Category: Winter Fun
Avid outdoor adventurers know the phrase “ten essentials.” Some even have a list tattooed on their foreheads.
But for more casual explorers, a few reminders can be helpful. Yes, we know we should pack that mini-flashlight for our ski picnic, but where the @#$% did we put the darn thing?
Find it. And find all the rest of the stuff on this list before you set out, since even a short snowshoe outing can turn dangerous if you’re not prepared.
We covered summertime essentials in this blog post, but here’s what you need to gather before setting out for your winter adventures in Bend.
There’s nothing wrong with an old school compass, and in fact, it has advantages over using your phone (which is more prone to battery depletion in cold temps). A paper map or guidebook is smart, too. If you’re determined to rely on your phone, make sure to pack a battery backup or portable charger.
I know this sounds weird in the winter months, but Bend boasts bountiful sunshine even in subzero temps. Not only that, but Bend’s high altitude (along with the albedo effect of spending prolonged time on a bright white surface like snow) can lead to a nasty sunburn. Even if it’s chilly or overcast, pack sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and a good pair of sunglasses in case conditions change.
Layers, layers, layers. That’s the name of the game in Central Oregon’s rapidly changing conditions. This time of year, wool and some well-made water-resistant layers are crucial. Stuff an extra pair of socks and gloves in your pack in case yours get wet.
Know what I’ve seen over and over again in articles about winter explorers needing rescue? They counted on cell phones as flashlights. Not a good gamble, especially if you’re sapping the battery for directions or Instagram selfies. Carrying a small headlamp can make a return trip in the dark hands-free (allowing you to use that compass and map you’re toting). If a headlamp isn’t your thing, you can buy a small, powerful flashlight for next to nothing these days. Do it, and make sure your batteries are good before setting out.
First aid supplies
You never know when injuries can strike, so nab a small, packable first aid kit. You’ll find some great options at outdoor equipment retailers like REI. In the wintertime, it’s helpful to have one that has a space blanket in it, too in case you need extra protection from the cold and wind.
Ever been stuck at a campsite with a lighter that won’t work? It’s a lot worse when it’s snowing sideways. Pack smart and include waterproof matches and a lighter. You also need some firestarter, which doesn’t mean filling your backpack with kindling. Some folks swear by dipping cotton balls in wax to make cheap and easy firestarters, or stuff an empty toilet paper roll with dryer lint as an alternative to newspaper. Fire can be a lifesaver in cold conditions, so don’t shortchange yourself on this one.
No, you don’t need a chainsaw on your Nordic skiing adventure. But you do need a good multipurpose tool like a Leatherman or pocketknife. Also think ahead to any sports-specific repair items you might need for your gear.
The rule of thumb is to carry at least 200 calories per person for every hour you will be out. High-carb energy bars like Bend-based Picky Bars are perfect! Steer clear of the sort of energy bars that turn into teeth-breaking ice bricks in cold conditions.
Here’s where a well-insulated beverage container like Hydro Flask is essential to keep hot liquids warm and cold ones from freezing. Pack at least 1 liter of water per person for short outings and 2.5 liters for longer ones. Keep in mind that if you run out, you’ll need to melt snow for water (which is why that firestarter thing is so critical).
This one’s tougher in wintertime, since you’re a lot more likely to freeze to death if you’re not prepared. A couple garbage bags might suffice in warmer months to insulate you from the ground, but they’re not so effective on frozen ground. An insulating pad is a must-have if there’s a chance you’ll be sitting or sleeping on snow. A space blanket (maybe the one in your first-aid kit?) or a bright plastic tarp is also a must, and keep in mind that you’ll need a shovel to dig a snow cave. If there’s even a remote chance that could happen, buy a small, packable one. Better safe than sorry!
P.S. While this isn’t technically one of the 10 essentials, make sure you have a good, sturdy pack to carry all your stuff. Trudging through snow is tough enough, but doing it with an ill-fitting or broken backpack can seriously wreck your day (not to mention your back).
This morning we woke to the news that Mt. Bachelor had six inches of new powder overnight, and it’s still snowing. Storms will keep blowing through the Pacific Northwest over the next week, bringing much-needed snow to Oregon’s ski areas.
Okay, so all that aside, it’s tough to miss the fact that winter of 2017-2018 has turned out much drier than anyone expected. After the crazy, snow-filled season Bend had last year, it’s been a shock for many of us. But even for a ski town like Bend, there are lots of upsides to having a lighter-than-normal snow year. Here are five of them.
Getting here got a whole lot easier
Last winter’s snowpocalypse was responsible for crushing a lot of Bend visitors’ vacation dreams. Flights were canceled and snow-packed roads forced many families to think twice about making the drive to Bend.
That hasn’t been an issue this year.
The mountain passes have been blissfully clear, making for easy drives to Bend. Flights have been more reliable, too, with fewer weather-related delays and cancellations.
Where did all these parking spots come from?
When you get massive dumps of snow in short periods of time, you run out of places to put it. That’s what happened last year, and as the season progressed, we ran out of spots to stash those massive mounds of white stuff. Parking lots got smaller, and parking spaces shrank as curbside pileups grew.
This year it’s a whole lot easier to find a spot for your car in the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend. Ditto that for sidewalks and walkways, which haven’t required shopkeepers to work double overtime shoveling huge piles of powder. That means it’s easier than ever to access your favorite Bend restaurant or retail shop.
So much to do on dry land!
Bend has long been touted as one of those multi-sport destinations where you can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon. Marmot recently included Bend in their roundup of 7 places in America that have mastered the art of 3 sports in one day, and that’s been especially true this winter.
Mountain bike trails are blessedly snow-free (though if you encounter muddy trails, please don’t ride on them or you’ll wreck them for future users). There’s been great riding at Matson and Horse Ridge lately, and you can always check https://bendtrails.org/ for great info on trail conditions.
But for those folks journeying to Bend for skiing and snowboarding, you’ll find plenty more to do. Which leads me to my next point…
The slopes are still fab at Mt. Bachelor
Thanks to Mt. Bachelor’s higher elevation, the mountain has seen a lot more snow this year than its lower-elevation competitors. That makes all the difference in the world when it comes to lean snow years like this one.
That said, there’s no question Mt. Bachelor has seen less snow this season than they did last year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Storm-free skies bring an abundance of clear, bluebird days for skiing and boarding. The decrease in storms also means Mt. Bachelor can run the Summit lift more often, carrying winter enthusiasts all the way to the 9,000-foot peak of the mountain. That didn’t happen as often last year.
Another upside of having more dry, sunny days is that groomers can get out across more runs. The result? A veritable paradise for those who like to cruise the corduroy.
Oh, and since more Bend residents are opting to stay home and wait for powder days, visitors have the run of Mt. Bachelor’s slopes lately. There’s ample parking, and lift lines have been nice and short.
So much more to a winter vacation
Whether you’re a skier or not, you’ve gotta love how many other winter activities abound in Bend. With milder temperatures this year and fewer cancellations due to deep snow, you have access to Bend’s full range of winter fun.
Once you’ve had your fill of chilly activities, take advantage of clear skies and mild temps by walking between breweries on the Bend Ale Trail (no snowshoes required!) or strolling the grounds at the High Desert Museum without fretting about how many layers you’ll need to wear to get a glimpse of the otters.
The possibilities are endless, and it’s a great season for enjoying the best winter has to offer in Bend.
Ugh. I’m not ready for winter.
Here’s where I confess I sometimes fall in the second camp. I love Bend summers, and since I’m not a skier, I occasionally find I’m less-than-thrilled about winter’s arrival.
But then I take a step back and remind myself of all the awesome reasons that Bend winters ROCK—even for non-skiers. Here are six of them.
Find fun ways to stay warm
We’re accustomed to chilly weather in Bend, so we have oodles of creative ways to get warm.
If snuggling by a fireplace is your idea of fun, you’ll find dozens of fire pits scattered all over town, including an awesome collection of them around the Old Mill District. At Crux Fermentation Project, you can cozy up by the fire and enjoy a belly-warming pint and a Grilled Cheesy sandwich. Check out this blog post for more ideas on where to find fire pits around Bend.
If soaking your bones sounds like a good way to beat the chill, McMenamins Old St. Francis School boasts a beautiful tile soaking pool surrounded by shimmering turquoise tile, luminous stained glass, breathtaking murals, and an open-air ceiling that lets you check out the night sky. You’ll also find that plenty of Bend hotels and vacation homes have on-site hot tubs.
To warm yourself from the inside out, pick up some spiced rum from Oregon Spirit Distillers to mix with hot cider, or try blending Bendistillery’s Hazelnut Espresso Vodka with some warm cocoa and a dollop of whipped cream.
For more clever ways to stay warm in Bend, check out this blog post.
Get great deals on lodging and activities
For budget-conscious travelers, Bend’s chillier months are the best time to score a screamin’ deal on Bend lodging. Shoulder season in particular (October through early-December, and January through April) is when you’ll find Bend hotels and vacation homes at rock bottom prices.
And don’t forget to check our Deals and Discounts page for special packages that can include things like extra nights or free lift tickets.
Rediscover the thrill of snow days
Remember when you were a kid and you spent winter evenings glued to the TV, watching for news that school was cancelled the next day? Few things were more thrilling than a snow day, and you can recapture that magic in Bend.
Grab your toboggan and hit the sledding hill. Gather the family for a snowball fight at one of Bend’s nearby Sno-Parks. Get creative by building snowmen together or flopping on your back to make a snow angel.
Take a twirl around the ice at The Pavillion, Central Oregon’s only full NHL-sized ice sheet. It’s fully-covered and protected on the sides by translucent panels to reduce wind and sun exposure while maintaining an open air feel
After your cold-weather playtime, reward yourself with a hot cup of cocoa (or a grownup alternative like coffee from one of Bend’s awesome coffeehouses or tea shops).
Adrenaline rush optional
I’ve heard more than one ski skeptic explain an aversion to winter recreation as disinterest in daredevilry. But there are tons of winter sports that require no adrenaline rush at all.
If skiing holds some appeal but you’d like to keep things mellow, check out the Nordic trails near Bend for a slower-paced version of skiing. Try your hand at snowshoeing, which is really just hiking with tennis racquets strapped to your feet (er, more or less).
Have someone hold your hand
If snowshoeing piques your interest but you’re nervous about traipsing out into the wilderness alone, a guided outing is a great option.
Book a snowshoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours and leave the gear, the planning, the driving, and the decision-making to someone else. Best of all, their naturalist guides will give you some awesome insights about our forests, the creatures in them, local history, and more.
Not so sure about snow? Wanderlust also does cave tours all year long!
But if you do want to learn to ski or snowboard…
If “I’m not a skier” is your perpetual reason for digging your heels in about a winter vacation, how about changing that?
Mt. Bachelor’s Ski or Ride in 5℠ is an award-winning lesson program designed for those “never-evers” who have not had previous experiences trying to learn to ski or snowboard.
It’s a five-lesson program with instruction by one of Mt. Bachelor’s hand-picked instructors based on their communication skills and overall success rate of coaching beginners. Included with each lesson is a ski or snowboard rental and daily lift ticket.
It’s a great—and surprisingly inexpensive—way to find out if you might be a skier or boarder after all.
There’s snow in the mountains, frost on the grass, and predictions of a harsh winter slated to hit Bend for the 2017-2018 season.
In other words, it’s time to put away the kayak and start preparing for snowball fights, bluebird ski days, and slippery sidewalks. Here are 6 things you should start rounding up right now.
A good pair of gloves
Make that ten pairs of gloves, if you’re like me and have the tendency to misplace a pair or two. Or six.
Even if you’re not scatterbrained, it’s a good idea to have multiple pairs of gloves for other reasons. Days filled with snowshoeing, sledding, and snowball battles require thick, waterproof gloves or mittens that can protect your hands from the elements.
But when you’re just walking from your car to a restaurant or strolling Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District for a bit of shopping, it’s handier to have a thinner pair of driving gloves. Bonus points for the kind with the specially-designed fingertips that allow you to use a touchscreen phone (which makes for handy picture-taking in chilly conditions).
And I’ll be honest—I keep a stash of cheap, stretchy Dollar Store gloves in my purse at all times for unexpected glove-mergencies or to loan to pals or offspring who forget theirs.
A vessel to keep your beverages warm
I have three million Silipint cups and matching beverage lids, and this is how I drink my on-the-go tea about ninety percent of the time. They’re inexpensive, unbreakable, and keep my beverages at just the right temperature.
But when I need a hot drink at a kids’ soccer game, snowshoe adventure, or other outing that requires prolonged exposure to cold temps (not to mention leak-proof carrying) I turn to my Hydro Flask insulated mug. This bad boy keeps my hot drinks so hot that I’ve occasionally burned my tongue when sipping too fast.
But they’re perfect for cold winter conditions when you really need your drink to stay toasty. We sell them in a wide variety of sizes and colors at the Bend Visitor Center.
Your Mt. Bachelor pass
Want to save money on your Mt. Bachelor lift tickets or lessons? Plan ahead and buy in advance.
Their website is chock full of pre-sale info, package deals, and other info you’d never know about if you just showed up at the ticket window and plunked down your credit card.
Now is an especially good idea to scope out the schedule and discover dates for specific promotions that can help you save money.
You’ll also find a number of bargains on Visit Bend’s “Hot Deals” page, which frequently features package deals that include lodging and lift tickets. Cheapskates unite!
There is a time and a place for super-cute stilettos with shiny red soles. That time and that place are not Bend, Oregon in the winter.
No matter how diligent Bend retailers and City of Bend personnel are about keeping roads plowed and sidewalks de-iced, there will always be slick patches of ground lurking in the shade to yank your legs right out from under you.
Be smart with your footwear when you’re visiting Bend in the wintertime and invest in a good pair of rubber-soled flats or boots. Can’t find any in your hometown? No problem! You’ll discover lots of great Bend shopping options, and a new pair of winter boots would make a great Bend souvenir.
And if you really want to be cautious, grab a set of Yak Trax to give you extra traction on super-icy days.
Extra phone charging capability
Raise your hand if you deplete your phone’s battery about fifty times faster when you’re on vacation.
I’m raising mine, which makes it tough to type.
It’s not tough, however, to get your hands on an inexpensive, portable phone charger you can tuck in a purse or backpack during your Bend travels. That’s a great way to ensure you don’t run out of juice right when you want to snap a photo of Tumalo Falls or catch some video of your sweetie swooshing down the slopes at Mt. Bachelor.
For tips on where to shoot some of the quintessential Bend images everyone likes to snag, check out this post.
Advance reservations for…well, everything
Plenty of Bend winter days fall into the category of “shoulder season,” which is a slower time of year when you can score some killer deals on lodging and activities.
But there are lots of random dates you might not realize can fill up crazy-super-fast during Bend’s chillier seasons. Regions that have year-round school have holiday breaks at unusual times, which means Bend might see a sudden surge in visitors during odd weeks in November or February.
And it goes without saying the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can book up months (or even years) in advance.
If you’re planning a winter vacation, it pays to make early reservations for things like Bend lodging, guided tours, and even restaurants. That way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your Bend vacation without scrambling for any of the essentials.
Snow fans who keep watch over the Mt. Bachelor webcams rejoiced this week as snow began falling for the first time this season.
For those feeling less thrilled about the return of the white stuff, don’t worry—the current weather forecast shows a string of days in the 70s and 80s next week, so you still have time to fit in a few more days of hiking, biking, paddling, and picnicking outdoors.
But for those who get giddy at the thought of a winter vacation, here are 10 things that might be going through your head right now.
#1: “I wonder if I should make reservations…”
#2: “I love good food. I wonder who makes the best burgers/wings/sushi/vegan food in Bend?”
You’re in luck! We recently rounded up nearly seven years’ worth of our “best of” drinking and dining posts, and you’ll find them all right here.
#3: “How much duct tape is too much on my ski jacket?”
If you have to ask, it’s time for a new one. Lucky for you, lots of Bend retailers are having killer sales right now, so hop out there and do some Bend shopping to restock all your winter gear.
#4: “Where is that @#$% ice scraper?”
I’m right there with ya in needing to dig through my car to ensure I have what I need for winter driving. Now’s a great time to stock up on antifreeze, locate your tire chains, and maybe sign up for a class to help prepare you for driving in icy conditions.
#5: “Do dogs wear shoes?”
Hey, it’s a legit question, especially when it comes to protecting Rover’s paws from the cold. Bend-based Ruffwear makes a wide variety of boots created just for dogs. You’ll find those, along with other awesome options at locally-owned Bend Pet Express. They carry one of my favorite products, Musher’s Secret, which is a dense, barrier wax that forms a breathable bond with your dog’s paws. Bend Pet Express also sells Ultra Paws Durable Dog boots, which are a little less expensive than the Ruffwear ones and meant more for the everyday walker.
#6: “I wonder if Mt. Bachelor has any pre-season deals on passes?”
They sure do! Check out their website for all the latest and greatest sales, but now is definitely the time to buy if you want to save some cash and plan ahead for what’s shaping up to be a killer season for snow sports.
#7: “Crap. Have I missed my last opportunity to try standup paddleboarding or go for that hike?
Don’t worry! Like I mentioned earlier, we’ll have several days next week warming into the low 80s, so you’ll be able to squeeze in a few more days of sunny fun. But beyond that, here’s the cool thing about Bend—while Mt. Bachelor sees an average snowfall of 462 inches, the city of Bend averages less than 24. That means that even in the dead of winter, it’s totally possible to ski powder all morning, then drive 20 minutes down the hill to spend your afternoon golfing, hiking on dry trails, or mountain biking 277 miles of sweeping singletrack.
#8: “Do snowflakes really look like those things I used to cut out of paper in third grade?”
Kinda. We can all thank Lookie Loo Portraits of Bend, Oregon for snagging some of our absolute favorite snowflake close-ups last season, and you can see from the pics that they’re pretty unique. And to address the other thing you’re wondering about whether it’s true no two snowflakes are alike, that’s also true. While it isn’t possible to compare every snowflake that’s ever fallen, the fact that each flake is made up of 10 quintillion water molecules growing at different rates and in different patterns in different temperatures means it’s highly unlikely that any two are identical. There’s your deep thought for the day.
#9: “All right, so I’m seriously considering a Bend winter vacation this year. I wonder what else there is to do there?”
Oh, man. What can’t you do in Bend? The area offers everything from arts and culture to the legendary Bend Ale Trail. You can try a cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours, or try the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America. The possibilities are endless, so start browsing at www.visitbend.com to see what piques your interest. You can also check our Event Calendar to see what’s happening around town on the dates you’d like to visit.
#10: “I’d sure like to help Tawna out by shoveling her driveway this winter.”
Why thank you! That’s so very kind. Shall I post a signup sheet on this blog, or would you like to just drop by with your shovel after our first big storm of the season? Let me know and I’ll have the cocoa ready for you.
This past Monday was the first day of spring.
My fellow Bend residents and I gave a hearty chuckle and went back to scraping frost off our windshields.
It’s true that spring weather takes a bit longer to arrive in Bend than it does in other parts of the state, but it’s also true that winter won’t last forever.
Here are 4 things you should do before the winter of 2017 gives up the ghost.
Play like a kid in the snow
Those of us who spend half the year surrounded by the white stuff can get a little grumpy when snow keeps falling into April or even May.
But we’re the same dang people who will be dancing in the street next October, shrieking like schoolkids as we try to catch the first winter snowflakes on our tongues.
As we gear up for our summer snow hiatus, now’s the time for one last moment of reveling in it like a teenager whose chemistry final got canceled by a snow day. Plan a sledding adventure for your whole family, or head up to Mt. Bachelor to enjoy their Snowblast Tubing Park.
Drive out to one of the SnoParks and flop down on your back to make a snow angel, or gather your best buds for a snowball fight. You can even build a snowman, complete with a jaunty winter cap and carrot nose.
Now cap the whole thing off with a mug of cocoa around your favorite fire pit. Congratulations! You’ve officially checked winter off your 2017 bucket list.
Take advantage of Mt. Bachelor’s Springtacular deal
You may not know this, but Mt. Bachelor is home to one of the longest spring ski and snowboard seasons in the world. The season runs all the way through Memorial Day Weekend, and savvy travelers and locals know how to make the most of it.
Last week, Mt. Bachelor announced its annual Springtacular Season Pass, which is your ticket to riding up to 56 days in April and May. At $199 for adults and less for kids and seniors, it’s a screamin’ deal that pays for itself after your third visit.
The lowest price on the Springtacular Pass is only available through Sunday, April 2. Prices go up starting Monday, April 3 (which is the first day the pass becomes valid to use) so hurry up and snatch one now to make the most of the best spring skiing around.
Sip those seasonal beers on the Bend Ale Tail
There are certain beers that just taste better when the weather is chilly.
There are also certain beers that are only available seasonally, either on draft at your favorite Bend Ale Trail stop, or in cans and bottles.
You’re also running out of time to enjoy Red Chair NWIPA from Deschutes Brewery, either in seasonally-offered bottles, or on nitro at the pub.
Other beers—like [Banished] Tough Love Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout from Crux Fermentation Project—are available year-round, but they just don’t taste the same on a hot summer day as they do when you’re swilling it in the hot tub at your Bend vacation rental while snowflakes flutter around you.
Go snowshoeing with Wanderlust Tours
One of my favorite perks of working for Visit Bend is that I’ve had the pleasure of sampling every possible adventure offered by Wanderlust Tours.
And while I love outings like the year-round Cave Tours, or the warm-weather Canoe and Kayak Tours, there’s something extra magical about their Bonfire on the Snow snowshoe outing.
Participants snowshoe to a magical amphitheater carved into the snow, and sample locally-made goodies next to a bonfire under the stars. The whole thing includes all your gear, transportation, and the services of a super-knowledgeable naturalist snowshoe guide.
As you might imagine, that one isn’t offered in mid-July, so now’s the time to book if you don’t want to wait until next year!
8 ways to enjoy bluebird days in Bend this weekend (plus your chance to win a night at Wall Street Suites and $100 for Jackalope Grill!)
It’s no secret we’ve seen some severe weather in the Pacific Northwest this winter. Conditions have run the gamut from ice storms in Portland to flooding in southwest Washington to massive dumps of snow in Central Oregon.
It’s the latter that has snow-enthusiasts rejoicing about the winter of 2017, and they’re celebrating even harder as this weekend approaches. February 11 and 12 are predicted to be “bluebird days,” which is a fancy term for the holy trinity of clear blue skies, bright sun, and fresh snow.
Thinking about a last-minute getaway to Bend to enjoy this winter weather phenomenon? Here are 8 ways to spend a bluebird day in Bend.
Hit the slopes
If you’re a skiing or snowboarding enthusiast, Mt. Bachelor is already on your agenda. Conditions this season have been epic, with more than 360” of snowfall already, and plenty more to come. Their new Cloudchaser quad lift has added 635 lift-serviced acres to Mt. Bachelor’s existing terrain (not to mention reducing lift lines that were already pretty short).
Oh, and did you know kids 12 and under ski free with advance purchase of an adult lift ticket for three or more days?
Okay, but what if I’m not a skier?
There’s plenty to do at Mt. Bachelor even if you’re not a fan of strapping boards to your feet.
If snowshoeing is your scene, book a guided outing with Wanderlust Tours and leave the driving, gear, snacks, and decision-making to their skilled naturalist guides.
Walk the Bend Ale Trail
But when skies are clear and weather is mild, why not walk a portion of the legendary beer trail? More than half of the 15 breweries on the trail are within walking distance of each other, and it’s a great way to burn off a few of those beer calories while enjoying a leisurely stroll through Downtown Bend.
Recapture the thrill of a snow day
There’s something about the combination of blue skies and fresh snow that brings out the kid in a lot of us. Seize the moment by scheduling a snowball fight or making snow angels in fresh powder.
You can also recapture your youth by taking a twirl on the ice rink at The Pavilion or heading up to one of the Sno-Park to build a snowman.
The possibilities are endless, and I have it on good authority that giggling cures wrinkles.
Go for a hike
Clear skies make for perfect hiking conditions, and there are several hikes you can plan this time of year with no snowshoes required.
Stroll along the Deschutes River Trail with the added bonus of giving yourself easy access to post-hike snacks at one of several restaurants in the Old Mill District.
Late-winter is my very favorite time of year to visit the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. The craggy volcanic rocks and ancient junipers look stunning against a backdrop of blue sky, and with nearly 30,000 acres to explore, odds are good you’ll have a trail to yourself.
Hit the High Desert Museum
I adore the High Desert Museum for all its cool natural history and critters, but I’ll admit I’m a wimp about exploring the outdoor exhibits when the weather is nasty.
But blue skies are a great excuse to wander their expansive grounds checking out the birds of prey and the recently remodeled otter exhibit.
Check their online schedule to make sure you don’t miss any cool presentations or animal demos.
Save time for stargazing
Another upside of clear skies is the chance to check out the winter stars in all their twinkly glory. We’ll see a full moon on February 10, which means the whole weekend will be primo time for a moonlight snowshoe adventure.
As a bonus, this month’s full moon (known as the full snow moon) isn’t the only thing you’ll see when you look up at the sky. This weekend’s skies will also bring us a comet and a lunar eclipse, and being in Bend pretty much guarantees you a great viewing platform to take it all in.
Hang out under the stars by a fire pit at Wall Street Suites
Few things are as magical on a clear winter evening as cozying up beside a fire pit after a good meal and gazing up at the stars.
What’s that? You don’t have a fire pit handy? Well Wall Street Suites does. They also have some of the coolest luxury suites in Bend, and a fab Downtown setting that makes it easy to walk to the best shops and restaurants. Restaurants like . . . oh, I don’t know . . . Jackalope Grill?
Wanna win a package that includes a one-night stay at Wall Street Suites and $100 to spend at Wall Street Suites?
Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite thing to do on a bluebird day in Bend. Don’t worry if you’ve never been—you can just share which idea above sounds most appealing to you.
We’ll draw a winner at 4 p.m. on Friday, February 10. Good luck!
But after a long day of ice skating and making snow angels, you need to spend time warming up. Here are 8 of my favorite ways to get toasty in Bend.
Grab an adult beverage
I said “get toasty,” not “get toasted,” so moderation is key when it comes to imbibing in Bend.
But it’s true the city’s abundance of distilled spirits makes for some darn fine belly warmers this time of year. One of my personal faves is a shot of Bendistillery’s Crater Lake Pepper Vodka mixed with something tropical like pineapple, passionfruit, or mango juice. The peppery kick will warm you from the inside out, while the tropical flair will make you feel like you’re on a warm sandy beach.
If it’s a hot beverage you’re craving, there’s plenty to pick from. The spiced rum from Oregon Spirit Distillers is scrumptious in a mug of hot apple cider, or try blending Bendistillery’s Hazelnut Espresso Vodka with some warm cocoa and a dollop of whipped cream.
If beer is more your scene, a hearty stout or porter is just the ticket this time of year. The Tough Love Russian imperial stout from Crux Fermentation Project is particularly outstanding, or go for the classic Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery.
Or try a non-boozy belly warmer
Alcohol isn’t a requirement when you’re aiming to warm yourself from the inside out. Plenty of spots in Bend offer non-boozy belly warmers that are perfect for kids, teetotalers, or anyone else who’s laying off the sauce.
Bend has oodles of terrific coffee shops, which also double as great spots to cozy up and get warm in the steamy, coffee-scented air. I’m a big fan of the intimate vibe found at both Thump and Lone Pine, but you’ll find a full roundup of Bend coffee shops here. Pick one that looks like your special scene!
Tea drinkers will be happy to hear that both the aforementioned Thump and Lone Pine sell Metolius Artisan Tea, which is my absolute favorite. If you spot some, make sure you grab a jar of their Signature Blend made with lavender, blueberries, bachelor’s buttons, Madagascar vanilla bean, chocolate pieces, and three kinds of black tea. So good!
For the kiddos in your life, you’ll find hot cocoa at nearly every coffee shop on the list above. You can also grab Bubble Tea (either warm or cold) at Townshend’s Tea in Downtown Bend.
Try some hot yoga
Whether you can execute a perfect Bakasana in your sleep, or you’re only dimly aware that yoga isn’t something you top with granola for breakfast, you’ve probably at least heard of hot yoga.
It’s the practice of executing yoga poses in a high-temperature environment (typically 105-degrees) and it’s one way to boost your body temp on a cold winter day.
You’ll find drop-in hot yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Bend, Steve’s Hot Yoga, and Juniper Yoga, all of which offer slightly different pricing and approaches to the practice. Check out their websites and find the spot that looks like your ideal spot to get sweaty.
Find a fire pit
If you want to get warm but you’re not ready to head indoors just yet, you’ll find plenty of outdoor fire pits that make the perfect place to toast your toes.
The abundance of wood-burning pits on the patio outside O’Kanes at McMenamins Old St. Francis make it a popular wintertime hangout for those craving a brew and a pile of hot Cajun tater tots. You’ll also find a cool gas-powered fire feature just outside Jackson’s Corner Eastside, which makes it a great place to nibble a breakfast sandwich.
You’ll find quite a few large fire pits scattered throughout the Old Mill District, with plenty of room to snuggle up and mingle with locals and fellow travelers from all over the world.
For more ideas on where to find fire pits around Bend, check out this blog post.
Soak your bones
McMenamins Old St. Francis School boasts a beautiful tile soaking pool surrounded by shimmering turquoise tile, luminous stained glass, breathtaking murals, and an open-air ceiling that lets you check out the night sky. It’s filled with soft, buoyant saltwater, which makes for an environmentally friendly soak.
While guests staying at McMenamins have easy access to it, it’s also open to the public for your soaking pleasure. Check the website for fees and hours of operation.
Grab some comfort food
Warm yourself from the inside out with a big, heaping bowl full of whatever makes your tummy smile.
If mac and cheese is your comfort food of choice, Blacksmith has a terrific trio featuring a small portion of each of their three varieties (smoked cheddar, bacon, and truffle mac and cheese).
You’ll find tummy-pleasing soups at most Bend restaurants, but my personal fave is the Phở (pronounced “phuh”) at Phở Việt & Café. It’s a hot beef-noodle soup that’s a staple of Vietnamese cuisine and culture, and it’s oh-so-good on a cold winter’s day.
If you’re up at Mt. Bachelor, I have it on good authority that the Nacho Mountain in the Clearing Rock Bar will change your life (or at least improve your day significantly).
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my all-time favorite comfort food in Bend, the Grilled Cheesy at Crux Fermentation Project. It features asiago-cheese crusted panini with mixed ricotta, pepper jack, and white cheddar with diced bacon and spicy pickles on Italian country spent grain bread from DiLusso Bakery. Pair it with a beer sampler tray and prepare for one of the best meals of your life.
For more ideas on comfort food in Bend, check out this post.
Do a good deed
Ever notice how doing a good deed makes you feel warm all over?
Visit Bend’s Visit Like a Local page is chock full of ideas that’ll warm more than just your heart. From voluntourism opportunities, to ideas for leaving the hiking trail a little nicer than you found it, you’ll see oodles of tips that will leave you feeling good all over.
Watch this video
Can’t make it to Bend right this moment? You can experience that blend of tingly chill and toasty warmth by watching this short video titled, “Warmth.”
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.
Everyone’s looking for an inside tip. A secret or two that will help make vacation easier, cheaper, or just plain funner (that’s totally a word, right?)
A few months ago I published this post on lifehacks for a Bend family vacation. Now that winter travel is in full swing, it seems like a good time to revisit the concept with snowflakes in mind.
Hack #1: Beat the rush up the hill
It’s been a busy season up at Mt. Bachelor, and the road to the mountain can get packed with cars hustling to get there when the chairlifts start spinning at 9 a.m.
Want to skip the traffic? While it’s true the lifts open at 9, the lodge opens at 7:30. Beat the rush by heading up early, then nabbing yourself a tasty breakfast on the hill. You’ll still catch the first chair up the mountain, but you’ll spend that extra hour relaxing in a toasty warm ski lodge with a hot meal instead of staring at the line of cars in front of you. Heck, bring your laptop or your work colleagues and call it a board meeting.
Hack #2: Maximize your time in Downtown Bend
Sometimes it’s fun to look out my office window in Downtown Bend and see how many times a particular car will circle the block in search of a parking spot.
That’s probably not as fun for the person in the car.
Here’s a hint: It’s free to stash your car in the Parking Garage for up to three hours, and only $5 for all-day parking. Parking in the garage is always free on weekends, and you’ll rarely have trouble finding a spot. Bonus: You won’t have to scrape your windows or shove snow off your car when it’s time to leave.
Once you’ve found your spot, you can cram a whole lot of Bend goodness into your downtown experience. Grab lunch at one of the popular eateries, then do a little souvenir shopping. Afterward, stroll into Bend’s historic Drake Park to check out the icy Deschutes River and do a little people watching.
Hack #3: Plan your trip mid-week or during shoulder season for the best deals
Lodging in Bend can be tough to find during peak weekends, and rooms get pricey. An easy fix is to come in the middle of the week during shoulder season.
What’s shoulder season? That’s the gap between the busiest seasons of the year (those are summer, spring break, and Christmas break). In other words, you’ll find your best deals on lodging during the months of October, November, early-December, January, February, and late-April. To learn more about shoulder season vacations in Bend, check out this post.
Hack #4: Do your drinking like a grownup
More than half of all Bend visitors hit at least one brewery while they’re in town, and many pledge to tackle the entirety of the mighty Bend Ale Trail.
While sampling Bend’s craft beers, ciders, and distilled spirits is super awesome, a DUI is not. Neither is killing yourself or someone else. Death and jail time kinda put a damper on a Bend vacation.
Stay safe by letting the Bend Brew Bus handle your beerventure for you. If you’ve got a hankering for more than just beer, try their Local Pour Tour, which visits a winery, cidery, brewery, and distillery. All tours include samples, snacks, and most importantly, sober transportation to and from your hotel.
Hack #5: Slip a little goodwill into your good times
Whether you’re a do-gooder who looks for voluntourism opportunities on every vacation, or someone seeking little ways to leave a place better than you found it, you’ll find tons of great tips on our Visit Like a Local pages.
Bonus: there’s good insider info on everything from navigating traffic roundabouts to seasonal footwear selections.
Hack #6: Snag some cheap eats
Bend’s culinary scene is known as a foodie’s paradise, but sampling every buzz-worthy restaurant can empty your wallet in a hurry.
Hitting happy hours is a great way to sample a variety of cuisines for budget-friendly prices. Most Bend restaurants have them, and you can plant yourself in popular dining zones like the Old Mill District or Downtown Bend and walk between two or three hot eateries.
For a handy roundup of Bend’s best happy hours, go here.
Hack #7: Find the secret deals
Not everyone knows this, but lots of Bend hotels and lodging properties will throw out little perks to win your business. It’s not uncommon to see hotels offering discounted room nights, a bottle of wine, or even cheap Mt. Bachelor lift tickets to entice guests to stay with them.
Visit Bend keeps a list of such bargains on the Deals and Discounts page. Bookmark it and get ready to save big.