This week marks 20 years since I moved to Bend.
I’m a fourth-generation Oregonian who grew up in Salem, but childhood summers were spent frolicking in sagebrush-speckled canyons near my grandparents’ Central Oregon horse ranch. Even as a kid, I knew I’d move to Bend.
More than four decades have passed since my youthful summers of catching lizards and wading in irrigation canals, and two decades have gone by since I got my childhood wish and moved here. In the time I’ve lived in Bend, the population has grown from 32,620 in 1997 to 91,122 today.
A surge like that comes with plenty of change.
But there are tons of things about Bend that I love as much now as I did as a kid and as a wide-eyed, perpetually-broke 23-year-old. Here are ten of them.
What’s that smell?
From the time I was little, I was entranced by Central Oregon’s smells. Pine needles in the sun, juniper in the rain, the peaty scents of grassy lake shores—all of it seemed magical to me, and still does. It’s the reason I roll down my car window every time I return home after a long trip.
Hiking Pilot Butte
Bend is one of just a handful of cities in the U.S. with dormant volcano in the city limits.
Pilot Butte State Park isn’t just for admiring, either. You can hike it or drive it, and snap photos from its base or its summit. It’s one of the best places to get 360-degree views of the city, and a great way to orient yourself if you’re new to town. I never tire of hoofing it to the top and admiring the views.
Those first few snow days of winter
I’m not saying I don’t mutter curses in late-March when snow is still falling hard and I’m sick of shoveling my driveway. But those first few snow days of the season in Bend? Magical. Always. Every time.
Summer. Everything single thing about summer.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia of so many childhood summers spent here, or maybe it’s just that summers in Bend really are amazing. From hiking to biking to standup paddleboarding to rafting, there’s an endless supply of activities in Bend’s warmer months. While some folks don’t love the desert heat in mid-summer, I live for it. I bask in it. I could bottle it up and eat it for breakfast every single morning.
The dog-friendliest city
One of my first acts upon moving to Bend 20 years ago was adopting a dog from the Humane Society of Central Oregon.
Sadly, she passed away years ago, but I’ve continued having dogs in my life (and continued adopting them from rescue organizations) because Bend is best explored with a furry friend. My dog goes with me on hikes and on my paddleboard, and joins me on restaurant patios for meals. She’s even allowed to browse with me at many retail shops around town.
Arts and culture and music, oh my!
When I moved to Bend in 1997, I went gaga over all the great live music. There was Munch and Music (going strong for 27 years!) and a surprising lineup of talent performing at the Athletic Club of Bend. Those venues are still just as awesome, but Bend has added lots more options for live music.
There’s the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the renovated Tower Theatre, not to mention breweries along the Bend Ale Trail that frequently offer live music. Bend’s music scene has only gotten better over the years, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to blossom.
Twenty years ago, locals liked to boast that Bend had the most restaurants per capita in the United States. I never knew if it was true, but it did seem like Bend had an extraordinarily high number of awesome places to dine for a town this size. The foodie scene has only improved over the years, with tons of award-winning chefs flocking to town and oodles of added options like gluten-free dining and vegan dining.
One of my favorite parts of this job is entertaining journalists writing about Bend’s foodie scene. They always leave with bellies full and minds blown by how amazing the food is in our little desert mountain town.
Ease of cruising
I catch flak when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: Traffic in Bend is pretty awesome. I know, I know . . . there are times it takes longer than we’d like to get up to Mt. Bachelor over Christmas break, and certainly you’ll run into some traffic snarls on peak summer afternoons. But compare Bend’s traffic to what you’ll experience in larger cities like Portland or Seattle and it’s a breeze. I can make it from one end of town to the other in 15-20 minutes most days, which I absolutely love when I’m running late for work. Not that this ever happens.
Discovering new places
I think this is my single favorite thing about Bend: there is always, always someplace new to explore. Getting your hands on a great Bend guide book is enough to convince anyone of that, or simply asking around about people’s favorite hikes. Every season, I discover some new place to hike or SUP or snowshoe, proving there’s magic around every corner for those who make time for new adventures.
When most people think of Bend, they picture flowing craft beer and world-class mountain biking trails. But Bend is also a hub of creativity and ingenuity.
Get ready for Tenth Month this October – a creative ideas month – highlighting innovative and entrepreneurial programs, conferences, exhibits and more in Bend, Oregon. It’s a month-long celebration of brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. We encourage you to build your own itinerary of favorite October events, from conferences to urban adventures to outdoor escapes.
One lucky person will get the Ultimate Tenth Month experience (valued at over $3,000), so hurry up and enter to win before October 3, 2016.
You Can Win All of This!
- Two Tenth Month Ultimate Passes (includes tickets to the following events: BendFilm Festival, Swivel Digital + Creative Marketing Conference, Bend Venture Conference, and Bend Design Conference)
- 2 Bike Rentals from Sunnyside Sports
- 2 Half Day Bike Tours from Cog Wild
- $200 in Old Mill District gift certificates good for movies, concerts, shopping, dining & attractions
- 2 Half Day Tours of Your Choice with Wanderlust Tours
- $100 gift card for Crux Fermentation Project
- $100 gift card for RiverBend Brewing
- $50 gift card for Jackalope Grill
Sorry. This form is no longer available.
Please complete the form below in order to be considered as an official Tenth Month event. The Tenth Month team will review your submission and confirm receipt.
As a reminder, review the required PARTNER GUIDELINES & COLLABORATION document. You must agree to the terms of the program in order to participate. Before submitting this form, please review the following guidelines below to see if your event qualifies for Tenth Month:
Qualifies for Tenth Month:
– Events that will attract attendees from outside the region
– Multi-day festivals/conferences. Examples: Swivel, Bend Venture Conference
– Annual headlining event for an organization. Examples: BendFilm Festival
Does Not Qualify for Tenth Month:
– Retail events. Examples: sales, grand openings, demo events, etc.
– Regular recurring events. Examples: First Friday, beer/wine tastings, classes, tours
– Fundraising events and membership drives
– Events of local interest only. Examples: high school plays, trivia night, home & garden shows
I was taken aback. Was he cuckoo? Was he on his phone? Was he smiling at me?
The answer seemed to be “no,” though I did smile back and he waved and we went our merry way in opposite directions.
But it got me thinking about how often I see people around Bend grinning from ear to ear for no apparent reason. Well, there’s one apparent reason. They’re in Bend.
So here are a four specific things about Bend that make me smile on a regular basis.
There’s a reason I thought the aforementioned guy might be smiling at me, and it’s not that I’m too sexy for my shirt.
Strangers smile at each other all the time here, whether they’re passing one another on a mountain biking trail or while shopping in the Old Mill District. I’ve traveled a lot in my 41 years on this planet, and I haven’t been too many other places in the world where people are this outright friendly to folks they don’t know.
It’s one of the things I love best about Bend.
I’m not talking about the smells emanating from the backseat when you’re on a road trip with kids (those are rarely smile-worthy). I’m talking about the unique-to-Bend olfactory triggers that make you breathe a little deeper, then sigh and say, “Man, I’m glad to be here.”
My two personal faves are the smell of desert sage warming in the sun and the oh-so-Bendesque scent of juniper after a rainstorm. And speaking of rainstorms, few things smell more amazing than the ozone in the high desert air when a mid-summer thunderstorm hits.
And let’s not forget food smells! Stroll around Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District about an hour before dinnertime to have your senses filled with the most delectable aromas wafting from dozens of award-winning restaurants lining the banks of the Deschutes River or dotting the quaint, historic downtown streets.
If one of our local breweries is working up a fresh batch of beer (which is pretty much always) stop and savor the hoppy, malty fragrance drifting along the breeze. Consider it your own little reassurance that it’ll be even better once it’s poured into a pint glass and set down in front of you.
If you’re ever having a bad day, drive to one of Bend’s eight off-leash areas, sit yourself down on a bench, and observe. If you’re not smiling after five minutes of watching that parade of tail wagging, butt sniffing, giddy-doggy happiness, you’re probably dead inside.
Bend is a dog town (as evidenced by Dog Fancy naming us the nation’s dog-friendliest city) so you’ll probably witness canine glee even if you don’t visit a dog park.
Not really a dog person? No problem! You’ll find plenty of fluffy and not-so-fluffy critters all over Bend, and their antics are sure to make your cheek muscles twitch. Scope out otters at the High Desert Museum, or ogle pigs and cows on the Farm & Ranch Tour from the Well Traveled Fork.
For a roundup of 10 places to get your critter fix in Bend, go here.
I was running late for work the other day and got caught at a traffic light. As I sat there in my car muttering to myself about slow drivers and my own inability to dress myself in a hasty fashion, I caught sight of the mountains shimmering in the distance beyond the stoplight. I stopped muttering and thought, “Man, I’m lucky to be here.”
Plunk yourself down virtually anywhere in Bend I guarantee there’s a breathtaking view within a few hundred feet of where you’re standing. From the big things like rivers and mountains and sunsets, to the small things like the small, hopefully-bright wildflowers poking through a fissure in some lava rock, there are a million beautiful things in Bend that will put a smile on your face for no cost whatsoever. It’s the cheapest form of therapy around.
Now get out there and enjoy it.
Driving along a country road Sunday afternoon, I heard a voice from the backseat.
“Thank you so much for taking us on that hike. It was really fun.”
The voice belonged to my 14-year-old stepson, and those of you with teenagers know it’s kind of a big deal to have anything declared “fun” when it doesn’t include electronic devices or friends.
But the hike was fun, which got us talking about other fun family hikes we’ve done around Central Oregon over the last five years. There were tons. But we narrowed it to a few of our faves, as voted upon by Cedar and his 10-year-old sister, Violet.
And the grownups. We sometimes get a vote, too.
Alder Springs Trail
Let’s start with the hike that inspired my stepson’s comment last weekend, since it’s the newest one in our repertoire.
The Alder Springs Trail hike offers stunning glimpses of high desert landscapes with sagebrush-dotted plateaus and sweeping vistas in all directions. Unlike some of my other favorite desert-centric hikes (i.e. the Oregon Badlands Wilderness), this one has water thrown in, which makes it nicer for both kids and pets.
There’s a bit of elevation here, but don’t let that stop you. En route down toward Whychus Creek, we passed two families with kids around five or six and one mom with a toddler in a backpack. While laziness and an abundance of caution (not to mention the fact that I don’t actually have a toddler) would preclude me from doing that, you’ll do fine with kids in the 7+ age range.
It’s about 1.5 miles from the trailhead down to Whychus Creek, which is an excellent spot for a picnic. Many folks opt to wade through the river and keep hiking another 1.5 miles to reach the confluence of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River, but springtime flows made the water a bit too deep and swift to risk it with the 10-year-old. But there was still plenty to see, especially on the hike back up when we detoured toward the old bridge site for more awesome access to Whychus Creek.
The adventure took us about three hours, plus about 90 minutes of total drive time. Be aware that the road leading to the trailhead is pretty rutted, and that there are no bathroom facilities anywhere nearby. Make a potty stop in Sisters or plan on holding it for a little while. The folks at Cascade Hiking Adventures offer great, detailed directions for reaching this area, so go here to check those out.
Tamolitch Pool (aka Blue Pool)
Where the Alder Springs hike offers the best of high desert scenery, Tamolitch Pool covers the opposite base with an abundance of towering, mossy trees and damp earth. Getting here requires a drive of about 1.5 hours southwest of Bend, but that makes it a perfect day trip (especially when you reward everyone with a soak afterward at nearby Belknap Hot Springs, which is much more kid-friendly than lots of hot springs you’ll find around Oregon).
But back to the hike. There are two potential starting points, and while the one beginning at the Koosah Falls parking area offers the bonus of waterfall views, 8+ miles of hiking might be a bit much for families with younger kids in tow. Personally, I prefer to start from the trailhead near Carmen Reservoir or Trailbridge Reservoir, which reduces your hiking time by roughly half, but still gives you plenty of great river and forest scenery to savor.
The end result is the same either way, with glorious views of the Blue Pool (which really is as blue as it looks in photos). Bring a snack and sit on a log or boulder near the rim to enjoy the views while nibbling your cheese and crackers. Expect the kids to sleep well on the drive back to Bend.
If your time is limited and you don’t feel like driving far to enjoy a Bend hike, Pilot Butte is the ticket. It has the bonus cool factor of being a dormant volcano, making Bend one of the only cities in the U.S. with a volcano in the city limits (and providing bragging rights for your kids when they return to school and tell their friends, “yeah, I hiked a volcano. . . I’m kind of a big deal.”)
This 500-foot cinder cone offers a couple different routes to the top. The unpaved trail is steeper and gets you to the top a minute or two faster, but with one kid prone to dust-inspired asthma attacks, we usually opt to hike alongside the paved road. It’s closed to motorized vehicles between November(ish) and April(ish) depending on snowfall, so if you’re hiking between those months, feel free to let the kids run wild in the road. Otherwise, you’ll want to herd everyone into the shoulder to keep them safe from speeding cars.
Regardless of how you get to the summit, plan on spending a little time up there to savor the 360-degree views. When the kids were younger, we used to bring a container of bubbles to blow in all directions so they could chase them as they floated along the wind.
I suspect the 14-year-old wouldn’t find that quite as cool these days.
Deschutes River Trail
This is another good option for families who prefer not to drive far from a Bend home base to reach the trailhead. Your distance depends on your starting point. The main trail starts at the Meadow Camp picnic area just off Century Drive. You can access a lot of other trailheads off FS road 41, so pick your starting point and your route depending on your family’s skill and endurance.
To keep it nice and short, try the Meadow Camp to Lava Island hike, which clocks in at just over a mile. If you’re game for a bigger hike, you can hoof it all the way from Meadow Camp to Benham Falls, passing Lava Island Falls, Aspen Camp, and Dillon Falls along the way. That one will require about 8.5 miles of hiking, so plan accordingly.
The nice thing is that you can set out from Meadow Camp and decide along the way what you feel up to. If everyone’s still feeling strong after a couple miles, keep going. If someone in your party (possibly a parent) has a temper tantrum meltdown after mile one, just head back. Easy-peasy!
No matter how far you go, you’ll be treated to splendid views of the Deschutes River and the towering ponderosas and lava rocks that line the trail. This is a pretty well-trafficked trail, so expect crowds if you set out in the middle of summer.
Waterfall hikes are a big hit with kids, and this one is another favorite for my family. The kids love the winding, woodsy trails and the fact that they get to see not one, but two magnificent waterfalls along the loop.
While the trails are fairly well-maintained, there are some spots where you’ll have to scramble a bit, so keep that in mind if you have teeny-tiny kids or anyone in the party who isn’t sure-footed. But the fact that this is a fairly short hike (1.5 miles) and the fact that it’s a loop instead of an in-and-back hike makes it a great choice for families.
Be sure you have plenty of space on your camera for this one, as the biggest set of falls is touted as the most photographed waterfall in the whole state. Our local paper, The Bulletin, had a great piece a few years ago on visiting Proxy Falls from Bend, complete with handy directions. You can check that out here.
Another good choice for the waterfall chasers, Steelhead Falls has the added bonus of being handy to combine with a visit to Smith Rock State Park, since both are near Terrebonne about 20 miles north of Bend on Highway 97.
This is a relatively short but scenic hike, and another one like Alder Springs that highlights more of Central Oregon’s desert landscape. The hike from the trailhead to the main waterfall is a little over a mile that winds down a gorge dotted with sagebrush and ancient juniper. In summer months, the trail can be packed with people looking to swim in the peaceful waters just downstream from the falls.
I prefer doing this one in the springtime when most of the folks you’ll encounter are fishing quietly along the riverbank. Tread carefully if you go when there’s still a threat of ice or snow. Once you reach the waterfall, spread out a blanket for a picnic, and give the kids a chance to chuck rocks into the foaming, churning water.
For terrific, detailed driving details, check out the hike description from Cascade Hiking Adventures.
Smith Rock State Park
This one is nice to combine with the aforementioned Steelhead Falls hike to make it a full day of hiking in two different areas, or you can do it all by itself for a shorter day.
Smith Rock State Park is regarded as one of the seven wonders of Oregon, and for good reason. Towering basalt cliffs, gorgeous river views, and jaw-dropping landscapes will leave even the not-easily-impressed members of your family staring in wonder at the incredible views.
There are lots of spots to hike around this 651-acre state park, so you can choose whatever fits your family’s skill level. If you want to keep it simple, opt for an easy 2.5 mile stroll on flat ground along the River Trail from the park bridge to Monkey Face (which really does look like a monkey’s face!)
If you’re feeling more ambitious, hike up the Misery Ridge Trail (elevation 3,360 feet) for killer views of the entire Central Oregon Cascade mountain range.
You’ll find longer and shorter hikes, and even the opportunity to try a little sport climbing if you book with a skilled climbing guide (many of whom are happy to work with families of all ages).
And no matter which hike or climb you choose, make sure to stop along the way and stare at the river for a few minutes. Odds are good you’ll be rewarded by views of river otters frolicking in the cool water.
One of Central Oregon’s quintessential Bend experiences, Tumalo Falls has the added bonus of being close to town. Depending on how far you choose to hike, you can cross this one off your bucket list in just a couple hours (including drive time and hiking time).
That’s assuming you go in the late-spring through early-fall when FS Road 4603 isn’t closed. If you show up before the road opens for the season, you’ll need to add another couple miles of hiking, which isn’t the worst thing in the world considering how beautiful this area is.
But assuming you show up at a time of year when you can park right at the trailhead, you’ve got a whopping hike of about 200 yards to reach the first waterfall viewpoint. That’s stunning, and maybe it’s plenty if you’ve got a young baby or you’re tired out from other hikes.
But if you have a bit more energy, it’s only a five-minute hike to the top of the falls, which offers another awesome viewpoint of this shimmering 89-foot curtain of rushing water. Want to keep going? Hoof it for another mile or two before turning back, or head all the way to Happy Valley for a four-mile out-and-back hike you won’t forget.
If you’re hiking in springtime, keep in mind the snow can take a while to melt, so wear hiking boots instead of Tevas if you’re here in May or even June. But for the most part, there’s not much elevation gain to this hike, so it’s a good one for families who don’t want to do lots of climbing.
I got a new cat last weekend. This might not be noteworthy if I didn’t already have five cats, so I’m pretty sure six earns me official status as a crazy cat lady.
I’ve talked endlessly on this blog about how Bend was named the nation’s dog-friendliest city, and spending time with your pup in Bend is a fabulous way to enjoy a Bend vacation. Heck, I even let my dog blog about it once.
But there are also many ways your Bend vacation is great for your cat, too. Here are eight reasons your feline pal wants you to vacation in Bend.
When the humans are away…
Generally speaking, cats are more solitary than dogs.
While the dining needs of my household cat population requires an in-home pet sitter for overnight trips, a lot of cats are just fine with a few bowls of food and water and a weekend of solitude. In fact, some of them prefer it.
Another upside, as far as your cats are concerned, pertains to those mice you’re always scaring away with your noisy footsteps and blaring TV. Those rodent jerks come out to play when you’re gone, and FiFi was this close to catching one the last time you left.
Besides, isn’t it kinda nice to see how much love your cat heaps upon you if you’ve been gone for a night? After he’s done shunning you, that is.
On the other hand, there are road trippin’ cats
Maybe you’re not comfortable leaving Tiger alone for the weekend. In fact, maybe Tiger actually likes to travel. Hey, I’ve got one of those in my brood of six. Load Matt the Cat into the car and he’s immediately like, “Dude, yes! It’s about time we went somewhere!” Give him a portable litter box and a seat on the driver’s lap and he’ll purr the entire duration of a six-hour road trip.
Most pet-friendly Bend hotels and vacation rentals don’t actually specify the type of pet (though presumably your camel would not be welcomed with open arms in one of the newly-refurbished suites at The Riverhouse). Check in advance with your lodging property to make sure your kitty friend is permitted to join you. If you get the green light, Fuzzy’s goin’ on a road trip!
Howza ‘bout a little prezzie?
Assuming your cat doesn’t join you on your Bend vacation, the least you can do is score him a souvenir.
You already know he loves presents, since he gives them to you regularly in the form of a dead lizard left on your pillow or that thoughtful nugget of Kitty Roca left on the floor by the litterbox.
Why not use your Bend vacation as a chance to bring Fluffy a special gift? You’ll find oodles of local retailers devoted to pet products. I’m a big fan of locally-owned Bend Pet Express, which has both Eastside and Westside locations. My cats go crazy-nuts for the little hand-knitted catnip critters they sell for $3. Something about the combo of catnip and the claw-friendly texture of the yarn turns even the most curmudgeonly kitty into a fluffy ball of drool-purring. You should also nab a container of their popular catnip, Kitty Hooch. Just make sure you don’t mix up the package with anything you’ve purchased at Oregrown, K?
If you’re browsing in Downtown Bend, you’ll find oodles of unique boutiques offering cat-themed décor and gifts. Clementine Urban Mercantile has an entire section devoted to kitty items, ranging from tumbler glasses to coin purses to novelty books to the most adorable paper kitty kit you’ve ever seen.
Does Mittens need a playmate?
Cats can be solitary animals, and with six of them in my household, I can tell you all about the challenges of adding a new kitty to a home with a feline or two already in residence.
But if you’ve been planning ahead, you’re already on the lookout for a fuzzy new addition, and you don’t have an animal shelter to support in your own town, the Humane Society of Central Oregon always has special kitties in need of forever homes.
While you never want to adopt a cat on a whim, sometimes you spot a pair of heart-melting kitty eyes in a photo on an animal rescue website and you just know the two of you were meant to be part of each other’s lives. That’s how I once ended up driving almost six hours round trip to adopt an orange polydactyl cat in Klamath Falls (something I still regard as one of the best decisions I ever made, right up there between marrying my husband and accepting a job at Visit Bend).
You like the smell of cat pee, right?
When a business colleague stepped off the airplane on her first visit to Central Oregon, she noticed a peculiar smell. “It’s a little like cat pee,” she told me. “Only nicer.”
Ahh, the scent of juniper. It’s one of my favorite smells on earth, especially after a desert rainstorm. Admittedly there’s something about it that’s a little like cat pee, but in a pleasant way. No really. If nothing else, it’s one of those scents that will stick in your brain and forever remind you of your Bend vacation. (Go here for an entire blog post devoted to Things you’ve gotta smell in Bend).
If you want to go all out on your juniper experience, plan a hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and cuddle up to one of the gorgeous, gnarly ancient junipers out there. Then bring those clothes home for Mr. Whiskers to roll around on to celebrate your return.
Seafood? Did someone say seafood?
Considering Bend is landlocked in the center of the state with more than three hours separating us from the nearest coastal town, you wouldn’t think of Bend as being a seafood mecca.
But there are actually quite a few terrific seafood restaurants in Bend. If you’re in the Old Mill District, check out Anthony’s for killer river views and spectacular seafood. If you show up for happy hour, make sure you try the Ahi Nachos and one of their to-die-for specialty cocktails. Then stick around for dinner, which offers a huge array of options ranging from lobster to scallops to lingcod to the fresh catch of the day. They’re even open for daily lunch and for breakfast on Sundays, so you can get your seafood fix any time of the day.
If you’re in Downtown Bend, don’t miss High Tides Seafood Grill. They don’t have a website, and they’re easy to miss on a tucked-away little spot at 1045 NW Wall St. But they’re a hidden gem if you’re looking for fresh seafood options that run the gamut from fish and chips to oysters to prawn curry. My personal fave here is the razor clams, and don’t miss the bacon wrapped scallops for your appetizer.
Go here for more ideas on seafood restaurants in Bend. And if there’s a little bit left over after your meal, don’t forget to ask for the kitty bag.
He’ll know what you did here
Cats just seem to know what you’ve been up to, don’t they? Like if you eat salmon for dinner and don’t share, he’ll be all up in your face trying to lick the corners of your mouth (or is that just my rude cats?)
So how about eating some spaghetti for Tiger? Since February is National Spay & Neuter Month, Brightside Animal Center is holding their annual Spay-Ghetti Benefit Dinner on Feb. 28. Your $20 entry gets you a complete spaghetti dinner (with vegetarian options if you need ‘em), plus dessert and the satisfaction of supporting shelter animals and their low-cost spay/neuter program.
Won’t your kitty be proud?
Pleeeeeeese show me your vacation photos?
It’s annoying to look at other people’s vacation photos and videos, right?
It’s not if you’re a cat and if the videos were taken while your human was birdwatching in Bend. Central Oregon’s high desert is home to dozens of amazing species of birds, including red-winged blackbirds, the belted kingfisher, cedar waxwings, and even bald eagles.
The area along the Bend River Trail near the Old Mill District is an ideal spot for birdwatching. Make sure you stop by the Ticket Mill to grab a birding guide and check out a set of binoculars for FREE.
If birds of prey are more your thing, visit the High Desert Museum and check out one of their raptor shows. You’ll see owls, hawks, eagles, and more, and you can record video of all of them.
Then bring it home and show it to your cat on a continuous video loop. That’s hours of kitty entertainment right there. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of my cat, Luna, watching bird videos on our iPad.
Odds are good you’ve at least thought about a Labor Day Weekend getaway to Bend. Odds are also good you just assumed everything’s already booked up for Labor Day 2015, right?
Au contraire! I have it on good authority that a number of Bend hotels, motels, vacation rentals, and resorts still have available rooms (I’m speculating it has something to do with Portland-area schools starting a week early).
So jump on the website for your favorite Bend hotel or use our handy Bend lodging page to find a place to stay. Reservations secured, here are a few things you’ll be enjoying in Bend, Oregon for Labor Day 2015.
Catch a concert
Yep, we’ve got two big ones for Labor Day Weekend! Catch Weird Al Yankovic on Friday, Sept. 4 or Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals on Sunday, Sept. 6 at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Our weather should be perfect for an outdoor concert, and you can still grab tickets here or at the box office on the day of the show.
For tips on attending concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, go here.
Stroll First Friday Art Walk
This is a monthly occurrence in Bend when all the shops in historic Downtown Bend stay open late and feature displays from local artists. Sip wine, nibble snacks, chat with the artists, and do a little shopping! Things kick off at 5 p.m. and most stores stay open until 9.
And speaking of art…
This weekend marks the kickoff of the Edward Curtis exhibit sponsored by the A6 gallery. A Seattle artist known for capturing iconic images of native tribes across the American West in the late 1800s, Edward Curtis is the focus of a massive art exhibit that launches this weekend. You can find a full schedule of events here.
Ride the Slide
Full disclosure: I have mixed feelings about this event, given water shortages around the West.
But since part of the Slide the City event is focused on water conservation (and since they pledged to recycle the water used in their September 5 event in Bend), I have to admit the idea of riding the largest slip-n-slide ever to hit the asphalt in Bend does sound kinda cool.
The event starts at noon, and you can find pricing and other details here.
Swill suds at Little Woody
The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer, Cider, and Whiskey Festival is one of my favorite beer events of the year in Bend, and it’s happening from 5-10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5.
As the name suggests, the festival spotlights brews that have been aged in wine barrels, whiskey barrels, and oak barrels, which adds a unique intensity of flavors to the beverage. It’s held on the lawn of the Des Chutes Historical Society, which is worth checking out even when there’s no beer to be found.
This festival can get a little crowded, so get there early and prepare to sip at a leisurely pace (which is kinda preferable with this sort of beer anyway).
Make a whole weekend of it at Brasada Ranch
Someone at Brasada Ranch must reeeeeally love Labor Day, because these guys went all out this year. Their Labor Day Weekend lineup includes Cowboy Cookouts, live music, a Feast from the Fire event, an All-American BBQ, kids’ programming, and tons of fun on the golf course, spa, and pool with slide.
Go here to learn more about the weekend lineup and to find out about lodging in their Ranch House Suites, Sage Canyon Cabins, or Cascade Cabins.
Most of us are told a lot of fibs and half-truths throughout our lives: The check is in the mail. You haven’t aged a bit. The Easter Bunny is coming.
Sorry if I ruined anyone’s holiday with that last one.
We strive to be honest in our marketing of Bend, Oregon, as the best tourism destination on the planet. That probably makes me hyper-aware of some of the not-so-true things floating around out there. Fortunately for Bend visitors, the truth is actually better than the reality in many cases. Here are five lies you might have heard about Bend (and the real truth behind them):
Dirty lie #1: You must have snow tires to visit Bend in the winter.
I didn’t own a set of snow tires for the first 15 years I lived in Bend, and even though I make several trips over the Cascade Mountains each winter, I’ve only had to chain up a handful of times in my life as a fourth-generation Oregonian.
It’s true snowstorms happen in the winter months, and that traction devices are sometimes required over the mountain passes. But tire chains aren’t terribly expensive and can be returned to the store if you don’t end up using them. I’m a big fan of Les Schwab, where they’ll not only figure out what sort of chains your vehicle needs, they’ll show you in an idiot-friendly fashion how to put them on. Buy the chains, request a tutorial, then throw them in your trunk and hope you won’t need them at all.
And if you do? Hey, that’s good news for all the snowy winter recreation you might want to enjoy in Bend!
Dirty lie #2: Bend is just a beer town.
The amount of press coverage we get for the Bend Ale Trail might lead you to think that’s the only adult beverage to be had in Central Oregon. Fortunately for those of us with a taste for alternate adult beverages, Bend has a staggering abundance of distilleries, cideries, wineries, and more.
To get a taste-test of all of the above, try the The Local Pour outing with Wanderlust Tours. It’s a guided trip that takes you to one brewery, one cidery, one winery, and one distillery in Bend. They provide transportation to and from your Bend hotel or vacation rental, and each trip includes facility tours, tastings, and appetizers at one of the stops.
Prefer to explore on your own? Check out Drinkable Detours! An offshoot of the Bend Ale Trail, it’s your handy guide to navigating between three local cideries, three distilleries, four wineries, and one kombucha producer. Cheers!
Dirty lie #3: Bend gets 300 days of sunshine a year.
Okay, I’ll admit it—I’ve shared this stat with journalists writing about Bend, and you’ll even see it in a spot or two on our website. It’s one of the most oft-repeated details about Bend, and technically, it’s true.
What it really comes down to is how you define “days of sunshine.” Are we talking “days on which the sun shines for at least a little while?” In that case, I’ll happily defend the claim. It’s pretty rare to have a day in Bend when the sun doesn’t shine brightly for at least an hour or two.
But if we’re talking “the sun is blazing the entire day,” then no—it’s not true. We wouldn’t want it to be, since perpetually cloudless skies would make it tough for snow to accumulate at Mt. Bachelor.
And really, it’s all about perspective. I grew up in Salem, Oregon, so I know winter days on the other side of the mountains can be drizzly and gray without even a flicker of sunshine for weeks on end. Comparatively speaking, sunlight in Bend is blessedly abundant, and makes Central Oregon a fabulous retreat in the winter months when you desperately need a vitamin D fix.
Dirty lie #4: Bend has gotten too crowded.
You hear this uttered most often by folks who’ve moved to Bend in the last couple years and want to slam the door shut behind them so no one else gets in. That’s not how it works, especially not in a city with enough scenic beauty and wide open spaces to go around.
When I moved here in 1997, Bend had a population of 32,000 people. We’ve added about 50,000 more since then, and as you might imagine, the place has changed a bit. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
City planners have been smart about growth, and our roadways and landmarks are well-managed and intelligently-planned. Amenities like the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the Old Mill District didn’t exist fifteen years ago, and now I go there constantly to catch a summer concert or enjoy a romantic dinner on the Deschutes River.
If I ever catch myself whining about road congestion, all I have to do is drive to Portland, Salem, Eugene, or Seattle and remember that a “traffic jam” there means a 20-minute drive takes an hour or more. In Bend, a “traffic jam” means it takes 20 minutes instead of 15 to get from one end of town to the other.
Dirty lie #5: Bend is just for outdoorsy people.
There’s no doubt that Bend’s abundance of outdoor recreation is what keeps people coming here to hike, bike, ski, raft, SUP, climb, snowshoe, kayak, or find a gazillion other ways to play outside.
But if you’re the indoorsy sort, there’s plenty here for you, too.
Soak up Bend’s phenomenal arts and culture by browsing galleries, savoring public art exhibits, visiting museums, or taking in concerts and live theater. If shopping is your thing, you’ll find oodles of cool boutiques, local artisans, and major retailers scattered through shopping districts that boast killer mountain views and pathways meandering along the Deschutes River.
Bend’s culinary scene is outstanding as well, and you can enjoy it by dining in one of hundreds of local restaurants and cafes, or by taking a cooking class or culinary tour with The Well Traveled Fork.
For family-friendly activities, you can’t beat the High Desert Museum and its abundance of unique exhibits and cool critters. You can also check out this blog post or this one for more ideas on how to entertain a family on a Bend vacation.
I love wings. I love saucy wings and spicy wings and wings you dunk in big, gooey cups of bleu cheese dressing. I love big ones and small ones and all the in-between ones, which is how I found myself consuming the equivalent of roughly 863 poultry appendages over the course of the last three weeks on a quest to find the best chicken wings in restaurants around Bend. Here are my favorites.
Broken Top Bottle Shop
So this is where the whole blog post started. I went to Broken Top Bottle Shop for an event, and decided to try the wings with my mug o’ tasty beer. “Which flavor do you want?” the cashier asked. “Buffalo, garlic tahini, or Georgia red barbecue sauce?” I considered the question while trying not to drool on the counter. “Will you hate me if I want all three?” I asked.
Not only did they not hate me, but they brought me the loveliest array of wings that each came with a special dipping sauce. While the Buffalo and barbecue versions were delightful, it was the garlic tahini that sent me swooning. They were perfectly crisp and flavorful, and the accompanying tahini sauce was so divine I dreamt about it that night. And the next night. And the…well, you get the idea.
Bonus: every Sunday throughout football season, they’re selling their wings for 50-cents apiece. Double bonus: Their wings are all gluten free. Dig in!
When I put out a call on Facebook asking for suggestions on Bend’s best wings, several folks called out the Thai wings of fire at Deschutes Brewery. Though it was a great hardship to have to consume a fresh hop beer sampler and a giant plate of wings on a random Tuesday afternoon, I persevered.
The Facebook folks weren’t kidding, and the Thai wings of fire were indeed the bomb. The wings themselves are covered in a scrumptious peanutty, gingery coating. The dipping sauce didn’t look like much at first—more of an oil or a liquid than a dressing—so I made the mistake of dunking my wing in it several times for maximum saturation. HOT!!! But also scrumptious and zippy, so if that’s your thing, you might want extra. If not, stick with a more ladylike dip.
The Buffalo sauced wings were delicious as well, and since you can try two varieties with each order, it’s worth sampling both to see which you like. Personally, I prefer a creamier bleu cheese dressing to accompany my wings, but if you like yours a little more tangy, you’ll appreciate what they offer at Deschutes. Don’t forget your Bend Ale Trail passport—here’s your first stamp!
The menu at Platypus Pub features both traditional wings (mild or smokin’ hot) and their own pub-smoked wings, and while I mean no disservice to lovers of tradition, it’s the smoked wings that are guaranteed to rock your world.
They use Draper Valley wings here, and for some reason they always seem larger than in most places. It might just be my imagination, or maybe it’s the effect of sampling my way through their extensive beer selection. Either way, make sure you nab an order of their spectacularly smoky wings with your choice of mild or smokin’ hot sauce.
If you’ve tried the wings at Worthy before and weren’t a fan, give them another chance. They just changed their sauce last week, and it’s seriously scrumptious. Worthy’s wings are coated in a housemade habanero sauce that’s slightly sweet but not too spicy.
If you’re craving a good pairing, Worthy’s imperial IPA is the perfect complement to this dish. Try to stop by during happy hour when you get six of them for just $5, or show up anytime to score eight for $8. That includes a generous crudité of celery and carrots, plus dipping sauce.
Don’t forget to get another stamp in your Bend Ale Trail passport—you’re on a roll now!
Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill
The wings at Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill are my favorite old standby—my chicken wing security blanket, if you will. They’re consistently good, consistently big, and consistently satisfying no matter when you show up and order.
One unique trait of the wings at Sidelines is that they fry them up sauce-free and serve them with little dunking bowls of Frank’s Hot Sauce and your choice of ranch or bleu cheese dressing (the bleu cheese is creamy and excellent, by the way). For those who can be a little picky about the ratio of sauce to wing (me) this is a big plus.
Since this is a sports bar, it’s a great spot to hit if you want to watch men in tight shorts running around an athletic court or beating the crap out of each other. For me, it’s a fun place to go on girls’ night when we want cheap eats and super-friendly service, along with a good local tap list. For the record, Boneyard Brewing’s RPM + wings = heaven.
Wubba’s BBQ Shack
This little eastside barbecue joint isn’t a place most tourists will find on their own, but it’s worth a visit if you’re looking for stellar barbecue grub of any sort.
But we’re talking specifically about wings here, and Wubba’s has some killer ones. The traditional Buffalo sauced ones are tasty, but it was the barbecue wings that really floated my boat. The sauce was tangy and smoky and absolutely perfect, and the wings themselves were generously meaty.
Let’s put it this way—my husband doesn’t like wings, and my two step kids can be embarrassingly picky eaters, especially when it comes to animal flesh. When I brought home a batch of these wings, we were literally fighting each other for them. Like, blood was shed. Okay, maybe not blood. But definitely barbecue sauce.
Hardy’s Hotwings and Hamburgers
They mention the wings in the name of the restaurant, so they’ve gotta be good, right?
First of all, Hardy’s is where you want to come if you’re a serious wing connoisseur. They have so many sauce varieties I actually lost count (though I think it was around 18). Choices range from traditional Buffalo to honey mustard. My personal favorite is the garlic and herb, which pairs beautifully with their housemade ranch dressing (though the bleu cheese is also divine).
If you’re really into hot wings and you have a high tolerance for pain, consider taking on the challenge to eat eight of their super-spicy hot wings in eight minutes. If you succeed, you get to hold up a nifty sign showing your time, and they’ll post it on their Facebook page. Previous victors have employed strategies ranging from latex gloves (hey, that sauce can burn!) to giant milkshakes, so give it a go and earn your bragging rights.
Like Sidelines, Summit is a sports bar with tons of television screens to make it easy for you to catch whichever sporting event rolls your socks up.
But besides televisions, Summit has wings. Lots of glorious, saucy, delicious wings. These are hand-tossed with your choice of classic Buffalo, barbecue, or their own Angel Fire sauce. The latter has a sweet/hot Asian flair that’s perfect for those craving something a little different from traditional wings. No matter which sauce you pick, you can count on Summit to have some of the biggest, meatiest wings around, and their bleu cheese dressing is deliciously creamy with big chunks of cheese.
Show up at happy hour for extra special pricing. They don’t scrimp on the carrots and celery, either. Bonus: This is one of the few spots in Bend with a happy hour that goes all the way ‘til 7 p.m., a fact that makes me rejoice regularly when I’m getting a late start but still want good deals.
The camel wings at Joolz are the perfect wings for a girls’ night. I say that knowing someone might take me to task for generalizing about female appetites or drinking preferences, but I’ll take that risk. The camel wings are the smallest, daintiest wings in the roundup (I ate ten all by myself!) and they’re also the most exotic.
The secret sauce (which I sweet-talked the bartender into sharing with me) is a mouthwatering blend of middle-eastern spices like harissa and clove, along with fennel seeds, oodles of orange juice and zest, and a handful of other tasty ingredients. The result is a super unique sauce that gets even tastier when you dunk your wings in their housemade yogurt and bleu cheese sauce.
Joolz also offers some of the most unique cocktails in town, and their happy hour is divinely good. Pair your wings with an order of their crispy cauliflower, and you’ve got the best girls’ night around.
Next month, the Bend Ale Trail will mark its four-year anniversary. We’re getting a jump on the celebration this week by launching Bend Ale Trail 3.0, featuring a newly-updated Bend Ale Trail Atlas and two new breweries: Riverbend Brewing and Rathole Brewing. We’ve also introduced a brand new prize structure that lets you get the most out of your beerventure.
In honor of the new release, here are a few tips for maximizing your Bend Ale Trail experience.
Plan your route wisely
Gone are the days when you can safely hit all the breweries in a three-hour span (something I accomplished more than once back when there were only seven or eight stops). The new Bend Ale Trail atlas features 14 (yep, 14!) breweries. While no purchase is required to obtain a passport stamp at any of the breweries, half the fun is sampling the suds at all the locations.
With that in mind, you want to be smart about your routing. Your best approach is to study the map beforehand online, in your printed Bend Ale Trail Atlas (available at all participating breweries and the Bend Visitor Center downtown) or in your free app for Droid or iPhone. While there’s a good cluster of breweries in and around downtown, there are now a fair number outside that zone.
One strategy is to start with the outlying breweries, including Worthy Brewing, newcomer Riverbend Brewing, and Cascade Lakes Brewing Company. Yes, I realize those three breweries are in completely different directions, but the objective here is to start early with the ones that require driving or biking to reach.
From there, you can leave your car in a safe location and maneuver on foot between the breweries near the Old Mill District. A good route there is to start with Rat Hole Brewing, then Crux Fermentation Project, Brew Werks, and finally the Deschutes Brewery brewing facility. A sane beer drinker would call it a day here, but the ambitious among you (or those limiting yourselves to small samples at each stop) could theoretically keep going on foot to Good Life and 10 Barrel from here.
The cluster of breweries in Downtown Bend makes another nice batch to hit on foot. A fairly easy route there is to start at Boneyard, then hit McMenamins Old St. Francis, then the Deschutes Brewery pub if you didn’t already hit the brewery itself (though you can always do both to enjoy both the impressive facility tour and the equally impressive pub fare). From there, continue on to Bend Brewing Company and Silver Moon.
And of course, don’t forget Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters, which makes an excellent excuse to plan a little day trip to this cute town 22 miles west of Bend (see this post on road trips for tips and ideas).
Keep an eye on the clock
Be sure you know everyone’s hours of operation before you set out. For instance, the Deschutes Brewery warehouse stops offering tours and tastings at 5 p.m. You can still get your passport stamped at the downtown pub, but the warehouse tour is a pretty cool highlight you really shouldn’t miss.
You also want to keep in mind that Boneyard’s tasting room closes at 6 p.m., so plan to hit them a little earlier.
10 Barrel is always packed to the gills, so your best bet there is to avoid lunch hour or dinnertime. Hours at all breweries are subject to change seasonally, so when in doubt, call first.
Be smart with your beer intake
Eat a hearty meal before you set out. Bring your own water bottle or ask for glasses of water at brewery stops so you stay well-hydrated. Order food at pubs throughout your journey so you always have something in your belly. Opt for smaller schooners instead of full pints, or stick with a little sample every now and then instead of glugging whole beers. Above all, be responsible. Which leads to the next topic.
Don’t even THINK of drinking and driving
There are tons of great ways to ensure everyone stays safe and out of jail. I’ve had a blast doing nearly every single item on the following list:
- Walk. Especially if the weather’s nice. It’s a great way to see Bend.
- Arrange a shuttle, a pedicab, or even a Segway outing with The Bend Tour Company.
- Add a culinary twist to your beerventure with the Fermentation Tour from The Well Traveled Fork.
- Book a half-day tour with The Bend Brew Bus.
- Hit the trail on a horse-drawn carriage with Cowboy Carriage Company.
- Pedal a bicycle made for 14 with The Cycle Pub of Bend.
- Cruise on an electric bicycle with Let It Ride Electric Bikes’ Brewdie Tour.
- Head out with in a 1980s-style trolley with The Bend Trolley.
- Try a personalized, four-person, six-hour tour with Bend Adventure Tours.
- Travel the trail in style with a limo from JD’s Car Service.
- Call a cab.
- Arrange for Sober Dudes to take you home in your own car.
Seriously, guys, don’t drink and drive. I once had to bail a pal out of jail for making this mistake. He was lucky, as were the other people in his path that night who could have been injured or killed if things had gone differently. You DO NOT want to mess around with this one.
Don’t forget your schwag
Besides the beer, one of the best parts of the Bend Ale Trail is the fact that you earn prizes for collecting passport stamps at the breweries you visit. With the newly released Bend Ale Trail atlas comes an update in the prize system. Participants can now earn a commemorative Bend Ale Trail Silipint pint glass for visiting just 10 of the 14 breweries. Those who visit all 14 will not only receive the Silipint, but also a Bend Ale Trail bottle opener.
Also new to the Bend Ale Trail program is the creation of Bend Ale Trail month. Each November, anyone who completes the Bend Ale Trail and submits the passport at the Bend Visitor Center will earn a free trophy.
When it’s time to turn in your passport and collect your prize, remember the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon downtown is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We’re closed Sundays until our summer hours kick in Memorial Day weekend. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Visitor Center is open on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Scope out food specials and tap lists beforehand
Call me a neurotic planner, but I love checking before I set out so I know who’s got seasonal specials and don’t-miss food deals. I’m a huge fan of the food at Old Mill Brew Wërks, so I always make sure I hit them around mealtimes or happy hour for the best deal on their to-die-for risotto cakes stuffed with goat cheese and served with pesto cream & balsamic reduction. Their bacon-wrapped scallops are also a culinary highlight here.
The cream cheese jalapeño wrappers at Riverbend Brewing are another item to include on your must-try list. These bad boys are hand-rolled and stuffed with applewood smoked bacon, cream cheese, and jalapeño and served up with a divine Thai chili sauce.
Knowing McMenamins Old St. Francis has a late-night happy hour starting at 10 p.m. makes it a great last-stop for $3.50 pints and $2.50 Cajun tots. Don’t be afraid to study your map carefully or call around beforehand asking about specials.
Above all, have fun out there as you explore our beloved beervana. See you on the trail!
Save the date!
Bend has oodles of beer festivals on the horizon, so if you’re a brew fan, make sure you mark your calendar for these dates: