Quick Getaway to Bend, OR
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Quick Getaway to Bend, OR

Jonathan Sprague Mountain High Volcanoes shaped Smith Rock, just north of town, millennia ago; today, it's a climbers' mecca Jonathan Sprague
With superb new restaurants, galleries, and a slew of rated golf courses, high-desert Bend, Oregon, has graduated from dusty crossroads to bona fide destination. Three days—and this itinerary—will let you do the town.

Day One

CHECK IN Sunriver Resort (800/547-3922 or 541/593-1000; www.sunriver-resort.com; doubles from $165), 15 miles south of town, has it all: a stately lodge, three golf courses (including Crosswater, the top-ranked course in central Oregon, designed by Robert Cupp), tennis courts, swimming pools, and a full-service spa. Smaller and quirkier, McMenamins Old St. Francis Hotel (700 N.W. Bond St.; 877/661-4228 or 541/382-5174; www.mcmenamins.com; doubles from $94) is a converted 1936 elementary school with 17 guest rooms and four rental cottages—plus a microbrewery, restaurant, and movie theater—right in the center of Bend.

GO FISH/TEE OFF Fly fisherman Peter Bowers, owner of the Patient Angler (822 S.E. Third St.; 541/389-6208; fly-fishing 101 lesson $50), swears that what he'll teach you in a 90-minute crash course would take you three years to learn on your own; when you're done, he'll set you up with a rod, reel, and map of the best local holes. Golfers can make for Widgi Creek (18707 S.W. Century Dr.; 541/382-4449; www.widgi.com; greens fee $75), a course designed by Robert Muir Graves that meanders among pines in scenic Deschutes National Forest.

DINE Jody Denton left his Bay Area restaurant empire (Lulu, Azie) in 2001 and came to Bend to open Merenda (900 N.W. Wall St.; 541/330-2304; dinner for two $70). The menu features rustic French and Italian dishes, with nightly specials from the wood-fired oven. It's one of the few restaurants in Oregon that serves more than 100 wines by the glass.

HIT THE BAR Bendistillery (850 N.W. Brooks St.; 541/318-0200) is an intimate space for sinking into a plush velvet armchair and sipping a DesertJuniperGin martini.

Day Two

CAVE IN When the sun comes up, it's time to go underground: Wanderlust Tours (143 S.W. Cleveland Ave.; 541/389-8359; www.wanderlusttours.com; half-day cave tours $42) leads daily excursions to Boyd Cave, an 1,800-foot-long lava tube that snakes beneath the desert floor.

SHOP Forgot your hiking shoes?Need a pair of waterproof fishing pants?Head to the Old Mill District (Powerhouse Dr. and S.W. Bond St.; 541/312-0131; www.theoldmill.com), where there are vast outposts of REI and Helly Hansen, as well as one-off boutiques like Vanilla (should your needs run more to Cosabella lingerie) and Dieci Soli (for covetable Provençal faïence and Umbrian majolica).

CLIMB A ROCK The guides at First Ascent (8283 11th St., Terrabone; 541/548-5137; www.goclimbing.com; half-day lesson $95 per person, minimum class size four) will teach you the ABCs of climbing on the dramatic spires of Smith Rock, located just north of town.

DINE Texan transplant Gavin McMichael transformed a 1923 smithy into the upscale Blacksmith (211 N.W. Greenwood Ave.; 541/318-0588; dinner for two $64), which turns out what he has dubbed "new ranch cuisine." Try his Not Your Mother's Meat Loaf— a sculpted cube bathed in a demi-glace of fire-roasted tomatoes.

SEE STARS At 8 p.m., Bob Grossfeld, Sunriver's astronomer in residence, flicks a switch and retracts the roof of the Sunriver Observatory (541/598-4406; www.sunrivernaturecenter.org; viewing 8–10 p.m. on Saturdays, $6). Sidle up to one of 20 telescopes for a whole new take on the Milky Way.

Day Three

GET WET Sun Country Tours (531 S.W. 13th St.; 541/382-6277; www.suncountrytours.com; $43) sends 20,000 people a year down the Big Eddy Thriller, a three-mile, roller coaster–like white-water stretch of the Deschutes River. If tranquil water is more your speed, hire a guide at Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe (805 S.W. Industrial Way; 541/317-9407; www.aldercreek.com; guided trips $60) and the only splashes you'll hear will be the ones your paddles make.

HIT THE SLOPES Don't leave Bend without visiting Mount Bachelor (800/829-2442; www.mtbachelor.com), which consistently tops ski bibles' lists of the finest peaks in the Northwest. In April, the powder is still deep and fine; a full-day lift ticket is $49.

DINE While the atmosphere at Café Rosemary (1110 N.W. Newport Ave.; 541/ 317-0276; dinner for two $100) is quiet and romantic, the food is anything but. Sample certifiably wild entrées, from Muscovy duck breast in an orange marmalade sauce with duck confit to the mixed-game sampler—a mountain of boar sausages, rattlesnake, rabbit, medallion of elk, and ostrich with blackberry-juniper jus.

CATCH A SHOW Bend's cultural nexus is the Tower Theatre (835 N.W. Wall St.; 541/ 317-0700; www.towertheatre.org), a venue worth checking out any time of the year for eclectic dance, live theater, and performance goings-on that draw audiences from all over central Oregon. Portland retro-swing band Pink Martini is one of several noteworthy acts lined up for April.

GETTING THERE United flies direct to Bend's Redmond Airport from Portland and San Francisco; Delta connects from Salt Lake City RESOURCES Bend Tourism (www.visitbend.com) FUN FACTS Since 1990, Bend's population has exploded from 20,000 to 70,328; it's Oregon's largest city east of the Cascade Mountains, with more restaurants per capita than Portland

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