Post Overview: Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
In many ways, Bend feels like the perfect small town. It’s charming, often sunny and the scenery is breathtaking.
It’s no wonder so many folks flock to this incredible city! There’s so many incredible things to do in Bend, Oregon for both adventure enthusiasts and folks in desperate need of rest and relaxation.
I have visited Bend, Oregon more than 40 times (in every season) and wanted to share my personal list of the best things to do in Bend to make your trip planning a little easier.
I hope you find this post helpful, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’m always happy to help!
For those asking, here’s the hotel we stay at while visiting Bend.
Tips for Visiting Bend
Don’t forget your sunscreen
- A lot of the best things to do in Bend take place outside (thankfully it’s usually sunny) and oftentimes shade is hard to come by. I swear by this sunscreen, it’s the only one I use — I discovered it in France and refuse to leave the house without it!
Hiking permits are required for some trails
- Most folks end up visiting Bend for the hiking trails. The natural areas near Bend have seen a 300% increase in recreational use in the past five years. In an effort to mitigate the damaging impacts of overuse, permits are required at certain trailheads. Learn more here.
Best time to visit Bend, Oregon
After visiting Bend in all four seasons, I would say that the best time to visit Bend is the spring and summer seasons.
Although honestly, Bend is one of those unique places where every season offers something fun to do.
Summer is my favorite time to visit Bend Oregon because the high-elevation trails are mostly snow-free and it’s possible to take advantage of the great hikes nearby. The temperatures can get hot mid-day, but there’s always a river to cool off in or a brewery to pop into.
Much like summer, spring is also great time to visit Bend. The temperatures will be mild most of the day but the evenings will get chilly. Wildflowers pepper the scenery and offer a delightful splash of color amidst swaths of healthy forests.
Visiting Bend in autumn is a treat because the fall color is spectacular! What’s more, crowds will have thinned out substantially but the days are typically filled with ample sunshine. Even temperatures are chilly and a jacket will be necessary.
Winter is also a great time to visit Bend Oregon if you love snow sports. If you plan to ski or snowboard at Mt. Bachelor make sure to do your homework a few months in advance. Season passes sell out quickly!
Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
Explore Downtown Bend Oregon
Downtown Bend is every bit as quaint as you would expect. The downtown core is peppered with charming little shops that offer all sorts of fun souvenirs, award-winning restaurants and phenomenal breweries.
You’re sure to find something fun to do while exploring the area.
If you’re visiting Bend during the summer, head downtown during the first Friday of the month for the Downtown Bend First Friday Art Walk where local artists share music, art and wine and food.
This is one of the best free things to do in Bend Oregon and I suggest making an effort to see it.
Float the Deschutes River (yes, really)
Spend a mere 5 minutes strolling through town and you’ll quickly realize that half the town is floating down river.
The best part? It’s easy to do while visiting Bend, because you can easily rent a floating tube. We went with Tumalo Creek during our river float and the entire process was a breeze and wasn’t super expensive either ($24/person).
Here’s how it works:
- Park the car at their “Park & Float location” 1000 SW Bradbury
- Sign up in person, or reserve a spot in advance. We signed up day-off without issue.
- You’ll get a quick safety run down and will get on a shuttle that drops you off at the starting point
- Float the river for 1.5(ish) hours and end at Drake Park, where a shuttle will pick you up and take you back to your car.
Between the ease and sheer pleasure, there’s no denying that floating the river is one of the best things to do in Bend.
Spend an afternoon at Viaggio Wine Bar
I never pass on the opportunity to swing by Viaggio Wine Bar whenever I’m visiting Bend.
This approachable wine bar (and shop) opened in 2022 by an experienced Sommelier named Benjamin Richardson. This guy’s knowledge of wine is next level.
Richardson’s impressive past has some key milestones that can’t be overlooked. From training under the wing of Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (named Sommelier of the year in 2015 by Wine Enthusiast), to helming the wine program at A Michelin 3-Star restaurant (The Restaurant at Meadowood).
From there, Richardson became the Estate Director at Faila Wines in St. Helena, California before ultimately settling down in Bend to focus on his family.
All this to say, if you want to surpass years of drinking mediocre wine, just head straight to Viaggio Wine Merchant.
Richardson’s well-curated menu removes the guess work completely. Everything on offer is bound to be memorable and inspiring.
Don’t sleep on the light bites offered, Richardson works closely with local farmers to procure fresh, seasonal produce that shines when coupled with imported Italian staples.
Discovering a new wine while relaxing at the most charming wine bar in Bend? Of course this makes my list of the best things to do in Bend.
Further Reading: The 10 Most Charming Wine Bars in Bend (Cheers!)
Explore the Old Mill District & Walk the River Trail
We can’t talk about the best things to do in Bend without mentioning the historic Old Mill District located in downtown Bend Oregon.
The downtown core is peppered with charming little shops filled to the brim with unique finds. You can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the Old Mill District. Grab a cup of coffee and spend some time aimlessly wandering about.
If you’re looking for active things to do in Bend, I suggest taking a leisurely stroll by the river. You’ll find yourself rubbing elbows with walkers, bikers and joggers — everyone eager to get the last rays of sunshine for the day.
Join the Bend Ale Trail
My husband and I like to try a new brewery each time we visit Bend, no easy task considering the city is home to more than 30 breweries.
To fully appreciate the vibrant brew scene in Bend, I highly suggest participating in the Bend Ale Trail, which couldn’t be easier.
Simply pick up a passport (or download the app) and navigate from one participating brewery to the next.
You’ll get a stamp at each brewery you visit and once you collect enough stamps, you become eligible to receive a prize at the Visitor Center.
But listen, you don’t need to participate in the Bend Ale Trail to enjoy the great beer on offer while visiting Bend. I visited around 25 of the breweries in town and came up with a list of the 15+ Best Breweries in Bend, Oregon.
Strapped for time? No worries, here’s a quick roundup:
Best breweries in Bend Oregon
- Crux Fermentation Project (phenomenal craft brews)
- Deschutes Brewery & Public House (classic, this brewery has been around since 1988_
- Bend Brewing (top-notch beer and great outdoor space)
- 10 Barrel Brewing (my go-to brewery)
Enjoy the High Desert Museum
Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room: some folks consider museums a bit dry (dare I say boring?). And I get it, I’ve visited my fair share of (rather dull) museums where the price of admission left me feeling a bit cheated.
However, the High Desert Museum is nothing like that. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say it’s actually one of the best museums I’ve visited to date. As such, I consider this one of the best things to do in Bend (bold words, I know!).
Opened in 1982 to the delight of locals, this is both an indoor and outdoor museum spanning 135 acres that promotes the rich cultural heritage of Oregon’s high desert.
Expect to find exhibits on the Oregon Trail and the plight of Native Americans alongside great wildlife exhibits that feature Gila (hee-luh) monsters, a shy porcupine, playful otters and a cheeky little gray fox.
Admission is $20 per adult, which I thought was steep at first, but quickly realized was a fair price to pay for the joyful experience. All told, this is one of the top attractions in Bend for a reason (don’t miss out!)
Catch a concert at Hayden Homes Amphitheater
The never-ending list of talented musicians that pop into Bend never ceases to amaze me. Seriously, the roster these past two years has been quite impressive and most of our Portland friends end up visiting Bend at least once ever summer to catch a concert.
Located a stone’s through from the river, in the heart of the Old Mill District, you couldn’t miss the Hayden Homes Amphitheater if you tried. The music can be heard around town, but nothing beats spending the evening with friends, booze and live music.
But take note, this is one of the most popular things to do in Bend, so buy tickets in advance if you’re keen to see a well-known artist. If helpful, you can find the current lineup here.
Get drinks at the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin or San Simón
The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is an easy favorite for mixed drinks. This creative bar offers an array of delightful concoctions, sorted by the type of libation you prefer.
If you like whiskey, do not leave without trying the Juan Connery – thank me later.
At the end of the day, the Dogwood Cabin is a very fun way to spend an evening with friends in Bend, Oregon. It’s hard to be disappointed by the great food and drinks being dished out.
Likewise, San Simón is also considered one of the best bars in Bend. Constantly packed in the evening hours, this is a great spot to spend a few hours with your special someone. The cocktails are expertly crafted and outlandishly creative.
McMenamins Old St. Francis School
Ask any lifelong Oregonian about their favorite McMenamins property and you’re bound to get a litany of varying gems but the Old St. Francis School is sure to grace the list.
The McMenamin brothers — Brian and Mike — are nothing short of legend around the state. Hailing from Portland, the two brothers have been transforming historic buildings at risk of demolition for four decades.
They strive to preserve the charm of these historic places and go so far as to hire historians to ensure important details aren’t overlooked.
The Old St. Francis School was a Catholic schoolhouse built in 1936 that has since been transformed to a hotel (the classrooms were turned into hotel rooms), pub, brewery, moving theater, cigar bar and secret speakeasy.
All this to say, there’s something for everyone. As such, spending an evening at the Old St. Francis School is one of the best things to do in Bend. I mean, they have fire pits!
Enjoy the robust art scene
Bend attracts many talented artists eager to share their talents with the local community. The best time to see art on full display is during the Downtown Bend First Friday Art Walk gallery tour mentioned earlier.
Since Bend’s art scene is so robust, seeing great art doesn’t require much effort! You don’t even have to go out of the way to enjoy unique art thanks to the Art in Public Places exhibits around Bend.
These exhibits strive to provide culturally stimulating visual experiences for the local community. All the more reason to love Bend!
Visiting Bend Longer? Things to Do Nearby
Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
One of my favorite things about visiting Bend is the variety of free things to do that revolve around the incredible natural landscape of Central Oregon. Driving the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is no exception.
The route starts in Bend’s city center and routes through 66 scenic miles with ample opportunities to pop out for sightseeing. This drive is often considered one of the most beautiful in America, hence the “scenic” designation.
The entire drive takes between 3-5 hours, depending on your stops. The road is open from June to October until snow closes the route just past Mt. Bachelor.
Join a Wanderlust Tour
Established in 1993, Wanderlust Tours are the premier tour guides of Bend Oregon. If you’re looking for half-day tours, I highly suggest checking them out.
They cover a plethora of exciting things to do in Bend and the tours range from canoeing to brew hopping and cave tours — you can build your own adventure!
The prices vary per event but tend to range around $80 per person. Custom tours are available as well, for more information, visit the website here.
Visit the neighboring town of Sisters, Oregon
Sisters, Oregon is a quaint little town with plenty to see, you can’t afford to miss it during your visit to Bend. One of my favorite coffee shops is Sister’s Coffee and we have been known to go out of our way for their breakfast sandwiches – so good.
Take advantage of the biking trail by renting a bike and exploring the old town on two wheels, make sure to swing by Three Creeks Craft Brewing for delicious brews.
Learn to fly fish
Did you know that Fly Fisher Magazine rated Bend as one of the top 10 fly-fishing towns in America? Stay humble, Bend. The Deschutes River alone offers 252 miles of water to fish in.
We see fishermen and fisherwomen peppered throughout the river every time we visit, regardless of the season. Why not learn from the best?
Adventurous Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
Whether you prefer to hike, run, bike or levitate, Bend has something to offer you. The city center is surrounded by the impressive Cascade Range, healthy forests, volcanic lava flows, cascading waterfalls, hot springs, caves, rivers, lakes, you name it, Bend has it.
With that said, let’s cover adventurous things to do in Bend.
For a comprehensive guide to the best hikes in Bend, Oregon, check out this post. It’s one of our most viewed posts! Better yet, it was shared by Visit Bend.
Hike the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park
Hiking the Misery Ridge Trail is one of the best things to do near Bend. The trail is aptly named (it’s challenging!) but it can’t be missed.
Heck, even if you don’t plan to hike the entire trail, you should most definitely make an effort to see Smith Rock State Park because the landscape is something else.
The first mile of this scenic hike is challenging, but you must preserve because the views from the summit are worth the effort.
If you’re not in the mood for a high elevation hike near Bend, I suggest the River Trail because it offers phenomenal views and lacks elevation (these trekking poles help too).
Geology is the name of the game here and the iconic rock outcrop known as Smith Rock feels like an alien wander.
The entire landscape seems to crop out of nowhere, but it is ripe for exploration and offers a spectacular vantage point of the cascade range.
Go spelunking at Lava River Cave
Spelunking: (noun) the exploration of caves, especially as a hobby.
Spelunking is one of the most unique things to do in Bend and thankfully there’s no shortage of caves to choose from. However, if I had to choose a favorite cave, it’d be the Lava River Cave at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
After the informative session, visitors can rent lanterns for $5 before entering the cave. I suggest bringing your own, this is the one we’ve used the past 10+ years (we love it!).
Some people assume they can use the flashlight on their cell phones, but trust me, this is not the case. The cave is vast and very dark – a cell phone doesn’t work here. Lantern or bust, my friends.
You’ll follow a little trail that leads directly from the lantern kiosk into the cave, at which point you’ll descend down well-maintained stairs (exactly 55 steps) into the dark abyss where wander awaits you.
The temperature drops rapidly upon entering the cave and stays at a cool 40 degrees throughout the hike — regardless of the temperature above ground, make sure to pack a warm sweater otherwise you’ll need to cut your hike short.
This is a great thing to do in Bend for families with young children. We saw a lot of kids in the cave.
Hike Tumalo Falls
The Tumalo Falls viewpoint is just a few short steps from the parking lot, but continue further to the top of the falls because the view is breathtaking! Trust me when I tell you that it’s worth the effort.
The waterfall is nestled into a healthy evergreen forest that enhances the awe-inspiring dramatic falls.
You can take in the splendor of this incredible landscape from the viewpoint adjacent to the parking lot, but expect crowds.
If you’d like to avoid the crowds, I suggest trekking to the upper viewpoint to get a unique vantage point from the top of Tumalo Falls.
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow with minimal elevation gain.
The hike is a short half mile up and half mile back but offers an opportunity to spot a handful of smaller waterfalls along the way.
Hike Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake
Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake is, hands down, my favorite hike in Bend. We learned about this trail through a local and are forever grateful.
But our naivety about this hike is not to say the trail is unpopular. On the contrary, the trail was completely full of hikers when we visited last spring.
Think sweeping, unparalleled views of the beautiful Cascade Range. The high elevation of No Name Lake provides a vantage point that’s hard to beat.
And just when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle of beauty you’ll see the expansive Cascade Range as far as the eye can see.
Hiking to No Name Lake is challenging because of the elevation gain but completely worth it. Of all the trails we’ve hiked to date, this one always stands a mile above the rest.
Hike to Tumalo Peak for sunrise
If you’re in the mood for jaw dropping views of Bend’s alpine wilderness, it’s hard to top the Tumalo Peak hike.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, I suggest taking the snowshoe trial during winter to catch sunrise from the summit, it’s hard to put into words the beauty of this place during the peaceful morning hours while the sleepy world around you barely starts to stir.
Regardless of the time of day you choose to hike this trail, one thing is certain: You can’t miss this Bend hike, it’s easily one of the best.
Catch sunset at Sparks Lake
Sparks Lake is surrounded by three towering peaks: South Sister, Broken Top and Bachelor Butte. But be forewarned, the secret it out!
This area gets very busy during the weekends (full parking lot) so arrive early if you want some semblance of solitude.
I suggest catching sunset from the Ray Atkeson Memorial Trail to avoid the crowds — it’s one of the most memorable things to do near Bend. Plus, the hike is very little effort and great reward, the views are something else!
The entire trail is a 2.5-mile loop that hugs the lake, but I normally hike to the viewpoint located less than a mile in. I’ve lost count of the number of sunrises and sunsets I caught from this viewpoint, gets me every time!
Learn to snowboard at Mt. Bachelor
Mt. Bachelor is the 6th largest ski resort in the country, so if you’re looking for things to do in Bend Oregon during winter, you need not look further.
Every year, like clockwork, adventure enthusiasts flock to this iconic mountain for incredible snow sport opportunities.
Skiing or snowboarding not your thing? You can still take advantage of Mt. Bachelor by joining a guided snowshoeing trail and learning about the diverse landscape of Central Oregon.
You can also skip the winter season altogether and visit during the summer months and try you hand at the numerous hiking trails or mountain bike!
Visit the Newberry National Monument
Visiting the Newberry National Monument should be high on your list of interesting things to do in Bend Oregon whether you’re a history buff or not.
It’s the largest volcano in the Cascade Range and the lava flow is ripe for exploration. There’s a plethora of lava tubes and cinder cones that can be viewed up close through hiking.
Exploring the Newberry National Monument is such a unique experience, I’ve visited the site multiple times and still enjoy returning. It’s so cool!
Best Restaurants in Bend
Bend has an incredible food scene and you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy. Eating is a social event and it’s common to see large groups gathered together late into the evening. Here’s a roundup of my favorite restaurants in Bend:
- McKay Cottage Restaurant is a great spot for breakfast. I wish I could start every day with a meal from this place, and apparently so does half of Bend. This place gets very busy during the brunch hour, but the food is well worth the wait, try their pancakes and you’ll know what I mean. If you choose to brave the line, help yourself to a hot cup of coffee while you wait. There’s a self-serve station by the host.
- Jackson’s Corner became an instant favorite of mine. The warm homemade bread (need I say more?) and the quality ingredients shine through in these delicious meals. We visited the eastside location on a Sunday morning and had to wait an hour, this place gets very busy but there’s a good reason for it.
- Sparrow Bakery for their famous Ocean Rolls – a signature Bend pastry made from scratch every day of the week. Without giving away the goose, allow me to say the recipe starts with traditional croissant dough made on-site, enhanced with cardamom, sugar and vanilla. It is heavenly, I spent the entire day thinking about it.
- Spork (a Mexican fusion restaurant) is the best choice. The food here is so, so delicious and unique, we went back two days in a row. $20 says you will too. The line is out the door during dinner rush and sometimes late into the evening. Come early, come hungry.
- For dinner pick a brewery, any brewery! We like to try a new one each time we visit (there’s so many to choose from!). I can confidently recommend any of the following breweries for great food and even better beer.
- 10 Barrel Brewing (my favorite, seasonal salad is divine), Deschutes Brewery & Public House, Immersion Brewing, Sunriver Brewing, Three Creeks Brewing, Bend Brewing, Crux.
Best Coffee in Bend
It would be a disservice not to mention coffee shops worth visiting. Bend takes coffee seriously and the smooth blends prove it. Bonus points for bringing a reusable Hydro Flask!
- Thump Coffee is our new favorite. We swear their coffee beans are infused with spruce tips! We regret not buying a bag of beans from them, the coffee is delicious!
- Backporch Coffee offers consistently great coffee with friendly customer service. To cater to our weaknesses, they offer two locations – one on the eastside and one in northwest. Grab a pastry on your way out, nothing better than a buttery croissant before a sunrise hike. Please tell me other people hike before sunrise?!
- Strictly Organic Coffee has two convenient locations – one in the Old Mill District (close to REI) and one close to the interstate. We pop in before and after hikes for their americanos.
Best Bars Bend
Welcome to the land of breweries, my friend. My favorite places are listed below.
- Any local brewery. It would take too much time to mention all the great breweries Bend has to offer. To fully appreciate the vibrant brew scene in Bend, I highly suggest joining a brewery tour, or better yet, commemorate your victorious weekend with the Bend Ale Trail.
- If you can only go to one brewery during your visit, I highly recommend 10 Barrel Brewing. The sours are out of this world and their seasonal brews are so creative!
- The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is an easy favorite for mixed drinks. This creative bar offers an array of delightful concoctions, sorted by the type of libation you prefer. If you like whiskey, do not leave without trying the Juan Connery – thank me later.
Did you know that Bend has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon? In fact, Bend is city #3 in America with most breweries per capita.
Hotels in Bend
Bend has a plethora of great hotels to choose from. In recent years the prices have increased but you can still find a deal if you’re willing to visiting Bend during the off season. The following options are my favorite hotels in Bend.
- The Oxford Hotel is hard to beat, mostly because of the complimentary glasses of wine. This hotel is on the higher end in quality and price, but if you’re looking to spoil yourself for the weekend, it’s your best bet.
- Riverhouse on the Deschutes: The Deschutes River runs through this recently renovated property. This hotel offers a slight reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city, while being just a few minutes from downtown. If you’re looking for a relaxing weekend, this is a great option.
- Tetherow Lodge: This lodge is right in the heart of everything! It opened in 2014 and offers premium lodging with great views and an award-winning golf course.
Camping in Bend, Oregon
- Camping is allowed on the outskirts of the city in the national forest. Pitch a tent and invite some friends. Here’s our 10 FAVORITE campsites in Bend.
Best Things to do in Bend, Oregon (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the best things to do in Bend
- Explore Bend’s art scene
- Float the river (yes, really)
- Join a Wanderlust Tour
- Enjoy the High Desert Museum
- Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
- Visit the neighboring town of Sisters, Oregon
- Learn to flyfish
- Explore the Old Mill District
- Go spelunking
- Go brewery hopping
- Get drinks at the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
- Hike the Misery Ridge Trail
- Hike to Tumalo Falls
- Hike to Broken Top
- Catch sunrise/sunset at Spark’s Lake
- Hike Tumalo Peak
- Learn to snowboard at Mt. Bachelor
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to things to do in Bend. It’s a pleasure sharing one of our favorite places with you.
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