Unique things to do over a weekend in Bend, Oregon
Published Date: January 6, 2023
Talk about a perfect location: The town of Bend is perched along the winding Deschutes River at the base of the Cascade Mountains, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure lovers. But this Central Oregon city of just under 100,000 people draws visitors with all kinds of interests. Here are 10 special ways to spend a weekend in Bend.
Get up close with local wildlife
The High Desert Museum is a unique museum experience. Located just five minutes outside Bend on 135 wild acres, this museum gives visitors a crash course on the history, flora and fauna of Central Oregon’s high desert. Indoor and outdoor habitats are home to an amazing array of animals, including otters, foxes, porcupines and a special Birds of Prey Center. If you can tear yourself away from the menagerie, the museum also has great historical exhibits, including an American West stagecoach.
Watch the sunset from atop a lava dome
Created when a now-extinct volcano erupted, Pilot Butte is a cinder cone butte that rises nearly 500 feet above town, making it a distinct landmark visible from almost anywhere in town. Take the short hike to the top of the butte during the day for views of the surrounding mountains, including Three Sisters, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and Black Butte, then hang around until sunset — on a clear evening, Mother Nature puts on an incredible show.
Bend’s volcanic history not only created buttes above ground, it carved out incredible caves. One of the most popular is Lava River Cave, a mile-long lava tube. Grab a warm jacket (it’s chilly down there, even in summer), closed-toe shoes, a flashlight (and a backup!), and head down the stairs to the start of the cave. You’ll discover a whole underground world, formed over 80,000 years ago and full of ice stalactites, colorful rocks, and twists and turns.
Ski the country’s sixth-largest ski resort
With a ski season that regularly lasts until May, Mt. Bachelor is a must-ski (or snowboard) destination for winter sports fans. It’s conveniently located less than 30 minutes from Bend and boasts average yearly snowfall of 462 inches. The resort offers 4,323 skiable acres with 101 runs for skiers and boarders of all experience levels. Skiing and snowboarding not your cup of tea? You’ll also find sledding hills, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more.
Float the river
During the warmer months, visitors and locals alike float down the Deschutes River, which winds its way right through the heart of town. Bring your own tube or rent one from a local outfitter, then float your way through town over the course of an hour or two. Don’t forget to pack drinking water and sunscreen! This activity is so popular that the city operates a Ride the River Shuttle during the summer months. For just $4, you can park upstream, have the shuttle drop you off at the float launch, then get picked up at your choice of two stops down river.
Most vacation destinations have a golf course or two, but the Bend area really outdoes itself with over 25 golf courses, including a handful designed by legends of the game. Serious golfers will want to check out the award-winning Pronghorn Resort, with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio. Nearby resort communities like Black Butte Ranch, Sunriver Resort and Eagle Crest also offer great courses. No matter where you play, you really can’t go wrong, thanks to sunny weather and gorgeous mountain views.
Meander through First Friday Art Walk
First Friday Art Walk is a great way to familiarize yourself with downtown Bend. Running year-round in any kind of weather, the event is a celebration of all forms of art, from painting and sculpture to music, comedy, acting and more. It also shows off Bend’s small-town charm, with plenty of complimentary snacks and sips.
Enjoy an outdoor concert
Bend locals make the most of their gorgeous summer weather with plenty of outdoor events at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater, conveniently located on the riverfront in the Old Mill District. All summer long, you’ll find the calendar packed with free and ticketed events, including traveling musicians, comedy performances and the Bend Brewfest.
Rent a movie at the last Blockbuster
Need a dose of nostalgia before you leave town? Here’s a really unique experience: Bend is home to the last remaining Blockbuster video store. Whether you’re looking to rent a movie, revel in the 1990s vibes or snap a few selfies, no trip to Bend is complete without stopping by. They also have quite the collection of Hollywood memorabilia.
Make Central Oregon your second home
There’s so much to explore in Bend, one weekend is never enough. Become a local by co-owning a Pacaso second home. With ⅛ to ½ shares available, co-ownership puts a luxury home in Bend within reach.