Sophisticated and Trendy, Bend, Oregon is Nestled Amid Breathtaking Mountain Scenery and Beckons to Retirees Seeking an Active, Healthy Lifestyle
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Beautiful Bend (population 95,000) is in scenic central Oregon, east of the Cascade Mountain Range and along the Deschutes River where the Great Basin high desert meets a towering pine forest. Founded as a logging town in 1905, today Bend is an artsy, trendy mountain metropolis. It is a gateway to popular, awe-inspiring outdoor recreation areas where "Bendites" partake in everything from rafting and skiing to camping and bicycling. Bend has also gained a reputation as a cultural hub for central Oregon and has grown 18% within the last decade. Tourists, families, professionals, tech types, business owners and retirees are all drawn here.
The city's remote location contributes to its cost of living 32% above the national average, but as the locals say, "If you visit Bend, you will stay in Bend." Politics lean to the left, and 35% of the locals are age 45 or better. Forty two percent have at least a four year college degree. Racial diversity is minimal. The crime rate is below the national average.
The median home price is $750,000, reflecting a 31% increase since a year ago. Neighborhoods are well-maintained and sprinkled with pine trees. Housing stock includes chalets, cabins, Craftsmans, bungalows, raised ranch ramblers, condos, town homes, riverfront properties and 20-acre ranches. Generally speaking, the west side of the city is more upscale than the east side.
Oregon is somewhat friendly when it comes to taxes and retirement. Social Security is not taxed, but withdrawls on other retirement income, except Railroad Retirement income, is taxed at up to 9.9%. Depending on income, some retirees may be entitled to a 9% tax credit. The state does not offer a homestead exemption, but residents age 62 or better may defer property taxes if their annual income is less than $46,500. The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Bend is .85%. The annual taxes on a $750,000 home are approximately $6,375. On the good side, Oregon has no sales tax.
Bendites can never complain of not having enough to do. More than two million acres of public lands are within an hour's drive of the city, and the Deschutes River runs through many of them. Whether skiing down Mount Bachelor, hiking in the Cascades, rafting on the Deschutes or just enjoying the solitude of one of four nearby national forests, Bendites worship the outdoors and revel in a healthy lifestyle.
In particular, this area is a cyclist's dream, and world-class fly fishing brings in anglers from around the region. Within city limits alone, there are 48 miles of walking and bicycling trails and 71 parks, including Drake Park, a soothing green oasis along the river. For the less athletically inclined, the Cascade Lakes Highway is a great way to view the Cascades, majestic Mt. Bachelor and sparkling lakes via automobile.
Although the outdoor adventure lifestyle is king here, Bendites also enjoy a rich menu of cultural events, including wine tastings and festivals such as the acclaimed Bend Film Festival, now in its 15th year. Central Oregon Symphony is comprised of volunteers and presents a robust performance schedule. First Friday Art Walks each month and free summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are always popular. The BMC Cascade Cycling Classic, WinterFest and Balloons Over Bend attract sizable crowds.
Another of Bend's highlights is its compact, eclectic downtown, home to art galleries, swanky restaurants, dinner clubs, trendy retailers, bookstores, day spas, cafes, boutiques, the historic Tower Theatre and the "eco-chic" Oxford Hotel. The Old Mill District is appealing, too. This 270-acre mixed use development, on the site of an old sawmill, boasts shops, restaurants, housing, a 96-room inn and some breathtaking views of the Cascades.
Cascade Village Shopping Center boasts Best Buy and Trader Joe's, while the Bend River Promenade has Macy's and TJ Maxx. Bend is also proud of its five microbreweries. Nothing is better than sipping a cool brew at an outdoor cafe along the river after a hard day of hiking or fishing.
The city has a definite bent toward "green" practices, making it easy to find environmentally-friendly merchants. There are numerous small groceries with locally grown food, and the Bend Farmers' Market is a hoppin' place. And while not "green," Walmart has a presence here, too.
Bend's library, the Deschutes Public Library, has a bookmobile, public computers with Internet access and a program called Second Sunday, in which regional writers and poets read from their works. Oregon State University also has a small Bend campus (550 students)
Saint Charles Medical Center is a Level II trauma center is award-winning for clinical excellence, patient safety, women's healthcare and emergency medicine. It is also accredited by the Joint Commission and accepts Medicare patients. For military retirees, Bend has a VA outpatient clinic, but the closest VA hospital is 210 miles away in Roseburg, Oregon.
Cascade Area Transit provides limited fixed route bus service, and there is a call ahead Dial-a-Ride service. Bend sits along US Highway 97, a primary north/south route, and along State Highway 20, a major east/west road. The Pacific Ocean is five hours to the west.
The Bend Senior Center is managed by the Parks and Recreation Department and has classes, lunches, blood pressure clinics, trips, holiday parties and more.
People usually think of Oregon as rainy and wet, but Bend sits at 3,630 feet above sea level and is protected by the Cascades. On average, the city receives just 11 inches of rain and 32 inches of snow per year (the surrounding volcanic mountains receive much more of the white stuff). Summer temperatures are in the 60s, 70s and low 80s (and nights are cool). Winter temperatures are in the 20s, 30s and 40s. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Bend comes in well above the national average. The sun shines 175 days of the year, and sunsets over the Cascades are spectacular.
There are a few drawbacks to a Bend retirement. Tourists, many seeking outdoor thrills, flock here all year (but primarily during the summer months). Even though the city sits along two well-maintained highways, it can feel isolated. Growth has put a strain on some local services, creating traffic hassels and some urban sprawl. Long time residents occasionally grumble that their pretty town has been "discovered" and are not happy with the influx of newcomers, many of whom are wealthy Californians. Others say that the city is pretentious, overgrown and over-priced.
Despite these downsides, Bend still beckons with its sophisticated ambiance, dramatic scenery and rich quality of life. It is a vibrant city, a place where one can ski in the morning, golf in the afternoon and attend a symphony in the evening. For many a retiree, it does not get much better than Bend.
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