Tawna’s top 10 Bend experiences for visitors
This weekend, my cousin and his wife are coming to Bend for a visit. It’s a trip they make once or twice a year, and I always get giddy with the planning. What shall we do? Where should we go? And most importantly, what might we drink?
It dawned on me the other day this shouldn’t be a stressful thing for me. After all, answering those questions for visitors and journalists is what I do for a living.
Since blog readers might benefit from my suggestions as well, I wanted to share a few. While it’s unlikely you can fit all these things in on a weekend trip, I recommend trying a few if you can:
- The Bend Ale Trail. Bend’s beer culture and the craft beer scene has exploded in recent years, and beer tourism has become a big draw for visitors. The result is our popular Bend Ale Trail, which currently includes 8 local breweries and a few others that aren’t technically part of the Bend Ale Trail yet, but still worth visiting. Using your Bend Ale Trail passport and/or a free app for your iPhone or Droid, you can navigate between the breweries sampling beer, learning about the brewing process, and earning prizes for visiting them all. Though it’s possible to walk or bike between breweries, I recommend a tour with The Bend Brew Bus from Wanderlust tours, or a horse-drawn brewery tour with Cowboy Carriage. There’s also Cycle Pub, which is a peculiar bike/bar hybrid that lets people peddle their way between brewery stops.
- Dogsledding! Central Oregon is home to four-time Iditarod musher Rachel Scdoris (a legally blind competitor who fought for the right to run the Iditarod). During the winter months, she and her father offer dogsled rides through the snow on Mt. Bachelor. They do a shortened version of this in a wheeled cart over dirt trails during the summer.
- Roundabout Art Route.The Roundabout Art Route is a collection of over 20 pieces of public art on display throughout the city in the most unlikely places – at the center of Bend’s traffic circles. In 2005, Americans for the Arts named Bend’s public art collection “one of the most innovative approaches to public art in the country.” The Roundabout Art Route offers a way for visitors to navigate between the pieces and earn prizes for visiting them and answering trivia questions.
- Lava, lava everywhere! Bend is a highly volcanic region, which means there are tons of unique landscapes to see while you’re here. You can do a Volcano Tour with Wanderlust Tours (depending on season) or opt to set out on your own to explore The Oregon Badlands Wilderness. You could also visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument to explore the visitor center, enjoy interpretive presentations, or even check out the lava caves. Keep in mind, some of the Newberry hotspots are closed for winter, so be sure to check that link before venturing out this time of year. In summertime though, everything’s fair game!
- The High Desert Museum. When I suggest this option to visitors unfamiliar with this cornerstone of Bend culture, the reaction is sometimes a bit ho-hum. But every time I’ve taken ambivalent visitors here, the first thing they say when we walk out is, “that was nothing like any museum I’ve ever been to!” Exactly. Think of it less like a museum and more like a fun-house packed with amazing wild animals, unique exhibits, and interactive living history. I’ve lived in Bend 14 years, and never get tired of going here.
- Goody’s Factory Tour. Goody’s has been a Central Oregon staple since 1984, offering chocolate, candy, and homemade ice cream. They recently opened a new factory and began offering tours, and Frommer’s immediately named it one of the nation’s top ten ice cream factory tours. It’s a super-quick tour you can knock out in 30 minutes or less, so it’s nice to fit in between other adventures.
- Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. If you’re looking for a gorgeous drive that will provide your fill of Central Oregon scenery ranging from alpine lakes to sprawling meadows to lava cliffs to snow-capped mountains, this is THE drive to take. It’s approximately 66 miles and you can choose to do it all or just a little. There are some winter road closures in place that affect accessibility, so check that link in the title before you start driving.
- The Well Traveled Fork. These guys have several cool offerings on the culinary tourism front, but my favorite is the Farm and Ranch Tour. This half-day adventure gives you an up-close look at local organic farms, an alpaca ranch, a vineyard, a cattle ranch, and more. It’s a cool chance to see some gorgeous local scenery, and also learn how local farmers and ranchers are making the most of Central Oregon’s unique high desert climate.
- Smith Rock State Park. Technically, this is Terrebonne and not Bend, but it’s a very short drive and well worth seeing since there’s nothing else like it in the entire state. Smith Rock encompasses 651 acres on the Oregon high desert plateau, which is about 3,000 feet in elevation. It offers endless hiking, climbing, sightseeing, trail running, and horseback riding.
- Snowshoeing, Kayaking, or Caving? I truly can’t say enough great things about the offerings from Wanderlust Tours. They do everything from starlight canoe/kayak trips to cave tours to snowshoe adventures. Aside from their outdoorsy offerings, they also have The Bend Brew Bus (a great way to hit four stops on The Bend Ale Trail) or The Local Pour (a new tour offering that lets you scope out one brewery, one winery, and one distillery). Every trip you take to Bend should include one tour from Wanderlust. Period.
That does it for my tips. Did I miss anything you think should be an absolute staple? Please share!