Central Oregon’s largest city has a lot to offer, from a sunny climate and outdoor recreation to cultural amenities. It’s a fun, healthy place to live, as the people flocking here every year will attest.
Maybe it’s something in the mountain air, but Bend has always attracted men and women of ambition and adventure, from Scandinavian mill workers who ski jumped off Pilot Butte to the current wave of have-laptop-will- travel urban transplants.
Geographically, Bend is bisected by the Deschutes River and marks the transition between the ponderosa covered east slope of the Cascades and the juniper- and-sage High Desert. The banks of the river were gathering spots for the tribes and a watering hole for pioneers, who called the kink in the river “Farewell Bend,” the last stop before hitting the mountain trails.
Today, the Deschutes River and mountain trails offer some of the best fly-fishing, rafting and kayaking, mountain biking and hiking in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, you’ll find more than two dozen golf courses, camping, rock climbing, and of course during the winter months, just about any snow sport imaginable, from snowshoeing to snow camping.
When the city was incorporated in 1905, it had a population of 500. The coming of the railroad hastened the start of two huge pine sawmills on either side of the river on the south edge of town. For decades, Bend was a rough-hewn mill town that prospered and suffered with the fortunes of that boom-and-bust industry. Therefore, a number of visionary leaders began to develop Bend’s small tourism trade into a resort industry, which took a leap with the establishment of Mount Bachelor ski area in the 1970s.
When the big timber bust came in the 1980s, Bend was hit hard. But it bounced back harder, fueled by the visitor industry and a new wave of retirees and lifestyle refugees from larger cities. Bend has a thriving downtown district, well-loved Drake Park, and many long-time residents, businesses and institutions.
This growth and prosperity has brought a new sophistication to the dining experience in Central Oregon. Renowned chefs are finding their homes in Bend, with world-class menus and accolades to tout.
And if fine dining’s not your thing, there are fabulous brew pubs and local eateries to satisfy any palette and any budget.
Population growth and several huge projects have further changed the face of Bend. The Bend Parkway and Bill Healy Bridge are now providing additional routes through town, and drivers negotiate a number of roundabouts.
The Old Mill District, a mixed-use development on the former Brooks- Scanlon plant site, is home to upscale shops and an outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts and other entertainment. The district is also emerging as the site of a number of new, high-end urban townhomes, allowing residents to both work and play within walking distance of their homes.
The shopping culture of Bend is experiencing new growth as well as a facelift to old growth.
Bend also offers services from one of the area’s regional airports, the Bend Municipal Airport. This airport features charter services and tours, as well as a number of other services.
Bend is a city of newcomers, where tenure of more than a decade may label you an “old timer.” Those people, often retirees and refugees from West Coast cities, have brought new ideas, new energy and new prosperity to their new home. The people of Bend truly enjoy coming together as a community, and the city supports this attitude with a number of festivals and musical events throughout the year.
In addition to a festival for each season of the year, Drake Park features a number of family and community events throughout the spring and summer. Downtown’s historic Tower Theatre was renovated in 2002 and is host to a variety of regional, national, and international events. And the outdoor Les Schwab Amphitheater headlines many big-name artists and free summer concerts performed by regional and national musicians.
For more ideas on how to discover Bend and Central Oregon, check out GO! Bend, 133 Ways to Discover Central Oregon.