Most of us are told a lot of fibs and half-truths throughout our lives: The check is in the mail. You haven’t aged a bit. The Easter Bunny is coming.
Sorry if I ruined anyone’s holiday with that last one.
We strive to be honest in our marketing of Bend, Oregon, as the best tourism destination on the planet. That probably makes me hyper-aware of some of the not-so-true things floating around out there. Fortunately for Bend visitors, the truth is actually better than the reality in many cases. Here are five lies you might have heard about Bend (and the real truth behind them):
Dirty lie #1: You must have snow tires to visit Bend in the winter.
I didn’t own a set of snow tires for the first 15 years I lived in Bend, and even though I make several trips over the Cascade Mountains each winter, I’ve only had to chain up a handful of times in my life as a fourth-generation Oregonian.
It’s true snowstorms happen in the winter months, and that traction devices are sometimes required over the mountain passes. But tire chains aren’t terribly expensive and can be returned to the store if you don’t end up using them. I’m a big fan of Les Schwab, where they’ll not only figure out what sort of chains your vehicle needs, they’ll show you in an idiot-friendly fashion how to put them on. Buy the chains, request a tutorial, then throw them in your trunk and hope you won’t need them at all.
And if you do? Hey, that’s good news for all the snowy winter recreation you might want to enjoy in Bend!
Dirty lie #2: Bend is just a beer town.
The amount of press coverage we get for the Bend Ale Trail might lead you to think that’s the only adult beverage to be had in Central Oregon. Fortunately for those of us with a taste for alternate adult beverages, Bend has a staggering abundance of distilleries, cideries, wineries, and more.
To get a taste-test of all of the above, try the The Local Pour outing with Wanderlust Tours. It’s a guided trip that takes you to one brewery, one cidery, one winery, and one distillery in Bend. They provide transportation to and from your Bend hotel or vacation rental, and each trip includes facility tours, tastings, and appetizers at one of the stops.
Prefer to explore on your own? Check out Drinkable Detours! An offshoot of the Bend Ale Trail, it’s your handy guide to navigating between three local cideries, three distilleries, four wineries, and one kombucha producer. Cheers!
Dirty lie #3: Bend gets 300 days of sunshine a year.
Okay, I’ll admit it—I’ve shared this stat with journalists writing about Bend, and you’ll even see it in a spot or two on our website. It’s one of the most oft-repeated details about Bend, and technically, it’s true.
What it really comes down to is how you define “days of sunshine.” Are we talking “days on which the sun shines for at least a little while?” In that case, I’ll happily defend the claim. It’s pretty rare to have a day in Bend when the sun doesn’t shine brightly for at least an hour or two.
But if we’re talking “the sun is blazing the entire day,” then no—it’s not true. We wouldn’t want it to be, since perpetually cloudless skies would make it tough for snow to accumulate at Mt. Bachelor.
And really, it’s all about perspective. I grew up in Salem, Oregon, so I know winter days on the other side of the mountains can be drizzly and gray without even a flicker of sunshine for weeks on end. Comparatively speaking, sunlight in Bend is blessedly abundant, and makes Central Oregon a fabulous retreat in the winter months when you desperately need a vitamin D fix.
Dirty lie #4: Bend has gotten too crowded.
You hear this uttered most often by folks who’ve moved to Bend in the last couple years and want to slam the door shut behind them so no one else gets in. That’s not how it works, especially not in a city with enough scenic beauty and wide open spaces to go around.
When I moved here in 1997, Bend had a population of 32,000 people. We’ve added about 50,000 more since then, and as you might imagine, the place has changed a bit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
City planners have been smart about growth, and our roadways and landmarks are well-managed and intelligently-planned. Amenities like the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the Old Mill District didn’t exist fifteen years ago, and now I go there constantly to catch a summer concert or enjoy a romantic dinner on the Deschutes River.
If I ever catch myself whining about road congestion, all I have to do is drive to Portland, Salem, Eugene, or Seattle and remember that a “traffic jam” there means a 20-minute drive takes an hour or more. In Bend, a “traffic jam” means it takes 20 minutes instead of 15 to get from one end of town to the other.
Dirty lie #5: Bend is just for outdoorsy people.
There’s no doubt that Bend’s abundance of outdoor recreation is what keeps people coming here to hike, bike, ski, raft, SUP, climb, snowshoe, kayak, or find a gazillion other ways to play outside.
But if you’re the indoorsy sort, there’s plenty here for you, too.
Soak up Bend’s phenomenal arts and culture by browsing galleries, savoring public art exhibits, visiting museums, or taking in concerts and live theater. If shopping is your thing, you’ll find oodles of cool boutiques, local artisans, and major retailers scattered through shopping districts that boast killer mountain views and pathways meandering along the Deschutes River.
Bend’s culinary scene is outstanding as well, and you can enjoy it by dining in one of hundreds of local restaurants and cafes, or by taking a cooking class or culinary tour with The Well Traveled Fork.
For family-friendly activities, you can’t beat the High Desert Museum and its abundance of unique exhibits and cool critters. You can also check out this blog post or this one for more ideas on how to entertain a family on a Bend vacation.