Listen. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of . . . well, nothing.
Something funny happens in Bend each year during the weeks that follow a chaotic Christmas break and precede the visitor uptick in mid-February for Presidents’ Weekend. Traffic dies down, shops and restaurants go quiet, and there’s a whole lot of solitude up for grabs out there in Bend’s expansive wilderness.
Some folks love the silence. Others (like retailers who depend on tourist spending) struggle a bit with the slowdown. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here are four ways to make the most of mid-winter silence in Bend, Oregon.
Get outside and embrace the solitude
One of my favorite hiking memories is a solo trek I enjoyed around the Oregon Badlands Wilderness in late-January three years ago. It was just my dog, me, and a whole lot of crisp quiet (plus a good compass—that’s essential if you’re hiking solo).
If you like the sound of silence, there’s oodles of it to be found right now in Bend’s wilderness areas. Rent a fat bike and use pedal power to explore your favorite trails. Snowshoe into the vast, snowy woods and listen to your own heartbeat thudding in your ears.
The possibilities are endless, and the solitude is empowering.
Fill the silence with music and laughter
Now that you’ve recharged your batteries with the sound of silence, it’s time to add back a few happy sounds.
January and February are among the best times of year for performances at intimate venues like the Tower Theatre (including the Bend A Cappella Festival coming up in just a few weeks). You can also peruse Visit Bend’s event calendar for musical performances happening all over town during your Bend vacation.
Is laughter the sound you most want to hear? Check out The Pavilion for a few hours of gleeful twirling on Central Oregon’s only NHL-sized ice rink. There’s even a warm viewing area if you’re not up for strapping skates on your own feet.
For more indoorsy squeals of laughter, take the kids to Sun Mountain Fun Center for bumper cars, bowling, and video games. You can also hit up the brand new Mountain Air Trampoline Park for giggly good times with the added bonus of burning A TON of kid energy. (Pro tip for moms: Wear a good sports bra. You’ll thank me later).
Help out a small business
I’ll admit it. There’s a part of me that enjoys walking into a Bend restaurant this time of year and knowing I’ll have no trouble getting a table.
But there’s a bigger part of me that knows small businesses in Bend struggle during this quieter time of year. The vacation crowds have died down, but the folks who own tour companies and small shops still have kids to feed.
Now is a great opportunity for some retail therapy in Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District. It’s also a terrific time to book a tour with a small family-owned operator like Wanderlust Tours, Cowboy Carriage, Bend Tour Company, Cog Wild, Extreme Oregon, or countless other tour operators you see listed right here.
Quietly spread joy
As an introvert who’d rather chew off her own arm than make small talk with strangers, I’m not always the best ambassador for the sort of open friendliness Bendites are known for.
That’s one thing I love about the Bend Joy Project. It’s all is all about finding small ways to spread joy and build bridges of kindness and compassion in Bend. There are billboards and videos, volunteer initiatives and bumper stickers, but my favorite thing is the “share cards.”
You’ll find these nifty little cards in about 150 locations around Bend, including our own Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon. You can also find online versions to share via email. Some are interactive, like the one that says, “Make a stranger smile today” or “Give this card to someone you admire and share why.” Others are more reflective, like “Write down 5 things you are grateful for today.”
No matter which card you pick or with whom you share it, it’s a quiet, subtle way of spreading a little happiness without uttering a word.