Unique Things to Do in Bend, Oregon in 2024

Old Mill District In Bend Oregon. Photo by Robert Shea via Flickr CC2.

Crystal-clear waters, high desert beauty, and mountain adventure all define Bend Oregon as one of Oregon's top vacation destinations. Bend sits on the Deschutes River in Deschutes County and is known for it's breweries, cabins, mountain biking, museums, shopping and the many gorgeous lakes nearby. Let's take a look at all the things that make Bend such an incredible city to visit year round in central Oregon!

Things To Do In Bend Oregon

Bend is the perfect spot to use as a basecamp for adventure. Whether you want to hike to a waterfall, tackle a challenging central Oregon mountain bike trail, go kayaking, or bungee jump off a bridge, Bend is the place to do it.

Bend Oregon

Bend Oregon. Photo by Ilya Gorenburg via Flickr CC2.

Hiking And Biking In Bend Oregon

Shevlin Park In Central Oregon

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Shevlin Park in Bend Oregon. Photo by SupportPDX via Flickr CC2.

Shevlin Park is a great spot to relax, have a picnic, or take a stroll down a pretty nature trail. Just a few miles from Bend and under 30 minutes from nearby Sunriver, visitors to the 981 acre Shevlin Park enjoy bird watching, wildlife viewing, and forest bathing. Jogging, hiking, picnicking and mountain biking are also fun warm weather activities. In the winter season this is a great spot to go snowshoeing or do some cross country skiing.

A prominent feature of the park is Tumalo Creek, which has several footbridges crossing it. It's this creek that made Shevlin Park the perfect filming location for an iconic scene from the Disney movie Homeward Bound. There's one scene where the pets in the movie cross a covered white bridge with red trim. That bridge is no longer there, but you can still visit the spot seen in the film today!

While you're there, we highly recommend checking out the 4.7 mile loop trail which will take you through forests and along the creek. You'll cross several foot bridges while on the trail. It's a great trail for an easy walk with family and friends.

Hike To Chush Falls In Central Oregon

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Chush Falls close to Bend Oregon. Photo by That Oregon Life Photography.

The hike to Chush Falls is a five mile round trip. This picturesque waterfall is well worth the hike and is not usually too crowded. While on this trail you'll pass through an eerie yet gorgeous forest, check out Wychus Creek, and get a view of nearby mountains. The most stunning part of the trail is Chush Falls, which cascades out over a rocky outcrop.

This trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness is best hiked in warmer months, though it can still be done in the winter if you're up for a challenge and have showshoes.

On a good day an experienced hiker can do the trail in just over two and a half hours.

Explore Newberry National Volcanic Monument

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Paulina Falls in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Photo by Matt Cook with permission. Copyright Matt Cook. https://www.instagram.com/mattcookoregon/

This volcanic monument is an Oregon Gem full of volcanic vents, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls, and lava tubes.

bend oregon

Photo by Matt Cook with permission. Copyright Matt Cook. https://www.instagram.com/mattcookoregon/

The monument was created in 1990 to protect this geological wonderland from environmentally harmful projects.

Photo by Matt Cook with permission. Copyright Matt Cook. https://www.instagram.com/mattcookoregon/

Eruptions have been happening here for the last 400,000 years, leaving a diverse and beautiful landscape for us to appreciate and explore.

We can't recommend enough the awesome documentary on Newberry National Volcanic Monument made by Oregonian Matt Cook on his YouTube channel Matt Cook Oregon.

RELATED: Camping Near Bend, Oregon: Our Top Picks

See The Lava Cast Forest

Lava Cast Forest Oregon

The Lava Cast Forest Trail is an easy .9 mile loop. Photo by Rick Obst via Flickr CC2.

An easy paved trail will take you through this forest that was cast in lava. Molten Lava poured over a forest here thousands of years ago, surrounding the trees and then hardening, making these lava casts and preserving the history of this forest forever.

What to do in Sunriver Oregon Lava Forest - lava lands visitor center

Lava burned through the trees and hardened around the bark to form casts. Photo by Tjflex2 via Flickr CC2.

Vault toilets and picnic tables are available on site, and you can visit the Lava Cast Forest from May to September. Take note that a recreation pass is required to park.

Mountain Bike Bend

rock climbing

Enjoy the dozens of mountain bike trails around Bend Oregon. From easy to challenging, these trails crisscross the forests and rivers. Bend is a destination for Oregon mountain biking.

There are hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails in and around Bend to explore. Some are easy trails, others are for experienced riders as they are technical and challenging. Check out this map of some of the best mountain biking trails in Bend Oregon.

Sunriver Resort

Sunriver Resort is a stunning mountain resort located in Central Oregon's high desert at the base of the Cascade Mountains. A Chicago Tribune writer wrote that Sunriver is a “mix of an outdoorsy Disney World, national park and summer camp.”

You should definitely check it out because it's hailed as the Northwest's best all-year-round getaway and is an awesome place to relax and recharge.

There are four award-winning golf courses where you can play, or if you're looking to relax, you can visit the lovely spa and fitness area. There are also several delicious restaurants and breweries, as well as some cool little shops to visit.

At the resort itself you can visit the SHARC Aquatic Center in warmer months. We highly recommend booking a stay with Sunset Lodging In Sunriver, as most of their cabins come with SHARC aquatic passes, bikes to borrow, hot tubs, fire places, and more. Sunset Lodging has long been one of our favorite places to stay when we go to visit Bend, or to check out the High Desert Museum.

RELATED: Camping Near Bend, Oregon

Relax At Sparks Lake

Sparks Lake is absolutely gorgeous, and features stunning mountain views. It's also a great place to paddle.

Sunriver Oregon

If you're looking for adventure, relaxation, or just time away from the big city, Sunriver Oregon has you covered.

This pretty lake sits along the Cascade Lakes Highway not far from Bend, and has a view of South Sister, Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor.

See Tumalo Falls

Tumalo Falls Hike near Bend Oregon near Redmond Oregon

Tumalo Falls. Photo by Daniel Miller via Flickr CC2.

The trail to Tumalo Falls via Tumalo Creek is a moderate 6.5 mile out and back trail, so plan to spend the day hiking. This trail sees a lot of traffic in the summer and has a 583 elevation gain. There's a fee to park.

RELATED: 18 Majestic Hikes Near Bend, Oregon to Conquer

Other Things To Do Near Bend Oregon

A lazy Sunday in Bend Oregon. Photo by Rhiannon Boyle via Flickr CC2.

Bend Festivals

Bend Oregon Brewfest Returns for 2022

Photo via the Bend Brewfest Facebook page.

Every year around May people flock to Bend for the famous Bend Brewfest.

bend ale trail

Photo via the Bend Brewfest Facebook page.

Bend is one of several cities in Oregon known for it's breweries, so it's the perfect spot for a festival that features over 60 breweries and over a hundred craft beers, ciders, and seltzers. We recommend checking out Bend Brewing Company, GoodLife Brewing Company, Silver Moon Brewing, Worthy Brewing, Spider City Brewing Company, 10 Barrel Brewing East Side Bend, Bridge 99 Brewery, and Boneyard Pub.

Another popular festival is Balloons Over Bend which happens in the summer.

Hot air balloons lit up at night in Redmond Oregon

Night Glow. Photo via the Balloons Over Bend website.

People gather each year to watch massive hot air balloons take flight at sunrise and sunset.

A hot air balloon lifting off in Bend Oregon over the Old Mill District

Photo via the Balloons Over Bend Website.

You can get up to date information on the next Balloons Over Bend festival here.

Fun Things To Do In Bend Oregon

Bend Whitewater Park

A surfer at the Bend Whitewater Park. Photo via the Bend Whitewater Park Facebook page.

You might think surfing is something done at the coast, but Bend Oregon has become a surfing destination due to a unique park in the high desert.

140 miles from the Pacific Ocean lies the Bend Whitewater park near Bend's Old Mill District.

bend in central oregon

Surfing at the Bend Whitewater Park at sunset. Photo by Wayne Hsieh via Flickr CC2.

Learn more about this unique park and all it has to offer here.

Lava River Cave

The Lava River Cave is the longest lava tube in Oregon! As you make your way down the small trail, you'll quickly notice the temperature drop. It's a fascinating experience that will leave you in awe.

Once inside, you'll discover that the cave is home to bats and is a natural bat habitat, so keep your eyes peeled!

As you explore, you'll notice the intricate details of the cave's lava formations. It's an adventure like no other and is sure to hook you on spelunking. Spelunking is one of the most authentic activities for travelers, and thanks to it's rich volcanic past, the Bend and Sunriver area is full of lava caves just waiting to be explored.

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is the perfect place to go on a difficult but rewarding walk. From the strange rock formations that look like they came from another world to the amazing views of Oregon from the top of The Misery Ridge Trail, you won't be disappointed with your trip. While Smith Rock State Park isn't in Bend, it's only a 35 minute drive north (just outside of Terrebonne) and is well worth the trip. This is by far one of Oregon's coolest state parks, and it draws rock climbers from all over the world, looking to climb the challenging rock faces.

The park is also popular with photographers and those looking to go wildlife watching, or just to enjoy a little slice of high desert peace and quiet.

Smith Rock Hiking Trails

While you're there, check out the Wolf Tree Trail, Canyon Trail, Summit Trail, and Misery Ridge Trail. Also, be sure to snap a photo of Monkey Face, a 350 foot tall spire of rock jutting up out of the earth. Some think the rockface looks like a monkey's face, hence the name. One climbing route up Monkey Face is known as 5.14c and is known worldwide for it's challenging nature.

Smith Rock State Park is a great day trip if you're there to visit Bend and want a little adventure. After a day of hiking and taking photos with family and friends, you can head back to Bend for a brew at one of the chill craft beer breweries, or grab a bite to eat at one of Bend's many mouthwatering restaurants.

READ MORE: Smith Rock State Park: Guide to Hiking, Climbing & More

Drake Park

Drake Park is a must-see spot in Bend. This park is 13 acres and is named after the first owner, Alexander M. Drake.

This park is one of the oldest and most famous parks in Bend. The park hosts numerous events throughout the spring, summer, and fall. There's always something going on!

You'll find over half a mile of riverfront, acres of open lawn, an outdoor stage, restrooms, little picnic tables, river access, and trail linkages among the amenities. There's plenty to do and see.

Expert Tips : If you're planning a trip to this area, the parking lot can get crowded on weekends. Beat the crowds by visiting during weekdays for optimal convenience and ease!

Bend Adventure - Deschutes River Trail

Well, this one is especially for the couples. Spanning three parallel routes that stretch along the Deschutes River, visitors can take advantage of the breathtaking views of the Cascades, pine forests and lava flows formed by geologic forces.

But that's not all. Hiking and horseback riding are just two of the activities that couples can do on the Deschutes River.

If you want to go to the Deschutes River Trail, you should know that you need a recreation pass.

But don't worry, you can buy them easily from Forest Service offices or stores, and you can even get great deals.

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway In Central Oregon

The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, located in central Oregon, is an unforgettable route through some of the most beautiful mountain views and lakefront scenery.

Boasting 66 miles of picturesque landscape, this byway is open from late spring to early fall, though certain sections may be closed due to snow during the winter months.

What's in it for you? Well, the possibilities are endless! From late spring to early fall, you can discover great spots to hike, gorgeous lakes, and opportunities for landscape photography wildlife viewing along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway.

Keep in mind that during winter, some sections of the byway are closed due to snow. To ensure you get the most out of your visit, we suggest downloading the interpretive site tour map from their website.

Expert Tips For Driving In And Around Bend Oregon: During busy times, it can be hard to drive and park. All of the parking meters in downtown Bend can be paid for with a phone app.

High Desert Museum - An Awesome Thing To Do While In The Bend Area
The outside of the High Desert Museum in fall with quaking aspen.

The grounds of the High Desert Museum are beautiful. Photo by JATomlinson Photography.

I've always loved visiting the High Desert Museum. This museum just south of Bend, between Bend and Sunriver focuses on rich immersive exhibits that teach about Oregon's high desert, and the people and animals that live there.

The High Desert Museum has indoor and outdoor exhibits, a historic pioneer ranch, a working historic lumber mill, live animals such as eagles, river otters, owls, fish, lizards, snakes, and porcupines.

 Central Oregon Symphony

Actors at the High Desert Museum answer questions for guests.

If you visit in the summer there are actors on the pioneer farm ready to teach you about the life of pioneers.

Children do chores at the pioneer ranch at the High Desert Museum.

There are also opportunities for kids and visitors to play with the toys pioneer children would use, learn about farm chores, and more.

high desert museum

Tjflex2 / Flickr

The grounds of this museum are gorgeous and this is a must visit.

Owls at the High Desert Museum Desertarium exhibit.

Visit the official High Desert Museum website here.

Visit The Observatory In Sunriver South Of Bend
hiking trails

Photo via the SNCO website.

The Sunriver Nature Center And Observatory is a great place to visit with kids to explore nature and see the stars.

Related: Guide To Sunriver Oregon

Learn more about visiting the observatory at night, educational programs at the observatory, and how to get tickets and make reservations here.

Visit The Last Blockbuster On Earth In Bend Oregon

The last Blockbuster on the planet still lives on in Bend, Oregon. / Image via / Sandi Harding / airbnb

If you want something truly unique and quirky to do when visiting Bend, check out the last Blockbuster Video on earth.

Photo via the Bend Blockbuster Facebook page.

Recently Oreo Cakesters has partnered with Bend Blockbuster, so it's the perfect spot to stop off for snacks and DVD's for your movie night. If you're looking for one of the most unique places to stay, it's also an AirBnb. There's a unique living room area all set up for a movie night with the family, and best of all, there's an entire store's worth of movie aisles to browse for your favorite movies!

Bungee Jump Off A Terrifying Bridge Near Bend

Photo via https://oregonbungee.com/

Central Oregon Bungee Adventures offers the heart pounding experience of leaping off a bridge over Crooked River. This is one adventure that books up fast each year, so be sure to plan ahead, potentially up to a year in advance so you can make sure to snag a spot.

Photo via https://oregonbungee.com/

Other things you may be interested in doing in Bend is taking a moonlit canoe tour at one of many nearby mountain lakes, or taking a once in a lifetime hot air balloon tour over Bend.

In the winter, you'll want to visit Mount Bachelor for soft powdery snow. Bachelor is a gem for skiing and snowboarding in central Oregon.

Zipliners preparing to launch at Mt. Bachelor. / Image via / bendbulletin.com

In the summer you can visit Bachelor for a thrilling zipline adventure!

Winter Activities - A Unique Bend Adventure

While Bend is a great place to visit during warm summer months, it's a hot spot for tourists in the winter due to it's close proximity to Mount Bachelor. Bachelor is known for it's awesome powdery snow and many ski and snowboard runs, making it one of the awesome winter outdoor adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

While there are a lot of great small mom and pop resorts to check out in Oregon for great skiing and snowboarding, most people that ski try to plan trips to Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor. Bachelor is one of Oregon's premier mountain resorts and has some of the absolute best skiable terrain in the state, not to mention a pretty awesome terrain park. The ski resort on Bachelor is America's sixth largest, and has over 4,300 acres of skiable terrain, as well as 101 runs (the longest of which is four miles). The mountains around Bend get around 30 feet of snow every year, while the city itself remains relatively dry with only around 30 inches of snow each year.

Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are also popular winter activities in Bend considering how many miles of trails there are to explore. Others enjoy ice skating at the Pavilion (you can rent skates there if you're just visiting Bend), as well as take curling lessons or attend an open skate session.

For those just wanting a fun place to sled with the family and play in the snow, there are several snow parks within just a few miles of the city. Another popular snowy day activity is fat biking. Fat bikes are just mountain bikes with really wide tires that are good for riding on snow. If you don't have a fat bike of your own, you can rent one at several places around town, including Hutch's Bicycles and Pine Mountain Sports.

The Oregon Winter Fest also happens each year in Bend. This festival features three full days of family activities, lively music, food and other entertainment. Fire pits, hot coco and wine are just a few more of the reasons you'll want to attend. If you want to check out the Oregon Winter Fest be sure to visit Bend in February.

Winter also happens to be a pretty good time to get some shopping done in the Old Mill District, Bend's premier shopping and restaurant area. You can stay warm and dry while you shop and then enjoy a hot delicious meal with loved ones to end your day out.

Bend Oregon - Best Restaurants

Dandy's Nostalgic Drive-In

Photo via Dandy's Instagram

When you stop in at Dandy's Nostalgic Drive-In, be sure to order a Grand Daddy Burger and a hand crafted milkshake. This classic drive-in started in 1967 and is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Visitors love waiting in their car for their order and having waitresses on roller skates bring their food right to their window.

Pine Tavern

This unique restaurant and bar in Bend has two ponderosa pine trees growing right through the center of the restaurant and out through the roof!

The restaurant was built in 1936 and serves up delicious food and drinks.

Worthy Beer

Worth Beer Bend Oregon. Photo via the Worthy Beer Facebook Page.

Worthy Beer serves up a hip vibe, a warm atmosphere, and great craft beer here. This brewery is solar-powered and actively practices recycling and other sustainable solutions.

Let's not forget that their food is amazing too!

Where To Stay In Bend Oregon

The Cutest Little Ski House In Bend

Ski House 160 is cute and cozy, and perfect for a weekend getaway at any time of year.

This vacation rental can sleep four, but is the perfect size for two. It's 600 square feet and comes with a fully equipped kitchenette.

Tetherow Hotel

Located on Skyline Ranch Road, bordering Deschutes National Forest, the hotel offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

The rooms feature luxurious amenities such as flat-screen TVs with cable, microwaves, refrigerators, and coffee makers. All guests have access to a semi-private golf course and receive complimentary shuttle service to downtown Bend and the airport.

Dome Cabin

If you want a unique place to stay, the Dome Cabin in Bend is a must. This futuristic dome house has a queen bed and a single bed.

The second floor floats (it's not touching the dome walls), and the dome gives you the feeling of staying in a cabin in the woods.

For more awesome cabins and vacation rentals near Bend and Sunriver Oregon, check out our latest guide to Sunriver Rentals.

The Population Of Bend Oregon

visit bend oregon

Photo via the Bend Brewfest Facebook page.

According to the 2020 census, the population of Bend Oregon is 99,178 people.

Please Note: Many of the trails, destinations and outdoor activities listed in this guide cost money or have a fee for parking or require permits for use of trails. Hiking, exploring and adventuring are at-your-own-risk activities. When visiting Bend and the surrounding area, please follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace to keep our state wild and beautiful for future generations.

bend oregon things to do

A gorgeous evening along the Deschutes River in Bend Oregon. Photo by MTB Pat via Flickr CC2.

What's your favorite thing to do when visiting Bend Oregon? Have you been to any of the awesome award winning breweries in downtown Bend? Let us know, share your photos of your trip to central Oregon with us, and tag the friends and family you want to go to Bend with!