23 Best Things to Do in Bend, OR
By VacationIdea Staff on April 20, 2023 - Updated
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Surrounded by giant ponderosa pines and the biggest juniper forest in the West, Bend is a little jewel of a town in Oregon that many people discover and feel as though they cannot leave. Shadowed by snowcapped Cascade Mountains, this former ranching and logging town is now a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are the best things to do in Bend, OR.
1. High Desert Museum
© High Desert Museum
Bring the kids to see a new baby porcupine, the 1904 Miller Family Ranch, or some fierce birds of prey at the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center.
They are all part of the High Desert Museum, a unique nature preserve set on 135 forested acres on the outskirts of Bend. The museum opened in 1982 in order to showcase and protect the West high desert habitat through permanent and temporary exhibits, live animals, historic sets, and so much more. The museum has something for everyone, from the otters, bobcats, and badgers for the animal lovers and a real American West stagecoach for the history buffs to an exciting make-believe high desert habitat for the kids to climb and explore. The High Desert Museum is one of the top Bend attractions.
59800 South Highway 97, Bend, OR 97702, 541-382-4754
2. Newberry National Volcanic Monument
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Newberry National Volcanic Monument is part of the Deschutes National Forest and consists of spectacular landscape formations that were created after a series of eruptions of the Newberry Volcano. The last major eruption happened about 75,000 years ago when the volcano’s explosion formed the Newberry caldera. Newberry National Volcanic Monument is one of the best things to do in Bend, Oregon.
The last eruption at Newberry occurred about 1,300 years ago. The monument, created in 1990, includes the Newberry caldera, the upper slopes of the volcano, and its northwest rift zone. It stretches across 55,500 acres and is very popular for fishing, camping, and hiking.
3. Tumalo Falls
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Towering above the Tumalo Creek is the 100 foot tall Tumalo Falls. The falls are a popular spot with both tourists and locals alike, and it is easy to see why. Beautiful, pristine waters flow into the canyon below, creating stunning scenery. Hike along the river and find a place to sit and simply watch the world go by. Farther upstream, you will come across several smaller waterfalls and natural rapids.
You can hike along the trail as far as the Bend Watershed, which will require fording the creek. Tumalo Creek is the perfect place to explore and enjoy the sun.
4. Deschutes Historical Museum
© Deschutes Historical Museum
The Deschutes Historical Museum explores the past of Deschutes Country with a focus on Native American tribal history, early exploration and fur trapping, homesteading the High Desert, logging and Forest Service history, and life throughout Deschutes Country over the years.
Displays are visual, utilizing a wide range of mediums. Photographs, artifacts, paintings, letters, and dioramas allow you to travel back in time to these important parts of Oregon’s history. The museum is one of seven stops along the Bend heritage walk and is a must do for any history enthusiast.
129 NW Idaho Ave, Bend, Oregon 97701, 541-389-1813
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5. Pilot Butte
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High up above the desert floor, Pilot Butte once served as a landmark that guided pioneers in their wagon trains on their way to a safe crossing of the Deschutes River. This old cinder cone resulted from one of the explosions of the Newberry volcano and now serves as a spot from where visitors can watch absolutely spectacular sunsets, giving the snow on the nearby Cascade Mountains a golden glow.
You can see all around the high desert to the Three Sisters, Black Butte, Mount Hood, and Mt. Jefferson. There are three easy trails up the butte surrounded by sage and juniper.
6. Lava River Cave
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Hidden amongst large ponderosa pines, sagebrush, and snowbush you will find the entrance to the Lava River Cave. A natural cave formed over 80,000 years ago, the cave is the longest continuous lave tube in Oregon at a staggering 5,211 feet. Here you will descend 126 steps down to the start of the cave. Ice stalactites suspend from the ceiling even in summer, giving it an otherworldly feel. If you are looking for fun things to do in Bend, Oregon with kids, this is a great place to explore.
The lava tube continues to change in texture, size, and temperature the farther inside you venture, so grab your lantern and jacket and explore the natural wonder.
97 Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Bend, Oregon 97701, 541-383-5700
7. Mt Bachelor Ski Area
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Mt Bachelor has it all – beautiful snowcapped mountains, luxurious accommodation, warm, hearty food, and world class ski fields. Feeling rusty? Have a quick refresher skiing lesson before heading out onto the powder, or spend quality time with your children Snowblast Tubing. Race full speed on an 800-foot ride down the mountain with only a tube between you and the snow.
Available all year round is the popular sled dog ride. Dash through the snow pulled by a team of dogs and head out into the wilderness. Prefer to stick to your own two feet? Try a free snowshoe tour of the mountain. With so much to do, you won’t have time to feel the cold!
13000 SW Century Drive, Bend, Oregon 97702, 800-829-2442
8. Les Schwab Amphitheater
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Situated on the west banks of the Deschutes River is Les Schwab Amphitheater in the historic old Mill District. The amphitheater is large and open aired, and it can accommodate up to 8,000 patrons for regular concerts and events. The vibe is eclectic, and some of the biggest names in entertainment have played here, including Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, and Bob Dylan.
During the summer, sit in the sun and listen to the sound of the orchestra play, go to free concerts by local and national performers, or attend the second largest brewfest in the Northwest each August. Visit their website for a calendar of events.
344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr, Bend, OR 97702, 541-312-8510
9. Deschutes National Forest
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Bordering the Cascade Range from the east, the Deschutes National Forest is a combination of land from the Blue Mountains and Cascade and Fremont National Forest, totaling over 1.8 million acres. The landscape is diverse, from towering cinder cones, lava flows, and lava tubes located within the Newberry Volcanic Monument area to areas of vast open land and dense forests.
There is a wide range of activities on offer that draw over three million visitors each year. Spend your days boating, fishing, wildlife spotting, and hiking as well as horseback riding and mountain biking on the extensive trails. With so much to do, take your time to explore such a beautiful location.
63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, Oregon 97701, 541-383-5300
10. Wanderlust Tours
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Discovering the wild nature around Bend will be a very special experience with the trained naturalists of Wanderlust Tours. From exploring the magical caves created by numerous instances of volcanic activity in the area to the romantic moonlight canoe rides on the Hosmer Lake, they have options for every taste.
During the winter, explore the trails around Bend on snowshoes, ending your adventure with a great bonfire in an amphitheater carved in snow. The "Bend Brew Bus" tour takes visitors to four different breweries in town. You will have fun, learn a bit about the history and culture of the area, and meet some new people, and you won’t be able to wait to do it all again. Next read: Oregon beaches
11. Goody's Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory Tour
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After a busy day up the mountain or sightseeing, you will have worked up quite an appetite! Why not reward yourself with a trip to Goody's Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory. Operating for over thirty years, Goody's is a Bend institution, and even the locals will tell you that it’s the best place to go to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Take a factory tour where you will see a working sweet factory, either by guided tour or self-guided tour. With the guided tour you will get to sample some of Goody's best sellers. Goody's make over 100 different sweets including gourmet chocolates, toffee, peanut brittle, and, of course, ice cream.
1111 SE Division Street, Bend, Oregon 97702, 541-385-7085
12. Drake Park
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The 13-acre park Drake Park in the Old Bend neighborhood is Bend’s most popular outdoor gathering place, and on weekends, it is bustling with families enjoying Bend’s great weather. 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.
An outdoor stage hosts many live outdoor events, and there are plenty of amenities close by. The park is home to many species of wildlife, from native and exotic birds to squirrels and chipmunks. It’s the perfect place for a low cost family day out.
13. Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area
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Head out into the wild with 29,180 acres to explore in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area. Home to unique landscapes and geological features, the area offers many important sights to see during your visit. Head to the Dry River, which was once a flowing river during the Ice Age and now separates the two volcanic areas of the Badlands volcano and the Horse Ridge volcano.
The Oregon Wilderness Area is home to an abundance of wildlife, and here you may spot yellow-bellied marmots, bobcats, mule deer, elk, and antelope. Spot prairie falcons and golden eagles high up in the air. With almost 50 miles of trails open to the public, there are plenty of opportunities for exploring by either hiking or horseback riding.
14. Oregon Ski Guides
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Whether you are an experienced skier or a beginner just getting comfortable on skis, let the Oregon experienced and licensed ski guides show you the kind of skiing that goes beyond what you can find in a resort.
Discover the silent delight of backcountry skiing or the adrenaline-filled thrill of snow mountaineering, take a course on what to do in case of an avalanche, or simply work on your skiing skills.
They will be gentle with you if it is your first time on skis or on a snowboard, but they will get you going faster than you expected and help you fall in love with the mountain, just like they did.
More Oregon destinations: 15 Best Things to Do in Portland, Oregon with Kids.
15. Tumalo State Park
Tumalo State Park, located along the Deschutes River in the heart of central Oregon, serves as a great base camp for outdoor activities. The area is full of trails for mountain biking, scenic hiking trails, pristine alpine lakes, blue-ribbon trout streams, lush golf courses, and more. Anglers can often be seen at dusk and dawn fishing for rainbow trout, while the summer months draw visitors to Tumalo State Park for floating in the river’s cool water. There’s also a campground with over 50 tent sites and more than 20 full hookup sites. Two group camping areas are available as well.
64170 O. B. Riley Rd, Tumalo, OR 97703
16. Bend Whitewater Park
Located near the city’s Old Mill District, Bend Whitewater Park is set on the Deschutes River and offers an array of river recreational activities. Opportunities for surfing, kayaking, tubing, and more can be found at this “in-water amenity.” Bend Whitewater Park consists of three distinct channels: the Habitat Channel, the Whitewater Channel, and the Passageway Channel. The Habitat Channel is an ecologically sensitive area with no public access. The Whitewater Channel provides a chance for whitewater paddle boarding, surfing, and kayaking, while the Passageway Channel is great for visitors wanting just a little bit of rapids with their float.
166 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr, Bend, OR 97702, 541-389-7275
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17. Deschutes Brewery Tour, Bend
© Deschutes Brewery Tour
Deschutes Brewery, open since 1988, offers the daily brewery tour that takes visitors behind the scenes and gives them an up close look at what makes beer from Deschute Brewery special. Learn about the history of the brewery and see beer being bottled before your eyes. Best of all, its free.
Those over 21 can enjoy four complimentary beer samples, and with 19 beers on tap there is a flavor for everyone. Try their famous Porter, Pale Ale, IPA, Stout, and Pilsner alongside fresh, local cuisine. All visitors must be over 12.
901 SW Simpson Ave, Bend, OR 97702, Phone: 541-385-8606
18. 5 Fusion, Bend
© 5 Fusion
The kind of fusion you will get at 5 Fusion will leave you truly impressed. This sleek, modern restaurant with some excellent modern art on the walls will delight you with even more art on the plate. Executive chef and co-owner Joe Kim, Jr.’s creations are so spectacularly beautiful that you will almost be too sorry to eat them.
But that would be a mistake, because they are absolutely delicious. This young award-winning chef weaves his magic in the kitchen and truly fuses Asian and Western tastes, using fresh, organic local ingredients to create whimsical, innovative dishes you have not tasted before. The sushi is equally unique, and they have a perfect selection of sakes and wines to go with your meal.
821 NW Wall St, Bend, OR 97701, 541-323-2328
19. Riley Ranch Nature Reserve
Riley Ranch Nature Reserve was established on Bend’s northwestern edge and encompasses more than 180 acres. The land features a 30-acre rimrock cliff band and approximately 35 acres of canyon floor running along the scenic Deschutes River. Boasting primarily rugged terrain, Riley Ranch Nature Reserve provides a unique “near-to-home” nature experience. Thanks to the unique location of the nature reserve adjacent to the river, Riley Ranch provides dramatic views of both the river canyon and the Cascade Mountains. There are several miles of trails guests can use. Visitors should note that bikes and dogs are not permitted in the reserve.
19975 Glen Vista Rd, Bend, OR 97701, 541-388-5435
20. Boneyard Beer, Bend
© Boneyard Beer
Boneyard Beer was originally created in 2010 inside a former auto shop in the historical district of Bend with a single goal in mind. That goal was to simply “make great beer.” Tony Lawrence, owner of Boneyard Beer, built up his “boneyard of old equipment” after decades working in the brewing industry. With the help of co-founders Melodee and Clay Storey, he pieced together the second-hand equipment to create the first Boneyard Beer batch of craft brews in May of 2010. New equipment has now replaced the old and the brewery today continues to produce high quality, balanced, and clean beer.
1955 NE Division St, Bend, OR 97701, 541-241-7184
21. Craft Kitchen and Brewery, Bend
© Craft Kitchen and Brewery
Located in the vibrant and romantic Old Mill District on the banks of the Deschutes River, 3.5 Craft Kitchen & Brewery offers you spectacular views from their large back deck and oversized windows while you sample their latest brews or enjoy their fabulous food. If you are lucky, there might be a live music concert across the river at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
The brewery’s name springs from their 3.5 barrel system, which allows them to make small batches of experimental brews with interesting flavors. The kitchen menu is rich and diverse, but do not miss their smoked meats – they smoke them in the kitchen daily.
62988 Layton Ave STE 103, Bend, OR 97701, 541-647-2772
22. The Last Blockbuster
© The Last Blockbuster
The Last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon boasts the claim to fame as the last Blockbuster Video store in the world. Blockbuster Video provides video game and movie rentals and this once giant video rental corporation filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Stores were auctioned off by April of 2011 and new operators slowly started to close corporate-owned Blockbuster stores. By March of 2019, only the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon remained. Owners Debbie and Ken Tisher owned and operated their own video stores in Bend for around ten years before making the decision in 2000 to become a Blockbuster Franchise.
211 NE Revere Ave, Bend, OR 97701, 541-385-9111
23. Central Oregon Symphony
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Let the sounds of Jazz, Baroque, and Flute and Harp fill your ears during an evening with the Central Oregon Symphony. Here you will find a wide variety of musical genres and instruments utilized to bring both the classics and new scores to life. The symphony hosts regular concerts at the Bend High School Auditorium, and if you can’t make it to a concert, symphony rehearsals are open to the public.
The focus is on new, emerging talent, with a young artist competition each year, and the winners perform in the Winter Concert Series.