Located in the high desert of the
Cascade Mountains, Bend boasts nearly 300 days of sun, making it seem more like Palm Springs than Portland. But Bend's
sunny climate is only one of the reasons why this Oregon town of several hundred people has, in the last century, swelled to over 80,000 residents.
As a city, Bend is cultured and clean, trendy but not over-the-top, making it a lot like one of its newest hotels: The Oxford, an eco-friendly boutique hotel. The Oxford, which is built out of sustainable materials and uses non-toxic cleaners, is only one of a number of local businesses trying to minimize their carbon footprints.
Another company, the Deschutes Brewery, focuses on a different market, but takes a similarly progressive approach to crafting its food and drink, using spent brewing grain for pizza and pretzels, before feeding the overflow to beef cattle. Other conservation-minded local businesses in the food and drink trade include Strictly Organic Coffee Co., and the restaurants CHOW, Jackson's Corner, and Ariana (to name a few).
In addition to an abundance of restaurants (Bend has more restaurants per capita than anywhere in Oregon), Bend is home to a lively music scene. In the summer, free concerts abound. For the past 21 years,
Drake Park has hosted "Munch and Music," an open-air concert in which vendors--selling everything from food to handmade crafts--line the park on Thursday evenings. Summer 2011 performers include such notables as The Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Rootz Underground, Tracorum, and Curtis Salgado (among others).
On Sundays, The Les Schwab Ampitheater hosts a variety of free concerts that are open to families (and pets). The two-day "Bank of the Cascades Bend Summer Festival" features over 30 musical performers and offers a variety of vending booths for local artists, crafters, and chefs.
But eco-minded businesses, restaurants, as well as free music, and tax-free shopping are only part of the draw to Bend. More than anything, Bend is known for being an outdoor lover's paradise. Some of the city's accolades include being named the #1 town for sportsmen (Outdoor Life, May 2011), one of the best fishing towns in North America (Field and Stream, 2008), one of the "Top 10 Amazing Mountain Bike Destinations" (Bike Magazine, 2010). Bend is surrounded by 30 golf courses, and
The Sunriver Resort in nearby Central Oregon, received the Green Star Award (a national award recognizing the most environmentally friendly courses).
The park system is equally impressive, with 71 parks and 48 miles of in-town trails, blending urban and natural scenery. For those looking to ski,
Mt. Bachelor is a short drive from Bend and has one of the longest ski seasons in North America (running from Thanksgiving through May). The mountain offers great variety in terms of the difficulty of its trails: 71 runs ranging from beginner to expert. In the summer, Mt. Bachelor stays open, offering chairlift rides, sunset dining, disk golf, and hiking.
In Bend, choices abound. Its residents (and those visiting the area) expertly toe the line between healthy living and indulgence. From shoppers looking to score tax-free finds, to
fly fishermen looking for an isolated stream, to runners or bikers looking for
trails, and beer-drinkers seeking the perfect microbrew, Bend has something for everyone.
Chris Maki and Visit Central Oregon
Kelsey Maki teaches composition and creative writing at The College of New Jersey and Brookdale Community College. She earned her BA in American Literature from The University of California-Santa Cruz and her MA in English from Rutgers University and has published articles on teaching and composition.