The Night Time is the Right Time
Central Oregon is known for breathtaking Cascade Mountain views, Bend’s bustling downtown area, and over 300 days of sunshine. Even when long winter nights cut the days short, the high desert has a picturesque mountain sky and an entertaining mountain town experience. So, next time a cozy home fire tries to lure you into staying home, resist the urge and find out what the night has to offer.
A Night on the Town
If you’re in the mood to hit the town—or simply not cook—Bend’s restaurants, breweries, and nightlife await. Whether you choose downtown or the Old Mill District, there is something for everyone.
Icicles, sparkling from the streetlights’ glow, hang from storefronts and highlight the peacefulness of a mountain town blanketed in snow. Locals and tourists alike flock to the restaurants and bars—perhaps even on skis or fatbikes. Parents look to the sky in search of stars, while children try to catch snowflakes in their mouths. Inside, smiling faces, still buzzing from a full day on Mount Bachelor, huddle around small tables, listening to local musicians and sharing stories of the day’s conquests.
Start with dinner at local favorite Pine Tavern on Brooks Street. Built in 1936, the restaurant features cozy nooks and a giant Ponderosa pine tree growing in the center of the dining area. Aesthetics aside, hungry patrons flock the Pine Tavern for their hot scones and honey butter. After dinner, head east towards Bend’s subterranean restaurant, bar and venue, The Capitol, where bartenders mix tasty drink specials while the chef crafts small plates and dinners made from locally-sourced, organic ingredients.
End your evening with a whiskey, cigar, and the sounds of the Grateful Dead at O’Kanes pub, located in back of McMenamins Old St. Francis. Squeeze inside or sit outside beside one of their roaring fires. If you happen to find yourself on the first Friday of the month, simply wander the streets and check out the galleries for drinks, appetizers and local music at Bend’s First Friday Art Walk.
Another option is to head toward the lit smokestacks of the Old Mill District. Spend some time at the shops, grab some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, catch a movie, or take a class at REI. For those interested in some winter exercise, lace up your ice skates at the Simpson Pavilion.
Nights in the Wilderness
Adventurous souls looking to get in touch with their wild side should choose their sport—nordic skiing, snowshoeing or fatbiking—and head to one of Central Oregon’s more than a dozen backcountry shelters. One of the closest, Meissner Shelter at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park, has become a popular nighttime destination. If you’re tired of the bars on New Year’s Eve, snowshoe friends await with a fire and hot toddies (see this month’s Water & Woods department).
“Most people don’t know just how beautiful the sky is at night. Our guests go out under the light of the stars or moon and it’s truly magical.” Dave Nissen
Nordic skiers should consider joining Meissner Nordic and watch for their annual Luminaria. Each February—depending upon weather and snowpack—our local ski non-profit lines a ski trail to Meissner Shelter with luminaries (candle-filled bags). Music—perhaps even carolers—greets the skiers as they line their skis into the groomed tracks. It’s easy to find the shelter, as a dozen bonfires are spread out in a 100-yard radius around the shelter as kids, young and old, congregate around them.
For a more-organized outing, Central Oregon has several options. When Mother Nature cooperates, HooDoo Ski Area offers weekend night skiing at their Santiam Pass resort.
Continuing their goal of “inspiring people with the natural world,” Wanderlust Tours hosts several nighttime outings, including the popular moonlight canoe and moonlight snowshoe trips. Their Bonfire on the Snow trip boasts a snowshoe trek to a hand-carved amphitheater, complete with talks of constellations, desserts from Sparrow Bakery and warm drinks made with Bend Distillery’s Hazelnut Vodka.
“Most people don’t know just how beautiful the sky is at night,” says Wanderlust Tours Owner Dave Nissen. “Our guests go out under the light of the stars or moon and it’s truly magical.”
If all else fails—or your time is limited—simply bundle up, head out your door, and look to the sky. You provide the enthusiasm, the high desert will provide the stars.