The 10 Best Things to Do in Bend

Kayaking Diablo Lake, Cascade Lakes Highway. Photo by Brenda Autry

Bend may be a little town nestled in the foothills of the Cascades, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in experiences. Outdoor adventures are definitely one of the best things to do in Bend.

Long touted as Oregon’s gateway to outdoor adventure, Bend is a great place for hiking, kayaking, skiing, spelunking, rock climbing, and so much more! Bend is also home to some great shopping, world class golf courses, craft breweries, and delicious dining. 

With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. So, here are recommendations for the 10 best things to do in Bend:

Try a Craft Brew

Considering the fact that there are less than 100,000 people living in the city, the number of breweries it hosts – currently 22 – is pretty impressive. That’s about one brewery for every 4,500 residents!

Not only are the breweries plentiful, unique, and entertaining, they’re also really good. Deschutes Brewery, one of the original breweries in Bend, was just recognized as Brewery of the Year and also took home 3 of 5 gold medals in the 2022 International Beer Competition.  

Some of my favorite brew pubs to stop in for a flight include:

Want to try even more? Follow the Bend Ale Trail and find beervana. Remember to always drink responsibly.

Take a Hike

There are hundred, if not thousands, of miles of hiking trails within a short drive of Bend. The Three Sisters Wilderness, Deschutes National Forest, and Newberry National Volcanic Monument, offer some of the best hiking trails you’ll ever find. 

Some hikes you should check out are: 

Visit Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is a haven for rock climbers. People travel from all over the world to conquer the 650 acres of sheer rock faces. There are climbing routes to suit almost any style.

If, like me, climbing isn’t your thing, the park has plenty of hiking trails to choose from. The Smith River, dramatically cutting through the center of the towering red rock faces, is also a favorite capture for photographers to add to their collection.

Float Down the Deschutes River

One of my favorite things about Bend in the summer time is floating down the Deschutes River right through the middle of town. You can float all the way from Riverbend Park to Drake Park which takes about 2 hours. Before reaching Drake Park there’s a short whitewater section at Bend Whitewater Park which features a series of 12 drops. If you want, you can bypass the whitewater by getting out and walking around.

You can rent floats from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for $21. This includes an all day ticket for the shuttle which runs from Drake Park and back to the park and cloat location so you can float down the river all day long.

Take a Drive on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway

This 66 mile scenic byway is one of the most breathtaking roads you’ll ever drive on. Open from late spring/early summer through late fall, the road winds through the Deschutes National Forest and Three Sisters Wilderness, passing crystal clear alpine lakes, with the majestic peaks of the Cascades serving as a constant backdrop. 

From the byway you can access several trailheads, lakes and campgrounds. You can stop along your drive to hike, have a picnic, or just admire the views.

Go Paddling On an Alpine Lake

If you think driving down the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway is breathtaking, wait until you see the view from out on the water, Kayaking on Devils Lake! This route runs past some of the most pristine alpine lakes you’ll ever see. People travel from all over with their kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to paddle around Sparks, Elk, Devil and Hosmer Lakes. A little farther down the byway you’ll find several more small lakes as well as the larger Crane Prairie and Wickiup Reservoirs. 

Because of the altitude these lakes stay freezing cold all year so you won’t find many swimmers. However, slowly paddling around the lakes, admiring the views of the cascades is a must while you’re here.

If you’re new to paddling, check out one of the many tours available with Wanderlust Tours. In the summer they offer both kayaking and canoe trips to many of the cascade lakes, moonlight and starlight canoe tours, and a Brews and Views Canoe Tour, where you can combine two of the best things to do in Bend!

Visit the Last Blockbuster in the U.S. 

Feeling nostalgic for those Friday nights in the 90’s and early 2000’s when you’d run to the video store in hopes of grabbing a copy of the latest release before it was gone? Well in Bend you can relive those days by visiting the last Blockbuster

Still fully functional, you’ll find new releases and old favorites alike, available for rent just like in the good-old-days. No place to watch those DVD’s? No worries! You can still stop in, take a walk down memory lane, and grab a box of candy for the road. 

Stay at a Resort

Just a few minutes drive from downtown, you’ll find some of the most amazing resorts in Oregon. From luxury to family friendly, you’ll find things like indoor water parks, world class golf, and more outdoor activities than you can imagine.

Sunriver Resort is a sprawling, family-friendly resort located just 20 minutes from downtown, and just a few minutes from the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, in the small resort town of Sunriver, and with a great view of Mt. Bachelor. Although Summer and Winter are the best times to visit for outdoor adventures, the resort has something to offer year-round. 

The resort offers both lodge style rooms, and larger whole home vacation rentals/condos. We stayed in a lodge room and loved the large size, warm fireplace and giant patio complete with rocking chairs and amazing views of Mt. Bachelor over the golf course. There are several outdoor hot tubs spaced throughout the property and a giant indoor water park complete with a lazy river, water slide, and a giant spa tub. 

The other resorts you should consider are:

Go Shopping

If you’re ready for a break from all the adventure, or you just want to give your wallet a workout, Bend offers several options for a day of shopping. Downtown Bend is full of unique boutiques, one of a kind artisan shops, art galleries, coffee shops, and loads of eateries – there’s also a brew pub or two! If you happen to be visiting the first friday of the month, make sure you stop by downtown for Bend’s First Friday Art Walk. 

If you want name brands, head over to the Bend Factory Stores or the Old Mill District. There you’ll find stores like:  REI (have to fuel those adventures!), Columbia, Lululemon, Sephora, Nike and much more! (And don’t forget, Oregon has no sales tax!) The Old Mill District also has several dining options and a cinema if you’d like to catch a show. 

Visit Mt. Bachelor

If you’re visiting during the winter months, chances are you’re here for the pow! Less than an hour from Bend, Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort offers world class skiing, snowboarding, and much more! If you’re new to skiing, check out the Ski & Ride School for both private and group lessons.

Or, if skiing and snowboarding aren’t your things, Mt. Bachelor has several other activities to choose from! Check out the Snowblast Tubing Park, go for a ride on a dog sled, or book a snowshoe tour. 

With so many adventures to be had, anytime is a great time to explore Bend.