Bend, Oregon

December 16, 2010

America's best kept secret...

Writer and globe-trotter Aric S. Queen waxes lyrical about the virtues of Bend, Oregon, perhaps the greatest little city in America.

Bend. Bend. Bend.

I was sick of hearing about Bend.

Not because it didn’t sound like a wonderful place, I was just sick of hearing about what a wonderful place it was.

Through a random occurrence of a few absurdities, I found myself on a million-dollar bus traveling the States from coast-to-coast. If it was a highlight on any postcard, we visited it – the cheap sunset cocktails of Key West to the overpriced cocktails of Sunset Blvd… and everything in between. Yet nothing, even the Grand Canyon at 6am with warm cups of coffee could match up to Bend.

Or so said the two bus owners. And it got to be annoying. Nothing, no beer or meal, valley or beach could compare to Bend’s… and Bend doesn’t even have a beach, but that’s how bad it got.

So we went to Bend.

And brother, I have to tell you they were right.

It is, simply, the greatest city in America.

They asked me not to write about it, but were also the ones who wouldn’t shut up about it.

So there.

But let’s not look at this like every other ‘America’s Best City’ poll, with its ‘closest proximity to schools’ and ‘average income potential’ formulas – things like children and salaries are boring… let’s look at what Bend, Oregon simply is.

It’s gorgeous – set uniquely in Oregon’s high desert, but dwarfed by the majestic Cascade Mountain Range, not to mention the weather which rarely drops below 40 in the winter, nor above 83 in the summer. And if the weather ever does drop below/above those numbers, then everyone is given cake.

The food… and by ‘food’ I mean beer. If there was a zeitgeist of beer wonderfulness, Bend, Oregon would be… well, directly on the zeitgeist. Microbrews are taken as seriously as Gore-Tex and a simple walk down the Deschutes River – conveniently placed downtown – will tell you this quiet little town takes its hops seriously.

And the outdoors – look, I don’t know a lot about America’s ‘greenest’ city, but I would be willing to put Bend on the Top 5 List. Everyone you see is either hiking, jogging or riding their bike… and if they are driving, then you can be assured that secured somewhere on their vehicle is a hiking/jogging/bike-riding apparatus. Skiing, fishing and camping are not only expected, but required by local law to take part in. ‘It’s insane how many pro athletes retire here’, says a well-known television producer who asked to remain unnamed because she’s a well-known television producer. ‘ I’ve no idea how you’d look it up, but it’s nuts. Everyone, I mean everyone, is tall. Even the kids, offspring of the freaks of nature we watch on ESPN’.

Lastly – downtown. Old schoolhouses turned into beer gardens-slash-movie theatres and a huge outdoor area for the almost-shocking number of bands that insist on stopping for a few days between Portland and Seattle gigs. Record stores hidden between cafes and oven-baked pizza joints and would you believe a bar that has old school arcade games?

Look, I only spent a month or so there, but would ask you to experience the same thing I did… which means you need to read and re-read this little article ad nauseam until you actually go there. And then you too can tell people. And then all of those lucky ‘freaks’ in Bend will stop being so damn happy.

Comments (34)
  • the truth I love Bend, it is a beautiful town and the people here are great. There is tons to do especially if you love the outdoors. BUT finding a decent paying job here is nearly impossible and if you're over 30 and single, good luck with that too. Wed Nov 30, 2011
  • Barry The drug dealing in this town is out of control. Zombie like men on bikes are peddling meth like there's no end to the plentifulness, and there probably isn't. The homeless camps are not what they use to be, they are drug dens. The city officials need to take this seriously or all the wonderful people coming here for a safe and friendly place to live will make a mass exit and take their money and businesses with them. Thu Feb 10, 2011
  • sharon smith My husband I moved from Scottsdale, Arizona three years ago where the weather is warm year round. I wouldn't trade Bend's winter or residents for anything. As far as OG69's comment tirades, please, if you still live here, MOVE! Obviously you're an unhappy, sad, unfulfilled, ungrateful individual and I'm glad you're not my neighbor. This town is heaven on earth and FYI, the roads are always plowed, it was 54 degrees here today and everyone is loving it! Thu Jan 27, 2011
  • New Bend Resident & Recreation Enthusiast It's interesting to read all the comments. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (bigger city) and spent some vacations in the Bend/Central Oregon area. It was great as a kid and even better as an adult and parent. The last 13 years I lived in the Bay Area. That place was great too, but it quickly became a 'rat race' and the traffic was some of the worst I've seen. How would you like to commute 90 minutes each way? Bend's traffic consists of 5 cars at the Reed Market roundabout or Greenwood/3rd street light. Bend unaffordable? Consider the Bay Area. It's outrageous! Bend may not offer all the things you might find in a large city, but it certainly provides the quality of life I want for me and my family. Everyone is friendly. The recreation is second to none - great golf, biking, skiing, fishing. I do believe Bend's economy will bounce back because people can't stay away. Wed Jan 26, 2011
  • Kaitlyn G. Bend is refreshing and beautiful. I moved here from San Francisco a few months ago and am delighted to say I am staying. Just like other U.S. cities, Bend faces issues with unemployment and a down housing market. However, those who make it here, and love it here, are a resilient breed with a fervor for outdoor activities, artfully crafted beers, and the kind of culture where you can smile and say "hello" to perfect strangers. There are companies here, like where I work (G5) which pay well, are growing, and have an eye for driven and inspired professionals. It's refreshing to finally work at a company that I share values with: work-life balance, dare to dominate, get outside and have fun. Being surrounded by people with integrity, passion for life, gorgeous scenery AND world-class breweries is pretty rad. Period. Wed Jan 19, 2011
  • Loveski OK... We just bought a house on the West Side of Bend. We visited/researched the town extensively and have found no place that we would rather live. Crime? Is not hight for a city this size. More on the east side than the west. Is a very safe city to live in. However, with the housing devaluation, the east side will likely see some increase in crime. The vibe of the town is AMAZING!! I've pondered why this is, and this is how I see it. Bend is not a place anyone can live. It is a place where you must be innovative and motivated and very good at what you do in order to carve out a living. Or you must have been prosperous before moving here. This tends to funnel those types of personalities to Here. Motivated, in charge of their destiny, intelligent, high on life types. In my opinion, this is why there are so many smiling people here (on the west side anyway). Bend does not only Breed them, it attracts them as well. Weather: Here are the facts. Summer average high 82*, Low 42*. Winter Average high 42*, Low 22*. The temps will generally have swings 18* above and below these norms each season for small lengths of time. Take if for what you will. We LOVE this kind of weather, but some folks think it is too cold. Must not be skiers. Oh, by the way, winter humidity levels are not too low and summer humidity is not too high. Averages around 20%. Nice and dry so 85* is very comfortable. If you visit Bend's West Side, pay attention to the smiles. It's pretty amazing the vital energy given off by people of all ages here. If you love the outdoors, are active and strive to choose your path in life, rather than have it chosen for you, you will LOVE Bend. It IS an amazing (however not perfect as perfection does not exist) place! Wed Jan 19, 2011
  • Amanda P Indeed, Bend is a wonderful place. Which is why we're so fortunate to have entrepreneurs and tech CEOs moving here from the Silicon Valley to start companies like G5, a company that received $15 Million in venture capital over the summer, has almost doubled its workforce in the past six months with over 100 employees making a good wage and building thriving careers, and has hired 90% of its workforce locally. Bend has its charm, beauty and beer to thank for attracting these visionary dreamers determined to forge a career path in Bend - and we have them to thank for making their dream come true for those who are fortunate enough to get hired by them. Here is a list of other tech/green/healthcare companies who have recently received funding and/or are thriving in this economy. If you want a job here, check them out: Bend Research Proxense Clear Catheter Systems Manzama StreamIT Atlas Guides Five Talent Software PV Powered Sunlight Solar Element One Vulcan Power Davenport Newberry Medisys GL Solutions Tue Jan 11, 2011
  • Read this. It’s good. [...] EDIT: Check out this one too!! Bend, Oregon » Converse [...] Sun Jan 09, 2011
  • bendite from birth I think it is great people are moving to Bend, hope that brings money into the city, it is really needed there. I remember the days when Bend would get below zero at night and never out of the teens for 2 weeks in the winter. Always below 30 degrees at night from October to March. Remember back in 92 when I had 3 feet of snow in my back yard for three month, and then the winter of 95, another bad one. The crime rate definitely is bad as all cities with 80,000+ living in the small square miles of city limits. The problem I have is, I remember Bend when the population was 5,500 then 12,000 then 17,000 then 19,000 then 25,000 then 35,000 people just at the end of the Nineties and there was no crime when my police officer friends did not have to draw there gun on somebody which can be a daily occurrence due to the meth problem. Sun Jan 09, 2011
  • aric s. queen wow. first things first: crime?! in Bend? you're nuts. there is none. am guessing you're a diehard Bendite who's trying to dissuade people from moving here. employment is hard to find? I agree with this. because everyone clued in a few years ago to move there. I actually like that Bend isn't caving to the usual needs of expansion. the weather... I have gotten more slack from this comment than anything. does it drop below 40? yes. sometimes. when it snows. but look at any forecast online and it backs that up. and I'm serious about the free cake - although, I'm pretty sure it's gluten free and they make you hike up Pilot Butte to get it. I can tell you this, you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer city. people want to live here and are happy that they do. everyone gets along and if a car horn honks, most people will bet their hiking boots that it came from a car with a California license plate. Bend is the best American town I've ever experienced... so much so that 3 months after writing this piece, I moved here. Sat Jan 08, 2011
  • bendite from birth Born and raised in Bend for 43 years. I moved from Bend in April 2010 due to the poor economy in Bend, Bend is definitely not the nice little community it was for so long, I totally agree with ogie69, pay is way below average. I am making over five dollars more per hour than the job I had in Bend for years. My new employer in another city in Oregon is paying me entry level wage!I have numerous friends that are Bend Police and county sheriff and say Bends crime rate per ca pita is very high. Checked it out on line and here's info from 2008. CRIME INDEX for Bend is an 8, 100 is safest. Bend is safer than 8% of the cities in the US. Just last week they had numerous armed robberies in ONE day! Although there are certain things in Bend that are appealing, cost of living is not one of them. Ogie69 and Donna K has it totally right! Bend grew way to fast. Fri Jan 07, 2011
  • Urban Dictionary Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • LGM Beauty is fleeting. Dumb is forever. And the city officials in Bend are the dumbest of the lot. They are wasting away any chance of recovery by blowing every opportunity presented to the city for economic growth and forward movement. And the citizens are getting pissed. We, the residents of Bend, are on the precipice of something huge... Save our city, or go down with the ship. We need to invest in growing industries, like green energy manufacturing plants or bringing a university to our town, not mull over the dead ones like real estate and construction. We have enough infrastructure in this town to last us for the next millennium and then some. Wake up Bend, OR... "What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind..." Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • leslynch i lived in bend during my high school years. i have fond memories, of the people, my classmates, fishing, and hiking the cascades. my father owned mid oregon masonry, (MOM) for short, and had the opportunity to help build a good portion of the town. i now live in salt lake, which has many of the same charms as bend, just on a larger scale. and if i had my choice.....i would move back to a town called bend oregon. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • b i have been talking about Bend since my hubby and i vised our nephew and family there a few years back. absolutely one of the best cities in the country. i would move there in a heartbeat. here's to you Nephew Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Jodie Barram Protecting her natural beauty... Promoting her businesses... Pursuing her goals... Planning for her future... and Partnering with those who hold her interests above their own... This is how we love our Bend. She is not perfect, and we don't love her less for it. We cherish her, nuture her, and you bet we take pride in her. She is ours and we are honored to share her. We expect once you see her immeasurable qualities, you may fall in love with her too. That's okay. It happens. A lot. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • bendrealtor Bend is beautiful, and yes, as some posts have pointed out we have some issues right now. But what small community in the country doesn't? If you love the outdoors, no traffic jams, great people, great food and great beer, then Bend is the place for you. And if you happen to be one of the few who has a good paying job, or has always wanted a second home here; there is no better time than now to buy! Find me on my blog at Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Derf Never drops below 40 in the winter? WTF is that about? I'm gonna call BS on that. It would have been more accurate to say, "Rarely hits -10F in the winter." And as other comments have stated, it is a great place to visit. But if you need to make a living, good luck. Back in the day, they called it poverty with a view. Now that the housing boom is over, it seems to be slowly slipping back to that. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Bender Too bad ogie doesn't like Bend. Ogie feel free to move. Crime is not on the rise (check the stats) and the city does plow the streets. Businesses closing left and right? Child please! Downtown is 90% occupied with great restuarants and businesses. Deschutes Brewery just announced an expansion downtown. No, Bend aint' perfect, but ogie, it's not anything like you make it out to be. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Oregon Friend It is unbelievably inspiring to soak in the postcard views en route to the grocery store, but the people seem to be what makes Bend so wonderful. Strangers who stop and wait for you to cross the street, even in the middle of a block. Neighbors who offer to pick you up from the airport. I think the beauty and outdoor recreation attract and reinforce a certain "healthy living" attitude, despite the admittedly horrid economy. (I must be in a safe part of town bc we witness very little crime!) A significant shortcoming in my mind is a lack of diversity: Bend is overwhelmingly white. This is probably due to Oregon's history, but I certainly crave Portland's mix of colors, orientations, etc. Only time I see glorious diversity is our annual Procession of the Species parade on Earth Day. We've been here 4 years andnever want to leave. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Jim Weaver You see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear/More than one thing can be true. Yes, the economy--which means many individual lives--are hugely challenged, especially as a backlash effect of the housing boom. Yet it is also true that the people in Bend are remarkably friendly and resilient and and the area uniquely beautiful. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Shane Like any place along the coast Bend was kicked hard by the criminal acts leading to the depression we're now experiencing. The whole thing will continue with little hope of change. So if you want to move to a beautiful ghost town to retire this is going to be one. There are already a lot of them springing up all over the country. Northern Fla., North Carolina coastal area villages, Small towns throughout the Midwest and central U.S. This is not going to stop so make adjustments and stop believing the hype about the economy improving 'cause it ain't!! The only people making money are the corporations who are hiring greater than 90% of their new employees from out of this country and selling their products off-shore as well. It's not coming back here, any of it. So good luck. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • ogie69 I don't want trash Bend. It is absolutely beautiful and there are tons of things to do. I wish and hope for the best for Bend and I really want to stay here. Good luck to everyone here! Oh and sorry for the double post! Thought I deleted the first one accidentally... Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Jane Williamson I've lived in Bend for 35 years and feel it is even better than described. Sure, we're going through a tough time right now, but we went through it in 1982 too, and we survived and then bloomed! It's a great place to raise a family, start a business, and be involved in the community! People are healthy and positive about their lot in life. And why not? They can just step out their door and see beauty all around them! Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • DonnaK ,I have been a resident of Bend for over six years and cannot argue the beauty of the surroundings, the proliferation of microbrews, the good/great food, the abundance of year-round outdoor activities. However, the idyllic landscape is NOT Nirvana for all of us. It regularly goes well below 40 degrees approx eight or nine months a year. Although we live in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor, it is one of the more expensive hills to ride/ski. NOT affordable for the vast majority of us who are scraping by in what is arguably one of the most depressed regions in Oregon. As for the economic landscape, employment is scarce and well paying jobs are extremely difficult to obtain especially since the once booming real estate market tanked. It took many contractors and others associated with residential/commercial construction down and they have left town. Many have lost investment properties as well as their primary homes. If none of this deters you, this would be an opportunity to buy into the Bend "dream". , Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Justin Estell We (wife, 2 daughters and myself) had the honor of living there for a few years and everyday we've been gone....we've regretted leaving. EVERYDAY. It is definitely the best place ever. SHHHHHHH! Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Sydney I live here and while it is beautiful it is usually around 30 in the winter and last week had an average of about 15...still great weather for skate skiing! Or a movie and a beer at McMenamins :) Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • ogie69 I couldn't agree less. I have lived in Bend for six months having moved here from a major metro area with the same disillusionment as the author here. Unemployment is double the national rate and the few jobs there are pay nothing, the city is broke, there is no city sales tax so there is no hope of it getting un-broke and crime is palpably on the rise due to a growing meth problem symptomatic of a declining city. Bend is in serious trouble and the fantasy is going end soon unless the city gets some serious help. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Emily And I live there!!! Here! In Bend! I moved here 6 years ago from California like so many people and I LOVE it! Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • ogie69 Sadly I have not had the same experience in Bend. It is in a postcard beautiful setting and downtown is quaint but...I have lived in Bend since Aug 2010 and have found out the hard way that unemployment is probably double the national percentages, crime is on the rise (I have been robbed and stolen from, there have been 4 murders in 6 months), the city is broke (they can't even afford to plow the roads) and wages for the few jobs that do exist for skilled workers pay little more than minimum wage ( $12 to $15 ph for journeyman level experienced labor and the employers think that its ok). Restaurants and businesses are closing left and right, the roads are in atrocious condition due to the constant freezing and thawing with no prayer of being repaired due to no money! Unless Bend gets some serious help it will become a broken ghost town that no one will want to visit. It's a wonderful place if you are wealthy or retired but to hammer out a living, forget about it. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Jill Rosell If you want to see viually how beautiful Bend really is and what Bend is all about come check out. I LOVE BEND OR facebook page.... daily images of people and places of Bend are shared. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • boomer true dat. bend is a surreally happy place to be. and i've never been to a city where the locals LOVE their city so much. "bend pride" is intense, and certainly justified. Thu Jan 06, 2011
  • Rumput lia'r Ktka Thu Dec 23, 2010
  • Sophie Beautiful! Now I want to visit sooo bad! It reminds me of my hometown years back. Thu Dec 23, 2010
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