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March 8, 2022
Believe it or not, I went on a winter wonderland getaway for a snowy adventure. It’s pretty clear that the vast majority of my travels include high temps, sun, and the ocean. However, this time I switched things up and visited Bend, Oregon in the winter. And I loved it! This winter adventure was one of my girls’ trips with the Babes That Wander group I joined last year. There are six of us total and we are all travel bloggers, so these trips are the best of both worlds: a vacation and a content creation opportunity with like-minded women. It’s amazing! We are a very diverse group, and our mission is to bring our different perspectives to travel, so definitely be sure to check us out if that is of interest to you. Until then, I’ll share my Bend, Oregon winter travel guide. If you’re looking for what to do in the winter in Bend, where to eat in Bend, or hotels in Bend, Oregon, then you’re in the right place!
What to Know
Covid Precautions & Safety
Bend is a pretty small area and safety isn’t really a big concern. All the girls felt safe during our visit, however, I will say that we did notice a lack of diversity in the locals and other travelers we came across. This resulted in slight feelings of discomfort, but not enough to tarnish the experience as a whole. This might be different in the summer, which is Bend’s busiest season.
As far as Covid is concerned, we were never asked for our vaccine cards, but masks are required everywhere. We were able to take our masks off during private tours where we weren’t around anyone else and were outdoors, but that was really the only time. I can confidently say Bend is taking the pandemic seriously and wants to keep everyone safe and healthy!
There’s no airport in Bend, so you fly into RDM which is about 15-20 minutes away. There weren’t any direct flights from Atlanta, so I had a layover in Seattle on my way and Salt Lake City on my way back.
Uber and Lyft and readily available in Bend, so renting a car is not required. Everything is also pretty close, so walking is an option if you choose to do so. We rented cars for the convenience of being on our own schedules, plus we had a group of 6 so it was worth it to us. But I would say it is definitely very easy to go to Bend and rely on rideshares, especially since the tours we went on picked us up at the hotel!
What to Pack
For winter in Bend, you definitely, 100% need a snowsuit! It made all the difference in the world! I am a person that is always cold. I’m not exaggerating when I say my highest level of comfort is at 80 degrees or higher. So the fact that a snowsuit kept me nice and warm says a lot. I was able to go snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and more in my snowsuit and was never cold. Other than that, I definitely recommend warm clothes, including a base layer, puffer coats, gloves or mittens, and something to cover your ears like a hat or earmuffs. I also brought scarves but didn’t end up wearing them at all.
Where to Stay
When it comes to hotels in Bend, Oregon, there aren’t as many options as you might expect. We stayed at Element Bend and it was beyond perfect for our group. There is a room on the second floor that has a common area (kitchen living room, and dining area) that is surrounded by four separate hotel rooms. It was like a big apartment and was so ideal for us. We had so much fun hanging out in the common areas and then retreating to our rooms at bedtime. The location of Element Bend was also great. It’s about 3 minutes from the last Blockbuster and about 3 minutes to downtown, and included free parking. But the best part, by far, was the daily happy hour with free wine and beer. We loved it!
Where to Eat & Drink
The most common request I get from fellow travelers is to share more food. I heard you loud and clear! Here are my favorite places we ate (and drank) in Bend.
Lemon Tree is your top choice for a more gourmet-level breakfast in Bend. There are so many delicious options and with the location right in downtown Bend, it’s the perfect way to start your day!
This place is self-described as “fine dining.” I quickly realized this does not mean the same thing in Bend as it does in Atlanta (ha!). The hostess asked us why we were so dressed up (in a very nice way, of course). But hey, I say there’s no such thing as being overdressed! The food and drinks were both very good. I recommend the burrata and the prosciutto pizza (sans the meat for me!). One of our tour guides also recommended the happy hour at 900 Wall. Apparently the deals are great so definitely worth a stop!
Joolz is a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant with locally sourced ingredients, resulting is absolutely delicious exotic dishes. We l loved the cauliflower appetizer as well as the fries. Everyone loved their meals as well, but the star of the show was the date cake. It was phenomenally delicious, slightly reminiscent of banana cake in my opinion, but richer. We were told by a member of staff that this cake is so authentic, that it made a grown man cry tears of joy, stating that he hadn’t tasted true date cake since his grandmother made it for him back in Israel. Talk about a selling point!
Domaine Serene Wine Lounge
This was the perfect first stop of our trip. After traveling all day, we went to Domaine Serene Wine Lounge for some wine tasting and charcuterie. It was absolutely sublime! The wine was delicious and the space was incredible. It’s actually in the oldest building in Bend, and also has one of the only basements in the area. The basement is used as a VIP space for private tastings and events. Legend has it that the basement is haunted by a ghost in a white dress named Matilda. We never saw her, but it was still a cool story to hear!
Va Piano is another great wine-tasting option in the Old Mill District of Bend. This is your ideal stop for a break from shopping, which is what we did. My favorite wine here was the rosé, so definitely get that if you stop by!
Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
A great cocktail spot, Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is an upscale bar with cozy wood and exposed brick decor. Every table was full during our visit so it’s definitely a popular place. I got a pour of Blanton’s, which was the best bourbon I saw on the trip, so if you’re a bourbon fan, this is your best bet! This is the perfect spot for an after-dinner drink with the girls/guys or an intimate outing with your partner.
What to Do
There are so many winter activities in Bend! Though summer is the high season, winter is full of fun things to do. From snowmobiling to snowshoeing to skiing and more, there are more than enough things to do in Bend, Oregon in the winter!
Wanoga Sno Park
Wanoga offers two areas: Wanoga Sno Park and Wanoga Sno Play. Activities include sledding, tubing, fat-tire biking, hiking, snowmobiling, and more! We went snowmobiling with Central Oregon Adventures and it was unanimously the group’s favorite activity. I was a little scared at first, but after some practice and reassurance from our awesome guide Adam, I had the time of my life. One great thing to note is that the handles and foot area of the snowmobile are heated, so I didn’t get cold once. As far as driving goes, you really have more control of the vehicle than you think, so once you realize that and start zipping around, the real fun begins!
Prohibition Cave Tour
I had no idea what I was in for with this one! Caving is a very physical activity, and I did not wear the right shoes. But it was still a great experience with Wanderlust Tours (ask for Katie!). We explored Boyd Cave, which was formed by lava millions of years go, creating a very unique terrain and surface. In fact, NASA astronauts have been known to train in Boyd Cave because the surface is identical to that of the moon.
It’s very dusty and bumpy – I’ve never seen anything like it. Since the cave is underground, it is always exactly 45 degrees and without a light source, it is the most purely black darkness one can experience. We turned off our headlamps for a moment and it was pretty freaky! There are bats in the cave, but we only saw two. They were both hibernating and super tiny and were actually pretty cute; they were brown and furry and oh so small!
The caves in Bend were used during prohibition to store alcohol because the bootleggers knew no one would go down there to check. And they were right! So the second half of the prohibition tour is to a distillery to keep with the theme. More on that below!
Shopping at Old Mill District
There are so many fab shops in the Old Mill District, but what excited me most was the local boutiques. I love a good stop at Sephora, but when I travel, I prioritize local shopping. My favorite stops were Vanilla Urban Threads and Hello Sunshine. I got so many goodies including clothes, candles, jewelry, gifts, and more. They also have home decor stores, a Savory Spice (the best spices!!!), and a lululemon. To top it all off, there are restaurants and wine tasting right in the plaza – there’s even a movie theater! So you’re totally set for the day here. OH, and the best part: Oregon is a tax-free shopping state!
Spa Day at Anjou Spa
The relaxing experience at Anjou Spa is just magical. The environment is so serene and every moment is filled with bliss. Since we were a group of six, we kind of rotated services, so everyone had about an hour in between the two services we each received (a massage and a facial – heaven!). First of all, the spa day was perfect after all of the physical activity and outdoorsy stuff we did. But what really blew me away was that instead of sitting and waiting for our next treatments, we had options: a foot soak, the sand room where you lay down and meditate/fall asleep (oops!), the steam room, and the sauna. I opted for a foot soak and the sand room and it was perfect. Plus they served us sparkling rosé. I can’t recommend Anjou Spa enough!
Visit the Last Blockbuster
I had absolutely no idea that the last Blockbuster in the galaxy is in Bend, Oregon! Of course, we had to stop by and oh wow, the nostalgia!!! It totally brought me back to those coveted weekend nights where my parents let my siblings and I choose one movie to rent for the night. As we got older, my brother always opted for video games, and then even later, my sister even got her first job at Blockbuster! The visit really brought me back. They have a lot of cool displays and memorabilia inside, which was great. It’s so funny though, the store was actually pretty busy with customers. Business is going strong in Bend!
This was such an incredibly special experience. We went on a second tour with Wanderlust Tours where we were served a private dinner by a chef in a “warming hut” which is basically like an empty cabin. Then we went snowshoeing which was exhausting, but incredibly rewarding.
We were in the middle of nowhere, so we could see the stars very clearly, which was beautiful of course. We stopped about halfway through just to look up at the night sky and take in the natural beauty of the stars above. After the rest of the rigorous trek, we arrived at a manmade sunken living room with a fire pit center. So amazing! We sat down to some much-deserved rest and sipped on hot cocoa spiked with espresso vodka. Yes, please!
Tour & Tasting at Oregon Spirit Distillers
If you’re more of a spirits gal, Oregon Spirit Distillers is for you! They distill vodka, gin, whiskey, absinthe, and limoncello on site. In fact, they do everything on-site, including bottling, which was mesmerizing to watch. After an informative tour, we enjoyed a tasting and a cocktail. The kentucky mule was delicious, and I brought some bourbon-aged maple syrup home for Ryan, which has been the perfect addition to our weekend french toast!
My experience in Bend, Oregon in the winter has totally opened my mind to traveling to cold-weather destinations more often. I get so caught up in hating the cold, that I don’t look at the positives. Playing in the snow is so amazing and the views are beyond breathtaking. As long as you’re prepared for it with the right clothing and gear, being in the cold and snow really isn’t bad at all. And that’s what traveling is all about–opening your mind and expanding your own beliefs and perspective. I couldn’t be happier to be back to traveling, both domestic and abroad!
Have you ever been to Bend, Oregon in the winter?
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Photos by the Babes that Wander.