Former saw mill area now plays host to restaurants, shops, concerts and trails
Nowhere epitomizes Bend’s transformation from a sleepy lumber town to a world-class travel destination like the Old Mill District.
Once home to two of the largest sawmill operations on the plant, the Old Mill District now boasts more than 55 restaurants and shops nestled alongside the Deschutes River. Paved running and bike paths hug both sides of the river – the trails are part of the larger Deschutes River Trail network – making the area popular with both visitors and locals alike.
While shopping and dining options dominate the Old Mill District on the east side of the Deschutes – the area has an eclectic mix of local, regional and national retail shops – the west side of the river is anchored by the scenic Les Schwab Amphitheater. The state’s largest outdoor concert venue, LSA plays host to more than a dozen shows each summer, drawing acts as large as Paul Simon, Jack Johnson and Phish and as diverse as Chris Isaak, Alabama Shakes and Pink Martini. Approximately 8,000 fans can fit into the amphitheater, which features an all-grass infield and spectacular views of the Cascade Range to the west.
Runners and cyclists aren’t the only outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of the Old Mill District’s charms. A small armada of floaters, kayakers and canoers can usually be found on the Deschutes during the summer and fall months as they make their way down to the new Bend Whitewater Park. And in particularly harsh winters, the area welcomes Nordic skiers and fat bikers.
History buffs can take pleasure in the various buildings and former sawmill equipment the Old Mill District has restored and upcycled. Nine original buildings still sit within the district, including the mill’s former powerhouse and its three iconic smokestacks. Additionally, plaques throughout the site mark areas of significant historical importance.
With its location right in the heart of Bend, the Old Mill District also holds numerous community events throughout the year. The Bend Brewfest is scheduled for the third weekend of August every summer in the Les Schwab Amphitheater and the Fermentation Celebration, a beer/wine/kombucha-tasting event, helps kick off the dredges of winter each spring.