Situated in Central Oregon’s high desert country – east of the Cascades near Mt. Bachelor and not far from the Three Sisters Mountains – the picturesque town of Bend is “San Diego North:” Lots of sunshine, but cooler nights.
Over a century ago, “Farewell Bend” was home to pioneers who made that declaration when leaving the locality and its meandering Deschutes River. In 1905, the town was officially named Bend. It became the center for logging and timber mills, and tourism.
Today, Bend is a hotbed of artisan breweries and delicious local cuisine. We stayed in downtown – able to walk everywhere including the Old Mill District and Drake Park.
The Oxford Hotel is Bend’s hip boutique hotel: Green, sustainable and with a great location. In the midst of historic downtown, stay in one of 59 spacious suites with their sleek, modern furniture (including recycled glass vanities shaped to resemble a river) and earth tone colors. Kitchens vary in size, but all have fresh coffee for the French Press. A work station is equipped with a variety of electrical accoutrements.
The hotel is serious about the environment: building materials are sustainable; the hotel uses 100% renewable energy (through Pacific Power); bedding is all natural (includes a pillow menu) and they provide organic Dani toiletries. For an e-car, they have both charging stations and electric vehicle chargers.
PLAY & SHOP
Bend is very clean and easy city to navigate. Downtown, buildings date from the early 1900s. Previously, they housed furniture, music, hardware and other retail stores. Now find restaurants, wine tasting venues, breweries, art galleries, boutiques and bakeries. The Farmer’s Market sets up by the river on Wednesdays from June to October.
On the edge of downtown, Drake Park and Mirror Pond are verdant respites. The park was named for a frontier developer and the pond is actually part of the Deschutes River that flows extremely gently at this point so that the surface is still and reflective.
The Old Mill District provides a glimpse into life at the height of the timber business (dating from 1916). While there, indulge your craving for shopping (think clothing, kitchenware, even fly fishing) and food and wine in an upscale setting. Set right next to the Deschutes River, the area is a magnet for people watching.
The Wine Shop and Tasting Bar is fun downtown spot to explore international wines (more than 30 by the glass, 600 retail) and top Belgian and unique European style beers (16 tap handles). It’s got a hip vibe because of the passionate and knowledgeable owner (also a cicerone). We chose the 2012 Philips Creek Oregon Pinot Noir and the German Bitsburger Pilsner as favorites along with a charcuterie plate loaded with triple cream brie and manchego cheeses.
The Deschutes River is the ultimate playground, winding through Bend with numerous opportunities for water sports such as rafting, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. When we visited, the city was constructing three lanes in part of the river for each of the activities. Additionally, the Deschutes River Trail provides endless scenery to enjoy while walking, biking, running.
The Deschutes National Forest, adjacent to Bend, attracts joggers, hikers and cyclers to the miles of trails and acres of campgrounds. The Oxford Hotel offers complimentary bikes as well as Jacuzzi, sauna, steam and fitness facility.
For the inside skinny on Bend’s latest culinary secrets, join The Well Traveled Fork for a tour (one of many they offer in addition to classes). We started the adventure in the Old Mill District at Savory Spice (savoryspiceshop.com) with over 400 products to liven up your cooking, then on to the Broken Top Bottle Shop (btbsbend.com/) offering a variety of wine and beer and comfort food (part of one room is dedicated to the hundreds of beers to purchase). Downtown, we indulged in an endless assortment of gelato (like lemon bourbon pecan) at Bontà (bontagelato.com/), then tasted olive oils and vinegars at the specialty food store Navidi’s (navidioils.com/).
In a residential neighborhood close to downtown, Jackson’s Corner is located in a converted ice house. Known for their passion for all things local and sustainable (food and building materials), the restaurant is a treasured hangout. Open all day, we enjoyed lunch with thick, rich split pea soup (with ham) and the tasty Thai salad with grilled prawns. We also shared the Havana sandwich oozing with caramelized onions, barbeque sauce, mozzarella and loaded with pork. Menus change according to what producers are growing.
Crux Fermentation Project is one of Bend’s more than 30 craft breweries and a must if you’re into artisan brews. They’ve transformed a former AAMCO transmission garage into a trendy brewery and tasting room and restaurant. They even make baguettes using spent grain from the Pilsner (served with cheeses and cured meats, bacon wrapped figs and Tough Love bacon jam). Favorites on tap (usually 20 small batch brews available per week) include the balanced and creative Cruxarillo, Banished Red, Hop Coder.
900 Wall is hot dinner spot within walking distance of the hotel. With its European spin on American cuisine, the two-level restaurant offers an array of small dishes and larger plates. Start with the luscious “peel and eat” wild shrimp (heads still on) and a creamy risotto with wild mushrooms and porcini butter. The 900 Wall Burger is a crowd pleaser: Sustainably raised beef with bacon and aioli. Dinner was paired with two 2013 Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley: The “Reserve” from Willamette Valley Vineyards and the other from Ken Wright Cellars.
For one of those great views of the Deschutes River and the mountains, try Anthony’s Homeport in the Old Mill District. The spacious dining room has an open kitchen, and floor to ceiling windows. With a focus on the Pacific Northwest, most of the food and wine is from Oregon and Washington and what seafood does comes from Alaska is sustainable. We savored Hawaiian ahi nachos; plump, juicy Penn Cove mussels and moist and flakey Wild Neah Bay king salmon. We couldn’t resist the clam chowder, rich and creamy and loaded with clams. We paired dinner with the 2012 Firesteed Cellars Pinot Noir.
OTHER ESSENTIALS: Bend Visitors Bureau; Bend Parks & Recreation; Travel Oregon
PATTY BURNESS can be found @pattygb