Cheat Sheet to the Best of Bend

At the conclusion of a recent business trip to Portland, Oregon, I decided to extend my visit to the Pacific Northwest with a trip to Bend, in the central part of the state.  I was intrigued by all the research I had done which seemed to support the claim that Bend is the “outdoor playground of the West.”  I set out to see if it was true.

After a bit of a shaky start driving across the Mt. Hood pass during a snow storm in a rental Kia Soul without chains (shhhhhhh!), I arrived in Bend – much more beautiful than I had anticipated.  It took a bit of creative scheduling, but in just a few short days, I was able to do everything on my wish list… and then some.  Here are my top ten recommendations.

Riding in the Iditarod dogsled.  Oh what fun!

Riding in the Iditarod dogsled. Oh what fun!

Race a dog sled.  What a thrill!  Whisking through a forest of towering, snow-dusted hemlocks juxtaposed against a bright periwinkle sky while tucked snuggly into a bright red Iditarod sled was simply magical.  The Oregon Trail of Dreams sled ride was the highlight of my visit to Bend.

Taking a break from the snowshoeing to make a snow angel... and catch my breath.

Taking a break from the snowshoeing to make a snow angel… and catch my breath.

Go snow shoeing.  Much to my surprise, I was better at it than I thought I would be.  Form running down the snowy hills, to making snow angels, to learning about the natural wonders from my guide from Wanderlust Tours, we forged our own path uphill until we reached a semi-summit.

The stunning vista of the Cascades.

The stunning vista of the Cascades.

Arriving at that clearing, we were rewarded for our aerobic efforts with a stunning vista of the Cascade Mountain Range.

The luxurious and eco-friendly Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend.

The luxurious and eco-friendly Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend.

Pamper yourself at the Oxford Hotel.  The only boutique hotel in downtown, the Oxford Hotel is easy walking access to restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, galleries, shopping, and theaters.  The luxurious suites are very large, tastefully decorated in contemporary themes.

The utterly scrumptious Cuban sliders and a glass of white sangria at Barrio.

The utterly scrumptious Cuban sliders and a glass of white sangria at Barrio.

Eat at Barrio.  There are numerous opportunities for gastronomic glee in Bend.  My favorite was the small and quirky but über-friendly Latin bistro, Barrio.  My Cuban Sliders – pork belly, pork carnitas, eschabeche, Jack, mustard, on Gordon’s bun were out-of-this-world.  Don’t believe the rumor that I licked my plate… I actually used the last morsels of bread to sop up the tangy sauce.

Not gonna lie, I'm not a big fan of beer, but Crux's "Freakcake" was very tasty!

Not gonna lie, I’m not a big fan of beer, but Crux’s “Freakcake” was very tasty!

Try a craft beer.  I’ve never been a fan of beer, but since Bend is renowned for it’s microbreweries and unique craft beers, I decided to give them a try.  My favorite was the “Freakcake” at Crux Fermentation Project, which is fermented with sour cherries, raisins, cranberries, figs, dates, and currants and not bitter at all.

The high-energy party scene at Seven.

The high-energy party scene at Seven.

Take a salsa lesson at Seven.  If you’re at Seven on Wednesday, you can participate in the free salsa dance class.  Other days bring other specials like karaoke, or just dance the night away at this popular night club, where you can even dance in their famous “cage.”

Hmmm... this throttle thing was a blast!  Now I know what the attraction to motorcycles is...

Hmmm… this throttle thing was a blast! Now I know what the attraction to motorcycles is…

Ride an electric bike. I really had a lot of fun.  I’d never driven anything with a throttle before and loved riding it through downtown with Kim from Let It Ride who regaled me with the history and tales of Bend.

Take a dip in the inviting European-style soaking Pool (Photo ©McMenamins)

Take a dip in the inviting European-style soaking Pool (Photo ©McMenamins)

Take a public bath.  For $5 you can soak in the grand Roman-style soaking pool at McMenamins.   Renovated from the old St. Francis School, McMenamins houses a small hotel, movie theater, and a brewery, along with the soaking pool.

The Old Mill District offers a great shopping venue in a scenic location.

The Old Mill District offers a great shopping venue in a scenic location.

Go shopping.  Bend has two great shopping venues – the Old Mill District, which as the name suggests, is an area of refurbished old mills situated along the banks of the scenic Deschutes River.  The other location for shopping is downtown, laid out in a grid, and chock full of specialty shops, eateries, and parks.

The retro Tower Theater is an iconic landmark in downtown Bend, day or night.

The retro Tower Theater is an iconic landmark in downtown Bend, day or night.

See a show at the Tower. The attractive retro neon sign of this historic building is enough to draw you in for a closer look.  In the middle of downtown, the Tower offers live music, drama, comedy and dance performances, as well as classic movies.

Comments

  1. Bend looks totally neat. Did not know that OR had dog sledding. Would love to get there sometime!

  2. Wow!, what a great place for a getaway. I would love to race on a dog sled!
    Nancie recently posted…Chiang Mai: Maya Mall’s Glitzy Food Court for Foodie TuesdayMy Profile

  3. Bend is a great place to visit as is the whole of the Pacific Northwest – beautiful country! Glad you enjoyed the experience and I’ve heard wonderful things about the McMenamins.
    Patti recently posted…JFK & LBJ – Why the Fascination?My Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I was actually surprised by how much I liked it. The people were extremely friendly, a lot to do, beautiful scenery.

  4. Looks like a great winter destination!

  5. Bend looks like a fun place. I’d like to try both the dogsled and the electric bicycle.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Freedom to ReadMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      There were a lot of fun winter activities in Bend! The electric bike was a blast — even with snow on the road.

  6. Looks like a perfect destination for winter sports!
    Irene S. Levine recently posted…Hotel Review: Four Seasons Hotel TorontoMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I’m usually more of a warm-weather person, but I have to admit, winter activities in Bend were a lot of fun!

  7. Driving over a mountain in a Kia while it was snowing…..I never would have made it. I would not have been able to stop thinking about the Donner party. (For non-United States readers, you can Google Donner Party or you can just take my word for it that it was not a fun party). It must have been nice to be in a place this winter where they actually like for it to snow.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted…The Hawaii Chocolate Festival – Educational and Yum!My Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I have to admit, two years ago I left a lifetime of New England snow behind to move to the south, and didn’t think I’d relish “playing” in it again, but Bend was really a lot of fun, and it gave me a lot to write about.

  8. Bend sounds like so much fun! Would love to try snow shoeing!

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      It was more fun than I thought it would be. And if you have to be in a cold, snowy climate, why not make the best of it? You know, when in Rome….

  9. I love Bend and have been visiting for over 20 years. It has changed and re-invented itself many times to become the great travel destination it is today. Your post really hit the highlights! I live in Portland and avoid going over the mountain in winter (although I used to) so I commend you for your bravery on the road and I’m glad it was worth the effort. If you go back that way, the little western-themed town of Sisters has a lot to offer including the beautiful Five Pines Resort and Shibui Spa. Barrio sounds delicious!
    Nancy Thompson recently posted…Fabulous and Still Free ~ Attractions to Visit in AmericaMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Nancy, I originally tried to drive over the Cascades from Salem a day earlier. That was scary! It started snowing pretty hard, but not being from the area, I had no idea how bad a mountain pass can get. I got to a spot where a bunch of cars were stuck, and proceeded to get stuck myself. Two very nice guys in highway patrol truck stopped to help me and told me it was actually against the law for me to be driving in that area without chains. So I turned around, drove to Portland for the night and tried the Mt. Hood pass the next morning. There’s very little that can stop me once I have my mind set on something!

  10. Bend looks fabulous – wish I lived a little closer!
    Suzanne (Travelbunny) recently posted…Eating IcelandMy Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Really was a lot of fun. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend it. Lots to do in the summer, too.

  11. Absolutely love your recap of things to do in Bend–in the winter no less! Shows at the Tower are fantastic, my husband and I love making a night of it and going to dinner. Glad you included one of the Best Restaurants in Bend Oregon, Barrio. I have never tried the Cuban and probably should! The paella and sangria are to die for!!! :)

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I would go back to Barrio again and again. I still think about the incredible symphony of flavor in those Cuban sliders! There were so many delicious-sounding things on the menu. And I enjoyed chatting with the waiters — I think their names were Benny (tall) and Chris.

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