Five things you MUST include in your Bend vacation itinerary
Part of my job requires me to suggest Bend vacation agendas for journalists coming here to write about our fair city. Since telling other people what to do is a personal hobby of mine, it’s a task I embrace with open arms.
It’s worth noting that the trip I’m likely to plan for a reporter writing about arts and culture for a glossy national magazine is different from the itinerary I’d suggest for a writer on assignment for Mountain Bike Action. But there are a handful of suggestions I include on the short list for everyone’s trip to Bend.
Are they on yours?
Haul your bootie up Pilot Butte
No matter how you get to the top, you absolutely need to ascend the 500-foot dormant volcano in the middle of Bend. There are a few ways to get to the top of Pilot Butte for the most spectacular views imaginable. My personal preference is to hike, which takes roughly 30 minutes up and about 20 on the way down. It’s great exercise, and an excellent way to know you’ve earned those glorious 360-degree views of the city and our surrounding mountains, buttes, and other landmarks.
If you’re pressed for time or if hiking isn’t your thing, you can opt to drive to the top during warmer seasons when the road is open to motorized vehicles. The gate typically opens in mid-April and closes again in late-fall, and it’s already open for the 2014 season.
No matter how you get to the top, plan on spending a few minutes up there snapping photos, studying the layout of the city, and just basking in the beauty of Bend.
Make at least one stop on the Bend Ale Trail
Even when visitors tell me they’re not big beer fans, I still suggest a stop along the Bend Ale Trail. Why? For starters, breweries vital part of Bend’s economy culture. You’re not required to sip any suds to be amazed by the bottling line at Deschutes Brewery (though they do offer a plethora of awesome free samples with the brewery tour) and you certainly don’t have to guzzle from a growler to enjoy the cozy outdoor fire pits and some lawn games at Crux Fermentation Project (though their tasty brews are an excellent accompaniment to the Grilled Cheesy—pretty much the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ll ever eat in your life).
For folks pressed for time and in need of a designated driver, the Bend Brew Bus has half-day tours every afternoon. For $60 a person, you get sober transportation, a knowledgeable guide, behind-the-scenes brewery tours, appetizers at one stop, and an opportunity to have your Bend Ale Trail passport stamped at four different breweries.
If you prefer to go it on your own, I always recommend a tour at Deschutes Brewery’s brewing facility to admire the impressive magnitude of the nation’s fifth largest craft brewery and see where it all began. Then hit one of the smaller, newer breweries like Silver Moon, Boneyard, or Crux to enjoy the contrast and the fabulous experimental beers.
And naturally if you want to keep going, you can hit all 12 breweries along the trail (soon to be 14 when our updated Bend Ale Trail atlas is released May 1!)
Get outside and play
More than 40 percent of Bend visitors list outdoor recreation as their primary reason for coming to Bend, with hiking and trail running topping the list of popular activities with 54 percent of all Bend guests enjoying at least one hike or jog during their stay. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll on a riverside trail or a chance to plunge through whitewater rapids in your kayak, there’s a wealth of outdoor fun to be found in Bend’s scenic playground.
For ideas on summer recreation activities ranging from canoeing to hiking to rock climbing, check out our summer fun page. Planning a winter vacation in Bend? You’ll find all kinds of ideas ranging from skiing to ice skating to dogsled rides on our winter fun page.
Take a walk in Drake Park
But without a doubt, the crown jewel of Bend’s park system is Drake Park. One of the city’s most beloved and scenic landmarks, Drake Park spans 13 breathtaking acres along the Deschutes River in Downtown Bend. Its rolling hills and grassy expanses are perfect for your picnic blanket, and you’ll find oodles of festivals and concerts here during the summer months.
Stroll along the lovely paver path to the footbridge for a few photos. Then wander into Downtown Bend for lunch and a little shopping in the cool downtown boutiques.
Scope out a special event
I’m not suggesting you crash a wedding (though if you do, please save a cupcake for me). One of the coolest things about Bend is the fact that pretty much every day of the week offers up some sort of live music, festival, or other special event. The summer months are especially ripe with street fairs and concerts, ranging from Nortwest Crossing Hullabaloo (check out the free Indigo Girls concert Friday night!) to Bend BrewFest (yay, beer!) to a huge array of shows at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Want an easy way to see what’s happening during your Bend vacation? Check out our online events calendar. You can plug in different dates or search for specific kinds of activities ranging from sporting events to live music to farmers’ markets.