Cheat Sheet to the Best of Bend

February 23, 2014

bend oregon

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 snowstorm 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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

Tthings to do in bend oregon in winter

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

Go snowshoeing

Much to my surprise, I was better at snowshoeing 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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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 its 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.

Another fun brewery to try in Bend is Boneyard Beer.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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 nightclub, where you can even dance in their famous “cage.”

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

things to do in bend oregon in winter

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.

22 comments

  1. Comment by Amy D

    Amy D Reply February 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    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!!! 🙂

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      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.

  2. Comment by Suzanne (Travelbunny)

    Suzanne (Travelbunny) Reply February 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Bend looks fabulous – wish I lived a little closer!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm

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

  3. Comment by Nancy Thompson

    Nancy Thompson Reply February 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    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!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 27, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      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!

  4. Comment by Catherine

    Catherine Reply February 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

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

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 27, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      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….

  5. Comment by Suzanne Fluhr

    Suzanne Fluhr Reply February 26, 2014 at 4:06 am

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

      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.

  6. Comment by Irene S. Levine

    Irene S. Levine Reply February 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Looks like a perfect destination for winter sports!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm

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

  7. Comment by Donna Janke

    Donna Janke Reply February 25, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Bend looks like a fun place. I’d like to try both the dogsled and the electric bicycle.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 25, 2014 at 10:24 am

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

  8. Comment by Marilyn Jones

    Marilyn Jones Reply February 25, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Looks like a great winter destination!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 25, 2014 at 10:24 am

      I was actually very surprised by what a great time I had in Bend!

  9. Comment by Patti

    Patti Reply February 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    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.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 24, 2014 at 8:45 pm

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

  10. Comment by Nancie

    Nancie Reply February 24, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Wow!, what a great place for a getaway. I would love to race on a dog sled!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      Even a weekend would be great. The dogsled ride through the forest was magical!

  11. Comment by santafetraveler

    santafetraveler Reply February 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm

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

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply February 24, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      I was surprised that I liked it so much! The dogsled ride was without a doubt the highlight.

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