From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
You’ll find the small city of Bend on the Deschutes River, in Oregon. It’s a popular snow sports region in winter, with the peaks of the Cascade Mountains to the west serving as an ideal home to numerous ski resorts and multi-use trails.
The region is even home to an extinct volcano, giving it a rich and intriguing history that can be explored at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Other famous attractions include the High Desert Museum, Sun Mountain Fun Center, Peterson Rock Garden & Museum, and more.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Bend has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Bend, Oregon? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Bend isn’t all hustle and bustle! There are also plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
A scenic state park that’s very close to the Deschutes River, the Tumalo State Park is great for hiking, biking, picnics, and star gazing but it is particularly ideal for tent camping. The camp site is in a convenient location that offers easy access to other attractions in the park, including fishing. We suggest bringing an inflatable tube for a relaxing river float, as it’s a fun and relaxed way to spend an afternoon.
True to its name, the Smith Rock State Park offers great views of towering rock spires. You can try hiking the trails, best suited for intermediate hikers, or you can take advantage of the picnic benches that are nicely shaded by trees. Stay until sunset for a fabulous natural light show. Also, Smith Rock is dog-friendly so be sure to bring your fur friend!
The Cove Palisades State Park offers a great view and one of the best camping grounds in the state. The river is just a 10-minute walk away and can easily be seen from most areas of the park. It also offers a beautiful look at the rocky spires of Oregon and has quite the population of bird species as well. The Cove is a highly recommended local favorite and should not be missed!
Pilot Butte is the highest point in town; in fact you can see it anywhere from within Bend! Today, it’s right in the middle of Pilot Butte State Park and offers a really good hiking trail right up to the peak where you can get a good view of the city. It’s a two-mile hike and it’s best if you reach the point right at sunset to enjoy the beautiful view.
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Bend, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
Tumalo Mountain Trail is 6km long and is quite popular for visitors and locals alike. It takes you through a mountain that offers some of the best views of Oregon, with its wildflower-laden paths and high alpine views. Reserved for moderate level hikers, it’s best to hike this trail from June until October.
The Deschutes River Trail is a picturesque hiking trail that, as the name suggests, goes right alongside the river for a pretty great view. There are actually trails that go along each side of the river, plus a few more trails that let you explore the Old Mill District. With trails that are both paved and unpaved, these hikes are great for beginners to moderate level hikers.
The Tumalo Creek Trail is a 10km hike that is perfect for moderate level hikers. Aside from hiking, the trail is also great for bird sighting, nature trips, snowshoeing and the river offers canoeing also. The trail is dog-friendly, and a lot of locals bring their dogs along on the hike with them. The best part, of course, is when the hike concludes to a stunning view of the Tumalo Falls. It’s best to get an early start, as parking does fill up quite fast and it can get crowded later during the day.
Bend is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
Bangers and Brews offers great Argentinian food at a fair price. Guaranteed by locals to be one of the best places to grab a banger, anywhere, ever. We highly recommend the banger with cream cheese and chimi churri for that sharp contrast, and the elk bratwurst if you’re feeling adventurous (but still want something delicious!).
Try Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails Wall for an elegant ambience and the perfect filet au poivre and shrimp appetizer. It’s a great go-to restaurant if you want something fancier than pizza for dinner, and it’s also great for impressing out-of-town relatives and friends.
If you’re craving authentic Thai food, you don’t have to look further than Wild Rose, with a menu that will look more at home in the streets of Bangkok than in Oregon. Keep in mind though that the great food has made this restaurant immensely popular, so expect a crowd and a long wait, but it’s well worth it. Locals recommend the moo gratiem, which features thin slices of stir fried pork on rice, and the pad tu-ah, where your choice of protein is stir fried to perfection with almonds, onions, mushrooms, and snow peas. Yum!
900 Wall is all about fine dining and drinks in a beautiful setting, right here in Bend. Featuring modern American cuisine with an Italian and French twist, the restaurant offers an experience unlike any other. Locals love menu items such as the Pacific Northwest oysters, as well as the shrimp risotto and their homemade pizzas.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Bend’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
While you’re in the area, definitely visit Mt. Bachelor for skiing and snowboarding or even for just enjoying a hot cup of cocoa by a roaring fire. It’s a great activity for families with kids, as the ski resort offers lessons for both sports.
The Old Mill District is an open-air mall with a lot of old school personality. Nestled by the river, you can enjoy shopping, jogging, or even just strolling with your family in a picturesque Oregon-style setting. Drop by the Tumalo Art Gallery for some culture or take a rest stop by the river and watch people as they paddle board by.
What should you do in Bend once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
Highly recommended if you’re with kids or even when you’re with adults who are young at heart, the Sun Mountain Fun Center is the place for you. There are restaurants, bowling, a pool, batting cages, and even kart riding, all at reasonable prices!
Visit the Puzzle Effect Bend if you enjoy escape rooms and group activities. They have several rooms to choose from, all with different themes and difficulty levels. They also have rooms for large groups, making the place perfect for big group bonding as well.
What can you do in or around Bend that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
There are plenty of things to see at the High Desert Museum, including the Wildlife, History and Art exhibit as well as the Burning Man exhibit. There’s something to do for everyone, kids and adults included, and they also feature changing exhibits, so there’s always a reason to visit.
Pine Mountain Observatory is perfect for stargazing because there is hardly any light noise at night, offering a very clear and beautiful view of the solar system. Bring your telescopes and your cameras if you’d like to try astrophotography, or take advantage of the free camp sites and experience a one-of-a-kind stargazing experience.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Bend? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Bend that won’t cost you a cent.
Located inside the Deschutes National Park, the Lava River Cave offers a totally unique experience of spelunking, with some of the areas inside being completely dark, allowing us to try pitch blackness. While it’s a lot of fun especially for groups or couples, it’s best to wear pants and bring a sweater, as it can get kind of chilly. It is also highly recommended that you bring two strong light sources - one for backup - as it can get very dark in the cave. Don’t worry, as rental light sources are also available.
Not to be missed if you are in or around Bend, Oregon, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument will leave you in awe. You can take your time exploring the exhibit room before you go up to the short loop trail to the volcanic flow and you’ll be treated to a great view of the black obsidian reflecting the sunlight. There are also some lakes and hot springs nearby to explore. At the highest point, you will also be treated to some truly spectacular views.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Bend has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Visit Jinsei Spa after a day of hiking and activities so that you can relax and unwind right before bed. Locals recommend the deep tissue massage to get all of the kinks out, as well as the hot stone massage. A morning massage wouldn’t be a bad idea either - to kickstart a day of activities of course!
Spa W offers a wide range of massages, with services that are always top-notch. Pamper yourself with their featured services such as ‘the W’, the spa’s signature skincare treatment, the Honey Sugar Glow for a full body exfoliation treatment, and their hot stone therapy, to leave you rested and refreshed.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Bend is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
Visit Fitness 1440 for a casual gym at reasonable prices. 1440 is great if you don’t want to compete with a crowd for the equipment. If you visit early in the morning, you’ll practically have the gym all to yourself. Other benefits include the friendly staff, of course!
Namaspa Yoga Community offers one of the best yoga communities in the state, and even the country. They have a group of incredibly talented and supportive instructors that are welcoming to everyone of any experience level. They also have a wide schedule throughout the day, so it’s easy to try one of their classes - even if you have a bunch of other activities planned!
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Bend without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
You can visit Crater Lake National Park any time throughout the year, but winter is the best time to enjoy their ranger-guided snowshoe walks as well as cross-country skiing. Summer, on the other hand, offers hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming, with the lake as an incredibly picturesque backdrop for all of these activities.
Portland is about a three-hour drive from Bend, but you can also take the train if you don’t feel like driving. Keep in mind that there is only one train coming and going from Portland to Bend, so be sure to plan accordingly. If you’re visiting Portland, don’t miss the Lan Su Chinese Garden, the Oregon Zoo, and the Pittock Mansion, just to name a few! Trust us though, when it comes to this large city, there’s absolutely something for everyone.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Bend that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Bend? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.