Sometimes after a day full of adventure, all that you crave is a simple, yet delicious, stick-to-your-ribs sandwich. (And a beer, obviously.)
Whether you call it a “sammie,” “sando,” or “sammich,” there’s an amazing sandwich waiting for you at the end of the trail in Central Oregon. Heck, even if you’re one of those weirdos who consider a hot dog a sandwich, we have you covered. For the purposes of this story, we’re not including burgers in the “sandwich” category, but rest assured there are TONS of great burgers here. (Don’t see your favorite listed? Tell us where to find the best sandwich in Central Oregon in the comments!)
In the iconic downtown Bend breezeway, the Beach Hut Deli offers a great selection of hot and cold sandwiches in a “chill” setting perfect for catching a game on TV or just people watching on Mirror Pond Plaza. Try the Surfin’ Bird with turkey, avocado, bacon, cream cheese, mayo, mustard, pickles, tomato, red onions, lettuce, Greek peppers and cheese.
In beautiful Sunriver, Sunriver Brewing‘s menu is filled with post-adventure favorites, but one of my staples is the Turkey Dip with smoked turkey breast, pepper bacon, tomato, Tillamook white cheddar on a french roll with a side of natural turkey jus. Pair it with a Fuzztail Hefe and your afternoon is golden. (You can get the same sandwich at Sunriver Brewing’s Galveston Pub in Bend too.)
Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters is a perfect rest stop after hiking up Black Butte, fishing at Camp Sherman or mountain biking the Peterson Ridge trails. And for me, there’s not a better sandwich in all of Central Oregon (or anywhere for that matter) than the legendary Chicken Bacon Tater. NBD, just your basic sandwich with grilled chicken breast, thick sliced hickory smoked bacon, fries & chipotle ranch all rolled together in a toasted pita, “Taco Style.” Yes, that’s right: THERE’S FRENCH FRIES IN THE SANDWICH! Pairs nicely with a Knotty Blonde.
The Row at Bend’s Tetherow Resort has a great pub-style menu that includes all your favorites like burgers and wings and a rotating beer menu featuring several local breweries. And while it sounds simple: sourdough bread, smoked ham, and Tillamook cheddar cheese served with daily soup – the grilled cheese is top notch (especially served with the tomato soup that’s usually available.)
Crux Fermentation Project is easily one of Bend’s favorite brewpubs. The pub features three hugely popular food carts outside on the lawn. And while the pub itself has a limited menu, the Banh Mi sandwich has long been a standout dish. It’s porter-hoisin roasted pork belly, cubed ham, fresh cucumber, cilantro, do Chua, and sweet chili aioli. My colleague Kristine implores you to get EXTRA CILANTRO!
You can find a great steak sandwich on just about every menu here these days (most here are made with locally grown beef,) but you probably won’t find a better one than the one at 10 Barrel Brewing‘s West Side pub. Know how I know? Because my wife says so and, well, she’s kind of a steak sandwich expert (or so I’ve been told.)
For an out of this world dining experience, Worthy Brewing is your place thanks to the world’s first “Hopservatory.” Founder Roger Worthington will tell you the Salmon Sando is the best in the universe: grilled Atlantic salmon, Tillamook pepper jack cheese, fresh guacamole, lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, chipotle aioli on ciabatta. (Pro tip from my colleague Kristi: Get it as a lettuce wrap.)
And finally, Brother Jons has two locations in Bend and both have great menus. You can’t go wrong though with the Cuban: Pulled pork, ham, melted swiss, sautéed onions, dill pickles & spicy brown mustard on a grilled hoagie roll. (While you’re waiting, the habanero cheese dip is worth noshing on – it’s a white wine & garlic habanero cheese sauce with house-fried yellow and blue corn tortilla chips.)
Summer in Central Oregon offers a feast for the adventurous and respite for the relaxers. Come 4th of July, add to that plenty of patriotism.
This year it falls on a Wednesday – possibly creating a whole FIVE-day weekend for a lot of people. It’ll be a great weekend to find a great hike, play some golf at one of the two dozen courses here or maybe get crazy with a whitewater rafting trip.
You couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate the 4th.
On the 4th, Bend features one of the quirkiest celebrations you’ll ever see – The annual 4th of July Pet Parade is exactly what it sounds like: Thousands of people and their pets parading through downtown in front of some 10,000 spectators. You’ll find all sorts of animals including cats, llamas, mini horses and a dog held airborne by balloons. (You just have to see it to believe it.) The parade starts at 1o a.m. and is immediately followed by an Old Fashioned 4th Celebration down the street in Drake Park. The party features food vendors, arts and craft booths, games for kids, music and much more.
Fireworks across Central Oregon
Bend: Pilot Butte, 10 p.m.
Redmond: Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, 10 p.m.
La Pine: Frontier Heritage Park, 10 p.m.
Prineville: Reservoir State Park, 10 p.m.
Madras: Sahalee Park, 10 p.m.
La Pine’s Frontier Days actually start on July 1st with a variety of family-friendly activities, cook-outs, live music and more. On the 4th the party starts at 7 a.m. with a “Woodcutter’s Breakfast” followed by a parade at 10:30.
You can officially kick off the weekend with the monthly First Friday Artwalk in downtown Bend. Yes, there’s art – lots of it. But Artwalk is more than that, as businesses keep their doors open later, and offer wine and spirits to create a very festive atmosphere in every small shop you walk in.
To see a full listing of all the events and activities slated for the July 4th holiday weekend, visit our Calendar.
There’s something quick, easy and consistent when choosing a hotel or destination resort for your vacation lodging.
But there’s something quirky, fun, interesting, spacious, well-appointed, private and luxurious about choosing a vacation rental home instead.
Central Oregon has more than 3,000 amazing vacation rental options, from cozy cottages near downtown to townhomes in the woods to expansive homes along the banks of the Deschutes River. They all provide a lodging opportunity that really lets you feel like a local as soon as you pull into the driveway.
Why choose a vacation rental home?
Less expensive for small groups
You can save money by cooking at home
Most are pet-friendly
There’s often laundry on site
Granted, staying in a vacation rental isn’t the best option for every trip, especially if you’re only going to be in one spot for a couple of days. But if you’re planning a longer trip, say 3 days or more, you’ll likely get a lot of bang for your buck in a rental home.
For example, if two couples looking for a place to stay close to downtown, the river, shopping, and tons of dining, they could split the cost of a nice 2-bedroom rental home for five days in late June for about $70/person/night. Or, go a little more upscale and rent a house (with a hot tub) on one of Central Oregon’s 30 golf courses for $109/night.* That’s considerably cheaper than some rates for hotels during peak season here.
Some rental homes amenities include hot tubs and BBQ grills in addition to cruiser or mountain bikes to check out the sights and sounds around Bend, Sunriver and beyond. Many of the homes are situated within well-established neighborhoods, lending themselves to a “local’s vibe.”
What else makes vacation rental homes so great? Here are a few highlights:
Bennington Properties in Sunriver might be the most dog-friendly vacation rental company on the planet! Not only do they offer an off-leash play area at the management offices, but there’s a complementary dog wash there too so you can clean up the pup after a day of adventuring. Stock up on provisions at Country Market in The Village at Sunriver or grab a bite and brew at Sunriver Brewery.
This rural resort has a wide variety of lodging including a bed & breakfast, a Log Cabin and more, including an upstairs “Treetop Lounge” that can host events. The bed & breakfast has a 3.5-acre meadow for small outdoor weddings. The resort is also home to a 3-day summer music and arts festival known as “The Newberry Event.”
DiamondStone also hosts MOTOFANTASY Motorcycle Rentals. Experienced riders can choose from over a dozen unique bikes to ride for a day or a week.
Tucked beneath a canopy of Ponderosa and Tamarack and only steps from the spring-fed Metolius River in Camp Sherman the cabins at Cold Springs Resort offer the perfect family retreat. Hiking, biking, and world-class fly-fishing opportunities abound and all are within walking distance. Bring the kids, the dog and let yourself and your family unwind.
Cold Springs Resort was originally a dairy and the springs were used to keep the fresh milk cool before distribution.
Elk Lake Resort, on the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway, offers rustic or upscale cabins just steps away from one of the region’s most popular recreation spots. Grill on the deck or head on down to the lodge before renting a canoe for the afternoon. There’s often live music at the resort as well.
Looking for destination resort amenities, but vacation rental lodging? Sunriver Resort, Tetherow, Black Butte Ranch and Pronghorn all offer vacation rental options. Tetherow has the region’s first vacation rental neighborhood called “Cairn,” which includes 4 and 5 bedroom homes along the award-winning golf course.
*These are just a couple of examples and rates will vary, but they are actual examples, from one of Central Oregon’s more popular vacation rental companies.
Live music is often the first thing visitors ask about when they get to Central Oregon. And come summer, there’s certainly no shortage of great opportunities to sit (or dance) outside in the sun and listen to some great tunes.
Here’s our Top 5 Free Summer Concert Series’
Backyard Concert Series – Sunriver Resort
May 26-28 | June 29 | July 1 | July 2-Sept 4 | Thurs, Fri, Sat
Bring the family, pull up a blanket and enjoy live music at The Backyard at Sunriver Resort from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A different live band will be featured each concert day. Delicious food and local brews, wine and cocktails will be offered during each concert.
Music on the Green – Redmond’s Sam Johnson Park
The region’s longest running free music series happens from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Redmond’s Sam Johnson Park every other Wednesday beginning in late June. The event combines free music with a block party atmosphere to offer a powerful mix of community and family fun.
Music on the Green continues to celebrate the finest Redmond has to offer, spotlighting some of the region’s best and brightest musical talents from genres like country, folk, bluegrass, and cover tunes from the ‘50s through today.
BMC Free Summer Sundays – Bend’s Les Schwab Amphitheater
Bend Memorial Clinic’s Free Summer Sunday Concerts start June 4 and continue through mid-July on select Sundays. Come on down to the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend’s Old Mill and enjoy a beautiful afternoon of great music and healthy family fun. Delish food vendors, bouncy houses and other activities will be onsite.
Well behaved pets (and their owners) are welcomed. Concerts run from 2:30-4:30 pm, and feature local and nationally touring artists who typically require a ticket to see. Bring your dancing feet!
Munch & Music – Bend’s Drake Park
For 26 years, Bend’s iconic Drake Park has been the place to be on Thursday nights in the summer.
Munch & Music is a hugely popular, family-friendly event featuring local and nationally-acclaimed live bands. The food court is sure to have something for everyone. With one of the largest gatherings of all you favorite local food vendors – come hungry!
The Deschutes Brewery Libation Station will be available with beer, wine and an occasional cocktail from week to week. This year the concerts will have a walk-around beer policy. You cannot bring your own alcoholic beverages into the events, but you can roam the area freely with your brew.
Picnic in the Park – Prineville’s Pioneer Park
Picnic in the Park is an amazing opportunity for people in our wonderful community and those traveling from neighboring areas to spend some time mid-week to unwind in beautiful Pioneer Park listening to a wide variety of music. This is a place for families, friends, neighbors and strangers to gather and enjoy being outside and relaxing while being entertained by high-quality musicians. Thursday nights from 6 to 8 beginning in July.
As a former assistant golf professional here in Central Oregon, I’ve had the chance to play just about every course here. Here are my 11 favorite tracks.
Widgi Creek Golf Club – Bend
I’m a bit biased as I spent the better part of five years playing this course nearly every day. But that’s the thing – it’s the kind of course that’s fun every single time you play. Tucked within the Deschutes National Forest, Widgi is tight and the Par 5s are long. Each set of tees helps create a different golf course of sorts. From the tips, none of the Par 5s are reachable in two and the Par 3s are BRUTAL. Move up just one tee and everything changes. I love it. (Named the Local’s Favorite Course more than 10 times.)
Tetherow (Golf Digest No. 63) – Bend
A Scottish links layout in the heart of the High Desert, Tetherow is a feast for the eyes and a beast on your scorecard. But because you can play this course low to the ground, it’s actually a favorite among high handicappers and women who can get around it in decent shape thanks, in part, to very helpful forecaddies. (And on a Golfboard, just getting around Tetherow is half the fun.) After your round, The Row is one of the best spots in Central Oregon for beers, wings and other tasty dishes.
Glaze Meadow, Black Butte Ranch – Near Sisters
Glaze Meadow is one of two courses at BBR (Big Meadow being the other) and choosing a favorite between the two is purely a matter of personal preference. Glaze is tucked way back into the resort, but it’s worth the winding drive to get there. A recent redesign earned it high praise from golf publications and players who appreciate the “new” classic look and feel. The new turtleback greens can be tricky – but if you play smartly from the tee and leave yourself in good positions to attack the pin, you’ll be just fine.
The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn (Golf Digest No. 36) – Bend
By far one of the most immaculate golf courses you’ll ever play. Pristine fairways lead to the finest putting surfaces in all of Central Oregon. Beyond the green grass of the fairways and greens, the course is cut through unique lava rock outcroppings amid an ancient Juniper forest so it’s a scenic track for sure. The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn features rare back to back Par 5s on the back 9 – both are picturesque and neither yield many birdies.
Quail Run – La Pine
Maybe the most underrated golf course in all of Central Oregon. Quail Run is WAY off the beaten path in La Pine (south of Sunriver), so it doesn’t get a ton of play. That means you get a course that’s quiet and always in great condition. There’s nothing fancy about Quail Run. It’s just a really good golf course with some fun holes and at just $55 during peak season, it’s a huge bargain as well.
Crosswater Club (Golf Digest No. 50) – Sunriver
Crosswater is hands down the most famous course in the region and for good reason. It’s hosted a Champions Tour major championship, several NCAA National Championships, the PGA Professional National Championship (four times) and was the site of a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between John Daly and Fred Couples back in 1999. Crazy wide fairways are welcoming off the tee, but the course comes back to bite you with tough approach shots to shallow greens and hazards on nearly every hole. All told, Sunriver Resort has 63 holes including a fantastic short course called Caldera Links.
Juniper Golf Club – Redmond
A sneaky good course located just down the street from the regional airport in Redmond, Juniper Golf Club should be on your must-play list when visiting. Consider it “Pronghorn Light” in that it resembles the Nicklaus gem a great deal, but is packaged in a more laid-back muni-course vibe. In fact, it is the only municipally-run course in the region. Juniper was host of the 2007 and 2010 Oregon Open and a repeat US Amateur qualifier site for six consecutive years, 2006-2011.
Lost Tracks Golf Club
Full disclosure: I also worked for a short time at this south Bend golf course so it’ll always have a special place in my golfing heart. Beyond the superb conditioning, Lost Tracks is known for the fact just about every Par 4 and 5 is a dogleg. Also of note: the vintage railroad dining car that serves as a bridge to the island green on No. 16. Bring an extra bag tag to add to the hundreds that folks have left behind.
Broken Top Club – Bend
Broken Top is a private club in the heart of Bend – in fact, you can see Tetherow from some of the fairways on the front 9. It’s a fun course that winds its way through the houses of one of Bend’s most upscale neighborhood. Expect a few holes with severely elevated tee boxes and lots of doglegs. You’ll get perfect putting surfaces and amazing views of the Cascades.
Bend Golf and Country Club – Bend
Bend’s oldest golf course opened in 1925. The private club has tiny greens, tight fairways and an undeniable charm. It’s absolutely one of my favorite tracks because it feels like a throwback golf course. Subtle elevation changes throughout create an interesting routing.
Aspen Lakes – Sisters
Arguably Central Oregon’s most scenic golf courses as its situated in the shadows of the majestic Cascades. Aspen Lakes is known for its red cinder bunkers and challenging design with water coming into play on half the holes.
The Central Oregon landscape is something to behold. From the snow-capped peaks to the wild and scenic rivers, the region is filled with picturesque scenes of pure, natural beauty.
And there’s no better way to soak it all in than from above.
“Big Mountain Heli Tours creates experiences. We will bring you to our secret hideaway locations and share our grand vistas with you. We’ll offer you the very best of our high desert playground, giving you memories you’ll relish long into the future.”
Big Mountain Heli Tours now offers half-hour or one-hour helicopter tours designed to “provide access to our playground to everyone, regardless of time or physical ability.”
Owner Patric Douglas says he realizes not everyone is able to hike up South Sister, Broken Top or Smith Rock’s Misery Ridge – but they’d sure like to be able to enjoy the views from the lofty peaks. Big Mountain turns an all-day adventure into a quick little outing that leaves guests breathless for entirely different reasons.
They like to say “you don’t buy a seat, you buy a helicopter.” What that means is you’re not heading up for some cookie-cutter, stale and boring tour from a robot sitting in the pilot’s seat. It means you get to direct the tour to fit your desires. Want to spend the whole time soaring over the river below? Cool. Want to get up close and personal to South Sister and Mt. Bachelor? Done.
They offer a handful of set tours, but once you’re in the air the agenda is flexible.
Looking for an extended helicopter experience paired with more Central Oregon adventures? Big Mountain has a selection of multi-day tours offerings as well. Enjoy a luxury 3-day helicopter retreat and horseback ride at the glamping haven of Ranch of the Canyons near Smith Rock State Park. There’s also a fly fishing and horseback tour, winery tour and an adrenaline-pumping heli sky diving adventure available.
The tours originate at both the Bend Airport and the Sunriver Airport.
You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy Central Oregon in the winter. For some, a relaxing trip into the woods in the snow is enough to get their heart pumping.
So now’s the time to get out there and explore Central Oregon’s sno-parks just a short drive from Bend and Sunriver. The sno-parks with Nordic, snowshoe and snowmobile trails offer a diverse opportunity to enjoy the snow.
Before You Go:
Sno-Park permits are required between November 1st and April 30th. Daily permits are $4, annual permits are $25 and can be purchased at the DMV and locations listed here.
Dogs are not allowed in sno-parks NORTH of Cascade Lakes Highway or on Mt. Bachelor’s Nordic trails.
Warming huts can be found on several trails, but be prepared for changing conditions in the backcountry.
Be aware of other users on the trail – like fat bikes.
One of the most popular trailheads for XC skiers, this area offers more than 14 miles of some of the best maintained trails in the area– with grooming handled by a local non-profit Nordic ski group. There’s a large yurt at the trailhead, vault toilet on site and a little food truck that serves warm drinks and some food.
Wanoga Sno-Play Area, 5,500 Feet
Wanoga features one of the region’s only true sledding hills and is very popular family fun area. That half of the sno-park includes a warming shelter wired for electricity and a food cart that also sells Forest Service passes if you forgot to get one in town.
A separate area of the park is open to snowmobilers who can access more than 180 miles of groomed trails. Signs near the entrance point you in the right direction. This part of the park is also newly popular among fat bikers.
More access to trails for skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers, the Swampy trailhead launches more than 25 miles of trails with several warming shelters along the way. A couple of different snowshoe loops are available including the 3.25 mile “long loop.”
Edison Butte Sno-Park, 5,900 Feet
You’ll need to veer off the Cascade Lake Scenic byway for a couple miles at the Sunriver cutoff to get to this sno-park. It offers 24 miles of Nordic trails with two shelters. It also has access to 150 miles of snowmobile trails and three shelters.
Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, 6,350 Feet
Dutchman is adjacent to the Mt. Bachelor ski area and is a very popular trailhead for snowmobilers, snowshoers and Nordic skiers. The parking area typically fills up in the winter, so be prepared heading up. Once you’re there, enjoy 19 miles of XC ski trails for all abilities and access to 150 miles of groomed snowmobiling routes. The trailhead features a vault toilet as well. From here you can trek into the woods toward Elk Lake and Elk Lake Resort for a quick bite or a night’s stay in a rustic cabin.
Mt Bachelor Nordic Center, 6,400 Feet
Here, 35 miles of groomed trails await cross country skiers from November through late May. A small lodge offers rentals, equipment sales, hot and cold drinks and possibly the best burritos in Central Oregon.
When the snow flies, Central Oregon shines. All you have to do is choose your adventure.
The model of a complete snowsports resort, Mt. Bachelor offers 360-degree lift-served groomed skiing and riding from its volcanic summit. It’s been named the “Most Underrated Ski Resort” in the Pacific Northwest, and that’s OK by us. That means instead of packed slopes, all you get is packed powder.
With tons of groomers, several terrain parks, steeps, bowls and enough backcountry to fill your day, Mt. Bachelor has something for snowriders of every skill level.
Like your trails groomed for skating and classic cross-country skiing? Head to the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center, Hoodoo Ski Area or the Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. If, however, you prefer un-groomed skiing on marked trails, then try one of the region’s 14 Sno-Parks. If making your own path through the forest is the order of the day, almost any place that has snow in the Deschutes National Forest is there waiting to be tracked.
Superb and among the most accessible in the country, backcountry skiing is just minutes north and northwest of the Mt. Bachelor Ski Area. A slightly longer haul is required to get into some virginal backcountry runs in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the Three Sisters volcanic peaks from nearby Sisters and Pine Mountain east of Bend.
Thanks to the efforts of regional snowmobiling clubs, there are literally hundreds of miles of groomed and well-marked trails to “sled” throughout Central Oregon. Popular take-off spots include the snowmobile parking and shelter area at Wanoga Sno-Park on Century Drive near Bend, Edison Butte on the road between Mt. Bachelor and Sunriver, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument at La Pine and nearby Hoodoo Ski Area outside of Sisters. Another local favorite is to head from Dutchman Flat along Century Drive and out to Elk Lake Resort. Don’t have your own sled? You can rent one for a couple of hours or the whole day from Central Oregon Adventures – they set up shop at Wanoga all winter long.
Wherever there’s snow cover in Central Oregon, there’s an opportunity to snowshoe. Try marked snowshoe routes at Virginia Meissner and Swampy Lakes Sno-Parks off of Century Drive just outside of Bend. These are two main areas where snowshoers can find trails, warming huts and solace in the Deschutes National Forest.
The place to be for family sledding fun is Wanoga Sno-Park off Century Drive on the way to Mt. Bachelor. There’s ample parking and plenty of room to sled, toboggan or inner tube. Bring your own hot chocolate or buy it from the snack trailer in the parking lot. Head a little farther up to Mt. Bachelor’s Snowblast tubing park and snag a day-pass for an afternoon of zooming down the mountain on innertubes. In Sunriver, SHARC has its own snow-tubing hill, and Hoodoo’s AutoBahn Tubing park is one of the largest snow-tubing parks in entire West!
Regularly scheduled dog sled tours led by qualified guides depart and return to Mt. Bachelor ski area every day when the resort is open for business. Trail of Dreams, owned by an Iditarod-competing family with their athletic dogs, take guests into parts of the forest many people never get to see. What an amazing way to experience the Central Oregon winter wonderland!
Just like paddleboarding has taken over Central Oregon during the summer, Fat Biking is the new winter craze that has avid mountain bikers extending their riding seasons throughout the snowfall. Picture a rigid mountain bike on steroids – with blown-up tires that make it easy to pedal through and over the snow. Several Fat Bike-specific trails are available in the Wanoga Sno-Park area but other popular spots are near the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, Todd Lake and along the snow-covered Cascade Lakes Highway. Since you’re probably not traveling with your own Fat Bike, local shops like Hutch’s, Pine Mountain Sports, Sunriver Sports and The Hub Cyclery have fleets for you to rent.
Don’t miss The Village in Sunriver or Seventh Mountain Resort near Bend on the way to Mt. Bachelor. Both offer an outdoor winter skating experience that’s fun for your whole family. Drinks are rink-side for your apres ski. Or visit the new 4,000-square-foot ice skating rink in downtown Redmond.
Central Oregon is home to Prineville, the unofficial “Rock Hound Capital of the United States,” where precious gemstones lie just beneath the land’s surface, waiting to be uncovered. Discover a piece of Oregon’s geologic past at one of many public recreational collection areas. Get the Rockhound Map from the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce (see directory, page 120) for a full-color guide to your adventure, with pictures of what you can find at each site, historic and geologic information, and lots of tips, such as GPS coordinates.
When my wife suggested a winter weekend getaway to Sunriver, Oregon my immediate thought was, “Why? The world-class golf courses will be covered with snow.”
By the time the long weekend was over, I thought, “Wow. Thank goodness the world-class golf courses were covered with snow.”
I knew of Sunriver as a golf Mecca after seeing its courses, Crosswater, Meadows and Woodlands constantly mentioned in the national golf magazines I read. But I’m not an avid reader of any cross country skiing publications. Who is, right?
So when we first came up with the idea for our mid-December retreat with kids in tow, I was a bit skeptical of the fun that could be had at what I only knew as the perfect place to hit the links. None of us are expert skiers and it takes roughly five minutes outside in the winter for my kids to complain about the cold. But we were gung ho about the idea of a true winter vacation and spending some time together in the snow. And I’ll admit: Once I got on board with the idea, I got a little Clark W. Griswold about it – and my family would benefit from my over-the-top planning. They always did. (Or so I always thought.)
We scheduled our direct flight from San Francisco so we’d arrive early in the day, which would give us an extra half day of fun. After arriving at Roberts Field in Redmond and securing our rental SUV, we headed south on Highway 97 for about a half hour, passing Bend, commenting that it seemed much bigger than we thought it was and vowing we’d swing back up for some “big city” life at some point in the weekend. But for now – it was onward ho to Sunriver!
It’s been a dry winter throughout much of the west, and as some of the trip planning was taking place, I got a little nervous the promised “winter wonderland” would be nothing but a cold, gray, snowless trip to a fancy lodge in Oregon.
Luckily, Mother Nature was just as excited about the weekend as I was and granted our wish with some fresh snow — a LOT of fresh snow — on the nearby ski area, Mt. Bachelor, and, more importantly for us, several inches fell in Sunriver.
For our short trip we opted to stay at Sunriver Resort in a large Lodge Village guest room adjacent to the Main Lodge, Great Hall and overlooking Meadows Golf Course. (But for our longer return trip next summer with some friends and their kids, we’ll likely rent one of the plush homes at the resort offered by one of the many Vacation Rental Management companies.)
With two kids who had survived the morning sharing a Ziploc bag of goldfish crackers and airline-sized glass of apple juice we headed straight for sustenance at The Village at Sunriver on the suggestion of our concierge at the lodge.
Steering the kids away from local sweet shop Goody’s (but promising a return trip) we found Hot Lava Baking and Coffee, a cute little shop with a locally interesting name – bonus points for us parents who got to explain to the tykes some of the region’s unique “geologically tumultuous” history. My wife and I got some parents gas: delicious locally roasted coffee while the kids shared a hot Panini and cocoa.
After a relaxing half hour getting our Oregon bearings beneath us, we were ready to really start our adventure – and we didn’t have to go very far to do so with the Village Ice Rink just a short walk away.
It doesn’t take much prodding to get two pre-teen kids who have never ice skated into rental skates when they know there’s a more than 50/50 chance they’ll get to see mom and dad fall on their keister more than once.
As far as true winter family experiences go, it didn’t get much more Norman Rockwell than this: A light snow, giggling children and a smiling wife making their way around a crowded community ice rink decorated with colorful holiday lights. Even after the planning, I could have called it good, gone back to the lodge, grabbed a beer, turned on some football and called the weekend a success. But we were just a couple hours into our extended holiday break.
We were just getting started.
With the bruises to a minimum and our egos intact, we headed back to the lodge to unpack, change clothes and relax a little bit in front of the fireplace.
While we could have stayed hunkered in our room and remained perfectly happy, we rallied and headed out for another walk to the Village for some dinner. Snow had been falling all day, but the roads crews were on it and our path to the Village was plowed enough for an easy trip.
We really hadn’t paid much attention to the restaurants in the Village when we stopped for lunch, so we were actually a little overwhelmed with the diversity of choices in front us now, even hungrier than before after a jam-packed day.
Never shy, I talked up a couple of people walking to the skating rink to get a bead on the best place for a quick, hearty bite. The answer from more than a few: the Sunriver Brewing Company.
A relatively new player in Central Oregon’s burgeoning craft beer scene, Sunriver Brewing Company offers absolutely everything a parent could want in a restaurant: Delicious beer, wide-ranging menu filled with local favorites AND a dedicated children’s play area. Let that sink in. A BREWERY WITH A PLAY AREA.
(Oh, the grilled steelhead and pulled pork sandwich were really good too.)
After our early dinner, the wife and kids strolled around the shops, bought a couple of Sunriver souvenirs, and, of course, hit up the aforementioned Goody’s ice cream and candy shop where the kids shared, of all things in December, a hot fudge sundae before heading back to the lodge for the night.
Back at the lodge, my wife and I sunk into an overstuffed chair and sighed. And this was only day one!
We got an early start on our Saturday, and there was a buzz in the main lodge dining area filled with families just like mine ready for their own Sunriver adventure to start. Kids saying “c’mon Dad!” and dads saying “let me get some coffee first.”
I talked with a couple of brave souls organizing large groups taking the shuttle up to ski or snowboard at Mt. Bachelor. I wished them luck in their effort of herding ski-booted cats, telling them we were staying a little closer to home base and keeping our skiing experience a little less…vertical.
So where are the Nordic trails in Sunriver? The answer when there’s this much snow? EVERYWHERE!
After procuring our gear and getting a short, but sweet lesson in cross country skiing from the fine folks at Sunriver Sports, we simply skied (or, shuffled..whatever) back to our lodge along what, in the spring and summer, is a paved biking/walking trail, grabbed our backpacks and headed out on to the fairways of the Meadows Golf Course.
While I was definitely living in the moment – another wonderful family moment – I couldn’t help but think about warmer times and piping a drive right down the middle, leaving me a short little wedge into the green. (A true fantasy since I rarely ever saw the middle of the fairway and I’d probably need more like a 4-iron to get home.)
We explored the area for a couple of hours, stopping somewhere along the way take in the snow-covered scenery of Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters in the distance and eat the simple bagel sandwiches my wife had made for us with some stuff she grabbed last night from the Sunriver Country Store.
It felt like we were a world away – we certainly were from our busy lives filled with work and school back home – but we weren’t ever too far from the lodge, civilization, warmth. There are certainly more options to get farther into the backcountry and the gang at Sunriver Sports, 4 Seasons Recreational Outfitters and others can point you in the right, albeit backcountry direction.
The kids were troopers – trying yet another sport they’d never thought of trying and seemingly having a blast. The only thing breaking the silence of the Central Oregon outdoors was the sound of our skis and our kids laughing behind us. (We left them in the dust…but made sure they remained within sight, lest they be attacked by Bigfoot…which we may or may not have told them lived the area.)
Cold, a little wet and a lot tuckered out, we finished up our ski jaunt shortly after lunch – plenty of time to return our stuff, walk back to the lodge, shower, change and take a break before our next adventure: Hitting the town in Bend.
We didn’t plan to include Bend in our trip – and we actually didn’t need to considering Sunriver had much more of everything we wanted than we had anticipated. Still, we had heard so many good things about Bend that we had to check it out – and figured we’d put our SUV to use in the snow and take advantage of one of the numerous restaurants just 15 miles north of where we were staying.
We went to the more “upscale” part of Bend, the Old Mill District, home to shops like Gap, Zumiez, American Eagle and more. The kids and my wife did some window shopping while I ran into REI to get a new watch strap after breaking mine ice skating the day before.
Oh, I didn’t mention falling?
While the wife and I hoped to try out another locally recommended restaurant, we conceded to the kids and agreed to some burgers and bottomless fries at Red Robin and dessert at Ben and Jerry’s. (What is with these kids and ice cream in winter!? )
While the snowfall certainly made for the perfect weekend we had planned, I was comforted knowing had it been more spring-like, we would have had just as much fun.
The kids noticed a brochure for The High Desert Museum in the lobby of the lodge. Checking out some of the area’s natural habitat and history would have been a great way to spend a couple of hours.
The Sunriver Nature Center and Oregon Observatory is even closer and features live raptors and a nature trail. With tennis courts, and fitness clubs, spas, playgrounds and more – it’s as though the resort was designed strictly for families. Like a Disney park without the ridiculous admission prices, long lines and giant cartoon animals.
With our weekend sadly coming to a close, we went on a family walk close to the lodge taking in the holiday scene as even more snow fell. We lived in Salt Lake City in our younger years, so we’re quite familiar with snow, but my wife and I both commented on how it just seemed different here.
The snow had a purpose– at least for us. The falling snow was like a curtain coming down on an epic family adventure.
We left Sunriver around mid-morning on Sunday to get back to the airport in time for our flight back home.
On the drive to the airport the kids were as quiet as they’d ever been in the car. Too quiet. So I yelled back to them, “yo, what’s happening back there.”
“Nothing” my 10-year-old responded. “Just thinking about the weekend.”
No other time of year is the word “tradition” more sentimental than during the holidays. There’s the traditional game of touch football with the family before the bird is served on Thanksgiving Day. There’s the traditional trek into the wilderness to find the perfect Christmas tree. And maybe there’s the traditional passing of the gifts from oldest to youngest on Christmas Day. Every family has holiday rituals that are as important to them as the holidays themselves.
But one of the best parts about traditions is that there is always room for new ones.
And that’s exactly what awaits you and your family this holiday season at Sunriver – new Traditions. The resort’s annual holiday celebration is known as “Traditions” and is said to bring generations together for generations.
Year after year visitors can expect great family-focused events with an emphasis on rekindling days gone by when sharing an experience as a family meant more than sharing it with your 1,000 friends on Facebook. (Although there will be plenty of iPhone camera-ready moments along the way.)
Sunriver Traditions festivities in 2016 begin earlier than in years past and continue through New Year’s Day. And there’s something for just about everyone during that time.
The month-long celebration began with a flip of a switch of sorts on November 19th during the Grand Illumination – Central Oregon’s largest outdoor light display. Kids will love the elf tuck-ins, the Bear Factory, visiting with Santa and trying to keep their hands off all the edible creations at the Gingerbread Junction.
It’s hard to beat Sunriver Resort during the holidays as it’s abuzz with visitors strolling around The Village at Sunriver, near the main lodge or out on the golf course in freshly fallen snow. Summer bike paths turn into cross country ski or snowshoe routes for you to get from one side of the resort to the other.
And there’s no need to lug your ski or snowboarding gear on the plane or pack it into the car. Rental shops like 4 Season Recreational Outfitters are fully stocked with everything you could possibly need to buy or rent during your stay.
Mt. Bachelor makes renting even easier with its on-hill services with both downhill and nordic skis and snowboards available. And if you’re looking for a little more adrenaline, head up to Wanoga Sno-Park and take out a snowmobile from Central Oregon Adventures for a couple hours or longer. (The four-hour rental window gives you time to hit up Elk Lake Resort for a hot beverage and to warm up a bit.)
Throw in an afternoon of ice skating at The Village and maybe a burger and a brew at Sunriver Brewing Co. and you have the makings of a perfect family holiday vacation.