Times are tough financially as we greet Valentine’s Day unsure if we’ll need a second mortgage to buy a carton of eggs.
Or maybe you’re one of the lucky few feeding caviar to your backyard chickens as you plot the ultimate Valentine’s date.
Whether you’re flush with cash or seeking budget-friendly ways to treat your sweetie, here are three fun ways to celebrate the season of love in Bend.
For the splurging sweethearts
If the economic downturn hasn’t hit you hard, congrats! Now book that private charter flight to Bend and prepare for a long weekend of luxury.
Have your limousine or town car service drop you at eco-chic boutique Oxford Hotel to start your Valentine’s escape in style. Settle in––pausing to choose from their expansive pillow menu––before strolling across the street for pre-dinner drinks at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin or San Simon.
Feeling swanky and relaxed, take your pick among Bend’s best fine-dining options. Let newcomer Lady Bird in the Old Mill District dazzle you with creative cocktails, mouthwatering entrees, and one of the best appetizers you’ll ever taste (truffle-stuffed camembert with hazelnuts, honey, and thyme for the win!)
If steak is your style, you can’t go wrong with Rancher Butcher Chef, Bos Taurus, Blacksmith, or Brickhouse. For traditional fine dining with a Pacific NW flair, try Ariana (though be forewarned, reservations fill up FAST).
Bend’s also home to some truly incredible Italian cuisine, including Nome, Bosa, and Trattoria Sbandati. Sample scrumptious Korean fare at cozy, intimate Yoli, or broaden your fondness for Asian-inspired cuisine at 5 Fusion.
Pro tip: Make reservations now, since lots of these places book out months in advance––especially on holidays. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if there’s a waitlist or check back in case of cancellations.
With plans for belly-filling secured, it’s time to relax. Book a spa day for two at one of Bend’s best day spas. Choose from massage, facials, wraps, or treat yourself to all of the above. You can take it up a notch with a couples’ massage class at Taproot Body Work.
Need a recreation break between all that relaxation and fine dining? Head to Mt. Bachelor for skiing and snowboarding, or book a once-in-a-lifetime sled dog ride for you and your boo.
If weather cooperates, why not see Bend from above? Choose an aerial tour like hot air ballooning, a scenic helicopter flight, or a private plane ride at sunset.
Still got more gas in the tank? Spend a day in Bend shopping districts like historic Downtown, the Box Factory, or in the Old Mill District to find souvenirs for your loved ones back home.
Congratulations! You’ve now experienced Bend in the lap of luxury.
For the mid-range lovebirds
If you’re not broke but you do love a good bargain, it’s easy to plan a budget-friendly Bend trip that leaves room for a few splurges.
Set yourself up in a solid, mid-range hotel like Riverhouse, Campfire, or the Element. Got kids in tow but still want romantic parent time? Book a family room at LOGE for that camp-in-the-forest vibe, but with a plush queen bed and curtains dividing the grownups’ love nest from the kiddos’ bunks. You also can’t go wrong with a condo at Mt. Bachelor Village Resort, complete with private hot tub and mountain views.
If there’s some way to swing it, book a mid-week trip to dodge pricier weekend hotel rates.
Bend happy hours make a great way to fill your belly and sip discounted drinks before full-priced suppertime starts. One of my faves is 900 Wall, with its awesome cocktail menu, delicious deviled eggs, and carpaccio that’ll seriously make you swoon.
For a romantic steak dinner that won’t break the bank, check out the new(ish) Black Steer Steakhouse on the north end of Bend. With clever cocktails, tasty steaks, and––hand to God––the best crispy brussel sprouts you’ll ever eat, it’s a great mid-range pick for red meat fans.
For a tasty taco lunch that won’t break the bank, hit El Sancho and order a dozen to split with your sweetie. Get scrumptious seafood and a side of river views with the sunset dinner menu at Anthony’s in the Old Mill District. It scores you a three-course seafood dinner for a fixed price if you’re there before 5:30 Monday through Friday (holidays excluded).
Need a spa date that won’t wipe out your budget? Book an appointment in the student salon at Phagans Central Oregon Beauty College. For a fraction of the price at a fancy day spa, you’ll get a perfectly lovely deluxe facial while helping a student learn valuable skills.
With the money you’ve saved on discounted drinks and spa time, prepare for a small but worthy splurge. I guarantee you won’t regret your investment in an adventure with Wanderlust Tours, whether it’s a cozy cave exploration or a romantic snowshoe bonfire beneath the stars. Their naturalist guides handle all the driving, planning, equipment, and explanations of our gorgeous natural landscape. I’ve known more than one couple to get engaged on a Wanderlust outing, and a colleague recently set his wedding on one of their snowshoe trips. Romance + Nature = the ultimate Bend date!
For the broke beloveds
There’s no shame in digging between couch cushions for coins to fund a much-needed Bend vacation. Been there, done that, couldn’t afford the T-shirt.
But penny-pinching paramours needn’t skip the trip altogether. Just get creative with how you do it.
The Bunk and Brew hostel sits right downtown within walking distance of everything, and they even have a few private rooms for couples.
If hotels are more your speed, look for budget Bend properties along Bend’s central Third Street or on the northeast edge of town. Bonus: A spot like Sleep Inn or Home2Suites puts you within walking distance of Worthy Brewing and a quick trek to hiking in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness or Pilot Butte for a romantic sunrise or sunset.
Speaking of hikes, you’ll find endless romantic visitas available for just the cost of gas spent reaching them. See this post on inspiring winter hikes or this one featuring short but sweet hikes located less than 45 minutes from town.
Since you’ve saved a few bucks on fuel and lodging, treat yourself to happy hour at a brewery along the Bend Ale Trail. Poke around each brewery’s website to learn when they offer discounted locals’ nights, free live music, and other perks kinder to your wallet.
When breakfast rolls around, you won’t find a more filling or low-cost breakfast burrito than the ones at Los Jalapeños on Greenwood Ave. You’ll also discover hearty, inexpensive breakfasts at nearby Palmer’s Cafe or Jake’s Diner.
Save a few more bucks by stocking up on picnic supplies at locally-owned Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. You’ll find a surprising array of gourmet meats and cheeses for a perfect charcuterie, and their wine section boasts some staggeringly great deals on nice wines at a fraction of their regular price. A bouquet of $3.99 flowers and some chocolate from Trader Joes is another way to say “I care” without also saying “I sold a kidney to buy these.”
Here’s my favorite pro-tip for penny-pinching travelers: I pack a cheap electric skillet in my luggage, along with plates, forks, and spatula. I’ve cooked countless awesome meals in hotels around the globe with a few grocery store staples and enough common sense to make sure my equipment’s cool and safely stowed to avoid fire hazards.
Now that you’ve noshed on the cheap, head to Mt. Bachelor for a free, interpretive snowshoe tour with a Forest Service ranger. They even provide snowshoes if you don’t have your own, or if you do, you’ll find endless snowshoeing and nordic trails accessible for nothing but the cost of a SnoPark Pass. Pack a lunch and trek to a cozy warming hut for a romantic winter picnic. Cheers to cheapskate romance!
Things to keep in mind (and in your heart!)
Not everyone’s paired up or celebrates a commercialized holiday designed to sell jewelry and chocolate. If you’re ambivalent about V-day or you downright hate it, you’re not alone.
Why not take the day to celebrate self love? Plan a solo hike to honor your love of nature. Schedule a forest bath with R’oming Yoga to score some sweet inner peace. Take self-love to the next level with an adult-oriented goodie from Pretty Pussycat.
Practice love for the planet by following Leave No Trace principles when you recreate in Bend. This post has more tips for loving Mother Nature more fully.
If Rover’s your one true love, why not treat him to the ultimate dog date? He’ll love you forever anyway, but he’ll love you more with a present from an awesome Bend pet store.
Also, keep in mind that Bend’s hospitality biz got hit hard by the pandemic. Lots of restaurants are still short staffed, so tip generously and show kindness and patience with your server.
Above all, love each other and this planet we share. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!