The air’s gotten crisp, and so have the leaves. That leaves ghosties and goblins lurking around each corner in Bend and Central Oregon.
Planning to spend the spookiest of holidays in our high desert haunt? Here are five ways to get your Halloween fix in Bend.
Book a ghost tour
I’ve long been a fan of the Historical Haunts tour offered each October from the Deschutes Historical Society. This walking tour travels a one-mile walking loop through Downtown Bend while your guide shares eerie stories about historic Bend buildings, landmarks, and events. The 2021 dates are October 15 and 16 with thirteen one-hour tours offered each day for just $15 a person. The downside? Tours sell out fast, so you’d better book quickly at 541-389-1813.
The upside? There’s a new game in town this year with Bend Ghost Tours. Offering year-round tours in Downtown Bend, their Ghosts and Legends of Downtown Bend Tour covers a 1.2 mile loop with stops at Bend landmarks, businesses, and haunted sites for stories and history that’ll give you goosebumps. You’ll even get hands-on action when they lend divining rods to let you suss out paranormal energy in one noteworthy spot.
What’s great about this tour is that there’s very little overlap with the one from Deschutes Historical Society. You can try both and not fret that you’ll hear the same stories. The cost is $25 and tours are available both before and after Halloween, with a handy online booking tool to make life simple.
Pick a pumpkin
It’s that time of year when several Central Oregon ranches transform into Halloween wonderlands, and pumpkin picking is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll need to drive north toward Terrebonne, but what a great excuse to try a few breweries in the Bend Ale Trail’s new Far North Territory!
At Smith Rock Ranch, their on-site pumpkin patch is free to enter, though you’ll pay based on size to take one home. They also offer activities including a shooting gallery, pumpkin cannon, pony rides, face painting, zoo train, wagon rides, live music, and more. Their legendary corn maize has a Cat in the Hat theme this year, so plan extra time for exploring. COVID-19 makes ticket availability and timing a bit trickier this year, and a limited number of ticket packages are available and must be purchased in advance, online, for a designated time. Find more info here.
Just a small drive from there, you’ll find the DD Ranch Pumpkin Patch. The 2021 activity lineup includes Clydesdale and pony rides, a petting zoo, pedal GoKarts, a dirt express train, a kids’ korral hay maze and play structure, hayrides, an animal petting zoo, and more. They’re open Tuesday through Sunday, though not every activity and food vendor will be open each day. For times, ticket pricing info, and details on their oh-so-awesome pumpkin patch, check their website.
Kill some zombies
While I don’t suggest running through Bend streets with a zombie-slaying AK-47 strapped to your chest, get the closest thing at Zero Latency Bend. It’s a free-roam virtual reality experience that opened earlier this year. They’ve got a 1,600 foot arena in their 6,000 foot facility, and plenty of games to pick from.
Novice zombie slayers should start with the Undead Arena game, though there are plenty of others, including virtual reality options with no firearms at all. Participants are outfitted with roughly $6,000 worth of gear, including headset, goggles, microphone, and a wireless backpack containing all your techy goods. The system essentially takes over all your senses from hearing to sight, and you’ll spend 30 breathless minutes racing around utterly convinced you’re saving humanity from zombie invasion. With a 15-minute orientation beforehand, your 45-minute experience costs a buck a minute with a $45 price tag.
I had precisely zero experience with virtual reality when I booked my family’s outing at Zero Latency, so I didn’t know what to expect. But the instant the game got underway, we were transported to another dimension where all of us became skilled zombie slayers clad in specialized armor firing weapons like expert marksmen. We laughed, we screamed, we raced around like lunatics yelling, “cover me!” or “nice headshot!” as zombies swarmed from all sides. In short, it was one of the coolest experiences we’ve had in a while, and I can’t wait to book our next adventure.
While virtual reality experiences are available year round at Zero Latency, they have a special Halloween event slated for October 29, complete with a comedian/magician. Watch their website for details, and book your spine-tingling experience today!
Feed your freaky soul
Fall’s harvest bounty yields some of the tastiest treats of the year, so plan your Halloween pursuits around a mouthwatering meal.
Plenty of Bend restaurants offer dishes crafted around seasonal produce and pumpkin spice, so peruse online menus to pique your palate. Keep in mind that staffing shortages may mean longer wait times or required reservations, so call ahead for info.
On the Bend Ale Trail, you’ll find plenty of pumpkin-themed brews and beers made with seasonal fresh hops. Halloween’s on a Sunday in 2021, so check each brewery’s schedule for special events and holiday hours.
Want something to take home for that Halloween party? Savory Spice in the Old Mill District has seasonal Spice ‘N Easys, including their Spiced Carrot Mug Cake mix and Spiced Apple Bake. Consult the Halloween schedule for the Old Mill District to time your visit with their Halloween photo stations and other spooktastic festivities kicking off Oct. 23. 2021.
Score a sweet costume
Whether you’re six or 66, there’s something magical about dressing up in costume. The days surrounding Hallows Eve are the perfect excuse to morph into someone different, so start your costume hunt now.
Spirit Halloween pops up every year in Bend around this time, and the 2021 spot is in the Bend Factory Outlet mall. Seize the chance to do some extra shopping while you’re there. Spirit Halloween carries a huge array of wigs, costumes, makeup, holiday decor, and more.
If you’d rather create your own costume, Bend boasts plenty of thrift stores and consignment shops where you can hunt for the elements to build your perfect Halloween ensemble.
For something of a naughty nature, Pretty Pussycat sells wigs, accessories, and adult-oriented attire on the sexier side of the spectrum. It’s an 18-and-older shop, so the kiddos should sit this one out.
Happy Halloween, everyone!