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Find budget-friendly Bend fun for $6 or less (or free!)

Above Todd lake 1600 by 900

Vacations can be expensive. Between the cost of hotel stays, restaurant meals, and must-have souvenirs, you catch yourself wincing each time you bust out the credit card.

But you don’t have to break the bank to vacation in Bend. Here are 9 ways to have fun for $6 or less (or hey, free!)

Blogger Tawna and her husband Craig on last weekend’s hike above Todd Lake.

Take a hike

Anytime we conduct visitor surveys, Bend hiking tops the list as the number one activity travelers enjoy when they come here. And for good reason!

Make that reasons, plural. Yes, people love the snow-capped mountain eye candy, the sparkling lakes and rivers, and endless gulps of fresh air, but you know what else is great? It’s free!

Hoof it around Tumalo Falls to check out this stunning 97-foot cascade of splendor. Take a brisk walk up Pilot Butte for sweeping views of the city (and for bragging rights that you scaled a freakin’ volcano). Savor the high desert landscape with a walk through the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, or enjoy a more urban stroll along the paved riverside pathway running along the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District.

The possibilities are endless, and you can get more hiking ideas here. Do pay attention to whether a NW Forest Pass is required in the area you choose, since a day pass will cost you $5.

Catch a cheap flick (and grab a beer!) at McMenamins.

Catch a flick at McMenamins

Going to the movies can be a pricey endeavor, but nothing beats the theater experience as a way to relax after a day of hiking or skiing.

The budget-friendly solution? Catch a flick at McMenamins Old St. Francis where they specialize in new(ish) movies that have finished their run at the big-box theaters, but haven’t yet made it to video. Ticket prices for adults are $4 or $2 for kids 12 and under.

Best of all, they’ve got cozy couches to snuggle up on while you watch the film. You can even order a pint of beer or their mouthwatering Cajun tots (go at happy hour for extra cost savings).


Have a snow day

Snow sports like skiing and snowboarding aren’t cheap, though the plethora of deals at Mt. Bachelor (like kids ski free and other discounted passes) sure take the sting out.

Sledding is a budget-friendly way to enjoy winter in Bend.

But if you’re really pinching pennies, you can have snow fun without investing more than $5 for a Sno-Park Pass (we sell these in the Bend Visitor Center).

As soon as the snow flies, head up to Wanoga Sno-Park with the family for a good old-fashioned snowball fight. Build a snowman in a frosty field, then lug your sled to the top of the hill for a tummy-flipping ride down the slope.

Don’t forget the thermos of cocoa! With the money you’re saving, you can splurge for extra marshmallows.


Grab a beer on the Bend Ale Trail

No visit to Bend is complete without a stop or two on the legendary Bend Ale Trail, and it’s even sweeter in November with the chance to earn a trophy for Bend Ale Trail Month by racking up 10 passport stamps.

Silver Moon is one of many breweries offering special discounts certain nights of the week.

But how do you keep from breaking the bank on beer?

First, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to spend a dime or drink a drop to earn your Bend Ale Trail prizes. You only need to visit the breweries to get your stamps. Yeah, I know. That’s not as fun, is it?

To save money while still sampling some of the tasty craft beverages that have made Bend famous, pay attention to weekly specials and happy hours at the breweries. Nearly all of them offer deals and discounts if you know when to go.

On Mondays at Silver Moon, for example, select pints are just $3 all day long. Tuesdays at Bend Brewing Company, you’ll get the $3 pint deal from 4 p.m. to closing, while Thursdays are the day to score $3 pints at GoodLife Brewing.

For a roundup of discounted beer days and happy hours, check this page.


Take a candy shop tour

Got a sweet tooth? Bend landmark Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream has been in business more than 30 years, and they offer candy factory tours guaranteed to satisfy your cravings.

Get a close-up look at how they make Oreo ice cream (among other delicious treats!) during a Goody’s factory tour.

Their factory is located at 1111 SE Division (not to be confused with any of their shop locations around Bend and Sunriver). Self-guided tours are free and include a sample of chocolate. No appointments are necessary, and they’re available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Want something extra-special for a bigger group? If there are 10 or more in your party, book a guided tour for $2 per person. Guided tours include six different samples of Goody’s sweet treats, and must be scheduled two weeks in advance.

For more info on tours, go here.


Take a twirl around the ice

Random sidenote: This was going to be a blog post featuring fun things to do for $5 or less, but I couldn’t not include ice skating at Bend’s only NHL-sized rink.

Bend’s public ice-skating facility, The Pavilion, offers drop-in skate sessions, party and event space, a café and fire pits, a viewing/warming room, and changing rooms with lockers.

They also boast special “cheap skates” (currently on Tuesday evenings) which include admission and skate rental for only $6. You can twirl around ‘til you get your fill, then stay and watch a hockey game.

Go here to check out the schedule for upcoming cheap skates.


Go birdwatching

Got a fondness for feathered friends? The Old Mill District offers free rental binoculars and a free birdwatching guide through their Ticket Mill.

Watch for Tweety (and other feathered friends) on a free birdwatching adventure in the Old Mill District.

Identify common species including red-winged blackbirds, the belted kingfisher, cedar waxwings, or even bald eagles along the Deschutes River running through the Old Mill District.

Depending on when you visit, you might even be able to join a guided nature walk (also free!) You can check the schedule for that here.


Watch for free admission days at the High Desert Museum

For a lot of families, a visit to the High Desert Museum is the highlight of a Bend vacation. Where else can you watch otters play, pan for gold, scope out Native American art, then cap off your day by having raptors swoop overhead?

High Desert Museum

Checking out critters and natural history at the High Desert Museum is a great way to enjoy Bend.

Purchasing a family pass ensures you’ll be able to stop by anytime you like, but if that’s not in the budget, keep an eye on their Facebook page for one of the free admission days they offer several times a year. You can also sign up for their email list to learn about new exhibits (and yes, those aforementioned free days).


Do a history tour of Bend

History buffs rejoice! The Deschutes Historical Museum is a great place to get the inside scoop on Bend’s fascinating history, and admission is only $5 for adults or $2 for kids 13-17 (younger ones are free).

Watch their online event calendar for offerings like the Heritage Walking Tour, which is a great opportunity to see some of Bend’s historic buildings and places up close and personal.

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