A national trendsetter for all things outdoor sports–related, Bend, Oregon, is a western playground that attracts an international assortment of powder hounds, dirt divas, snow bunnies and Peter Pans for climbing, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and more.

For those who prefer camping and Coleman stoves to honeymoon suites and Michelin-starred fine dining, it's the ideal destination, but the costs can add up. Here are the best ways to stretch your dollar while you're in town. 

Drive in and make your car your base camp

With flights in and out of Redmond Airport from all over the west coast, arriving by air is an option, but the added costs of either renting a car and transporting your gear or renting gear once you arrive starts to add up. The least expensive way to experience Bend is to make arrangements to camp and bring your outdoor toys with you in your car.

Go for a float at Bend's whitewater park

One of the most popular activities in town is to grab a boogie board, surf board, whitewater kayak or floaty and head to the Bend Whitewater Park. Looking down river, the far left channel is known as the Fish Ladder and is the best choice if you're on an inner tube or floaty. For folks in more technical crafts, check out the central channel.

Remember, this is a free-flowing river. Wear shoes that secure to your feet and cover your skin in the event it comes into contact with the sharp lava rock lining the whitewater passages. Check the Bend Whitewater Park's website for more safety tips

If you aren’t a fan of getting wet, post up with a lawn chair or a beach blanket and watch the action from the shore – it can be highly entertaining. Kids love playing at the water's edge beneath the whitewater park in McKay Park. 

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A bicycalist rides across a walking and biking bridge with multi-colored flags on a beautiful fall morning
Start your Bend bike tour on the Old Mill river walk, which spans the urban Deschutes River corridor © HDDA Photography / Shutterstock

Tour the town by bike

Rolling around Bend on a townie, single speed or gnarly old mountain bike is a favorite activity of locals and visitors alike. Check out the iconic Old Mill river walk spanning the east and west banks of the urban Deschutes River corridor (Farewell Bend Park to McKay Park). From there, ride into Drake Park to see Mirror Pond and historic downtown Bend.

Ride west and check out Galveston and Newport Street. Ride north to First Street Rapids Park and head east over the railroad tracks to explore the Larkspur Trail. In the summer when Bend thoroughfares are clogged with cars, the best way to see Bend is by bike. 

Pack your skates and hit the pavement

With a paved, 1.25-mile path gently undulating along its perimeter, Pine Nursery Park in Bend's northeast quadrant is certainly the main attraction for roller and inline skaters, skateboarders and those on scooters. Interlaced with an off-leash dog park, pickleball courts, a pond for fishing, soccer fields and an expansive disc golf course, it's a family-afternoon favorite in any season.

For expert skate terrain, drop in at one of two skate parks in Ponderosa Park on the east side of town. 

Night ski by moonlight at Hoodoo Ski Resort

A resort nearer to Sisters than Bend, the Hoodoo ski area hosts the only night-ski sessions in Central Oregon. Here’s the best part: compared to skiing during the day, it's a fraction of the cost.

The night-skiing atmosphere is friendly to families and all ages and experience levels, and welcomes ski bikes, skiers and snowboarders alike. And the parking lot has electrical hookups, so you can make a reservation, drive up in your camper van, car or RV and stay over. Enjoy food and beverages in the Hoodoo lodge, plus live music and weekly events like demo days, discount days, holidays and end-of-season pond skimming. 

Rock out to a concert while you float the river

Poach summer tunes from the Deschutes River adjacent to Hayden Homes Amphitheater (previously Les Schwab Amphitheater), a primo outdoor concert venue offers A-list headliners all summer. It costs nothing to listen while floating by, unless you need to rent a paddle vessel – just don’t stop along the shore, or you’ll get a talking to from the Old Mill District mall cops.

Float by on an inner tube for a quick auditory hit, or, to stall out for longer, BYO paddleboard or kayak and paddle in the current, or even drop a homemade anchor. Pro tip: Inflatable paddleboards roll up and are storable in any vehicle; they make it a little easier to sit next to your honey and snuggle, and to pull out a picnic to share on the board deck mid-concert. 

Pick up discounted equipment at the Gear Fix 

If you didn’t come to Bend with outdoor equipment in tow, you can probably pick some up at the Gear Fix for a fraction of the cost. A used gear shop, not only does the place keep seasonal secondhand sporting goods in stock, it also has ski tuners and a seamstress, cobbler and bike shop in house to mend any broken spokes, edges, climbing shoes or dry suits. The Gear Fix is almost as iconic and beloved to Bendites as Powell's books is to Portlandians. 

A woman free-climbing at Smith Rock State Park near Bend, Oregon
Utilize the Bunk + Brew shuttle for a trip to Smith Rock State Park © OverlandTheAmericas / Shutterstock

Lay your weary head at Bend’s favorite hostel 

In the heart of town, with a shuttle service connecting its guests to local outdoor destinations, Bunk + Brew Hostel is both both inexpensive and central to everything you want to explore by foot.

It also offers food and tap carts, live music and non-stop events onsite in the backyard, so after a big day out, you can kick up your spurs, hang your hat and relax in the courtyard with staff or fellow travelers, just a few steps from your bunk. Utilize the Bunk and Brew shuttle for a trip to Smith Rock State Park, or head up to Mt Bachelor for year-round adventures, including skiing, zip-lining and downhill mountain biking. 

Tap into rotating locals' nights 

On any given night, one of Bend's many breweries, tap houses or pubs is sure to have a discount for locals – and because there isn’t typically an ID or address check to confirm that you are in fact living in Bend, visitors and tourists can often capitalize on the deals. Silver Moon, GoodLife Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, Bend Brewing Company and others offer discounted pints at least one night a week. 

Pop into popular happy hours

For cheap eats, McMenamins Old St Francis School, part of a Pacific Northwest regional microbrewery chain, boasts the most classic and comprehensive food selection on its weeknight happy-hour menu, in uniquely decorated surroundings. For added entertainment, lounge on one of many porches with wood-burning fire pits and ask staff about the “secret rooms and broom closet.”

To find similar bargains, the question, "What's your favorite happy hour?" makes a friendly (and informative!) conversation starter with any locals you meet. 

Muddy legs of Caucasian couple sitting in a pickup truck near a bicycle
During Bend's mud season, you can get the same great experiences for half the cost © Kolostock / Getty Images

Seek out mud-season discounts

Mud season in an outdoor sports–oriented destination is the time of year when there isn’t enough sun to harden the wet earth or enough snow to ski, and in Bend, that's fall and spring. Since it's perceived as a less-desirable time to visit, hoteliers and guide services often offer reduced pricing, meaning you can get the same great experiences for half the cost.

A guide to daily costs in Bend, Oregon

Camping: $10-30
Hostel bed: $40
Hostel private room: $100
Basic room for two: $110-200
Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): $75-200
Public transport ticket: Free* 
Coffee: $4-6
Sandwich: $12-15
Dinner for two: $40-$50
Beer/pint at the bar: $6

*Due to COVID, Central Oregon Public Transportation is operating fareless. Day tickets are normally between $5-10. 

You might also like: 
Oregon's best places to visit beyond Portland
12 free things to do in Oregon if you’re heading to the Beaver State
The best time to visit Oregon for truly outdoorsy fun

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