Bend gets pretty busy in the summer and, admittedly, it can be hard to find parking downtown and in the Old Mill – two of the most popular spots to shop, eat and recreate. But a new FREE shuttle service hopes to alleviate some of the troubles by helping folks navigate our hot spots car free.
Ride Bend will start up again in late June, offering free shuttle runs from noon to 10 p.m. The two buses run every 15 minutes and connect downtown, the Old Mill, OSU-Cascades and Galveston Avenue (home to 10 Barrel Brewing, Sunriver Brewing Co. and more.)
This service was made possible by a partnership between The City of Bend, Visit Bend, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
The 2018 season will run June 23 through Labor Day, 7 days a week,
The major stops are listed below and the time after the hour that the bus will arrive. For example, if you are boarding from the Downtown stop, you can expect the bus at 2:00, 2:15, 2:30 and 2:45. The bus will follow the minute pattern every hour between 2 and 10 pm.
Central Oregon’s iconic music venue, the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend, has been rolling out its star-studded 2018 summer concert line-up and it’s already filled with big-name acts set to rock the region.
The 8,000-capacity venue situated on the banks of the Deschutes River in Bend’s Old Mill District opened in 2002 and almost immediately became a must-stop for high-profile touring artists. In recent years LSA has hosted the likes of Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab for Cutie, Alabama Shakes, Ringo Starr, Paul Simon, Weird Al and many more.
The 2018 line-up includes a diverse mix of returning and first-time acts: (Click the artist to buy tickets.)
There’s a lot of really interesting history to Bend, Oregon and, as it turns out, the best way to experience it might just be on a futuristic device.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of hopping aboard a Segway before I visited The Bend Tour Company recently. I’d seen them gliding around town, but I was certain that I’d find a way to crash the ride and injure myself. (More on that in a minute.)
But one of the first things owner Bret Graham explains is that it’s impossible to tip over a Segway – either forward or backward. A quick introduction to the devices inside his store in Bend’s new Box Factory retail space revealed it was a lot like snowboarding – shifting your weight from your toes to your heels. And after an initial nervous lap around his indoor beginner course, it was actually easier than I thought it would be.
We made a short lap around the parking lot to make sure we knew what we were doing and we were off – a perfect adventure on an 80-degree day in May.
Bret offers several different tour options each day, including an Arts Tour, Brew Taps Tour and two and a half hour Summer Sunset Tour that includes the history and attractions on his traditional tours, but with stops at various brewpubs for samples (or a pint) and some food. That tour wraps up at the Crux Fermentation Project where the view of the sun setting behind the Cascades is absolutely spectacular. (Looking for a little more adrenaline rush during your vacation? Check out the heli-tours offered through BTC.)
His classic tour is an hour and a half history lesson on Bend as you roll through the Old Mill District, along the Deschutes River and through some of Bend’s original neighborhoods. He talks of Bend’s logging background and tells the story behind “Whisky Flats.” We stopped in front of Bend’s “2nd Most Haunted Place” and learned about a particularly interesting steel pole on the bank of the river.
The tour itself is an educational experience even for long-time locals like myself. I learned about a street in town that features homes with 17 different architectural designs, I saw Bend’s “greenest” home and I saw the spot of Bend’s very first brewery. (Hint: It’s NOT Deschutes Brewery.)
Speaking of breweries, we did make our way to Boneyard Brewing for a quick sample before calling our abbreviated tour a success. Well, mostly a success. One of the riders on our tour proved true what Bret told us during our orientation: it’s impossible to tip them over, and it’s nearlyimpossible to crash. (He – and the Segway – are fine.)
As we rolled back into the shop – literally – I was already planning ahead. My brother, an avid cyclist who lives in Nebraska has said he wants to explore Bend on two wheels – but he didn’t say it had to be by bike.
Now, if we can only figure out how to do a wheelie.
The Old Mill District is a year-round destination for shopping, dining and recreation – but when the holidays roll around, the historic area becomes a one-stop spot to truly embrace the season.
The Holiday Happenings kick off around 10 a.m. on Black Friday (Nov. 24th) when Santa arrives at the Les Schwab Amphitheater via Air Link helicopter – it’s truly a grand entrance for the big fella that the kids will want to see.
He’s here to check out the expanded SantaLand located in the space behind Athleta on the north end of the district. Santa plans to stop by Friday through Sunday to get up-to-the-minute lists from the Central Oregon kids and visitors.
Additionally, you can enjoy complimentary carriage rides on weekends leading up to Christmas with donations and tips going to benefit Kids Center, a local non-profit that helps prevent child abuse.
While you’re out shopping, take the opportunity to stop by the Gap, American Eagle and REI, take the opportunity to stop by the Tree of Joy at SantaLand. There you’ll find that children in need have written their name and ideal gift on a piece of paper and attached it to the tree. All you have to do is grab a name and return with the unwrapped gift. Hours are Friday through Sunday 11-5, November 24th through December 17th.
Carolers from local school choirs and other groups will fill the Old Mill with the sounds of the season throughout the holidays, certainly making spirits bright.
Since shopping is pert near a combat sport during the holidays, be sure to take some time to replenish your fluids with a cocktail at Level 2 (or, if you’re with the kids, Red Robin has a full bar as well) or hot cocoa at Strictly Organic Coffee. Grab some sustenance for the endeavor at Flatbread Neopolitan Pizzeria, or, if it’s really chilly out and you want to transport yourself to someplace much warmer, give in to your imagination with a meal at Kona Mix Plate.
Central Oregon is home to dozens of small businesses and boutique shops that help give the region character, personality and a sense of place that resonates with locals and visitors alike. Yes, we’re known for our abundant outdoor adventure possibilities, but there is certainly no shortage of shopping here.
Downtown Bend is a hub for cute little brick and mortar shops including Cascade Cottons, which has the “must have” Bend and Central Oregon-themed shirts, sweatshirts and caps for yourself or for the dog sitter stuck back home while your out here having some fun.
Other shops like Cowgirl Cash (vintage, chic western wear for women) and Hot Box Betty (urban style in our small little mountain town) might just have that perfect little something to treat yourself to on your holiday vacation. And, of course, there’s always the gift of chocolate from local chocolatier Goody’s.
You’ll find some great toys – including you know, the thick wooden, old-school toys you had as a kid – at Leapin’ Lizards and there’s some great gear for the cyclist in your life at The Hub Cyclery (which also has a couple of beers on tap at all times should the mood strike you during your shopping spree.) Need XC skis or winter gear? Check out Powder House or Pine Mountain Sports. If you plan on spending more than a few hours downtown, or want to arrange your shopping to end around dinner time, there’s plenty of great local restaurants downtown. Check out The Brickhouse for an awesome happy hour that includes brick oven pizza, bay shrimp cocktail, beef carpaccio and more.
Bend’s Old Mill District has the big box stores everyone loves, but it’s also home to several local shops that are looking forward to the holiday season, including Nashelle Jewelers, Savory Spice Shop and Saxon’s Fine Jewelers. You can also take a break from the chaos with a movie at Regal Old Mill Cinema or by stopping by Hola! for a bite to eat. There’s plenty of Holiday Happenings in the Old Mill as well to make your shopping experience even more festive.
With so many options, it’ll be easy for you to crank out the Christmas shopping in one fell swoop so you can refocus your holidays toward something fun (like take a hike, hit up the slopes of Mt. Bachelor, take a snowmobile adventure or just snuggle in front of the fireplace in your room.)
I don’t know about you, but I love a good fall shopping trip. It’s an excuse for one last summer escape before daily life gets hectic again. If you’re planning to visit Central Oregon, might I recommend a stay at Tetherow Resort and a weekend of shopping – tax free shopping – in Bend? (Bring the family..leave them at home and make it a girls trip – your call. )
Along with outdoor fun and relaxation at Tetherow, save room for a day of shopping in Bend’s Old Mill District. This outdoor mall along the Deschutes River has terrific finds at stores such as Banana Republic, Gap and American Eagle. Make sure to seek out one-of-a-kind treasures at local favorites like Vanilla Urban Threads and Nashelle jewelry too. (Here’s a link to check out the weekly specials at Old Mill shops.)
Once there, have lunch on the patio of Greg’s Grill. Enjoy Pacific Northwest cuisine a s you watch paddleboarders and kayakers float down the river while the sun’s rays highlight the majestic Cascades. It’s truly a serene setting. Afterwards stroll down to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop for a warm weather treat.
After lunch, head a little farther south in Bend to find some great back-to-school deals at the Bend Factory Stores. There’s a Carter’s for the little ones, Eddie Bauer, Izod, Columbia Nike and Van Heusen and much more in the open-air mall. Treat yourself while you’re there to a little decadence at The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
So go on, you deserve it. Get out there and enjoy all the beauty and fun that only Central Oregon can provide. Make your travel reservations now. With all the back-to-school deals going on, it’s the perfect time for a little spree!
I think we can all agree that the happiest of hours is a Happy Hour. It’s that blissful, albeit much too short, period between the end of the work day and the return to duties of real life. If done properly, a single weekday Happy Hour can provide all the rejuvenation needed to propel you through to the weekend. The best Happy Hours offer diverse drinks, tasty food and – most imporantly – a great deal! And it just so happens that some of Central Oregon’s best Happy Hours can be found in one convenient location: The Old Mill District. And there’s nobody better to tag along with than our friend Chelsea. Cheers!
Distance from Bend: 0
Distance Covered: 7.5 miles
Time: 4 to 6 hours
Activities: Hiking, dining, sightseeing
Difficulty: Very easy
I’ve always found one of the best ways to really learn a city is to take to the streets for an urban hike. Bend has lots of cool pocket neighborhoods, buttes, parks and green spaces, so load up your backpack for a day to explore the sidewalks and trails of Bend.
Lets start our day off right with a trip to one of my favorite breakfast places in Bend, McKay Cottage. Their bakery is one of the best in town, and if you don’t want to try one of their incredible Benedict breakfasts, I would highly recommend the Stuffed French Toast – stuffed that is with creamy Italian mascarpone cheese and topped with strawberries. YUM!
From there we’ll walk right across the street into Sawyer Park and cross the Deschutes River. Sawyer Park is a great place linger and check out the river and cool rock formations along the water. You can fish or bird watch, but we have miles so go, so we’ll head out along the Deschutes River Trail, which takes us past the greens at Rivers Edge Golf Course.
We meet up with the river again and walk the gravel path to First Street Rapids, a popular spot for kayakers to practice their roll. A new bridge spans the water and leads us along the trail to the east side of the river. We’ll make our way through Pioneer Park, and its lush green grass, to downtown Bend.
Stop in and do some shopping, or take a rest on the grass and enjoy the view of the mountains behind the iconic Mirror Pond. We’ll continue on the river trail through Drake Park. The park is a popular destination year round with music, performances, special events and usually some slack-lining and frisbee tossing going on.
Now cross into the Old Mill Neighborhood; these homes were some of the first built in Bend when we really were a mill town. Riverfront is a quiet and beautiful street with a very popular stop, the Rock Art Guy. Greg Gifford’s (on the corner of Hixon Avenue and Riverfront) makes fun rock sculptures of kayakers, bikers, golfers and more. You’ll see his art all around town.
We’ll continue to the footbridge that crosses the Deschutes River and into Columbia Park. If you have any little ones with you, they will probably want to climb on the pirate ship in the playground. This neighborhood park is a great place for a pick-up soccer game or just relaxing and watching the day pass by.
Continue up Cumberland Avenue and take a right on 16th Street, and a quick left on Elgin Avenue to reach Overturf Park. This is one of the best kept secrets in town. A butte hidden in a neighborhood with an awesome view of the city…complete with a fenced dog park and trails. Make your way up, up, up to the top, and head south until you come to a large rock outcropping. It’s time to enjoy the view!
After we are rested up, we’ll make our way back to the river the way we came, and once we hit Columbia Park, will head south on the west side of the river to the Old Mill District. We’ll walk near the Colorado Street Bridge which is the future site of a whitewater play park, a very exciting development for Bend!
Make your way past the Les Schwab Amphitheater, which also happens to be a great place to stop and fly a kite if there aren’t any events going on. The grassy slopes and consistent wind make it an ideal spot. We’ll cross the river for the fifth and final time of the day and head into the Old Mill District. Lots of shopping and dining options here, but I have our final stop on our horizon…Crux Fermentation Projectlies just on the other side of the popular shopping district.
We’ll cross through to Bond Street, then take a right onto Industrial Way and head up the hill to Crux. Crux hands down has the best view in town. If you have timed it right to arrive at sunset, you will enjoy a happy hour beer with a stunning view of the Cascade Mountains.
Time to relax, put the feet up, enjoy a craft brew and soak in your urban hike!
We have friends that pass through Bend all the time, and my boyfriend likes to joke that I must be getting paid by the Visitors Association because I give Bend the hard sell! I’ve lived all over the country and know how special this area is. My favorite three days in Central Oregon will highlight just that: the area’s good food, beer, wine, rivers, mountains, trails, festivals and more.
One of my favorite breakfast spots in Bend must be Jackson’s Corner. The cafe’s food is not only delicious, but primarily local and organic, the outdoor tables allow you to catch a bit of warmth from the morning sun, and the coffee, well, they know how to make a cup! I’d recommend the Pesto & Eggs (house-made Pesto!) or the Biscuts & Gravy (sausage from Redmond Smokehouse…mmmmmm).
From there the Old Mill District is just a hop, skip & a jump away. Pick up the Deschutes River trail right by Miller’s Landing Park and meander along Bend’s famous water-way. If you need to walk off breakfast I might suggest crossing the river on the Colorado Street bridge’s walkway and head upstream on the west side of the river.
You will walk right through the Les Schwab Amphitheater and will see our new (in 2013) mural on both sides of the stage. Cross back to the east side of the river over the footbridge, it will lead you right into the heart of the Old Mill. I’m partial to the REI there in the iconic building, an old powerhouse for the mill that occupied the riverfront until recent times.
While Central Oregon’s beer industry is booming, our wineries and spirits deserve some attention as well. After a bit of shopping, load up the car and head for Maragas Winery just past Terrebonne and practically in the shadow of Smith Rock State Park. Maragas was the first winery in Central Oregon; the microclimate is perfect for several different northern European varietals and hybrids. Grab a glass of their Malbec or maybe if it’s a warm day, their Poetic Pinot, a crisp and fruity white wine.
Next on the list is one of the area’s newer wineries, Faith, Hope, & Charity Vineyards. From their stunning vista of the Cascade Mountains (and their namesake Three Sisters: Faith, Hope, & Charity), the fertile valley is ideal for the cold-hardy grapes that blanket the rolling property. Sit in the beautiful little garden by the pond and enjoy a glass of Chardonnay or Frontenac. Both Maragas and Faith, Hope & Charity are part of the newly formed Central Oregon Wine Trail.
As long as you have a designated driver, the next stop on the tour is Bendistillery. Take a tour of the 24 acre farm and distillery while you sample their Crater Lake Gin (made from ingredients grown on the premises) or one of the four flavors of vodka.
It’s probably time for some dinner at this point! One of the hottest dining options in Bend has to be Zydeco. The Cajun/Southern Soul food menu offers some incredible options. Start with the Barbecue Shrimp and Southern Grit Cake before ordering the Shrimp Etoufee or more American classic, the Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich.
Food coma achieved: time to rest up for Saturday, we’ll be heading to the mountains for some hiking, picnicking and more.
Central Oregon loves a good local product or service, so lets make breakfast this morning from some of the delicious options in town. Head to Galveston Avenue on the West side of town and pick up some bacon or house-made sausage from Primal Cuts Meat Market. Right next door is Paradise Produce where you can find all sorts of organic and local veggies and fruit for your meal.
Then swing by Backporch Coffee Roasters for some freshly roasted coffee beans or grab a cup to go, one more stop to make! It may be off the beaten path, but Central Oregon Locavore is the place to go if you like healthy and local products. Pick up a dozen farm fresh organic eggs and head home to make a truly Central Oregon meal.
I’m glad you ate your fill because it’s time to go on one of the most beautiful hikes in the Cascade Mountains. I know, i know, you just ate, but swing by Big O’ Bagels for a turkey club bagel sandwich to enjoy later for lunch.
It’s time to head to one of the more popular trails out there, the Green Lakes Trail, but there is a reason! The hike heads up to a stunning green/blue lake at the base of South Sister and Broken Top Mountains. The full effect needs to be experienced, and the hike up there isn’t half bad. You follow the charming little Fall Creek which has tons of splashy waterfalls to enjoy as you stop and catch your breath (you will gain over 1,000 feet in the 4.2 miles up).
An incredible lava flow comes into sight as you approach Green Lake. South Sister last erupted 2,000 years ago, so in geological time those rocks are quite young!
Just a little further, and you made it!
One of my favorite visits to Green Lakes was while there was still some snow on the ground in the higher elevations. I took my packraft with me (a 6lb inflatable boat) to the lake and slid into the water from a snowy bank. I also had a beer with me that I stashed in a floating ice chuck in the lake for a tasty beverage later. Bringing a beer on a hike is always a good idea, especially since many Central Oregon breweries are canning now. (Worthy Brewing’s Prefunk is a great choice.)
One final beer or two is in order from their back bar, O’Kanes. Sometimes referred to as the whisky or cigar bar, this little grotto has fire pits, outdoor seating and a selection of beverages ranging from their own beers and wines to whiskies. If you decide to order some food, try the Cajun Tots. Haven’t had a tot since grade school? These are much improved with cajun seasoning and are served with ranch dressing. You are welcome!
It’s a beautiful morning, fill that Hydroflask with some coffee, we’re going to the river for a morning paddle. Since the Deschutes River runs right through the middle of town and is fairly slow moving in spots, you can paddle up stream from Drake Park to the Colorado Street Bridge before turning around to float back. The city is quiet and the mountains glow on the horizon this time of morning.
You’ve returned to the put-in at Drake park, time to put the boats away and grab bikes and head to breakfast. The Victorian Cafe or Chow would be my recommendations today. Both have incredible bloody Mary’s and the Victorian Cafe has an impressive selection of eggs Benedict.
Returning to the bikes, it’s time to check out one of the many festivals or fests that Bend has each year. One of my favorites is Art in the High Desert the last weekend in August. The show brings in over 100 professional artists from all over North America to the grassy banks of the river in the Old Mill District. I’ve gotten some amazing ceramics in year’s past, I’m positive you will find some art to bring home.
Still have some energy? Might be nice to keep biking on the River Trail, multiple bridges across the river all for all kinds of different bike loops, it all depends on how far you want to go!
Time for a bite to eat, so bike on back over to Galveston Ave. and head to The Lot. The Lot is a food cart “pod” that’s been around for about a year…centered around a covered courtyard that serves…beer! Pouring from 16 taps, you can enjoy another local beer while trying food from one of the six food carts. I usually hit up Real Food Bistro or the Brown Owl. The Sandwich from The Brown Owl is particularly impressive (if you like fried chicken that is).
Lets work off some of that lunch by playing a little corn hole at Goodlife Brewing. Just a few blocks away, the brewery has a great grassy area with games, a fire pit and sometimes music. It’s a nice place to spend the afternoon while sipping.
It’s almost evening; a great place to watch the sunset over Central Oregon is Pilot Butte. Hop on your bike for the ride over to the East side of Bend. The extinct volcano rises 500 feet above town and provides a stunning view any time of day.
It’s getting late, but if you need one more bite to eat before calling it a day, head to Barrio in Downtown Bend. Their small tapas-style plates are great to share and everything goes well with either their Red or White Sangria.
Well, it’s been a whirlwind three days, but you have experienced why we all love it here so much!
When it comes to eating gluten-free in Central Oregon, my family has tried it all. Having an eleven-year-old who’s very sensitive to gluten, we’ve spent the past decade researching recipes, grocery stores and restaurants. I’m happy to report that Central Oregon has some of the best choices around for gluten-free dining. While we have a growing list of eateries that we like to frequent, I’ve narrowed it down to a few favorites.
Zydeco Kitchen and Cocktails
This is our special occasion place. Located on Bond Street, in downtown Bend, Zydeco offers a hip, urban vibe with a southern flare. I love the contemporary menu, complete with a separate gluten-free menu that includes French fries (they have a dedicated fryer unlike most places). Hands down, the best appetizer is the BBQ shrimp. From the ribs to jambalaya, Zydeco is definitely a crowd pleaser.
Located in the Old Mill District is a family favorite for lunch or dinner. Actually, if you asked my three pizza-loving kids, they’d chose to visit Flatbread any time of day. They enjoy eating at Flatbread because of the opportunity to make their own pizza right at the table. After ordering up all kinds of toppings like bacon, sausage and pepperoni, they eagerly fix their child-sized crust with shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce and the works before handing over their culinary creation to servers who then deliver them a wood-fired oven. Even better, Flatbread also offers a gluten-free crust for my daughter. The restaurant makes sure to bake this dough on a separate tray, doing their best to avoid cross contamination. At the end of the meal, all the kids get a big cookie or gluten-free gelato. Happy kids makes for happy parents.
Right next door to Flatbread is another family restaurant serving yummy Italian fare. Pastini is decorated with cozy booths and window tables with a view of the Deschutes River. The restaurant serves up several nice choices of gluten-free pastas and sauces. Dine here in the warm seasons and ask to sit outside. You can watch paddle boarders and kayakers float down the river as the sun sets behind the Cascades Range. A truly picturesque setting. An added bonus is the fairly good-sized lawn out front, which allows for kids to run and play tag while you’re waiting for a table!
Some of the best weekends we’ve spent as a family, have been on our mini-vacations at Sunriver Resort. No matter what our activity of choice is, whether it’s bike riding or paddle boarding, we usually end our day with a sunset dinner at the Owl’s Nest. Located in the main lodge, with stunning views of the Cascades, this restaurant and bar is a great stop for visitors of all ages. Even if the temperature is dropping, our family likes to wrap up in sweaters and sit outside on the patio to enjoy a view of the rolling meadows and beyond. Our kids order burgers while my husband and I usually chose seared salmon and flat iron steak. My eleven-year-old loves that the menu includes gluten-free items for her needs as well. The service is friendly and the setting is unmatched by anything else around. It’s truly a treat.
(editor’s note: Most Central Oregon eateries include several gluten free options on their menus now – some of the region’s award-winning brewpubs even offer gluten free beers.)