If you’ve spent Thanksgiving in Bend, you know the rituals: Around-the-clock snowflake watch, some post-meal outdoor play to burn off the pie, and a kickoff of holiday shopping.
While the pandemic rattled plenty of routines, most traditions are still going strong for Thanksgiving 2021 in Bend.
Gobble up some good grub
First things first. Let’s talk about where you’ll have your main meal on November 25 this year.
For some, the thought of preparing your own feast in the kitchen of your Bend vacation rental has the homey sorta vibe you’re craving. If that’s the case, go here to scope out a variety of vacation homes and condos with ovens waiting to welcome that big, juicy bird.
If you’d rather leave the cooking to someone else, a handful of terrific Bend restaurants are standing by ready to make your holiday meal extra special.
Though COVID made buffet-style dining less appealing, you’ll still find a few of them on this year’s list. Many Bend restaurants that normally do holiday meals have switched to prix fixe menus that you order beforehand. Check the list to see who’s offering dine-in and who’s gone carry-out only for this year’s Turkey Day feast. Also note that a lot of spots require reservations this year, so it’s crucial to plan ahead.
A plea, if I may? Bend’s hospitality industry took an extra-huge hit from the pandemic, and Bend restaurants have struggled to hire and retain workers. Service might be slower. Your waitstaff might be exhausted. Plan ahead to be patient and kind because that’s how we do things in Bend. Grab a snack before you go to stave off the hangries, and tip generously if you’re able. A smile goes a long way, too.
Burn off those Turkey Day calories
Feeling guilty about that sixth helping of mashed potatoes? Never fear, Central Oregon has a variety of Thanksgiving-themed runs, walks, and outdoor activities to burn off those extra calories.
The annual I Like Pie Thanksgiving day walk/run returns this year with a fun-run format. Families and individuals of all ages are encouraged to come to the Old Mill District anytime between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning to run or walk a three-mile loop. Preregister to get a bib and a beanie, and feel good knowing you’re supporting NeighborImpact and Boys and Girls Club of Bend.
If you feel like visiting one of Bend’s neighboring towns, head a few miles north to Redmond where they’re holding their own Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. This is a 5k and 10k event as well as a free 1K for kids and a virtual race option for those who feel safer steering clear of crowds. The event starts and ends in Sam Johnson Park and is untimed this year to keep things low-key.
If you’re staying through the weekend, check out the November 27 guided hike with Deschutes Land Trust. Explore Whychus Canyon Preserve as you wander through juniper forests scoping out wildlife–including turkeys!–and learn about human and natural history in the area. Registration is required.
Avoiding public gatherings now? You’re not alone. Or maybe alone is the goal, in which case it’s worth scoping out our hiking, biking, and trail running pages for ideas on getting away from it all while you get your fitness on.
Learn more about events in Bend by checking out our Event Calendar.
Are we skiing?
Let me rip the band-aid off quickly and tell you Mt. Bachelor isn’t opening Thanksgiving weekend. Warm temps and lack of snowfall have thwarted this beloved holiday tradition, but there’s hope for a snowier future!
Opening day is set for December 3, and we’re all required to do daily snow dances to make sure it happens.
In the meantime, now’s a good time to get familiar with Mt. Bachelor protocols in a COVID era. Read up on the 2021-2022 winter operating plan, which spells out things like parking and how to streamline your Mt. Bachelor experience with a brand-new app.
Then get back to snow dancing, okay?
Shop ‘til you drop
For those who favor indoorsy pursuits over outdoorsy ones (or for those who simply love a good bargain), don’t miss the Black Friday shopping deals around town.
Bend’s Old Mill District features stores like Vanilla Urban Threads, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Hello Sunshine, and more. Check out their Black Friday Specials page for info on who’s opening when.
Fans of outlet shopping will want to check out the Bend Factory Stores for big bargains. Shops include spots like the Nike Outlet, Eddie Bauer, Columbia Outlet, and much more.
For deals at places like Best Buy and Cost Plus World Market, head north to the Cascade Village Shopping Center. And if big-box stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and T.J.Maxx are on your agenda, be sure to hit the Bend River Promenade in the middle of town.
Many shops in Downtown Bend are taking part in Shop Small Saturday (also known as Small Business Saturday). Participants can gather raffle tickets to win prizes, and it’s a great chance to help small local businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Learn more here.
Before we’ve even stashed the Thanksgiving leftovers, a lot of us are gearing up for the next major holiday. If you want to get a jump on things, check out the Old Mill District’s Holiday Happenings page for a roundup of what’s going down. Santa will be on-hand beginning November 26, and there’s lots of other holiday cheer ranging from a Menorah lighting Nov. 28, to a charity Tree of Joy, to the Dec. 10 Holiday Lights Paddle Parade.
Downtown Bend is another festive place to be, with bright strings of lights and decorations adorning streets and shops. The annual Christmas Tree Lighting is slated for Friday, December 3 this year, which lines up nicely with First Friday Art Walk. The beloved Bend Christmas Parade is back in 2021 after taking last year off due to surging COVID rates. Mark your calendar for December 4 and turn up well before noon for a good parade viewing spot.
Only in Bend
Yes, I acknowledge there are Black Friday sales and Christmas tree lightings happening in most towns around America this time of year. While I encourage you to enjoy those activities, here are a few only-in-Bend things to add to your holiday agenda:
- Cave adventures and snowshoeing with Wanderlust Tours. Let the naturalist guides at Wanderlust lead you through Central Oregon’s lava tubes or through pristine fields of pillowy snow. Tours include all gear and transportation, not to mention snacks and warm drinks. They offer daytime or starlight outings, and kids are welcome, too.
- Visit the High Desert Museum. Bend’s popular High Desert Museum offers fascinating exhibits, cool animals, and tons of opportunities to learn more about the culture and history of the high desert. Check out their website to learn more about the schedule of special events and exhibits at the museum.
- Special programs at the Tower Theatre. Even if they weren’t having any shows at all, Bend’s historic Tower Theatre would be worth checking out just for the beauty of it. But during the holiday season, you can catch special feature films and other holiday programming sure to put a smile on your face. Keep in mind that everyone attending events at The Tower needs proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. You can learn more on their website.