Category: Things to do
Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean you should surrender the idea of experiencing Bend with the fun, carefree spirit of your youth. Here are 6 ways you can enjoy being a kid again on a Bend vacation.
Do the leaf pile pounce
Right now, Bend’s parks are teaming with glorious, multi-hued leaf piles just begging for you to leap right in.
Indulge yourself. Heck, bring your own rake so you can pile them up into a towering leaf mountain. Take a running jump and pounce on that pile like the goofball you are.
Then rake and repeat until your face hurts from giggling.
Go sledding, wage snowball battles, or build snowmen
We’re teetering on the brink between fall and winter, which means snow is starting to pile up near Mt. Bachelor.
It doesn’t take much searching to find an open field of snow where you can mold a few snowballs to toss at pals, or flop down on your back to make an old-fashioned snow angel.
If you’re feeling artsy, pack a carrot and a spare scarf and build yourself a snowman.
Once Mt. Bachelor opens for the season, you can enjoy an old-fashioned sledding experience (minus the need to lug your inner tube uphill) in their Snowblast Tubing Park. If you’d rather go it alone with your saucer sled or Flexible Flyer, check out this blog post for ideas on where to do some sledding in Bend.
Get your game on
Remember the thrill of visiting a video arcade with a pocketful of quarters and a steadfast determination to get the top score on Pac Man? You can recapture that experience—minus the quarters, but add in a beer—at Vector Volcano. It’s a vintage video arcade that charges a low flat fee for unlimited play.
If you want more than just video games, visit Sun Mountain Fun Center. They not only offer a wide array of arcade options, but also bumper cars, Go-Karts, mini golf, bowling, and more. The pizza here is surprisingly awesome, and your arcade play earns you tickets to cash in for prizes.
Sometimes, kids just need to burn off some energy. The same holds true for adults, and there’s no shame in venturing to an indoor arena like Mountain Air Trampoline Park for the chance to bounce around like a freakin’ lunatic.
The main court has 26 trampolines and is surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway. Mountain Air even offers basketball and dodgeball, along with a giant airbag that’s crazy fun to leap onto from above.
Note to grownup ladies: Pack a sports bra for this one. You’ll thank me later.
Check out critters at High Desert Museum
The first time I visited the High Desert Museum in 1984, I was nine years old and they had only been open a couple years. I remember running around the 135-acre grounds checking out chipmunks and learning about birds of prey. It was the most fun I had all year.
Not much has changed.
Well, the museum itself has, with tons more exhibits and animals (including a newly-renovated otter exhibit and a brand new juvenile otter who just joined the existing two on display).
Even without my kids in tow, I love visiting the museum for the raptor show, the porcupine demo, or just to check out the latest exhibits. It’s fun for all ages, and consistently ranked by TripAdvisor as the top Central Oregon attraction.
Play with your food
When you were a kid, you heard the refrain over and over: “Don’t play with your food!”
But you did it anyway, because it was freakin’ fun.
While it’s not socially acceptable to waltz into Jackalope Grill and have a mashed potato fight, there are plenty of foods you can eat with your hands and have it be totally cool.
Pizza is a great pick for grub you can grab with both hands. My current fave is the pizza menu at 10 Barrel, which also boasts an impressive beer menu with recommended pairings for each pie. For a full list of Bend pizza spots, go here.
Everyone has a time of year they love more than any other in Bend, and for me, that time is now.
Nights have turned chilly and trees have gone from ablaze in the literal sense (@#$% forest fires) to ablaze in autumnal hues of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Crowds have thinned out, but the weather is still warm enough that I can enjoy an afternoon of SUPing on my favorite lake and have the whole place to myself.
Sound awesome? It is! Here are five things that make fall a stupendous time of year to be in Bend, Oregon.
The best of both weather worlds
Last weekend, Mt. Bachelor became the first ski area in North America to offer skiing and snowboarding in advance of the 2017-18 winter season when they created a free walk-up terrain park and offered “snow-seeing” chairlift rides.
Today, it’s 80-degrees in Bend and I’m plotting ways to escape work early for some standup paddleboarding on the Deschutes.
Fall is the time of year in Bend when you’ll see the greatest swoops in weather condition, and for those who crave variety, it’s a wonderful thing to behold.
Farewell to the crowds
As someone who works in tourism promotion, I’m the last person to whine about summertime crowds in Bend. Nevertheless, I’ll admit I experience Bend differently when things quiet down in autumn and I have the luxury of solitude in so many of my favorite spots.
Hiking trails get quieter. Wait times are shorter at my favorite restaurants. When I get distracted gawking at autumn leaves while strolling the streets of downtown Bend, I’m a lot less likely to run my clumsy face into someone doing the same thing.
If you come to Bend for tranquility and quiet, fall is a great time to find it.
Save a bundle during shoulder season
In Bend, our shoulder season happens from late-fall to early-winter and then again in early spring (by contrast, peak times are summer break, winter break, and spring break).
In other words, October is pretty much the perfect time to plan a Bend vacation. Crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is still pretty mild.
For the inside scoop on shoulder season deals, check out our Deals and Discounts page.
Oh, the events!
Some of my very favorite events take place in Bend this time of year. Though we’ve already had Oktoberfest, the Bend Fall Festival is coming up October 6-8 with three days of live music, abundant food, and plenty of things to do for kids. There’s also a Harvest Market, a Fine Artist Promenade, and the ever-popular Pumpkin Carving Contest.
October also ushers in Tenth Month, which is a month-long celebration of brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It includes events like the BendFilm Festival, Bend Venture Conference, Bend Design Conference, and Swivel, which makes the whole month of October a pretty inspiring time to be in Central Oregon.
And can I just add an extra shout-out here for the BendFilm Festival? It’s seriously one of my favorite events in Bend for the entire year, which is high praise coming from someone who generally doesn’t love movies at all (hashtag booksnob). The films are amazing, the parties are excellent, and it’s a terrific opportunity to rub shoulders with actors, directors, filmmakers, and other assorted creatives. There’s a vibe in Bend during BendFilm Festival that’s unlike anything you’ll experience other times of year, and I can’t wait for the event to kick off October 12-15.
The tastiest time of year
A lot of great Bend restaurants have found a niche serving up seasonal, locally grown produce, and there’s something about fall’s bounty that seems to bring out the best stuff.
Chow is currently cranking out magical meals featuring locally-sourced sweet pickled corn, organic kale, and housemade raw beet noodles. If that sounds too veggie-centric for you, you’ll be happy to know they’ve also been crafting fabulous dishes with so-fresh-it’s-still-mooing Cascade Angus natural beef.
If you’d prefer to handle food prep on your own, don’t forget the Bend Farmers Market is still going through October 11. Now’s a great time to stock up on fresh produce and flowers, not to mention enjoying live music and a great chance to stroll at the edge of Mirror Pond while the weather’s still warm.
And don’t get me started on all the amazing seasonal beers you’ll find along the Bend Ale Trail right now. Creamy stouts, hoppy IPAs, and a plethora of barrel-aged brews, seasonal sours, and the occasional pumpkin beer. Cheers to fall in Bend!
Forest fire season is upon us, and with several large blazes raging around Oregon, Bend has seen a bit of smoke this week. A short walk with the dog last night left us both smelling like we’d spent the evening by a bonfire, and folks with respiratory problems have been advised to stay indoors.
While it’s rare for Bend fans to give up even a moment of outdoor play in our glorious high desert paradise, there’s plenty of indoorsy fun to be found when smoke or rain drive us inside. Here are 13 of my favorite forms of indoor fun in Bend.
The High Desert Museum
One of Central Oregon’s top attractions since 1982, the High Desert Museum is a wonderland of wildlife, natural history, and art. It sits on 135 acres and boasts 100,000 square feet of exhibit space where you can get a close-up view of native wildlife including river otters, bobcat, porcupines, and badgers. Their raptor programs are a must-see, with owls, falcons, and hawks swooping overhead.
Stick to the indoor exhibits if the weather is frightful, or head outside to visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904. You’ll also find a variety of educational, hands-on exhibits that will thrill visitors of all ages and bring history and science to life.
Mountain Air Trampoline Park
In less than a year of operation, Mountain Air Trampoline Park has become my 11-year-old’s favorite spot for birthday parties or weekend outings. The main court has 26 trampolines and is surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway.
Mountain Air even offers basketball and dodgeball, along with a giant airbag that’s crazy fun to leap onto from above.
Parents with toddlers they’d prefer not to see squished by older kids will be happy to know there’s a special zone for kids 46-inches and shorter.
Note to busty moms: Double up on the sports bras for this one. You’ll thank me later.
The Roundabout Art Route
One of the most unique art exhibits anywhere, the Roundabout Art Route is a collection of nearly two dozen pieces of public art on display throughout the city in the most unlikely places – at the center of Bend’s traffic circles. The circles, also filled with plants, flowers and trees, are designed to keep traffic flowing around the city.
Pick up a brochure at the Bend Visitor Center so you can map your route between sculptures. At the end, answer some simple trivia questions and return it to the Visitor Center to claim a cool edible prize.
Sun Mountain Fun Center
There’s plenty of indoor fun to be found at Sun Mountain Fun Center, especially if you have kids in tow. Bumper cars, bowling, and a staggering array of video games dispensing tickets you can cash in for prizes.
The pizza here is surprisingly awesome, with a great local beer selection to boot. If you get a break in the rainstorm or smoke haze, head outdoors to do a little Go Kart racing, mini golf, or a stint in the batting cage.
Deschutes Historical Museum
History buffs will adore this well-run museum located in the historic Reid School (Bend’s first modern school opened in 1914). The Deschutes Historical Museum has been operating in Bend since 1980, and features a unique variety of exhibits ranging from local history to an expansive temporary exhibit titled, “Winter Comes: Oregon’s Nordic Ski History.”
They’re also the host site for one of my favorite Bend beer events coming up Labor Day Weekend, The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew and Whiskey Festival Sept. 1-2. #JustSayin
When you vacation in Bend, there’s the tendency to run yourself ragged trying to cram in all the hiking, biking, paddling, and playing in the outdoor playground of the West.
Whether it’s rain, smoke, or just a need for relaxation that drive the urge for a spa day, you’ll find tons of great Bend day spas where you can pamper yourself. Opt for a mani/pedi, or get a massage to soothe well-worked muscles. Score a facial to counter the effects of our dry high desert climate, or book a special service like a mud wrap.
Aaaah….now that’s a vacation.
Wren and Wild Aerial Yoga
Want a super-unique indoorsy experience to add to your Bend vacation? Wren and Wild is Bend’s first aerial yoga studio. In case you’re not familiar with it, aerial yoga is a strengthening practice using sturdy silks suspended from the ceiling.
They offer private classes, group workshops, and even special sessions like mother/daughter aerial yoga. Check out their rates and schedule here.
Plan an escape
Both Bend Escape Room and Red Button Escapes offer a fun, immersive, interactive game experience that’s challenging for the whole family. In a nutshell, your group is locked in a room and given the clues to escape. It makes a fun team building or family activity for 2-6 people.
Have an Airsoft battle
For those who’ve never heard of it, Airsoft is the generic name for air-powered toy guns that shoot small, plastic BBs. Peak Airsoft has an indoor arena where you can enjoy a safe, fun, fast-paced, adrenaline-filled action experience.
Playing at Peak Airsoft’s indoor arena revolves around loosely-guided, objective-based game modes requiring teamwork and strategy to complete the tasks assigned to each team. All equipment is provided, including electric M4-style rifles and full face protection
Guests can drop in for open play sessions or book a private party. For info and pricing, go here.
The Tower Theatre
Craving a bit of culture during your Bend visit? Check the schedule at Bend’s historic Tower Theatre and snap up some seats at an upcoming event. This renovated art-deco theater offers musical performances, films, plays, and more, so check their schedule to see what’s happening during your Bend stay.
Children of the ‘80s and ‘90s will fall in love with this quirky Downtown arcade packed with vintage video games, but so will kids of all ages and generations. Vector Volcano is family-friendly, but they also serve local craft beer. Admission gets you unlimited game play for the time period you pick, with no quarters or tokens required.
Bowling is the ultimate family activity for all ages, and Bend is lucky enough to have two great spots for it. Check out Lava Lanes or Sun Mountain Fun Center for a fun-filled afternoon or evening of rolling strikes (or gutter balls—no judgement here).
Shop ‘til you drop
Not-so-hot weather conditions give you the perfect excuse to splurge on a little souvenir shopping in Bend. Whether you’re looking for art, clothing, outdoor gear, or edible gifts to take home for friends, you’ll find it all in Bend.
Scope out the eclectic array of unique shops in downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, and Northwest Crossing, or head for to national chains found at the Bend Factory Stores or the Cascade Village Shopping Center, you’ll find plenty of spots to give your credit card a workout in Bend.
I’m writing this post from 5,570 miles from Central Oregon, which seems weird for a tourism blog devoted to Bend.
But being in Barcelona right now has me in “tourist mode” instead of “tourism promotion mode,” which spurred a few observations worth sharing. While I’ve bopped my way between countless foreign lands and U.S. cities over the last few decades, here are 6 reasons I’m convinced Bend is one of the best places on earth to be a tourist.
One heck of a great visitor center
My work station back home is spitting distance from the front desk of the Bend Visitor Center, so I’m a perpetual eavesdropper on conversations between Bend visitors and the volunteers and staff members answering their questions.
That’s how I know the tips they dole out daily aren’t canned marketing statements they’re forced to spew because someone’s paying for it. They’re genuine, heartfelt endorsements from locals who live and play in Bend.
When a Visit Bend team member suggests where to hike, bike, dine, ski, shop, or anything else in Bend, you know you’re getting someone’s unbiased, personal endorsement. That’s a rare thing, and it’s why I always tell Bend visitors to stop by the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend (weekdays 9-5, weekends 10-4) at the start of any Bend vacation.
Make your belly happy
Some tourist destinations can be challenging when it comes to dining. Maybe the cuisine is super-greasy or made with unfamiliar ingredients that generate howls of protest from picky eaters in your family, or maybe restaurant hours just don’t mesh with your vacation schedule.
But one thing I love about Bend is that you’ll find pretty much anything your tummy might need. Looking for gluten-free or vegetarian dining in Bend? Bend has oodles of options. Want a grab-and-go breakfast for mornings you’re en route to Mt. Bachelor or a full-day hike? I can name nearly a dozen ideas off the top of my head.
You’ll also find a variety of restaurants in Bend, from Asian to Italian to Mexican and everything in between. Bottom line—your belly will always be happy on a Bend vacation.
What’s that smell?
Researchers have studied why certain scents have the power to trigger powerful emotions, finding some fascinating links between olfactory senses and memories.
I don’t doubt it. The places I’ve visited that have the most unique odors are the ones I remember most clearly. You could drop me blindfolded into the souks of Marrakesh, Morocco, and I would instantly know my location from the unique scent of exotic spice and leather and livestock. Ditto that for the briney, seaweed aroma of the Oregon Coast or the strange blend of botanicals and diesel exhaust in Caracas, Venezuala.
But no place in the universe smells like Bend, Oregon.
There’s something magical about the heady fragrance sun-warmed sage and bitterbrush mixed with the weirdly pleasant cat-pee smell of juniper. Blend in a hint of volcanic dust and ponderosa pine bark, and you could bottle it as Bend perfume.
It’s why I always roll my car window down as I pull into town after a long trip away. It’s the scent of happiness and fresh air and of home, and it’s one of the best sensory experiences I know.
No shortage of banks
Bend’s plethora of banking institutions might seem like a strange benefit to tout, until you find yourself in a lesser-endowed city spending precious vacation time in search of an ATM. That’ll never happen in Bend, where there’s a credit union or major bank chain on nearly every corner.
That’s a big plus for travelers who prefer to pay with cash (which is a great way to track your vacation budget, not to mention supporting small local businesses who appreciate not getting hit with credit card charges).
Guided tours galore
When orienting yourself to a new city, there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than with a guided tour.
Luckily for Bend visitors, there are tons of unique ways to do that. Outdoor enthusiasts can book an outing with Wanderlust Tours to see the area’s caves, snowshoe trails, or top canoe spots. You’ll also find walking tours, electric bike outings, and specialty options like Jeep tours and brewery excursions.
For a complete list, check out our guided tours page to find the one that’s right for you.
More smiles than anyplace else
While disembarking the plane on one of my many layovers en route to Barcelona yesterday, the passengers began to shove. Several folks surged from the back of the plane, prompting surly shouts from those near the front.
“That would never happen in Bend,” I thought.
While I can’t claim Central Oregon is an idyllic land free from road range and bad moods, it’s true that folks seem a little more laidback in Bend. Maybe there’s something in the air, or maybe it’s Bend itself that makes folks kinder, more patient, and generally more joyful.
Whatever it is, Bend is just one of those places that makes your heart a little happier.
My husband is traveling on business this week, so I’ve spent lots of time talking to the dog drinking milk from the carton exploring Bend on my own.
Obviously, it’s not the first time in my 42+ years as an Oregonian that I’ve hung out solo in Central Oregon, but it’s the first time I’ve paid super-close attention to the best ways to savor Bend by yourself. Here are 6 of them.
Pick the perfect spot to stay
When you’re vacationing solo, sometimes you’d prefer to keep to yourself. That’s easy to do in nearly any Bend hotel or vacation rental, and you can amplify your vacation enjoyment with perks like killer views, in-room spas, or the ability to walk everywhere you want to go (handy if you plan to hit the Bend Ale Trail on your own and want to avoid driving).
Downtown properties like Wall Street Suites and the DoubleTree by Hilton make it simple to stroll between restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. Ditto that for The Oxford Hotel, which has the added bonus of a swanky lower-level restaurant to enjoy when you do feel like interacting with humans.
Hotels in the Old Mill District are another great option for the ease of walking anywhere you need to go for shopping and dining, plus you’ll be mere steps from the Deschutes River and summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Table for one?
I’ll admit I’ve felt moments of awkwardness when dining alone as a business traveler or just a local gal who feels like taking herself out on a lunch date.
Fortunately, Bend’s dining scene is chill enough that it’s really not an issue. My favorite lunch spots for solo dining include Parilla Grill (especially the awesome new Eastside location!), Longboard Louie’s, Barrio, and Croutons.
El Sancho is another great choice for those who want to dip a toe in the water of meeting new people. Many’s the time I’ve parked myself at one of the large, outdoor tables with a random group of strangers and found myself making a new friend.
Looking to treat yourself to a nice dinner? 900 Wall, Joolz, Greg’s Grill, and Zydeco are all awesome dinnertime options where I swear you won’t feel weird requesting a table all to yourself (though if you prefer, most of those spots have a bar where you can ask to be seated solo).
Heading out for a hike
I’ve hiked by myself all over Central Oregon, and aside from a couple rare (and possibly paranoid) moments of fretting about cougars, I’ve always felt safe.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to take some precautions when you’re setting out for a solo hike. Take plenty of water and snacks—just like you would when hiking with pals—but factor in the downside of not having an extra body around for warmth. Then stuff your pack with a few extra warm layers and a space blanket.
Next, make sure you plot your route carefully and take a paper map (no relying on smartphones where you might not have service!) Grab a good guide book like Bend Overall by Scott Cook and Bend, Oregon Daycations (Day Trips for Curious Families), by Kim Cooper Findling to get ideas for routes and what to expect.
And most importantly, let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. That way they can notify authorities if you haven’t returned in a reasonable amount of time.
No sense in driving solo
Since invisible friends don’t count, your solo status renders you ineligible to use the carpool spots at Mt. Bachelor.
But what a great excuse to catch the Mt. Bachelor shuttle to avoid driving all the way there and back in your own car.
Enjoy your own company
One of my favorite solo activities when traveling is to find a warm, cozy spot to curl up with a good book.
When it’s warm and sunny, check out one of Bend’s 80+ public parks. You’ll find tons of great spots to throw down your picnic blanket and curl up with your toes in the grass and a good book on your lap. Pack a picnic and make a day of it!
Want to meet people?
As much as I enjoy the pleasure of my own company, there are limits to how much alone-time I need. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to mingle with strangers when you’re visiting Bend.
Book an outing with Wanderlust Tours, and bond with your fellow travelers while snowshoeing, canoeing, caving, or enjoying countless other tours they offer year-round.
And if you’re looking for an activity or event that’s catered to your specific interests, scope out Visit Bend’s event calendar. There, you can search for film screenings, athletic competitions, concerts, art gallery openings, culinary events, and more.
Welcome to 2017, everyone!
There are so many fab things to look forward to in Bend each year, and 2017 is no exception. As I sat down with my life planner to map out a year’s worth of events and activities, I remembered all over again what a cool town Bend is and how lucky we are to have something awesome happening every month of the year.
Here are some of my favorite things coming up in 2017 . . .
This month, the Joy Project launched in Bend to help add a little happiness and goodwill to an otherwise quiet month in the high desert. It’s a way of empowering people to show kindness and spread joy, and you can read more about it here.
January is also the month when I round out my New Year’s resolutions with a list of three new-to-me hikes I want to tackle in the coming year. To spark your own ideas, check out Visit Bend’s hiking page or Cascade Hiking Adventures.
For a short month, February manages to pack in some of my favorite Bend activities.
President’s Weekend boasts the renowned Oregon Winterfest, complete with live music, rail jam, and competitions ranging from fire pits to ice sculptures.
One of my all-time favorite events is Zwickelmania, the statewide celebration of Oregon’s craft breweries. Though it usually happens the same weekend as President’s Day, Central Oregon decided to branch off this year and do it the following weekend instead on Feb. 25.
I’m probably most excited about the second annual Bend A Cappella Fest, which I was lucky enough to attend with my family in its inaugural year. I was blown away by the sheer volume of talent and the entertainment value for all ages, and can’t wait to go again. Pro tip: It’s almost certain to sell out, so buy tickets early!
Spring Break around the Pacific Northwest can make March a bit busy in Bend, but that’s good news for those who love an air of giddy excitement mixed with their crisp wintery weather.
This is the month when hopeful little spring blooms start wiggling their way out of the dirt, making desert hikes especially fun for wildflower aficionados.
It’s also when the Les Schwab Amphitheater starts trickling out details about the summer concert lineup, adding to the giddy hopefulness of this still-chilly month. Keep your eyes on their Facebook page if you want to be among the first to see concert announcements.
For women seeking a way to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, the Muse Conference brings together internationally-recognized artists, authors, athletes, entrepreneurs, activists, and social change leaders.
Though there’s still a lot of chilly weather and the occasional threat of snowfall, April typically brings the year’s first opportunity to trot out short-sleeved shirts (albeit, paired with a sweater—it ain’t July!)
My fondness for Bend’s culinary scene makes the Foodie Crawl one of my favorite April activities, with the chance to wander around Downtown Bend nibbling gourmet samples paired with cocktails, wine, and beer. Dates haven’t been announced yet, but keep watching for details.
EDIT: Date has been announced! The Foodie Crawl is happening April 23, 2017 from 3-6 p.m. Tickets go on sale March 20, and will sell out fast!
Ahh, this is when it really starts to feel like spring in Bend.
The multi-sport Pole Pedal Paddle event ushers in the season whether you’re participating or just watching.
Snow enthusiasts will be thrilled to know there’s still a full month of spring skiing at Mt. Bachelor, which usually stays open through Memorial Day Weekend.
The summer concert season officially kicks off at the Les Schwab Amphitheater with at least a concert or two (and sometimes three!) on Memorial Day Weekend. If you’re lucky enough to score tickets, plan on bundling up!
There’s also the Fermentation Celebration in the Old Mill District, which isn’t on the calendar yet this year, but always seems to usher in Father’s Day Weekend. Coincidence? I think not.
This is one of the busiest months in Bend, and if you’re not a fan of crowds, you might want to plan your visit for a different month.
For those who do Visit Bend in July, there’s something happening nearly every day of the week. My personal faves are the Old Fashioned 4th of July Festival and its flagship event, the Bend Pet Parade.
Outdoor concerts abound with Munch and Music, Alive After 5, Free Summer Sundays, and the regular lineup at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. There’s also the annual Balloons Over Bend event, which is terrific fun for families.
This is also a primo month for whitewater rafting, floating the river, kayaking, canoeing, SUPing, and more. Go here for a roundup of all of Bend’s best water-based recreation activities.
It’s my birthday month, so is there really anything more important to highlight?
Okay, there’s also the Bend Brewfest (which just happens to coincide with my birthday this year, thank you very much).
My birthday offers a primo excuse for outdoor dining and the super-unique experience of riding a Mt. Bachelor chairlift to your sunset dinner spot at 7,800-feet above sea level.
Oh, and August 2017 also boasts the first solar eclipse to be seen in America for 26 years. Central Oregon is smack-dab in the path of it, prompting a staggering deluge of international visitors booking trips to the area. If you don’t already have a reservation the night of August 21, you’re probably out of luck. No joke!
And here we are at my favorite month of the year in Bend. The weather is milder, the crowds are smaller, the kids are back in school, and we’re all celebrating my wedding anniversary.
You are celebrating it, right?
One of the best ways to get festive is with the Little Woody Barrel-Aged Beer, Cider, and Whiskey Festival (say that five times fast). That’s happening September 1-2 in 2017, or you could do your beer-fueled celebrating a bit later in the month with Oktoberfest in Downtown Bend (dates haven’t been announced yet, but it’s typically around the middle of the month).
This is also a terrific month to cross off some of that hiking I dreamed up back in January.
Bend’s first snowfall of the season could happen anytime between October and November, so snow dancers start watching the skies this time of year.
October is also a great month for sipping pumpkin beer and scoping out the dramatic fall colors in spots like Drake Park and Shevlin Park. You can enjoy all of those things if you show up for one of the Tenth Month events, including the BendFilm Festival, Bend Venture Conferences, or the Swivel Digital Conference.
My favorite October activity is the Historical Haunts Tour sponsored by the Deschutes Historical Museum, which is a guided walking tour of Downtown Bend filled with lots of spooky stories.
Once upon a time, November was the slowest month for tourism in Bend.
That’s changed in recent years as Bend Ale Trail Month has brought a whole lot of beer aficionados to town on a quest for the trophy that’s awarded to those who turn in a completed Bend Ale Trail passport in November.
Mt. Bachelor’s opening day usually happens just after Thanksgiving, so that’s another big milestone in November. After that, you have the start of holiday festivities in the Old Mill District with carriage rides, caroling, and Santa arriving via helicopter.
December is filled with anticipation for folks waiting to see if we’ll be graced with a good old fashioned white Christmas (odds are pretty good!)
This is also a month when the Tower Theatre trots out some of their coolest shows, ranging from holiday concerts to screenings of popular Christmas movies.
So that does it for my roundup of the Bend events and activities I’m most excited about in 2017? What’s on your list?
Regardless of whether you’re elated or heartbroken over the results of this week’s presidential vote, one thing’s pretty clear: This election cycle was hard on all of us.
You need a break. A reset. A chance to clear your head and remind yourself what’s really important.
Is there any better place on earth to do that than Bend, Oregon?
First things first. Get some fresh air.
Ever notice you breathe a little easier when you’re outside? (Er, when it’s not allergy season).
Whether you need a scenic space to let your jubilation soar, or a place to escape the din of news reports and social media, Bend is the perfect spot to find your outdoor sanctuary. Bonus: Temps have been surprisingly warm this fall, and there’s very little snow even at high elevations. That’s a fine excuse for a fall hike.
Get out there. Breathe deeply. Now on to the next step.
Treat yourself to a dose of bliss
A Bend vacation is the perfect time to splurge on a little pampering under any circumstances, but these post-election days make it extra vital to treat your body kindly.
Let a year’s worth of stress melt away when you book a massage or facial at one of our Bend day spas. If you’re here for a romantic getaway with your sweetie, consider booking a couples’ massage class at Brasada Ranch so you can continue your practice at home.
Honor the men and women who’ve served
Bend has one of the largest Veteran’s Day parades in the entire state, and it’s happening this Friday, November 11, 2016 at 11 a.m. in Downtown Bend. You can get the details here.
If you’d prefer to do your reflection in a more quiet fashion, visit the Bend Heroes Memorial Plaza in Brooks Park. There, you’ll find a collection of bricks engraved with the names of first responders, veterans, and others who’ve served the Bend community. You’ll also find pretty stunning views of the Deschutes River, so sit for a while on the bench and reflect.
If all that puts you in a frame of mind to pay your respects to those no longer with us, you’ll find several cemeteries around Central Oregon (including some with historic graves from early homesteaders).
Lend a hand
Whether you need the lift of helping others to soothe your own aching heart, or you have some extra joy to share right now, consider volunteering when you’re in Bend. You’ll find several “voluntourism” efforts rounded up in this blog post, ranging from cave cleanup efforts led by Wanderlust Tours to an annual river cleanup led by the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council.
There are also plenty of small ways to give back, including little efforts like picking up trash while you hike or paying with cash instead of cards so small business owners don’t get hit with fees. Check out our Visit Like a Local page for more ideas.
Now go grab some comfort food
The last twelve months have left all our bellies in knots at one time or another, so now’s a good time to treat your tummy to something soothing.
As you cruise around Bend’s culinary scene, you’ll find gluten-free eats and cuisine for vegetarian and vegan palates if that’s what your body needs. You can also seek out specific comfort foods like Bend’s best burgers or tasty bacon dishes or yummy eggs benedict.
And don’t forget to check out this blog post on some of my personal favorite comfort food dishes in Bend.
Be nice. You’re in Bend.
There’s a reason you see that little phrase on so many bumper stickers around town. There’s a kindness here that permeates the air, even in the midst of the most divisive election cycle of my lifetime.
Folks may be tearing each other apart in vitriolic Facebook posts, but on the streets of Bend, people still smile at each other. They hold doors open for one another and they occasionally sit at stop signs for much too long doing that overpolite back-and-forth dance of, “After you!” and “No, I insist—after you!”
Whether your chosen candidate won or lost, there’s been a lot of mud flung from all sides of the political spectrum. Now’s the time to wash our hands, scrape off the muck, and move forward with kindness.
Be nice to each other, guys. Especially when you’re in Bend.
One of the upsides of living in Bend for nearly 20 years is that I’ve developed a sort of Christmas-morning-like excitement about the surprises our autumn weather has in store. Will it dump a foot of snow on Bend the way it did in early-October 2009? Or is the weatherman right in his prediction that our temps this weekend will hit an unseasonably-warm 77-degrees?
You kinda never know, which keeps me in a constant state of giddy excitement this time of year. Here are six other things I dearly love about October in Bend, Oregon.
Fall colors abound
The fall foliage is in full bloom right now in Bend, dazzling us with glorious rainbows of red, gold, orange and everything in between.
Some of my favorite spots to see autumn’s glory include Drake Park and nearby Pioneer Park. Cruise along Mt. Washington Drive for another scenic swatch of color, or stroll Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District (assuming high winds don’t knock all the leaves down over the next few days).
For a good roundup of where to see fall colors in Bend this time of year, check out this blog post.
Snow Watch 2016
Even if you’re not a winter sports enthusiast (raises hand) you can’t help but feel giddy about the changing seasons and the beautiful skiffs of white stuff piling up in the mountains.
Snowball fight, anyone?
Maybe the pumpkin-flavored lattes popping up in the coffeehouse chains this time of year aren’t your thing, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fill of this festive gourd in Bend.
When lunchtime rolls around, try the Thai Curry Squash Soup at Barrio. If your sweet tooth starts calling it, answer with Pumpkin Spice Gelato from Bontà.
For more ideas, check out this roundup I wrote 2 years ago featuring 10 great pumpkin-flavored treats in Bend.
Wallow in creativity
I’ve always loved the weekend of the Bend Film Festival (October 6-9, 2016) when the air is crisp, the leaves are bright, and there’s a hum of creative energy buzzing all over town.
And since I also get my creative fix later in the month when the Swivel Digital and Creative Marketing Conference rolls around (Oct. 10-11, 2016) I was tickled when someone came up with the idea of pulling it all together under one creative umbrella.
Tenth Month is a month-long celebration of innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It incudes the events I just mentioned, plus Bend Venture Conference and Bend Design Conference. Check out their website to find out what’s happening and to plan your ultimate creative getaway in Bend this October!
Get goosebumps on a Historical Haunts Tour
I almost hesitate to mention this one, since the tours always book up fast and I want to make sure my family doesn’t miss out.
But the Historical Haunts Tour from the Deschutes Historical Society is offered for only a brief time each October, so you’ll want to mark your calendar if you love spooky ghost stories as much as I do.
The tours are guided by volunteers and staff at the Deschutes Historical Museum, and last about an hour. You’ll be taken to a variety of historical buildings and sites around Downtown Bend, and you’ll hear spooky tales guaranteed to raise the hair on your arms.
The 2016 tours are happening Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 with the first tour beginning at 4 p.m. and the last departing at 7:30 p.m. Call early on the day of your tour to pre-pay and reserve a spot, and be sure to bring a flashlight and wear good walking shoes. For pricing, registration info, and more, go here.
Save a few bucks during shoulder season
In Bend, our shoulder season happens from late-fall to early-winter and then again in early spring (by contrast, peak times are summer break, winter break, and spring break).
In other words, October is pretty much the perfect time to plan a Bend vacation. Crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is still pretty mild.
For the inside scoop on shoulder season deals, check out our Deals and Discounts page.
I’ve just returned from a dreamy vacation in New Zealand, and I’m pondering something a few kiwi locals said to me during my travels.
“Oh, you don’t want to do that . . . it’s too touristy.”
The first time was in reference to visiting a popular beach, and I quietly blew off the advice and had a fabulous time. The next time I heard it, I had to speak up. “You know, I actually am a tourist.”
Then I felt guilty, because how many times have I thought that about popular Bend attractions? But in most cases, these things are popular for a darn good reason. While there’s a certain charm in trying offbeat adventures during your Bend vacation, many tried-and-true Bend activities are worth putting on your bucket list no matter how “touristy” they might seem.
Doing an organized tour
The very idea of “booking a tour” sounds touristy, right? But since a chief purpose of vacation is to relax and experience new things, there’s no better way to do that than with the help of a professional.
During our three weeks in New Zealand, my husband and I paid pros to drive us around wine country, take us to remote landmarks, and introduce us to culinary highlights of the region. I can’t tell you what a relief it was not to hassle with rounding up specialized gear, studying road maps, or arm wrestling my husband over who’d skip wine to be the sober driver. Every tour we booked was worth ten times what we paid for the relaxation factor alone, and it’s no different in Bend.
If you’re planning to hit the Bend Ale Trail, there are oodles of options to not only give you a designated driver, but a great behind-the-scenes experience. The Bend Brew Bus is an excellent option that includes pickup and drop-off from your Bend hotel or vacation rental, or opt for a super-unique tour option with Cowboy Carriage (a beer tour in a horse-drawn wagon!) or Cycle Pub (a bicycle bar with sober driver provided). For more Bend Ale Trail tour ideas, go here.
Awesome Bend tours aren’t limited to the Bend Ale Trail. Want to do some snowshoeing, canoeing, or cave exploration without the hassle of packing all the gear and figuring out the best spots? Wanderlust Tours offers a huge array of offerings, with a naturalist guide that’ll give you much cooler insights than you’ll find in any guidebook. Ditto that for the folks at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe, who will be delighted to take you kayaking or SUPing on Bend’s rivers and lakes. And speaking of water, you really don’t want to attempt whitewater rafting in Bend without professionals like Sun Country Tours guiding the way.
Need a tour with a little less adrenaline? Learn about Bend’s culinary scene with a foodie tour from the Well Traveled Fork, or get to know the city in a unique way with an Art Safari or a Segway tour from The Bend Tour Company.
You’ll find more Bend tour offerings on this page.
Hiking Pilot Butte
I know, I know. Everyone and their dog (literally!) hikes this 500-foot cinder cone in the middle of Bend. But there’s a good reason folks love Pilot Butte, and it goes beyond the exercise benefits of hoofing it to the top. You get KILLER views of the whole city, which is invaluable when you’re trying to orient yourself in a new place.
Amble to the top on your first morning in Bend to get the lay of the land. If hiking’s not an option, the road is open to motorized vehicles in warmer months (usually May through October). Reward yourself at the end with a tasty breakfast or lunch at Pilot Butte Drive In.
Visiting Deschutes Brewery
We’re beer snobs in Bend, and locals love to boast about swilling some new limited-release beer that’s only available if you knock six times with your left hand on the back door of the brewery hidden in a cave under the secret ponderosa in Drake Park.
But everyone knows about Deschutes Brewery. The fifth largest craft brewery in the United States, you’ll find their beers in more than 30 U.S. states and around Canada. I’m not exaggerating when I say Bend’s beer scene would not exist if Gary Fish hadn’t started that first little Bend brewpub back in 1988.
And although they’re big, Deschutes Brewery is still family-owned and operated. Want to know the reason you see their beer everywhere? It’s because it’s darn good. Few things taste as magical as a Black Butte Porter on a snowy winter evening, and just one sip of their Deschutes River Ale will always take me back to the first time I tasted it after whitewater rafting with Sun Country Tours.
So go ahead and embrace the granddaddy of craft beer in Bend. Do a brewery tour at their impressively massive production facility, then head to the downtown pub for a family-friendly dinner. Order extra hot wings for me in case I decide to join you.
Stopping by the Visitor Center
The internet has made it easy to get all your travel information with a few mouse clicks, and it’s true you can find tons of Bend travel info at www.visitbend.com.
But there’s something to be said for stopping by a visitor center in person. You can talk directly to locals who know all the best restaurants and sights worth seeing. You can grab maps and brochures and learn about activities you didn’t know existed. Heck, you can even use their wifi connection (invaluable when you’re traveling!) Best of all, it’s free.
Luckily, I went to New Zealand already knowing this, so I had the good sense to hit local visitor centers immediately upon arrival in a new town. Armed with maps and advice, I could tackle the city’s best attractions more efficiently instead of bumbling around town wondering when the shops would open or how to find a gas station.
Bonus: The Bend Visitor Center has an amazing array of unique souvenirs and gift ideas, so it’s a terrific spot to grab a few things for the folks back home. The Bend Visitor Center is located on the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend, and it’s open 9-5 weekdays and 10-4 on weekends.
Dining at Pine Tavern
Built in 1936, the Pine Tavern is one of Bend’s most famous restaurants. It’s best known for the iconic ponderosa pine trees jutting through the center of the restaurant (one’s alive, one’s not).
And while it’s popular with the tourist crowd, it’s worth making a reservation there so you can see firsthand what’s kept this place in business for 80+ years. It might be the sourdough scones with honey butter, it might be the killer views of the Deschutes River, it might be the stellar happy hour, or it might be a combo of all three.
Peddling around in a bike surrey
For years I’d seen families peddling around on a bicycle surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals and thought, “Oh, that’s a cute thing for tourists to do.”
Then I tried it myself with my own family. You guys, this is seriously more fun than you can legally have in most states. The kids loved it, the grownups loved it, and it was a great way to check out the beautiful Old Mill District and the Deschutes River.
We weren’t sure at first if a one-hour rental would be enough, but it turned out to be just perfect. Insider tip: Go slowly when you’re threading the needle between the concrete barriers that keep motorized vehicles off paths. Otherwise, you’ll bang a pedal and possibly your foot (er, not that I’d know).
After readers requested a blog post on daredevil activities in Bend and Central Oregon, I conquered my fears and went bungee jumping to prove I’m strong, courageous, and dedicated.
Just kidding. What I actually did is persuade two less-weenie coworkers to do it, which is almost the same thing.
My wimpy nature aside, there are several great ways to enjoy a bit of adventure and a small (or not-so-small) adrenaline rush when you’re in Bend. Here are five of them.
Go bungee jumping!
First things first, since this is the most buzzed-about adventure in Central Oregon right now. Earlier this summer, Central Oregon Bungee Adventures began offering bungee jumping off the high bridge over the Crooked River at the Ogden Scenic Viewpoint 29 miles north of Bend. It’s the first time in history that Oregon has approved a commercial bungee jumping operation at any State Park, so it’s kind of a big deal (not to mention the 250-foot drop makes it one of the highest bungee jumping experiences open to the public in North America).
Since I’m too wimpy to attempt it on my own, I recruited my colleagues Hank Therien and Jason Lusk to do it in my stead, while our marketing director, Nate Wyeth, filmed the whole thing. Since Hank is 6’8” and 250+ pounds, we all worried he’d test the limits of the bungee system, but it turned out there was nothing to fear. Jumpers can be anywhere from 90-290 pounds, and owner James Scott did a fabulous job answering questions and putting both guys at ease.
Even so, Hank admitted beforehand he was nervous. “Heights is one of my big fears,” he said. “Doing this is an easy way for me to push my own boundaries and it is an easy way to get my adrenaline pumping, but I will be physically shaking on the platform I’m sure.”
So how did it go? “I expected to have more time to think about it and talk myself out of jumping, but they did a great job of coaching before I got up onto the platform, so once I got ready there was very little downtime in which to chicken out,” he shared. “The other surprise was how gentle it was to hit the end of the bungee. I had assumed that hitting the end of the cord would be more violent.”
Both guys said they’d do it again, and encouraged other thrill-seekers to give it a shot. If nothing else, the views from that bridge are killer (er, sorry—wrong word choice).
To learn more about the schedule and pricing, check out the website.
Ride the zipline at Crater Lake!
Bend is a popular home base for those eager to make the two-hour trek to Crater Lake National Park, so why not make your visit extra special by riding a zipline through the treetops along the fringes of this famous landmark?
Crater Lake Zipline opened earlier this summer, becoming the only tree-based canopy tour on U.S. Forest Service Land. The 1.5 mile course offers views of Crater Lake’s nearby rim, along with vistas of Upper Klamath Lake, Mt. Mcloughlin, and Pelican Butte. The course is made up of nine different ziplines, with two of them measuring a quarter-mile each. You’ll also conquer two sky bridges suspended in the trees, rappel from platform to platform on their special DEUS descent, and end with a QuickJump Rappel 55 feet to the forest floor.
Riders must be 10 years old and weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. The trip takes roughly 2.5 hours, though it can take a little longer for those moving at a slower pace. For pricing and schedule info, check their website.
Go gliding for an ultralight experience!
I’ll admit it—this one scares the bejeezus out of me more than any of the others, but for the ultimate adrenaline rush, check out Airborne Outback Adventures. They offer a variety of scenic flights and aerial tours, including powered hang gliders, helicopter tours, and more.
But the thing that really stands out is their special ultralight trike. Part tricycle, part hang glider, this thing offers the ultimate rush, and the ultimate way to see sights like Smith Rock State Park and the surrounding mountain peaks of Central Oregon.
A certified instructor with more than 27 years of experience will be your guide, and a camera mounted to the wing will record your whole adventure for a lifetime of bragging rights.
For rates and schedule info, go here.
Waterfalls! Mountain biking! Hiking! Get it all with the Paulina Plunge!
At last, an adventure I’m not too chicken to try! In fact, I had the pleasure of doing the Paulina Plunge last summer with my husband and step-kids, and it was one of our all-time favorite outings with just a touch of adrenaline to give us a bit of a rush.
So what’s the Paulina Plunge? In a nutshell, it’s a full day of mountain biking, hiking, and visits to half-a-dozen pristine waterfalls for swimming, jumping, and sliding. The hiking is fairly tame, and the mountain biking is mostly downhill, which is a plus for less-experienced riders.
But it’s the waterfalls that make this outing truly unique. The highlight for us was a pair of natural waterfall slides where guests can slide down on their bellies or sitting upright. A bigger waterfall further down the trail provides a great swimming hole and pounding natural massage.
Get the adrenaline pumping with an Airsoft battle!
Let’s call this one “adrenaline lite.” For those who don’t want to go plunging off a bridge or waterfall, why not keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and try an action-infused game of airsoft instead?
Peak Airsoft recently opened an indoor arena in Bend to provide a safe, fun, fast-paced, adrenaline – filled action experience. For those who’ve never heard of it, Airsoft is the generic name for air-powered toy guns that shoot small, plastic BBs.
Playing at Peak Airsoft’s indoor arena revolves around loosely-guided, objective-based game modes requiring teamwork and strategy to complete the tasks assigned to each team. All equipment is provided, including electric M4-style rifles and full face protection. If it sounds like serious stuff, I’m assured it isn’t. Belly-laughs are par for the course, and this makes a fun family or corporate outing.
Guests can drop in for open play sessions or book a private party. For info and pricing, go here.