With endless outdoor adventures and a lively food and craft beer scene, Bend, Oregon makes an amazing destination all year long.
We are lucky to call this Central Oregon town home and have spent the last several years exploring all the nooks and crannies in order to put together a list of the very best things to do in Bend. (Including all sorts of local secrets you won’t find anywhere else!)
With epic nature to be explored, a thriving art and music scene, and of course all the craft beer you’d expect of a town in Oregon, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Bend, OR.
Situated in Central Oregon’s high desert, Bend has a population of just over 100,000 people, which is small enough that it oozes “mountain town charm”, but big enough that there are excellent restaurants and activities for all types of travelers.
As Goldilocks would say, it’s just right.
Plus, the access to nature in Bend is second to none. Nestled amongst the Cascade Mountain range, mountain bikers, whitewater kayakers, skiers, hikers, and rock climbers alike all flock to this outdoorsy town, and for good reason. There are endless adventures to be had.
Whether you’re a foodie or an outdoor enthusiast (or a bit of both!), there truly is something for everyone to love about this town.
In this article, we’re sharing the very best things to do in Bend (each of which we’ve personally done!). We’re also sharing some local tips and hidden gems you won’t find in any other guide. If you’re ready to plan the perfect trip to Bend, Oregon, you have come to the right spot.
Why listen to us about the best things to do in Bend, OR?
Because we live in Bend!
We have a house here and spend every free minute we have (when we’re not working on our blog!) exploring this incredible place we get to call home.
Psst! Wanna know why we chose to move to Bend? We go into all the details here!
That means we have a heck of a lot more experience than someone who has just visited for a weekend!
This list goes way beyond the other “best things to do in Bend” round-ups you’ll find on the Internet, including some super secret things that have taken us years of living here to discover.
And if that isn’t enough, know that we have personally done every single item on this list, so we can speak from our own experience and add in all sorts of tips. This isn’t an article written by an AI robot with stock photos. This is actual advice from people who live in Bend. ‘Nuff said.
Bend, Oregon Travel Guide
- Best time to visit Bend
- Tips for visiting Bend
- Best things to do in Bend
- Where (and what!) to eat in Bend
- Why we moved to Bend
- How to get to Bend
- Where to stay in Bend
Best time to visit Bend, OR
Honestly, each season has its draws, and we’re fans of them all for different reasons.
Spring in Bend
- Springtime brings comfortable temperatures for hiking and mountain biking.
- Good to know: the nearby Cascade Lakes Highway will still be closed and many hikes are still covered with snow at this time of the year.
Summer in Bend
- Summer is the most popular (and crowded!) time to visit, but the other seasons have perks too.
- This is the perfect time for spending the day floating in the Deschutes River or at one of the many nearby lakes.
- Good to know: Late summer (usually August) can get very smoky depending on what the nearby wildfires are like.
Fall in Bend
- Fall brings a chill to the air and is a great time to do some drives and hikes outside of town to see the yellow foliage.
- The Old Mckenzie Highway is the best place nearby to see the fall colors, but time your trip right as they don’t last very long.
- A great nearby place to see a grove of yellow aspens is on the drive to Tumalo Falls.
- If you’re visiting in the fall, the pumpkin patch near Smith Rock is fun to visit!
Winter in Bend
- Winter is a great time to visit as well because temperatures in town stay pretty mild for most of the season, but just a short 20-minute drive toward the mountains will bring you to a winter wonderland!
- Planning a trip to Bend in the winter? Jump down to the section of things to do in the winter in Bend.
5 Essential Tips for visiting Bend
1. Temperatures change quickly
Bend is located in the high desert which means temperatures can drop drastically from day to night. Even if it’s an 80-degree day with not a cloud in the sky, carry some layers if you plan to be out after dark because those temps can dip pretty quickly and you don’t want to find yourself shivering in a sundress as soon as the sun sets.
2. Book accommodation early
Bend is a popular tourist destination, so if you’re visiting over a holiday weekend, be sure to book your stay well in advance. We’ve learned the hard way that what is typically a great variety of hotels and Airbnbs turns into slim pickings fast.
3. Be prepared for “smoky season”
If you’re visiting Bend during August or early September, be prepared that there may be smoke from nearby wildfires. The severity varies from year to year, but when it’s bad, going outside can be very uncomfortable.
4. Get a Sno-Park Pass if you’re traveling in the winter
If you’re visiting Bend in the winter months (from November 1 – April 30) and plan to do outdoor activities (like XC skiing or snowshoeing), you’ll likely need to purchase a Sno-Park pass.
To access most winter trails, you will need either a day pass ($5) or a season pass ($30), as this is what pays for them to be plowed and maintained. You can purchase these passes at REI, ranger stations, or at many local outdoor gear retailers.
5. Know about seasonal road closures
Some mountain roads are only open seasonally. The two roads nearest to Bend that may be closed during your trip are:
Permits are now required for some hikes in the Central Cascades Wilderness. Check the Forest Service website for information about permit requirements of specific hikes.
Absolute best things to do in Bend, OR
If you’re looking for a quick & easy list, these are our very top recommendations for things to do in Bend.
- Go hiking
- Day trip to Cascade Lakes
- Unwind in McMenamins soaking pool
- Go brewery hopping
- Float down the Deschutes River in the summer
- Ski at Mt. Bachelor in the winter
- Catch live music at Suttle Lodge
- See Tumalo Falls
- Go underground at Skylight Cave
- Taste an ocean roll
Keep scrolling for all the details on how to do each of these experiences yourself (+ insider tips and what to expect!).
1. Hike Broken Top
Surrounded by mountain ranges, rivers and forests, it should come as no surprise that hiking is one of the best things you can do in Bend. And while there are seemingly endless hikes near Bend, Broken Top is undoubtedly one of the best. In fact, this is one of our very favorite hikes in all of Oregon.
If you’re looking for a challenging hike that’ll take up a good chunk of your day, there are few better nearby trails to choose.
- Type: Out and back
- Distance: 14 miles
- Elevation gain: 3,848 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
- Central Cascades Wilderness Permit required for both day use and overnight camping
- permits required between June 15th – October 15th
- Guide to hiking Broken Top: We wrote this so you have everything you need in one place. Definitely give it a read before you lace up your hiking boots!
Pass through stunning alpine terrain as you approach the iconic glacier-carved Broken Top. A highlight of this hike is making it to No Name Lake (pictured above), which make a great place to stop for a picnic lunch.
Insider Tip: Check out the “food on the go” section in our Bend restaurant guide to discover our favorite sandwich shops in town to grab food before heading out on the trails.
2. Go brewery hopping
If you’re a fellow fan of craft beer, you’ll be over the moon in Bend as breweries are EVERYWHERE.
I think the current count is 26 breweries. For a town of just over 100,000 residents, that’s a ton!
Funny story: At one point, we lived within 3 blocks of 5 different breweries and taprooms. Let’s just say that we did our fair share of sampling!
The great thing about the breweries in Bend is that most of them offer excellent food (or food truck options) as well as non-alcoholic beverages. Also, most breweries in Bend that are dog and family-friendly.
With so many breweries in town, it can be damn near overwhelming. We’ve rounded up some of our personal favorite breweries in Bend and included descriptions so you can see what is most your style!
The Bend Ale Trail
If you’re feeling really thirsty and plan to visit several breweries during your stay, you can participate in the Bend Ale Trail. Pick up a paper passport the Visitors Center or download the free app and collect “stamps” at each brewery you visit, earning you prizes!
Check out the Bend Ale Trail rules for more details.
3. Hang out in Drake Park
Drake Park is a narrow slice of green space that stretches along the Deschutes River just as it approaches downtown Bend.
Popular with visitors and locals alike, Drake Park is a Bend landmark.
It’s a popular spot for locals to hang out all year round, plus, it plays host to all sorts of events.
Things to do in Drake Park:
- Grab a coffee from Looney Bean or The Commons and stroll along the paths.
- Head for the small amphitheater in the summer months when you can often catch live music.
- Munch & Music takes place on Thursday evenings (starting in July) where you’ll find live music, artisans, and lots of food vendors.
- People watch. If you come on a sunny days, you’ll likely see people slack-lining, practicing yoga, or sprawled out with a book. (If you do this just watch out for goose poop, as it’s plentiful throughout the park!)
- Bring a picnic. There are a handful of tables scattered along the river’s edge, making this the perfect spot to bring a picnic as the sun sets over the horizon.
4. Visit Smith Rock State Park
Named one of the 7 wonders of Oregon by the Oregon Tourism Board, Smith Rock is well worth a visit during a trip to Bend.
We’ve been to Smith more times than we can count and still are wowed by this place.
With sheer basalt cliffs jutting up into the sky beside a tranquil river, this impressive state park is almost reminiscent of a small version of Zion.
Rock climbing at Smith Rock
Renowned worldwide for its excellent and varied rock climbing, this state park draws climbers from all over the United States (and even the globe). Smith Rock has more than 1,800 climbing routes, making it popular for beginners and experts alike.
Fun Fact: Smith Rock is thought to be the birthplace of modern American sport climbing.
Hiking at Smith Rock
Even if you’re not into rock climbing, Smith is well worth a visit, as there are easy walking paths (Crooked River Trail) and more difficult hiking trails (Misery Ridge).
Both trails will bring you to the most iconic view in the park, a rock formation known as Monkey Face. This thin 350-foot rock spire with a bulbous tip is the kind of formation that makes you scratch your head and wonder, “How did it get like that?” and also, “How does it not collapse?!”.
Insider Tip: If you plan to spend some time hiking around Smith Rock, be sure to have proper sun protection, as there is little cover from the high desert sun.
And after working up a sweat, enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the tables near the parking lot that offers sweeping views over the park.
Psst! We have an entire guide to visiting Smith Rock State Park so you know exactly what to expect and which hikes to add to your list.
5. Walk along the Deschutes River Trail
The Deschutes River cuts through town, dividing Bend into an east and west side.
Each side of the river is lined with more than 12 miles of well-maintained paths, known as the Deschutes River Trail. You can actually go for quite a long walk in either direction.
Insider Tip: One of our favorite places to walk and explore is near First Street Rapids, which is a section near the river with lots of big boulders. We used to live very close to this little waterside park and spent many hours relaxing on the giant boulders with books or soaking up sun in the late spring months. Relax by the water or walk toward Pioneer Park for some nice views.
6. Wander Downtown Bend
Wall Street and Bond Street run parallel each other, comprising downtown Bend.
They are dotted with local boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, hair salons — the whole gamut. In the center of it all, there is the unmistakable historic Tower Theater, which plays host to different events throughout the year.
Walk along the sidewalk and pop into any of the shops that strike your fancy.
Here are a few of our personal favorite places in downtown Bend:
- The Commons: This is our all-time favorite coffee shop in town to hang out at. With a cozy vibe, this not a place to grab your coffee and go, but instead to stay for a while. They also serve craft beer, pastries, and sometimes have live music.
- The Bend Store: If you’re looking for a keepsake from your time in Bend, this small shop has a good variety of items with the town logo as well as pieces from local artists at all price points.
- Dudley’s Bookshop: This is a local gem and absolutely worth a gander if you’re an indie bookstore fan (or need something to do on a gloomy day). With a coffee shop and a cozy upstairs space where you can relax and read (or work), this bookstore is something special. consider supporting Dudley’s while in town!
- Bontà Gelato: If you’re looking for a cold treat on a hot day, this local gelato shop is your best bet.
- Backporch Coffee Roasters: One of our favorite local chains, Backporch has a location right downtown for your caffeine fix.
7. Shop local during First Friday
The first Friday of each month, many businesses downtown participate in “First Friday”.
This is typically from 5-7 pm, and businesses will serve small drinks for free (yes, alcoholic drinks).
Each business does it differently – some have hand-crafted cocktails, others have a keg of local beer, and others serve wine or bubbles.
It’s a fun time to come out and support small local businesses while also unwinding at the end of the week.
8. Warm up in a stunning soaking pool
One of the most unique things to do in Bend is to unwind in a Turkish bath-inspired soaking pool. We have been here more times than we can count and we’re obsessed.
Located in McMenamins Old St. Francis School, this warm soaking pool is filled with soft buoyant water, meaning there are no harsh chemicals like chlorine. It’s heated to a comfortable temperature cooler than a hot tub but warmer than a pool, making it the perfect spot to relax after a day on the slopes or a long hike.
It’s family-friendly, but also makes a really fun and unique date spot in Bend.
The turquoise tile work is reminiscent of a Turkish bath. Plus, there is an open-air skylight in the ceiling, which makes it a particularly interesting experience when it is snowing outside.
If you really want to unwind, you can order a cocktail or beer at the nearby bar to bring into the pool with you.
Do it yourself: Admission to the soaking pool is $8 per adult. Call ahead for a reservation. Alternatively, you can stay at the onsite hotel at McMenamins and get free access to the soaking pool. This is one of our top recommendations for places to stay in Bend because it’s the perfect location!
9. Go mountain biking
Bend is surrounded by world-class mountain biking trails – from beginner-friendly to advanced. If you don’t have a bike of your own, you can rent from a handful of places in town.
- Phil’s Trailhead is a popular spot for accessing trails of different levels.
- Shevlin Park has some really good beginner trails.
- From this dog park, you can access some good beginner mountain bike trails as well.
- For a real adrenaline rush, you can purchase a day pass at Mount Bachelor, which turns from ski resort into a mountain bike park during the summer months.
Insider tip: Download the app MTB Project so you know the level of the trails you’re riding as well as the direction you should go.
10. Explore the nearby town of Sisters
Just a 30-minute drive from Bend, nearby Sisters is worth a visit. This kitschy-cute Western-themed town can be walked from end to end in just 15 minutes.
The real draw to Sisters (after you’ve sufficiently explored the main street) is the nature just outside the town limits.
Things to do in Sisters
- Walk around downtown (it’s very small) and pop into any shops that strike your fancy
- Grab a coffee at Sister Coffee Company & a pastry at Sisters Bakery
- Enjoy a beer at Three Creeks Brewery. We like the beer here, but we’d recommend grabbing food elsewhere.
- See a movie at Sisters Movie House. This movie theater is set in a big barn, making for a fun date night. It’s temporarily closed, but we’re hoping it opens soon!
- Go spelunking in Skylight Cave (more info below!)
- Go mountain biking on the nearby trails (Peterson Ridge is closest to town).
- Hike to the Whychus Creek Overlook. The trailhead is a short 10-minute drive from town.
Places to eat in Sisters
There are several cute cafes and restaurants in Sisters if you need a bite. Here are some of our favorites:
- Sisters Bakery: Tiny little bakery off of the main street has excellent baked items. We love the marionberry coffee cafe, ham and gruyere croissant, and their cookies (molasses and butter cookies are our faves!).
- Angeline’s Bakery & Cafe: For more hearty morning options, like breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches, Angeline’s is a good choice.
- Sisters Coffee Company: This place is super popular and seems to always have a line. The interior is an impressive barn slash cozy cabin, the coffee is excellent and they have lots of pastry options as well as a small breakfast and lunch menu.
- Sisters Meat & Smokehouse: This butcher shop and eatery has some pretty excellent sandwich options. We loved the tri-tip sandwich, but they also have smoked turkey, Reuben, brats, French dip, and more!
- The Open Door: A good choice for sitting down for a proper lunch or early dinner in a cute outdoor setting.
- Boone Dog Pizza: We’ve never been but have heard great things about this local pizza joint.
Psst! If you’re in the area during early June, you may stumble upon Sisters Rodeo which takes place each year and draws in huge crowds. It’s lovingly called “The Biggest Little Show in the World”.
11. Go underground at Skylight Cave
This cave is just outside of Sisters and is quite a sight to behold. Descend a metal ladder into what seems to be a pretty typical cave, but you’ll be rewarded with 3 beams of light shooting through the cave’s “ceiling”.
In order to see this phenomenon, you must visit in the morning on a sunny day, as the light only streams in when the sun is at a certain position in the sky.
We wrote an entire guide to visiting Skylight Cave on our sister site, including exactly how to get there and tips to know before you go.
More caves in Bend
If you’re looking for a cave that’s a bit easier to reach from town, you’re in luck because there are plenty around Bend.
If you take China Hat Road, heading southeast of Bend, you’ll find a handful of caves:
Another option is to visit Lava River Cave (#25 on this list), which is the most built up in the area, as it’s part of the Newberry National Monument.
12. Take a day trip to the Cascade Lakes Highway
One of Bend’s biggest draws is you don’t have to drive very far out of town to feel like you’re a world away from city life.
One of the best places to get away from it all is along the Cascade Lakes Highway, which is a seasonally-open highway, just past Mount Bachelor.
This two-lane highway winds and turns through the mountains and is the starting point for many adventures. If you’re into hiking, you’ll find many-a-hikes along this stretch of road. And like its name implies, this highway passes by plenty of lakes, making it a magical day trip from town.
Try to hop around to as many lakes as possible or pick one to hunker down at and soak it all in.
Insider Tip: Pack a picnic lunch, a hammock, your hiking boots, and maybe even a SUP or kayak for a perfect summer day.
Here are some of our favorite stops along the Cascade Lakes Highway:
a) Sparks Lake
Possibly the most pictured lake on this stretch of road, Sparks Lake is a beauty.
Flanked by snowcapped peaks, this lake is popular for kayakers and paddle boarders (see photo above!). Beware that it can get extremely shallow during the later part of the summer months.
There’s also an easy loop trail that you can walk near the lake if you don’t want to get on the water.
b) Todd Lake
This small lake is surrounded by lush green forest, and has lots of shaded day-use spots for setting up a hammock or having a picnic.
There is a nice flat path along the shore, if you’d like to do some hiking. This lake tends to be less crowded than some of the others, and it’s one of our favorites for relaxing.
c) Devils Lake
Shockingly turquoise waters make stopping at this tiny lake just beside the highway for a few minutes a must.
Snap a picture and continue on, or set up a hammock or hop into the shallow waters for a refreshing dip or a relaxing float.
d) Hike the Green Lakes Trail
Located on the Cascade Lakes Highway, this trail is popular with hikers and trail runners alike. Pass by some small waterfalls on thickly wooded trails until you reach Green Lake. This is a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch with epic views of Broken Top in the backdrop.
Green Lakes Trail
- Type: Out and back
- Distance: 9.1 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,187 feet
- Difficulty: Intermediate
If you’re looking for an intermediate hike that won’t take all day, yet brings you into some beautiful Central Oregon Wilderness, Green Lakes Trail is a great choice.
Looking for another good hike on this highway less crowded than the popular Green Lakes? Jump down to #30 on this list for another idea.
e) Elk Lake Lodge
Elk Lake is by far the most built-up lake along this drive. There are boats docked on the water’s edge, making it quite different than any of the other more rustic bodies of water nearby.
There is a lodge onsite that has food and drink options and an ice cream stand.
Insider Tip: On Saturdays during the summer, Elk Lake Resort hosts live music at 5 p.m. Check out the lineup on their website.
13. Go on a guided canoe trip with Wanderlust Tours
This Bend-based tour company offers some incredibly unique tours year round that will surely be a highlight of any trip to Central Oregon.
From Snowshoe & Bonfire tours in the winter to Moonlight Canoe Tours in the summer, there are a variety of options to choose from.
Here’s our top recommendation:
This is the perfect, hassle-free way to get on the water if you’re not traveling with your own gear.
On this tour, you’ll have plenty of paddle time on some of the most pristine lakes in Central Oregon. Plus, you’ll get to pair this outing with a crisp craft brew.
More tour options:
- Cascade Lakes Kayak Tour: A similar version of the tour above, but on kayaks.
- Moonlight Canoe Tour: If you’re up for a real adventure, this night canoeing tour sounds magical!
Personal Note: We once participated in a clean-up day with Wanderlust Tours, and it was really cool to see in person how they care for the land on which they run most of their tours.
14. Drink a beer (or cocktail!) in an old Catholic school
Before moving to Oregon, we had never heard of McMenamins, but we soon learned that this family-run chain is legendary throughout the state. While it is a chain and there are locations in Portland and elsewhere in Oregon, it really is the opposite of what you’d expect a “chain” to be.
Each location is completely and utterly unique. Typically, McMenamins locations are in historic buildings that have been transformed into some sort of entertainment center.
In the case of Bend, McMenamins is in the historic Catholic school in the center of town. Some of the classrooms have been turned into hotel rooms, while others are now a cozy pub or a bustling restaurant with an onsite brewery that frequently hosts events.
You could quite literally sleep, eat and play here during your stay in Bend!
Here are our favorite places to enjoy a drink at McMenamins:
a) Grab a cocktail by a fire pit at O’Keane’s
Behind the main McMenamins building, cross through a small parking lot and follow the signs for O’Keane’s. Once you pass through the fence, you’ll enter a secluded courtyard with fire pits, outdoor seating, and even a cozy cigar room.
Grab a seat next to a crackling fire pit and order a cocktail or one of the beers brewed onsite at the Old St. Francis Brewery.
Personal tip: I’m a big fan of the Spanish Coffee here! Watching them make it is part of the experience.
b) Play shuffleboard in the Fireside Room
This cozy room has a collection of intimate booths, a fireplace, and shuffleboard, making it one of our favorite places to grab a drink.
c) Try to find a hidden speakeasy
Located in the Art House at the McMenamins Old St. Francis School, there is a secret cocktail bar hidden away. This pocket-sized bar boasts a small but eclectic menu of drinks and an intimate atmosphere.
Finding this tucked-way bar is part of the fun! I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, but I’ll give you a hint. If you happen to find a door marked “Broom Closet”, push ‘er open and see what’s inside!
More things you shouldn’t miss while at McMenamins:
- Take a dip in the warm soaking pool.
- Spend the night in what used to be a classroom!
- Catch a film at the super unique movie theater.
15. Enjoy live music in a magical setting
Suttle Lodge is nestled amongst trees on the edge of Suttle Lake, just 50 minutes from town. Going there for live music is one of our absolute favorite things to do in Bend.
Not only is the lodge a super cool place to stay — think cozy, cabin vibes – but they host live music just about every week of the year.
We’ve been here for music numerous times and it is always so much fun and the setting is magical at all times of the year. Shows are lakeside in the summertime and next to a crackling fireplace in the lodge during the winter. Plus, the food and cocktails are great as well!
Big Lawn Series
- Mondays, 6-8 p.m.
- Free, all ages
- Features a variety of artists
Thursday House Band
- Thursdays, 6-8 p.m.
- Free, all ages
- Local, Sisters-based band
- Fall & Winter
- Thursday evenings
- Ticket prices change with each artist
See upcoming shows and events here.
16. Get a view over the town from Pilot Butte
You don’t have to scan the horizon for very long before you’ll see a curved hump looming in the near distance. Allow us to introduce Pilot Butte.
While it may look like an unassuming hill protruding from nowhere, this is actually a nearly 500-foot lava dome that was formed by an extinct volcano.
Today, it is a state park and a popular place for locals to get some exercise, but this cinder dome was once used as a place for the Native peoples to spot wildlife, and later as a navigation point for settlers in covered wagons as they crossed the Deschutes River. It’s easy to see why, as you can spot this landmark from just about anywhere in town which can be a handy way of getting your bearings.
Compared to the Three Sisters range, Pilot Butte looks rather puny, but hiking (or driving) to the top will offer panoramic views over town with nine snow-capped peaks looming in the distance.
How to get to the top:
- During the summer months, it is possible to drive to the top. This road is closed during the winter months.
- Hike the paved 1-mile trail (shared with cars) to the top.
- Hike the steeper but more peaceful gravel nature trail to the top.
Have more time in Oregon? By the way, if you’re on a longer road trip and have the time, Crater Lake National Park is one of the best places to see in Oregon, and is worth a spot on your itinerary.
17. Float on the Deschutes River in a tube
If you’re visiting Bend during the summer months, floating on the Deschutes is the thing to do! In fact, it’s one of our favorite things to do in Oregon.
On a hot summer’s day, take one look on the river and you’ll likely see it crowded with people on brightly colored tubes or SUPs making their way leisurely down the river.
Don’t miss this! If you’re visiting from out of town, it can be a little confusing trying to figure out where to put in and where to get out, so we put together a handy guide to floating the Deschutes River with everything you need to know including where to put in, shuttle service recommendations and how to get yourself a tube.
18. SUP on the Deschutes
If you’re looking for another way to experience the river, a stand up paddle board is a good option.
It’s a little more work than laying back in a tube and letting the river carry you along, but with a paddle, you can navigate both upstream and downstream.
Another perk of a SUP is you can do it in the fall or spring, whereas tubing is really only comfortable in the peak of summer.
If you don’t have a SUP of your own, you can rent one from most of the outfitters in town. Just search for a canoe or kayak rental and they should have SUPs as well.
19. Watch river surfers at the Bend Whitewater Park
If getting on the river doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, we’d still recommend making your way down to Miller’s Park to watch the river surfers. It’s pretty entertaining to watch them queue up next to the man-made swell and watch them rip one by one.
The cool thing about the river surfers is you’ll find them at the whitewater park nearly all year long – morning, noon and evening.
20. See sunrise from Tumalo Mountain Trail
If you’re looking for a heart-pumping hike with epic views, this will fill the bill.
Directly across from Mount Bachelor ski resort, Tumalo Mountain Trail is a steep yet pretty straight shot to the top of this ridge where you’ll be rewarded with arguably the most beautiful view of the mountains in Central Oregon.
Good to know: Be prepared that you may encounter snow on this trail up until July.
Tumalo Mountain Trail Hike
- Type: Out and back
- Distance: 3.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,407 feet
- Difficulty: Intermediate
This is a popular route to hike for sunrise (as this is when the lighting is best), and the parking lot will sometimes be full even an hour before sunup.
21. Catch Live music at Hayden Homes Amphitheater
We’re obsessed with live music, and lucky for us, Bend is home to Oregon’s largest outdoor music venue. Situated on the banks of the Deschutes, Hayden Homes Amphitheater (formerly Les Schwab Amphitheater) can accommodate 8,000 people.
Good to know: Disposable water bottles are not sold at this venue. Instead, bring an empty reusable bottle and fill from the free water station inside. How cool is that?! You can also purchase a reusable sili-pint inside for beer, wine or cocktails. (We love seeing companies reducing single-use plastic!)
Hayden Homes Amphitheater actually gets some really big names – from Dave Matthews Band to John Legend to Chris Stapleton – there’s a show for everyone! For the concert lineups and information on what you can and cannot bring inside the venue, check out the official website.
Didn’t get tickets to a show? No worries, Bend has a pretty fantastic music scene, and you’ll likely be able to catch live performances just about any night of the week. Check Facebook for events near Bend, or just wander around town and keep your ears open!
22. Explore a Farmers Market
During the summer months, there are a handful of different farmer’s markets in town.
Downtown Bend Farmers Market
- May 1st – October 15th, 2023
- 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
- Google Maps location
You’ll find the pedestrian street parallel with Wall Street full of vendors for a small market of mostly produce stalls and a few food stands.
NorthWest Crossing Farmers Market
- June 3rd – September 16th, 2023
- 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Google Maps location
The NorthWest Crossing district plays host to a much larger market. The streets are closed off and completely transformed for produce vendors, artisans, and food stalls.
There’s also typically live music and a pretty lively atmosphere.
Bend Night Market
- 5 p.m. until close
- June 2nd – September 22nd, 2023
- Google Maps location
New as of the 2023 summer season, this market is hosted weekly on the grounds of the Deschutes Historical Museum.
With a variety of food trucks, drink stands, artisan vendors, and live music, this family-friendly market is a great place to mingle with locals.
23. Visit Tumalo Falls
Oregon has a pretty incredible collection of waterfalls, and if you’re visiting from out of state you’ll definitely want to make time to see at least one of them.
Located in the Deschutes National Forest, Tumalo Falls is the closest waterfall to Bend.
With options for a short hike or a viewpoint easily accessible from the parking lot, Tumalo Falls is quite accessible, making it a good stop for people of all ages.
Good to know: You’ll likely lose cell signal on the drive to these waterfalls, so it’s a good idea to download the offline version of Google Maps so you don’t get lost.
We wrote a guide with everything you need to know about visiting Tumalo Falls on our sister site. Be sure to read up on it, as the best view is from a somewhat hidden trail!
24. Soak in a hot spring
If you’re a hot spring fanatic like we are, you’ll want to pay careful attention.
There aren’t any hot springs in town per se, but there are a few nearby that you can easily visit as a day trip from Bend.
Paulina Hot Springs
- 55 minute drive from Bend
Starting with the one that is closest to Bend (just under an hour away), Paulina Hot Springs is also the least known.
Park here (after you pass Little Crater Campground), and walk roughly 30 minutes alongside the lake until you reach the hot springs, which are shallow pools carved in the shore.
McCreedie Hot Springs
- 1 hour 40 minute drive from Bend
These shallow, warm pools are easily accessible and are a great place to soak year round.
Read our guide to visiting McCreedie Hot Springs for everything you need to know about getting there, as well as some other really cool stops nearby for an epic road trip!
Umpqua Hot Springs
- 2 hours 15 minute drive from Bend
This Insta-famous hot spring (pictured above) is probably the most famous in all of Oregon.
Read our guide to visiting Umpqua Hot Springs for some things you definitely want to know before you go (trust me!). Plus, we’re sharing our favorite stops nearby so you can turn this into a perfect little road trip!
Terwilliger/Cougar Hot Springs
- 1 hour 50 minute drive for Bend
This tiered spring is nestled in a peaceful forest, and is one of our favorites.
There is a small entry fee, and some things you should know before you hop in the car, so check our our complete Terwilliger Hot Spring guide. We’re also including places to stay nearby (like the coziest cabin!) if you want to extend your stay.
Really love hot springs? If you want an entire list of hot springs in Oregon, we got you covered! These are far from the only ones in the state.
Psst! If you don’t have time to spare for an entire day trip, check out #8 on this list to find a soaking pool in town that is super convenient.
25. Explore Lava River Cave with a lantern
Just a 20-minute drive from town is the largest lava tube in the state of Oregon, and it makes a really fun adventure!
This is a self-guided cave, so you’ll explore at your own pace. There are some metal pathways and stairs at the beginning of the cave, but as you get deeper inside, you’ll be walking on the ground.
It is mostly level the whole way, and pretty spacious (for a cave) for the majority of the walk.
At the cave entrance, there is a small building from which you can rent lanterns for $5 (which are more like super powerful flashlights).
Do it yourself
- Cost: $5 parking fee (Other than the parking fee, it is free to enter the cave and explore.)
- Tip: If you have a National Park Pass, display it on your dashboard and your visit is free (this is a National Monument and is covered in the America the Beautiful pass).
- Time: We’d recommend planning on spending 1 – 1.5 hours here.
- Family-friendly? Yes! We saw people of all ages inside the cave (including lots of families with small children).
Good to know: If you’ve visited any other caves with the shoes you’re wearing, it is suggested that you wear rubber boot coverings (provided free of charge). This helps to prevent the spread of a disease that is deadly to the bats that call this cave home.
26. Tour the Deschutes Brewery
Without a doubt the most famous brewery in Bend, Deschutes is a town staple. There’s a taproom downtown as well as the actual brewery site, which features a small tasting room and beer garden.
If you’d like to take a tour and see how the sausage is made, as they say, you can book a spot on a tour. Tours run daily, and you’ll receive a coozie and a can of beer to enjoy!
- Cost: $10 per adult
- Time: 45 minutes (arrive 15 minutes early)
- Reserve your spot
Fun story: When we were living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we found Deschutes beer at a couple of places around town, which was fun to see so far from Bend!
27. Summit South Sister
Calling experienced hikers only…
Summiting South Sister is a bucket list hike for many Oregonians, and, with some preparation, it can be tackled on your trip to Bend.
South Sister is a volcano, and is the third highest peak in Oregon (after Mount Hood and Mount Adams respectively).
Summiting this majestic mountain is not for the faint of heart, as there’s a good amount of elevation gain, but as far as summits go, it’s not very technical. Hikers that make it to the top on a clear day will be rewarded with unobstructed views over the Cascade range.
Want more ideas? Check out our round up of some of the best hikes in Bend.
South Sister Summit Hike
- Out and back
- 12.2 miles
- 4,898-foot elevation gain
- Very difficult
It’s important to know that you will need to start this hike early, and it will take the majority of your day (think 10-12 hours).
This hike is extremely challenging, and you’ll want to be prepared with proper shoes, gear, enough water, and food. Depending on the time of year you hike, you may need microspikes for walking along the crater at the summit. If this isn’t scaring you away, it is extremely worthwhile and an epic way to spend a day near Bend!
Psst! We have all the information you need to prepare in our trail guide for the South Sisters Hike over on our sister site.
28. Test your detective skills at an escape room
We’re huge fans of escape rooms and love doing them when friends or family visit.
Puzzle Effect is located just south of downtown Bend in an unassuming strip mall. But once inside, you’ll be wowed by their extravagant room set ups.
There are 4 different rooms, each with their own story and difficulty level. Once inside, you’ll be transported to another world and time will fly as you try your darnedest to escape!
Personal experience: We did the pirate-themed room with two friends that we often do escape rooms with. This was one of our favorites we’ve done with them, and we just barely made it out in time!
Psst! We think this makes a perfect rainy day activity in Bend.
Check out the different rooms and make your reservation here (they do book up).
29. Sip on the best cocktails in town
While Bend is well-known for its brewery scene, you might be surprised to find plenty of top notch cocktail bars as well.
Here are just a few of our favorites:
- Savor a creative concoction at San Simon, a buzzy, candlelit cocktail bar hidden in Tin Pan Alley
- Sample a variety of flavors from the mini cocktails menu at Crater Lakes Distillery
- find the illusively secretive Broom Closet Speakeasy at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School
- Soak up the hip atmosphere and DJ beats at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
- Pretend you’re on a tropical vacation with tiki-inspired drinks at Rapa Nui or The Flamingo Room
Psst! If you’re more of a fan of spirits than beer, you’re going to want to head this this list of our favorite cocktail bars in Bend because we’ve done all sorts of sampling around town to let you in on the best!
30. Escape the crowds on these off-the-beaten-path hikes
Many of the well-known trails you’ll find in this article – Tumalo Mountain, Green Lakes, Broken Top, Tumalo Falls, and South Sister – are popular for good reason. They are all spectacular. But you’ll likely be sharing the trails with lots of other people, especially on a nice weekend day in the summer.
If you prefer solitude to rubbing shoulders, keep reading because we’ve rounded up some of our favorite lesser-known hikes around Bend. These are all pretty easy hikes, too, making them good options for all levels.
- Type: Out-and-back
- Distance: 1 mile (it is approximately .5 miles to the falls but you can continue further on the trail if you wish)
- Elevation gain: 225 feet
- Difficulty: Easy (rated “moderate” on AllTrails, but we’d definitely categorize it as easy)
Located roughly 50 minutes north of Bend, this waterfall is much less-known than others in the area and doesn’t attract the same amount of crowds.
An easy, .5-mile walk from the trailhead leads to the falls, and you’ll likely see people fishing along the way. Near the falls there are a couple of nice swimming areas if you’re keen to take a dip!
Insider Tip: If you want a real off-the-beaten-path place to grab a beer nearby, stop at Over The Edge Taphouse, which has a nice outdoor seating area.
- Type: Out-and-back
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 450 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
A 3.6-mile out-and-back hike leads to the remote Lucky Lake, which is one of the least-crowded places on the Cascade Lakes Highway.
This is a great stop if you want some solitude and a bit of a workout!
Upper Chush Falls
- Type: Out-and-back
- Distance: 5.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
This waterfall is way off the beaten path, and getting there requires driving on some back roads in the Three Sisters Wilderness (but most vehicles should be just fine).
This trail is relatively flat trail begins in a recent burn area, so you’ll be walking amongst tree trunks that are reminiscent of something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
The falls is beautiful and is fun to visit at all times of the year. We’ve even been in the winter time, and would recommend packing microspikes (these are the ones we have) for when you get closer to the falls.
31. Eat your way through the food truck pods
There are what seems like endless food truck pods in town, and with fierce competition, most of them are pretty dang good.
From Hawaiian poke bowls to vegan cookin’ to Oaxacan fare to breakfast burritos, you really can find anything you’re craving at a food truck in Bend.
We created a round up of the best food trucks in Bend (+ what to order!) so you know exactly which ones not to miss.
32. Catch a film at a super unique movie theater
Bend has a few really unique movie theaters that are unlike any you’ve ever been to before. While it might sound strange to see a movie on a trip, keep reading and you’ll understand why…
a) Tin Pan Alley Outdoor Theater
What if I were to tell you that one of our all-time favorite “Bend date nights” takes place entirely in an alleyway? Sound creepy? Keep reading because I promise it’s much cooler than it sounds…
Parallel with Bend’s two main streets downtown (Wall Street & Bond Street), run alleyways that are much more exciting than the typical dodgy dumpster set up.
During the warmer months of the year, this alleyway gets transformed… Tables are erected and an inflatable screen is blown up, transforming the alleyway into a pop-up outdoor theater.
The show, hosted by Tin Pan Theater and Bend Film Festival, starts as the sky get dark, and you’re able to order drinks and popcorn to go with the show. Sometimes they have a multi-week series with a theme, like classic horror films on Tuesday nights, or ski films on Thursdays.
The perfect combination: We love grabbing cocktail at neighboring San Simón then sticking around for an alleyway showing of a movie at Tin Pan. It’s a unique twist on a classic “drinks & a move” date.
b) Tin Pan Theater
On nights where there isn’t an outdoor film, you can pop inside Tin Pan’s actual theater. This intimate art-house theater that’ll make you swear you’ve stepped back in time.
With 28 seats and a red velvet curtain surrounding the big(ish) screen, this boutique-style theater isn’t your typical AMC experience.
Order wine, beer and popcorn during a screening of an independent art film or an old classic.
Do it yourself: Check Tin Pan’s website and their Instagram (they sometimes don’t announce shows that far in advance) for their up-to-date schedule for both the indoor theater as well as the alleyway showings.
c) McMenamins Movie Theater
The movie theater in McMenamins Old St. Francis School is so cozy and well worth a spot on your Bend itinerary.
With couches instead of traditional chairs and a bar in the back where you can order food and cocktails, make an entire evening of it!
Plus, tickets are cheaper than a traditional movie theater — at $8 per person for first-run movies and just $5 for second-run movies, this makes for a fun date night.
The only downside is they only play one movie at a time, so if it’s not a tile you’re interested in, you’re kind of out of luck.
Do it yourself: See what films are playing now and buy tickets here.
33. See regional wildlife at the High Desert Museum
One of the very top-rated things to do in Bend, according to TripAdvisor, is to make a visit to the High Desert Museum. This is one of the most popular activities in the area for families with kids.
The museum is part indoors, part outdoors and has many exhibits featuring native wildlife such as birds of prey, river otters, porcupines, and foxes, most of which have been rescued and wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild.
There are also art and cultural exhibits as well as an authentic homestead and sawmill from the early 1900’s.
For hours and rates (they change slightly with the seasons), check out the High Desert Museum’s website.
34. Brunch it up
There are plenty of places to grab a morning bite in Bend, but if you’re looking for a full-service brunch, we’ve got you covered:
- McKay Cottage: Consistently named the “best brunch in Bend” this is a town staple. With a cute cottage vibe and outdoor seating on nice days, you can find all your breakfast favorites on the menu.
- Insider Tip: Their croissant French toast (stuffed with mascarpone and served with marionberry compote) is insanely good!
- The Victorian: Located in West Bend, this adorable red Victorian house has been transformed to a local favorite. If you’re feeling up for it their famous Bloody Mary is huge and delicious.
- Jackson’s Corner: Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Jackson’s Corner is an excellent brunch choice. With a focus on local ingredients, the menu is fresh and well-rounded.
- The Lemon Tree: With menu items like shakshuka (one of our breakky faves!) and jumbo lump crab cake Benedict, it’s no wonder this is a popular brunch pick!
35. Feed alpacas at Crescent Moon Ranch
As you’re driving north of Bend on highway 97, you might spot some fluffy friends just off the road. We drove by this ranch so many times before finally stopping, and I can’t believe it took us so long!
Crescent Moon Ranch is an expansive piece of land that is home to many cute alpacas that you can see up close.
It costs $5 to purchase food to feed the alpacas, making this is one of the best cheap things to do in Bend.
We brought our daughter here for the first time recently, and we all had so much fun. Needless to say, we’ll definitely be back!
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, no need to make reservations
- Cost: $5 to get food for the alpacas
- Google Maps Location
36. Explore lava fields at Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Just southeast of Bend, you’ll find the Newberry Volcanic National Monument which covers more than 54,000 acres of lakes, lava flows, and other geologic features.
Visit the Lava Lands Visitors Center to learn more about the history and geology of this area before setting off on the paved 5.5-mile Sun Lava path. If you’re visiting during the summer months (between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends), there are shuttles that run every 20 minutes and bring guests to the summit of Lava Butte. This costs $2 per person and they run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Insider Tip: While you’re in the area, be sure to head over to Lava River Cave (#20 on this list), which is nearby.
Another more adventurous way to explore this vast expanse is to hike to the summit of Paulina Peak, which will grant you lovely panoramic views of theCascades, Newberry Caldera and the high desert. The trail is 6.1 miles round trip and there is a 1,600-foot elevation gain.
37. Go to Trivia or BINGO at Silver Moon Brewing
Silver Moon is one of our favorite breweries in Bend, and for good reason:
- The beers are solid.
- It’s a local hot spot and the atmosphere is fun.
- There are tons of fun events each week, no matter what you’re looking for.
From comedy nights to $3 pints on Mondays to DJ dance parties, Silver Moon truly hosts it all.
But two of our favorite events are trivia and BINGO. Both events are very popular and do fit up, so we’d recommend getting there early or reserving a seat (which comes with a small fee).
Trivia on the Moon
We love trivia (even though we’re not very good!), and Silver Moon’s weekly trivia night is great. It’s free to play, cash prizes, and there are food trucks if you want food to go with your beer!
- Thursdays, most of the year
- 7-9 p.m.
Looking for another trivia night? We also like the trivia at Bridge 99 Brewery, which is on Mondays and Thursdays from 6-8 pm. Just like with Silver Moon, get there early in order to snag a seat!
Not’Cho Grandma’s BINGO
A little raunchy, a lot of fun, Not’Cho Grandmas’ BINGO is the perfect way to start your Sunday with a bang! Games are usually $2 per card, other than the blackout round, which is $5.
The cash prizes are pretty dang good, and there are some fun morning drinks, like unique mimosa flavors and Bloody Marys to get the party started.
- Sundays, seasonally
- 10 a.m.
Be sure to check out Silver Moon’s event calendar to make sure the events are on during your dates, as they do take a few breaks during the year.
38. Enjoy a meal on an organic farm
Rainshadow Organics gives a whole new meaning to farm-to-table dining.
This organic farm is located just outside of Terrebonne (a 40-minute drive from Bend), and hosts regular meals throughout the year.
We’ve come for Mother’s Day brunch, pizza oven night, family style meals, and have a long table garden dinner booked for later this summer!
They have both indoor and outdoor meals, depending on the season, and each is wonderful in its own way. Each meal we’ve attended has been beautifully-presented in a magical setting.
If this sounds like it’s your kind of experience, be sure to make reservations early because every meal sells out well in advance. Check out their calendar here.
Insider Tip: Subscribe to their newsletter so you’re the first to know when a new date opens. That’s how we’ve been able to get bookings.
39. Taste a famous Ocean Roll
At some point during your time in Bend, you should absolutely make a stop at Sparrow Bakery and order an Ocean Roll. It’s kind of a Bend “must-do”.
These massive pastries are similar to a cinnamon roll, but instead of, well, cinnamon, the filling is made with cardamom, vanilla and sugar. It may sound strange, but when you sink your teeth into this crispy yet gooey and not too sweet delicacy, you’ll be thanking us for the recommendation.
In addition to their famed ocean rolls, pretty much everything this local bakery serves is excellent. The chocolate cookies are rich and decadent, the COCC Cookies (named after the local community college) are amazing. We’ve also had some of their breakfast sandwiches, which are good too, so order whatever sounds good (as long as you’re also ordering an ocean roll, of course!).
40. Go on a peaceful nature walk
Sure, Bend is known for epic hikes, but there are also lots of places to enjoy a peaceful and low-key trail surrounded by nature.
Here are our two favorites:
This narrow park hugs the banks of Tumalo Creek, and has plenty of walking trails as well as biking paths. From a paved walkway that stretches the length of the park to tiny paths where you’ll likely be the only hiker, there are options for everyone.
Walk amongst the towering ponderosas and stop for a picnic lunch next to Tumalo Creek for the perfect afternoon.
Riley Ranch Nature Reserve
This nature reserve offers a wide variety of trails that bring hikers through some pristine high desert landscapes.
There are sections with sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains, as well as trails that lead to secluded spots along the Deschutes River. This is also makes a great trail running spot near town.
41. Step foot inside the last Blockbuster in the world
Bend has a strong tradition of supporting the film industry, so it isn’t too much of a surprise that it is home to the world’s last Blockbuster Video.
If you feel those familiar pulls of nostalgia, it can be a fun place to browse the aisles and pretend you’ve slipped a decade back in time. You can even see some movie props encased in glass boxes throughout the store.
Next door is Papa Murphy’s, so you can do a total throwback pizza and movie night – as long as your Airbnb has a DVD player, that is (do they even make those anymore?!).
Fun Fact: Watch The Last Blockbuster on Netflix for an inside look at this local landmark.
42. Walk & shop in the Old Mill district
For nearly a century, Bend was a logging town, and the Old Mill was at its heart.
Today, the shops, restaurants, and art of the buzzy Old Mill District are a far cry from the days where timber was sawed and processed, but remnants of history still remain.
For one, REI is in a building that was once the mill’s powerhouse. You can see the three smokestacks still standing tall, as a reminder of what this area once was.
Old Mill has all the chain stores you could want to browse, from Victoria’s Secret to Lulu Lemon to GAP. But even if you’re not in the shopping mood, there are other reasons to wander Old Mill.
Start by going for a stroll on the path alongside the Deschutes River and keep you eyes peeled for all the artwork you’ll find along the way.
If you get hungry (or thirsty or bored!), here are some ideas of place to stop.
Places in the Old Mill District:
- Sisters Coffee Company: Grab coffee and a treat to sit with or take with you.
- REI: Pop inside the historic building that is now REI and browse (aka my not so guilty pleasure).
- Evoke Winery: Unwind with a wine tasting
- Rapa Nui: Tiki bar cocktails
- Monkless: Not exactly in the Old Mill District, but just a short walk along the river will bring you to this brewery known for Belgian ales and a small but quality food selection
43. Have a PNW-style beach day
While you might not think of Bend as a “beach destination”, there are some pretty great (lake) beaches nearby.
One of our favorites is the beach on the east side of Elk Lake (Google Maps location). Bring a cooler, a blanket, a shade tent if you wish, and a SUP or tube.
With postcard-worthy views of South Sister, this beach is the perfect place to spend a summer day in Central Oregon.
Psst! If you’re really craving an ocean beach destination, check out our perfect Oregon Coast road trip!
44. See a river appear from out of nowhere
If you’re looking for a quiet escape from town but aren’t looking for too much strenuous activity, head to the mouth of the Metolius River. Located in the Deschutes National Forest, it’s just under an hour’s drive from Bend (a bit past the town of Sisters).
There are flat walking trails and places to relax next to the river. And if you want to see something pretty cool, make your way to the river’s headwaters. A short 10-minute walk from the parking lot will bring you to a spring from which the river appears as if out of nowhere!
Camp Sherman is a small village that consists mostly of campgrounds and cabins. There’s a General Store just beside the river that’s worth checking out. They have a huge variety of snacks, souvenirs and fly fishing gear. You can also order coffee drinks and made-to-order sandwiches to take with you for a little picnic lunch right next to the river.
Side Note: There is a local artisan tea brand called Metolius Tea, which was named after the river. We’re obsessed with their chai concentrate and most of the coffee shops in Bend serve it, so give it a try!
45. Sip wine at a local vineyard
If you prefer wine over beer, make it a point to get to Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards during your trip to Bend.
Situated just east of Terrebonne, a 45-minute-drive from town, this vineyard has a stunning setting, a good wine selection, pizza offerings, and occasional live music.
Named after the Three Sisters Mountains, which were originally called Faith, Hope, and Charity, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of these beauties as you sip your wine.
Things to do in Bend during the winter
If you happen to be visiting Bend in the winter months and want a unique outdoor adventure, we’ve got some perfect ideas for you!
One thing to point out is that the town of Bend doesn’t typically accumulate much snow. After a snowstorm, it tends to melt within a few days. However, a short 20-minute drive toward the mountains will reveal a totally new landscape with plenty of powder for skiing, sledding or snowshoeing.
We created an entire guide to the best things to do in Bend during the winter on our sister site, but below we’re sharing a handful of our favorites!
Insider Tip: Remember to pack layers because even if it’s not all that cold in town, it’ll be a different story once you gain a bit of elevation.
46. Ski day at Mount Bachelor
Nearby Mt. Bachelor is well-loved by locals and out-of-towners alike. And for good reason — covering more than 1,000 acres, Mount Bachelor is the largest ski resort in the state of Oregon (by area) and is the second largest single-mountain ski resort in the US (after Vail).
Additionally, Mount Bachelor boasts one of the longest ski seasons in the United States, with lifts typically open from mid-November through the end of May (weather permitting, of course).
Situated 22 miles west of Bend, it takes just about 30 minutes to reach the ski resort, making it really easy to fit into your trip to Bend.
Fun Fact: It is said that this inactive volcano was named “bachelor” because it stands apart from the Three Sisters mountain range. It took me a while to get that…
47. Ski for $29 at Mount Hoodoo
If you want to have a ski day while in town, but are hoping to avoid the crowds and super high price tag of Bachelor, we may have just the solution for you…
Hoodoo Ski Area is just 44 miles west of Bend, and takes just under an hour to get there (about 30 minutes longer than it takes to get to Bachelor).
While much smaller than Mount Bachelor, Hoodoo still makes for an excellent ski day — especially since it’s much more laidback and less crowded.
If you happen to come on a Thursday, you’ll save big because lift tickets cost just $29 on “Thrifty Thursdays”! We made it a near-weekly ritual to go to Hoodoo on Thursdays, followed by hot springs and dinner (see tips below).
- Hot Spring: After a ski day at Mount Hoodoo, we love heading to Belknap Hot Springs to soak our chilled bones. It costs $8 per adult, and while it’s not a rustic hot spring like we typically choose (it’s essentially a hot pool next to the McKenzie River), it’s still a welcomed relief in the winter months.
- Burger & Onion Rings: Also, if you’ve worked up an appetite, the Mackenzie General Store is just a bit further and serves up excellent burgers and onion rings with homemade marionberry barbecue sauce that’ll hit the spot! Be prepared to have little to no cell service on this section of the drive.
48. Snowshoe to a mountain hut
Just outside of town, there are networks of amazing snowshoe trails that will make you feel like you’re in a winter wonderland (even if there isn’t any snow in town!).
Don’t have snowshoes of your own? You can rent them from REI. Check out this guide to snowshoeing for beginners to get all the info!
While you can go to just about any Sno Park, strap your snowshoes (or XC skis!) on and get on the trails, our personal favorite trail is at the Swampy Lakes trailhead. Follow the snowshoe trail towards the Swampy Lakes shelter, which is just over 1.5 miles from the parking lot (about 3 miles roundtrip).
Pack some snacks and a thermos with a hot beverage to enjoy in the fully enclosed shelter. There’s even a wood-burning stove inside to keep you toasty warm. You may be sharing the space with others (depending on the day and time you arrive). Take it as an opportunity to make friendly conversation!
Don’t forget your Sno-Park Pass! This pass is required to be able to park at the trailheads from November 1st – April 30th each year. It helps fund the snowplowing and maintenance of these lots. You can buy a day pass for $5 or a season pass for $30 at REI, ranger stations, or local outdoor gear shops.
49. Go on a ranger-led snowshoe tour for free!
If you’re looking for a fun and free winter activity, look no further. From mid-December through late March, you can go on ranger-led snowshoe tours at the base of Mount Bachelor.
Along the way, the ranger will point out different features of the local geology and nature. We were surprised by how much we learned!
Snowshoes are provided for free (but if you have your own you can certainly wear them).
While this is a free program, consider leaving a donation if you had fun as it will help fund their non-profit partner, Discover Your Forest, which connects people to our public lands.
- Meet at the West Village Base Area near the Guest Services building. There is a USFS hut that has signs about the snowshoe program.
- Tours go out at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. from mid-December through mid-March
- Check in 10-15 minutes before the tour start time
- Reservations are not required
- Snowshoes are provided
- Cost is free, but donations are welcomed
Alternative: This Snowshoe & Bonfire Tour, operated by locally-owned Wanderlust Tours, looks epic!
50. Cross country ski to a hidden restaurant
We love cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in general, but we love it even more when there is a special destination… like a hidden restaurant!
Start at Ten Mile Sno-Park, and follow the trail toward Paulina Falls. Shortly after the waterfall, you’ll come to Paulina Lake Lodge where you can order a burger or hot chili and a beer and rest your muscles before heading back on the same trail.
Good to know: The XC ski and snowshoe paths cross by a snowmobile track, and this is a very popular place for snowmobilers. So be prepared to hear the occasional roars!
Where to eat inBend
If you’re looking for a handful of spots to put on your list, here are some of our favorite restaurants in Bend:
- Spork: global fusion and fun atmosphere
- Wild Rose: best Thai in town
- El Sancho (westside location!): street tacos and margs
- McKay Cottage: best brunch in town
- Jackson’s Corner: all-around good food
- 10 Barrel (westside location): good brewery and eats
- Brother John’s (westside location): pub grub in a hole-in-the-wall atmosphere
- Nancy P’s Cafe: great sandwiches to go
- Bo’s Falafel Bar: healthy and delicious bowls
- The Lot: taproom in a cool setting with food trucks
However, since Bend has such an incredible food scene, there’s really no way we could truly do it justice with a small section in this article…
That’s why we created a list of our favorite restaurants in Bend!
This list includes our favorite spots to grab coffee, the best sandwiches to bring with you on an outdoor adventure, our favorite food trucks, can’t-miss breweries, and the best “nicer” restaurants in town. Be sure to check it out so you can flag the places you don’t want to miss!
Round up of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon
Here’s a recap of all the best things to do in Bend so you can see everything in one place.
- Broken Top
- Brewery hopping
- Drake Park
- Smith Rock State Park
- Deschutes River Trail
- Downtown Bend
- First Friday
- McMenamins soaking pool
- Mountain biking
- Explore Sisters
- Skylight Cave
- Cascade Lakes Highway
- Canoe trip with Wanderlust Tours
- McMenamins Old Catholic School
- Live music at Suttle Lodge
- Pilot Butte
- Float the Deschutes River
- SUP Deschutes
- Bend Whitewater Park
- Tumalo Mountain Trail
- Hayden Homes Amphitheater
- Farmers Market
- Tumalo Falls
- Hot springs
- Lava River Cave
- Deschutes Brewery
- Summit South Sister
- Escape room
- Cocktail bars
- Off the beaten path hikes
- Good truck pods
- Unique movie theaters
- High Desert Museum
- Crescent Moon Ranch
- Newberry National Volcanic Monument
- Trivia or BINGO
- Rainshadow Organics Farm meal
- Taste an Ocean Roll
- Nature walk
- Last Blockbuster in the world
- Old Mill district
- Metolius headwaters
- Beach day
- Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards
- Ski at Mount Bachelor
- Ski at Mount Hoodoo
- Snowshoe to a mountain hut
- Ranger-led snowshoe tour
- Cross country ski to a hidden restaurant
Why we moved to Bend
We first visited this town in 2017 on a road trip, and I vividly remember sitting next to the Deschutes River and talking about how we could really see ourselves living in this charming town that seemed to check all “the boxes”.
Fast forward to the fall of 2019 and we arrived with our Subaru packed to the gills, ready to explore our new home.
And we’re certainly not the only ones who have fallen in love with this Central Oregon town and relocated. With just over 100,000 residents, Bend is quickly growing and shows no signs of slowing down (which is both good and bad in many ways).
Is Bend worth the hype?
What was once a small logging town is now one of the top destinations in the state of Oregon.
Many trendy places that grow quickly beg the question, “Is it really all it’s built up to be?”
After living in Bend since 2019, we can confidently say that this town is worth the hype.
Our favorite things about Bend
What makes it so great? Glad you asked! Here are just a few things we love:
- Moderate climate: Not too hot in the summer *most of the time* (and very little humidity), not too cold in the winter. We love having 4 seasons without the extremes.
- Access to outdoors: There is access to so many outdoor activities from town — hiking for all levels, whitewater and lake kayaking, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, backcountry camping, skiing & snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing… I could go on! It’s an outdoor-lover’s paradise.
- Charming & historic downtown: We love that a lot of the historic buildings throughout town have been preserved instead of knocked down in lieu of new construction (especially in the westside neighborhood). Many restaurants and shops are actually inside old houses giving the town a quaint charm that you don’t find everywhere.
- Lots of events: During just about any week of the year, you’ll find tons of events taking place throughout town. And there’s honestly something for everyone — live music, art exhibits, film screenings, outdoor meetups, you name it!
- Good food scene: In recent years, Bend’s food scene has really grown into something special. For a medium-sized town, there is a surprising amount of options. You can find everything from vegan eats, to authentic Thai, to 5-course fine dining, to food truck grub. We will say there are definitely some gaps… *cough, cough* Korean, Indian, and African cuisines are all sorely lacking (amongst others).
- Psst! We’ve compiled a Bend, Oregon restaurant guide just for you!
The not-so-great parts…
As with most places, there are some drawbacks too.
We’ll be honest, Bend is pretty amazing, but it’s not perfect. Here are two things that we don’t love:
- Growing cost of living: You could say that most towns have an increasing cost of living, but Bend’s is going up drastically. Like crazy drastic. It’s getting out of control, with house prices increasing by more than 30% from 2020 to 2021. Insane, huh?!
- Lack of diversity: Oregon in general has a historic lack of diversity, and Bend is no exception. With cost of living rising at an extreme rate, it’s unlikely that this will change in a big way anytime soon.
How to get to Bend
We’ll go over the best ways to get to Bend, whether you’re driving or flying.
Flying in and out of Redmond Airport
If you’re coming from out of state, you can either fly directly to Redmond airport (just 35 minutes north of Bend). or of course, you can drive .
Transportation to and from the airport
We’d highly recommend booking Enviro Shuttle for your transport to and from as they are super reliable and cheaper than Uber. We’ve learned the hard way that Uber at this airport can be really hard to get at night, and surge pricing can increase the rates incredibly.
Driving to Bend
If you plan to explore more of the state (which you definitely should if you have time!), Bend can make a great stop on your Oregon road trip.
Coming from Portland? The 175-mile drive takes you over a mountain pass and should take about 3.5 hours. The easiest way is to drive, but there are buses that do this route.
Where to stay in Bend
For your first visit to Bend, we’d personally recommend staying on the west side of highway 97, near downtown or on the west side of the river (known as Galveston Flats). The Old Mill district, south of downtown, also makes a really good base.
These locations will be within walking distance to the river and to some of the best parts of Bend.
Important Note: Many of the better hotels and Airbnbs in town book up long in advance, especially during the summer months or holiday weekends. Don’t wait until the last minute to book your stay. We’ve learned the hard way!
Here are some Airbnbs and hotels that we would personally recommend:
Our TOP picks
The Airbnbs and hotels in this section are our top picks! If you want an easy recommendation for a stay you’ll love, this is all you need!
This is one of the most unique places you can stay in town. This historic Catholic school was remodeled into what McMenamins is today — part hotel, part bar, part restaurant, part movie theater.
Yes, you can sleep in what used to be an old classroom! Plus, this hotel has one of the best locations in town — you’re within walking distance to all sorts of activities.
This westside loft features a quirky design with attention to detail. It is an Airbnb Plus listing, meaning the amenities are top-notch.
This cozy and modern Airbnb is in a great location for access to all kinds of adventures. It’s beautifully decorated with a wood-burning fireplace and a salt water hot tub to relax after a long day.
Top budget stay picks
It can be tricky finding budget-friendly accommodation in Bend, but lucky for you, we’ve done all the research. These stays will make a great choice as a home base without breaking the bank.
This is one of the only properties on this list located outside of town, but it’s a quick drive to the center of it all. Plus, the reasonable prices and a fun design — with hammocks in the rooms & a fun outdoor space — make it a good pick.
This is a particularly good choice if you plan to do a lot of biking in Bend, as the location grants you easy access to amazing mountain biking trails. There’s even a bike cleaning station onsite.
Bunk & Brew is the only hostel in Bend (as of now!), and it’s a fun place to hang out whether or not you’re a guest. There’s a cool outdoor courtyard with permanent food trucks and a beer stand. There is often live music and an overall fun atmosphere. The hostel itself is inside the historic Lucas House, the first brick home in Bend.
Good to know: We’d only really recommend staying here if you’re a solo traveler and keen to stay in a dorm, as the private rooms are as expensive (if not more) than hotels in the area.
What used to be a standard motel has been completely remodeled into a trendy yet affordable place to stay. The location, on 3rd Street, is okay. It’s central, yet not as walking-friendly as many other spots on this list. However, this hotel is known for a lively atmosphere, hosting pool parties in the summer, bonfires in the winter, and live music all year. If you want a place to mingle, this is a great choice!
More places to choose from
Still not finding quite what you’re looking for? Here are a few more options, including a more luxurious resort, a chain hotel, and a boutique-style bed and breakfast.
If you’re searching for a truly luxurious stay in Bend, this is a perfect choice. You’ll feel like you’re surrounded by nature, but in truth, you’re just a short 15-minute drive to town. And if you don’t feel like driving, you’re in luck because there’s a complimentary shuttle that goes to town.
With a perfect location, this charming bed & breakfast makes an excellent choice. Ben’s parents stayed here and loved the cozy rooms (with lots of character) and they raved about the breakfast!
Camping near Bend
If you’re traveling in a campervan, there are plenty of places to camp near Bend. From parking on Forest Service roads in the Deschutes National Forest to established campgrounds with all the amenities, there are all sorts of options.
- Great campgrounds near Bend: we’ve got a whole list ready for you to scour!
- Tips for finding free camping: how to (legally) camp for free (+ helpful apps!)
- Best campervan rentals in Portland: expert tips for the best way to explore Oregon!
Are you planning a trip to Oregon?
Being that Oregon is our home state, we have TONS of content to help you plan your trip. Start with our Oregon Homepage and be sure to check out the articles below. Leave us a comment if you have any more questions!
- Don’t miss our favorite restaurants in Bend Oregon.
- Get a detailed look at the best hikes near Bend.
- Read up on all the unique things to do in Portland.
- Keep this list of epic things to do in Oregon handy.
- This Oregon road trip itinerary makes for an epic vacation around the state.
- Plan your Oregon coast road trip with our insider tips & map.
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We want to hear from you!
Have you been to Bend, Oregon? What was your favorite part of the town? Have questions? Comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!