Happy New Year everyone! One of my 2019 intentions was to travel somewhere new domestically and I am happy to report I got to cross that off the first day of year. YAY 2019!
After the chaos leading up to and during the holidays, I found that I share the sentiment that the New Year can be a somewhat overrated holiday. As much as I love a pj-party-at-home-in-bed-before-10pm NYE party, my friend Emma and I let our adventurous spirit drive us to a spontaneous gal’s getaway in Bend this turn of the clock—complete with books, wine, and hot tub.
Named after the “farewell bend” in the Deschutes River, Bend is both new and nostalgic, becoming a booming city full of entrepreneurs and transplants, while still holding its place as a mecca due to its natural and urban playground. Home to awesome companies like Hydroflask and Deschutes Brewing, Bend’s food, drink and people scene make it a place with vibes of a humble home.
*cue ‘Coming Home’ by Mat Kearney*
For those living in Seattle, it is about a six-hour drive away, more or less depending on your route. On our way down, I was surprised to find our drive took us to the top of Mt. Hood, but you can also go west through Salem or east through the Dalles to avoid the mountain should it be winter time to get to Bend.
The drive down is stunning and I think everyone should drive to Bend at least once. As for the second time, keep in mind that there is a direct, short, and cheap flight from Seattle to Redmond, which is about 25 minutes away from Bend.
If you like being outdoors, Bend is the ultimate outdoor playground. Like Visit Bend says, “It’s where you go to play! ” And even if you aren’t the next Alex Honnold or Lindsey Vonn, you ‘d be crazy to not take a step outside and explore all Bend and the surrounding area has to offer. A stone’s through away from Mt. Bachelor and split in half by the Deschutes River, Bend’s beauty is emphasized throughout all seasons with an infinite number of things to do.
In the summer, mountain bike, rock climb, paraglide, white water raft, and paddleboard your way about the town. Come winter, hit the slopes for some epic snowboarding and skiing, snowmobiling, snow-shoeing and all kinds of winter fun. Add walking along the riverside through Drake Park or taking a short hike to the top of Pilot Butte on activities closer to the city. I highly recommend Visit Bend’s website that gives an all-inclusive overview of how to play, what to eat, and where to sleep when in Bend with an interactive map that makes saving your favorite spots and planning your Bend trip a breeze.
Downtown is where you will find some of the best shopping in Bend. From the Visit Bend store to local shops like Ju-be-lee, Dudley’s, and Feather’s Edge, I could spend all day just strolling the streets popping into hidden bookstores and discovering the treasures of Bend. Not to mention, the whole setting is basically straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.
For more traditional shopping, Old Mill District is the historic area of Bend now turned into an upscale outdoor shopping mall with bigger name brands and a few local boutiques sprinkled throughout. While I’m not much of a brand name shopper, take advantage of the REI store because one, who doesn’t love REI? And two, no sales tax! Overall, it’s a nice place to people watch and walking over the bridges gives you a great shot of the river.
Having arrived in the late afternoon, our first stop on the Bend bucket list was Spork. When I read that it was a fusion of South American and Southeastern Asian, I had a hard time grasping the concept. But midway through devouring our lomo saltado and Korean BBQ short ribs, it all made perfect sense. This mobile street kitchen turned brick and mortar takes your senses on a culinary tour and continues to be a relaxed, reliable eatery for locals and tourists alike.
I can’t tell you how many friends and locals told us to go to Bend classic Jackson’s Corner. Go we did and it did not disappoint. Nestled in neighborhood streets, Jackson’s Corner is a local, organic eatery whose mission is focused on the conscious sourcing of food not to be trendy, but to better one’s own health and community. Complete with an artisanal bakery, they are best known for their fresh pasta and handmade pizza though any meal here gets a solid A+.
For dinner, we took a note from another popular Oregon city and hit up some food carts at The Lot. To eat inside, hit up Wild Rose Thai and Joolz that take an ethnic route. If you are looking for something a bit fancier, Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails, Ariana, and 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar are the places to go, reservations recommended.
No sea in sight, but it’s all made up for in Bend’s famous ‘Ocean Roll’. The first mention of this pastry was on my flight from Seattle to Atlanta where my lovely seat neighbor raved about this so-called ocean roll. Second mention being from my now native Bend-onian cousin, we were convinced we had to try this famed pastry. Found at Sparrow Bakery — there are two locations in the city, each with long lines but quick service— you’ll find this croissant and cinnamon bun hybrid with cardamom touches and the fan base to follow. To balance out the sweet with savory, per Emma the egg sandwich with avocado is life-changing. Still craving a morning treat but can’t make it to Sparrow? Badwolf Bakery & Bistro and La Magie are also two bakeries that will make you drool until you break and buy the whole case of pastries.
A little bit healthier, Mother’s Kitchen covers ground on delicious juices, smoothies and bowls. (Also, if you want to REALLY wake up your digestion system, try a wellness shot for fun.) For something heartier, you can’t go wrong with breakfast at Chow or Victorian Cafe that each have their own cozy charm and quality service that cater to a variety of diet and taste preferences.
As the day begins, there’s nothing like waking up with the sun rising over mountains and fresh brewed coffee. The Pacific Northwest is synonymous with genuine, craft coffee and Bend is no exception. Of all the outstanding coffee shops in Bend, we landed at Thump Coffee whose relaxing vibes, friendly staff and quality drinks like Madagascar vanilla mocha and house-made chai with cardamom hit our sweet spot. I would definitely make it a regular spot as many regulars do, though there are a bunch of other great coffee shops like Backporch, Palate, and Lone Pine Coffee Roasters to make your regular as well.
As the sun sets, it’s off on the Bend Ale Trail. Apart from the outdoors, Bend is best known for its world-class breweries with artisan beer so after a full day of being active, quench your thirst with some of the best beer in the country!
On the west side of the river, you’ll find quaint yet lively breweries like 10 Barrel Brewing and Sunriver Brewing Co. Mope around downtown where you’ll find the classics such as Deschutes Brewery and Mcmenamins. Off the beaten path are Crux Fermentation Project. Near the Old Mill District is the Box Factory, a hip shopping strip with fun local restaurants and pubs such as Immersion Brewing and AVID Cider Co. If beer isn’t your thing, feel free to check out the Humm Kombucha taproom which is also based in Bend.
Being in Bend during NYE, it was the perfect juxtaposition of liveliness and low-key energy. While not known for its nightlife, there are a few fun bars like the funky, rustic-chic Velvet or eventful, multi-purpose McMenamins to spend your night out on the town. If it’s summer, you can also catch a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater that holds the city’s best live music concerts and performances.
Big cities are fun to visit, but it’s the little gems sprinkled between like Bend that make living in the PNW, and anywhere for that matter, paradise. Bend is a city who gets its characteristic charm from the fresh air of the great outdoors, vibrant environment and energy all wrapped up with local love from the friendly community that resides there. There’s so much I still want to do, see and explore this year, with a return to Bend trip included. Until then, make it a priority in 2019 for yourself to visit Bend.