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.

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