Like Bend, it provides visitors with a litany of recreational opportunities, fine food and impressive breweries. And it's beautiful, especially this time of year when many of the orchards begin to bloom - truly of the prettiest towns in our great Republic.
Unlike Bend, Hood River is green and lush and marked by rolling terrain. Such conditions apparently provide viticulturists with the right mix of sun, rain and soil because there is a heap of wineries in the region.
The fact that Hood River is an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive north from Bend makes it that much easier to like.
Pack the car and go for the weekend, or a week. Camp or stay in a B&B (the Panorama Lodge is tops - breakfast is pancakes with freshly harvested huckleberries enjoyed on a deck overlooking a Mt. Hood-framed valley). Bring bikes, running shoes, windsurfing stuff, kayaks, climbing gear, picnic fixin's and walking staff.
Below are some spots to put on the list.
Wy' East Vineyards on Hwy 35 has great wine, check out their 2008 Blue Chip Pinot Noir, which scored 89 points in Wine Advocate. Cathedral Ridge on Post Canyon Dr. was voted Oregon Winery of the Year in 2007 and, aside from fine wines, offers up one of the best picnic spots in the Northwest. Socially and environmentally conscience Springhouse Cellarshas good wine, a cool tasting room, and they sell refillable wine bottles that have a stopper top so you can bring them back for a refill from their tap.
If you live in the Northwest and drink beer you've no doubt put back a couple Full Sail brews. Located in downtown Hood River and established in 1987, it was around well before the craft brewing trend blew in. Also located downtown is Double Mountain Brewery, which serves up awesome pizza, live music, outside seating and their IRA (India Red Ale) and Vaporizer (dry-hopped pale ale) are hard to beat. Drink Everybody's beer, just across the Columbia River in White Salmon (and in the direction of the Syncline trail system), Everybody's brewing has good eats, beer and music. Try their Cash Stout, a hearty oatmeal stout that takes 100 pounds of flaked oatmeal to produce.
For trails, biking or otherwise, start at Post Canyon just west of town. With numerous spurs off the main trail, this area has something for everyone. Across the Columbia River is the Syncline trail network, which offers plenty of riding on trails sidecut into the hillside, obvious even from the Oregon side of the river. Sustained climbing affords riders great views and fun, moderately-technical descending - just watch out for the poison oak. Surveyors Ride, a shuttle ride, provides mountain bikers with a more woodsy riding feel and contains some technical bits with views of Mt. Hood. For a more casual trip, take the old highway - a roughly six-mile, scenic path between Hood River and Mosier reserved especially for cyclists and pedestrians - to the Thirsty Woman Pub, a small, funky little joint with an insane number of beers on tap. Enjoy a couple of pints and a burger and ride back to town. The journey is mellow enough to accomplish even with a mild buzz. Tamanawas Falls, off of Highway 35, is a popular but stunning hike. Catherine Creek, on the Washington side of the river, is a similarly well-known area, though more known for its wildflower viewing.
As far as restaurants in Hood River, try Nora's Table - pricier, yes, but you get what you pay for from this gourmet spot that offers a number of veggie and gluten-free dishes. Another good choice, though not so obvious, is the Riverside at the Best Western near the Hood River/White Salmon Bridge. Fresh ingredients, an expansive wine list, and a deck to dine on scores the Riverside high marks. Solstice Pizza across the river in Bingen is also good, offering wood-fired pizza in a kid-friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
Of course this is just a sampling. There's plenty more to do in the water, the hills and in town.