In a city that’s growing faster than most people like to admit, a popular phrase is “stop telling people about Bend!”
Bendites are going to hate me for writing this article.
You see, Bend used to be a little blip on the map; a resort community where poeple visited but didn’t stay.
But that’s been changing steadily for the past twenty years or so, and whenever I hear that phrase I like to ask if the person saying it grew up here.
Usually, the answer is no.
So, since we’re all to blame anyway, I thought I’d share a few of the reasons why those of us who are fortunate enough to call it home love Bend so.
9) The Beer
Last time I checked, this small community of 85,000 (and counting) had 22 local breweries. That’s over one brewery for every 3,800 people! So, I guess it’s safe to say we love our craft beer and we know how to do it well. Some big names have even scouted our local favorites (a couple years ago Anheuser-Busch bought out a local staple, 10 Barrel to much disappointment).
My favorite brewery is Crux Fermentation Project because not only do they have delicious brews, but also a laid back atmosphere, food carts, fire pits, yard games and an amazing sunset view.
Want a brew tour? Take part in the Bend Ale Trail!
8) We Keep it Local
And why were so many locals upset over the 10 Barrel buyout? Because we like to support local, and the community has done a really good job at doing just that, with a booming downtown full of locally owned restaurants and boutiques, a big push for local produce and meat, a large support group for our local artists and talents. In short, we’re conscious of where we spend our dollars and prefer them to stay in the community.
7) Smith Rock State Park
Not quite Bend, but just 40 minutes away is Smith Rock State Park, where sport climbing got its name. Have you ever seen a Cliff Bar? The pixelated image on their packaging is from a famous climb at Smith Rock, and this popular park, in all of it’s otherworldliness (it just pops up out of nowhere, and seems like it doesn’t belong) is a special place for hikers, photographers, bikers and climbers alike. See my post on Smith Rock here.
6) Deschutes River Trail
One of my favorite trail runs is the Deschutes River Trail near the popular Old Mill Shopping Center. I love it for it’s proximity to town and, simultaneously for how far away from town it feels. My favorite section is a perfectly maintained 3-mile loop around the river, and once inside, it seems like you should have driven hours out into the forest. However, the trail extends all the way across town, and it’s recently been reported that the trail will be extended in the coming year, allowing adventure seekers the ability to walk, run or bike all the way from Tumalo to Sunriver. (Get trail maps here.)
Probably the first hike I ever did was Misery Ridge at Smith Rock State Park. It nearly killed me, but I remember thinking about how spectacular the view was at the top; and I was hooked. That was about 12 years ago and since I’ve conquered both the Middle and South Sisters as well as countless day hikes including Tumalo Falls, Green Lakes, Rosary Lakes and more in the Cascade Range, all of which offer splendid views and serenity in the forest just 30-60 minutes from town. There’s a trail for every level, every sport and every view.
4) Water Sports
Perhaps the most popular summer thrill is to float on an inner tube down the Deschutes River from the Old Mill Shopping Center to Drake Park downtown. It’s fun, beautiful and relaxing…though it has gained an unrivaled popularity. The river is also utilized for paddle boarding, surfing and kayaking. However, if one has a bit more time and wants to escape the crowds, the surrounding area is dotted with stunning lakes to quench your water sport craving, even if that includes wake boarding, wake surfing and/or tubing behind a motor boat or simply sailing in the wind.
3) The Les Schwab Amphitheater
Right next to the Deschutes River is the Les Schwab Amphitheater which is a perfect local venue for not only concerts but also festivals (read: brewfests) and events such as Winter Fest, the Little Woody Festival and more (okay, us Bendites like our alcohol). In the summer there are also free Sunday concerts by local bands. No matter what’s happening, the scene is heard and the views are excellent. See the schedule and get tickets here.
2) Good Food
I’ve noticed a significant improvement in Bend’s restaurants as the city has grown. With renowned chefs and restauranteurs moving in from Portland, Los Angeles, Austin and the like, we now have delish eats worth craving. And the best part is that most of them are here to stay (unlike several years ago when the restaurants of downtown changed names faster than most people change shoes). Some of my favorite staples are Wild Rose, for delish northern Thai cuisine, Parilla for the best fish tacos after a day on the mountain, McKay Cottage for breakfast and bloodies, and The Stihl Whiskey Bar for fine spirits and food.
1) The Mountains
Whether it’s just a view from nearly any corner of the city, or the close proximity to two different mountains (Bachelor and Hoodoo) for skiing, snowboarding or snowmobiling (and many, many more if you’re into backcountry sports!), Bend has some pretty special mountain views. I’m lucky to see Mt. Bachelor from my bedroom window, but there are lots of special spots around town to ogle at the Three Sisters and many other peaks. For a view with a mountain identifier, hike (or drive, in the summer) to the top of Pilot Butte on the east side of town. Or for a view framed by lava, visit the Dee Wright Observatory.
I could go on and on, listing the specifics of adventurous things to do in Bend, but in just one visit, this unique city speaks for itself. I’ve seen and heard of people moving here after one trip. The truth is, none of the above speaks to the magic of Bend….or perhaps all of it does. It’s a place you have to see to believe.
9 Things to do in Bend, Oregon