There’s a trend in gift giving favoring “experiences, not things.” Studies have shown it’s more rewarding, plus the recipient isn’t faced with the daunting post-holiday task of figuring out where the @#$% to put everything.
It’s a trend I’ve happily embraced, and my step-kids have loved the thrill of opening a gift announcing a surprise bungee jump or an unexpected family vacation.
With that in mind, here are 25 unique Bend experiences that make great holiday gifts. Don’t forget to read all the way to the end for a chance to win #25 for your very own!
- A gift certificate for Wanderlust Tours. Let your recipient choose his or her own adventure with Wanderlust Tours. Offerings include snowshoe outings, cave tours, canoeing adventures, and more. A naturalist guide will provide all the gear and transportation, plus oodles of cool education about Bend’s ecology and geography.
- A gift certificate for a hotel stay in Bend. Whether your loved one favors luxury resorts, budget-friendly motels, cozy bed and breakfasts, upscale hotels, or vacation homes for rent, you’ll find tons of options to pick from in Bend. Check out our Bend lodging page for ideas!
- A gift certificate for Sun Mountain Fun Center. My step-kids (ages 11 and 15) love the go-karts and bumper cars, but you can keep it super cheap and just stuff a $5 Sun Mountain Fun Center gift card in each kid’s stocking. That’ll earn everyone a few video games and an entertaining diversion if you need a break from outdoor play.
- A gift certificate for Sun Country Tours. Plan ahead for a summertime whitewater rafting adventure with the whole family, or let your loved one use the Sun Country Tours gift card to rent float tubes or a standup paddleboard when the weather turns warm.
- Old Mill gift certificates and Downtown Dollars. Can’t decide what your loved one needs, but you want to make sure you’re supporting local Bend businesses? Grab a fistful of gift certificates for the Old Mill District or Downtown Bend. You can buy them in $10 or $25 increments, and they’re good at nearly any store, restaurant, gallery, or theater in that shopping district. Can you say stocking stuffer?
- A gift certificate for a spa treatment. From facials to massages to pedicures to wraps, Bend’s day spas offer the full gamut of luxury spa treatments. Know someone who could use a little pampering? Check out our spa page for ideas on where to send your sweetie for a little R&R.
- A gift certificate to fly an airplane. For my stepson’s 14th birthday, we bought a discovery flight from Professional Air. For just $69, the kid got a mini lesson on takeoff, landing, and controlling the aircraft. Then he got to fly the plane. Let me repeat that. MY 14-YEAR-OLD-STEPSON FLEW AN AIRPLANE BEFORE HE COULD LEGALLY DRIVE A CAR. Suffice it to say, this ended up being one of the highlights of his young life so far.
- A gift certificate to Central Oregon Bungee Adventures. Continuing our daredevil theme, my stepson got to enjoy the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America on his 15th He declared his leap from the historic Crooked River Bridge one of the coolest things he’s ever done. Buy gift cards for the daredevil in your life through Central Oregon Bungee Adventures.
- A gift certificate with Cog Wild. One handy thing about a Cog Wild gift certificate is that the gift recipient can use it almost any time of year. Pick from their array of mountain bike tours during the warmer months, or when there’s snow on the ground, try one of their popular fat bike tours.
- Bachelor gift certificates. You can buy Mt. Bachelor gift cards in any amount over $5, which gives your favorite snow bunny the freedom to choose from gear, lessons, lift tickets, and more. They can be purchased online, over the phone, or in person in the Gravity Sports Shop.
- A gift certificate for a restaurant. This is one of my favorite gifts to get. I love dining out, but it can be tough to justify the expense sometimes. Bend has an amazing array of restaurants to pick from, so snoop around to figure out the gift recipient’s favorite (or better yet, choose something special you know the person wouldn’t splurge on otherwise).
- A gift certificate for a sled dog ride. Now THIS is a bucket list item! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take a dogsled ride with Oregon Trail of Dreams at Mt. Bachelor. The company is operated by Rachael Scdoris, the first legally-blind competitor to run the Iditarod, so these folks know what they’re doing. Stick around afterward and help feed and water the dogs.
- A NW Forest Pass, State Park Pass, or Sno Park Pass. These handy permits are a necessary part of recreating in some of our most scenic spots, and they come with the added bonus of helping to maintain these wilderness areas. Choose from day passes, multi-day passes, or annual passes. We sell them all right here in the Bend Visitor Center.
- A trip with Bend Jeep Tours. Is there someone in your life who’d enjoy the ultimate off-road adventure deep in the Deschutes National Forest? Guests will discover ancient lava flows, waterfalls, and a top-of-the-world view of the majestic Cascade Mountains. Go here to learn more.
- An all-terrain adventure with Outriders NW. Similar to the jeep tours above, but in a crazy-cool all-terrain vehicle that lets you explore towering Cascade Mountains, historic volcanic monuments, and the unique high desert environment. Good for families, groups, or individuals. You can learn more here.
- Tickets to an event at The Tower Theatre. Got a loved one who loves live performances in a cool, artsy venue? Check the schedule at Bend’s historic Tower Theatre and snap up some fab seats at an upcoming event. If you’re not sure whether to choose tickets for a musical performance, a film, or a theater event, just opt for a Tower Theatre gift card and let your loved one do the choosing.
- A gift certificate for Vector Volcano. Children of the ‘80s and ‘90s will fall in love with this quirky Downtown arcade packed with vintage video games. Vector Volcano is family-friendly, but they also serve local craft beer. Admission gets you unlimited game play for the time period you pick, with no quarters or tokens required.
- Passes to the High Desert Museum. A favorite among families, the High Desert Museum is chock full of natural history exhibits and the coolest desert-dwelling animals you’ll find anywhere. I could spend hours just watching the otters, and with an annual family membership, your loved ones will be able to do just that! Visit their website to learn more about passes and membership.
- An adventure with The Bend Tour Company. Not sure if your loved one would prefer to scoot around town on a Segway, pedal the Cycle Pub, or cruise in a bus on the Art Safari tour? Pick up a gift card from The Bend Tour Company and let the recipient make the choice.
- Membership to the Deschutes County Historical Society. The history buff in your life will love having a membership that lets him or her scope out the Deschutes Historical Museum as many times as possible over the course of a year. Individual memberships start at just $20 for the year, so visit them online to learn more.
- Passes to Mountain Air Trampoline Park. This one’s so new that I haven’t had a chance to visit yet (though we did promise my stepdaughter a belated-birthday stop at Mountain Air Trampoline Park). This brand new indoor attraction features a main court with 26 trampolines surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway, plus lots of raised and padded features to add to the excitement. Sounds like a great way for active kiddos to get the wiggles out!
- Bowling for the whole family. Bowling is the ultimate family activity for all ages, and Bend is lucky enough to have two great spots for it. Grab a gift certificate for Lava Lanes or Sun Mountain Fun Center and tuck that bad boy in your pal’s favorite bowling shoes.
- A gift certificate for Bend Escape Room. Another great indoorsy Bend activity, Bend Escape Room is a fun, immersive, interactive game experience that’s challenging for the whole family. In a nutshell, your group is locked in a room and given the clues to escape. It makes a fun team building or family activity for 2-6 people.
- A flight with Airborne Outback Adventures. Here’s another high-octane outing for the adrenaline junkies on your list. Airborne Outback Adventures offers scenic flights and aerial tours using powered hang gliders, ultralite trikes, and more. It’s the ultimate way to see sights like Smith Rock State Park and the Cascade Peaks.
- A Brew-It-Yourself session at Immersion Brewing. Got a craft beer fanatic in the family who’d like to try his or her hand at brewing a special batch of suds? Immersion Brewing offers Brew-It-Yourself workshops with a professional brewer. The session includes all ingredients, bottles, caps, custom labels, and approximately five gallons of your very own craft beer.
Does that last item sound like a winner for someone in your family? Here’s your chance to win a brewing workshop worth more than $200! Comment on this post sharing which of the 25 gifts YOU would most want to receive (besides the Brew-It-Yourself session at Immersion Brewing….we already know that if you’re vying for the prize!) We’ll draw one winner on Wednesday, December 16. Good luck, and happy shopping!