I'm a Canon user and find them very easy to use. Their interfaces have improved through the last couple of years. Nikon makes great cameras, too. Between those two brands, I think you're getting the best quality of images for the best price. However, I agree with imfallen_ angel above — you need to go to a store and try different brands to see what feels best. If you're looking to stick to a budget of about $1,000, see if you can get a setup with a couple of lenses. If you can get a wide angle and a telephoto for under $1,000, you're pretty much set up for any shooting situation.
As far as Canon goes, I can recommend just about anything in the Rebel series. They're affordable, good quality cameras that I've used to shoot on assignments for newspapers and magazines when I first got started professionally. You can find them just about anywhere and they're pretty simple to figure out.
If you want a really good resource for camera reviews, check out www.dpreview.com. They've got a database with just about every camera on the market with comprehensive reviews.
However, a couple of warnings before you step into a store:
Don't get caught up in megapixels: They really aren't that big of a deal. Actually, with many cameras, the more pixels they cram in, the more likely your images could actually begin to deteriorate. Be careful with this. You really don't need 20+ megapixels unless you're shooting for billboards or you're really that picky about image detail.
Also, your camera should last for quite some time. You don't have to spend a lot of money in a camera body to get something good. If I were you, I'd spend about $800 on a camera and see if you can't find $400 or so to spend on a nice lens. Fixed aperture is nicer than variable, which will likely give you better luck shooting indoors or sports.
Maybe I got too detailed, but I love this stuff. Good luck!