Summer in Central Oregon offers a feast for the adventurous and respite for the relaxers. Come 4th of July, add to that plenty of patriotism.
This year it falls on a Wednesday – possibly creating a whole FIVE-day weekend for a lot of people. It’ll be a great weekend to find a great hike, play some golf at one of the two dozen courses here or maybe get crazy with a whitewater rafting trip.
You couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate the 4th.
On the 4th, Bend features one of the quirkiest celebrations you’ll ever see – The annual 4th of July Pet Parade is exactly what it sounds like: Thousands of people and their pets parading through downtown in front of some 10,000 spectators. You’ll find all sorts of animals including cats, llamas, mini horses and a dog held airborne by balloons. (You just have to see it to believe it.) The parade starts at 1o a.m. and is immediately followed by an Old Fashioned 4th Celebration down the street in Drake Park. The party features food vendors, arts and craft booths, games for kids, music and much more.
Fireworks across Central Oregon
Bend: Pilot Butte, 10 p.m.
Redmond: Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, 10 p.m.
La Pine: Frontier Heritage Park, 10 p.m.
Prineville: Reservoir State Park, 10 p.m.
Madras: Sahalee Park, 10 p.m.
La Pine’s Frontier Days actually start on July 1st with a variety of family-friendly activities, cook-outs, live music and more. On the 4th the party starts at 7 a.m. with a “Woodcutter’s Breakfast” followed by a parade at 10:30.
You can officially kick off the weekend with the monthly First Friday Artwalk in downtown Bend. Yes, there’s art – lots of it. But Artwalk is more than that, as businesses keep their doors open later, and offer wine and spirits to create a very festive atmosphere in every small shop you walk in.
To see a full listing of all the events and activities slated for the July 4th holiday weekend, visit our Calendar.
But why not do something that really gets the heart pumping? Something that will have you equally scared and excited. Something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Central Oregon has a bunch of high-octane adventures ready to help you take your vacation to the next level. Here’s our list of 9 Central Oregon adventures that will send your ticker into overdrive!
1. Helicopter Tours
Your heart starts beating more rapidly as soon as you step on the tarmac and make your way to the chopper. From there, your BPM likely will hover in the 110s as the helicopter gains altitude and starts flying over some of Central Oregon’s most iconic mountain peaks. See Smith Rock, the Deschutes River, Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and South Sister like you’ve never seen before as the wind whips through the open doors of your aerial chariot. Big Mountain Heli Tours offers a variety of customizable tours.
2. Backcountry ATV Tours
Buckle up for the ultimate all-terrain adventure as you set out for a half-day tour of Central Oregon’s lava fields, forests, and high desert. Outriders NW offers you the opportunity to pilot the car or just ride along. With over 3,000 square miles of sparkling lakes, spectacular mountains, and wide-open deserts, safely access the rugged forest and high desert to explore and experience the unseen natural beauty, that most people never see in a lifetime.
3. Aerobatic Adventure Flights
For the person who wants to experience the thrills and joys of aerobatic flight without taking the controls. At Advanced Flight Dynamics, you come to their squadron, get your briefing, strap into the airplane, and set off for up to 20 minutes of extreme fun in their Xtreme Decathlon airplane while our pilot does all the flying. The pilots will fly as gentle or extreme as you like. When you return you can watch the video of your flight so all can watch and take it home with you.
4. Downhill Mountain Biking
As an extension to the 300+ miles of mountain bike singletrack offered here in Central Oregon, The Mt. Bachelor Bike Park offers lift-served access to an additional 13 miles of downhill oriented trails. The ski area’s beginner lift, Sunshine Accelerator serves as a great introduction to the bike park for all ability levels. From there, riders can progress to Pine Marten Express where a combination of machine built and single track trails provide a thrill for any adventurous spirit – from intermediate runs to advance double black diamond trails.
5. Rock Climbing at Smith Rock
Smith Rock is the birthplace of American sport climbing and on any given day you’ll see expert climbers scaling the sandstone spires that rise to the sky from the banks of the Crooked River. But here’s the thing: Even expert climbers had to start somewhere. Chockstone Climbing Guides has a variety of guided adventures and courses to let you experience the white-knuckle thrills of rock climbing. No experience necessary – and they provide all the gear.
I’m not sure there’s anything that will get your heart beating more rapidly than literally jumping off of a bridge. Just typing that sentence sent my heart racing. Central Oregon Bungee Adventures gives you the ability to experience the closest thing to actually flying by letting you throw yourself off a bridge at Peter Skene Ogden State Park, into the Crooked River Canyon.
8. Hot Air Balloon Rides
Experience “The Art of Flight” with Big Sky Balloon Company. Hour long scenic hot air balloon flights provide a one of a kind experience in Central Oregon. Big Sky flies once a day, early in the morning and the flights are very weather dependent. Typically they’re airborne within an hour of sunrise.
Not interested in flying in a balloon? You can just enjoy the scenery at the annual Balloons Over Bend event in late June.
9. Zip Lining
Crater Lake is just 90 minutes south of Bend, making it a perfect day trip for one of the true “must see” natural wonders of the world. Drive about a half hour further and you can experience Oregon’s largest zipline. You’ll experience Oregon at its finest on your 3-hour tour with Crater Lake ZipLine. With magnificent views of Upper Klamath Lake, Cascade Mountain peaks and surrounding National Forest, you’ll be thrilled by the beauty and the adventure.
Looking for some more exciting adventures?
Take your group into the woods for an hour of paintball action with Paintball Paradise. Test your investigative skills with the Bend Escape Room – a physical adventure game where participants are placed into a room and have to use teamwork along with elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit. Each room is themed and has a unique storyline that engages the players through their environment.
While we don’t condone rafting AND drinking beer, we can surely get behind rafting THEN drinking beer – two of the best parts about living in beautiful Central Oregon. Throw in a good cause and you’ve got one hell of a way to spend the afternoon.
Sun Country Tours is joining forces with Central Oregon breweries this summer for its popular Raft n’ Brew whitewater trips. The special edition Big Eddy Thriller ride happens every Wednesday at 4:30 through August 24th. The event includes a complimentary beer tasting after the whitewater adventure.
The goal is to highlight the scenic and wild Deschutes River, Central Oregon’s craft brewery scene and to give back to local non-profits. Half of all the proceeds from each Raft n’ Brew go to local charities such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation and the Habitat for Humanity.
Tickets for Raft n’ Brew are $59 each, and guests must be 21 or older.
Bend’s growing beer scene has seen numerous breweries expand facilities and pubs to accommodate their skyrocketing popularity.
But Worthy Brewing in Bend is taking its expansion to a new, intergalactic level.
Bend’s only East Side brewpub this spring opened the nation’s first “Hopservatory,” featuring a 50-foot tower that houses a 16-inch RCOS-based Ritchey-Chrétien telescope. Not familiar with that particular model? You can see REALLY far and REALLY clearly into the sky.
The Hopservatory will be run in partnership with the Sunriver Nature Center/Oregon Observatory, who will provide stargazing tour guides to help visitors navigate the skies above.
“Our goal is to raise scientific literacy and educate our visitors about big and unwieldy concepts like scale, size, time, distance, and speed in our solar system and beyond,” Worthy owner Roger Worthington says.
There’s open house viewing on Thursday and Sunday nights from 7 to 9 p.m and Saturday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. with resident sky guy, Grant Tandy. No need to register. Just show up the night of and take the stairs directly to the 3rd floor Hopservatory.
There’s a $5 fee for the tours but all of the proceeds will go to support science literacy programs and initiatives through the Worthy Garden Club, the brewery’s non-profit foundation. (Kids 5 and under are free.)
Additionally, Worthy has unveiled the Transporter Room, Hop Mahal Banquet Hall, the Beermuda Triangle private bar and the Star Bar balcony pub with access to the observatory and amazing views of the Central Oregon sunset. All the new projects are part of a 3,800-square-foot expansion collectively dubbed Beertopia.
The Hopservatory joins Worthy’s on-site gardens and greenhouse that grow more than 20 types of hops and other herbs used throughout the brewery’s beer and food menu.
“From our state-of-the-art solar panels to our spent hop recycling program, we try to keep our restaurant and brewery as sustainable as possible,” Worthington said. “This includes our grounds and gardens. Our landscape was designed to conserve water and support a healthy population of pollinators. We grow fresh herbs, greens, and veggies for the kitchen year-round in our high-tech greenhouse and raised garden beds, avoiding the use of harsh fertilizers and pesticides.”
The Central Oregon landscape is something to behold. From the snow-capped peaks to the wild and scenic rivers, the region is filled with picturesque scenes of pure, natural beauty.
And there’s no better way to soak it all in than from above.
“Big Mountain Heli Tours creates experiences. We will bring you to our secret hideaway locations and share our grand vistas with you. We’ll offer you the very best of our high desert playground, giving you memories you’ll relish long into the future.”
Big Mountain Heli Tours now offers half-hour or one-hour helicopter tours designed to “provide access to our playground to everyone, regardless of time or physical ability.”
Owner Patric Douglas says he realizes not everyone is able to hike up South Sister, Broken Top or Smith Rock’s Misery Ridge – but they’d sure like to be able to enjoy the views from the lofty peaks. Big Mountain turns an all-day adventure into a quick little outing that leaves guests breathless for entirely different reasons.
They like to say “you don’t buy a seat, you buy a helicopter.” What that means is you’re not heading up for some cookie-cutter, stale and boring tour from a robot sitting in the pilot’s seat. It means you get to direct the tour to fit your desires. Want to spend the whole time soaring over the river below? Cool. Want to get up close and personal to South Sister and Mt. Bachelor? Done.
They offer a handful of set tours, but once you’re in the air the agenda is flexible.
Looking for an extended helicopter experience paired with more Central Oregon adventures? Big Mountain has a selection of multi-day tours offerings as well. Enjoy a luxury 3-day helicopter retreat and horseback ride at the glamping haven of Ranch of the Canyons near Smith Rock State Park. There’s also a fly fishing and horseback tour, winery tour and an adrenaline-pumping heli sky diving adventure available.
The tours originate at both the Bend Airport and the Sunriver Airport.
There’s a lot of really interesting history to Bend, Oregon and, as it turns out, the best way to experience it might just be on a futuristic device.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of hopping aboard a Segway before I visited The Bend Tour Company recently. I’d seen them gliding around town, but I was certain that I’d find a way to crash the ride and injure myself. (More on that in a minute.)
But one of the first things owner Bret Graham explains is that it’s impossible to tip over a Segway – either forward or backward. A quick introduction to the devices inside his store in Bend’s new Box Factory retail space revealed it was a lot like snowboarding – shifting your weight from your toes to your heels. And after an initial nervous lap around his indoor beginner course, it was actually easier than I thought it would be.
We made a short lap around the parking lot to make sure we knew what we were doing and we were off – a perfect adventure on an 80-degree day in May.
Bret offers several different tour options each day, including an Arts Tour, Brew Taps Tour and two and a half hour Summer Sunset Tour that includes the history and attractions on his traditional tours, but with stops at various brewpubs for samples (or a pint) and some food. That tour wraps up at the Crux Fermentation Project where the view of the sun setting behind the Cascades is absolutely spectacular. (Looking for a little more adrenaline rush during your vacation? Check out the heli-tours offered through BTC.)
His classic tour is an hour and a half history lesson on Bend as you roll through the Old Mill District, along the Deschutes River and through some of Bend’s original neighborhoods. He talks of Bend’s logging background and tells the story behind “Whisky Flats.” We stopped in front of Bend’s “2nd Most Haunted Place” and learned about a particularly interesting steel pole on the bank of the river.
The tour itself is an educational experience even for long-time locals like myself. I learned about a street in town that features homes with 17 different architectural designs, I saw Bend’s “greenest” home and I saw the spot of Bend’s very first brewery. (Hint: It’s NOT Deschutes Brewery.)
Speaking of breweries, we did make our way to Boneyard Brewing for a quick sample before calling our abbreviated tour a success. Well, mostly a success. One of the riders on our tour proved true what Bret told us during our orientation: it’s impossible to tip them over, and it’s nearlyimpossible to crash. (He – and the Segway – are fine.)
As we rolled back into the shop – literally – I was already planning ahead. My brother, an avid cyclist who lives in Nebraska has said he wants to explore Bend on two wheels – but he didn’t say it had to be by bike.
Now, if we can only figure out how to do a wheelie.
I don’t hate it, but I’m not a huge fan. I can swim just fine so I can’t explain it, really – other than lakes, rivers and oceans seem so massive to me that it’s overwhelming.
So I’ve always passed on opportunities to do the Big Eddy Thrill Ride with Sun Country Tours. The hugely popular whitewater trip takes rafters through a couple of Class 2 and a Class 3 rapids on the Deschutes River. Kids do it. The elderly do it. I think even dogs do it. It’s not – so I’ve been told – a scary proposition.
So with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees recently, and it being the first of Sun Country’s “Raft n’ Brew” charity events, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to overcome my fear and tackle the trip. (Knowing there’s beer at the end was a huge incentive.) And when it’s that hot, falling into the cool waters of the Deschutes wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
After checking in to Sun Country’s Bend offices, just off of 14th Street, we loaded a school bus and headed out for a 10 minute ride to the put-in between Benham Falls and Lava Island Falls. We were given life vests and paddles and – wasting no time at all – were split up into three rafts and got out on the water. Our guide Ross talked a little bit about the water levels on the river (which is regulated for irrigation channels upriver.) The river was flowing at levels higher than he had seen in numerous years despite the drought conditions. What that meant for us – gulp – was the rapids would be especially rapidy.
Things to remember:
* You WILL get wet. Really wet. (See photo above.) So don’t wear your nice shoes or clothes. A swimsuit and sandals (not flip flops) are great.
* Remember sunscreen.
* Kids 6+ will have an absolute blast.
* Don’t show up drunk or with beer. This isn’t a lazy river float.
* Be cool & tip your guide.
We floated along for a while in the gentle current, taking in the amazing scenery along the banks. A lava field on one side, a national forest on the other where hikers and mountain bikers passed each other along the Deschutes River Trail. We talked a little bit about paddling and floated some more before Ross started talking to us about what to expect with the rapids.
After a fun little rapids section, we floated to a take-out spot just above Big Eddy. Everyone got out of the boat and hiked about 30 yards on the trail down river to get a better view of the rapids to come. Ross talked to us some more about what to expect and the need for paddling through it. (And threatening to withold our beer at the end if we didn’t paddle.)
Seeing that section before heading into it was really helpful for us/me. Sure, it looked kind of scary but I felt a little better about the situation thanks to everyone’s excitement and Ross assuring us that you’d have to do something really dumb to fall out of the raft.
We hopped back into the raft and took the lead among the group; our heartbeats escalating along with the river currents as we paddled into the swirling waves of water.
Just a few seconds later we were sent into the swells….”Paddle Paddle Paddle!” Ross yelled from the back of the raft as buckets of water dumped upon us…a short break then another round. “Here we go! Paddle!” he yelled again, urging us to guide the raft through the torrent and toward a small, calm cove tucked next to some lava. As quickly as it began, it was over. From there watched the other two rafts go through Big Eddy – their smiles as big as ours.
We paddled through more smaller, rolling rapids before reaching completely calm waters again where some folks decided to jump into the cool river to float a bit on their backs.
After about an hour and a half on the water, we floated to the take-out just above Lava Island Falls where our bus was waiting to take us the short distance back to Sun Country HQ. There, out back on a grassy patio we sampled a few Deschutes Brewery beers, had some snacks and talked about how much fun we just had.
My only complaint is that it was so much fun I wished it had been longer. (Sun Country does offer longer tours including half-day and all-day trips.)
I still don’t like water. But with adventures like Big Eddy right in my own back yard, it’s a new relationship I’m interested in exploring.
Whether it’s a relaxing mid-week paddle or a wild weekend float — one of the best ways to beat the summer heat in Central Oregon is to head for the Deschutes River.
Winding through the Old Mill District in Bend, the Deschutes is a quick, easy way to cool off without doing too much work.
You don’t even need your own floatie! Sun Country Tours rents tubes and paddle boards right where most people put in at Riverbend Park.
The dog days of summer really are the best, unless of course you’re wearing a fur coat. The Riverbend dog park on the bank of the Deschutes is the perfect spot for Fido to get some exercise without overheating.
The area isn’t called “The High Desert” for nothing…so when things really heat up a trip to the High Cascade Lakes is in order. There are lots of different lakes to choose from but Sparks Lake is one of the most popular for flat water paddling. Around every corner, there’s a new view to take in and unofficial camping spots allow a day you never want to end to do, just that!
A few more miles down the Cascade Lakes Highway and you’ll hit Elk Lake. Staggering mountain views and warm water make Elk Lake, the destination for tourists and locals alike.
If you’re up for something a little more thrilling than relaxing,how about whitewater rafting? Sun Country runs trips daily and kids as young as six years old can get in on the fun.
You know that saying “no bad days”? So long as you have something to float on — that’s exactly what it feels like to be in Central Oregon during the summer.
During the dog days of summer, one of your best options to beat the heat is to head up to the high lakes and splash around. But when you’re on vacation with the family sometimes all you want to do is go and relax at the pool. Luckily, Central Oregon has a handful of great places to soak up the sun in between cooling off in the water.
The Sunriver Homeowners Aquatic and Recreation Center (SHARC) is a village of water. It has indoor and outdoor pools, water slides, a lazy river, hot tubs and plenty of space for kids to splash and play. If surfing is in your past, present or future, try Mavericks indoor wave rider. You’ll emerge either soaking wet or as dry as local surfing legend Gerry Lopez (a Bend resident, by the way) riding a curl.
A relatively new addition to Sunriver Resort is The Cove. The] swimming and outdoor recreation facility has a giant zero-entry pool and hot tub, private cabanas, a waterslide, nature discovery area, lakeside trails and a spacious deck and lawn. Need a bite to eat? The Spotted Frog serves poolside beverages and fare.
Right in the middle of Bend, the Juniper Swim and Fitness Center is a cool water oasis that offers a 50-meter outdoor pool (domed in winter for four-season use) and its indoor 25-meter pool. There’s a fun little water recreation park outside too with shallow water and lots of fun features for the kids, including a water slide that’s open to big kids too.
After you drag the kids from antique shop to antique shop in downtown Redmond, reward them with an hour or so at the splash park on the corner of Evergreen and 7th. It’s the perfect place to let the kids run around to cool off – and there’s a coffee hut on site so you can refuel for the rest of your day’s adventures.
Black Butte Ranch recently opened a new lakeside pool with a year-round outdoor hot tub and new rec center. The pool offers outside dining and poolside service with a nearby playground. As far as views go, you can’t get any better than this when lounging poolside.
If you’re looking for a little more adrenaline rush while cooling off, Sun Country Tours offers the famous Big Eddy Thriller whitewater trip for families in addition to other rafting adventures. Ouzel Outfitters also provides guided excursions including half/full day trips, multi-day trips or custom adventures tailored to you and your family.