7 ways to have the ultimate ‘80s experience in Bend, Oregon
Craving a totally tubular vacation spiced with flashbacks to MTV and corded phones?
Throw your duffel in the Datsun, shove a mixed tape in the car stereo, and point yourself toward Bend, Oregon for the ultimate 80s vacay.
Visit the world’s last Blockbuster
Much hubbub has been made of the fact that Bend, Oregon is home to the last Blockbuster store in the universe. Following the closure of the second-to-last store in Australia last March, everyone from Business Insider to the New York Times to Time magazine to the Ellen show flocked to Bend to cover this random bit of news.
Incidentally, it was a weird week to be a PR & communications manager in Bend.
The world’s last Blockbuster store is alive and well in Bend, and you can visit for a selfie, a Blockbuster T-shirt, or even (gasp!) good old fashioned movie rentals. It’s a trip down memory lane worth taking for the novelty alone.
Get your game on at Vector Volcano
Speaking of memory lane, who else remembers going to the video game arcade with a pocket full of quarters and a plan to beat the high score on Ms. Pac-Man?
Relive the experience at Vector Volcano in Downtown Bend. They specialize in vintage arcade and pinball machines from the 80s and 90s, and pride themselves on keeping the games in original condition with bright monitors and finely-tuned controls.
The price of admission includes unlimited play (pinball not included) for $15 all day or $5 for an hour. They even serve local craft beer, which is hopefully not reminiscent of your childhood arcade experiences.
Check out a town that’s kinda like Bend in the ‘80s
I turned six in 1980, and since my grandparents raised race horses on this side of the mountains, I spent much of my childhood roaming Central Oregon in the 80s.
Back then, the population of Bend was under 20,000, and it still felt like a big city compared to neighboring towns like Redmond, Prineville, Madras, and Sisters.
With Bend’s population inching closer to 100,000, it’s a much different place these days than it was in the 80s. Want to experience some of the same small-town vibe we knew and loved 30 years ago? Consider a day trip to one of those outlying towns.
Redmond’s population currently hovers around 30,000, and it’s a great lunchtime stopover when you’re heading out to hike Steelhead Falls or Smith Rock State Park.
Prineville’s population is around 10,000, and it’s an awesome day trip for everyone from rouckhounds to golfers to boating enthusiasts headed for Prineville Reservoir State Park. Since mountain biking was birthed back in the 80s, it’s also a good chance to explore some of the new bike trails popping up near Prineville.
For more ideas on day trips from a Bend home base, check out this blog post.
Visit the place where Bend’s beer scene began
The birth of Bend’s epic craft beer scene occurred in 1988 when Deschutes Brewery opened their Public House in Downtown Bend. They’ve since become the big ol’ grandad of Bend beer, and one could argue the Bend Ale Trail wouldn’t exist if they hadn’t gotten the ball rolling way back when.
You can still visit the original brewhouse, which has since been remodeled and expanded. For nostalgia’s sake, check out one of their original flagship beers like Black Butte Porter and Jubelale.
Plan a nostalgic visit to the High Desert Museum
Not long after the High Desert Museum opened its doors in 1982, I visited with my Girl Scout Troop.
I still remember the smell of ponderosa pines and the wonder of tiny chipmunks scampering everywhere through the outdoor exhibits.
Though the place has grown and changed since then, it still boasts an amazing array of native wildlife like river otters, porcupines, and badgers. You can talk with historic characters sharing tales of early Oregon explorers, or visit a historic sawmill from 1904.
It’s a fun chance to explore multiple eras of history while browsing 100,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and 135 acres of outdoor amazement. Check out their daily schedule so you don’t miss highlights like raptor shows and otter feeding time.
Grab a burger at Pilot Butte Drive-In
Opened in 1983, the Pilot Butte Drive-In has been a Bend tradition for generations of travelers and locals alike. Housed in a converted A&W building near the base of Pilot Butte, the décor is unabashedly 80s and cozily awesome.
But the food is what keeps people coming back, from burgers and fries, to shakes and omelets. Pilot Butte Drive-In boasts huge portions, quality ingredients, and affordable prices.
Stop here before you hike Pilot Butte for a little fuel, or as a reward after you finish.
Find your ‘80s mojo at Mt. Bachelor
Mt. Bachelor has a long history of winter recreation, dating back even before it became an official ski hill in the 1950s.
Several of the resort’s major additions occurred in the 1980s, lending the mountain a decidedly 80s vibe. Sunrise Lodge (originally named Flycreek Lodge) was added in 1981, the same year Sunrise Triple Chair was added. Pine Marten Express debuted in 1986 as the first high-speed quad lift in the Northwest US.
Obviously, the lifts and technology have changed to keep up with safety and trends, but you’ll find plenty of 80s-era goodness by simply strolling through the main lodge. Their springtime Rendez Van event pays tribute to all things 80s, and even boasts a dedicated retro 80s ski day.
With a ton of new construction and development on the horizon soon, now’s a great time to plan a nostalgic Mt. Bachelor for a trip down memory lane.
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