Barbecue shrimp at Zydeco
Yummy barbecue shrimp at Zydeco will pair nicely with that bottle of Oregon wine you brought.

Bend locals are a sharing bunch, but we’re notoriously protective of secret trails, special hideaways, and lesser-known vistas we prefer to keep to keep to ourselves.

All that to say I’m not giving away those kinds of secrets in this post, but I am coughing up 7 of my favorite insider secrets for saving money and enjoying your Bend experience to the fullest.

Skip the corkage fee at Zydeco

Zydeco is one of Bend’s most popular restaurants, and their barbecue shrimp is the stuff of legends. Ditto that for their huge variety of gluten-free menu items, including their to-die-for flourless chocolate cake.

Don’t forget the yummy flourless chocolate cake at Zydeco.

But did you know there’s a secret to saving money on the cost of bringing your own wine to dinner? Oenophiles accustomed to paying pricey corkage fees will be delighted to learn that Zydeco waives the corkage fee for one bottle of wine if it’s from Oregon, Idaho, or Washington. Cheers to that deal!

Score tickets to sold out concerts

It’s no secret that big concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater can sell out in seconds, as fans of the Dave Matthews Band and Willie Nelson/Allison Krauss learned earlier this summer. But what you may not know is that “sold out” doesn’t necessarily mean “sold out.”

Dave Matthews Band Les Schwab Amphitheater
The Dave Matthews Band is one group that always sells out, but there’s a way to have a second shot at tickets.

See, folks at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are savvy to the fact that out-of-state scalpers snap up tickets to popular shows. Like the superheroes they are, the amphitheater team works to identify those scalpers and snag the tickets back through a process called “scrubbing.” If you’ve struck out trying to get tickets to a popular show, visit the Ticket Mill and ask to be placed on the “scrub list.” If newly-scrubbed tickets become available, fans on the list will get a call and an opportunity to buy them. Yay for second chances!

Float the river for free

Floating the Deschutes River is one of Bend’s quintessential summer experiences, and lots of floaters opt to rent durable float tubes from Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe. But did you know it’s possible to get a free tube rental just for picking up trash while you float?

Tumalo Creek Green Tube
Through Tumalo Creek’s Green Tubing program, you can float the river for free while making Bend a better place.

It’s part of their new Green Tube initiative aimed at protecting Bend’s popular waterway and keeping the river healthy, beautiful, and clean. Just visit the Park and Float or the Tumalo Creek shop and request a Green Tube. They’ll hook you up with a float tube along with a garbage grabber and a mesh bag to hold the trash. At the end of your float, just turn over your gear and your bag of garbage, and feel good about leaving Bend a little better than you found it.

Treat your kids to date night

You want to do a little fine dining on vacation, but you’re not keen on leaving the little ones with a stranger. What’s a traveling foodie to do?

Kids eat free at 900 Wall on Sunday nights.

Enter 900 Wall, a Downtown Bend restaurant renowned for its killer cocktails, outstanding appetizers, and amazing entrees. Some of my favorite dishes include their beef carpaccio appetizer, their warm kale salad (complete with Calabrian chili vinaigrette, cauliflower, wheat berries, and grilled green onion) and their wild sockeye salmon with shrimp, fennel, radish, avocado, squash, and chives.

I know, I know…that doesn’t sound super kid-friendly, which is why it’s awesome that they not only have a great kids’ menu, but a kids-eat-free deal every Sunday after 5 p.m. excluding holiday weekends. It’s a great way for mom and dad to enjoy a special dinner out while the kiddos stay safe and well-fed.

Birdwatch for free

Bend is home to countless feathery friends, and you can get a gander at them without spending a dime for a guide or gear. At the Ticket Mill in the Old Mill District, you can not only score a free birding list to help identify Tweety and his friends, but you can rent a pair of binoculars for free. They also offer free weekly bird walks in the spring, led by volunteers from the East Cascades Audubon Society. Learn more here.

Score cheap drinks on locals’ nights

Even if you’re from out of town, you can live like a local on the nights of the week that Bend watering holes offer discounted drinks and eats. A few of my favorite locals’ nights include….

On Mondays, Portello Winecafe has $5 glasses of wine, while Level 2 boasts $2.50 pints. Also, both Deschutes Brewery and Silver Moon have locals’ night on Monday and offer discounted pints to locals and visitors alike.

Tuesdays are locals’ nights at Bend Brewing Company and Three Creeks Brewing, plus it’s Taco Tuesday at JC’s in Downtown Bend (a good chance to score cheap tacos, cervezas, and margaritas).

The outdoor balcony at Level 22 in the Old Mill District is a great place to enjoy those cheap pints on locals’ night.

On Wednesday you’ll find discounted pints at Sunriver Brewing’s Galveston Pub and at Wild Ride in Redmond.

Thursday marks locals’ night at GoodLife Brewing, with discounted pints and growler fills.

Get some cheap entertainment for the kiddos

There comes a point in every family vacation when you just want the kids to be silent for a few minutes. If that point falls on a Tuesday or Wednesday during the summer months, herd the kiddos to Regal Cinemas at 10 a.m. for their Summer Movie Express and score $1 admission to that day’s family-friendly cinematic selection. You can learn more here.

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