Top Things to Do in Central Oregon
With four seasons of outdoor adventure, spacious shopping centers, innovative entrepreneurs, creative craft beverage producers, and countless family attractions, the hardest thing about staying busy in Central Oregon isn’t finding things to do—it’s figuring out how to fit it all into one trip.
We can’t help with that last one—other than perhaps suggesting you book a second trip—but we nevertheless want to show off the wonderful ways to pass your time in Central Oregon. Whether you’re a solo adventurer looking to get outdoors, sipping your way through Bend’s craft 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. So wherever you are around the region, and whatever you’re into, here’s our ultimate guide to things to do in Central Oregon.
Best Things to Do by
Central Oregon Location
We get it: Central Oregon covers a lot of ground—from the dusty high desert where the Crooked River cuts through rocky ridges to lush pine forests to volcanic landscapes to snow-capped Cascade peaks. And no matter where you wind up, you’ll find plenty to love. Here’s a breakdown of some of the region’s largest communities, along with more than a few travel ideas for Central Oregon.
Things to Do in and Near Bend, Oregon
While it’s far from the only community in Central Oregon worth visiting, it’s worth acknowledging: Bend is the most well-known city in the region. Far and away the most populated city in Central Oregon, Bend is where you’ll find the most craft breweries, restaurants, outfitters, lodgings, and services. So whether you’re making the city your home base or want to spend the weekend hanging out around town, here’s a list of fun things to do in Bend, Oregon—and beyond.
Visit Tumalo Falls: The 97-foot-tall Tumalo Falls is among the most popular outdoor destinations anywhere in Central Oregon, and it’s easy to see why: Just 35 minutes west of Bend, the waterfall tumbles over a basalt cliff a short walk from the day-use area’s parking lot. The impressive cascade sits surrounded by a verdant pine forest, making it an easy photo op, but hiking trails ascend beyond the waterfall and along Tumalo Creek—offering views of other waterfalls away from the crowds. Try to hike Tumalo Falls on a weekday for a quieter experience (and easier parking); if that’s not possible, try to visit by 9 a.m. (And if you want to hit the trail elsewhere around the region, check out our page on hiking in Central Oregon.)
Head out to Mount Bachelor and Sparks Lake along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: You won’t find a higher concentration of mountain views and scenic lakes anywhere in Central Oregon than along the 66-mile Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Usually open between June and October, the highway passes some of the region’s most notable peaks (including Mt. Bachelor, which hosts chairlift rides, a mountain bike park, ziplining, and other activities each summer) and dozens of crystal-clear lakes (including Sparks Lake, accessible via a gravel road and noted for its striking view of South Sister).
Stroll the Old Mill District along the Deschutes River: Named for the lumber mills that once processed ponderosa pine trees in Bend, the Old Mill District today is a bustling destination just south of downtown. Straddling the Deschutes River, the Old Mill District is where visitors and locals shop at more than 40 stores (from boutiques to big-name brands), sip wine, enjoy high-quality cuisine at more than a dozen restaurants, check out murals, go to the movies, float the river, stretch their legs, and even catch a live show from national touring acts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
Check out Bend’s craft beer scene: With nearly two dozen craft breweries dotting the city, it’s no wonder Bend is a premier destination for craft beer geeks. The city is home to some of the biggest breweries in Oregon (such as Deschutes Brewery), some of the most acclaimed (including Crux Fermentation Project), a few of the most creative (like The Ale Apothecary), and even a few whose great beers are matched only by their outstanding views of the Deschutes River (Bend Brewing Company comes to mind). Thirsty yet? Learn more about breweries and cideries in Bend, Oregon.
Take a guided tour: Not sure where to start? Let someone else lead the way with a guided tour to Central Oregon’s best outings. Around the region, you’ll find brewery, wine, and distillery tours that take you behind the scenes for an up-close look at Central Oregon’s craft beverage producers; snowmobile tours that head into the snowy Cascades backcountry; bike tours on Bend’s many trails; hot air balloon rides over the Central Oregon high desert; rip-roaring ATV rides through the region’s badlands; and more. View our page on Central Oregon trails to see what kind of experiences you can enjoy around the region, and get the skinny on Central Oregon tours that cater to a variety of interests.
Ready to plan your next trip? Check out our page on visiting Bend, Oregon, for all you need to make your next outing an unforgettable adventure.
Things to Do in Redmond, Oregon
For years, Redmond hid in plain sight—Bend’s smaller, quieter neighbor to the north. But no more. With a thriving culinary scene, growing craft beer scene, bustling downtown district, and close proximity to all manner of outdoor recreation, Redmond is a destination in its own right these days. Here’s a look at things to do in Redmond, Oregon.
Cross Smith Rock State Park off your bucket list: No matter your favorite outdoor activity, chances are good you’ll find it at the most popular state park in Central Oregon. Smith Rock State Park is home to thousands of climbs on its stunning rock formations; several miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails; countless photo ops; golden eagles, river otters, mule deer, and other wildlife; a walk-in campground between early spring and late fall; and more. Try to visit before 9 a.m. or on weekdays, especially in late spring and summer, for a bit more solitude and your best chance to snag a parking spot.
Find your next favorite meal: Redmond is home to creative chefs and enterprising restaurateurs who’ve opened everything from popular food carts to fine-dining establishments around town in recent years. Today, the city boasts cuisines from all over the world, meals prepared with locally sourced ingredients, Central Oregon institutions, and more. Check out our page on restaurants in Redmond for more on the city’s thriving culinary scene.
Head underground at the Redmond Caves Recreation Site: At the southern edge of town sits the Redmond Caves Recreation Site, which hosts five caves formed by volcanic lava flows that originated from Newberry Volcano. The small caves remain cool year-round, even on hot summer days, and invite outdoor enthusiasts to head into a cave system that had been used by Native Americans for 6,000 years. Best of all: The caves are mostly tall enough for visitors to stand up in and don’t require any specialized spelunking skills. (Just watch for rattlesnakes, bring multiple sources of light, and be sure to wear sturdy shoes.)
Sample Redmond’s craft beer scene: Redmond is home to the second-oldest brewery in Central Oregon (Cascade Lakes Brewing Company), and a handful of innovators have grown up around town over the years. Today, visitors can enjoy English-style “real ales” at Porter Brewing Co., sample the wide range of ales and lagers at Wild Ride Brewing and Kobold Brewing, drink creative takes on classic offerings at Initiative Brewing—and try the best of the city’s beer at brew pubs, food cart pods, and bottle shops around town. Learn more about craft beer in Redmond for a closer look at the city’s suds.
If you’re curious about what else the city has to offer, learn more about how to plan your vacation in Redmond, Oregon.
Things to Do in Sunriver, Oregon
The resort community of Sunriver sits just 20 minutes south of Bend—but boasts enough fun to make it a destination on its own. (There’s a reason, after all, that Sunriver Resort is among the most popular family vacation spots in all of Central Oregon.) Whether you’re staying in and around town or want to explore the natural wonders nearby, here’s a look at some of our favorite things to do in Sunriver, Oregon.
Hit the links on the golf courses around Sunriver: The community’s Sunriver Resort offers four courses totaling 63 holes—all surrounded by some of the most scenic views anywhere in Central Oregon. No less an authority than Golf Digest has called Sunriver’s Crosswater Golf Course (reserved for course members and resort guests) one of the 100 greatest courses in the United States, for instance. But Sunriver’s other courses feature graceful fairways, several water features, holes lined by volcanic lava flows, and more—all for novices and veterans alike. (Curious about the courses around Sunriver—and throughout the region? Check out our page on golf in Central Oregon.)
Take a trip back in time at Lava Lands Visitor Center: Central Oregon’s explosive landscape was formed by countless volcanic eruptions—and there’s no better place to learn about that natural history than at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. The interpretive and educational hub of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is open May-October and includes a 3-D map of the region, interpretive exhibits, an on-site bookstore, fully accessible hiking paths through lava flows, and more.
See what’s new at The Village at Sunriver: The open-air shopping center in the heart of Sunriver offers fun for the whole family all year long. The Village at Sunriver is home to numerous boutique shops, an art gallery showcasing work from local artists, the esteemed Sunriver Brewing Company (which offers a spacious play area for the little ones), and a variety of restaurants sure to please every palate. In winter, the village hosts an ice rink where families can go skating; in summer, it offers an 18-hole mini golf course.
Looking for other fun ideas for your next trip to the charming resort community? Plan your visit to Sunriver, Oregon, today.
Things to Do in Sisters, Oregon
With wooden sidewalks and old-timey buildings lining downtown, the community of Sisters feels like a step back in time. Embracing the rugged nature of the Old West, Sisters harkens back to a bygone era while at the same time catering to travelers with modern sensibilities—travelers in search of good food, drink, and outdoor opportunities. Here’s a rundown of things to do in Sisters, Oregon.
Explore the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway: The 82-mile McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway begins in Sisters—but quickly leaves its city views behind for a journey into the heart of Oregon history. The byway ascends to the summit of the Cascades, passes ancient lava flows, twists and turns in the shadow of mountain peaks, descends into a lush forest, and starts its return to Sisters by following the majestic McKenzie River. You can drive the byway in just a few hours, but campgrounds and the bucolic Belknap Hot Springs invite visitors to spend a night or two surrounded by the powerful landscapes.
Peruse the art galleries in downtown Sisters: Artists have long found inspiration in (and around) Sisters—so it’s no surprise that more than a dozen art galleries have opened around town. You’ll find all manner of media on display, from paintings and jewelry to garden art and bronze pieces, at galleries throughout the downtown core. And chances are good the person ringing you up at the register produced your newest piece.
Get out of town: We know we promised things to do in Sisters, but hear us out: There’s no shortage of natural wonder just beyond Sisters city limits. Hike along—or fly-fish in—the cool, clear waters of the Metolius River; spend a night in the quiet community of Camp Sherman; gaze into the rimrock canyon lining Whychus Creek; paddle the scenic Suttle Lake; or shred the dirt paths on the Peterson Ridge trail system just outside of town. Because when you’re in Sisters, you’re never far from fun.
Want to learn more about the Old West community? Visit Sisters, Oregon, for details on some of the area’s most celebrated lodging, the city’s charming downtown core, and to find your next favorite meal.
Things to Do in Prineville, Oregon
Prineville sits at the eastern edge of the Central Oregon high desert—and at the western edge of the rolling Ochoco Mountains—making it a unique home base for exploring the area’s disparate landscapes. Whether you’re hopping in the saddle, hitting the trail, or hanging out around town, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in Prineville.
Ride the Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway: Take the road less traveled with a ride along the Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway. The 37-mile round-trip ride begins in town before heading south—where it quickly enters the heart of a stunning river canyon before following the Crooked River, passing in the shadow of jagged rock formations, and ending at the western tip of the Prineville Reservoir. This ride’s moderate elevation gains make it a fun warm-up ride in spring—and seasonal colors make it a particularly breathtaking ride in fall. (Looking for other opportunities to see our scenic wonder from the saddle? Explore Central Oregon biking for more ideas and tips for getting started.)
Head outside on the hiking trails around Prineville: The river canyons and ponderosa pine forests around Prineville are home to some of Central Oregon’s most scenic—yet less-frequented—hiking trails. The four-mile round-trip hike to Steins Pillar, for instance, ends at a 350-foot column of rhyolite ash that towers over the surrounding forest. And just 20 minutes south of Prineville, the 2.6-mile round-trip trek along the Chimney Rock Trail ends at a (surprise!) chimney-shaped basalt rock formation—and showcases sweeping views of the Central Oregon high desert along the way.
Eat and drink your way through town: Prineville might not be the biggest community in Central Oregon, but it hosts a number of restaurants, bars, and gathering spots that make it a fun town to while away an evening in. The western-themed Dillon’s Grill, for instance, boasts a meat-forward menu that leans heavily on burgers, barbecue, steak, and seafood. (Save room for the ribs, in particular; they’re a local favorite.) Nearby Crooked Roots Brewing crafts its own beer and cider—and pours more than two dozen ales and lagers, ciders, meads, wines, seltzers, and more from throughout the Pacific Northwest. And the Corral Tap Room, sitting at the western edge of downtown, offers a laid-back community gathering place—complete with an indoor taproom, a handful of food trucks, and plenty of outdoor seating that includes a fire pit.
Getting excited for your next trip? Travel to Scenic Prineville, Oregon, for natural beauty, excellent fishing, home-spun cuisine, and more.
Things to Do in La Pine, Oregon
Near the southern edge of Central Oregon, La Pine sits at an unusual crossroads in the region: To the west are the Cascades and a pair of popular reservoirs, to the north sit the ponderosa pine forests for which the city is named, and to the east is the rocky heart of the Newberry Volcanic National Monument. Naturally, that makes La Pine a fun place from which to explore the outlying attractions nearby.
Explore Central Oregon’s volcanic past: La Pine sits just a half-hour southwest of the Newberry Volcano caldera—the heart of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the site of some of summer’s most exciting outdoor recreation. Several campgrounds line a pair of lakes within the caldera (which makes the lakes attractive destinations for paddlers), hiking trails crisscross the caldera interior, the Big Obsidian Flow trail passes through hillsides covered in glassy volcanic rock, the scenic Paulina Creek Falls offer a breathtaking diversion, and the summit of Paulina Peak—accessible by car or hiking trail—offers views of not just the caldera interior, but the sweeping expanse of Central Oregon.
Head into the Cascades: Just a half-hour from La Pine sit several lakes and reservoirs that are synonymous with Central Oregon’s natural beauty. Wickiup Reservoir is one of Central Oregon’s most popular fishing holes, thanks to its cool, deep channels that host some of the region’s biggest trout. Nearby, Crane Prairie Reservoir is known as a wildlife-viewing destination because it routinely attracts large numbers of nesting and migrating birds. And just a 20-minute drive north of Crane Prairie leads, Little Lava Lake is both a popular fishing hole and the source of the mighty Deschutes River.
Sip a fruity beverage at Legend Cider: Since August 2019, Legend Cider has made a name for itself by crafting an exciting, if unexpected lineup of craft ciders in the heart of La Pine. The cider maker bypasses straightforward “dry” and “sweet” ciders for fruity flavor profiles—including one made from grapes grown in the Columbia River Gorge; another mimicking the taste of strawberry lemonade; another incorporating Oregon-grown raspberries; and so forth. Legend also bypasses artificial sweeteners, flavors, and fruit concentrate, leading to cleaner, crisper flavors.
Need a little more inspiration for your next trip to the area? Check Out La Pine, Oregon, for other ideas for making the most of your trip.
Family Friendly Things to Do with Kids
For generations, families have come together around the campfire, in the outdoors, and at resorts throughout Central Oregon; it’s not uncommon to hear, for instance, that a parent chooses their campsites, restaurants, and activities based on their own experiences as a child.
Is it any wonder? After all, Central Oregon is home to myriad activities that offer active, educational, and engaging fun for the whole family. Here’s a look at just a few of the family-friendly things to do with kids around Central Oregon.
Explore the wild side of Central Oregon at Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory: There may be no finer way to get kids into science than with a visit to the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory. The museum hosts a variety of creatures (including snakes, lizards, and frogs), a botanical garden that’s home to wildflowers in spring and summer, live raptors (including owls, hawks, and an eagle), and numerous hands-on activities. At night, more than a dozen telescopes peer into the sky and show off stars, planets, and other celestial wonders at the nature center’s observatory.
Visit the renowned High Desert Museum: Kids of all ages love the educational exhibits—and wildlife displays—that make the High Desert Museum such an enjoyable attraction, just five minutes south of Bend. Exhibits explore the history of Native American and European settlement in Central Oregon, as well as the natural history of the region, while wildlife displays include an active porcupine, numerous lizards and snakes, playful river otters, and even a few raptors (such as owls and eagles) that are unable to survive in the wild.
Let the little ones run wild at Sam Johnson Park: At the western edge of downtown Redmond sits the popular Sam Johnson Park, which routinely teems with family activity on sunny afternoons. The park offers barbecue grills, picnic tables, colorful play structures, restrooms, a tennis court, and other useful amenities (like on-site restrooms) that’ll keep kids busy—and parents happy—all day long.
Enjoy a bike ride around Sunriver: More than 40 miles of paved (and mostly protected) trails crisscross Sunriver, making it a low-key home base for a fun family bike ride. Families can ride to the community’s most popular attractions, as well as the Lava Lands Visitor Center and Benham Falls day-use area nearby. Landscapes along the way include stately pine forests, the rambling Deschutes River, and scattered lava flows—so if you’re curious about the area’s wide range of environments, discover the nature of Central Oregon.
Looking for other ideas for family fun around the region? Check out our page on kid-friendly things to do in Central Oregon for a bit of inspiration.
Indoor Ideas in Central Oregon
Central Oregon might be known for our outdoor fun—but there’s plenty to do inside, too. Here are a few of our favorite activities around the region.
Hit the gas pedal at K1 Speed: Bend is home to the region’s only K1 Speed indoor go-kart racing track, designed specifically for the massive warehouse space. Using K1’s specially crafted electric karts, drivers can achieve speeds of 40 mph or more on a winding track—while other attractions include a virtual reality experience, arcade games, and a lounge serving food and drink.
Bounce around the Trampoline Zone: You could spend days at the Trampoline Zone and still only scratch the surface of what the Bend-based outpost has to offer. In addition to more than 50 trampoline beds, the park hosts six interactive climbing walls, a thrilling laser maze, a challenging ninja course, and even several pickleball courts for the whole family.
Have a whole lotta fun at Sun Mountain Fun Center: It’s right there in the name: Sun Mountain Fun Center delivers fun—and lots of it—for the whole family. Nestled near the north end of Bend, the park’s indoor attractions include 18 bowling lanes, a chaotic bumper-car course, laser tag, a virtual reality attraction, billiards, and a massive arcade with crowd-pleasing favorites. (Of course, you’ll find plenty of outdoor fun, too—including go-karts, an 18-hole mini golf course, batting cages, and even carnival rides.)
For other ideas on how to keep busy around the region, check out our page on activities in Central Oregon.
Explore Nature’s Beauty
From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.