7 things you couldn’t do in Bend Oregon ‘til just now
You don’t want to blink this time of year in Bend. Close your eyes for half-a-second and you’ll open them to discover everything is different. Well, different in a good way. Here are seven exciting new seasonal developments in Bend from the last few weeks.
Lava, lava everywhere!
The Lava Lands Visitor Center closes down during the icy months, but as of May 2, everything is up and running again. This bustling interpretive hub of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a great place for the whole family. Springtime is a particularly pleasant time to visit, since the mid-summer months can be downright scorching with acres of lava rock and obsidian acting as a big solar oven. The Lava Lands Visitor Center offers amazing insights on area geologic and cultural history, a cool gift shop, educational films, ranger talks, and a chance to drive to the top of Lava Butte for a spectacular view of Central Oregon. From now through June 10, they’re open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After June 10 they’ll be open daily for those same hours, which will last through early September.
Bask in the blossoms
It was only a few weeks ago I had to scrape snow off my windshield before driving to the grocery store. There’s still white stuff falling from the sky, but none of it requires a shovel and sturdy boots. Bend’s flowering trees are in full bloom right now, sending cascades of fluttering blossoms adrift anytime the wind blows. It’s a lovely sight to behold, but it won’t last long. And we also can’t guarantee there won’t be one more real snowstorm before things heat up for the summer.
‘Tis the season for dining outdoors
One of my favorite things to do in Bend is enjoy a cocktail and some appetizers on an outdoor patio, so I nearly wept with joy a few weeks ago when local restaurants began dragging tables outside. I especially love 900 Wall in Downtown Bend. It’s a great spot for people-watching, and their happy hour menu is one of the best in town. Try the carpaccio and a greyhound made with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. A bit east of that is Brickhouse, which just moved to a new spot a couple weeks ago. They’ve got a great area for outdoor dining, and their bacon wrapped scallops are out-of-this-world scrumptious (particularly when paired with their tasty cucumber martini). Crossings at the Riverhouse has an enormous deck overlooking the river, plus an equally enormous happy hour menu with oodles of tasty treats to choose from. If you’re in the Old Mill District, head to Anthony’s or Greg’s Grill, which both have amazing outdoor patios overlooking the Deschutes River. The views are spectacular from either spot, and both restaurants boast awesome happy hour menus and terrific wine lists.
Here, fishy fishy
If fishing is your scene, you might have danced a jig on April 27 when most of the great Cascade Lakes opened for fishing season. This includes Crane Prairie Reservoir, South Twin Lake, Little Lava Lake, Big Lava Lake, and Wickiup Reservoir. All of those spots are known for spectacular fishing (or spectacular lounging in the sun reading a good book while someone else does the fishing). For a little extra challenge, Cabela’s planted a specially-tagged fish in South Twin Lake. If you catch it, you could win a million bucks through their Fish for Millions promotion. That’s almost enough to make me consider buying a fishing pole.
Fun for the whole family
All I have to do is whisper the words Sun Mountain Fun Center and my gentleman friend’s offspring will sprint for the car. This is THE place to go for families looking to entertain the youngsters with bowling, billiards, bumper cars, arcade games, and more. What you may not know is that some of their super-fun outdoor activities don’t open ‘til the weather turns warm. The go-karts started running again several weeks ago, and you can ride Friday through Sunday through mid-June when they’re operating every day of the week. The batting cages opened in April, and the outdoor mini-golf opened a bit before that. The Water Wars area won’t open until the weather turns a little bit warmer, but based on the way spring is heating up, that could be sooner than normal. Save some water balloons for me, okay?
On the road again
Seasonal road closures are commonplace in the land of snowy winters, but with the snow receding, popular highways are welcoming traffic once more. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway opened this week, making it easy for guests to reach spots like Devil’s Lake and Sparks Lake (though Todd Lake is still closed due to snow). Crews from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have been clearing the McKenzie Pass Highway, and one lane is already open for cyclists and pedestrians. Gates should open soon for motor vehicles, so stay tuned for news.
A splashin’ good time
If a whitewater raft trip is on your bucket list this summer, you’ll be thrilled to know Sun Country Tours just started running their popular daily Big Eddy Thriller raft trips again last weekend. The adventure features class III rapids on a three-mile journey down the beautiful Deschutes River. It’s great fun for families who don’t mind getting a little soaked, and young kids can opt not to paddle if they choose. You can easily fit the trip into a morning or afternoon, and all experience levels are welcome. The cost is $53 for adults ages 13 and up, or $46 for kids 6-12. Book early, and be prepared to get wet.