We visited Bend, Oregon this year and I honestly had no idea what we were heading to. All I knew was that my husband said there was good biking there and whenever I mentioned our upcoming trip to other people, they would say it was a really cool place to visit. Because I am who I am, I did my research, made a few dinner reservations and decided that whatever Bend was like, we were going to have a good time.
Well, it turns out that Bend is a totally fabulous smaller city that I feel has mastered the art of being “cool” if there is such a thing. The downtown area was thriving and filled with good restaurants and little shops to look through and as the town is situated on the Deschutes River, there were parks next to the water. We found plenty of amazing places to eat outside the downtown area as well and I loved the lack of chain restaurants in the city center. There were so many locally owned restaurants and owners who clearly cared about good design because their buildings and decor were an extension of the food served. I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road as I drove through town because I didn’t want to miss anything.
A view of the Old Mill District from the Deschutes River
We rented an Airbnb for our stay and I’m really glad we chose the area of town we did. I’d recommend staying on the southwest side of Bend if you can. It was less than 5 minutes to everything we wanted to do and closer to Mt. Bachelor, if you’re into mountain biking or skiing.
Where to Stay
2 star: If you’re tight on cash, there are a couple options that offer the basics in updated spaces. The one I noticed that stood out was LOGE Camps. This updated motel caters to people who bike or ski. There’s a gear rental shop on site and the location has direct access to the biking trail system in the area.
3 star: There are a bunch of chain hotels in the area but if this is your price range, I’d pick DoubleTree by Hilton downtown. It’s walking distance to lots of great restaurants and breweries plus just a few minutes drive from the Old Mill District, Old Bend and the River West area restaurants.
4 star: There’s one 4 star accommodation in downtown Bend offered by the Oxford Hotel. It’s a boutique hotel and has amenities like free cruiser bikes, a spa and electric car chargers on site. There are no 5 star accommodations in Bend but the out of town 4 star options are actually cheaper than the 3 star options in town. Tetherow is a nicer option and it’s only a 10 minute drive to the downtown area and offers an outdoor pool, 3 restaurants and a golf course. Sunriver Resort is 20 minutes out of the downtown area and it offers quite a bit on site. There are 10 restaurants, 4 golf courses, biking trails… the list goes on. Both of these resorts also offer vacation home rentals.
Airbnb: We wanted the option of a kitchen for my non-stop eaters so we opted for a condo but I did look at all these options and even visited some of the properties I mentioned or drove past their locations.
Where to Eat
Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats: I feel like every Thai place I’ve ever eaten at has not been a northern Thai restaurant. Everything on the menu was unfamiliar to us but everything we ordered was AMAZING from this family owned restaurant. It was packed and people were arriving constantly for takeout. This was our favorite dinner out and I’d recommend it to anyone!
El Sancho: If you like tacos (I’m not sure who doesn’t) then you need to eat here. We did twice and it was delicious both times. The menu had plenty of variety but it also felt very simple & fresh.
900 Wall: We ate here on a Saturday night and it was delicious. Their focus on fresh, local and organic (when possible) ingredients is always something I like to look for when we travel. As much as I enjoyed my own meal, my son’s burger was absolutely the best of the main courses we tried and our charcuterie and other appetizers were a highlight! They had a kids menu as well which isn’t always offered at places that are also serving as organic and local as possible.
The Lot: This spot is actually a food truck lot with a covered eating area (doors that close in winter and heaters) with an on site taproom that serves beer, wine and other drinks. It was a great spot to relax and everyone in our family found food they loved. My favorite was A La Carte where I ordered a curry bowl that was delicious and I wish I could do back for the Blame Canada Fries. They looked just about ridiculous in the best way.
Deschutes Brewery: This place is famous around the country for their beer so my husband insisted we try it. The menu is pretty standard pub food but we all enjoyed our dinner. If you’re a beer fan, you should at least stop by for a drink. I tried the Cherry Cordial Sour and it was a good one. The Black Butte Porter was also good but I only tried a sip of that from my husband’s tasting flight!
McKay Cottage Restaurant: This place was highly recommended by a friend for brunch so we decided to try it. We arrived to the largest crowd of people waiting for a table at this ‘no reservations’ breakfast spot. At first I wanted to leave when we found out our wait for a table would be an hour but then a server came around taking orders for very large brunch drinks. We waited happily in the sun with our oversized mimosa & bloody Mary while our kids played and it was definitely worth the wait. Everyone agreed it was delicious!
We would’ve tried more restaurants if we’d stayed longer. There were places we drove by that I was curious about but I literally couldn’t eat anymore.
Things to do:
Tubing the River: This is an absolute “must do” when visiting Bend. It takes a couple hours and there are some little rapids to ride about halfway through the float. My kids carried their tubes back to try it again! Grab a couple drinks, a hat and enjoy!
Shopping: There weren’t a ton of amazing clothing shops but there was one shop downtown, Jack & Millie’s, that I loved and wanted to own almost everything in it. The downtown area also has a few home stores, a toy shop, bookstore and lots of other little shops that fun to walk through. There’s an area called the Old Mill District with chains stores like GAP and American Eagle plus a movie theater and some restaurants. If you venture further out from downtown, you’ll find Target, etc.
Local events: The farmer’s market is small but had plenty to offer. We saw everything from local honey and meats to whiskey and the best greek hummus and pita chips. There’s also a local event that happens in the summer every thursday night at Drake Park called Munch ‘n Music. We found vendors, live music, 20+ food trucks and more bouncy houses than I ever imagined possible in one place. It was much better than we expected it to be!
Mt. Bachelor: If you like downhill mountain biking, the lift is running in the summer. The locals were thrilled with this place. I personally found the riding pretty difficult here as the dirt was sandy and unstable. I just kept thinking how lucky we were in the Pacific Northwest to have the trails we have. In the winter, Mt. Bachelor is the 6th largest ski resort in the U.S. There are no accommodations on site but Tetherow and Sun River Resort are both about a 20 minute drive away.
Golf: There are plenty of golf courses in the area, so if you’re a golfer, you’ll find something to do! We didn’t do any golfing on this visit so I don’t have much more to say than that! 😉
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Well that’s a small guide to Bend, based off our trip there this summer. Where have you been recently that you’d recommend checking out? I’m always up for adventures, big or small!