Bend, Oregon, is arguably one of the most exciting destinations you’ll ever visit. Enticing sightseers from in-state and across the globe, this midsize city has been ranked the third fastest-growing city in the United States. Kevney Dugan, the Visit Bend CEO, stated that nearly 4.5 million guests travel to Central Oregon each year, a testament to the area’s natural beauty and outdoor fun. At the foothills of the majestic Cascade Mountains, Bend is the perfect place to explore. Aside from marveling over the region’s natural wonders, Bend doesn’t fall short of things to do. Whether you are interested in attending the Deschutes Historical Museum, dining-in at award-winning restaurants, attending day-tours, relaxing at the spa, brewery hopping, listening to live music, or shopping at the Old Mill District—there is something for everyone. Of course, the locals are always privy to some hidden gems that go unnoticed by tourists, explains Peter Lowes.
In 1982, Lowes relocated to Long Beach, California, from Scotland and began his career in investment real estate. After many successful years, he chose to migrate north to Bend, Oregon, where he still lives today. In 2007, Peter established the Lowes Group Full Service, Residential, Commercial & Property Management Real Estate Company, which he and his partner subsequently rebranded ‘Knightsbridge Realty.’ Besides running his firm, he is also the founder of Hola!, a delicious Nouveau Mexican Peruvian restaurant that has become a local favorite. Since it’s opening, Hola! has expanded to five other locations. Today, Peter Lowes, an Oregonian and successful entrepreneur, reveals his list of must-visit places in Bend.
1. Get Your Adventure On!
If you spend most of your time discovering the great outdoors, then look no further than Bend. Appointed “America’s Best Multisport Town” by Outside Magazine, this city is booming with activities that are fun for the whole family. According to Linea Gagliano, the state’s Tourism Commission Global Communications Director, 80% of visitors come to experience outdoor fun. First and foremost, the city has roughly 65 miles of urban hiking trail that can be visited year-round and covers several different terrains, including parks, natural forests, and cityscape. So, why not discover solitude on one of these popular trails: the Deschutes River Trail, Shevlin Park, Larkspur Trail, Cascade Highlands Trail, and the Central Oregon Canal Trail. Pilot Butte, a 480-foot cinder cone, is a geographical landmark in Bend. “It would be a crime to come to Bend and not hike this path,” teases Lowes. From the summit, you will get stunning views of the Cascade Mountain peaks, Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, the Three Sisters, Mount Bachelor, and more.
2. Winter and Summer Sports
Besides hiking, Bend is also a top-notch mountain biking destination for avid cyclists. Riders congregate from all over the world to experience Phil’s Trail, a classic XC mountain biking trail created by Phil Meglasson. From casual bike tours to serious races, both novice riders and professional cyclists have something to enjoy. If you are a fan of winter sports, Mt. Bachelor Ski and Snow Resort has it all. Guests can try cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and even dogsledding. Similarly, The Pavilion hosts many sport and recreation activities including ice hockey and curling for kids. However, Bend wouldn’t be a first-rate destination without a wide selection of summer sports. Lowes recommends hitting up the Deschutes River for some leisurely floating or stand-up paddle boarding during the hot summer months in Bend. At the same time, Bend Whitewater Park, close to the Old Mill District, is a great place for all water-related fun.
3. Visit Top-Rated Eateries
While Bend is best known for its endless adventure, the city is upping its restaurant game, and foodies are noticing! Forget your basic meat-and-potatoes; Bend is home to several ethnic and fusion restaurants that are sure to delight your taste buds. Here, Lowes recommends a few of his favorite eateries to check out after a long day of exploration. “As you know, Marcos Rodriguez and I opened our first Hola! restaurant back in 2007,” explains Lowes, “I know I’m biased, but we’ve had excellent reviews from customers and pride ourselves on offering unique flavour combinations, so our food is never boring.” Hola! has also won many awards, including ‘Best Margaritas in Bend’ four years in a row. So, if you are looking for bold Mexican food and excellent mixed drinks, Lowes’ restaurants will not disappoint.
Five Fusion and Sushi Bar is another fan favorite. Five Fusion provides a sleek, modern atmosphere for guests along with tasty Asian cuisine. Managed by the talented Chef Joe Kim, he has developed a tantalizing menu built from passion, creativity, and a longing to push the limits of Bend cuisine. Thanks to Kim, the restaurant was named Central Oregon Restaurant of the Year in 2012 and continues to impress tourists from out-of-state. Next up, Lowes recommends a family-run restaurant called Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats. This authentic eatery offers the best Northern Thai food. Instead of dividing their menu into courses, guests can choose from categories that make up a complete Thai meal. Additionally, Thai culture typically views eating as a communal event, meaning sharing dishes with family and friends is encouraged!
4. Check out the Bend Ale Trail
Often called Beer Town USA, craft beer is a big part of the town’s culture. Founded ten years ago with only six breweries, the Bend Ale Trail was the very first Ale Trail in the West and the second in the country. Today, there are twenty-two breweries along the route spanning from Sunriver to Bend. To participate, you must pick up an Ale Trail passport before initiating your pub-crawl if you want to earn prizes. As you complete each stop on the trail, be sure to receive a stamp in your passport. Trophies include a commemorative Bend silipint if you manage to visit ten breweries, and an Ale Trail bottle opener if you complete eighteen. “It might not be a good idea to finish the whole trail in one day, instead take your time and break at one of Bend’s awesome resorts,” advises Lowes. Moreover, the trail isn’t just for beer fanatics—some individuals bring their families along for the trip and make casual lunches out of it. Speaking of good brews, Lowes and his partner Marco teamed up with Tony Levinson in 2014 to create their Mexican Style Ale. In 2015, their Tranquilo Cerveceria won a silver medal at the North American Brewers Association for best-tasting beer.
5. Shopping and Entertainment
According to the 2017 visitor survey, the most visited places during the summer months were Downtown Bend (72%) and the Old Mill Shopping District (60%). Statistics show that year after year, both of these hot spots continue to hold their appeal, regardless of whether a visitor is new to the city or a repeat guest. While gazing at waterfalls and hiking historic volcanoes is awe-inspiring, sometimes you crave other thrills. Lowes suggests visiting the Old Mill District, which is not your average shopping scene. The area boasts more than forty shops, including luxury boutiques and big-name stores. Not to mention, while strolling between shops, you will have magnificent views of the Cascade Mountains and natural wildlife. Once you’ve picked up a few souvenirs to take home with you, check out one of Bend’s art galleries, movie theatres, concert venues, or local events. Several big-name artists have taken the stage at Les Schwab Amphitheater, The Dave Matthews Band, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, and Sheryl Crow have all left their mark here. So, whether you are in the mood to spoil yourself or have some fun, Bend’s got you covered.
Of all the places Lowes has lived, he is the happiest in Bend, Oregon. Thanks to the idyllic environment, kind people, myriad of events and activities, there is never a dull moment here in town. Thus, with all the awesome things to do in Bend, you might have to visit a few times to be able to experience all the things you’d like to.