I’m in Bend, Oregon for the holidays. I love this place. Why?
- The landscape,
- the high desert climate,
- the outdoor activities in all seasons,
- the best beer in the country,
- the roundabouts and layout of the city,
- the mix of hippie/bourgie/fleece,
- and the kindness of my in laws. (Thanks, Grandma for taking Miles to bouncy castle paradise this morning so I can sit in a coffee shop.)
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit once or twice a year with my partner since we got together 10 years ago. Before our first time out, he didn’t have much positive to say about it, warning me that it was something of a redneck, cowboy town. (He had lots of bad memories of being bullied in high school during the baldly hateful Measure 9 campaign.)
But the place has changed a lot. Its population has grown dramatically, and people with money and outdoors enthusiasts realized it was a great place to live, retire, or vacation.
I had only known the mountains of Appalachia before I came here. So that means I didn’t really know mountains. Turns out I love being near true mountains. I was also fascinated and a bit confused by the dry, but sometimes snowy climate. Summer days of 85 or 90 with nights of 50 degrees=dreamy.
This summer we were lucky enough to spend an entire month here, taking full advantage of long wilderness hikes, tent camping, swimming in mountain lakes (cut short by the discovery of leeches), daily jogs around a butte, and rafting down the Deschutes River, which goes right through the center of the city.
Here are some spots we’ve enjoyed this time:
Wanoga Snow Play Area – Terrific sledding hill, not too far up the base of Mt. Bachelor; seems to be groomed so the snow isn’t too overwhelming for agile toddlers like Miles. Also features a shelter with a fireplace. Could serve as launching point for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Drake Park – Adjacent to downtown, with a small but slick sledding hill; good for a toddler who loves repetitive thrills without too much parental labor. Downtown spots for food or hot chocolate are steps away.
Bend Public Library – Great space for a couple to divide parenting duties—one of you can disappear upstairs to read, lose yourselves in the books, or surf the Net; the other can sit with your kid in the children’s area.
Back Porch Coffee Roaster – They roast and sell excellent coffee; they play good music; it’s friendly with a relaxed, younger, interesting coffee house scene (also seems to be more gay than most Bend spots). (Thump, downtown, is also fun but loud and has a more relentless people-with-money vibe.)
Kebaba – Delicious, fresh middle eastern food in a small house on the city’s west side; my son loves the falafel and the winter sun pours onto the tables near the front windows at lunchtime.
Brother Jon’s – we went here for a post-movie, late-night beer; the beer selection is tops and the atmosphere is very homey, a kind of northwestern corner pub. It’s on NW Galveston, a street I wish was my Main Street.
Deschutes Brewery – The beer is our favorite anywhere, ever; it’s a crowded scene (not a bad one though if you like hunky snowboarder types as your background), but they just announced they’re expanding to the lot next door. Nothing beats the Obsidian Stout on nitro-tap.
Ten Barrel – a newer spot for good beer, with a fire pit and seating outside, the inside is a mix of rustic and modern.