Moving to Seattle has opened up a whole new range of cool places to road trip to for long weekends. When one of my coworkers came back from Bend one weekend, she told me that it was a place me and Brighton needed to visit! So I booked the same hotel she did, and started planning for the next long weekend: Labor Day.
Bend is known for its abundant sunshine (especially in comparison to Portland or Seattle), various breweries/cideries and the “ale trail” and plenty of outdoor recreation. With that in mind, we packed up the car, found a few spots to visit while there, and drove south!
While we were there we discovered is that it’s quite a foodie destination as well— Every single place we ate at was delicious from food truck turned brick & mortar, to upscale fusion dining.
Since we covered so much ground in the long weekend, I broke out our trip into categories for easy-trip planning.
• Spork – Casual Asian/Mexican fusion street food. This was our first stop after arriving into town, and we were so stoked for some yummy food.
• Barrio – Street-style tacos served a la carte. We went here after a couple drinks, and I’m pretty sure that made them that much better. 😉
• Mother’s Kitchen – We went here a few times because it was just down the block from our hotel, and I loved their breakfast options. Breakfast tacos, sandwiches, smoothies, coffee… what else do you need?
• 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar – When we first tried to go here, it was closing (late at night, which is why we ended up at Barrio). We returned the next day for a late lunch. I would say that based on the rest of our eating experiences, this was the least impressive (with stiff competition, you’ve got to up your game!) and second-most expensive. Nevertheless, I was satisfied and my sushi craving was satiated.
• Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails – We went here on our final night in Bend since it had come so highly rated (and our options were limited with the holiday). It was expensive and packed! Brighton got the ribs which were fall-off-the-bone tender and I got the fish fillet. I think his looked better, but they were both really well flavored!
• Joolz* – While we didn’t get to try this one due to the strange holiday hours, it’s first on my list to try. I struggle to find awesome Middle Eastern food on the Eastside of Seattle, and it’s been a void in my diet since leaving Mazza in Salt Lake.
Beans & Brews
• Avid Cidery – I felt that this place represented what Bend is all about— great beer/cider, taking in the outdoors, and enjoying your community. They had picnic tables outside with tents, yard games like cornhole, arcade games, and free* popcorn! The popcorn was actually a give-what-you-want donation to local charities which was fun, and who doesn’t love munching on some popcorn. Okay, well I do! 🙂 The cider flavors were based on different collections. They also had options to mix them together for fun new flavors.
• Thump Coffee – We went here a couple times while we were here too. Centrally located in the walkable downtown area, we’d get food at Mother’s and walk across the street to Thump for some espresso. They had interesting pieces of cardboard hanging from the ceiling with visitors’ wishes. One of them was “I wish to return to Bend soon” and I wholeheartedly agree!
• Deschutes Brewery – We’ve visited other locations in the PNW, but the original public house is actually located here in Bend! We went for dinner one of the nights and really enjoyed the food as much as the drinks (beer for Brighton, cider for me). I would return just for the food — it’s from scratch and you can tell!
• Townshend’s Bend Teahouse – After wandering around the downtown area, we stopped for some bubble tea on our way back to the room. I love tea (for different reasons than coffee), and bubble tea is a favorite treat of mine. It reminded me of a teahouse back in St. Pete (formerly Hooker Tea). I loved that they didn’t use the bottled, plastic stuff— they were real brews.
• Kayak Sparks Lake or Hosmer Lake – We brought our new inflatable 2-person kayak (thank you, Amazon Prime!) so we could go kayaking on one of the beautiful lakes in the nearby Deschutes National Forest. After some research, I found Sparks Lake which looked absolutely perfect for a chill paddle. When we got there, we found out that the lake tends to dry up later in the season, and the water level was extremely low (less than a foot in half the lake). We actually had some fun just walking around the lake, and then paddling in the deeper areas. Next time, we’ll have to check out Hosmer Lake (another worthy destination apparently)!• Bend Whitewater Park – During the summer, do a float down the Deschutes River and pick your rapid at the Bend Whitewater Park. They have a shuttle that runs during the summer for a nominal fee, and you can rent rafts in downtown Bend. We missed it this year, but it will be on my list for next time!
• Hike Broken Top – While we didn’t have enough time or training for this hike, it’s a classic Bend destination. It’s a glacially eroded complex stratovolcano. At the top there’s a beautiful blue lake called No Name Lake. At the moment, there are about 20 dead elk in the water, so it’s not safe to swim for dogs or humans. Maybe next time, it’ll be safe!
• Visit Tumalo Falls – This is an easy destination with hiking opportunities nearby. The waterfall is 97 feet high and it lies on Tumalo Creek. We walked up to the top and then down to the base of the waterfall. The mist/wind of the water falling was so strong! Standing near it made me feel alive with the pure rushing energy of the water. Nature is amazing!
• Day Trip to Crater Lake National Park* – We took a day to go to Crater Lake National Park. We have been in winter (February 2015) celebrating Valentine’s Day, but this time the entire park was still open. We did the Rim Drive, pulling over at the pullouts. If you only have a few hours, this is a great option. Otherwise, bring your hiking shoes and plan to do a hike and the boat tour to the Phantom Ship. The lake is definitely a wonder in itself as it’s a giant caldera.
• Smith Rock State Park* – This state park is one of Bend’s major attractions (about 30 minutes outside of downtown Bend). We decided to head there on our way back home. The park, considered the birthplace of climbing, covers over 650 acres and sits at around 3000 feet in elevation. The major rock faces are welded tuff, or compressed volcanic ash formed 30 million years ago. The day use fee is $5 as it’s an Oregon State Park. This is one of Oregon’s 7 Wonders.
• Painted Hills** – When we decided to do this trip, I was set on going to the Painted Hills at some point. I am glad we did it as a stop on our trip back (about 1.5 hours from Bend) as the park was a lot smaller than I had anticipated. The hills get their name from the layers of hues on the hills, showing layers of history in one spot. The hues vary in their appearance depending on the time of day you visit, so keep that in mind if you’re going for photography. The red is laterite soil from a time when it was warm and humid, the gray is mudstone, siltstone, and shale, and the black is lignite that used to be plant life. The unique colors formed over 35 million years ago. Different volcanic eruptions and changing climate patterns mixed with different types of soils, minerals, and plant material resulted in what we see today. The main trails to visit are the Painted Cove boardwalk trail. This is the part you see on Instagram looking like Mars. Definitely impressive, and an easy leg-stretcher. The other is the Painted Hills Overlook trail which is a little longer but offers a great view of the hills.
*One of Oregon’s 7 Wonders
**While this is not in Bend, we went on our way back to Seattle and it would be a great day trip if you have a few days around Central Oregon.
Around the City
• Volcano Arcade – We stumbled upon this little gem after dinner one of the nights. It’s a classic arcade. You buy access by the hour for lots of 80s-style arcade games. I was bummed they had a pay-per-play for the pinball machines because those are my favorite (thanks, Dad!) but it was a fun little stop. The games are so hard!• Downtown Boutiques – Bend has a lot of cute little boutiques and local artists to visit in the downtown area. Shop around to see what you prefer. I ended up buying some sweet stickers and a Broken Top scented candle. 🙂 It’s the little things, right?• Dudley’s BookShop Cafe – I live for these places in the PNW! Visiting local bookshops is one of my new favorite things to do while visiting places. This one had a coffee shop in half the store and then some tables to work with the bookstore upstairs. Brighton had to pull me out of there to make sure I didn’t buy any more books. My to-be-read stack is getting a little ridiculous!
• Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato – This place seriously had a line the whole time! The gelato was a nice cool treat as an after lunch stop.
• Drake Park – Located in the downtown area, this is a great riverfront walk to watch the ducks, paddle boarders, and floaters on the river. The weather in September was perfect for a stroll and then grab dinner and drinks in town.
We will be returning to Bend soon to visit the places we missed, and find new adventures! I am working on Brighton to buy a vacation house there since I loved the relaxed vibe so much. It seems like a more relaxed Portland, which is perfect for our lifestyle!