Nowhere epitomizes Bend’s transformation from a sleepy lumber town to a world-class travel destination like the Old Mill District.
Once home to two of the largest ponderosa pine sawmill operations on the plant, the Old Mill District now boasts more than 55 restaurants, shops, art galleries and boutique fitness studios nestled alongside the Deschutes River. Paved running and bike paths hug both sides of the river – the trails are part of the larger Deschutes River Trail network – making the area popular with both visitors and locals alike.
While shopping and dining options anchor the Old Mill District on the east side of the Deschutes – the area has an eclectic mix of local, regional and national retail shops – the west side of the river is highlighted by the scenic Les Schwab Amphitheater. The state’s largest outdoor concert venue, the LSA plays host to more than a dozen shows each summer, drawing acts as large as Paul Simon, Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band and as diverse as The Roots, the Avett Brothers and Tenacious D. Approximately 8,000 fans can fit into the amphitheater, which features an all-grass infield and spectacular views of the Cascade Range to the west.
Runners and cyclists aren’t the only outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of the Old Mill District’s charms. A small armada of floaters, kayakers and canoers can usually be found on the Deschutes during the summer and fall months as they make their way down to the new Bend Whitewater Park.
History buffs can take pleasure in the various buildings and former sawmill equipment the Old Mill District has restored and upcycled. Eleven original buildings still sit within the district, including the mill’s former powerhouse and its three iconic smokestacks. Additionally, interpretive panels throughout the district mark areas of significant historical importance.
With its location right in the heart of Bend, the Old Mill District also holds numerous community events throughout the year. The Bend Brewfest is scheduled for the third weekend of August every summer in the Les Schwab Amphitheater, OSU-Cascades holds its graduation at the Amphitheater every June, and Santa flies into the Old Mill District the Friday after Thanksgiving.