The Native Americans called this place Quela the Beautiful Valley. It's a special part of the Beaver State with slow drivers and fast-paced outdoor action. Bend has enviably sunny weather for most of the year. Dozens of scrumptious scones, doughnuts, and croissants are on the menu here, along with the wares from microbreweries and shops.
An extinct volcano lies within the city's borders, and you don't have to travel far to see sublime Alpine lakes, forests, and canyons. The most distinguishing features of Bend's skyline are three smokestacks, a relic from the days when Bend was a timber mill hub. But this is no small town, and there's a good chance you'll want to move here after your first trip.
Float down the Deschutes River for family-friendly fun that's sure to loosen you up. Head to Riverbend Park and laze down to Drake Park, where a shuttle waits for the return journey. The river current is slow, so it's not unusual to see dogs kicking back on paddleboards while their owners work their cores. Drake Park is great for a stroll, picnic, or people-watching. There's live music and some artsy stalls on the weekends, and the Fourth of July festival here is top-notch. Be sure to pass by the Historic District to see the G.P. Putnam House. George Palmer Putnam, a New Yorker, became Bend's mayor at the ripe old age of 24. He went on to marry the famous aviator Amelia Earhart.
The ocean rolls from this local gem of a bakery are legendary. Seriously, you will need to go to Bend Parkway early if you don't want to stand in a queue. These pastries are filled with a sweet vanilla and cardamom mixture that is rich and addictive. Sparrow's creations are available elsewhere in the city, too, such as at Looney Bean Coffee. They're a must-try while you're in town.
Bend's downtown area used to be rather bawdy around the turn of the 20th century, but it's mellowed since then. You'll find a convivial atmosphere on the walkable Bond and Wall streets, especially on the first Friday of the month. You'll spy the Three Sisters peaks, part of the Cascade Range, in the distance while you sip a coffee or a drink. Child-oriented businesses keep their doors open almost as long as surrounding retailers, so kids won't want for entertainment. Downtown Bend also has spas if you want some downtime after your adventures.
Even if you're not staying at this 3-star hotel which used to be a Catholic school, it's worth a visit for a dip in the Turkish bath, a meander around secret hallways, the hidden bars, and the general ambiance. You'll require your own towel if you plan on jumping in the soaking pool. Order some tater tots, stop by the cigar lounge, and sit by the fire pits to work out more of your itinerary.
Are you a wannabe Tiger Woods? The luxury golf resort Tetherow is four miles from downtown and is one of 25 courses in the area. The stunning 18-hole Scottish links-style course at Tetherow has been voted one of the country's 100 best public golf courses. With such spectacular scenery, the appeal is clear as day, and when you're done, Century Drive segues into the beautiful Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway for a mini road trip.
You can visit the Newberry caldera just 13 miles south of Bend. Look out for the Lava River Cave and trek through the Big Obsidian Flow, the youngest lava flow in Oregon from approximately 1,300 years ago. The two crater lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake are full of trout. Paulina Peak stands 7,984 feet tall—the viewpoint here provides a zoomed-out perspective of obsidian, pumice, and Hawaii-like verdure. It's gorgeous. You'll need a National Forest Day Pass and a reservation for the cave.
One of the top attractions in Central Oregon, the High Desert Museum is a 130-acre venue with edifying exhibits about the Oregon High Desert region. Native American culture is at the forefront, and the animals on-site, including cute river otters and injured birds of prey, delight visiting children. There are also seasonal art exhibits. The museum offers fee-free days if you'd like to stretch your budget.
Bend, and Central Oregon, are a paradise for nature lovers. Reconnect with Mother Earth, take some deep lungfuls of fresh air, and move your body. There are various activities for different fitness levels and interests. You can drive up to Pilot Butte if you want to chill or hike for a combined two miles. Shevlin Park, over 100 years old, is a memorable green space with loads of trails and a river for swimming. And Tumalo Falls is another pretty highlight. You might be interested in rock climbing at Smith Rock or spelunking at Redmond Caves Recreation Site if you're not claustrophobic or scared of the dark.
Mount Bachelor is where you want to go to get your adrenaline pumping. It's a beloved spot in the Pacific Northwest and the 6th largest ski resort on the continent. The Summit Chair leads you to 360-degree skiing, which is certainly not run-of-the-mill. There's Nordic skiing, and the downhill mountain biking here is fantastic too. This premier ski resort should be on your schedule, whatever your skill level. Young children can ski at no charge, and adults can ski for free in the side country.
You can pass many an hour at Bend Whitewater Park, whether you're sunbathing and scoping out the action from the foot bridge or doing your thing on the waves and whitewater rapids. Enjoy tubing, paddling, kayaking, boogie boarding, and all-year river surfing hours away from the ocean. Best of all—it's free!