We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true: When you come to Central Oregon, you can’t spend your whole trip on outdoor adventures. (We’ll give you bonus points for trying, though.)
So consider taking part in a thriving arts-and-culture scene that stretches across the region. You’ll find a renowned folk festival in Sisters, cozy live music venues in Bend, a historic movie theater in Prineville, and so much more. And as an added bonus: At least some of our beloved performing arts venues are, in fact, outdoors.
So if you’re looking to check out our performing arts scene, home to local performers and national acts alike, here’s how to enjoy the screen and stage in Central Oregon.
Screen & Stage Around Bend and Sunriver
Bend isn’t just the outdoor capital (or beer capital!) of Central Oregon; it’s also the region’s cultural capital, as well. All over town, venues showcase performers, films, and more in venues large and small.
For live music, Hayden Homes Amphitheater routinely packs its summer and early-fall schedule with some of the world’s top performers—including Kenny Chesney, Alanis Morrisette, Jack Johnson, The Chicks, and comedian Jim Gaffigan—alongside the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District. For a more intimate experience, Volcanic Theatre Pub sits in a converted warehouse—and boasts a state-of-the-art sound system for hosting up-and-coming musicians, as well as live theater and other special events. The Tin Pan Theater, which is also a boutique, intimate theater in Bend, shows films year-round in addition to showcasing the BendFilm Festival. This festival runs every October for 2-3 days screening a variety of independent films throughout the community. And the Midtown Ballroom, residing in a building that dates back more than 100 years, regularly hosts established acts in its popular concert hall.
Perhaps the most iconic venue in town, however, might be the Tower Theatre. Located in the heart of downtown, the theater’s iconic neon marquee first flickered on in 1940; these days, the 466-seat auditorium routinely shows live music, author events, free (family-friendly) feature films, and other performances. And while it’s not a big-screen attraction itself, the last Blockbuster video store on Earth is based in Bend and honors that legacy by renting thousands of films and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray.
And what it lacks in the number of venues, Sunriver makes up for with a refined sense of elegance. The annual Sunriver Music Festival, which takes place every August, features classical music performances from renowned musicians—with marquee concerts in the Historic Great Hall at Sunriver Resort. On your way to the show, be sure to grab dinner from some of the top restaurants in Sunriver, Oregon.
Screen & Stage Around Sisters and Redmond
Sisters is best known for its art galleries, but a creative culture permeates the screen and stage around town, as well.
Looking to kick back with the latest blockbuster, award-winning documentary, or buzz-worthy arthouse film? See it all at Sisters Movie House, a locally owned theater that’s housed in a building that resembles a barn. Inside, however, Sisters Movie House boasts four screens that show a variety of films—and pairs it all with concessions that include locally brewed beer and light meals (such as grain bowls, panini, wraps, and more traditional fare).
If you’re around town and want to see some live music, see what’s new at The Belfry. The community event center routinely hosts touring musicians that run the gamut of genres—singer-songwriters, tribute acts, and so forth.
And at the end of every summer, the entire town of Sisters becomes a stage when the Sisters Folk Festival takes over for three action-packed days. Each year, the festival comprises dozens of live performances spanning a variety of genres (from jazz and Celtic music to, well, folk musicians) at seven venues throughout Sisters.
And in nearby Redmond, the High Desert Music Hall has made a name for itself as a venue that attracts a mix of regional and national musicians on their tours through the Pacific Northwest. It even hosts Redmond’s Music & Arts Festival, which showcases more than a dozen live music performances, workshops, and more every summer.
And if you’re looking to catch the latest hit movie, see what’s playing at the Redmond Cinema, a family-owned-and-operated theater that’s been screening the hits since 1987.
Screen & Stage Around Madras
Madras may not get the lion’s share of touring acts in Central Oregon—but nevertheless boasts an under-the-radar performing arts scene that warrants a deeper dive.
The 600-seat Madras Performing Arts Center, for instance, boasts state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment—and regularly hosts a mix of arthouse films, high-school theater productions, comedy acts, and even concerts from local students.
And as you head north or south along Highway 97 through town, chances are good you’ll see the vibrant neon sign for Madras Cinema 5—a locally owned movie theater that screens a handful of the latest blockbusters. Every Tuesday, all movie tickets are just $5.
Screen & Stage Around Prineville
Nestled at the eastern edge of Central Oregon, Prineville is home to one of the region’s most iconic screen-and-stage outposts: the Pine Theater, which opened in 1938 and remains a fun destination for moviegoers today. Its photo-worthy neon is noted by, yes, a pine tree; the concession stand is crammed full of old-school favorites; and the cozy auditorium remains as magic as ever when the lights go down.
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.