When the lights go down, what can you do in Bend, Oregon? Plenty!
Bend is not Las Vegas.
This shouldn’t come as a shock unless you took a wrong turn on a road trip and you’re scratching your head in the middle of Wall Street wondering how to find Cirque du Soleil.
I can’t help you there, but I can say that while Bend isn’t packed with nightclubs and clanging slot machines, there’s still plenty to do after the sun goes down. Here are a few of my favorites…
Starry, starry night
Bend is a great place for stargazing.
During the winter months, Wanderlust has you covered with their Bonfire on the Snow tour, which lets you snowshoe to a quiet spot in the forest and bask in the glow of a bonfire in a gorgeous amphitheater hand-carved into the snow. They also offer terrific Moonlight & Starlight snowshoe tours.
If you’re up for a bit of a drive, the Pine Mountain Observatory is located 26 miles southeast of Bend. It’s operated by the University of Oregon physics department, and offers telescopes with apertures of 15, 24, and 32-inches. The facility is open to visitors Friday and Saturday evenings from late May late September, and fall programs kick off at 8 p.m. Be sure to go on a clear night, and get there early to snag a seat for the program. Keep in mind the facility is at 6,500 feet, so bring a hat and gloves.
The Sunriver Observatory is another great spot to stargaze. They have plenty of 8-30 inch diameter telescopes, and amateur astronomers are welcome to bring their own equipment. During the fall, they’re open Wednesday and Saturday nights September 6 through October 22 and night viewing takes place from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Eat, drink, and be merry
When I help journalists plan their stays in Bend, I almost always field questions about Bend’s bar scene. Though the Bend Ale Trail is a must for everyone looking to get their drink on, there are oodles of other options catering to the late crowd.
Some hotspots augment their regular early-evening happy hours with a second happy hour for the night owls. The Blacksmith offers one of my favorite happy hours in town from 4:30 to 6:30 Tuesday through Saturday (all day Sunday and Monday), with a second happy hour that goes from 9 p.m. to close and offers all the same tasty options. Try their mac & cheese or their ridiculously delicious sliders, and don’t forget to sample one of their super-creative cocktails.
For a slightly different scene catering to sports fans and hipsters who want to get funky on the dance floor, try Summit Saloon. They have live entertainment most nights of the week, plus a plethora of TVs tuned to sporting events. Hook me up with one of their delectable hummus plates and a mug of Guinness and I’m in heaven!
Take in a show
We’ve already established that Bend isn’t Vegas, so it’s also worth noting that Wall Street isn’t Broadway.
That doesn’t mean you can’t catch some magnificent live entertainment here. Bend is home to the Tower Theatre, a historic 466 seat venue that plays host to a wide variety of entertainment. The lineup for upcoming months is certainly a testament to that variety, so check out the website for the Tower Theatre for show times and ticket prices.
For a truly unique movie experience, check out the theater at McMenamims Old St. Francis School. There, you can cozy up on a couch with a slice of pizza and a pint of beer while you watch a recent-run film.
After the show, mosey outside to O’Kanes, which is one of my very favorite spots in Bend. Snuggle up beside one of their toasty fire pits and sip a beer under the stars – the perfect way to cap off your night on the town in Bend!