Connecting with Culture – High Desert Heritage

The Tower Theatre exterior in Downtown Bend, Oregon

Over the past two decades, Central Oregon’s communities have embraced the arts and made them an integral part of local life as well as an attraction for visitors. A walk through downtown Bend and the Old Mill District during one of the first Fridays of the month says it all. Paintings, sculptures and photography are on display in galleries, retail shops, offices and on sidewalks.

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First Friday at The Hub Cyclery in downtown Bend

Throngs of people turn out no matter what the weather brings. Musicians on the streets and in the shops enhance the festive atmosphere. Art in the High Desert, a juried outdoor art show in August, is also a great local place to see world-class art.

People at outdoor art festival in Bend, Oregon

Beyond Bend’s First Friday Art Walks, summer and fall street festivals in the region feature fantastic works of art. Notably, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has become an internationally famous event, attracting quilt makers from around the globe to show off their works outdoors throughout the town. The quilt show also includes seminars and workshops for quilters.

Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show Poster

On permanent display in the art scene, The Museum at Warm Springs in the town of the same name features one of the finest collections of Native American art and artifacts in the West. Handcrafted tribal treasures here include Patlapa, basket hats worn for ceremonies such as root, salmon and huckleberry feasts, and Sahaptin, painted rawhide cases which the Columbia Plateau people used throughout history for storage, packing and trading. Make this part of any of your Central Oregon cultural itineraries.

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Focusing on the flora, fauna and pioneer history of Central Oregon, the High Desert Museum south of Bend combines indoor dioramas, outdoor displays featuring birds of prey and live demonstrations of everyday pioneer life. A must-stop for families, the museum is also noted for presenting the best in contemporary landscape painting and photography.

Hawk in flight during show at High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

Moving from art to music, Central Oregon runs the gamut. For big-concert lovers, the Les Schwab Amphitheater along the Deschutes River in Bend presents national and international acts.

The Athletic Club of Bend also showcases top-name acts for its summer series of evening outdoor concerts. Redmond hosts a summer concert series as well, featuring well-established and up-and-coming regional musicians. A quick check of the local media when in Central Oregon reveals a lively music scene at local clubs year-round.

Folk music is alive not only at local clubs but at outdoor events such as the regular Pickin’ and Paddlin’ concerts on the lawn at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe in Bend’s Old Mill District.

Pickin' & Paddlin at Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe

The center stage of folk music in Central Oregon is the annual Sisters Folk Festival, which deftly combines big-name acts with neophytes to the scene. Held September 5-7, the event features a number of indoor and outdoor venues throughout Sisters.

Classical music lovers should plan to visit in August during the Sunriver Music Festival. The venue is Sunriver Resort’s dramatic, historic, giant-log-beamed Great Hall, which hosts eight concerts from classical pops to piano.

While in Sunriver, take an educational jaunt to the Oregon Observatory and Sunriver Nature Center for constellations and owls.

Exterior of building at sunset in Sunriver, Oregon

Jazz fans can enjoy the Jazz at The Oxford series that runs fall through spring at the Oxford Hotel in Bend. And there’s the regular Jazz at Joe’s series that takes place at Bend’s Community Theater of the Cascades (CTC).

When not hosting music events, CTC offers a full schedule of dramas, comedies and musicals. So, too, with Bend’s 2nd Street Theater.

Offering its own mix of theater, film, music and lectures, the historic Tower Theatre is the crown jewel of downtown Bend. The theater also serves as the host location during the annual BendFilm Festival weekend that celebrates independent film and filmmakers. A new free, guided walk of downtown Bend is available whenever you want. Just download the new Bend Heritage Walk app at, and discover the colorful past of this frontier boomtown through its oldest buildings.

Northwest Crossing Saturday Farmers Market

And as the region’s creative community expands and evolves, so too does its farmers markets. Bend hosts three distinct markets from May until October—one in the heart of downtown, one on the grounds of St. Charles Medical Center and a third in Bend’s NorthWest Crossing neighborhood. Redmond holds a regular Thursday evening farmers market. All of these markets, taken together, promote Central Oregon’s farm-to-table culture and is the perfect place to stock up for a picnic.

While on an agricultural theme, try Maragas Winery’s old-fashioned annual grape crush in September. Purple hands are the signs of a true vintner. Chef Bette Fraser also offers culinary tours and classes through her Well Traveled Fork enterprise.

With its diversity of theaters, museums, art galleries and concert venues, Central Oregon is the place for a diverse cultural scene with a spectacular backdrop.

Visit Central Oregon
Visit Central Oregon
Visit Central Oregon is the "Official" Tourism Information Resource for Central Oregon, including the communities of Bend, Sunriver, Redmond, Sisters, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Crooked River Ranch, Terrebonne, Culver, Warm Springs, and Black Butte Ranch.
Visit Central Oregon

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