5 must-do activities in Central Oregon over the holidays

Snowshoeing on Vista Butte across from Mt. Bachelor last year. Pray for snow!

There’s nothing better than being in Bend during the holidays. Each day offers a host of wintertime shenanigans. Here are our top five picks for making the most of your time off.

1) Hit the Slopes at Mt. Bachelor! More lifts and runs are scheduled to open the day after Thanksgiving with quite a bit of manmade snow until Mother Nature is expected take over later on the weekend. So keep doing that snow dance and follow the snow report so that you can get the first tracks of the season!

2) Work up your Turkey Day appetite with a holiday run! Bend has no less than three awesome organized runs Thanksgiving morning alone. The Central Oregon Thanksgiving Classic offers a 5k, 10k, and family friendly Gobbler Walk. If you like pie, try out the I Like Pie Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk that includes a baking contest. Or participate in the 4th Annual Bend Turkey Trot in NorthWest Crossing. Then, stay in shape and earn your Christmas cookies in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk that precedes the annual Christmas Parade, December 7 in Downtown Bend.

3) Do some serious holiday shopping at the Old Mill District. It features popular stores like Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Zumiez, REI and more. Check out these Black Friday Specials to get you started. But if you need more help finding the perfect gift for little Sophie besides a pony, Santa will arrive via helicopter around 10 am to begin his Santaland duties. They’ve also got carriage rides, carolers, and kids’ activities to make the season bright. If you want some more cute, quirky, local gifts, hit up Small Business Saturday in Downtown Bend. They’ll have some great deals at popular stores like Hot Box Betty, Local Joe, and Tres Jolie.

4) The Christmas Tree Lighting has been a tradition in Bend for years. But this year we’re doing something a little different. Crews just planted a brand new tree in a more spacious locale at the top of Drake Park by Brooks Street and Franklin Ave. The festivities get underway at 6pm on Saturday, November 30. There will be caroling and free samples from Luv’s Donuts, and Santa will light the tree at 6:45 pm.

5) Make a night out of a show at the Tower Theater. The Tower has a great line-up for the holiday season that includes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with pianist David Benoit, flamenco guitarist Todd Haaby, and “Take 6” a cappella group. Also, don’t forget your tickets for The Central Oregon School of Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite December 7-8 at the Bend High School auditorium, the High Desert Chamber Annual Music Gala at Broken Top Club, and Jazz Night at the Oxford Hotel.

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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