If you’re fatigued by the long corridor of winter, we suggest you put a bend (or just Bend) in your travel plans. Set your compass for Central Oregon, where you can easily fill your days with a mix of lively indoor activities and epic outdoor pursuits. Here’s how to spend your next road trip to Bend.
Wheel through Bend’s past on a guided tour around town with Let It Ride eBike Tours (during winter they come with snow tires). If you’d rather get some perspective from above, Big Mountain Heli Tours offers scenic helicopter tours of various lengths, with magnificent views of the forests and mountains in the region. (Bigfoot lovers may want to splurge on a one-of-a-kind Sasquatch Helicopter Tour covering 80 miles of ground in the Deschutes National Forest and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.) Back on solid ground, Wanderlust Tours offers daily guided excursions that help you explore the region like a local: from exploring lava tube caves and hiking volcanoes to sipping at breweries and distilleries, uncovering hidden photo spots, and getting outfitted to paddle a canoe or kayak. Wanderlust’s winter tours include snowshoeing, snow camping and a New Year’s Eve bonfire on the snow.
Taste It All
Get your taste buds ready: Bend is the epicenter of top-notch artisan bakeries, coffee, craft brewpubs, farm-to-table dining and family-friendly favorites. If you’re worried about missing something, you may have to draw up a food itinerary. Ale aficionados may start with the self-guided Bend Ale Trail, where you can sample your way through some of Oregon’s top IPA-producing stalwarts, as well as newcomers to the scene producing exciting barrel-aged ales and other emerging styles — you can even brew your own. Consider booking a beer-tasting tour, like Bend’s Cycle Pub, as an alternative to driving. Wellness seekers may appreciate sampling the nonalcoholic bubbly at Humm Kombucha Taproom, and Riff Cold Brewed Coffee is one of dozens of excellent spots to get a caffeine fix. The Sparrow Bakery and Restaurant is one of the city’s most popular spots for decadent baked goods and breakfast sandwiches. Stop in for casual, creative fare at new favorite spots including Bangers & Brews, Cuban Kitchen and Barrio, which features tacos, tapas and paella.
Art, Culture and Indoor Family Fun
In between your outdoor adventures, there’s a vibrant arts scene to explore in Bend and a host of other ways to spend time indoors. Bring the family any time of year to the High Desert Museum, the Puzzle Effect, or the Old Mill District or historic Box Factory district for candy, game, toy and book stores, clothing and jewelry boutiques, outdoor gear, and gift shops showcasing works by local makers. Check out fine artists’ works at a wide array of art galleries, or catch a show to match your mood. There’s live jazz at the Oxford Hotel Bend (fall through spring), OperaBend, High Desert Chamber Music and popular summertime concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater. The Tower Theatre is the place to go for top-quality shows for all ages. When you’re seeking respite, the indoor soaking pool at the funky McMenamins Old St. Francis School Hotel in downtown Bend makes for a lovely retreat.
Epic Outdoor Adventures
When it snows outside, locals flock to take advantage of Bend’s high and dry climate on Nordic skis. Skate or classic ski the 56 kilometers of groomed track at Mt. Bachelor, or head off into the forest for sledding and tubing galore. Check out How to Play in Central Oregon’s Sno-Parks for inspiration. In summer it’s all about going where the crowds are not. It’s a good thing there’s no lack of outdoor concerts — so you can take your pick — as well as less-crowded trails, dog parks, paddling spots and off-the-beaten-path day trips. Read up on these 5 Ways to Play Like a Local in the summer for ideas, and consider taking a car-free getaway to ease congestion and skip the parking hassles around town. Winter at Smith Rock is magical — when the park’s wildlife is more active and a blanket of snow on the rugged terrain brings a special quietness to the experience. Central Oregon is known for its fly fishing, bike riding and stunning landscapes to photograph — take a guided adventure for an insider experience. Whenever you’re recreating outside in Bend’s wild spaces, take a moment to give back by taking the Pledge for the Wild.
There’s a festival for every season in Bend — literally. Oregon WinterFest in February is a major food-and-drink event, plus rail jams, dog tricks, comedy, ice carvings and light art. Springtime brings the Bend Spring Festival in April, as well as Downtown Bend Restaurant Week in March. Summer fun peaks at Balloons Over Bend and the Bend Summer Festival in July. Harvest season kicks off with Bend Oktoberfest in September and the Bend Fall Festival in October.