At the conclusion of a recent business trip to Portland, Oregon, I decided to extend my visit to the Pacific Northwest with a trip to Bend, in the central part of the state. I was intrigued by all the research I had done which seemed to support the claim that Bend is the “outdoor playground of the West.” I set out to discover the things to do in Bend Oregon.
After a bit of a shaky start driving across the Mt. Hood pass during a snowstorm in a rental Kia Soul without chains (shhhhhhh!), I arrived in Bend – much more beautiful than I had anticipated. It took a bit of creative scheduling, but in just a few short days, I was able to do everything on my wish list… and then some. Here are my top ten recommendations.
Race a dog sled
What a thrill! Whisking through a forest of towering, snow-dusted hemlocks juxtaposed against a bright periwinkle sky while tucked snuggly into a bright red Iditarod sled was simply magical. The Oregon Trail of Dreams sled ride was my favorite of things to do in Bend Oregon.
Much to my surprise, I was better at snowshoeing than I thought I would be. From running down the snowy hills to making snow angels to learning about the natural wonders from my guide from Wanderlust Tours, we forged our own path uphill until we reached a semi-summit.
It really helped that they’d provided me with quality equipment. Check here for a guide on how to find the best boots for snowshoeing.
Arriving at that clearing, we were rewarded for our aerobic efforts with a stunning vista of the Cascade Mountain Range.
Pamper yourself at the Oxford Hotel
The only boutique hotel in downtown, the Oxford Hotel is easy walking access to restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, galleries, shopping, and theaters. The luxurious suites are very large, tastefully decorated in contemporary themes.
Eat at Barrio
There are numerous opportunities for gastronomic glee in Bend. My favorite was the small and quirky but über-friendly Latin bistro, Barrio. My Cuban Sliders – pork belly, pork carnitas, eschabeche, Jack, mustard, on Gordon’s bun were out-of-this-world. Don’t believe the rumor that I licked my plate… I actually used the last morsels of bread to sop up the tangy sauce.
Try a craft beer
I’ve never been a fan of beer, but since Bend is renowned for its microbreweries and unique craft beers, I decided to give them a try. My favorite was the “Freakcake” at Crux Fermentation Project, which is fermented with sour cherries, raisins, cranberries, figs, dates, and currants and not bitter at all.
Another fun brewery to try in Bend is Boneyard Beer.
Take a salsa lesson at Seven
If you’re at Seven on Wednesday, you can participate in the free salsa dance class. Other days bring other specials like karaoke, or just dance the night away at this popular nightclub, where you can even dance in their famous “cage.”
Ride an electric bike
I really had a lot of fun. I’d never driven anything with a throttle before and loved riding it through downtown with Kim from Let It Ride who regaled me with the history and tales of Bend.
Take a public bath
For $5 you can soak in the grand Roman-style soaking pool at McMenamins. Renovated from the old St. Francis School, McMenamins houses a small hotel, movie theater, and a brewery, along with the soaking pool.
Bend has two great shopping venues – the Old Mill District, which as the name suggests, is an area of refurbished old mills situated along the banks of the scenic Deschutes River. The other location for shopping is downtown, laid out in a grid, and chock full of specialty shops, eateries, and parks.
See a show at the Tower
The attractive retro neon sign of this historic building is enough to draw you in for a closer look. In the middle of downtown, the Tower offers live music, drama, comedy, and dance performances, as well as classic movies.
Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Visit Bend during her stay, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.
About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.
She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.
Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.