With the official first day of fall happening this weekend (September 22, 2018), there’s a secret I need to tell you.
You know how everyone says summertime in Bend is the cat’s pajamas? Most folks think so, based on summer hotel occupancy alone.
But the truth is that summer’s quieter cousin—autumn—is Bend’s most magical season.
Nights have turned chilly, but days are still brimming with ample sunshine. The trees have gone from blazing in the literal sense (thanks, forest fires) to fiery, autumnal hues of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Crowds have thinned out, but the weather is still nice enough that I can enjoy a hoppy IPA on the outdoor patio of my favorite Bend Ale Trail brewery.
Sound awesome? It is! Here are five things that make fall 2018 the best time of year to visit Bend, Oregon.
The best of both weather worlds
Last week, our friends at KTVZ posted the season’s first photo of snow falling on South Sister. It’s a milestone we watch for each year, and the coming months will see lots more white stuff piling up in the mountains.
But we’ll also see plenty of sunshine. I sat outside with my bare feet in the grass for the first hour of last night’s final Les Schwab Amphitheater concert of the season, and the weatherman is currently forecasting 80-degree temps on Friday.
In other words, there are lots of exciting ups and downs when it comes to Bend’s autumn weather. Fall is the time of year when you might find yourself canoeing on the Deschutes River, then pulling out your phone to check the Mt. Bachelor website for ski pass specials and snow-cam alerts.
Farewell to the crowds
Here’s another truth-bomb for you: Not everyone in Bend loves the influx of tourists in the summer.
Our Visit Like a Local campaign was partly aimed at alleviating some of the tension that happens every summer when locals get frustrated by extra traffic on the roads and hiking trails.
Want to avoid all that hassle? Plan your Bend vacation for the fall months.
Hiking trails get quieter. Wait times are shorter at Bend restaurants. Popular Bend attractions like the High Desert Museum and Drake Park will have a lot fewer bodies to bump into while you’re exploring.
If tranquility and quiet is something you look for in a Bend vacation, fall is a great time to find it.
Save a bundle during shoulder season
In Bend, our shoulder season happens from late fall to early winter and then again in early spring (by contrast, peak times are summer break, winter break, and spring break).
In other words, September and October are pretty much the perfect time to plan a Bend vacation. Crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is still pretty mild.
For the inside scoop on shoulder season deals, check out our Deals and Discounts page.
Oh, the events!
Some of my very favorite events take place in Bend this time of year.
Bend’s annual Oktoberfest is happening this weekend, September 21-22, with popular events like the Weiner Dog Races, yodeling competition, tricycle racing, the Hammerschlaggen, and oh yeah, lots of great beer and food.
There’s also the Bend Fall Festival coming up October 5-7, featuring pumpkin painting, gourmet food and wine, a Harvest Market, and live music.
October also ushers in Tenth Month, which is a month-long celebration of brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It includes events like the BendFilm Festival, Bend Venture Conference, Bend Design Conference, and Swivel, which makes the whole month of October a pretty inspiring time to be in Central Oregon.
And can I just add an extra shout-out here for the BendFilm Festival? It’s seriously one of my favorite events in Bend for the entire year, which is high praise coming from someone who generally doesn’t love movies at all (hashtag booksnob). The films are amazing, the parties are excellent, and it’s a terrific opportunity to rub shoulders with actors, directors, filmmakers, and other assorted creatives. There’s a vibe in Bend during BendFilm Festival that’s unlike anything you’ll experience other times of year, and I can’t wait for the event to kick off October 11-14.
The tastiest time of year
A lot of great Bend restaurants have found a niche serving up seasonal, locally grown produce, and there’s something about the late-summer/early-fall bounty that brings out the best stuff.
Anthony’s in the Old Mill District currently has an abundance of huckleberries, with mouthwatering specials to go along with it. You can start with a huckleberry mojito or lemonade, then order their seasonal spinach salad made with wild huckleberries, blue cheese, hazelnuts, chanterelle mushrooms, and a raspberry poppyseed dressing. Save room for dessert, of course—maybe a huckleberry cobbler or cheesecake?
If you’d prefer to handle food prep on your own, don’t forget the Bend Farmers Market is still going through October 10. Now’s a great time to stock up on fresh produce and flowers, not to mention enjoying live music and a great chance to stroll at the edge of Mirror Pond while the weather’s still warm.
And don’t get me started on all the amazing seasonal beers you’ll find along the Bend Ale Trail right now. We’re right in the middle of fresh hop season, so lots of local breweries are busting out their hoppiest, freshest tasting brews. You’ll also find creamy stouts, malty porters, and a plethora of barrel-aged brews, seasonal sours, and the occasional pumpkin beer. Cheers to fall in Bend!