Choosing what to do in Bend, Oregon, could almost be considered a burden. With so many options for exploring the great outdoors and plenty to discover in town, it’s tough to pick your poison. From incredible outdoor experiences to mini-adventures within city limits, Bend offers a variety of tour options for visitors to pack in as much as possible.

Drink your way along the Bend Ale Trail

Thirsty for a beercation? Bend is the number one destination for such a holiday. With an official passport and map, thanks to Visit Bend Travel Bureau, Bend offers a brew-loving scavenger hunt like no other city. It isn’t called the largest beer trek in the west for nothing. Start by ordering your paper passport or downloading an app to guide you. There’s even a "Drinkable Diversions" tour, which includes locally made spirits, kombucha, cider and wine. Bottoms up!

Since 1993, Wanderlust Tours has delivered top-tear, regional eco outings, including paddling and canoe trips, lava tube cave tours, lunar eclipse hikes and brews and views beer tastings. Volcano sunsets, snowshoe tours and more are available seasonally. 

Take an alleyway and roundabout art tour

The award-winning Tin Pan Alley Art Collection can be viewed all over Bend's historic downtown – you'll find pieces in parking garages and other urban outdoor nooks and crannies. If you spot a piece, stop and use it as a conversation starter with your travel partners. As you drive throughout Bend, look for all the sculpture installations centered in roundabouts. To get organized, stop in at Visit Bend’s downtown brick and mortar, and grab a guide for each collection. 

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A bicyclist rides across a bridge with multi-colored flags that crosses the Deschutes River at the Old Mill District in Bend in Central Oregon
A bicyclist rides across a that crosses the Deschutes River at the Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon © HDDA Photography / Shutterstock

Check out Bend’s budding arts & entertainment scene 

Although Bend is still considered a small town, it’s a rising star when it comes to arts and entertainment. After a busy day burning calories on the trail or river, head to a concert or see some performance art. Music venues like Hayden Homes Amphitheater, the Domino Room and the Volcanic Theater Pub attract must-see local talent and popular regional and national musicians.

Bend’s burgeoning burlesque scene is hot, hot, hot, with several venues to choose from. And the up-and-coming stand-up comedy collective will have you in stitches with frequent performances at Craft Kitchen and Silvermoon Brewery. Electronic music, folk, rockabilly, blues and even hip-hop all have their place on various stages in the high desert. 

Drive the Cascade Lakes Highway

With miles of desert to the east, you might be surprised to find out how much freshwater is sequestered near Bend in the alpine lakes at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. Lake after lake litters Century Drive, also fittingly known as Cascade Lakes Highway. More than 10 bodies of water, some of which are hard to navigate via kayak, and some miles across, all spot the conifer forest terrain. Sparks, Devil’s, Elk, Laval, Cultus, Crane Prairie and Wikiup, with Davis, Waldo and Odell Lake not much farther, are good options. In addition, several lakes have lodges and resorts that make great stops for a sudsy brew or cup of tea. Whether you're in the mood for a driving tour, a swim, picnic or paddle, a visit to one or more of these lakes can easily fill a day's itinerary. 

Bend Oregon cityscape with Mt Jefferson at sunset
Visit volcanoes on your trip to Bend. Pictured here, is the Bend cityscape with Mt Jefferson in the background © / Shutterstock

Climb all the volcanoes

With epic views from their summits,  several volcanoes are easily accessible to the most adventurous passer-throughs in Bend. The first is Pilot Butte. In the center of town, trek up the side or drive to the top via the seasonally open paved road. A second option is Lava Butte, about 15 minutes south of Bend on Highway 97. This butte is the entrance to Newberry National Volcanic Monument and is accessible in the summer. From the top, you’ll spy half-formed lava tubes, levees and a cornucopia of other frozen lava geometries. The third summit options – and farthest out – are Mount Bachelor and South Sister accessible via Century Drive. Mount Bachelor can also be accessed by lift in either winter or summer. To hike South Sister, the 14-mile round-trip trail and summit, a permit is required. Though the hike isn’t a technical mountain climb, many who attempt it underestimate its difficulty. Once at the top, the views are more than worth it. Bring water and be cautious. 

Bike to Paulina Plunge

Considered by some to be the most unique tour in the high desert is the Paulina Plunge. Better yet, it's accessible to complete novices. This trip offers a downhill mountain bike waterfall and natural waterslide adventure at Newberry Caldera National Volcanic Monument. Similar to Crater Lake, Paulina Creek is an enormous collapsed volcano that drains Paulina Lake down the flank of Newberry. Follow this creek on mountain bikes to Paulina Waterfall and natural waterslides, where you can take a break from your bike ride, picnic and play in the pristine water. 

A group of people river surfs on the Deschutes River
Deschutes River. A group of people river surfs in the whitewater park at Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon © Irra / Shutterstock

Tour the Deschutes River

Discover Bend’s centerpiece: the Deschutes River float. To rent an inner tube, head over to Bend Park and Float, secure your rental, hop on a shuttle and launch from Riverbend Park. Once you get to Drake Park, the shuttle will pick you up again and haul you back to your car. If floating isn’t your thing, enjoy the paved footpath on either side of the river float corridor. Whether traveling by bike, skateboard, inline skates or stroller, a trek along the urban corridor of the Deschutes River from Riverbend Park to Drake Park is an excellent way to taste the everyday outdoor eye candy Bend has to offer. Avian locals, wildflowers, volcanic rocks, cute beachy shacks and mountain modern homes are some of the scenic points of interest on your tour through the heart and lifeblood of Bend. 

Not ready to Tour De Chutes Riviera on your own? Let Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe take you. They offer full- and half-day tours by kayak, canoe and paddleboard. Or, book a private tour for your family reunion or corporate soiree. 

Finally, experiencing the Big Eddy Thriller whitewater adventure on the Deschutes River, just minutes from town, is a can’t-miss chance of a lifetime. Sun Country Tours and Seventh Mountain River Company, both located on Century Drive, are the best in the biz when it comes to whitewater tours. Tighten the straps on your close-toed river sandals, buckle that helmet, synch down the fittings on your lifejacket and keep paddling forward to make it through Bend’s own backyard whitewater roller coaster. Batten down the hatches and dive in.

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