The 20 Best Things to Do in Bend, OR, for First Timers

Deschutes River

Set against the Deschutes River and the lakes and peaks of the Cascade Mountains, Bend is a small city in Oregon that is the county seat of Deschutes County. It is known as a popular destination for those who enjoy a wide array of outdoor activities. However, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in this city, as there is something for everyone. If you intend to visit this area, then planning your trip in advance means that you can fit in all the activities and attractions that best suit your interests, and make sure you do not miss the best that this area has to offer. To help you plan your vacation, the following are the 20 best things to do in Bend, OR, for first-timers.

Walk or Cycle Benham Trails Head

20. Walk or Cycle Benham Trails Head

A pretty area to visit while you are in Bed is Benham Falls along the Benham Trailhead, says Y Travel Blog. There is a 5.5-mile paved trail in one direction, and this leads to the Lava Lands Visitor Center. As it is paved, you have the option to hike or cycle along the path. The trail follows the river, and you can stop at various points to explore the falls along the way. This is a series of falls rather than a single waterfall. Adventurous visitors might also like to try white water rafting at this location.

Paulina Falls

19. Hike Paulina Peak to Paulina Falls

Hiking is a popular activity in Bend. One of the best hikes is Paulina Peak, and this leads to Paulina Falls. The hike is reasonably challenging due to the elevation, but it is worth making the effort if you re feeling energetic. When you reach the top of the trail, you are treated to the magnificent sight of the wonderous Paulina Falls, and this is an ideal opportunity to take photographs to commemorate your visit to this beautiful part of the world.

Old Mill District

18. Shop and Dine in the Old Mill District

If you fancy a spot of retail therapy while you are in Bend, then the best area for this is the Old Mill District. There, you will find streets lined with both boutique shops and big brand stores. This is also the best area to visit for dining out during your stay, as there are restaurants serving a vast array of cuisines and to suit all tastes and budgets. There is such a diverse range of restaurants in this neighborhood that you can go every day of your vacation and try something different on each visit.

Deschutes River

17. Try Fun Water-Based Activities on Deschutes River

Bend sits along the banks of the Deschutes River, and this meandering river is a great place to have some fun and to try some new activities. You can enjoy swimming, paddle boarding, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, and even surfing. There are multiple companies along the river that offer equipment hire and instruction.

Smith Rock State Park

16. Enjoy the Dramatic Surroundings of Smith Rock State Park

When visiting Bend, you should take advantage of the dramatic landscaped surrounding the city. One place to visit is Smith Rock State Park. This dramatic landscape provides the perfect playground for a wide array of outdoor activities. People enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing within this park. Some people go simply to admire the diversity of the surrounding, which include flat plains and snow-capped volcanoes. This is also a fantastic place for bird-watching and wildlife spotting.

Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

15. See the Views from Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint

According to Planetware, you should go to see the views from Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint when you visit Bend, OR. This is a recreation area that has hikes to an elevated position called Pilot Butte, and it is also possible to drive to the peak. From this vantage point, you will have some of the best views of Bend and the surrounding countryside. So, you should take along your camera when you visit this spot.

Tour of Deschutes Brewery

14. Take a Tour of Deschutes Brewery

If you enjoy a beer or you are simply looking for something different to do during your visit to Bend, then taking a tour of Deschutes Brewery is an excellent option. Open since 1988, Deschutes Brewery is now one of the largest breweries in Bend. Visitors can take a tour of the facilities to learn about production, before entering a tasting room to sample the goods. There is also the option to buy some of the beers to take home. This is an activity for people aged over 21 years only due to the nature of the activity.

Atelier 6000 Studio and Gallery

13. Visit Atelier 6000 Studio and Gallery

Art enthusiasts visiting Bend should include a trip to Atelier 6000 Studio and Gallery in their itinerary. The only publicly accessible printmaking and book art studio in Oregon, this attraction is a fantastic place to completely absorb yourself in art. Visitors can learn about the traditions of printmaking and discover why this is a form of art. There are multiple exhibits that are laid out in a visually appealing way. You will see paintings, photographs, and sculptures that have been created by both established and emerging artists.

Oregon Badlands Wilderness

12. Explore Oregon Badlands Wilderness

One of the many beautiful landscapes surrounding Bend is the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. There are almost 30 thousand acres to explore, and the geological features and unique landscapes are diverse and interesting. Dry River separates two volcanic areas, and there are forested sections to explore. It is a fantastic place to visit if you want to see the native wildlife of Oregon, such as prairie falcons, marmots, elk, mule deer, and bobcats. Within this wilderness, there are almost 50 miles of trails.

Culinary Tour or Cooking Class

11. Take a Culinary Tour or Cooking Class

Oregon has an amazing culinary scene, and this is thanks to the amazing produce in this state. If you consider yourself a foodie, then a fun and educational activity is to take a culinary tour or cooking class. The former is a fantastic way of learning about the culinary scene in Oregon, while the latter is an opportunity to learn some new skills. Whichever you choose, you can expect to enjoy some gastronomic delights. There are multiple companies offering a variety of tours and cooking classes, each of which offers something different. So, you should have no trouble finding a food-based activity that appeals to you.

Drake Park

10. Spend Time at Drake Park

This park covers 13-acres, and it is located in the Old Bend neighborhood of Bend. It is where the local families head at the weekend so that the kids can let off some steam and so parents can sit in the beautiful surroundings. Mirror Pond sits in the middle of the park, and this is surrounded by hardwood and pine trees. There is also an outdoor stage that hosts a variety of performances and events in the warmer months.

Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory

9. Take a Tour of Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory

Something a little different to the many outdoor activities you can enjoy in Bend, OR, is to take a tour of Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory. This food production company is famous in Oregon, and visitors can take a tour of the facilities to find out how they make their chocolate and ice creams. The highlight of this tour for most people comes at the end when visitors can sample the goods and buy some to take home. This is an activity that is suitable for people of all ages, and it is especially a treat for any younger travelers in your party who find this a magical expereince.

Deschutes National Forest

8. Hike Around Deschutes National Forest

Those who enjoy spending lots of time outdoors on their vacations should head for Deschutes National Forest. This location combines forested areas with the land from the Blue Mountains. It covers a staggering 1.8 million acres and has multiple hiking trails of varying difficulty and length to explore. You will enjoy the diverse landscape along the way, which include lava tubes, towering cinder cones, and lava flows. There are plenty of photographic opportunities to capture images of both the landscape and the wildlife for whom this is their natural habitat.

Les Schwab Amphitheater

7. See a Performance at Les Schwab Amphitheater

Those who want to enjoy a performance when they visit Bend, Oregon, should go to the Les Schwab Amphitheater. This is an excellent choice of activity if you want something to enjoy in the evenings. There is a jam-packed schedule of performances throughout the year, so you should check what is on before embarking on your trip to Bend. These vary from plays to live music performances. If there is a performance you would like to see, then book the tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Mount Bachelor Ski Area

6. Have Fun at Mount Bachelor Ski Area

Many people visit Bend to enjoy outdoor activities, and winter sports are particularly popular. The best place to have some fun is at the Mount Bachelor Ski Area. Some of the activities you can enjoy at this resort include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and much more. A popular family activity at the resort is taking the dog sled ride when a team of dogs pulls you on a sled around the wilderness. If winter sports are not your thing, then you can also hike around this area.

Lava River Cave

5. Explore the Lava River Cave

This natural cave was formed more than 80 thousand years ago, and it is the longest continuous lava tube in the state. You must walk down 5,211 steps to explore the Lava River Cave, which has a magical and otherworldly feel when you are inside. The stalagmites and stalactites are a spectacular sight. This is an activity that is suitable for people of all ages, including children.

Tumalo Falls

4. Wonder at the Tumalo Falls

The landscape surrounding Bend is diverse, and there are plenty of magnificent sights to see when you explore the area. One that you should not miss is the impressive Tumalo Falls. These waterfalls tower 100 feet above the Tumalo Creek, and both locals and visitors head to this picturesque spot to admire the pristine surroundings.

Deschutes Historical Museum

3. Visit Deschutes Historical Museum

If you want to learn more about the history of this area, then the best attraction to visit is the Deschutes Historical Museum. The focus of the museum is on the Native American tribal history of the area, although all aspects of the history of this county are explored at the museum. There is a diverse range of visual displays at this museum, so you should spend at least a couple of hours there.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

2. See the Magnificence of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Part of the Deschutes National Forest, the Newberry National Volcanic Mountain is one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in Bend. The formations were created by volcanic eruptions approximately 75 thousand years ago. The monument was created in 1990, and it is a unique landscape to explore that boasts impressive views.

High Desert Museum

1. Go to the High Desert Museum

According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Bend, OR, for first-timers is to go to the High Desert Museum. This is a unique nature preserve with several smaller attractions within one. For example, there is the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center and the 1904 Miller Family Ranch. The attraction is set on 135 acres of forested land, and it was established in 1982. The purpose of the attraction is to protect and showcase the desert habitat. There are both permanent and temporary exhibits that include historic sets, live animals and a lot more. The kids will also have great fun exploring the outdoors. You will need at least one full day to enjoy everything this attraction has to offer.


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