8 Best Sights in Bend, Central Oregon

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

Fodor's choice

For 66 miles, this nationally designated Scenic Byway meanders past a series of high mountain lakes and is good for fishing, hiking, and camping in the summer months. (Much of the road beyond Mt. Bachelor is closed by snow during the colder months.)

Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room

Fodor's choice

Central Oregon’s first and most famous brewery produces and bottles its beer in this facility separate from the popular brewpub. Join one of the four daily tours and learn from the beer-obsessed staff; be sure to make reservations online or by phone, as tours fill quickly. The tour ends in the tasting room and gift shop, where participants get to try samples of the fresh beer; stick around for an extra pint in the adjacent outdoor beer garden.

High Desert Museum

Fodor's choice

The West is actually quite wild, and this combo museum-zoo proves it. Kids will love the up-close-and-personal encounters with Gila monsters, snakes, porcupines, birds of prey, and otters. Characters in costume take part in the summertime Living History series, where you can chat with stagecoach drivers, boomtown widows, pioneers, homesteaders, and sawmill operators. Peruse the 110,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits, such as Spirit of the West and a historic family ranch, to experience how the past can truly come alive.

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Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory

Fodor's choice

Learn about life on earth and in the heavens above at this hybrid nature center and observatory. The nature center focuses on exhibiting creatures found in Central Oregon, including owls and hawks, while the observatory allows visitors to turn their attention upwards to the great beyond. Come in the daytime to peep at the sun through one of the dozen-odd telescopes on-site, or sign up for one of the special evening programs, which offer visitors the opportunity to get a closer view of our solar system's stars and planets. 

Deschutes Historical Museum

The Deschutes County Historical Society operates this museum, which was originally built as a schoolhouse in 1914. Exhibits depict historical life in the area, including a pioneer schoolroom, Native American artifacts, and relics from the logging, ranching, homesteading, and railroading eras.

Deschutes National Forest

This 1½-million-acre forest has 20 peaks higher than 7,000 feet, including three of Oregon's five highest mountains, more than 150 lakes, and 500 miles of streams. While visiting the forest is free, many parking areas, particularly at trailheads, require an annual Northwest Forest Pass or a daily parking pass. 

Drake Park and Mirror Pond

At its western edge, downtown Bend slopes down to these 13 acres of manicured greensward and trees lining the edge of the Deschutes, attracting flocks of Canada geese as well as strollers from downtown. Concerts and other live events are staged in the park during the summer months. Note the 11-foot-high wheel log skidder, harkening back to Bend's logging industry in the early 20th century, when four draft horses pulled the wheel to move heavy logs.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument and Lava Lands

The last time hot lava flowed from Newberry Volcano was about 13 centuries ago. The north end of the monument has several large basalt flows, as well as the 500-foot Lava Butte cinder cone—a coal-black and scorched-red, symmetrical mound thrust from the depths 7,000 years ago. The cone is now home to the Lava Lands Visitor Center, which features interpretive exhibits that explain the volcanic and early human history of the area. Lava River Cave, a 1-mile-long lava tube, takes about 90 minutes to explore on your own with a lantern (available for rent, $5). Reservations are required to visit the cave and can be booked through the Forest Service in advance. Half of the slots are available up to 30 days in advance; the other half open up 24 hours in advance.

On the south end of the monument, an unpaved road leads to beautiful views from Paulina Peak. Along the shores of Paulina Lake and East Lake, you can hike, fish, camp, or stay at the rustic resorts. You can also hike a trail to Paulina Falls, an 80-foot double waterfall. The monument offers 100 miles of summer trails, and may be accessible during winter months, depending on snowmelt, for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and skiing.