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Six traditions worth celebrating in Bend


Here we are in the sandwich zone between Christmas and New Year’s Day (not to mention other celebrations like Hanukkah and Boxing Day and Bacon Day).

It’s the zone we all refer to as “the holidays,” and no matter what you celebrate, they’re steeped in tradition.

But in Bend, we don’t restrict traditions to a few weeks in December. Here are six Bend traditions worth cherishing for locals and visitors alike.

Pet Parade and Old Fashioned 4th of July Festival

Bend’s annual Independence Day events have been a tradition in Bend since the 1930s, and it’s thrilling to watch generations of families (both human and canine!) taking part.

The July 4 Pet Parade is one of Bend’s most cherished traditions.

Each year on July 4, the day kicks off with a pancake breakfast in Drake Park. That’s followed by the Pet Parade, which features dogs, farm animals, wagons, bikes, and stuffed animals that gather to walk the 1.5-mile route through Downtown Bend. I’ve spent the last 21 years alternating between participating with my own kids and dogs versus pulling up a chair and watching, and I honestly can’t decide which is more fun.

Afterward, folks head over to Drake Park for live music, food, and old-fashioned games like three-legged races and pie eating. It’s fun for all ages, and one of Bend’s true “don’t miss” events.


Time to visit “our place”

Every Bend visitor I know has a spot they regard as “our place.”

The High Desert Museum Exhibit

For some families, a traditional visit to High Desert Museum is part of every Bend vacation.

It’s not the same place for everyone, but nostalgia and habit keep them coming back year after year to uphold the tradition.

For my brother and his wife, no visit to Bend is complete without a stop at Crux Fermentation Project to split a Grilled Cheesy and beer taster tray. My sister-in-law will go to great lengths to ensure every visit to Bend includes at least one stop at Lone Pine Coffee Roasters. My parents will literally start twitching if they haven’t hit the High Desert Museum during their Bend visits. My father-in-law lives to browse antiques at Iron Horse whenever he’s in town.

The list goes on for my family, just like it does with other families who include specific hikes and activities in their Bend agendas.

Don’t have your own special spot in Bend? No worries! Visit and peruse people’s Love Lists to get ideas. Visit a few that pique your interest and claim one as your own. Tradition is born!


Pole, Pedal, Paddle time

If the multi-sport Pole, Pedal, Paddle is a tradition in your circle of friends, odds are good you call it PPP. Because that’s what the cool kids do.

Pole Pedal Paddle team costume

Costumes are part of the tradition for many Pole Pedal Paddle teams.

For those less familiar, the PPP is an annual relay race held each May in Bend. It features six legs including alpine skiing/snowboarding, cross country skiing, biking, running, canoe/kayaking, and sprinting to the finish. Participants do it individually, in pairs, or in teams, and since the event has been going strong since 1977, some race partnerships have spanned decades.

Want to plan a PPP tradition of your own? Plan ahead, since hotels and registration can fill up super-fast. The more competitive among you will want to start training, while the goofier among you will need to start planning your costumes and a silly team name. It’s tradition.


Family reunion time

Year after year, we see groups passing through the Bend Visitor Center en route to family reunions, and it always warms the cockles of my heart.

Mt. Bachelor Village Resort makes a popular destination for family reunions.

Sometimes it’s a low-key tradition that involves dragging coolers to your favorite Bend park and throwing some goodies on the grill. Other times the tradition revolves around a specific vacation home or other Bend resort.

No matter what it looks like, a Bend family reunion is a tradition that can bond your brood together against a backdrop of glittering lakes and snow-capped mountains.

Want to plan your own family reunion in Bend? Check out this page to get started!


Getting trashy

The best traditions are the ones that leave Bend a little better than it was before.

Wanderlust Tours Cave Cleanup

Voluntourism makes a great tradition, and you’ll find lots of opportunities in Bend (including the annual Cave Cleanup with Wanderlust Tours).

That might be as simple as packing a small trash bag on a hike and gathering rubbish along the trail.

It can also be a family tradition of voluntourism, banding together to participate in events like the annual cave cleanup sponsored by Wanderlust Tours or other organized cleanup efforts at Smith Rock, Mt. Bachelor, and the Deschutes River.

Whether you’re looking to make trash pickup an annual thing for your group, or you want other ideas for how to leave Bend just a little better than you found it, check out our Visit Like a Local page for ideas.

While you’re at it, take the Bend Pledge for a chance to win a Bend vacation!


The Veterans Day Parade

By some measures Bend’s annual Veterans Day Parade is the second-largest in Oregon, but that’s not the only thing making it a beloved tradition for locals and visitors alike each November.

The parade traces its origins to 1999 when veteran Mike Dolan decided to fix the fact that Bend didn’t have a community event honoring Veterans Day. He paid for a parade permit and walked Wall Street alone simply holding a flag. The idea took root, and each year the parade built a little more fanfare.

Today, the parade is organized and operated by Central Oregon Veteran’s Outreach, and draws an impressive number of floats, marchers, and spectators (especially considering how chilly it tends to be in Bend that time of year).

If you’d like to add this tradition to your roster, make sure to dress warmly and arrive early to ensure a spot. If you’re interested in being in the parade, you’ll find the application right here.



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