The Best Of: Bend, Oregon
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, but spent a good chunk of my adult life living in Central Oregon (about 12 years!). My family all eventually migrated to Bend as well, so I try and visit a couple of times a year. Bend is growing like crazy, as are the options of things to do, places to see, and food to eat. I can guarantee if you pick just a couple of things out of each of the categories below on your next trip, you won't be disappointed!
Tam McArthur Rim: I didn't write about this one, but honorable mention for sure, I mean just look at that view!
Places to Eat
The Box Factory: (outskirts of the Old Mill on the Downtown side). Lots of pub food options like River Pig & Brown Owl. Honestly I would just check out the whole thing and see what appeals to you. River Pig is definitely a young hangout/loud/want to go out and socialize type place, and there are a ton of food trucks across the street as well if you wan't more options.
Midtown: Midtown Yacht Club. I'm actually not sure why they called this the yacht club, no boats in sight. It is made up of maybe 6 or so food trucks and a taphouse. You're probably sensing a theme here, and yes, lots of food trucks in Bend! I had a taco bowl at Barrio (latin) when I went, AND the Tot's truck, a heavenly basket of homemade tater tots with beer cheese. My friend owns Alley Dogz, which serves, you guessed it- churched up hot dogs!
Downtown Happy Hour: 900 Wall. Kind of a bend staple/local watering hole. Great oysters, happy hour prices, and a feeling of being right in the middle of the action in Downtown Bend.
Downtown Dinner: Wild Rose. It's no secret I love thai food, in high school and college my go-to was Toomies downtown (which is still there, but I haven't been back since Wild Rose opened). Wild Rose is unique in that they serve Northern Thai cuisine, and it's damn good. Don't expect to see anything you're used to seeing on the menu though (like Pad Thai), ask the servers for suggestions, and order a few things to share. Friend favorite: the broccolini dish (not sure of the name).
Hole in the Wall: Pho Viet. If you're concerned with aesthetics, check out Miyagi Ramen, Bend's newest (and probably only??) ramen joint that is situated on the outskirts of the Old Mill district. However, if you're looking for a hangover cure, or just some dang good Vietnamese cuisine, Pho Viet is a my longtime favorite for authentic, inexpensive Pho, noodles, and rice dishes.
Off Galveston: I don't even know what this neighborhood is called, I always just say the street name. Bo's Falafel (casual) is a place so simple and yum. You pick a falafel sammy or salad, and then add the toppings yourself at a bar. The toppings are endless and they serve fries too!
Brewery Food: Boneyard. Boneyard has this huge patio they built out for Covid, it's kind of in an odd not walk-able area so if you're going there, that is where you will stay. Faves were the Polenta bites, fried pickles, and Pretzel (so fluffy!). I haven't had much of their beer other than the classic RPM, so I did a flight with some sours, IPA's, and ales.
Dessert: Bonta Gelato. Located downtown (right near San Simon) No description other than the best and you must.
Places to Drink
Downtown: San Simon. Beer not ya thing? San Simon is Bend's newest cocktail bar that is seriously adorable. "Hidden" in tin pan alley, with an old school vibe, grab yourself a craft cocktail nestled between towering brick walls, and feel like you're not in Bend anymore (in the best way). Friend Favorite: White Negroni
Want to bar hop downtown? Head across the street to The Stihl Whiskey Bar, make your way over to Velvet, and end your night at the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin... and then go home cause you're drunk now. If you have the late night Munchies, have your uber driver take you through the drive through at Taco Salsa (T-Salse only tastes good after midnight) and get yourself some rolled tacos.
Old Mill: Crosscut Warming Hut. This place is new too! Bend is just getting too cool for it's own good. The inside is a taphouse and the outside has some food trucks. It is indeed a warming hut with a wood burning stove, which 100% was not on in the 100 degree weather the day we went. I closed my eyes and imagined what it will be like when the snow is falling, and it gave me all the feels.
Off Galveston: Boss Rambler Beer Club. This place is just too cute, definitely and IG moment to be had inside between the decor and fun beer labels.
Brewery: Sunriver Brewing (the location off Galveston) has some of my favorite food AND Beer, so it's a win-win and would go on both lists. The General Tso's cauliflower bites are out of this world, and I really like their staple brews like the Fuzztail Hefeweizen & Vicious Mosquito IPA. I tried two of their seasonal options this trip and loved them both (Bondi Beach Ale &Hawaiian Haze IPA, both citrus forward and around 45 IBU's)
For Kids: Crux Fermentation Project. No I don't mean best place for kids to drink, but best place to go if you have kids. Great beer, fancier pub food, and a huge lawn with games.
Cider: Avid Cider (formerly Atlas Cider) is located in the Box factory and is a fun place to go try unique flavor combinations, especially if you can't have gluten, this is your spot!
Wine: Portello. Located in the NW Crossing neighborhood. There was a time when I went here every Monday night. Any glass on the list is just $5 on Monday's, so it was a great way for my cheap self to try nice wines at a discount. I noticed two new wine tasting rooms in the Box Factory while I was there that I didn't go to, Bledsoe Family Winery and Elixir, so if you try them you will have to let me know!
Bend Classic: I would be remiss if I didn't mention Deschutes Brewery. I will admit I rarely go here because I have gone so many times and at this point I think it's more of a tourist thing. However, you're likely a tourist if reading this and they have in my opinion, some of the best beer year after year. The also have a tasting room in SW Bend and hold brewery tours (currently on hold due to Covid but by far the best brewery tour I've been on).
The thing I like about beer in Bend is the tap houses (like the warming hut) have a curated list of the best beers from each brewery in town, so instead of popping around to 10 different breweries (don't get me wrong there is a time and place for that as well!),why not get a flight of the best of each brewery at one or two spots and chill.
In the Winter: O'Kanes. This is a cigar bar that is behind/a part of McMenamins. It's way better than sitting at McMennies and there are multiple giant fire pits to cozy up to. I get the greyhound cocktail because they squeeze the juice fresh right to order so it tastes...fresh. There is also hidden bar/speakeasy in this area, which I won't mention in order to keep it secret (although I think it's very well known nowadays). Let me know if you find it or want hints! ;)
Coffee: Looney Bean. Located in downtown on the river, you can't beat coffee with a view. They have a lot of fun drinks in addition to the classics, and the food is from Sparrow Bakery (another local favorite!). I get an almond Croissant every time...drool.
Things to Do
Shopping: Downtown has some of the best boutiques. REVOLVR is all menswear, but go here regardless of who you are shopping for, you'll find something you just have to have, or want to give. Jack & Millie is new since I've been back, located in the old Local Joe, I can't afford anything but love to browse and pretend. Found is a natural goods store that you will go in with the intention of getting a gift and leave with something for yourself.
If you're looking for a shopping mall, The Old Mill is going to be the best for that, all outdoors and a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and a movie theater.
Groceries: Newport Market on Newport Avenue is the best high-end grocer. Smaller selection, but has local treats and a sushi deli. Market of Choice is the expensive choice but I love it there-I spent over $100 on charcuterie a couple weeks ago, whoops! Safeway off Century drive is the best Safeway. Bend has a Costco too if you're looking to stock up a house for the week.
Hiking: There is no shortage of hikes in Bend, which is the thing I miss most about home, hiking in San Diego just doesn't quite do it for me. I've hiked a ton of trails and mountains all around Central Oregon so please reach out if you have questions on a specific one.
Best Cascade Lakes Hike(s): Green Lakes. This my my personal favorite, around 9 miles total out and back, you hike along water nearly the whole time, see multiple water falls, go over foot bridges, through a meadow, and finally to the lake. The scenery is unbeatable and the difficulty is moderate because of length, but never too steep . I used to do this hike years ago mid-week and would be the ONLY person on the trail (although it was fall). On this last trip we did the first couple of miles of the Green Lakes trail before turning off to Moraine Lake (another beautiful option), and on an early Monday morning, the parking lot was overfilled and onto the highway. There are PLENTY of hikes on this highway if it is too busy though. Here is an older post I've done about the Cascade Lakes.
Best Mountain Hike: Also located up Cascade Lakes highway, Tumalo Mountain is a 4 mile round trip hike, that is straight uphill (but doable). The views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and The Three Sisters are spectacular and you will definitely feel accomplished after reach the top. You can also hike up Mt. Bachelor in the summer, it's pretty hard though. I usually regret it at some point towards the top and instead of an accomplished feeling, I have a more 'ef that' feeling.
Note* Don't go thinking you're going to casually summit South Sister (expert/ well prepared hikers only!), and although it's arguably the best mountain hike in Bend, be wary of Broken Top to No Name Lake unless you are parking at Todd Lake and hiking to the trailhead (would make your round trip 14 miles). To make it to the trailhead you need a high clearance vehicle with 4WD, and someone that really knows how to get around ditches and potholes, they are worse than ever right now. Definitely click the link to ooo and ahh at the photos though.
Extra Credit Hike: Tamolitch (also called Blue Pool). I used to get all bothered when people would expose this hike, because it wasn't all that well known 10 years ago and was my favorite hidden gem. Now everyone does it, so hey you can too! It isn't in Bend (about an hour outside), but if you're on a road trip and make your way to the McKenzie Highway, this hike is totally worth it. 4 miles round trip and the most tropical looking water you'll see in Oregon, it's something like 37 degrees though, so not for swimming.
State Park: Smith Rock. Located in Terrebonne (40 mins from Bend), Smith Rock is a must stop on your trip. Named one of the "7 Wonders of Oregon", people come from all over to rock climb, hike, mountain bike, or simply take in the scenery. There is something for everyone here as far as levels of hiking, and it's truly gorgeous! Try Misery Ridge for a workout, or just walk the base trail along the river for something cruisey. It get's hot in the Summer so go early or at sunset, pack a day bag to post up for lunch.
Urban Hike: Deschutes River Trail. If you're looking for a more casual, walk with your coffee yet stunning round trip views, the river trail is an easy 3 mile walk located in town. Another easy yet close to town hike is Shevlin Park.
Water Activities: So many lakes so little time! Here is an overview:
Devil's Lake- Don't go here to lay out and swim. DO stop by on your way to another cascade lake (it's right off the highway) to see the incredible colors and dip your toes in the freezing water.
Spark's Lake- An old favorite for grabbing take out and watching the sunset.
Elk Lake- A good lake to camp at, post up for the day, and swim
Cultus Lake: I sort of have PTSD from a mosquito attack that happened here, but that was in Springtime and it really is a nice lake.
East Lake: A bit further of a drive (an hour+), but can avoid crowds and traffic of the cascade lakes
Float/Kayak/Paddle Board the Deschutes River: The most popular summer activity in Bend, and rightfully so! Due to Covid, you can't get a tube by the put-in, but we did pick the last rental up at Powderhouse nearby ($20 for (3) hours which is plenty of time). Back in the day you had to exit the river part way through and get back in to finish, but a few years ago they built a water park that allows you to float down "rapids" instead of exiting- it is really fun. Keep in mind there is no shuttle service right now so you need to park a car at either end of your float. Link here for some instructions.
Where to Stay
Hotels, Air B&B, or Resort: It obviously depends on who you have with you and what kind of trip you're looking to have. Resorts will likely offer golf, pools, and a more family vibe. If an Air B&B, stay on the Westside so you're walking distance to everything. All the hotels around the Old Mill are generally nice and that's a good central location. It's a small town and I don't think you need my exact recommendations, but let me know if you want an opinion on something you're looking at.
However, if you want a removed from the city feel, in a rustic- chic oasis, you must stay at Five Pine Lodge in Sisters (20 min drive from Bend). I was a wedding coordinator here a few years ago so I am a little biased, but it will definitely fulfill any dreams of wanting to be in the cabin in the woods but not get dirty. Like camping for city folk, and has all the bells and whistles of a resort like a pool, spa, movie theater, and restaurant on site.
Bend is notorious for weather that changes on a dime. It can be hot, sunny, windy, and snowy all in the same day. Bring lots of layers and always bring a jacket when going out a night, it's typically chilly in the evenings even in Summer.
The airport is in Redmond, which is 30 minutes to town. Schedule an Uber in advance (there aren't many there), or if you know someone there, ask them to pick you up in exchange for a beer downtown!
So there you have it, but this is basically a Summer guide. I left out a couple things that I am not well versed in, like mountain biking, rock climbing, and fishing. I did throw in a couple cold weather spots, but as far as winter activities, that's a whole other novel that I probably will never write, because I don't like the cold!