Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon: 12 Essential Bend Attractions

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
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Are you thinking about visiting Bend, OR this year? Here are some of the most exciting and unique things to do in Bend. These incredible sights, attractions, and outdoor activities are sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

Are you planning your next adventure in the Pacific Northwest? If so, you can’t miss out on the hidden gem that is Bend, Oregon. This charming city, nestled against the backdrop of the majestic Cascade Mountains, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and culture seekers alike.

Known for its vibrant craft beer scene, Bend is also a gateway to numerous natural wonders, from the snow-capped peaks of Mount Bachelor to the tranquil waters of the Deschutes River.

But what truly sets Bend apart is its unique blend of adventure and relaxation. There are countless things to do in Bend for adrenaline junkies, from mountain biking and rock climbing to white-water rafting and skiing.

From the bustling Old Mill District to the serene Drake Park, from the awe-inspiring Lava River Cave to the historic Tower Theatre, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Bend, Oregon.

To help you plan your trip, I’ve compiled a list of the best places to visit in Bend, Oregon. These attractions, activities, and hidden gems will ensure an unforgettable experience in this Pacific Northwest wonderland. So, let’s dive in and explore what Bend has to offer!

The top places to visit in Bend, Oregon right now
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Best Places to Visit in Bend, Oregon: Your Ultimate Guide to Bend

Are you ready to jump into all the best places to visit in Bend, Oregon? As noted above, there are exciting things to do for everyone in Bend. So, keep reading to discover the best places to visit in Bend.

Are you looking for an adventure-filled trip to Oregon’s great outdoors? Or would you prefer a relaxing getaway enjoying Bend’s fantastic nature? Whatever you’re planning, Bend can accommodate your needs. Here are all the best destinations in Bend, Oregon that you should know about:

1. Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Immerse yourself in the raw beauty of the Pacific Northwest at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This natural wonder, just a short drive from Bend, is a testament to the region’s volcanic past. The monument covers a vast area of over 50,000 acres and is home to the Newberry Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the United States.

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers a plethora of outdoor activities. Hike through ancient lava flows, explore the Lava River Cave, the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon, or take a scenic drive along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. Don’t forget to visit Paulina Peak, the highest point within the monument, offering panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and the high desert.

For those interested in geology, the monument is a living laboratory. The Newberry Volcano has erupted several times in the past 10,000 years, and scientists continue to monitor its activity. The Lava Lands Visitor Center provides fascinating insights into the region’s volcanic history and ongoing geological research. Whether you’re an adventurer, a nature lover, or a geology enthusiast, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is one of the best places to visit in Bend, Oregon. Don’t miss it on your next trip!

Explore the raw beauty of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a testament to the Pacific Northwest's volcanic past.
Explore the raw beauty of Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a testament to the Pacific Northwest’s volcanic past.

2. Tumalo Falls

Just a short drive from downtown Bend, you’ll find the beautiful Tumalo Falls. This natural wonder is one of the most popular attractions in Bend and for good reason. The main waterfall is a stunning 97 feet high, cascading down in a single, powerful drop that’s a sight to behold.

The area around Tumalo Falls offers a wealth of things to do in Bend for outdoor enthusiasts. There are several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the waterfall and the surrounding forest. The Tumalo Falls Loop Trail, a 7.4-mile trail, is a local favorite. It takes you past several smaller waterfalls and offers stunning views of the Deschutes National Forest.

In the winter, the area transforms into a winter wonderland. This makes it a popular spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The sight of the frozen waterfall against the backdrop of the snow-covered forest is truly magical. For any traveler who appreciates the beauty of nature, Tumalo Falls is one of the best places to visit in Bend, Oregon, and is sure to leave you speechless.

Experience the stunning 97-foot Tumalo Falls, a popular natural wonder just a short drive from downtown Bend.
Experience the stunning 97-foot Tumalo Falls, a popular natural wonder just a short drive from downtown Bend.

3. High Desert Museum

For those looking to combine education with entertainment, the High Desert Museum is a must-visit. This unique museum offers a deep dive into the history, culture, and natural environment of the high desert region.

The museum’s exhibits are diverse and interactive. This makes it one of the best places to visit in Bend for families. You can explore an authentic homestead and sawmill from the early 1900s, learn about the life of the pioneers, and even meet some of the high desert’s wildlife up close in the museum’s living history exhibits.

One of the highlights of the High Desert Museum is the Raptors of the Desert Sky exhibit, where visitors can see hawks, owls, falcons, and even a turkey vulture in flight. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs and workshops for visitors of all ages.

If you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a family with curious kids, the High Desert Museum offers a unique and engaging way to learn about Bend, Oregon’s high desert region.

Explore the High Desert Museum for a unique blend of history, culture, and nature.
Explore the High Desert Museum for a unique blend of history, culture, and nature.

4. Smith Rock State Park

If you’re looking for things to do in Bend for outdoor lovers, a visit to Smith Rock State Park is an absolute must. Known as the birthplace of American sport climbing, this state park is a mecca for rock climbers from around the world. But even if you’re not a climber, Smith Rock has plenty to offer.

The park’s towering rock formations, set against the backdrop of the high desert landscape, are a sight to behold. There are several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the park and the surrounding area. The Misery Ridge Trail is a popular choice, taking you up a steep climb to the top of Smith Rock for panoramic views of the Crooked River and the Cascade Mountains. For wildlife enthusiasts, the park is home to a variety of bird species. This includes golden eagles, prairie falcons, and red-tailed hawks. You might also spot river otters, beavers, and mule deer. Is this one of the coolest things to do in Bend? You bet!

Explore Smith Rock State Park in Bend, an outdoor paradise for all, including rock climbers.
Explore Smith Rock State Park in Bend, an outdoor paradise for all, including rock climbers.

5. Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint is a unique attraction in Bend, Oregon. It’s one of the only places in the U.S. where you can drive to the summit of a volcano within city limits. This ancient cinder cone volcano offers a panoramic view of the high desert and the Cascade Range. This includes Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Black Butte, and Mount Hood on clear days.

The viewpoint is accessible by a winding road, which is open to vehicles during the warmer months. For those who prefer a bit of exercise, there’s also a trail that winds up the butte. The hike is moderately challenging, but the stunning views at the top are well worth the effort.

In addition to the views, Pilot Butte also offers an interesting geological history. It’s part of the Newberry Volcano’s northwest rift zone, and its eruption about 780,000 years ago helped shape the landscape of the Bend area.

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint is unquestionably one of the coolest places to visit in Bend, offering a unique perspective on the city and its stunning natural surroundings.

Drive up an ancient volcano in Bend, Oregon, for breathtaking views of the high desert and Cascade Range.
Drive up an ancient volcano in Bend, Oregon, for breathtaking views of the high desert and Cascade Range.

6. Old Mill District

Once the site of one of the largest sawmill operations in the world, the Old Mill District is now one of Bend’s most vibrant areas. This bustling district is a hub for shopping, dining, art, and entertainment, all set against the stunning backdrop of the Cascade Mountains and the Deschutes River.

The Old Mill District is home to a variety of shops, from local boutiques to national retailers. After a day of shopping, you can relax at one of the many restaurants or cafes, offering everything from gourmet burgers to fine dining.

For art lovers, the district features numerous art galleries and hosts the monthly First Friday Art Walk. Music enthusiasts will appreciate the Les Schwab Amphitheater, an outdoor riverfront concert venue that hosts performances from nationally known bands and artists.

The Old Mill District also offers a variety of outdoor activities. You can take a scenic stroll along the Deschutes River, rent a paddleboard or kayak, or even try your hand at fly fishing.

With its blend of shopping, dining, art, and outdoor activities, the Old Mill District offers a taste of the best that Bend has to offer. There are truly things to do for everyone in the Old Mill District. This makes it one of the best places to visit in Bend.

Discover the vibrant Old Mill District in Bend - shopping, dining, art, and entertainment with stunning Cascade Mountains view.
Discover the vibrant Old Mill District in Bend – shopping, dining, art, and entertainment with a stunning Cascade Mountains view.

7. Drake Park

For those looking for relaxing things to do in Bend, look no further than Drake Park. This 13-acre park, located along the banks of the Mirror Pond on the Deschutes River, is one of the city’s most beloved green spaces.

Drake Park is known for its beautiful landscape, which includes vast open lawns, colorful flower beds, and mature trees. The park also offers stunning views of the Deschutes River and Mirror Pond. It’s the perfect place for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or simply relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

In addition to its natural beauty, Drake Park also hosts a variety of community events throughout the year. One of the highlights is the annual Munch & Music concert series, which features live music, food vendors, and craft booths.

Drake Park is more than just a park – it’s a community gathering place and a tranquil oasis in the heart of Bend. Don’t miss the chance to experience this local treasure during your visit.

Drake Park is one of the best things to do in Oregon for nature lovers
Drake Park: Beautiful landscape, river views, and serenity for strolling and picnicking.

8. Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

If you’re looking to explore the natural beauty of the Bend area, a drive along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is one of the best things to do in Oregon. This picturesque route winds its way through the Deschutes National Forest, past snow-capped peaks, alpine lakes, and lush forests.

The byway, also known as Century Drive, starts in Bend and stretches for about 66 miles. Along the way, you’ll pass by several of the region’s stunning Cascade Lakes. This includes Sparks Lake, Devils Lake, and Elk Lake. Each lake offers its own unique beauty and recreational opportunities, from hiking and camping to fishing and boating.

One of the highlights of the drive is the view of Mount Bachelor, one of the largest ski resorts in the U.S. The byway also offers access to several trailheads. This makes it a great starting point for hikes in the Deschutes National Forest.

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a fantastic journey through some of the most incredible landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and is a drive that I recommend to everyone I meet.

Experience natural beauty on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Experience Bend’s natural beauty on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, winding through forests, alpine lakes, and snow-capped peaks.

9. Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort

For winter sports enthusiasts, Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort is a must-visit destination in Bend. As the sixth largest ski resort in North America, Mt. Bachelor offers a wide range of winter activities, from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and tubing.

The resort boasts over 4,300 acres of skiable terrain, with runs suitable for all skill levels. The unique layout of the mountain, with 360 degrees of skiable terrain off the summit, provides a diverse and exciting skiing experience.

But Mt. Bachelor isn’t just for winter. In the summer, the resort transforms into a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering mountain biking, disc golf, and scenic chairlift rides. The views from the summit, stretching from the Three Sisters to the high desert, are simply breathtaking.

No matter the season, Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort offers an unforgettable outdoor adventure in Bend, Oregon. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Bend, look no further than the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort!

Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort: A must for winter sports enthusiasts in Bend, offering skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and more.
Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort: A must for winter sports enthusiasts in Bend, offering skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and more.

10. Deschutes Historical Museum

For a dose of local history, make sure to visit the Deschutes Historical Museum. Housed in the historic Reid School, the museum offers a fascinating look into the history of Deschutes County and the Bend area.

The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from the area’s Native American heritage to the logging industry that played a crucial role in Bend’s development. You can learn about the early pioneers, explore a historic classroom, and even see a replica of a 19th-century cabin.

One of the highlights of the museum is the exhibit on the U.S. Forest Service, which provides insight into the importance of forest management in this heavily wooded region. The museum also hosts a variety of events and programs throughout the year. This includes historical walking tours of Bend.

A visit to the Deschutes Historical Museum offers a deeper understanding of the rich history and cultural heritage of Bend, Oregon. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Bend.

Discover Bend's history at the Deschutes Historical Museum, housed in the historic Reid School.
Discover Bend’s history at the Deschutes Historical Museum, housed in the historic Reid School.

11. Lava River Cave

For an adventure that’s literally cool, head to the Lava River Cave in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This mile-long lava tube, formed by a volcanic eruption about 80,000 to 90,000 years ago, is the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon.

As you descend into the cave, you’ll feel the temperature drop and find yourself in a different world. The cave’s interior is a fascinating landscape of volcanic rock, with unique features like lava stalactites and stalagmites. Be sure to bring a jacket, as the temperature inside the cave stays around 42 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. It’s truly the coolest attraction in Bend!

The Lava River Cave offers a self-guided tour, with interpretive signs providing information about the cave’s geology and history. It’s a unique and educational adventure that’s perfect for families and anyone interested in geology.

Exploring the Lava River Cave is a unique experience that offers a glimpse into the volcanic forces that have shaped the landscape of Bend, Oregon. Don’t miss this attraction on your next trip to Bend!

Explore the Lava River Cave, a unique glimpse into the volcanic landscape.
Explore the Lava River Cave, a unique glimpse into Bend’s volcanic landscape.

12. Tower Theatre

For a taste of Bend’s cultural scene, don’t miss a visit to the Tower Theatre. This historic venue, located in the heart of downtown Bend, is the city’s premier performing arts center.

Originally opened in 1940, the Tower Theatre has been beautifully restored and now hosts a wide range of performances, from concerts and plays to film screenings and lectures. The theatre’s Art Deco style, complete with a neon marquee, adds a touch of vintage charm to Bend’s downtown area.

The Tower Theatre is not just a venue, but a community hub, hosting events that cater to a wide range of interests and age groups. Whether you’re a fan of live music, theater, dance, or film, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest. A visit to the Tower Theatre offers a chance to enjoy top-notch entertainment while experiencing a piece of Bend’s history. With so much charm and personality, it’s clear to see why the Tower Theatre is one of the top places to visit in Bend.

Experience the charm and history of Bend at the versatile Tower Theatre, hosting diverse events for all ages and interests.
Experience the charm and history of Bend at the versatile Tower Theatre, hosting diverse events for all ages and interests.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon

Looking for more information on the best things to do in Bend, Oregon? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Bend:

What is Bend Oregon famous for?

Bend, Oregon is known for several things, including:

  1. Outdoor recreation: Bend is often recognized for its outdoor activities. This is thanks to its location in the high desert at the foot of the Cascade Range. It offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, white-water rafting, skiing, and golfing.
  2. Mount Bachelor: Just a short drive from Bend, Mount Bachelor is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Bend is also known for hiking and mountain biking in the summer.
  3. Deschutes River: The Deschutes River runs through the city. It provides opportunities for fishing, swimming, rafting, and kayaking. The Deschutes River Trail follows along the river and is popular for walking and biking.
  4. Craft breweries: Bend has a thriving craft beer scene and is home to numerous breweries. In fact, it has one of the highest numbers of breweries per capita in the United States. The city’s “Ale Trail” is a popular attraction for beer enthusiasts.
  5. Lava River Cave: Located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, this mile-long lava tube cave is a unique geological feature that attracts many visitors.
  6. High Desert Museum: This museum provides insights into the culture and natural history of the High Desert region through exhibits and living history demonstrations.
  7. Smith Rock State Park: This is known as the birthplace of American sport climbing. It’s famous for its golden cliffs and is popular with rock climbers, hikers, and nature lovers.
  8. Art and culture: Bend also has a vibrant arts scene, with numerous art galleries, a lively music scene, and annual events like the Bend Film Festival.

In summary, Bend is famous for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, craft beer scene, and cultural attractions.

When is the best time to visit Bend, Oregon?

The best time to visit Bend, Oregon depends on the activities you’re interested in. For outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking, the summer months (June to September) offer warm temperatures and dry weather. If you’re interested in winter sports like skiing or snowboarding, the winter months (December to February) are the best time to visit. Fall (September to November) is a great time to enjoy the changing foliage, while spring (March to May) offers beautiful blooming flowers and milder temperatures.

Is it worth going to Bend Oregon?

Whether or not it’s worth going to Bend, Oregon, largely depends on your interests, but for many people, the answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why:

  1. Outdoor activities: If you love the outdoors, Bend is a paradise. With opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, rafting, skiing, and more, it’s a great place for active travelers. The city is surrounded by nature, including the Cascade Lakes, Deschutes River, and Mount Bachelor.
  2. Craft beer: Bend is known for its craft beer scene, with more than 20 breweries in the area. If you’re a beer enthusiast, you can explore the Bend Ale Trail and sample a wide range of locally brewed beers.
  3. Natural beauty: The landscape around Bend is stunning, with mountains, rivers, forests, and high desert all within easy reach. The city itself is also beautiful, with well-preserved historic buildings and lovely parks.
  4. Cultural attractions: Bend has a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries and live music venues. The city also hosts various cultural events throughout the year, including film festivals, art walks, and concerts.
  5. Relaxed atmosphere: Despite its many attractions, Bend maintains a relaxed, small-town vibe. The people are friendly, the pace of life is slow, and there’s a strong emphasis on enjoying the great outdoors.
  6. Proximity to other attractions: Bend is also a good base for exploring other parts of Oregon. It’s within driving distance of Crater Lake National Park, the Oregon Coast, and the cities of Portland and Eugene.

So, if you enjoy outdoor activities, beautiful landscapes, craft beer, and a relaxed pace of life, a trip to Bend, Oregon, could be well worth it.

What outdoor activities can I do in Bend, Oregon?

Bend, Oregon offers a plethora of outdoor activities. You can go hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, white-water rafting, skiing, and snowboarding. The city’s location near the Deschutes River and the Cascade Mountains provides ample opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Breathtaking views of Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon
Breathtaking views of Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon

What are some family-friendly activities in Bend, Oregon?

Family-friendly activities in Bend, Oregon include visiting the High Desert Museum, exploring the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, hiking around Bend, visiting the Old Mill District, and exploring Drake Park.

What is the climate like in Bend, Oregon?

Bend has a high desert climate, which means it has warm, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. The average high temperature in the summer is around 81°F (27°C), and the average low in the winter is around 23°F (-5°C).

What are some unique features of Bend, Oregon?

Bend is well known for its adventurous outdoor scene, with the town straddling the scenic Deschutes River and surrounded by volcanoes, alpine lakes, and wilderness areas. This place is also known for its vibrant and trendy foodie scene, with restaurants helmed by up-and-coming chefs. It is home to a man-made, non-stop surfing wave along the Deschutes River.

Wrapping up all of the Best Places to Visit in Bend, Oregon

From the snow-capped peaks of Mount Bachelor to the tranquil waters of the Deschutes River, from the bustling Old Mill District to the serene Drake Park, Bend, there are things to do in Bend for everyone. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer, a history buff, a foodie, or a culture seeker, you’ll find plenty to explore in this Pacific Northwest gem.

Experience the raw beauty of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Tumalo Falls, immerse yourself in the local history at the High Desert Museum and Deschutes Historical Museum, or enjoy the vibrant arts scene at the Tower Theatre. And don’t forget to take a scenic drive along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway or hit the slopes at the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort. Bend’s unique blend of outdoor adventure, cultural attractions, and natural beauty makes it a must-visit destination in the Pacific Northwest. So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to fall in love with Bend, Oregon.

The top things to do in Bend, Oregon for all types of travelers
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