Bend is a beautiful city with so much to offer in shops, restaurants and attractions for its relatively small size.
While many people come to Bend because it’s the gateway to the Cascade Mountains and more outdoor fun than you can shake a kayak paddle or ski pole at, there are plenty of other activities that are well worth exploring.
5 Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Bend, Oregon:
- Deschutes Historical Museum
Learn about the history of Bend and the surrounding region at the Deschutes Historical Museum (129 M.W Idaho Avenue), open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm. The museum is just a few blocks away from Bend’s downtown shopping area. The Deschutes Museum has exhibits on the prehistory of the region, Native Americans, the fur trappers, the homesteaders who came to the High Desert, Forest Service history, and the evolution of the city of Bend up to the present day.
As you walk (or join an electric bike tour) through historic downtown Bend your knowledge of the city’s past will resonate as you see old and new buildings standing side-by-side. Several of these downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historic Buildings, such as the Deschutes County Library, the Old US Post Office, and the N. P. Smith Pioneer Hardware Store – the only wooden structure remaining in Bend’s downtown.
- High Desert Museum
The High Desert Museum is more than a museum with static exhibits of natural history– there are also 125 acres of forest that are home to many native animals. Permanent Exhibits include Spirit of the West (Western Pioneers), By Hand through Memory (Native Americans), Wild Cats (featuring a live bobcat), and the Desertarium (tortoises, turtles, lizards, etc).
The museum also offers traveling exhibits, such as Smokejumpers: Firefighters from the Sky, The Buzzsaw Sharks of Long Ago and Ansel Adams: Masterworks – just to give you an idea of their variety.
- Old Mill District
The Old Mill District, with your starting point at 450 SW Powerhouse Dr, is a shopping and restaurant complex built on the site of an old sawmill run by the Brooks-Scanlon company. The mills closed in the 1950s, and gradually decayed until the area was restored in the early 1990s. The three tall towers of the old mill’s smokestacks still stand and make an excellent landmark.
The Old Mill District features 40 shops – everything from chain stores to unique boutiques. Shoppers have their choice of over a dozen restaurants to suit any pocketbook. Anthony’s at the Old Mill is well-regarded for its seafood, Hola! features Peruvian Mexican inspired cuisine, and the Pastinia Pastaria offers a wide variety of pasta dishes including several for vegetarians.
The Old Mill District has three art galleries, and in the summer the Les Schwab Ampitheatre offers plenty of musical performances. Three hotels in the Old Mill District are a testament to its popularity with tourists!
But that’s not all. The Deschutes River runs right by the Old Mill District and SUPs (stand up paddle boarders), kayakers and canoeists can enter the river right here. And if you’ve ever wanted to test your skills as a fly fisherman, check out the Old Mill Casting Course.
- The Tower Theater
Calling itself “Bend’s Living Room,” the Tower Theatre (831 MW Wall St) offers concerts, variety and comedy acts, live theatre, and even movies. The building that housed the Tower Theater was built in 1940, and had a 40-foot tower emblazoned with its name. The theater closed in the 1950s and the space was used for offices. In the 1990s attempts were made to revitalize the theater but the project failed. In 2002, however, a group of businessmen purchased the building from the city of Bend, remodeled it and turned it into a multi-purpose entertainment venue which hosts local talents and touring shows.
- The Pine Tavern
There are many excellent restaurants in Bend – both chain restaurants and locally owned restaurants. But the Pine Tavern is special, not the least because it’s the oldest operating restaurant in the city, through it has had several owners in its 80-year-history. It’s also probably the only restaurant in the United States that has a giant ponderosa pine tree growing through its main dining room. And the back patio overlooks the famous Mirror Pond.
Although the Pine Tavern, located at 967 NW Brooks Street, has been renovated a few times in its history, those ponderosa pines still remain and make for a unique dining experience, as does the lovely view from the back patio! The menu ingredients are locally sourced. In addition to appetizers such as Dungeness Crab and Bay Shrimp Dip, Steamed Manila Clams and Cambazola Encroute, a variety of soups and salads, their entrees include Chicken Fried Chicken Breast, Pine Tavern Meatloaf, Chicken Marsala, and Beer Battered Cod Fish and Chips. Filet Mignon, New York Strip and Boneless Rib Eye are also on the menu.
Bonus: Big Mountain Heli Tours
Want to see Central Oregon from the sky? Try out any of the great helicopter tours from Big Mountain Heli Tours. Take a city tour, a flight around the nearby Cascade mountains or try the winter snow tour.
Deschutes Historical Museum: http://www.deschuteshistory.org/
High Desert Museum: https://www.highdesertmuseum.org/
Old Mill District: https://www.theoldmill.com/
Tower Theatre: http://www.towertheatre.org/
Pine Tavern: http://www.pinetavern.com/index.html