Second only to a love of nature in Bend, Oregon is a love for culture.
Our enthusiasm for the arts is tangible during First Friday Art Walk, where both locals and visitors flood the downtown and the Old Mill District streets to enjoy the unveiling of new works in galleries and shops. It’s in the air all year long inside the walls of the Tower Theatre, Bend’s historic downtown playhouse, where patrons mingle in the lobby in anticipation of the next internationally acclaimed act to perform in our little mountain town.
In fact, our reverence for the arts is literally everywhere you look in Bend, from the famous orange “Phoenix Rising” sculpture that adorns the center of one of our dozens of roundabouts, to the seven-foot cast aluminum man named “Art” who sits in eternity on a park bench at the corner of NW Wall and Franklin.
With all this culture to take in, it’s a relief to know when you visit Bend, you don’t have to go it alone. Bend has a number of cultural tours that will guide you through the city’s glorious history and its inspiring present.
Sit back and enjoy the infectious enthusiasm of John Flannery and Bend Tour Company during one of his tours around town. He’ll share a headful of facts on everything from the legends of local garden art to the names of Bend’s downtown dogs and cats.
Prefer your culture with a dollop of technology? Download the Heritage Walk Guide from the Deschutes County Historical Society, which will tell the story behind historic downtown homes like the G.P. Putnam House, originally owned by a pioneer of Bend who later married one of the most famous women in America, Amelia Earhart. Download the free app for Apple or Android here, courtesy of the Deschutes Historical Museum. Then set out on a tour at your own pace, enjoying audio narration, historical photos, trivia questions, and more.
While you are out exploring on foot, stop into the Tower Theatre, which has been restored to its original Art Deco opulence, complete with Hollywood style murals on the walls of the balcony and powder rooms.
For those looking for more of a geographical take on Central Oregon’s cultural history, the High Desert Museum will transport you and your family back to the days of the Oregon Trail. Live demonstrations by in-character homesteaders explore the history of 19th Century arts and crafts, while over 100 wildlife creatures are just around the next corner.
Why not plan your next vacation in Bend around one of our many cultural events that draw artists, filmmakers, and arts fans from around the world? The Art in the High Desert Festival sets the stage for some of the best fine artists in the country to gather on the banks of the Deschutes River every August displaying their ceramics, painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, glass, wood, and fiber. During the BendFilm Festival in October, Bend is possessed with the heart and soul of the independent filmmaker. Artists and fans pack downtown theatres, music venues, and lecture sights to savor a weekend-long movie marathon before taking off to explore Bend’s endless trails.