Looking for a year-round outdoor adventure haven? Look no further because Bend, Oregon is the perfect place to play outside, car camp, stay in luxury, and dine and sip your way through the day.
Bend is a town in Oregon that many people will first discover and immediately fall in love with. It’s often overshadowed by the larger city of Portland, but that’s okay because the charm of Bend is in the fact that it isn’t known by everyone yet.
This former ranching and logging town is the ultimate playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Seriously, the sheer amount of fun you can have outdoors here is unreal.
You can go kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, paragliding, biking, hiking, river floating, skiing, golfing, etc. There are about a million other things you could entertain yourself with in Bend, including drinking craft beer from dozens of local breweries. After spending my first hour in Bend, I knew the city had my heart.
To simply summarize what Bend represents– it’s the place people go to live out their adventures. Here is our complete list of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon.
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WHAT IS BEND KNOWN FOR?
If you know nothing about what Bend, Oregon is all about, let’s start with a quick intro to this vibrant little city!
- Bend is a small city located next to the Deschutes River.
- Bend is known for its variety of craft breweries and outdoor highlights such as Mt. Bachelor.
- Originally a crossing point on the river, settlement began in the early 1900s. Bend was incorporated as a city in 1905, originally called “Farewell Bend”, which was later shortened to “Bend” by the U.S. Postal Service.
- Bend started as a logging town, but is now best known as a gateway for many outdoor sports, including mountain biking, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting.
- Bend is a super dog-friendly city, with restaurants, hotels, and outdoor trails happy to accommodate you and your dogs.
- The city is becoming more well-known for its growing art scene. Today, it is home to various visual and fine art galleries as well as the independent BendFilm Festival.
HOW TO GET TO BEND, OREGON
Getting to Bend, Oregon is pretty straightforward, whether you choose to travel by air, car, bus or train. There are many daily flights into Redmond, just 20 miles away, and Portland is a few hours by car.
To fully appreciate Bend, OR and its nearby attractions (many of which you’ll need to drive to), I’d highly recommend renting a car. With a car, you’ll be able to carry bikes or kayaks around town as well as get to various state parks and national monuments, which are totally worth checking out. With a car, you’ll just be able to do more.
Coming from Portland? Chances are, you’ll be flying into PDX. From Portland, Bend is about 3 hours (175 miles) away by car. And it’s not a boring car ride either! Check out my guide to the best road trip stops from Portland to Bend here.
Coming from Eugene? From Eugene, OR, Bend is about 2.5 hours (121 miles) away by car.
Coming from San Francisco? From San Francisco, CA, Bend is about 7.5 hours (500 miles) away by car.
Coming from elsewhere? The closest airport from Bend, OR you can fly into is the Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM). Most airline carriers offer flights to and from Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Seattle.
If the above doesn’t work for you and you’re looking to fly into a larger airport (which usually also means cheaper flights), Portland International Airport (PDX) is your best bet. From here, simply rent a car and embark on an exciting road trip to Bend!
Considering the bus/train? Bend is served by regional bus services from many cities in Oregon including Portland, Coos Bay, Eugene, John Day, and Ontario. Amtrak also provides convenient and affordable rail transportation to the Bend area from various locations throughout the region.
Here’s what we did on our last trip to Bend:
- Arriving: Flew into Portland, rented a car, drove to Bend.
- Departing: With the same rental car, we drove from Bend back to San Francisco (where we actually live).
MAP OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN BEND, OREGON
Below is a map of everything that we’ll cover in this post.
My favorite food establishments are marking in yellow, and drink establishments are marked in red. In blue are all of the best things to do in Bend, OR!
30 BEST THINGS TO DO IN BEND, OREGON
1. EXPLORE DOWNTOWN
The first activity that should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Bend is simply taking a stroll and exploring the shops, bars, and eateries around Downtown Bend.
Bend offers one of the most charming downtown areas in the Pacific Northwest, with tree-lined streets, cobblestone sidewalks, and a buzzing atmosphere. The downtown area comes alive especially at night as locals and tourists head out for dinner, drinks, and entertainment. This was one of the areas we kept on coming back to during our stay in Bend.
There are lots of great restaurants and breweries here, so make sure you don’t miss this area. If you’re looking for spots to eat, my top recommendations in Downtown Bend are Zydeco (try to get a reservation) and Joolz Restaurant. Both these restaurants serve up award-winning dishes prepared by some really renowned chefs in the country!
For brews, don’t miss out on the five downtown breweries. If you’re feeling a cocktail drink more than beer, you’re in luck–there are a ton of bars in the downtown area, including Dogwood Cocktail Cabin (great drinks in a quaint cabin setting) and Velvet Lounge (small tapas and cocktails).
2. EXPLORE THE OLD MILL DISTRICT
The Old Mill District is Bend’s premier shopping and entertainment district. It’s conveniently situated along the scenic Deschutes River, which means you can take a break from window shopping with a super scenic view.
Here, you’ll find a few chain eateries and a movie theater, as well as stores like Lululemon, Sephora, etc.
Don’t feel like shopping? Have yourself a nice morning jog along the Deschutes River Trail, spend your day floating/kayaking on the river, or surfing in the Bend Whitewater Park.
3. BEND ALE TRAIL (DRINK CRAFT BEER)
The Bend Ale Trail is essentially a super fun way to discover the dozens of breweries in the Bend area.
Founded in 2010 with only 6 breweries, the Bend Ale Trail was the first Ale Trail in the West and only second in the nation. Today, there are 20+ breweries spanning from Bend to nearby towns of Sunriver, Sisters, and Redmond.
Grab a passport map from the visitor’s center or online here. As you visit each of the breweries, get a stamp on your passport from each of them. Once you grab enough stamps, you get an actual prize!
No purchase is necessary at any of the brewery stops, though they all provide you the opportunity to try some new beer flavors and brewpub eats! Not only will you be able to taste some creatively concocted beer, but you will also get to enjoy lively outdoor patios, tasting rooms, fun events, live music, and even brewery merch that you can take home as a souvenir.
A few of our favorite breweries in Bend include:
- Crux Fermentation Project – Crux has a massive outdoor space perfect for a day in the sun, serving up brew bites and pizza. There is also a delicious taco food truck onsite.
- Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House – A Bend classic and a must-do during your trip; they also have a few locations in Portland.
- 10 Barrel Brewing – Not only do they have creative IPAs and sours, but they also have the best brewery food in town. They also have an awesome outdoor patio with umbrellas and a huge fire pit to hang out at.
- Immersion Brewing – We didn’t get to visit this one because we were already so full of beer, but local store owners told us they highly recommended this one
4. EAT AT FOOD CART PODS
There are currently six food cart pods in Bend, all of which offer inviting outdoor atmospheres for enjoying your meal and enjoying your company in the fresh outdoors. Food cart pods feature picnic tables, fire pits, shade trees, string lights, and ample seating. Best of all, these food cart pods are often always stocked with craft beer, wine, and other refreshments to compliment your meal.
The Podski is a massive food cart pod tucked between the Old Mill District and Downtown Bend where you’ll find various food carts serving up just about any cuisine you’re craving. There’s also a variety of seating options, from the enclosed beer garden to the outdoor picnic tables.
Bend has a couple of other notable food cart lots, such as The Lot located on the west side and On Tap located on the east side, each offering delicious food and beer/wine options to pair.
5. WATCH A MOVIE AND GRAB DRINKS AT OLD ST. FRANCIS SCHOOL
If you’ve wandered throughout Oregon, the name McMenamins will ring a familiar bell for you. McMenamins is a family-owned company in the Pacific Northwest serving its own handcrafted beer, wine, cider, and spirits since 1983.
The Old St. Francis School is another one of their locations, conveniently located in downtown Bend. This venue was transformed from a 1900’s Catholic schoolhouse into a quaint and entertaining hotel, complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, a pub, brewery, movie theater, and live music space.
At the Old St. Francis Theater, you can find 1-2 first-run and second-run movies showing at limited times. If you’re looking for a place to stay, this is a fun option (they also have a fantastic soaking pool here).
6. SEE TUMALO FALLS
Tumalo Falls is a wondrous 89-foot tall waterfall located about 20 miles outside of Bend. This spot is simply stunning, so it’s no wonder why it’s such a popular spot to visit for tourists and locals alike!
If you’re just looking to marvel at the falls, you can drive up to the base of the falls. There is a small viewing platform right off the parking lot as well as one at the top of the falls, just 1/4 mile up.
Alternatively, you can turn your trip to Tumalo Falls into a 6.8-mile day hike! The Tumalo Falls Loop is a lightly trafficked loop trail along the river, where you get the opportunity to see at least 4 additional waterfalls. More on that later.
It’ll take you about 30 minutes to get here from Bend, and the last 3 miles (the last 10 minutes) is driving on an unpaved, bumpy road to the parking lot. If you’re an Audi or Tesla kind of person, you might want to consider bringing another car.
Pro Tip: Get there early to avoid the fight for parking, especially on weekends! The parking lot is small, so most latecomers tend to park on the side of the road before the one-lane bridge. Day-use parking costs $5 (unless you have a Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Annual Pass/America The Beautiful National Park Pass, in which case parking is free).
Read More: 10 Stunning Waterfalls In Bend, Oregon
7. VISIT SMITH ROCK STATE PARK
If you enjoy scenic views of towering canyons or rock climbing, Smith Rock State Park is the place for you. Rock climbers from all over the country flock to Smith Rock State Park to experience the thousands of climbing routes in the park. Here you’ll find dynamic routes that are ideal for various types of climbing and bouldering.
If climbing isn’t your thing, Smith Rock SP is still worth visiting. It’s great for trail running, hiking, wildlife spotting, and mountain biking as well. If you’re looking for a place to camp, the park also has a walk-in area for tent camping on a first-come, first-served basis.
Smith Rock is a popular attraction, and with that comes potential challenges with parking, especially during the peak season and on weekends. If you want to beat the crowds, visit Smith Rock on a weekday or try to get there before 8am on weekends. The parking/day-use fee costs $5.
8. HIGH DESERT MUSEUM
Just minutes south of town, you’ll find the High Desert Museum which will immediately transport you to a different time and place.
The museum is set on 135 wooded acres on the outskirts of Bend, with various indoor and outdoor experiences to entertain and educate you. Its focus is to showcase and protect the high desert habitat, so you’ll find interactive exhibits and live animals including birds, otters, bobcats, badgers, reptiles, and more.
Stop at the Miller Family Ranch and Sawmill and engage in a lively conversation with reenactment characters set in 1904. Discover the spirit of the West as you journey through the history of the Plateau Indians and see how the West was settled. The museum does a great job merging history, culture, and art to provide visitors with enriching knowledge of the High Desert region.
There is also a cafe with lunch options as well as a gift shop here.
9. GO HIKING
Hiking is one of those no-brainer activities that you should add to your list of things to do in Bend. All you need are a pair of sturdy hiking shoes and your own two feet! These are some of the more convenient hikes around the area, perfect for a weekend trip.
- Tumalo Falls Loop
- This 6.8-mile hike features a fairly flat walk that winds along the river and offers spectacular views of additional smaller waterfalls along the way. The Tumalo Creek Trail is open to pedestrians and mountain bikers, so keep an eye out for bikers passing by. Again, it’ll cost $5 to park here.
- Lava Butte
- This short interpretive trail in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument will give you an educational glimpse into the geology of the Cascades and much of the Pacific Northwest. If you’re looking for an easier hike that offers beautiful views, the short trek to the top of Lava Butte is a good choice. It’s just 1.75 miles each way. At the top there is a 1/4 mile trail around the rim of the volcano with educational signs along the way, offering 360-degree views and an active fire tower.
- Deschutes River Trail
- If you’re limited on time but still want to take a stroll outdoors, I’d recommend the Deschutes River Trail, located from Farewell Bend Park to McKay Park and the Bend Whitewater Park. Three footbridges connect trails across the river, providing convenient loops for walking, cycling, and more. The trails are great for children on bikes as the trail is wide, paved, and relatively flat with no car traffic.
10. VISIT THE NEARBY TOWN OF SUNRIVER
Sunriver is a neighboring town located south of Bend on the Deschutes River. It serves as Central Oregon’s premiere retreat, resort, and residential community.
Aside from luxury condos and river-view lodges with unforgettable spas, you can also find world-class golfing, 35+ miles of paved biking trails, horseback riding, and family fun at a waterpark.
There’s an awesome shopping/dining area called The Village at Sunriver where you can shop and eat tax-free! In the wintertime, they have ice skating here as well. If you’re looking to try more craft beer, don’t miss Sunriver Brewing.
11. VISIT THE NEARBY TOWN OF SISTERS
Sisters is a charming Western-themed town with a vibrant creative culture. These Western-style buildings are home to art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries. Sisters is also home to some notable festivals including the Sisters Folk Festival, Antiques in the Park, and the Sisters Festival of Books.
Looking to buy a cowboy hat and boots to fit the part? You can certainly get them here! After you’re done enjoying the charm of this little town, go cycling or mountain biking on one of the many trail options including two Oregon Scenic Bikeways. Golfing is big here as well!
12. GO SHOPPING
When in Oregon, you can’t pass up the opportunity to shop tax-free! There are several popular shopping areas in Bend including the Bend Factory Outlet Stores, the Old Mill District, The Box Factory, as well as at various stores in Downtown Bend.
It’s especially fun to shop in Downtown Bend in the summer when the Downtown Bend First Friday Art Walk event takes place (first Friday of every month). If you haven’t gotten your fill of shopping, head to The Village at Sunriver for even more shopping.
Some of my favorite stores in Bend include Merryweather (beautiful home decor and lifestyle shop) and The Gear Fix (specializing in used outdoor clothing and gear). Both of these are located in The Box Factory so check them out when you get a chance!
13. GO RIVER FLOATING
If you’re taking your trip to Bend during the summer months, you’ll bet you’re going to be getting a boatload of sunshine.
Make use of the hot weather by taking a relaxing float down the Deschutes River! This is such a popular thing to do in Bend due to the town’s proximity to the river, so take advantage of the opportunity.
The river is pretty chilly by before June and after late September, so if you’re coming before or after the summer season, do take note of that. The city has made this 60-90 minute river float easy and accessible to all by organizing a Ride the River Shuttle that will take you back to your car once your float is complete.
You can either bring your own tube/flotation device or rent one from one of the many outfitter shops in the area. If you’re aiming to buy your own, our favorites are the CoolerZ Rapid Rider Inflatable Tube and the Intex River Run Connect Lounge (allows you to connect tubes together so you can float down the river alongside your partner or bestie).
If you’re looking to park your car and start your float adventure, look no further than the Bend Park & Float. You can start your float at the Bend Park & Float, or walk/bike/shuttle to Riverbend Park, which offers a sandy shore for you to launch your air mattress, float tube, or raft.
The shuttle begins and ends at Bend Park & Float and stops at Riverbend Park and Drake Park. The cost is only $3.
14. EAT AN OCEAN ROLL
If you’ve spent any time at all in Bend, Oregon then you’ve probably heard about Bend’s signature Ocean Rolls. If you haven’t, well, it’s about time you learned about them and gave them a try. The Ocean Roll is Sparrow Bakery’s signature pastry, made from scratch every single day of the week.
If you imagine a merge between a croissant and a cinnamon roll, that only sort of describes it–and doesn’t do it justice. Specifically, it’s a pastry made with croissant dough, layered with cardamom, sugar, and vanilla, all rolled up nice and beautiful with a splash of egg wash added and bake to golden perfection.
The flavor on this thing is incredible and even better paired with a coffee in hand. If you want to try one of these bad boys, head to Sparrow Bakery early as they are one of the top sellers there. Their banana bread is also delicious!
15. KAYAK, CANOE, SUP, OR SURF ON THE RIVER
With water activities being so ingrained in the Bend culture, it would be a shame to visit Bend without getting out on the water! Aside from at Bend, I had never seen so many water activities available in one town.
I’d recommend you reserve an afternoon canoeing, kayaking, floating, or standup paddleboarding on the Deschutes. The crystal-clear river winds its way through the heart of the city, so you can see the city from a different perspective with a side of aquatic adventure.
The Bend Whitewater Park at the Colorado Avenue Dam is the easiest place to get on the water. This state-of-the-art park features three channels: a floater’s channel, a natural habitat channel, and a whitewater channel with waves created by electronically controlled pneumatic bladders. This means you can actually go surfing in Bend, even with no ocean in sight!
Looking to get on the water out of town? Head up to one of the high Cascade lakes where you’ll find plenty of spots to start your adventure. You can sign up for a Brews and Views Canoe Tour, held by Wanderlust Tours, which allows you to paddle through the Cascade Lakes while tasting some local beers– what a combo!
For self-guided rentals, head to Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe next to the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District. Not only do they do rentals (kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, river tubes, and surfboards), they teach classes, host guide tours, and even hold remote paddle adventures on the Cascade Lakes and scenic high desert rivers surrounding Central Oregon.
16. GO MOUNTAIN BIKING
Mountain biking is one of the most popular things to do in Bend, OR for both locals and tourists. There are hundreds of miles of trails to explore, and many of them are steps away from Bend. If you don’t have your own mountain bike but want to give this sport a try, there are tons of rental shops available around town.
So where do you start? Well, Phil’s Trail is a 12.4 mile out and back trail located near Bend, Oregon. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking. This is one of the most popular mountain biking trailheads in the Pacific Northwest! Numerous trails of varying difficulty originate at this trailhead, including Phil’s Trail.
17. WHITEWATER RAFTING ON THE DESCHUTES RIVER
If you really want to get your heart racing, then you have to go whitewater rafting in Bend, Oregon. Whether you are looking for a great family-friendly experience or a heart-thumping ride through intense rapids, the Deschutes River has something to offer for all levels.
Sun Country Tours is a popular company that’s been running whitewater rafting excursions in Central Oregon for decades. They offer four whitewater rafting excursions on three different rivers, with the Big Eddy Thriller as the most popular option (designed for the entire family, even young kids). Expect to spend about two hours on your rafting adventure.
Looking to get a taste of the Bend Ale Trail in addition to rafting? Try the Raft n’ Brew trip for rafters 21 and older every Thursday afternoon throughout the summer. You’ll make your way through the Big Eddy rapids and then head back to the headquarters to taste a variety of local craft beer.
Looking to extend your whitewater adventure? Ouzel Outfitters is a company that offers all-inclusive multi-day trips, providing all of the camping gear and gourmet meals served to you on full-sized banquet tables. Who says you can’t glamp on the river?
18. STAY IN A RESORT LODGE
Looking for more indoor things to do in Bend? Why not splurge on luxury accommodation and enjoy some rest and relaxation?
They all offer immaculately designed lodging, spas, and pools to relax and unwind, family-friendly activities, great dining options, and some of the best golf in the country. If you’re looking to stay somewhere a little more high-end or just want to pop in for a luxurious massage, definitely check out one of these resort lodges.
19. GO ON AN ATV TOUR OF THE BEND BADLANDS
Experience the thrill of off-roading while discovering the natural wonders surrounding Bend on an ATV adventure!
Traveling in an ATV is not only exciting and fun, but it also allows you to get off the beaten path and experience epic, hard-to-reach views most travelers never get to see.
On this exhilarating 2-hour tour, you’ll get to take out your own 4-seater ATV and be accompanied by a local expert guide that will lead you to all the great spots. This makes the tour ideal for families and friend groups!
20. EXPLORE LAVA TUBES
Not only does Bend have several volcanoes that you can hike to the top of, but it also has quite a few lava tubes that you can explore as well. See, this area is diverse as heck!
The most popular and easiest to access is the Lava River Cave in Bend. Pair your hike to the top of Lava Buttes with Lava River Cave, as they’re relatively close to each other within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
The lava tube is over 5,200 feet long (a mile), and since it hovers around 42 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, you’ll definitely need a puffy jacket to keep you warm. Ice stalactites hang from the ceilings even during the summer season, giving it that out-of-this-world feel. If you are looking for fun things to do in Bend with kids, this is a great place to explore.
Since it’s dark and the ground is uneven, be sure to have sturdy shoes and two light sources with you (headlamp, flashlight or lantern– your phone won’t cut it). If you don’t have a flashlight or lantern, the Forest Service will rent them to you.
Looking for more caves off the beaten path? Check out Boyd Cave and Skeleton Cave. Boyd Cave is about 1,880 feet long and Skeleton Cave is about 2,900 feet long. Again, you’ll need a light source, shoes with traction and ankle support, and a jacket for both. If you’d rather check out some other lava tubes with an expert guide, Wanderlust Tours also holds daily lava tube tours.
21. DRIVE THE CASCADES SCENIC BYWAY
The Cascade Lakes Highway is one of the most scenic drives in all of Oregon. If you need a break from all the physical activity and all the adventuring, hop in your car and head for the byway! The drive is 66 miles long and will take about 3-5 hours depending on how often you stop for photos, breaks, and food.
Be sure to take your time and stop often! There are so many viewpoints along the way, as well as several hiking trails and lakes that are worth stopping for. Please note that the road is only open seasonally due to snow conditions (June to October). Be sure to check road conditions before you head out.
22. HANG OUT AT DRAKE PARK
If you’re looking for more relaxing things to do in Bend, Oregon, add Drake Park to your list. This 13-acre park in the Old Bend neighborhood is the most popular outdoor gathering place in town.
On weekends, you’ll find that it’s bustling with families and friends enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine. Towering ponderosa pines and hardwoods line the Mirror Pond. It is the perfect place to bring your family–it has acres of open lawn to throw a Frisbee, or have a game of football.
Central Oregon is home to more than two dozen golf courses! Courses range in price and skill level so you can find the perfect one for you to tackle during your trip.
Head to Sunriver Resort for some of that world-class golfing. At Sisters, golf at Aspen Lakes Golf Course or Black Butte Ranch’s Glaze Meadow and Big Meadow.
24. SKIING ON MOUNT BACHELOR
Mt. Bachelor is a big deal in Bend, especially in the wintertime. Here, you’ll find beautifully snowcapped mountains, luxurious accommodations, amazing hearty dining options, and world-class skiing.
For non-skiers, there are things here for you as well! Enjoy the scenic chairlift ride and the observatory at the summit, along with snowshoeing, snow tubing, dog sledding, and more.
Hands down, if you’re visiting in the wintertime, you’ll definitely need to add this to your list of things to do in Bend.
25. CATCH A SHOW AT THE HIGH DESERT PLAYHOUSE
The High Desert Playhouse is a community theater that produces a variety of plays and musicals throughout the year.
The theater has a main stage, as well as a smaller black box theater. It is known for producing high-quality performances and offering a wide range of programming, including classic and contemporary plays, musicals, and special events.
If you’re into arts/theater and want to support the local community, catching a play would be a great way to do that!
26. BEND BREWFEST
If you just so happen to be in Bend during the month of either July or August, you’ll have the chance to attend one of Bend’s most fun festivals–the Bend Brewfest. This is an annual 3-day event featuring craft beer from over 80 breweries.
The event features a wide range of beer styles, including ales, lagers, stouts, and more. In addition to beer, the festival also has live music, food vendors, and other activities to keep everyone entertained as they sip away on the finest beers Oregon has to offer!
The festival typically takes place in late July or early August, so if you have flexibility in your travel dates and want to make it for this event, be sure to check for this year’s dates.
27. VISIT THE BEND FARMERS MARKET
The Bend Farmers Market is a popular weekly event that takes place at Brooks Alley between Minnesota & Franklin from May to mid-October. The market is held on Wednesday mornings and features a wide range of locally grown produce, fresh flowers, and artisanal products.
The market also has live music, food vendors, and even activities for kids! It is a great place to find fresh, locally-grown produce, pick up some sweet pastries, and support the local agriculture community.
28. DESCHUTES HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Calling all the history buffs! Visit the Deschutes Historical Museum to learn about the history of Bend and the surrounding area.
The museum is housed in a historic building that was originally constructed in 1906 as a bank. The museum has a collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of Bend’s past, including its early Native American history, the arrival of European settlers, and the development of the city over time.
The museum also hosts a variety of educational programs and events for the community, including talks, workshops, and special exhibits so be sure to check out the events calendar before visiting.
29. GO ON A WATERFALL TOUR BY CAR
If you love chasing waterfalls, the opportunities to do that here are endless. There are so many impressive waterfalls not too far from Bend!
For a list of the best ones, check out my separate post on 10 Stunning Waterfalls In Bend, Oregon!
30. TAKE A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER BEND
Taking a hot air balloon ride over Bend can be a memorable and unique way to experience the beauty of the region.
Hot air balloon rides are typically offered by companies like Big Sky Balloon Company that specialize in this type of tour. These companies typically provide all the necessary equipment and have experienced pilots who are trained to safely operate the balloon.
Hot air balloon rides typically last for one to two hours and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The balloons are typically flown at a low altitude, allowing passengers to get a close-up view of the terrain below. Many companies also offer champagne or other refreshments to enjoy during the flight.
To take a hot air balloon ride over Bend, you will need to book a tour ahead of time. I recommend booking your ride in advance, as these tours can fill up quickly, especially during peak season when the weather in Bend and Redmond is near-perfect!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN BEND, OR
Breakfast/Brunch Spots In Bend
- McKay Cottage Restaurant – super popular breakfast and brunch establishment with boozy brunch drinks and even coffee cocktails.
- Jackson’s Corner – great cozy dining option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Sparrow Bakery – grab yourself an Ocean Roll and an espresso before you start your morning of adventuring.
- Thump Coffee – serves up great handcrafted coffee beverages and easy grab-and-go pastries and bagels.
- Kanona Cafe – serves up amazing coffee (especially the Macadamia Nut Latte) as well as acai berry smoothies, acai bowls, and various types of toasts topped with fresh superfoods
Lunch/Dinner/Drinks In Bend
- Crux Fermentation Project – there’s something so special about being able to enjoy a great fennel sausage and onion pizza in a large outdoor space filled with green grass and picnic tables galore.
- 10 Barrel Brewing – serves up some of the better brewery-type foods in the area
- Chomp Chomp – Japanese fusion spot with creative drinks and huge portions of delicious yet healthy food; a good choice for dinner.
- Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails – came highly, highly recommended by locals we chatted with; it’s a pricier option, but the portions are big and the food delectable, rich, and full of flavor.
- Dogwood Cocktail Cabin – the most charming place to grab small plates and cocktails from the late afternoon til night; it really has that quaint, cozy cabin feel.
WHERE TO STAY IN BEND, OR
We love staying in Bend whenever we get the chance! Our top recommendations include these super-stylish and affordable hotels:
- LOGE Bend – Features stylish, rustic rooms; LOGE provides city bikes that are complimentary for use and offers evening entertainment and a shared kitchen.
- Riverhouse on the Deschutes – A clean, spacious, pet-friendly hotel featuring a restaurant, seasonal outdoor pool, hot tub, fitness center, and a bar. Downtown Bend is 5 minutes’ drive away.
- Pine Ridge Inn – Located 2 miles from Downtown Bend, Pine Ridge Inn is just 1 mile away from the Old Mill District. They offer very open and spacious suites with king-sized beds and a sofa bed. They are pet-friendly and offer an awesome free breakfast.
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR BEND, OREGON
- If you didn’t know, Bend, Oregon is an absolute outdoor haven all year round. Summers are ideal for hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking, while winters are perfect for skiing or snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor.
- Be prepared for the weather by bringing layers. Summers are amazing, with daytime temperatures reaching into the 80°s. Winters can be very cool, with temperatures dropping into the 20°s. No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to bring warm clothing as the high desert climate brings chilly evenings year-round. When we were last there in late September, the afternoons were around the mid-80’s, while mornings and nights were in the high 40’s. Definitely puffy jacket/sweater weather in the evenings.
- Bend has the most breweries per capita of any town in Oregon. There are over 20 breweries in the relatively small town, and they all deserve to be experienced.
- Bend is extremely dog-friendly, so go ahead and bring your furry friend along with you on vacation! You’ll find that a large number of hotels/accommodations actually allow dogs to stay, which is pretty unheard of anywhere else.
- Your first impression is that the city of Bend is very laidback and clean. It’s an immaculately clean-looking town. Needless to say, it made a very strong first impression on me and I felt so relaxed being there.
- Bend gets a lot of weekend travelers from Portland, Oregon and other nearby cities. Keep in mind that summer tends to get quite busy, so be prepared for some lines, crowds, and limited parking around trailheads.
- Bend is situated in Central Oregon, home to 300 days of sun a year. The city sits at an elevation of 3,623′ so it gets high desert climate consisting of clear, sunny days and cool nights.
- You’ll need to pay for parking at many trailheads. Many of the trailheads around Central Oregon are considered “sno-parks” which means you’ll need to purchase a Sno-Park Pass to park from November through the end of April. Be sure to buy one ahead of time (they are not sold at the trailheads) and display it in your car whenever you park. Similarly, many other trailheads around Central Oregon require a day-use fee to park. You can pay using cash and the envelopes provided, or you can purchase an Annual Northwest Forest Pass for $30. The America The Beautiful National Parks Pass also works ($80, best bang for your buck).
ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST FOR BEND, OREGON
Aside from the normal clothing you’d pack for any regular trip, here are the things I’d recommend you not leave home without:
- GoPro | Capture all those awesome action/adventure moments with a top of the line action camera. Your regular camera or iPhone won’t be an option if you’re engaging in action sports like mountain biking, rock climbing, or whitewater rafting. For water sports, you could always get a waterproof case, but GoPro has time and time again proven to be the best for underwater photography.
- Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
- Hiking Socks | Make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
- Adventure Sandals | Tevas and Chacos are my go-to brands for multipurpose summer sandals. If you’re planning on spending some time on the river or at the Cascade Lakes, you should definitely consider getting adventure sandals — they’re comfortable for long-distance walking, safe for submerging in water, and super durable.
- Waterproof Rain Jacket | A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is critical for any outdoor adventure. Since these weight virtually nothing and are so easily packable, I recommend you carry one with you whenever you head outdoors. Depending on the weather forecast and chance of precipitation, I’ll either go with a rain shell or a puffier windbreaker. Despite the options I have here, one thing is for sure— I’m never without some sort of outer layer. My top recommendations are Marmot Men’s PreCip (for men) and The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket (for women).
- Puffy Jacket | You’re going to need layers in Bend. The high desert climate brings chilly evenings year-round, even on warm summer days. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of outdoor adventuring!
- Daypack | I’m a fan of the Osprey Daylite Daypack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
- Laundry Bag | Summer and outdoor activities = lots of sweaty, smelly, dirty, and worn clothes. Don’t soil your entire travel bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes! Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
- Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Sun protection is key for any outdoor destination. Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun. As a bonus, bandanas and Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your bandana or Buff then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down.
- Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need when you’re hopping from a river to a car. This one here is a great option.
- Travel Clothesline | This is a small and portable clothesline that allows you to hang up your wet clothes almost anywhere. I’ve found that it’s really handy whenever I have wet bathing suits or towels that need to be air-dried. I love it for its multi-purpose functionality!
- Dry Bag | Another multi-purpose item on the list! Dry bags are completely necessary for keeping your dry belongings (clothes, electronics, money, etc)… dry. Don’t set foot on a kayak, boat or canoe without putting your stuff in a dry bag. Trust me, it’s better than ending up with a phone or camera submerged in water in the case where the boat tips or something. It’s also super handy for carrying around wet bathing suits and towels. Or even doubling as your laundry bag!
- Insect Repellent Lotion | Mosquitos love hot and wet climates, so I would definitely recommend packing insect repellent with a high DEET percentage if you’re traveling in the summer and plan to be on the water. Sawyer makes some really great bug repellent products, and they’re travel-friendly too!
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Headlamp / Flashlight | Being able to find your way through the wilderness or through lava caves in darkness is essential, so you should always carry a light source with you, even if you don’t plan on staying out past sunset. An LED headlamp allows you to hike hands-free and is my preferred source of light. FYI, the flashlight on your smartphone is not an adequate substitute– the light is not bright enough, plus it’ll drain your battery life, which may be critical in an emergency. Always carry extra batteries.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the great breweries and eateries… the last thing you want is to be stranded with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
- Inflatable Float Tube | If you plan on floating down the river, definitely invest in one of these, they’re comfortable and even come with cup holders!
As you can see, Bend is an endless playground situated nearly-always sunny skies. We’re so excited for you to visit for yourself! Safe travels and have fun out there.