From May through September, folks flock to Bend for all the hiking, biking, swimming, and soul-soothing nature they can fit into a long weekend. Squeezing the best Bend adventures into limited time takes planning and prioritizing, but it’s do-able during the long days of summer.
Here are 15 of the best don’t-miss Bend activities and attractions to make the most of your Bend summer vacation.
Float the river
Nothing says “Bend” like bobbing in an inner tube on the sparkling Deschutes River with your toes in the water and birdsong on the breeze. You can knock out a quick float in a couple hours, especially if you go earlier in the day or late afternoon to dodge crowds at the gear rental line. Check out this blog post for everything you need to know about where to start, what gear you’ll need, and how to maximize your relaxing river float in Bend.
Groove to live music
Bend’s beauty attracts some of the world’s top musical talent, and past performers include Dave Matthews Band, Brandi Carlile, Willie Nelson, Alabama Shakes, and so many more. Whether you groove in the grass by the river at Hayden Homes Amphitheater or enjoy an intimate evening in the pines for the Clear Summer Nights concert series, schedule some live music into your schedule. You’ll even find free, family-friendly shows at Munch & Music in Drake Park.
Go for a hike
In surveys of Bend visitors, hiking is hands-down the top ranked activity. Choose from hard-earned lake views at the top of a mountain, or leisurely strolls on a paved path along the river. You’ll find dog-friendly hikes where Fido can frolic off leash, or acres of scenic desert where pups aren’t allowed at all. Get started finding the perfect hike for you and your family at this link. Since some spots require a Central Cascades Wilderness Permit, read up on the rules before lacing your boots.
Try whitewater rafting
Want a taste of adrenaline and the skill of a trained guide guaranteeing your family heaps of splashy memories? Try whitewater rafting with Sun Country Tours and prepare for the ultimate summer treat. They supply all gear, transportation,and guidance, while you supply the paddle power and all the heart-pounding laughter you can squeeze into a half-day outing.
Let Wanderlust show you the way
Some Bend adventures are best with professionals guiding the way, and that’s extra true of the naturalist guides from Wanderlust Tours. From lava cave adventures to moonlight canoe outings, they’ll take you to spots you might not find on your own, then dazzle you with info on the natural history and geology of an area. Since all the driving, planning, snacks, and gear will be left in their capable hands, you’ll be free to enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime Bend adventure.
Bend’s culinary scene rivals what you’ll find in big cities, but with one massive perk: Outdoor dining with views to make your mouth water. Choose from riverfront dining or spots on a cozy patio filled with fire pits. From Mediterranean to Asian fusion to Italian to plain ol’ Pacific NW cuisine, you’ll fill your belly with good food while feasting your eyes on more of Bend’s epic beauty.
Stroll the Old Mill District
Not many shopping spots boast the beauty and history you’ll find in Bend’s Old Mill District. Watch cheerful paddlers bob past on the Deschutes River as you pause for a glass of wine at one of the Old Mill’s award-winning restaurants. Shop quaint boutiques and well-known chain stores or rent a surrey and pedal around scoping out signage sharing history of the area. When the lights go down, catch a movie or duck into a bar for a nightcap.
Hit historic downtown Bend
Dotted with historic brick buildings and locally-owned shops brimming with souvenirs, Bend’s downtown core has a small-town vibe buzzing with local charm. That’s especially true in summer when the Bend Farmer’s Market brings a bounty of fresh produce and other locally-made goods. Grab a dish of gelato or a hot cup of coffee and stroll on into Drake Park, the 13-acre riverfront jewel of Bend’s park system.
Get your lava fix
Bend’s very volcanic history gives us tons of unique landscapes to explore while you’re here. Set out to see the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which features an ancient shield volcano the size of Rhode Island. Next, venture out into the Oregon Badlands Wilderness, or keep it simple with a trek up Pilot Butte for epic views of Bend and beyond. If you like leaving planning to someone else, let Wanderlust Tours treat you to a lava cave tour or a volcano tour, or scope out Lava River Cave on your own.
Go chasing waterfalls
From the towering splendor of Tumalo Falls to the bright turquoise glimmer of Wizard Falls, Central Oregon has no shortage of waterfalls for you to chase. Check out this post for ideas and inspiration, and don’t forget to follow Leave No Trace practices when you head out exploring.
Hit the bike trails
From road cycling to mountain biking to endless miles of gravel bike trails, Bend’s bike scene offers any sort of cycling terrain you might dream of. Set out on your own, or leave planning, gear, and transport to the expert guides at CogWild Bicycle Tours. For a four-wheeled family adventure, rent a bike surrey from Wheel Fun Adventures and pedal the paved path by the river through the Old Mill District.
Scope out the ski hill
Summertime brings next-level adventure to Bend’s most popular mountain, making Mt. Bachelor so much more than a ski hill. Head up for summer adventures like zip lining, scenic chairlift rides, dogsled outings in a wheeled cart, sunset dinners, disc golf, or their downhill bike park.
Festival season hits full swing during Bend’s summer months, so plan your adventure around one of the city’s most epic attractions. Scan the Event Calendar to find dates for attractions like Balloons Over Bend, Bend Summer Festival, and Bend’s big Independence Day celebrations. While you’re at it, peruse for events happening all year long and schedule a Bend vacation for one of our chillier months.
Head for the High Desert Museum
There’s a reason the High Desert Museum tops Trip Advisor’s list of Bend’s best attractions. From natural history to wildlife exhibits, this longtime Central Oregon destination gives the ultimate taste of what makes our high desert oasis so special. Don’t miss popular animal shows like raptor flyovers and otter feeding time, and save room for lunch in their courtyard cafe.
Swill suds on the Bend Ale Trail
Bend’s ultimate trail of suds got a complete revamp in 2021, expanding the program to include seven separate territories and spanning into Redmond, Sisters, and Prineville. Not only that, but each territory in the Bend Ale Trail pairs with activities and attractions unique to that area. Collect prizes for each territory as you sip your way through porters, pilsners, and IPAs. Not a beer fan? Try some Drinkable Diversions, including cideries, distilleries, wine tasting rooms, and kombucha brewers. There’s something for everyone—even your designated driver.