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10 low-octane activities for safer Bend fun

Picnic in Drake Park in Bend, OR

Mountain biking. Rock climbing. Trail running. High-octane outdoor play is part of the Bend experience, but it comes with certain risks. 

Risks you maybe shouldn’t take with COVID crippling the healthcare system in an eight-county region that currently has one available ICU bed–literally one–heading into Labor Day weekend. 

River views and blue skies in the Old Mill District!

In the interest of keeping us all safe and out of the hospital this holiday, here are 10 fun, low-octane ways to enjoy Bend.


A nice, flat, paved hike

While scaling mountains is an epic way to earn your waterfall views, now’s not the time for a trip to the ER with a twisted ankle. Consider a quieter hike on paths without loose gravel or fallen logs. 

A stroll along the paved, riverfront path through the Old Mill District can get your heart pumping on a fairly flat surface with stunning views. Or consider Bend’s iconic Drake Park with its smooth pathways and 13 riverfront acres to explore.

If you absolutely need altitude, take a cautious trudge to the top of Pilot Butte where you’ll get 360-degree views of the city, including a lovely shot of St. Charles Medical Center. It’s a timely reminder of where you don’t want to spend the holiday weekend.


A calm outing with Fido

Your pup will have nearly 19 acres to frolic at the Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area.

Letting Rover run wild on rocky trails is a great way to bond with your pup, but now’s a good time to take it down a notch. Lucky for both of you, Bend boasts eight off-leash dog parks so your four-legged pal can get the wiggles out in a safe space. 

The Bob Wenger Memorial Off-Leash Area spans 18.8 fenced acres with fields, trails, and plenty of rock outcroppings where your pup can mark his territory. Plan your visit for quieter times like early morning or late evening instead of the busier post-work zone between 5 and 7 p.m. That’ll reduce your own COVID exposure while your four-legged friend frolics in peace.


Plan a picnic

Nothing says relaxation like a picnic in the park. Hit locally-owned Newport Avenue Market for deli sandwiches and salads, or grab a takeout meal as a way to support local restaurants struggling through the pandemic. For ideas on where to toss that picnic blanket, check out this blog post or consult the list of more than 80 Bend parks in the Bend Park and Rec system.


A picnic in the park is a low-key but fun way to enjoy Bend’s outdoor spaces.

Hit the High Desert Museum

If a museum sounds like the opposite of outdoor play for your nature-loving soul, you’ve never met the High Desert Museum. Their property includes 135 treed acres filled with outdoor exhibits ranging from eagles and otters, to a replica of a 1904 sawmill and homestead.

Wander indoors–masked, of course–to see natural history exhibits, indiginous art, and more cool critters like a fox and a bobcat. It’s an awesome way to get a taste of the region with minimal risk of injury.


Visit the world’s last Blockbuster

Holing up in your hotel room watching movies might seem like a bummer, but not when it comes with a trip to the last Blockbuster in the universe. Bend’s quaint little video store has been the subject of countless news articles and documentaries, and it’s a surprisingly fun attraction. Stop for a selfie and souvenirs, then grab a few videos to take back to your Bend vacation rental.

The last Blockbuster in the world is in Bend.

Pick up a pizza and some movie snacks, and you’re set for a laidback evening of nostalgia.


Pick a calm, quiet paddle

Save the whitewater kayaking for another time and focus this weekend on a peaceful flatwater experience. Ditch the bustling crowds on the Cascade Lakes Highway and head for the less-trekked Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Both Paulina Lake and East Lake rent gear like canoes and standup paddleboards, or bring your own and set out from the sandy shoreline. 

East Lake paddle

Blogger Tawna paddles East Lake with her pupper.

Don’t forget safety gear like a personal floatation device and a whistle to signal for help. Sturdy river shoes that won’t slip off will not only protect your tootsies, but keep our pristine lakes from getting cluttered with lost footwear.


How do you like your golf?

While you could surely find some way to get hurt on a golf course, it’s a lot less likely than your risk of banging up your body while bouldering. Central Oregon has more than two dozen courses for traditional golf enthusiasts, or take a swing at the mini-golf course at Sun Mountain Fun Center

The Pine Nursery Disc Golf Course is a lovely spot for some low-risk activity.

If disc golf is more your scene, check out the 18-hole Pine Nursery Disc Golf Course for some fun frisbee action. There’s even a Bend brewery dedicated to disc golf, so try Bevel Brewing for your post-game brews. Just be sure to drink responsibly so you don’t land yourself or anyone else in the ER.


Scope out Bend’s outdoorsy art scene

While Bend offers tons of awesome art galleries, you can also get a taste of Bend’s art scene without setting foot indoors. The city teems with outdoor art, from the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection, to the Roundabout Art Route. You can even earn a prize for completing quiz questions about roundabout sculptures, so pick up a passport at the Bend Visitor Center.


Go stargazing

Central Oregon’s clear skies (er, assuming there’s no forest fire smoke) make us an epic spot for stargazing, so bust out that telescope.

starlight canoe tour with Wanderlust Tours

Not a bad spot to watch the stars, courtesy of Wanderlust Tours.

Don’t have one? Plan a visit to the Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing, or drive south to the Sunriver Nature Center. Make sure you’ve got a reservation, as COVID restrictions limit visitor volumes in most places. 

A nighttime outing with Wanderlust Tours is a chance to scope out the heavens from the middle of a high mountain lake.

If you’d rather fly solo, find a park on the fringes of the city limits, like Pine Nursery. Spread a blanket in the grass and voila! You’re all set to stargaze.


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