5 Unforgettable Things to do in Bend over the Holidays

All the fresh powder at Mt. Bachelor is a huge attraction when the family is in town for the holidays. But for those who want a break from the lift lines – or just don’t care for skiing – it’s good to have some alternative activities everyone can enjoy. So here are a handful of things to do with family and friends that are sure to contribute to the holiday spirit.

1) Activities at 7th Mountain Resort
One of the perks of living next to 7th Mountain Resort is having easy access to some great outdoor holiday activities, like skating on the beautiful outdoor ice rink on the property. If you’re feeling adventurous, the trails that lead to the river are spectacular for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. If you have your own skates, the pond at the bottom of the hill often freezes over this time of year. Just make sure the ice is at least four inches thick before you venture out. When it’s time to warm up after your adventure, the resort offers a choice of three outdoor hot tubs.

2) Sledding, tubing, and dog sledding
Grab a sled, saucer, toboggan or inner tube and cruise up to the sledding hill at Wanoga Sno-park. If the snow isn’t too icy, it’s an epic way to spend the day for kids from one to 92. To keep everyone happy and charged up, there’s a warming hut, a fire pit and even a trailer serving hot chocolate and snacks. Be prepared for big crowds on the weekends.

For those who dislike the downside of sledding – trudging back up the hill – Mt. Bachelor’s Tubing Park is the answer. Just sit back in one of their giant tubes and a pulley system will take you back up for ride after ride on their pre-made runs. Genius! Or you can try the less straining but equally exhilarating option of dog sledding with the Oregon Trail of Dreams next to Sunrise Lodge. Stay snug and warm in the comfort of an Iditarod dog sled while the team, along with a professional musher, takes you on an exciting adventure, taking in the sights of Broken Top, Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor.

3) Traditions at Sunriver Resort
Among multiple other Christmasy treats, a short drive to Sunriver Resort will present you with the largest display of gingerbread houses in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can also get their jingle on with a real One-Horse Open Sleigh Ride in the snow under warm winter blankets. It doesn’t get much more traditional than that.

4) Shopping downtown
Christmas downtown is one of my favorite parts about Bend. Sparkling lights line the trees of Wall and Bond streets. Snow covers the ground. And everyone is all bundled up in their Patagonia micro-puffs. Get a warm seasonal coffee at Looney Bean or Thump and stroll the streets of your community peeking into boutiques and shops that display some of the most unique and thoughtful gifts you ever imagined. A new piece of jewelry from Silverado for your sister or some old fashioned candy from Powell’s Sweet Shoppe for the kids might do the trick.

5) Giving back
There’s no denying 2012 has been rough on many of us, especially the homeless in Central Oregon. Why not put some gift bags together and hand them out to those less unfortunate on various street corners. Or devote some time to the Bend Community Center or the Salvation Army. By reaching out and helping others, your family will understand the true meaning of “peace on earth, good will toward men.”

New Traditions

Find this year’s Christmas tree in Central Oregon’s backyard.

My boots crunched through the snow as I tromped through the woods somewhere off Century Drive. My ever-energetic dog bounded over Manzanita bushes and ducked under tree branches that dusted her fur with the sugary-white powder of snow. Armed with some warm gloves and a saw (and a permit from the forest service), I wandered around in search of the perfect tree amid an entire forest of evergreens: this year’s Christmas tree.

I used to complain about having to do this—our whole family outing into the woods to look for one tree amongst thousands that would suit the criteria of our living room. We used to just drive into town and pick out a perfectly manicured Douglas fir farmed to grow around eight feet tall with needles that wouldn’t fall off. Then we would hop back into our warm car and call it good.

Now we were faced with the challenge of finding a tree that almost always resembled the classic Charlie Brown tree: a gap on one side from a bird nest, branches too thin to hold ornaments but just big enough to shelter a bunny from a snow storm, needles slightly nibbled on by a hungry fawn.

But today I realized that this year’s tree would be all the more meaningful for precisely those reasons. Furthermore, we had made a family adventure out of it; I will forever remember these winter excursions, while the insignificant trips to the Christmas tree stand in town will quickly slip away. And finally, I fully appreciated how lucky I was to even live in a place where this unique opportunity was presented to me.

Christmas is about tradition: cookies, presents, and Santa—or, in the typical Bend-ite’s case, skiing down Thunderbird, putting on a puffy jacket, and enjoying a Jubelale downtown with friends. But nothing says Christmas like the fresh pine scent of a Christmas tree in your home—especially one that you cut down yourself.

Permits (and tree-cutting rules) are only $5 and readily available around Central Oregon, including Bi-Mart, the Central Oregon Visitor Association and the VisitBend office downtown if you want to start a new tradition of your own.

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