The Ultimate Guide for Exploring Central Oregon

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Curated By

Erinn Maher Shaw

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  • USA

  • Oregon

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Domestic Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Nature Escapes

  • Craft Beers

  • Guided Tours

  • Mountains

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Curator’s statement

With 350 days of sunshine and four seasons worth of outdoor activities — plus unique shopping villages and numerous craft breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries —  the hardest thing about exploring Central Oregon isn’t finding the places to go — it’s figuring out how to fit it all into one trip. Unfortunately, I can’t help with that last part (other than perhaps suggesting you book a second trip), but I would love to show off some beautiful ways to pass your time in Central Oregon. So whether you’re a solo adventurer looking to get outdoors, a craft beer enthusiast looking to sip your way through Bend's beer scene with your friends or are planning an annual family outing, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy while creating memories that last a lifetime. 

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Where to stay around Central Oregon

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The Oxford Hotel - Bend

An eco-minded boutique hotel that operates on renewable energy to celebrate the nature-loving attitude of the Bend, Oregon.

McMenamins Old St. Francis School

A Catholic school turned welcoming hotel and local hangout, with a pub, brewery, movie theater and saltwater pool.


Perfectly situated between Deschutes National Forest and the Old Mill District for the best of both worlds with a Top 100 golf course with a view of the forest.

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Things to do around Central Oregon

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Arts and Culture in Central Oregon

Most people are familiar with Central Oregon's numerous outdoor activities. However, for a less strenuous day, check out the amazing animals and exhibits at the High Desert Museum followed by either a craft beer tasting and tour at one of the area's numerous breweries or a shopping trip to the Old Mill District. Looking for some world class entertainment? Check out a local production at the Tower Theater or an outdoor concert at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater.

Outdoor Adventure in Central Oregon

When in Bend, divide your days per activity. For the cyclists, Phil’s Trail is a classic XC mountain biking trail created by Phil Meglasson and others in the ‘80s. One can complete this 6.1-mile trail in about four hours as it has average difficulty. Bring a picnic with you to stop at a scenic spot for a snack!

If winter sports are more to your liking, Mt. Bachelor is a world-class ski and snowboarding destination open through May 29th. As the Pacific Northwest’s premier mountain destination, Mt Bachelor offers 4,300 skiable acres with 3,365 feet of vertical drop and 121 unique runs. The full-day lift tickets start at $65 and are often even less for spring skiing. In the summer you can “grip it and zip it” on the dual-line — a three-stage zipline tour that  launches from an elevation of 7,800 feet above the tree line at the top of Pine Marten lift and drops nearly 1,400 vertical feet along the volcanic slopes to make it the Northwest’s steepest, fastest and highest-elevation zip adventure. For less of an adrenaline rush, Mt. Bachelor also offers scenic mountain biking trails complete with a chairlift ride and dinner with a view.

Outdoor Leisure in Central Oregon

Central Oregon is filled with more golf courses than you can shake your club at. There are also hiking, fishing, paddling and boating opportunities a’plenty in the Cascade Lakes or at nearby Lake Billy Chinook and Cove Palisades State Park. Want to try your hand at fly fishing? Head out to the Deschutes River to hook some world class rainbow trout and steelhead.

After a fun-filled day on the lake or river of your choice, head back into Bend to relax and take a well-deserved scenic break at Mirror Pond and Drake Park before heading out for happy hour and dinner and drinks at one (or two) of Bend’s finest hot spots.

Day Trips from Central Oregon

Almost everything in Oregon is a day trip in itself and if you need some planning assistance, Wanderlust Tours offers year-round, half-day naturalist-guided tours and trips in Bend, Sunriver and Sisters, Oregon. They have been specializing in outdoor tours, activities and things to do in Central Oregon since 1993. 

If you are into rock climbing, you won't want to miss a trip to Smith Rock State Park, a great place to practice your skills, go for a scenic hike or just sit and enjoy the incredible view.

Northwest of Bend lies the nearby vibrant, artsy community and western-themed town of Sisters, Oregon — a great place for the cowboys and cowgirls, with an annual rodeo, quilt show and folk music festival to boot. This quaint town is named after the trio of towering peaks to its west, referred to fondly as “The Three Sisters”.

These three peaks are the third, fourth and fifth highest in Oregon and contain 16 named glaciers. The Sisters were originally named Faith, Hope and Charity by early colonizers, but are now known as the North Sister, Middle Sister and South Sister, respectively. 

The area surrounding Sisters (the Three Sisters Wilderness Area)  is a wonderland of lakes, mountains and rivers, a true paradise for hiking biking, paddling, fly-fishing and horseback riding.

From downtown Bend to the sagebrush of the high desert or the Cascade range, no matter where your adventures take you, you'll find a lifetime's worth of exploration and adventure in Central Oregon.

Eat & drink around Central Oregon

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Victorian Cafe: The “best” breakfast in all of Oregon. Get the eggs benedict!

Worthy Brewery: Great food, beer and stargazing at this local brewery. 

Boneyard Brewery: The “best” IPA in town!

Deschutes Brewery: The original Oregon brewery is worth a visit! 

Bos Taurus: Steak to die for in Bend, Oregon. 

Ariana: The most romantic restaurant in town serving inventive modern American cuisine. 

Jackalope Grill: The outdoor patio here is as if a secret portal into farm-to-table Oregon cuisine. 

Va Piano Vineyards Tasting Room: Walla Walla Wine tasting to try out the local wines. 

Crater Lake Distillery: Local handcrafted spirits. 

Oregon Spirits Distillery:  Sip a whiskey and catch a concert at this unique property. 

Chow: Sustainable restaurant serving delicious local wine. Try the candied bacon and bloody marys too!

Zydeco Kitchen: Cuisine with a southern twist. Try the shrimp and grits! 

Stihl Whiskey Bar: The most extended list of whiskey in town. 

The Dogwood Kitchen: Best craft cocktails in town (closed during the off-season). 

900 Wall: Stop by this American eatery for a happenin’ happy hour.

Need to Know

Getting to Central Oregon

Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) is the fourth largest commercial airport in Oregon. Air service is provided by Alaska, Allegiant, Aha!, American, Avelo, Delta and United Airlines. These carriers offer approximately 28 direct flights to Burbank, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

For more PNW travel tips, check out my complimentary Oregon guide, Things to do Outdoors in Bend, Oregon, and my Washington-based guide, Bavarian Escapade to Leavenworth, Washington.

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Erinn Maher Shaw

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