Weirdness is hotter than a Bend sidewalk in mid-July.
As proof, look no further than the popularity of slogans like “Keep Portland Weird” or “Keep Austin Weird.”
Bend may not have the nifty slogan, but it does have its fair share of quirky attractions. Here are 6 of them.
Visit the world’s last Blockbuster
With the closing of the second-to-last Blockbuster video store in Australia at the end of this month, media outlets around the globe have been touting Bend, Oregon as the location of the last Blockbuster on earth.
Even before that, vintage video fans flocked to Bend to take selfies out front. The shop does a surprisingly brisk business in its spot next to Papa Murphy’s on NE 3rd street, with families popping in so mom and dad can show the kiddos what picking a movie was like back in the day.
For an extra dose of nostalgia, grab a souvenir yellow sweatshirt, T-shirt, cup, magnet, bumper sticker, or hat declaring you’ve visited the world’s last Blockbuster. Then bust out that selfie stick and make it internet official.
See Sasquatch from a helicopter
So a regular helicopter tour isn’t special enough for you? You need something unique. Quirky. Endearingly weird.
You need a private helicopter tour over one of the top places in the world for Bigfoot sightings (yep, really). The Deschutes National Forest is teeming with stories of hikers who claim to have spotted Sasquatch, so why not scope it out from above?
Big Mountain Heli’s Sasquatch Helicopter Tour is the only Bigfoot heli tour in the world, offering an 80-mile scenic helicopter adventure over wilderness areas where few humans travel. Even if you don’t spot Bigfoot, you’ll get killer views of snow-capped Cascade mountains and bragging rights for life.
Go surfing in the snow
I know “snow surfing” is how some folks think of snowboarding, which you should totally try at Mt. Bachelor.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
The Deschutes River boasts a feature known as the Bend Whitewater Park, which consists of 26 air bladders or “gates” that are permanently affixed to the river bed to shape whitewater waves for recreation. The park offers opportunities for bodyboarding, surfing, and whitewater kayaking, and it’s a year-round attraction. Yep, even in the dead of winter with two feet of snow on the river’s edge.
While hopping on a surfboard in sub-freezing conditions might sound miserable to some, it’s a bucket-list item for others. A chance to show that you’re so hardcore, you donned that dry suit like a champ and tiptoed over snowdrifts to get your surf on.
Of course, you don’t have to surf in the snow. The Bend Whitewater Park is open to the public 365 days a year, and it’s free for everyone (just supply your own gear).
But c’mon. Don’t you want to be the guy or gal who skied in the morning and surfed in the afternoon?
Ski or hike a volcano
Bend’s unique volcanic history means we have plenty of cool volcanic features in the area, including the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
If you want to get up close and personal with recreating on a volcano, you’ve got several options.
Mt. Bachelor boasts 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain and the highest skiable elevation in all of Oregon and Washington. It’s also a stratovolcano atop a shield volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, so you can go home with a serious badge of honor after skiing that bad boy.
Not in the mood for snow sports? Try a hike up Pilot Butte, which gives Bend its bragging rights as one of only a handful of cities in the U.S. with a dormant volcano in the city limits.
Pilot Butte rises about 500 feet to the summit, so it’s a fairly easy hike to the top (or you can drive in summer months when the road is open. The hike should take you a little over an hour from bottom to top and back down again, but budget extra time to linger at the summit and scope out panoramic views of the area.
You’ll also want to take a moment to dial a few friends back home to say, “So I’m calling from the summit of a volcano…”
Dive 250 feet off a bridge
Feeling daring? Add the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America to your Bend vacation itinerary!
While not technically in Bend, Central Oregon Bungee and its jump site off the historic Crooked River Bridge is worth the 40-minute drive for the experience of a lifetime.
The platform sits 300 feet above the Crooked River, and it’s a stunning view even if you aren’t plunging headfirst over the edge at a zillion miles an hour. Jumpers must be 14 years old and be between 90 and 300 pounds.
We actually gifted this to my stepson for his 14th birthday, and I suspect I know what my stepdaughter will be getting when she turns 14 next fall…
This makes a fun activity for groups, and gift certificates are also available.
Take a blood oath for a free vacation
All right, I might be exaggerating about the blood thing.
There’s no bodily fluid involved in taking The Bend Pledge, but this program is so unique for a tourism destination that I felt compelled to mention it here.
As part of our Visit Like a Local initiative, The Bend Pledge urges visitors to adhere to a set of principals centered around Leave No Trace ethics and basic human kindness. Things like “I will make my own memories, but not my own trails,” and “I will use my turn signal often and my car horn seldom.”
Stuff we should all be doing anyway, right?
Everyone who takes The Bend Pledge is entered into a drawing for a fabulous Bend vacation packed with activities and lodging and dining for two. Drawings are held twice a year, so take the blood oath…er, pledge…and join us in leaving Bend a little bit better than you found it.