The best unexpectedly romantic dates in Bend



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The best unexpectedly romantic dates in Bend

It’s the season of love, when Valentine’s Day looms like a heart-shaped balloon on the horizon, and Visit Bend lets me get gushy in a blog post.

As our resident romance author, I’ve got love on the brain 24/7. But this time of year prompts others to ponder riverfront marriage proposals, snowshoe weddings, and romantic smooches by Bend waterfalls.

And while all of that’s nice, I’m more smitten with unexpected romance. Those places and spaces you wouldn’t think romance blooms, but it springs from the ground like a cute desert sand lily, shakes off its petals, and shouts, “let’s get naked!”

Or something like that.

If you’re searching for romance in Bend, allow me to point you where you may not be looking.

Blogger Tawna and her husband enjoy a winter hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.
Blogger Tawna and her husband enjoy a winter hike in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

Seek out lesser-known hikes

Hiking in Bend gets my heart thumping, but I tend to skip the more popular spots. Central Oregon landmarks like Smith Rock and Tumalo Falls are lovely, it’s true, but this region boasts tons of trails you’ll have all to yourself this time of year.

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is my personal happy place, filled with ancient junipers and craggy volcanic formations that have endured way longer than your love. Even when cars fill the lot at the Flatiron Rock trailhead, hikers spread out rather quickly on these isolated trails. Find a solitary spot at Flatiron Rock itself and canoodle with a picnic, or stick with a shorter hike on the Ancient Juniper Loop.

I’m always surprised in winter months that LaPine State Park sees so few folks flocking to its trails. But Fall River Loop is one of those truly lovely trails packed with river views, dense forest, and plenty of spots to sneak off for a smooch.

When snow blankets Bend’s higher elevations, head for more desert-like spots like Steelhead Falls, Chimney Rock in the Crooked River Gorge, or one of my absolute favorites, the Tam a Lau Trail. You’ll score jaw-dropping views, plenty of privacy, and a unique adventure to tuck in your shared memory bank.

Tin Pan Theater in Downtown Bend, Oregon.
Check out the intimate seating offered at the Tin Pan Theater in Downtown Bend.

Snuggles and cinema!

The ol’ standby of dinner and a movie might seem cliche, but it’s common for a reason. Filling your belly at a Bend restaurant gets you feeling warm and fuzzy, but the movie itself? That’s where the magic comes in.

I love the big Regal Cinemas complex in the Old Mill District for blockbusters and new releases. But for a taste of romance, I prefer something more intimate.

My go-to in Bend is the cozy theater at McMenamins Old St. Francis where second-run movies and cozy couches create a comfy vibe for snuggling with your sweetheart. Order a basket of tots and a couple pints brought right to your seat, and get there early to snag the sweetest sofa.

The quaint renovated art house Tin Pan Theater offers more than just a cool, retro vibe. They also bring unique film experiences like Spaghetti Western Wednesdays, VHS nights, and screenings of indie films you can’t catch anywhere else in town. It’s the ultimate date night for artsy souls.

If you’re staying at Campfire Hotel (which I highly recommend!) check out their event calendar for unique cinematic experiences. They’re currently doing Dive-In Movies, a play on words to capture the fun of watching films from their heated pool. Drinks and food are available, and pool passes are required for non guests. Which means you may as well just stay and enjoy a romantic getaway at this unique Bend property!

The couple that learns together…um, burns together?

It may sound corny, but my husband and I make a point to take some kind of class together at least once a year. Sometimes it’s a Bend cooking class at the Kindred Creative Kitchen or Kara’s Kitchenware

Occasionally we’ll try something like a welding class or jewelry-making at DIY Cave. We also love woo-woo stuff like breathwork, qigong, and meditation and find ample cool offerings at Bend Community Healing and Blissful Heart Wellness Center. And don’t get me started on how much I loooooved our forest bath with R’oming Yoga.

Want to keep learning and growing with your beloved? Visit Bend’s event calendar is an excellent spot to start your search. Browse by date or by areas of interest to find the Bend event that’s right for you!

What a way to unwind! Enjoy the open-air saltwater soaking pool at McMenamins Old St. Francis.

Rub my butt?

I don’t love biking. There, I said it.

No one’s kicked me out of BikeTown USA yet, but it does sometimes feel like you’re required to love cycling as much as you love your honey in Bend. And if you love your honey’s hiney, why not seek excuses to soothe your sweetie’s saddle-sore bootie after a long bike ride? 

Book a fat biking adventure with Cog Wild and savor the unique experience of biking in snow. Winter’s also great for gravel cycling, which I’m told is absolutely epic in Bend. Mountain biking in Bend can also be fun this time of year, and chilly temps give you good reasons to warm each other along the way. Why not throw the bikes on the back of the car before driving to Bend for a romantic Valentine’s escape?

And after? As your loved one winces when sitting down for that candlelit dinner? Let him/her/them know you’ve booked a couples’ massage at a Bend day spa. For visitors to Bend, The NOW Massage is particularly great at squeezing in same-day appointments and last-minute requests.

If money’s tight (or if you just want your hands on that tight little tush you admired on a bike seat all day), head for Oregon Body and Bath where you can make your own custom blend of fragrance for a one-of-a-kind massage lotion. Now treat that tail to some TLC!

Stay indoors

I know Bend’s the ultimate outdoor adventure town, but hear me out—sometimes it’s nice when the weather sucks.

A few weeks ago when big storms blew through, my husband and I spent a blissful weekend snuggling by the fire, sipping wine, and watching the snow fall outside. In between storms, we’d stomp out on snowshoes to explore our winter wonderland before heading back to our cozy nest for comfort food—pizza, cookies, and takeout Thai.

It was honestly one of the loveliest weekends we’ve had in a long time. 

And I thought about all the folks visiting Bend for the weekend who maybe had plans to ski or bike or hike. Were they bummed? I’d like to think not. 

I’d like to think all of us welcomed the chance to slow down, get cozy, and savor the slow, romantic bliss of a winter weekend with nothing more pressing to do than throw another log on the fire and watch the snow fall softly outside.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!