Your guide to a perfect spring day in Downtown Bend
But her chief request is for one full, gloriously uninterrupted day to explore Downtown Bend. I can’t say I blame her, since I’ve never tired of Downtown meandering in 21+ years of living here.
If you’re new to the concept of devoting a full day to exploring this small but lively patch of our fair city, here’s a rundown on the best way to do Downtown Bend in a day.
Start things off right
Downtown Bend is one of the most walkable areas in the city, so it’s smart to ditch your car as soon as possible.
Aim for the parking garage on Lava Road, which offers the first three hours for free or $10 for the whole day. You’ll find other parking lots and street parking scattered around the Downtown core, but you can avoid the parking hassle altogether by walking, biking, or using Uber or Lyft to get you here. Bonus: You skip the construction crud that makes driving trickier this time of year.
Even better, sleep right in the center of it all by booking a room Downtown. The Oxford Hotel, Doubletree by Hilton, the Bunk + Brew Hostel in the historic Lucas House, and Wall Street Suites are all terrific options in the Downtown core.
Once you’re settled, swing by the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon to pick up free maps and chat with the friendly Visit Bend team about the best way to maximize your time in Bend.
The most important meal of the day
You’ve stashed your car and filled your brain with ideas, so now let’s fill your belly.
Downtown Bend offers tons of options for breakfast and brunch. The Lemon Tree specializes in clean, fresh, international fare like their jumbo lump crab cake benedict with citrus hollandaise (yum!) or Amaretto French Toast with slivered almonds and berry coulis.
For a little Portuguese flair, head for Café Sintra to try their twist on classic eggs Benedict. It features two poached eggs and sliced Roma tomatoes over sourdough bread, served with their famous Sintra potatoes and your choice of linguica, Bavarian ham, or Italian sausage topped with chipotle hollandaise.
If you dig breakfast you can sip on the go, head to Mother’s Juice Café for one of their mouthwatering smoothies, or pop across the street to Thump Coffee or Lone Pine Coffee to perk up your morning with a hot brewed beverage.
Set out for a stroll
With a steaming mug of caffeinated goodness in hand, it’s time to do some strolling. Meander alleyways and side streets for a look at the public art that’s part of the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. Further your art fix by popping into some of Downtown’s hottest art galleries.
Now it’s time for souvenir shopping. Head for locally-owned boutiques like Clementine Urban Mercantile, Paper Jazz, and Navidi’s (their mini olive oils and balsamic vinegars make great gifts for folks back home!) Treat yourself to a new top at Hot Box Betty or a great new pair of jeans at Local Joe.
Anyone else getting hungry?
Time for lunch
Springtime in Bend brings unexpected bursts of sunshine along with construction season. While it would be distasteful of me to suggest you snag a seat outside to ogle the construction workers renovating the Mirror Pond parking lot, a good vantagepoint to do that would be Worthy Taps and Tacos. Opt for their taco trio, which lets you sample three different mouthwatering combinations, or head for Barrio just down the street for another twist on tasty tacos.
For even more international flare, head for the Indian buffet at Taj Palace or one of three Thai restaurants in Downtown Bend. Noi and Toomies specialize in Southern Thai dishes like Pad Thai and curries, while Wild Rose specializes in Northern Thai cuisine including sticky jasmine rice you dip in fresh chili paste and eat with your hands.
Since you’re on vacation, seize the chance to pair a beer with lunch while gathering a couple Bend Ale Trail passport stamps. Deschutes Brewery and Bend Brewing Company are both in the Downtown core, and boast lunch menus guaranteed to fill your belly with goodness.
Head for the park
One of the nicest things about Downtown Bend is that it’s fringed by the crown jewel of Bend’s park system. Drake Park is just a few steps down from Mirror Pond Plaza near Crow’s Feet Commons, so cap off your lunch break with a leisurely stroll around this 13-acre waterfront paradise.
Find a cozy bench to watch ducks and geese paddling around Mirror Pond, or venture across the footbridge into historic Pageant Park. If the weather’s warm, grab a scoop or four to enjoy from Bontá Artisan Gelato while you savor the sunshine sparkling on the mighty Deschutes.
History buffs will enjoy the historical plaques scattered around the parks as well as on Downtown landmarks like the Tower Theatre and Lone Crow Bungalow. Hop over to the Deschutes Historical Museum to really revel in local history, or even join a guided walking tour.
The happiest hour of all
Fortified by fresh air and exercise, you can log another hour or two of shopping at Downtown boutiques like the Sunstone Store for some local bling or Cowgirl Cash where you can score a great pair of vintage boots.
Then it’s time for cocktail hour! (And by “hour” I mean treat yourself to a solid 180-minutes or so).
Kick things off in the tasting room at the Crater Lake Spirits Downtown Tasting Room where you can sample locally-produced vodka, gin, rye, whiskey, and more. Sip one of their housemade cocktails and make plans to visit their distillery later in your Bend vacay.
Now that you’ve gotten things started, head for one of Bend’s best happy hour hotspots. Dogwood Cocktail Cabin boasts some of the most creative cocktail offerings in town, including the Herban Cowboy (black pepper infused bourbon, Fernet Branca, pomegranate, molasses, black licorice, and orange peel) or the Bluebird (Aria, elderflower liqueur, blueberries, and cava on the rocks). An order of their dirty popcorn will put something in your belly to help slow your roll.
Astro Lounge is another local fave, with a happy hour that extends until 7 p.m. and specials like the Latin Lover (muddled basil, fresh lemon, pineapple juice, and Crater Lake vodka infused with habanero and basil) or the Grandpa Steens (Four Roses, fresh grapefruit, champagne, and a float of Peychauds and peach bitters). For nibbles, grab the pork belly wanton nachos and the sweet potato fries.
Evening on the town
When dinnertime rolls around, you’ve got plenty of award-winning dining options to choose from. Try 900 Wall for an eclectic blend of Italian, French, and modern American influences. A beef carpaccio starter and a warm kale salad will pair well with any entrée you choose, and their creative veggie side dishes offer tasty ways to feel smug and superior about your healthy life choices.
Hit Drake for a creative, upscale twist on diner food (their shrimp and grits will leave you swooning) or Zydeco for Northwest cuisine with a Southern twist and oodles of great gluten-free choices (their blackened redfish is to die for).
BONUS! Win your own Downtown Bend outing
Feeling inspired to plan your own adventure in Downtown Bend? We’ve got a prize package that includes two full-day bike rentals from Crow’s Feet Commons and $50 to spend at 900 Wall. Enter to win by commenting on this post with at least three things you’d love to see and do while you’re in Bend. We’ll draw a winner on Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Excited about your fun day exploring downtown Bend? Click below to view Visit Bend’s love list for a more visual guide to the perfect spring day in downtown Bend. You can even love it and share it with your friends!