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7 vacation hacks for your winter visit to Bend, Oregon

Chair lifts at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, OR

Beat the traffic to Mt. Bachelor by heading up early for breakfast, then catching the first chair up the mountain.

Everyone’s looking for an inside tip. A secret or two that will help make vacation easier, cheaper, or just plain funner (that’s totally a word, right?)

A few months ago I published this post on lifehacks for a Bend family vacation. Now that winter travel is in full swing, it seems like a good time to revisit the concept with snowflakes in mind.


Hack #1: Beat the rush up the hill

It’s been a busy season up at Mt. Bachelor, and the road to the mountain can get packed with cars hustling to get there when the chairlifts start spinning at 9 a.m.

Want to skip the traffic? While it’s true the lifts open at 9, the lodge opens at 7:30. Beat the rush by heading up early, then nabbing yourself a tasty breakfast on the hill. You’ll still catch the first chair up the mountain, but you’ll spend that extra hour relaxing in a toasty warm ski lodge with a hot meal instead of staring at the line of cars in front of you. Heck, bring your laptop or your work colleagues and call it a board meeting.

Not a morning person? You can still hack the traffic and parking situation at Mt. Bachelor by carpooling (they have premium parking for carpools) or catching the Mt. Bachelor shuttle.


Hack #2: Maximize your time in Downtown Bend

Sometimes it’s fun to look out my office window in Downtown Bend and see how many times a particular car will circle the block in search of a parking spot.

Cross country ski at Drake Park in Bend, Oregon

Make sure to stroll (or ski!) over to Drake Park while you’re sightseeing in Downtown Bend.

That’s probably not as fun for the person in the car.

Here’s a hint: It’s free to stash your car in the Parking Garage for up to three hours, and only $5 for all-day parking. Parking in the garage is always free on weekends, and you’ll rarely have trouble finding a spot. Bonus: You won’t have to scrape your windows or shove snow off your car when it’s time to leave.

Once you’ve found your spot, you can cram a whole lot of Bend goodness into your downtown experience. Grab lunch at one of the popular eateries, then do a little souvenir shopping. Afterward, stroll into Bend’s historic Drake Park to check out the icy Deschutes River and do a little people watching.


Hack #3: Plan your trip mid-week or during shoulder season for the best deals

Lodging in Bend can be tough to find during peak weekends, and rooms get pricey. An easy fix is to come in the middle of the week during shoulder season.

What’s shoulder season? That’s the gap between the busiest seasons of the year (those are summer, spring break, and Christmas break). In other words, you’ll find your best deals on lodging during the months of October, November, early-December, January, February, and late-April. To learn more about shoulder season vacations in Bend, check out this post.


Hack #4: Do your drinking like a grownup

More than half of all Bend visitors hit at least one brewery while they’re in town, and many pledge to tackle the entirety of the mighty Bend Ale Trail.

Take a ride with the Bend Brew Bus.

Leave the driving to someone else when you book an outing with the Bend Brew Bus.

While sampling Bend’s craft beers, ciders, and distilled spirits is super awesome, a DUI is not. Neither is killing yourself or someone else. Death and jail time kinda put a damper on a Bend vacation.

Stay safe by letting the Bend Brew Bus handle your beerventure for you. If you’ve got a hankering for more than just beer, try their Local Pour Tour, which visits a winery, cidery, brewery, and distillery. All tours include samples, snacks, and most importantly, sober transportation to and from your hotel.

Hack #5: Slip a little goodwill into your good times

Whether you’re a do-gooder who looks for voluntourism opportunities on every vacation, or someone seeking little ways to leave a place better than you found it, you’ll find tons of great tips on our Visit Like a Local pages.

Cave clean up and tour with Wanderlust Tours in Bend, Oregon

You’ll find plenty of “voluntourism” opportunities in Bend (including things like Wanderlust Tours’ annual cave cleanup event).

Bonus: there’s good insider info on everything from navigating traffic roundabouts to seasonal footwear selections.


Hack #6: Snag some cheap eats

Bend’s culinary scene is known as a foodie’s paradise, but sampling every buzz-worthy restaurant can empty your wallet in a hurry.

Hitting happy hours is a great way to sample a variety of cuisines for budget-friendly prices. Most Bend restaurants have them, and you can plant yourself in popular dining zones like the Old Mill District or Downtown Bend and walk between two or three hot eateries.

For a handy roundup of Bend’s best happy hours, go here.


Hack #7: Find the secret deals

Not everyone knows this, but lots of Bend hotels and lodging properties will throw out little perks to win your business. It’s not uncommon to see hotels offering discounted room nights, a bottle of wine, or even cheap Mt. Bachelor lift tickets to entice guests to stay with them.

Visit Bend keeps a list of such bargains on the Deals and Discounts page. Bookmark it and get ready to save big.


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