I’m writing this post from 5,570 miles from Central Oregon, which seems weird for a tourism blog devoted to Bend.
But being in Barcelona right now has me in “tourist mode” instead of “tourism promotion mode,” which spurred a few observations worth sharing. While I’ve bopped my way between countless foreign lands and U.S. cities over the last few decades, here are 6 reasons I’m convinced Bend is one of the best places on earth to be a tourist.
One heck of a great visitor center
My work station back home is spitting distance from the front desk of the Bend Visitor Center, so I’m a perpetual eavesdropper on conversations between Bend visitors and the volunteers and staff members answering their questions.
That’s how I know the tips they dole out daily aren’t canned marketing statements they’re forced to spew because someone’s paying for it. They’re genuine, heartfelt endorsements from locals who live and play in Bend.
When a Visit Bend team member suggests where to hike, bike, dine, ski, shop, or anything else in Bend, you know you’re getting someone’s unbiased, personal endorsement. That’s a rare thing, and it’s why I always tell Bend visitors to stop by the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend (weekdays 9-5, weekends 10-4) at the start of any Bend vacation.
Make your belly happy
Some tourist destinations can be challenging when it comes to dining. Maybe the cuisine is super-greasy or made with unfamiliar ingredients that generate howls of protest from picky eaters in your family, or maybe restaurant hours just don’t mesh with your vacation schedule.
But one thing I love about Bend is that you’ll find pretty much anything your tummy might need. Looking for gluten-free or vegetarian dining in Bend? Bend has oodles of options. Want a grab-and-go breakfast for mornings you’re en route to Mt. Bachelor or a full-day hike? I can name nearly a dozen ideas off the top of my head.
You’ll also find a variety of restaurants in Bend, from Asian to Italian to Mexican and everything in between. Bottom line—your belly will always be happy on a Bend vacation.
What’s that smell?
Researchers have studied why certain scents have the power to trigger powerful emotions, finding some fascinating links between olfactory senses and memories.
I don’t doubt it. The places I’ve visited that have the most unique odors are the ones I remember most clearly. You could drop me blindfolded into the souks of Marrakesh, Morocco, and I would instantly know my location from the unique scent of exotic spice and leather and livestock. Ditto that for the briney, seaweed aroma of the Oregon Coast or the strange blend of botanicals and diesel exhaust in Caracas, Venezuala.
But no place in the universe smells like Bend, Oregon.
There’s something magical about the heady fragrance sun-warmed sage and bitterbrush mixed with the weirdly pleasant cat-pee smell of juniper. Blend in a hint of volcanic dust and ponderosa pine bark, and you could bottle it as Bend perfume.
It’s why I always roll my car window down as I pull into town after a long trip away. It’s the scent of happiness and fresh air and of home, and it’s one of the best sensory experiences I know.
No shortage of banks
Bend’s plethora of banking institutions might seem like a strange benefit to tout, until you find yourself in a lesser-endowed city spending precious vacation time in search of an ATM. That’ll never happen in Bend, where there’s a credit union or major bank chain on nearly every corner.
That’s a big plus for travelers who prefer to pay with cash (which is a great way to track your vacation budget, not to mention supporting small local businesses who appreciate not getting hit with credit card charges).
Guided tours galore
When orienting yourself to a new city, there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than with a guided tour.
Luckily for Bend visitors, there are tons of unique ways to do that. Outdoor enthusiasts can book an outing with Wanderlust Tours to see the area’s caves, snowshoe trails, or top canoe spots. You’ll also find walking tours, electric bike outings, and specialty options like Jeep tours and brewery excursions.
For a complete list, check out our guided tours page to find the one that’s right for you.
More smiles than anyplace else
While disembarking the plane on one of my many layovers en route to Barcelona yesterday, the passengers began to shove. Several folks surged from the back of the plane, prompting surly shouts from those near the front.
“That would never happen in Bend,” I thought.
While I can’t claim Central Oregon is an idyllic land free from road range and bad moods, it’s true that folks seem a little more laidback in Bend. Maybe there’s something in the air, or maybe it’s Bend itself that makes folks kinder, more patient, and generally more joyful.
Whatever it is, Bend is just one of those places that makes your heart a little happier.