6 ways to find the holiday spirit in Bend, Oregon
It’s that time of year again. The convergence of a gazillion holidays ranging from Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanzaa to a bunch of holidays I probably can’t even spell. The overall effect is a general sense of merriment, and we’re certainly feeling it in Bend.
Want a bonus boost of holiday spirit? Here are six ways to get an extra dose of it in Bend right now!
Go trotting through the Old Mill District
Every December, Bend’s Old Mill District transforms itself into a holiday wonderland. You’ll find holiday decorations, roving carolers, and free carriage rides from Cowboy Carriage. You’ll even meet up with jolly Old St. Nick, who’s standing by to hear your kids’ Christmas wishes.
That’s pretty handy, considering how much great shopping you can get done nearby. Go here to scope out the Old Mill’s schedule of holiday events.
Even if you’re not in the mood to shop or sit on the big guy’s lap, it’s a great time to plan a dinner date at one of the Old Mill restaurants. Ask for a spot by the window so you can do some people-watching or scope out the twinkle of holiday lights on the Deschutes River.
Walkin’ in a winter wonderland in Downtown Bend
Another spot I love to wander during the holidays is Downtown Bend. It’s especially magical after a snowfall, but even if there’s not a speck of white stuff on the ground, it’s still a spellbinding place to meander around looking at lights and pretty shop displays.
Be sure to grab something warm to sip before you set out for your stroll. I’m a big fan of the chai at Thump Coffee. They make it themselves, and it’s nice and spicy without being too sweet.
Bellatazza has a unique array of flavored syrups to add to your latte or steamed milk, and my personal faves are cardamom and lavender. If you’re a tea fan, the Lady Londonderry black tea at Townshend’s Tea House is blended with hints of strawberry and lemon and rumored to be the favorite of the late Lady Diana.
Now that you have your beverage in hand, get busy sipping, strolling, and shopping, with a detour through scenic Drake Park if the mood strikes you.
Scope out the Christmas lights
Unlike some cities, Bend doesn’t have a certain neighborhood where all the residents go crazynuts with Christmas lights. That’s actually a plus, since it gives you the excuse to explore freely and discover your own favorites (plus you’ll escape the congestion you see in places like Portland’s famous Peacock Lane).
Why not pick a part of town you don’t know well and use your Christmas light quest as an excuse to explore someplace new? Go here for a rundown of Bend neighborhoods.
If you want a sure thing and you don’t mind a bit of a drive, head northwest to Eagle Crest to check out their mile-long famous holiday light display, Starfest. Choose from a freebie self-guided tour, or check their schedule for details on touring the exhibit via horse-drawn carriage.
Boost your spirits with local spirits
If you fancy a splash of something special in your holiday cocoa, now’s a great time to pick up some made-in-Bend spirits. I have several personal faves this time of year. Oregon Spirit Distillers makes a terrific Blackberry Cordial that’s amazing drizzled over ice cream. I’m also quite fond of their Merrylegs Genever Gin mixed up in an orange-cranberry gin and tonic.
Bendistillery’s Crater Lake Spirits have a starring role in my liquor cabinet, and I always restock this time of year. You’ll never catch me without a bottle of their Pepper Vodka (perfect with pineapple juice!) or their Sweet Ginger Vodka (yummy in lemonade or cocoa!)
Bendistillery’s concoctions also make an awesome gift. My literary agent is getting a bottle of their Hazelnut Espresso Vodka that I know she’ll love mixing into milkshakes, and my sister-in-law is always tickled to see one of their sample packs in her stocking.
Er, should I not be revealing Christmas gifts in a public blog?
Tackle that last-minute gift buying
Still scrambling to get those stocking stuffers purchased? The aforementioned Old Mill District and Downtown Bend make great starting points for your shopping quest, or go here for a handy rundown of shopping districts in Bend.
If you’re seeking something super-unique, check out this blog post featuring five Bend gifts you didn’t know existed (and that you can find right here in the Bend Visitor Center).
Savor the hush of new-fallen snow
Sure, shopping and slurping are fun holiday activities, but sometimes it’s the more solitary pursuits that really fill you with the holiday spirit. I’m a big fan of a quiet snowshoe outing when fresh snow has fallen and it’s early in the morning before a lot of other people are out exploring.
Wanoga Sno-Park is my go-to spot for an outing with my pup, or I’ll head for the opposite side of the highway and snowshoe around the Dutchman Flat area sans pooch. While the Virginia Meisner Sno-Park area can get a little busy during peak hours, it’s fun to trek to one of the warming huts along the way for a romantic winter picnic.
Go here for more ideas on snowshoeing in Bend. If you’re not quite ready to go it alone, the folks at Wanderlust Tours can take you for a guided outing that includes all gear, transportation, and awesome insights about the geology and wildlife of the area.