Land of plenty . . . plenty of bikes, breweries and outdoors
written by Sheila G. Miller | photos by Cody Rhealt
Every other week Bend, Oregon is named to another “best-of” list—CNN’s best beer towns in America, Outside Magazine’s best places to live, Men’s Journal’s best places to live now. Perhaps Bend is being oversold?
Bend is so loved by its locals that they’ve started putting a new bumper sticker on their cars: Bend sucks … don’t move here.
With about 85,000 people, Bend combines a lot of the best things in life—twenty-nine breweries in the area, a thriving downtown and public land on all sides just right for adventure, whether that’s cross-country skiing, hiking, rock-climbing, kayaking. Plus, Mt. Bachelor is fewer than 45 minutes away and is one of the biggest ski areas in the United States. It’s often open through May, and when the snow melts, Bachelor turns into a mountain bike park.
Visit Bend, the city’s tourism arm, established the Bend Ale Trail—a map and passport that helps you find the many breweries around town. Get your passport stamped at each one, and once you’ve visited the fifteen on the list, you can turn in your passport for a Bend Silipint. Put Worthy Brewing, Crux, Deschutes and Cascade Lakes on your pint list.
If you’re more interested in adventure than beer, Bend has you covered. Take an innertube float through town on the Deschutes River, or grab a kayak and hit the Bend Whitewater Park, a manmade wave in the middle of the river that attracts surfers and kayakers (this is not for beginners). Nervous? There’s a bridge overlooking the whitewater park where you can just watch the action.
Back on terra firma, rent a mountain bike and check out the dozens of trails available minutes from town—Phil’s Trail Complex is one of the most accessible and popular in the area, with trails for everyone from beginners to experts. If venturing out into the forest of an unfamiliar town is not your bag, Bend has plenty of tour operators, including Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours.
Let’s not forget the culinary culture in Bend. For a city with fewer than 100,000 people, the restaurant scene is heads above other towns twice or three times its size. Check out happy hour at 900 Wall, a cavernous restaurant right in the heart of downtown with out-of-the-ordinary appetizers and a great wine list. Venture farther afield and stop in to the unassuming El Sancho for the best tacos in town. If you’re looking for something a little more refined, try Zydeco Kitchen + Cocktails (get the barbeque shrimp appetizer). For a more laidback approach, try Spork. It will be busy, because, even though tourists know about it, locals insist on returning to eat Spork’s global street food.