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Get your game on with six fun ways to “gameify” your Bend vacation


Bend has been dubbed “the outdoor playground of the west,” and it’s true most folks come here to play in one form or another. But there’s an interesting trend in the playing lately.

“Gamification” (a completely made-up word, I’ll admit) is a trendy thing in tourism marketing. It’s the idea of creating games around activities or attractions tourists enjoy while they’re here. Bend offers a number of gameified ways to play, from organized tours to…well, not-so-organized offerings.

Check out these six ideas for gameifying your Bend vacation.


Earn prizes for swilling beer? Um, yes, please.

You’re a winner anytime you’re sipping beer at Bend’s world-renowned craft breweries, but the Bend Ale Trail lets you earn prizes to prove it. Using the Bend Ale Trail atlas or a free smartphone app, you can wander from brewery to brewery collecting passport stamps and bragging rights. Once you collect all 11 stamps, bring your passport to the Bend Visitor Center and claim your commemorative Silipint pint glass (plus an additional prize if you visit the 12th brewery in Sisters).

You can pick up your Bend Ale Trail atlas at all participating breweries or at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend, or go here to download the free app for Droid or iPhone. For tips on navigating the Bend Ale Trail, check out this post.


Get gamified culture on the Roundabout Art Route

The Roundabout Art Route is a great way to check out Bend’s amazing collection of public art and have little fun while you do it. Pick up a map at the Bend Visitor Center and do a self-guided tour at your own pace, checking off pieces along the way and answering trivia questions as you go.

"Phoenix Rising" is the artwork you'll see at the center of the roundabout at the corner of 14th and Galveston. It's also where you can play the Subie Game!

“Phoenix Rising” is the artwork you’ll see at the center of the roundabout at the corner of 14th and Galveston. It’s also where you can play the Subie Game!

You can also head out with GETIT Shuttle for John Flannery’s fabulous Bend Art Safari tour. The $25 per person price tag will be money well spent for awesome art insights from one of Bend’s most engaging and entertaining tour operators. Answer 10 of the 20 trivia questions on your Roundabout Art Route map and bring it to the Bend Visitor Center to earn a special chocolate prize!


Play the Subie Game at Parilla Grill

Bend’s Parilla Grill has been one of my favorite lunch spots for years, but their amazing wraps aren’t the only great reason to go there. Bend residents have invented something dubbed “the Subie game,” and Parilla’s prime location on the roundabout at 14th and Galveston (not to mention their fabulous margaritas!) make this the ideal spot to play. Here’s how you do it: Park yourself in the outdoor seating area or in one of the indoor spots facing the roundabout. Grip your beverage of choice and get ready. The second you see two Subarus in the roundabout at the same time, drink! Given the volume of Subarus in Bend, this will happen often.The winner is determined by…actually, I have no idea how the winner is determined. Maybe that’s not the point of the game?


One birdie, two birdie, three birdie…

The Deschutes River is a vital migratory pathway for all kinds of birds, so why not have a little fun with your birdwatching? Stop by the Bend Visitor Center or the Ticket Mill in the Old Mill District and pick up their beautifully-illustrated birdwatching guide.

It’s got little checkboxes beside each photo so you can keep track of what you’ve seen. Turn it into a friendly competition among your group, vying for who spots the most birds or the rarest specimen. The Ticket Mill even loans out free binoculars to help you spot the more elusive species. Go here for hours and location info.


The GPS Eco-Challenge with Wanderlust Tours

Got a large family or a group of eight or more pals? Hook up with Wanderlust Tours for their GPS Eco-Challenge. This customized tour offering is a twist on geocaching. Teams work together to find clues, solve problems, and help one another across the untracked high desert or in the alpine forests of the Cascade Mountains. It’s a goal-oriented, interactive, physical and mental challenge for any age and ability level. Prices vary, depending on the number of people involved and the type of outing desired, so contact Wanderlust Tours for details.


Make up your own game (Bend Bingo, anyone?)

If you’re up for a bit of do-it-yourself gamifying, why not make up your own game?

The possibilities are endless. Ski pole tossing? Growler juggling?

In the spirit of sharing, here’s a little Bend Bingo game board I made up for you to try (click here to go to a full-sized version). You can park yourself at a brewery and sip beer with pals while you scan for these common Bend sights, or carry the card with you like a treasure hunt as you enjoy your Bend adventures.

Now go out there and get your game on!

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