5 things you need to know about Sisters, Oregon: The best kept secret in America?

When driving through Central Oregon, one may pass through a town by the name of Sisters. Anchored by two golf courses and sitting about 30 minutes from Bend, it’s the quintessential American drive-thru that you’ve head of; some six million cars passing through the town a year. It’s a town that has seen its economy focus over the last century or so from sheep, to cattle, to timber and now to tourism, taking advantage of the influx of passersby the city sees every day. And with Central Oregon known for offering some 300 days of sunshine a year, even the most transient of visitors have little excuse not to get out of their cars and explore the area. They might even want to stay a while…

Here’s five things you need to know about what just might be the best kept secret in America…

The “Western Theme” is Literally in the Town Charter

About 40 years ago, in a bid to encourage tourists driving through the area, the Black Buke Ranch? encouraged all the store fronts in the area to adopt a Western theme. Given the town had burnt down in the 1920s, with only 6 buildings from that period surviving, most of the fronts were, at the time, more modern. But they agreed, and the aesthetic change did the trick – so much so in fact, it’s now in the town charter that you can’t operate a business in Sisters unless you adopt the Western theme. Can you blame em?

Everything is “Local Family Run”, even the chain hotel…

Pretty much every business in town paints themselves as being run by a local family. With only 2,000 residents, it feels like just about everyone who lives here owns and operates their own business! There are five hotels in town, and even the Best Western is owned by a local family. The hotel is also notable as the rooms are filled with furniture built with 300 year old pine that made up the old school that was knocked down. There’s also the Suttle Lodge, which is brought to you by the people behind the Ace Hotel.

The Hoodoo Ski Resort is also family run, and you’ll find 10 art galleries within a small radius. The famous Sisters Coffee is family owned and operated, and so is the Cottonwood Cafe, a French restaurant which is open for breakfast and lunch. They serve phenomenal breakfast all day, and lunch comes in from 11am. The Eggs Benedict smelt and tasted so divine I started eating it before I had the photo. And if you didn’t take a photo, did you even eat?

A hub of festival activity

The town with a population of some 2,000 people welcomes in over 100,000 dedicated tourists for events in the Summer alone. There’s the Sisters Folk Festival in September, the Harvest Festival in October, a week long Rodeo in June that’s now in its 77th year… ut perhaps it’s most famous for its Outdoor Quilt Show in July, largest outdoor quilt show in the world. It’s been running for some 43 Years, and sees over 1200 quilts come in from all over the world. In the first year they had only 12!

Beer lovers can “Hop in the Spa”

The name of this business is so genius it deserved a headline of its own. A spa, where you bathe in beer, dubbed Hop in the Spa, exists in Sisters – and I’m told people will travel to the town just for the experience. Their websites says “Hop In The Spa Microbrew Soaks use a combination of hops, herbs, minerals and other proprietary ingredients. These ingredients along with variable water temperatures provide the Hop HydroTherapy experience that only our customers enjoy. This experience is unique at Hop In The Spa as it was designed to provide a relaxing therapeutic treatment unlike any other in the world.”

They also have America’s First Deschutes Brewery Beer Garden, and look out for some delightful names for their treatments like the “JubleAle Soak”. You can sign us right up for that… Elsewhere you’ll find a gin distillery (Cascade) and a Brewery (Three Creeks) too!

It’s dubbed “The Gateway To Central Oregon”

Sisters brands itself as “The Gateway to Central Oregon”, which is a 1.6 million-acre region full of falls and trails, fly fishing, skiing and tonnes of outdoor activities – plenty within close proximity to the centre of the town. I spent some time in the beautiful Deschutes National Forest. From the store fronts, through to the amazing nature at its doorstep, this really is a place you come to for the scenery.

Feel the serenity.

To learn more about Sisters, check out the Sisters Country Mobile App, that gives you more of a history of this iconic town, plus trail maps, wildlife information, hiking destinations and more.

The author spent an afternoon in Sisters travelling from Bend to Portland as a guest of Travel Portland. While in Bend, he stayed at the “Boutique Eco-Chic” Oxford Hotel


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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