Bend, Oregon is a sunny spot in a state known for rain. This area of central Oregon is the fourth fastest growing region in the country. About nine people move there daily, often because they want a healthy outdoor lifestyle and a smaller town. Tourists love this town of 81,000, too. If you’re venturing that way, leash up Fido; Dog Fancy magazine once nicknamed it Dog Town, USA.
Start your Bend adventure with an easy walk around downtown. Incorporated in 1905, Bend has many attractive, century-old buildings that now serve as cafes and boutiques. Crow’s Feet Commons is a must-visit for outdoorsy types who stop in for ski boot fitting, bike shopping and Oregon craft beers.
If you’re ready to pick up the pace, check out Bend’s 51 miles of in-town trails. For a short run, the 3-mile Deschutes River Trail loop is very pretty, and you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy it. Visiting runners can pick up trail maps and connect with locals at FootZone, a running shoe store that sponsors running events.
Bend is probably best known as a magnet for rock climbers. About 25 minutes outside of Bend, the 651-acre Smith Rock State Park attracts climbers from around the world. It offers challenges for all levels, from newbies taking their first lessons with local climbing schools to pros ready to tackle the 500-foot volcanic rock walls. If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on a trail, the park also offers a lovely, flat trail along Crooked River and a steep climb to the tops of cliffs.
Seventy miles southeast of Bend, the Fort Rock State Natural Area makes for a geologically intriguing day trip. Fort Rock is a volcanic tuff ring that rises 325 feet above the surrounding high desert plain. This is a magical, quiet place, with soft, sandy trails, scrubby bushes and orange and chartreuse lichen coating the rocks. The nearby Homestead Village Museum is an interesting collection of old buildings, including a small church and a one-room schoolhouse.
Did you bring Fido? After a day of exploring Bend and environs, stop by Pine Nursery Park so he can cool off on the seasonal splash pad. Join a canine-friendly canoe adventure with local outfitter Wanderlust Tours. Don’t forget a doggy life jacket made by the Bend-based company Ruff Wear.
Jinsei Spa is a local favorite for facials, massages and body treatments using natural and organic ingredients. Namaspa Yoga Community offers public yoga classes in the Baptiste power and yin styles, as well as yoga for groups such as seniors, people in recovery and inmates at the local jail. They also provide Reiki, massage, cupping and energetic healing.
Those who like to drink while doing yoga will enjoy Bend Beer Yoga. While these teachers usually hold classes in craft breweries, they may also add the odd cocktail, cider or glass of wine.
Plant-based restaurants in Bend
For vegan burgers, milkshakes and fries, visit the original location of the Bend-based chain Next Level Burger. Its house-made burger patties feature combinations of quinoa, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds and other nutritious ingredients.
Taj Palace has an excellent lunch buffet with several vegan dishes. In addition to curries, Taj Palace also serves South Indian specialties like idlis, vadas and dosas. The cheery interior and friendly staff make it an extra nice place for a meal.
Bethlyn’s Global Fusion is a cute cafe with a wide-ranging menu. Vegan choices include a Thai coconut curry bowl or a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. Lots of menu items can be made vegan upon request.
For a fancier night out, Joolz is a Mediterranean-themed restaurant that uses the tag line “where the Middle East meets the Wild West.” Delicious menu items include dukkah nuts, an appetizer of toasted bread, olive oil and crushed mixed nuts flavored with coriander and cumin. The vegetarian platter provides a good variety of Mediterranean foods, such as tiny stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo beans and roasted cauliflower.
Ice cream-lovers flock to Bonta Natural Artisan Gelato. The shop crafts inventive flavors, including a few sorbets and coconut-based ice creams for those avoiding dairy.
Bend’s public transit
While a car is very convenient for traveling outside Bend to places like Smith Rock, it’s possible to fly into Bend and get around town without driving. Cascades East Transit provides bus service in Bend and to nearby towns. It also operates recreation-based shuttles, including the Ride the River bus during the summer for folks floating the Deschutes River and the Mt. Bachelor shuttle in winter for skiers. The Ride Bend shuttle cruises around downtown and the Old Mill District during summer.
There’s also a bike share program run by Oregon State University – Cascades. It’s open to the public as well as students. Uber and Lyft operate in Bend, too.
Sustainable hotels in Bend
The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend is especially known as a chic, boutique eco-hotel. It was built with sustainable materials and operates on 100 percent renewable energy.
The Riverhouse on the Deschutes is Oregon’s only LEED Silver hotel and convention center, featuring high-efficiency HVAC and renewable energy. If you want to go for LEED Gold, the Helios Eco-House is available as a vacation rental.
The McMenamins Old Saint Francis School is a 1936 schoolhouse that was turned into a hotel. Highlights include a movie theater and an extensive collection of works by local artists.
Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat