What to do during rare, rainy days in Bend, Oregon
I grew up on the wet side of Oregon, so when I moved to Bend 14 years ago, my goal was simple: GET OUT OF THE RAIN.
Mission accomplished! Bend’s refreshing lack of the soggy stuff is so noticeable, I find myself enjoying the rare occasions it does rain.
But I can sympathize with those who flee the valley for a dry vacation and end up here during one of our rare rainy periods. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite rainy day activities in Bend:
Even when it’s pouring outside, it’s always dry underground! Wanderlust Tours is in high demand for snowshoe tours this time of year, but their Lava Cave Tour is the perfect option for drizzly afternoons. This half-day tour kicks off twice a day at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The caves are a constant 45-degrees, and each tour is led by an uber-knowledgeable naturalist guide.
Since Wanderlust is the only guide company permitted in these lava caves, you’ll get glimpses of rock formations and landscapes you’d never see on your own. The tours are $55 for adults and $50 for kids under 12, and include your guide, gear, and instruction.
If underground exploration isn’t your thing, consider a visit to Cascade Indoor Sports. They’re offering special holiday hours for indoor skating, which means you can plan your skating for afternoon or evening. The $8 general admission includes skate rental, or skate for just $5 if you bring your own equipment. Kids 5-8 skate for $5, or it’s free for those under 5.
For more good times with the family, check out Sun Mountain Fun Center. Choose from bowling, arcade games, billiards, or bumper cars. In between cloudbursts, you can even take a shot at mini-golf. I’m a big fan of the pizza they serve in the café, and they also serve beer and wine for the adults.
Be a little lazy
Few things feel better on a lazy, rainy day than a dip in the soaking pool at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Semi-enclosed in shimmering turquoise tile work, this lovely, non-chlorinated saltwater pool makes for a lovely (and buoyant!) soak. You can admire the stained glass window or watch the rain fall through the open ceiling.
The pool is free for overnight guests, or just $5 for non-guests. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the general public, with slightly different hours for minors or hotel guests. Don’t forget to grab a pint of suds in the Fireside Bar before you leave, or make an evening of it by curling up on one of their theatre sofas and catching a movie.
When you’ve had your fill of McMenamins, it’s time for a bit of shopping. Downtown Bend offers a fabulous mix of new architecture and restored buildings housing art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, gift and specialty stores. Bend’s Old Mill District has an abundance of restaurants and an appealing blend of local shops and large chain stores. You can also check out the Bend Factory Outlets on the south end of town, or head north to shop ‘til you drop at the Cascade Village Shopping Center.
Oh, and don’t forget to fortify your lazy soul with comfort food and tasty beverages. The Goody’s Ice Cream Factory Tours offer a great chance to see the inner-workings of this Central Oregon sweet-spot and sample some delicious treats. At $2 for anyone over 3, it’s a pretty sweet deal! For the grown-ups in the group, a trip around the Bend Ale Trail offers a chance to sample some amazing craft beer and earn prizes for visiting all the local breweries.
See the sights without getting soaked
Rainy afternoons are the perfect time to scope out a museum, and Bend has some great ones. See a wide range of animals and artifacts at the High Desert Museum, where there’s always a cool selection of new exhibits. I always time my visits around 2 p.m. when I’m sure to see the lynx and the bobcat wide awake and waiting for lunch.
The Des Chutes Historical Museum in downtown Bend offers history buffs a chance to connect with the region’s heritage. Learn about Native American tribes, fur traders, homesteaders, and loggers, and learn why Bend was a great place to live even before every car had a kayak strapped to the top.
If you’re interested in Bend’s vibrant art scene, pick up a Roundabout Art Route map. The Roundabout Art Route is a collection of over 20 pieces of public art on display throughout the city at the center of Bend’s traffic circles. It’s sponsored by Art in Public Places, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing art to the community of Bend. In 2005, Americans for the Arts honored these sculptures as being among the most innovative approaches to public art in the country.
Some of the sculptures look especially lovely on drizzly days. My favorite is Orb I at the corner of Mt. Washington and Skyliner Road, and you’re bound to see more detail when the piece is covered in dew or frost.
You can pick up the map at the Bend Visitor Center and do the route at your own pace, answering trivia questions to earn a fabulous prize. For a guided tour, The Bend Tour Company offers Roundabout Art Route tours like the Bend Art Safari and the Roundabout Art Rodeo daily. If you prefer your art with a glass of wine, The Well Traveled Fork’s Roundabout Bend culinary and art tour is a delicious choice.
No matter how you opt to spend your rainy day in Bend, you’re sure to have a great time. Now get out there—or in there—and have some fun!