The city of Bend, in central Oregon, often called “the outdoor playground of the west,” is renowned for its summer pursuits like camping, hiking the mountains and buttes, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on the lakes, and the myriad dog parks. But Bend also offers a full palette of adventures and pastimes for winter fun.
Ride an Iditarod Dogsled
The highlight of a trip to Bend will be the Trail of Dreams dog sled tour through the towering, snow-frosted hemlock pines. With Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters mountain ranges hovering on the horizon, the exhilarating race through the chilly Deschutes National Forest is magical. The Alaskan Huskies, directed by tour guide, Jerry Scdoris, bounds along the twists and turns with guests bundled under blankets inside the Iditarod sled. Jerry does not use whips or “motivational” instruments of any kind – the dogs respond solely to his voice commands and his care and connection to his animals is inspiring.
Wanderlust Tours runs several snowshoeing tours which start out at the base of Mt. Bachelor. Their tours are geared toward the skill level of the guests, from the slower pace of seniors to airborne jumps into high drifts of powdery snow more suitable for 20-something young men. You can stop to make snow angels, have a mug of hot chocolate under the stars, or one tour even combines beer tasting with snowshoeing. One thing in common for all groups is the stunning wooded scenery with the Cascade Mountains juxtaposed against the periwinkle blue sky.
Ski Mt. Bachelor
Part of the Cascade Mountain Range, Mt. Bachelor is the second largest single-mountain ski resort and the sixth largest of all ski resorts in the United States. The resort is known for its powdery conditions, 10 working chairlifts and one old-school chairlift that is non-operational but has been left on the property for nostalgic value. There are also 12 groomed trails for cross-country skiing.
Visit a microbrewery, or two, or twelve
With at least a dozen microbreweries to choose from, sampling the craft beers that Bend is known for could take up a good chunk of time, if so desired. Crux Fermentation Project is not to be missed. The small brewery flows into a lodge-style restaurant where you can watch the process while sampling their beer and food. Their “Freakcake,” a dark beer aged in whisky kegs with lemon and orange zest, then undergoing a secondary fermentation with sour cherries, raisins, cranberries, figs, dates, and currants, is served in stemmed whisky glassware for added glam. They also serve the best grilled cheese sandwich on earth consisting of four cheeses, bacon, ham and pickles on toasted artesian bread.
Another fun brewery is Boneyard Beer, which has a small sampling room but no restaurant. They have a unique brew called “Diablo Rojo” which is a red ale infused with jalapenos for a tangy, spicy bite. Drop in for a free sample!
Shop in the Old Mill District
Offering stunning views of the Deschutes River, the Old Mill has myriad shops from national chains to specialty shops. For a break from shopping, there are lots of options for dining, many with views of the river, a dog park, and places to rent equipment like kayaks, kites and bikes.
With over 325 establishments and businesses in the Downtown Bend, you’ll run out of time before you run out of places to eat, drink, shop, or play. Many places offer tours from their own perspective. Walk to Drake Park which overlooks Mirror Pond and the scenic Deschutes River. Don’t forget to stop for a sweet treat of chocolate or ice cream, or at least a steaming cup of coffee along the way!
Dance in the Cage
Located right in downtown, SEVEN is the hot spot for nightlife in Bend. Whether you come for karaoke or comedy night, to learn to salsa, to have a burger and watch a sporting game, or just to dance in the infamous “cage”, SEVEN is a great spot for hanging out with old friends or meeting new ones.
Stay at the Oxford Hotel
Swanky, luxurious and eco-friendly, the Oxford Hotel sits in the perfect location, right in the middle of and walking distance to everything Bend’s downtown has to offer. The only boutique hotel in town, the Oxford’s suites are super-sized with upscale décor, a separate sitting room, 2 large flat-screen TV’s, a “pillow menu” to suit your preference, and a view of the Cascades. The on-site restaurant serves fresh urban-organic cuisine, and the hotel staff could not be more friendly and attentive.
Eat at Barrio
Barrio, a small Latin inspired bistro in the heart of downtown immediately draws patrons in with its quirky, artsy décor. One glance at the menu and let the drooling begin! Chef Steven Draheim’s tapas and small plate creations are a fusion of Mexican, Cuban and South American cuisines. Not to be missed are the Jibarito Pork Carnitas – sliced fried plantains stuffed with tajine, guac and spicy pork, or the Cuban Sliders – pork belly, pork carnitas, eschabeche, Jack, mustard, on Gordon’s bun. You will have to fight the urge to like the plate…. trust me. Hint: the white sangria is so good, one will not be enough.
Ride an Electric Bike
Take in the history of Bend, riding through the sights of downtown on an electric bike. Not only can you cover so much more than a walking tour, but the Let It Ride tours on electric bikes are so much fun. A twist of the hand-throttle and off you go winding through the tourist-friendly streets of Bend. Be prepared for people to attempt to chat with you as you drive slowly past them!
See a Show at the Tower Theater
In the middle of downtown, you can’t miss the skyward sign for the Tower. The small performing arts center has just 460 seats, offering an up-close-and-personal viewing for live music, drama, comedy and dance performances, as well as classic movies.
Take a Bath
Well, maybe a soak would be a better description. McMenamins, the renovated old St. Francis School, is a collections of 19 guest rooms, 4 cottages, a movie theater, a brewery, and a grand soaking pool designed to look like the European public baths of days gone by. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to soak in the pool… visitors are welcome to step in for $5.
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