake and Cultus Lake are my personal favorites with kids, since both offer great picnic spots, easy beach areas for swimming, and plenty of rental gear like boats and standup paddleboards.

If swimming pools are more your scene, the on-site pool at Brasada Ranch is great fun for guests there, or take a short day trip to enjoy waterslides and kid-friendly pools at SHARC (in Sunriver) or Kah-Nee-Ta Resort (in Warm Springs).

If there’s an adrenaline junkie or two in the family, try a whitewater rafting excursion from Sun Country Tours for the perfect blend of “bragging-rights-scary” and “not-going-to-kill-me-scary.” Even little ones can get in on the adventure, as the popular Big Eddy Thriller is great for kids 6 and up.

The Fenske-Zagurski clan enjoys a surrey ride through the Old Mill District, courtesy of Wheel Fun Rentals.

The Fenske-Zagurski clan enjoys a surrey ride through the Old Mill District, courtesy of Wheel Fun Rentals.

Once you’ve had your fill of water, head out for another form of family recreation. Cog Wild offers family-friendly mountain bike outings for riders of all ages and experience levels. If you’d rather get the whole family on a single bike together, try a surrey outing with Wheel Fun Rentals and use the opportunity to explore Bend’s stunning Old Mill District. (Insider tip: Don’t try to squeeze through the posts designed to keep cars off bike paths or you’ll end up banging the pedals. Um, not that I’d know anything about that).

Prefer a guided adventure where someone else does all the driving, navigating, and answering questions about geographic features and which bugs you can eat? Wanderlust Tours offers unique outings ranging from cave tours to moonlight canoeing to volcano exploration.

 

Feeling indoorsy?

There’s a limit to how much outdoor activity you can pack into a Bend vacation. Sometimes the limit is determined by sunburn, and other times by your offspring’s short attention span. Whatever the case, there’s plenty of indoor fun to be had in Bend, too.

Getting up close and personal with a desert tortoise at the High Desert Museum.

Getting up close and personal with a desert tortoise at the High Desert Museum.

The High Desert Museum offers a great chance to explore Bend’s culture, history, and wildlife. While you’ll have to set foot outside to get to a few exhibits like the otter and the birds of prey, you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly areas in the main part of the museum (including Vivi the bobcat who seriously looks like she needs a belly rub).

I told my 12-year-old stepson I was on the fence about including Sun Mountain Fun Center in this post because parents might not like the idea of their kids playing video games on vacation, but he reminded me they also have bumper cars, batting cages, mini golf, go-carts, bowling and more. Smart kid. Or a kid who’s angling to go there again, which isn’t a bad idea now that temps are soaring and a little air conditioning can be refreshing.

Get a close-up look at how they make Oregon ice cream (among other delicious treats!) during a Goody's factory tour.

Get a close-up look at how they make Oregon ice cream (among other delicious treats!) during a Goody’s factory tour.

For families with a sweet tooth, Bend-based Goody’s Chocolates offers factory tours with samples of candy and ice cream that will give your kids enough of a sugar buzz to fuel them for the next activity.

Frugal families seeking a couple hours of respite from the pitter-patter of little feet might enjoy the Regal Cinema Movie Express program in the Old Mill District. Every Wednesday and Thursday from late June through mid-August, the young’uns can catch a kid-friendly flick for just $1 at 10 a.m.

 

 

Get ‘em some culture

Bend’s arts and culture has gotten a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. It’s one of the most approachable, down-to-earth art scenes around, with public art like the Tin Pan Alley collection and the Roundabout Art Route (both of which make fun opportunities for kids to check out paintings and sculptures in Bend’s great outdoors).

Michael Franti is one of many performers whose concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are family-friendly.

Michael Franti is one of many performers whose concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are family-friendly.

My own step-kids are big fans of live music, and Bend is an amazing spot for that. Freebie concerts like Munch and Music, Alive After 5, and Free Summer Sundays are all family-friendly and fun for all ages. Bring your low-backed chairs and a picnic, or buy tasty food and drinks on-site.

The lineup of summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater always includes several shows that are great for the whole family. My stepdaughter and I got to groove on-stage with Pink Martini last summer, and Michael Franti’s shows are always a kick for young’uns. Coming up later this summer, Amos Lee’s July 18 show looks like it should be a fun one for families to enjoy together. Go here for ticket info.

 

Feed the beasts

It’s been brought to my attention that children occasionally need sustenance. Luckily, just about any place you go in Bend is happy to cater to people who can’t legally vote.

Cedar and Violet enjoy making their own pizzas at Flatbread Community Pizza.

Cedar and Violet enjoy making their own pizzas at Flatbread Community Pizza.

One of our favorite family-friendly dining spots is Flatbread Community Pizza. The kids get to assemble their own pizzas and watch them bake in the wood-fired oven, while grownups can enjoy a cocktail, beer, or wine and munch on gourmet pizzas and salads. My personal favorite is the maple fennel pizza with a side of their brand new chopped kale salad (grilled stonefruit, golden beats, chevre goat cheese, candied walnuts, blood orange vinaigrette). They even have a wine flight specially created to pair with pizza.

Another reliable option in the Old Mill District is Red Robin. People with a chip on their shoulder about chain restaurants might turn up their noses at this option, but parents who’ve reached the end of their rope and just want a reliable dinner spot with a menu guaranteed to please cranky kids will be happy to know it’s there (and has some pretty terrific salads to boot!)

Families craving fine dining will find plenty of delicious fare at 900 Wall, with the added bonus of a kids-eat-free special starting at 5 p.m. on Sundays (excluding holidays).

Enjoying a family-friendly dinner on the balcony at Deschutes Brewery's pub in Downtown Bend.

Enjoying a family-friendly dinner on the balcony at Deschutes Brewery’s pub in Downtown Bend.

One thing we hear a lot from parents is that they fervently wish to enjoy the Bend Ale Trail, but assume they can’t do it with kids in tow. Au contraire! Quite a number of Bend’s breweries have terrific family-friendly options. Bend Brewing Company has one of the best kids’ menus in town, and Crux Fermentation Project has an incredible outdoor patio with a huge field where kids love to frolic.

One of the most kid-friendly spots along the Bend Ale Trail is Deschutes Brewery. Beer fans of legal drinking age will appreciate the opportunity to sip suds at the birthplace of Bend’s craft brew scene while enjoying gourmet eats like tangy baby back ribs, or my personal favorite, Mirror Pond Mac & Cheese (made with spinach, roasted shallots, house-cured tasso ham, Tillamook cheddar, and bread crumbs, served with a side salad). The hearty kids’ menu features the usual fare like pizza and mac & cheese, and there’s a huge gluten-free selection for those who need it.

Planning to be in Bend for Fourth of July 2014? Here’s everything you need to know!

June 25th, 2014

‘Tis the season for fireworks, parades, Fourth of July camping trips, and floods of phone calls to Visit Bend from travelers seeking information about all those things.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common questions we get this time of year. Since it wouldn’t be very nice if we only gave you the questions, we’ve also taken the time to provide answers. We’re helpful like that.

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

Fireworks burst above Pilot Butte.

Fireworks burst above Pilot Butte.

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

If that’s not an option, you can see fireworks from just about any spot in town with a view of Pilot Butte. City parks are popular viewing spots, so check the Parks & Rec site to find one near you. Get there early with a blanket or chairs, since some of the popular locales can be packed.

 

Q: What special events are happening for July 4?

A: One of the most popular Bend traditions is the annual Pancake Breakfast in Drake Park sponsored by the Bend Sunrise Lion’s Club. This all-American meal is served from 8 a.m. to noon. Cost is $4 for kids and $6 for adults, and proceeds support local charities.

The Pet Parade is a spectacle all by itself!

The Pet Parade is a spectacle all by itself!

My personal favorite event is the annual Pet Parade. It’s Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000 spectators and participants, and it’s been happening since the 1930s. Starting at 10 a.m., the parade winds its way through downtown with a kooky array of humans, canines, and farm animals, many of whom will be attired in bizarre costumes.

parademapIf you or your kids want to march in the parade, the lineup and decorating party takes place at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot between Bond and Wall across from the Deschutes Public Library. If you just want to watch, you can park your chair pretty much anywhere in Downtown Bend. Streets will be closed starting at 9 a.m. and parking can be tough to find, so get there nice and early.

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

Craving a more intimate celebration? Brasada Ranch (just 16 miles northeast of Bend ) is holding an Independence Day All American BBQ. You can enjoy great food, live music, lawn games, and panoramic views of three (yes, THREE) firework shows across the region. Dinner is served from 6-8 p.m. and music goes from 7:30-10:30. Cost is $39 for adults and $23 for kids 5-10.

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

 

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

A: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend, and 2014 will be especially crazy with the holiday falling on a Friday. A good starting point is Visit Bend’s complete roundup of campgrounds and RV parks. While we can’t guarantee availability on a busy holiday weekend, these might be worth trying if you strike out elsewhere:

There are plenty of places to camp in and around Bend.

There are plenty of places to camp in and around Bend.

 

Q: Where can I play in the Deschutes River?

The view from your river float as you pass through the Old Mill District.

The view from your river float as you pass through the Old Mill District.

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

 

Q: What hikes are open?

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

 

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

A: Though the High Desert Museum is closed on Independence Day, be sure to stop by on a different day during your trip. Lava Lands Visitor Center is Open July 4. The Des Chutes Historical Museum is not only open, but offers free admission all day on July 4.

 

Q: We really like the way you write the Bend Buzz Blog and would like to buy you some fireworks. What would you like?

A: Why thank you! Sparklers and smoke balls, please. I like the green ones.

Five things you’ve gotta smell in Bend, Oregon

June 20th, 2014

At the rate technology is advancing, I like to think I’ll someday be able to offer you a scratch-and-sniff blog post.

While I can’t do that yet, I can tell you Bend, Oregon, is one of the most deliciously fragrant places I’ve ever been. Sure, it looks beautiful, but here are five things you absolutely, positively must smell in Bend and Central Oregon.

 

The woodsy trail above Big Eddy rapid is one of the best places to catch a whiff of the scent of warm pine needles.

The woodsy trail above Big Eddy rapid is one of the best places to catch a whiff of the scent of warm pine needles.

Pine needles in the sun

There’s a deliciously nutty, piney fragrance you’ll notice when you hike the ponderosa-lined trails around Bend. The sun-soaked high desert earth bakes the needles to aromatic perfection, and I find myself wanting to press my nose against the red-barked trunks. I notice it most prominently along the Deschutes River Trail in the summer months when the sun shines particularly bright, but since it’s sunny year ‘round in Bend, you can pick up the scent nearly any day of the year. To find it for yourself, head up Century Drive and pick a trail that looks appealing. Then close your eyes and breathe deeply. Try not to run into any trees.

 

Festivals and Farmers Markets

Munch and Music is one of many deliciously fragrant festivals in Bend.

Munch and Music is one of many deliciously fragrant festivals in Bend.

I suppose you could just call this “food smells” and be done with it, but the fragrance enveloping Bend’s many festivals and Farmers Markets is so much more than that. It’s layer upon layer of delicious culinary scents like pungent leafy greens, grilled onions, and batter-dipped corndogs. Add in a dash of sunscreen, spilled beer, and the fragrance of poly-vinyl bouncy houses warming in the sun, plus a subtle undertone of river water and pine. The result is an indescribable perfume that’s actually not all that indescribable at all—it’s the fragrance of fun. To find a festival that fits your vacation schedule, check Visit Bend’s event calendar.

 

Juniper and sage in the rain

Dogs love the smell of juniper and desert sage, too.

Dogs love the smell of juniper and desert sage, too.

While I love this medley of fragrances in the sunshine, too, there’s something especially mesmerizing about the way these two scents mingle on our rare rainy days in the high desert. Imagine the woodsy, floral aroma of sage rinsed clean with the green botanical notes of juniper. I recently made saltimbocca (thin pieces of chicken breast wrapped in sage leaves and prosciutto) and served it with a Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, and that was pretty much the culinary equivalent of this fragrance. The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is a particularly lovely place to breathe in this intoxicating blend, with the added bonus of uncrowded trails and raw, scenic beauty.

 

 

 

Grassy lake shores

The grassy banks of Elk Lake are a divine spot to breathe in the scent of summer.

The grassy banks of Elk Lake are a divine spot to breathe in the scent of summer.

I’m not sure if it’s the tangle of reeds and grasses, the musk of damp earth, or the bright scent of the river water itself that produces this deliciously clean fragrance. It’s probably a mix of all three, and there’s something about it that instantly lowers my blood pressure. Sometimes I like to take off my shoes and squish my toes in the mud to fully embrace this fragrance. There are a few spots on the shore of Elk Lake where this is an option, and nearby Hosmer Lake is another great spot to wade in and experience it. There are also a number of spots along the Deschutes River with deliciously muddy banks, so take off your shoes and start sniffing. Wait…that came out wrong.

 

The cornucopia of food smells in Downtown Bend

900 Wall is the source of many amazing smells (not to mention tastes!) in Downtown Bend.

900 Wall is the source of many amazing smells (not to mention tastes!) in Downtown Bend.

Anytime between lunch and late-evening, you can walk the streets of Downtown Bend and breathe in the most heady blend of food smells imaginable. There’s a mix of exotic spices from Toomie’s Thai Cuisine, Taj Palace, and Five Fusion wafting on the breeze as you stroll from Minnesota Avenue toward Wall Street. Near 900 Wall and Brickhouse, you’ll breathe in the scents of peppery grilled meats and garlicky pizzas bubbling in wood-fired ovens. Don’t try this when you’re hungry, as there’s no possible way to resist ducking into one of the restaurants for a bite. On second thought, a state of hunger is precisely when you want to do this.

So that’s my roundup of five of my favorite fragrances in Bend. What’s yours? Please share in the comments!

From guided horseback riding to solo trail rides, you’ll find plenty of equestrian adventure in Bend

June 12th, 2014

My grandparents raised racehorses in Central Oregon, so I grew up associating Bend with saddles and curry combs.

I’ve seen a recent uptick in journalists and visitors seeking info on horsey adventures in Bend, so I’m clearly not the only one realizing Central Oregon is a pretty fab place to get your giddyup going. Equitrekking recently named Bend the #1 town on their list of five great equestrian communities, so now seems like an excellent time to review the options for equine activities in Bend, Oregon.

Visit Bend blogger, Tawna, enjoying a morning horseback ride at Brasada Ranch with her family.

Visit Bend blogger, Tawna, enjoying a morning horseback ride at Brasada Ranch with her family.

Most Central Oregon visitors aren’t stuffing their own horses into carry-on luggage or making the trek over the mountains with a horse trailer in tow. Luckily, a plethora of local stables and equestrian centers make it possible for you to saddle up and ride off into the high desert sage anyway.

I recently visited the Brasada Ranch Equestrian Center where I joined my fiancé and his eight-year-old daughter on a trail ride. She immediately declared it “the best part of my whole summer,” which was saying something considering summer hadn’t actually started.

Even on a cloudy morning, the mountain views from the Brasada Ranch trail ride are breathtaking.

Even on a cloudy morning, the mountain views from the Brasada Ranch trail ride are breathtaking.

Nevertheless, I had to agree. The wranglers who accompanied us took excellent care in making sure everyone was properly mounted and comfortable in the saddle. Our group ranged from experienced riders to young kids who seemed uncertain which end of the horse to feed.

My trusty stead was named “Sweet Girl,” and seemed joyfully undaunted by the flatulence of the horse riding in front of us. While I admired breathtaking views of the Cascade Mountains and entertained a few western-themed fantasies that may or may not have involved shirtless cowboys, the professional wrangler leading our pack made engaging conversation with the eight-year-old, while the wrangler at the back soothed the nerves of a nervous six-year-old first-timer in our group.

Brasada Ranch Equestrian Center offers a variety of options for rides and lessons ranging from 1.5 hours to 2 hours to custom experiences. Go here for pricing and details.

There are plenty of other equestrian centers in Central Oregon offering guided trail rides and instruction. You’ll find a good roundup of giddyup on Visit Bend’s horseback riding page. Besides Brasada Ranch, visitors speak highly of their equestrian experiences at Sunriver Stables, Seventh Mountain Resort, and Black Butte Ranch.

The kids learn proper care and grooming for horses during a private lesson at Rhinestone Ranch.

The kids learn proper care and grooming for horses during a private lesson at Rhinestone Ranch.

If you’re looking for a horsey experience outside the resort scene, Bend has a number of small, independent ranches and stables offering boarding and private lessons.

Last year we gifted the young’uns with a few private lessons from Rhinestone Ranch. Located just five miles east of Costco, it’s a handy option for guests staying at a Bend hotel or vacation rental who want an equestrian option that doesn’t require much drive time. Owner Trisha Gallucci did a bang-up job of not only making the kids comfortable riding the horses, but teaching them how to properly comb them and clean their hooves. For more ideas on smaller, independent equestrian facilities, go here.

So what if you already have your own horse and you’re looking for a place to saddle up and ride?

Todd Lake is one of the most popular lakes for horse enthusiasts along the Cascade Lakes highway. Horse-friendly trails lead into the Three Sisters Wilderness, offering access to lovely spots like Cayuse Crater and Soda Creek. There are even a few tent campsites equipped for folks staying with horses.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness offer another option for riders looking to head out on their own. Southeast of Bend on Highway 20 near milepost 18 is the Badlands Rock Trailhead. Popular with the horse crowd, the soft trail offers a look at the area’s unique volcanic rock formations along with stunning views of the Cascade Mountains.

If you prefer to enjoy horses from a slight distance, rather than from the saddle, don't miss the Oregon Classic.

If you prefer to enjoy horses from a slight distance, rather than from the saddle, don’t miss the Oregon High Desert Classics the last two weeks of July.

For horse enthusiasts in the mood to be spectators, Bend is also home to a number of impressive equestrian events. The Oregon High Desert Classics is a world class horse show held east of Bend the last two weeks of July as a benefit for J Bar J Youth Services. The show offers free viewing during the day, plus celebration under the Patron’s Tent at night.

The Rose City Opener is another top-notch equestrian event bringing hunter/jumper competitors to Bend each May.

Fans of horse racing can travel to Prineville the second week in July for the horse racing segment of the Crooked River Roundup.

Parents of horse-crazy kids should check out the horseback riding camps at Camp Tamarack offered throughout August.  While junior learns horse handling skills and grooming techniques, mom and dad can schedule a romantic grownup getaway in Bend.

Now get on out there and giddyup!

 

 

Everything you need to know about floating the river in Bend, Oregon

June 6th, 2014

It’s been nearly three years since I wrote this post about floating the Deschutes River in Bend. Though it’s long-buried in the archives, it continues to rack up the highest number of views of all the Bend Buzz Blog posts.

See that sandy beach off the right just below the bridge? That's a great spot to start your float on the Deschutes River.

See that sandy beach off the right just below the bridge? That’s a great spot to start your float on the Deschutes River.

Think that says something about the popularity of floating the river in Bend?

In the interest of making sure we’ve got the latest-and-greatest info out there for our lovely readers, here’s a revamped version of the post for your enjoyment . . .

For those who don’t live in Bend, the idea of floating the river can seem a little daunting. You see all the smiling, happy people floating past as you stroll through the Old Mill District for dinner or shopping, but um…well, how do they get there? And what are the rules?

Hey, relax. Floating the river is a cinch.

The easiest place to kick off your river float is from Riverbend Park, though another great spot is Farewell Bend Park just a little upstream on the opposite shore just a few feet downstream from the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge. Either place offers a safe, sandy shore for you to launch your air mattress, float tube, or raft. If you want a shorter float, you can also start just downstream from the Colorado Avenue Bridge on the sandy beach in McKay Park and float from there to Drake Park.

The view from your river float as you pass through the Old Mill District.

The view from your river float as you pass through the Old Mill District.

Don’t have an inner tube or a PFD? No problem. Head over to Riverbend Park and look for the little trailer with the Sun Country Tours logo on the side. Not only do they rent float tubes and standup paddle boards, they loan free PFDs (personal floatation devices) to children 12 and under. Another great option for float tube rentals is Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. They also rent PFDs, canoes, kayaks, and standup paddle boards and are conveniently located close to the Old Mill District.

Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to floating the river. I’m a big fan of the single air mattress and a slow, easy stroke to keep myself heading straight. When I’m floating with the family, we usually opt for a queen-sized air mattress with the two kids in the middle and the grownups on either side for easy one-armed paddling.

OK, so you’ve got your floaty and you’ve hoped in the river somewhere near Riverbend Park. Now what?

You’ll meander along the Deschutes through the Old Mill District, passing under a couple bridges and waving to happy shoppers and diners. As you approach the Colorado Avenue Bridge, you’ll see a bunch of signs pointing you toward an exit. Follow the signs carefully, as a trip over the spillway would pretty much ruin your vacation (not to mention your life).

Preparing for our family float last Father's Day.

Preparing for our family float last Father’s Day.

Once you’re out of the river, you have the option of walking around the spillway and continuing your journey by putting in again from the beach in McKay Park and floating from there to Drake Park. That’s usually what I do, but if you’re pressed for time, you can always hoof it back to your starting point or catch the Ride the River shuttle back to your starting point. If you continue on to Drake Park and you’re not shuttling with a two-car buddy system, the Ride the River shuttle can pick you up from here, too. Just be sure to check the website beforehand for schedule and pricing, since it doesn’t run every day and won’t kick off this year ‘til July 5.

There are a few rules you need to know before you hop in the water. Under Oregon law, all boats must carry a Coast Guard-approved PFD for every person onboard or being towed. Children under 12 must wear PFDs at all times on a moving boat, including inflatable rafts and kayaks. That doesn’t include individual air mattresses, inner tubes, and floating toys. However, if any of these are tied together, they count as “boats” and the PFD law applies.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Have some sort of water shoes that stay on your feet so you have protection when you hop out of the water and have to hoof it across a hot, rocky surface to your car or shuttle. Chacos, Tevas, or Keens are a good idea. Flip flops are risky, as they can slip off easily (my favorite Havaiana is probably still buried in the muck somewhere).
  • Buy a waterproof pouch to wear around your neck for any essentials like car keys or phone. Consider having your sunglasses on a strap as well, in case you fall in.
  • Pay attention to the signs as you approach the Colorado Avenue Bridge so you know where to exit the river safely.
  • Please, please don’t litter. If you bring beverages or snacks, do not dump bottles and wrappers in our river. If I see you doing this, I will have no qualms about shoving you over the spillway.
  • Have fun! This is pretty much a given, though.

For more information on floating the river, including safety tips and a handy map, check out this page from Bend Metro Parks & Rec.

And for more ideas on other forms of water recreation including whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and more, check out this page on the Visit Bend website.


Vist Bend's Blog
Vist Bend's Video Library
Vist Bend's Photo Galleries