How to do concerts on the river

IMG_1557Phish played 2 and only 2 shows in Oregon this summer, and they were back-to-back at the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend. It’s no surprise that, along with arguably one of the best line-ups it has ever had, Travel & Leisure is calling it one of America’s coolest outdoor music venues. Naturally the show sold out in minutes, along with almost all of Bend’s lodging for the week.

We’re fortunate to have such great views, food, and entertainment options where we live. But with that comes the crowds who want to enjoy it too. Since security started blocking off the pathway across the river, lots of locals have switched to paddling on the river during the show.

For some, this option seems to be even better than going to a concert in the actual venue. Even without the price difference (for those who already have a kayak, canoe, etc, it’s completely free), if you opt for the river you will be dealing with less crowds and can have a more relaxing experience.

However, it’s not as easy as many of the tried and true river-goers make it look. Here are some tips to make your river excursion as enjoyable, if not more so, than going to the concert itself.

  1. Arrive early. Parking doesn’t come easy when there are thousands of additional people milling about the Old Mill (especially the Dead-head types who were hanging out at Phish). And when you’ve got to carry your paddle board, raft, kayak, or what have you down to the put-in area, you’ll be glad you did.
  2. Bring an anchor. Bungees, heavy objects, actual anchors… you can get creative. Whatever it is, you’ll be glad you have it when you’ve kicked up your feet in your boat and don’t have to be constantly paddling in order to stay near the amphitheater.
  3. Bring a jacket. We live in the high desert; the nights are cooler here, even in the summer, and especially in the water.
  4. Don’t forget your growler. Because what’s a summer evening in Bend without a tasty beverage?

Up next we’ve got Wilco, Michael Franti, and Ben Harper. Unless you’re planning on buying tickets to all 3, you may want to opt for the river route. Done right, it can guarantee a lovely summer activity with a beautiful sunset to boot, as seen in the above photo. Happy concerting!

How to do dinner and a movie in Central Oregon

It’s that transition time of year again. The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and we’re dusting off our puffy jackets and skis for the winter. Until then, we’ve still got some time in October and November to kill before the snow comes and winter activities abound.

There’s always the typical “dinner and a movie” option at the Old Mill Regal Cinemas, our one and only multiplex movie theater, to keep you entertained. On weekends, plan on getting there two hours early to find parking, get a table at Hola, Kona Mix Plate or Red Robin, and hope you get out in time to stand in line for $10 tickets and a $7 bucket of popcorn soaked in butter–assuming your show isn’t sold out by then. But then again, life in Bend is never just “typical.” That’s why we’re highlighting a few alternatives to dinner with a movie instead.

The BendFilm Festival
On October 9-12, Bend is transformed from a recreational haven into a small town “possessed by the film industry’s soul.” Downtown and Old Mill theaters, lecture sites, music rooms and party venues spark with celluloid energy as we gather to behold the work of the most talented independent filmmakers. Get your tickets online, then grab a bite at a food cart or one of Bend’s many restaurants beforehand.

McMenamins Old St. Francis School
Since it’s been here almost 20 years, McMenamins is pretty much an old standby for local moviegoers. As a result of its popularity (and cheap $4 admission prices for almost new movies), it requires a pretty standard routine: Arrive at least 45 minutes early on weekends because most of their movies sell out. That gives you plenty of time to order a reasonably priced slice of pizza or a tasty burger with fries or tots, and enjoy them in the comfort of a slightly lumpy old sofa before or during the movie. Along with a refreshing glass of beer or wine, it’s much better and healthier than having a buttery bucket of popcorn be your dinner (or kill your appetite). And surprisingly, it costs about the same.

Tin Pan Theater
Located in Tin Pan Alley in downtown Bend, this friendly hole in the wall specializes in award-winning documentaries and art films, and delicious microbrews. On Wednesdays, they feature “Spaghetti Westerns” (yep, classic shoot-em-up cowboy movies) with a heaping plate of spaghetti and garlic bread for just $6. They usually don’t tell you what the movie will be. But who cares. It’s a great deal.

Volcanic Theatre Pub
Volcano only has movies occasionally, in addition to a mixture of live music and plays. But like McMenamins, they have comfy old sofas and chairs, so it’s living-room style. According to their Facebook page, the owner is “quite possibly the coolest dude in town” and the bartender is the “most handsome bearded fella in Bend.” Sold.

Sisters Movie House
It’s a bit of a drive from Bend, but it’s in an awesome big red “barn” modeled after agricultural buildings from the Sisters area. What’s cooler than that? The Movie House has a café that serves light meals, beer, and wine along with traditional theatre concessions. They show a diverse selection of films, including feature first-run movies, independent, documentary, foreign, and animated film.

Make the most of the great indoors this fall with a new and authentic “dinner and a movie” experience at one (or all) of these great locations. It’s just one of the many unique things that Bend has to offer.

How Bend turned me into a mountain biker

I have to make a confession. After 20 years of living in Bend, I never really got into mountain biking until I left for college. And it’s a shame, because there were over 270 miles of continuously linked single-track mountain biking trails right in my backyard.

So last year I officially tried mountain biking for the first time. I had an experienced friend take me out to Phil’s Trail, the popular biking hub that is less than 5 minutes away from PointsWest. From there, we had an overwhelming number of options of trails we could do. My friend graciously got me started on a beginner route called Ben’s trail, which has less hills and rocks than the more advanced trails do.

After clumsily falling off of my commuter bike a week before, I wasn’t too confident about dodging rocks and roots and tree branches while going fast on a bike. We started out going pretty slowly when I came to my first obstacle where the trail wound in between two trees that were only about a foot apart. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and somehow made it through the death trap.

But instead of feeling nervous, I suddenly felt exhilarated. We were twisting and turning through tight trees, bombing down big hills, climbing up bigger ones, and ducking under overhanging tree branches, and I could not stop smiling. There were even smoothed out logs that you could bike over. I have always been into trail running, but this was so much more fun! The forest was our playground, and we had all day to explore.

After over a year of mountain biking in my spare time, my efforts came full circle when that same friend took me out on Phil’s again. This time, we biked out to one of the classic Bend trails that I’d never dreamed I’d be able to do called “Whoops.” The name adequately describes the trail: a section of downhill that has lots of berms and turns and ups and downs and… “whoops.” Since it was a Saturday it was a tad crowded, but everyone up there was having a blast–and they were all very supportive because it was my first time. I was slower than the people who had done it before, but not by much, and again, I could not stop smiling.

I still have a lot to learn about the sport, but I have gained so much more confidence since I started a year ago. Looking back, I was probably inching down Ben’s rather than riding it that first day, and now I can play around on Whoops with all the “cool kids.”

Throughout the year I have ridden in Bozeman, MT, and Oakridge, OR. They were both fun, but it made me realize that Bend is truly the perfect place to fall in love with mountain biking. The trails are butter-smooth and mostly shaded so that you don’t get too hot. There are hills, but there are also flatter options. There are different levels of trails that you can take, so you never get bored. And if you’re going out with more experienced friends, every trail has more difficult side detours so that they have fun, too.

There are countless trails in Bend for beginners like me along with the world-class biking crowd. It’s easy to find a friend to show you some good places to start, but Cog Wild Bicycle Tours can also be a fun way to get to know the ropes. And believe me, it’s worth it. Now I know what this mountain biking craze in Central Oregon is all about!

Find your new favorite place to swim in Central Oregon

August is typically the hottest month of the summer in Bend. Luckily, there are a plethora of unique places to swim in the area to help you cool off. We’ve compiled an eclectic collection of swimming options for you to choose from–hot, cold, indoors, outdoors, natural, and manmade–and their distances from PointsWest. Whatever floats your innertube, we’re sure you’ll find a swimming hole to (swim)suit your fancy.



Seventh Mountain Resort – 1 min
PointsWest is located right next to Seventh Mountain Resort, which means you get to enjoy everything they have to offer right in your backyard. This includes whitewater rafting, paddle boarding tours, 2 outdoor heated pools and 3 outdoor hot tubs.

Farewell Bend Park/McKay Park – 9 min
Stay close to home by meandering down to the Deschutes River at a local park. Even if you don’t bring a floatie, raft, kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or blow-up killer whale, you’ll be all set.

McMenamins Old St Francis School soaking pool – 13 min
The soaking pool at St. Francis is semi-enclosed, so you can relax even as the Central Oregon snow or rain falls in through the open ceiling. It is surrounded by stained glass windows, turquoise tiles, and a beautiful mural depicting St. Francis harvesting grapes that was handcrafted, fired and painted by Justyn Livingston. The pool is filled with soft, buoyant water, which makes for a more environmentally friendly soak. Complete your afternoon of relaxation with a glass of wine or a craft beer after your soak.

Elk Lake – 33 min
A beautiful, clear mountain lake nestled in the sunny Oregon Cascades just up the road on Century Drive from PointsWest. Water temperature varies from 68-72° F–perfect for taking a dip with a view of our beloved Mt. Bachelor.

SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic & Recreation Center) – 33 min
Aside from sunbathing and water play activities, SHARC’s 22-acres of fun includes a tot pool and sand play area, cafe, picnic area, playground, basketball court, bocce ball court, year-round tubing hill, picnic pavilion and an outdoor amphitheater. Whew! What more could you want?

Steelhead Falls – 58 min
For the more adventurous swimmer, Steelhead Falls is a well-kept secret near Crooked River Ranch. A few miles west of Highway 97 (across from Smith Rock State Park) is a secluded area along the snow-fed Deschutes River perfect for swimming and cliff jumping with amazing views of the river valley.

Paulina Lake Hot Springs – 1 h 5 min
Many of the hot springs in both Paulina and East Lake occur under water, but there are spots where springs can be found (or constructed) along either. The ones at Paulina are typically easier to harness. Their main location is in the north east corner of the lake and along that area’s shoreline. Spring water that is isolated before reaching the lake can reach up to 126º F, so creating a pool that blends lake water and spring water is advisable. Basically, it’s a build-your-own natural hot spring. Neat!

Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa – 1 h 39 min
Kids and adults alike love the 140-foot-long slide and the newer 184-foot long slide into the waters of the double Olympic-sized hot springs mineral pool. The village hot springs pool is open year-round — cooled during the summer and heated to 92 degrees during the fall season. Bonus: you can get a room at the reservation and even rent a teepee for the night.


Of course, Bend has a lot more great places to swim, but these are a good start. Besides, half the fun is finding your very own swimming hole in Central Oregon, away from all the summer crowds. Have at it!

But wait! Some pointers:
We are lucky to have so many natural and beautiful swimming holes nearby. However, they can be dangerous. When swimming at a lake, river, creek, or waterfall, observe your route FIRST, or go with others who have been before. Landing on rocks and getting caught in fast currents has a funny way of ruining your day. Always remember to bring sunscreen and supervise children.

Festivities for the Fourth

The fireworks on Pilot Butte!

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and Bend definitely knows how to celebrate its independence. The day will be chock-full of activities to help you get in touch with your patriotic side. Here are a few highlights:

Spark Your Heart 5k Run/Walk: Start your morning off with a bang at the Spark Your Heart run/walk benefiting St. Charles adult cardiac rehab and wellness programs and children’s cardiovascular programs. Events include a Children’s Heart Fund Dash for kids 8 and younger, a 5K race, and a 1K for cardiac rehab patients. It begins at 7:30am at Riverbend Park in the Old Mill!

Pancake Breakfast: Treat yourself after the run with the annual Pancake Breakfast, a popular Bend tradition sponsored by the Bend Sunrise Lion’s Club. The all-American meal is served from 8am to noon at Drake Park. It costs $6 for adults and $4 for kids, and proceeds go to local charities.

Pet Parade: A local favorite since the 1930s, the Pet Parade is traditionally Bend’s largest parade, with 8,000 spectators and participants, including humans, canines, farm animals, iguanas, hamsters – you name it – all dressed in red, white, and blue. The meandering menagerie hits the streets of downtown Bend at 10:00 am. If you want to participate, the lineup and decorating party takes place at 9:30 am in the parking lot across from the Deschutes Public Library. If you prefer to spectate, get there early. Parking can be hard to find.

Old Fashioned July 4th Festival: After the parade, head over to Drake Park from 11-4 for games, live music, food, children’s activities, and more than 130 artisan booths.

Camping, floating, and hiking: Independence Day is typically one of the busiest times of the year in Bend. So do your research for campsites prior to the weekend, as many of them may be full (this complete list of campgrounds and RV parks might help: Canoeing, kayaking, standup paddling, and floating will be a popular way to cool off; click here to get the low-down on that. Finally, escape the crowds with a hike! The Forest Service gives current conditions on trails in the area, some of which might still be snowed in. Check out this page from Visit Bend for more ideas:

Fireworks: End an awesomely American day with a fireworks show! They’re launched from on top of Pilot Butte at 10:00 pm. Bring your blanket, chairs, and craft brew of choice to virtually any spot in Bend that has a view of the butte and you’ll be set.

The Perfect Summer Day in Bend

Now that Memorial Day weekend is over, we’ve all got summer on our minds.

If you had one summer day to spend in Bend doing whatever you wanted, what would you do? This is one of the most difficult questions I have ever had to answer. The thing is, there are multiple different ways that a day could go in Bend that I would consider “perfect.” Here’s just one scenario.

Please note: all activities can be done with dog and/or beer.

1. Spend the morning paddleboarding or kayaking at Sparks Lake, just 25 minutes up Century Drive from PointsWest.

2. Grab some fish tacos at Parilla Grill for lunch–trust me, they can’t be beat. Enjoy them on the deck as you people watch the other Bendites and visitors go about their perfect days.

3. Go mountain biking at Phil’s Trail. PointsWest is perfectly positioned for this–you can practically get on the trail from your own house! An afternoon ride through the forest never felt so good.

4. Catch the sunset on top of Pilot Butte. Whether you drive up or hike up, nothing compares to watching the sun set over the Cascade Range and our city.

5. End the night with dinner and brews at 10 Barrel on Galveston. World-class drinks, great food, a fire pit, and good people. There’s nothing like a summer night in Bend, Oregon.

PPP: Kids Edition





It’s almost time for everyone’s favorite race of the year again: the Pole Pedal Paddle! Every May, fun seekers throughout the area round up their downhill and cross-country skis, road bikes, kayaks, trail running shoes, and crazy outfits from the depths of their garages and compete for the title of most athletic and outdoorsy Bendite.

My love for the PPP began when I was growing up in Bend. My parents signed me up for the Kids Mini PPP race, which is on Sunday after the “grown-up” race on Saturday. Back then, the race was held in Drake Park, but now it’s at the Old Mill. The race is for kids in grades 1-6, and you do it with a team of five other young competitors. It now includes about 225 teams and more than 1,000 pint-sized competitors. That’s a lot of youthful athleticism & enthusiasm!

Here’s how the kid’s race goes. The team jumps into a raft with a guide and paddles down the Deschutes. Then, one team member rides a mini cyclocross course in the grass across from the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Next, four team members run, jump, skip, and tumble through an obstacle course. The last team member does a sprint outside the course until he or she crosses the finish line with a couple hundred people cheering them on. I don’t remember much about how my team did or the color of the ribbon we all got for competing. But I do remember the free t-shirt and ice cream we got after the race. That will always be one of my favorite memories of growing up in Bend.

The PPP and Mini PPP are the epitome of everything awesome that Bend has to offer. On top of taking advantage of the unique outdoor activities we are blessed to have in our town, the events demonstrate the strong sense of community we have built. Even if you’re not a participant, they’re a heckuva a lot of fun to watch. We’ll see you out there on May 17 and 18 at the Old Mill, poling, pedaling, paddling and cheering!

Highlights of the restaurant scene in Bend

There are a lot of things to love about life here in Bend. Sure, our little town is famous for our world-class outdoor playground, 300 days of sunshine a year, and thriving craft brewing industry. But the food scene is also getting national recognition. Bend was even named one of the top cities with the most eateries per capita by the Huffington Post. To whet your appetite, here are a few Bend restaurants that will soon become your favorites, if they aren’t already.

The Classics

Jackson’s Corner was mentioned in AAA Via Magazine as one of the “Northwest’s favorite place to eat” for its use of local/organic ingredients on its breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. Pine Tavern has been a local staple in Bend for over 75 years and is famous for its scones with honey butter, incredible patio overlooking Mirror Pond, and the real pine tree in the middle of the dining area. Zydeco and 900 Wall are two of downtown’s most popular places to sit on the sidewalk and enjoy upscale dining and drinks. Finally, Pizza Mondo is another downtown favorite. Just trust me–I’ll let the pizza speak for itself on this one.


At Parilla Grill, you can get deals on tasty wraps, clam chowder, and beer on your way down from the mountain. Or “do a snow dance in your snow pants” to earn a free soda. The stylish Rim Rock Bar at Seventh Mountain Resort has established an apres ski reputation. Indulge in low-price, well-executed food and perhaps play a game of chess. And everyone has heard of the Deschutes Brewery & Public House, especially since it just earned the #1 spot on USA Today’s list of the Top Ten Ski Resort Breweries.


Chow is a sustainable business that sources many of its ingredients locally and is very gluten-free/vegan friendly. Don’t know what to order? Ask for the “vegan surprise.” The Victorian Cafe on the corner by the flaming chicken roundabout is a popular one and always has people mingling outside by the fireplace, sipping their famous bloody mary’s while waiting for a table. McKay Cottage has been named the “Best Breakfast” in Bend for 4 years running now.


Five Fusion and Sushi Bar’s innovative cuisine, swanky cocktails, and charitable contributions to the community all helped it earn its place as the Source Weekly’s “Restaurant of the Year” in a very competitive field. Noi has also earned special recognition from the source as the “Best Thai Food in Bend.”


Brasada Ranch offers sweeping vistas of the Cascades while offering a menu created daily using the freshest ingredients from local farmers, foragers, and purveyors. Broken Top Club also offers fine cuisine with Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters looming on the horizon while reflecting in the lake below the expansive deck. The Row at Tetherow is a newer pub/restaurant, but it’s already getting some rave reviews.

Sweet tooth

Goodie’s Chocolates was born in Sunriver in 1984, and quickly became a legendary and loved tradition in downtown Bend with locals and visitors alike. Cuppa Yo is the original frozen yogurt establishment in Bend and has been voted Bend’s best dessert for three years running.

Bend Olympics 2014

A happy Bend-ite sledding at Wanoga Sno-Park.

The 2014 Sochi Olympics are upon us, and we’re excited to cheer on our two Olympic athletes from Bend: alpine skier Laurenne Ross and halfpipe snowboarder Kent Callister. But why just watch when you can get in on the action, too? We’ve compiled a list of our own Bend Olympics 2014. It has all the events, just without the weird toilets and questionable drinking water.

1. The snow gods have answered our prayers and our mountain is getting dumped on! So start out your Bend Olympics at Mt. Bachelor with downhill skiing, snowboarding, and Nordic skiing. Many real Olympic athletes have trained here. Why not you?

2. Head over to Seventh Mountain Resort or Sunriver Resort and show off your triple salchow and double axel–or just your “trying not to fall” technique. (Sequined-outfits and heavy mascara optional.)

3. Want to get a taste of luge, skeleton or bobsledding? Wanoga Sno-Park has the hill and the snow, as well as a cozy warming hut and a fire ring for your Olympic torch. All you need to do is bring a sled, toboggan, saucer, innertube or air mattress and develop your own course. Hey, that’s how the Jamaicans got started.

4. If you have a cast-iron tea kettle lying around the house, take your broom to the pond and try some curling. For that matter, an icy and empty parking lot will do.

5. Three things you can do in Bend that you won’t see in Sochi: snowshoeing (almost anywhere that there is snow), skijoring (skiing powered by your dog), and snowmobiling.

6. Create your own snowman-building contest or have an epic snowball fight. You may not feel like an Olympic champion. But at least you’ll feel like a kid.

7. Finally, for your closing ceremonies, drop by Winterfest at The Old Mill, February 14-16. It’s a huge party with live music, an international variety of foods to sample, and of course, the brilliant ice sculptures.

Sochi may be hosting all the world-class athletes, but we’ve got a world-class outdoor playground right in our backyard. Comment and tell us how your Bend Olympics 2014 goes. Til next time, dosvedonya!

Biking in January? Yes you can!

One happy Bend-ite trying out a fat bike.

Usually, this is the time of year when the bikes are stored away and the skis are fairly broken-in. The thing is, winter in the Northwest hasn’t exactly been behaving like winter this year. And as far as snow goes we’ve got nothing. Zip. Nada. The average high in Bend over the holidays was 51 degrees, and precipitation levels have been historically low. So what’s a Bend-ite to do? Continue biking, of course!

For mountain bikers and road cycling enthusiasts, this wacky weather has turned into an unexpectedly long riding season. For mountain bikers, trails such as Horse Butte, Horse Ridge, and the Maston network between Tumalo and Redmond are often rideable this time of year. But the Phil’s Trail complex on the West side and the River Trail network right next to PointsWest have been unusually great lately with only a few muddy patches to watch out for.

Road bikers have also been able to keep pushing their pedals. Less snow, ice, and cinders means great riding all around town. Many riders are even venturing up Century Drive toward Mt. Bachelor. But that’s likely to end with snow coming back to the high country.

When there is snow, fat tire bikes are just the ticket. Their four-inch wide wheels are great for snowy and icy terrain. People have been taking them up to the snow-deprived sno-parks and riding them on the cross-country trails. I’ve tried it myself, and I can tell you that you can’t have anything but a smile on your face when you’re on a fat bike.

Chances are, winter isn’t done with us yet. But whatever weather comes to our neck of the woods, there’s always some way to get out and take advantage of it!

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