Are you looking for the best things to do in Bend in winter? I’ve got you covered!
Bend, Oregon, is one of my absolute favorite winter destinations in Oregon (don’t tell the other towns 🤫😜). It’s an incredible spot for outdoor lovers full of high deserts, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, great food, family-friendly activities, and so much more.
We’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past 11 years, and Bend’s a place we keep coming back to visit in any season. In 2023, we actually visited 3 separate times!
Even though we’ve visited multiple times (most often in winter), this past December was the first time we took our kids with us, and they’re already asking to go back. Needless to say, they’re officially hooked, and I wonder if we’ll be able to sneak away as easily without them anymore. 😅
Bend turns into a winter wonderland full of unique things to do. From snowboarding to ice skating, you’ll find a variety of family-friendly adventures that everyone will love – even our teen had a blast!
So whether you’re looking for the best outdoor (or indoor!) adventures, where to eat, where to stay, or a delicious cup of coffee, you’re in the right place.
I’ve pulled together some of our top picks for a winter vacation to Bend, plus planning tips to help you make the most of your trip!
Visit Bend sponsored this post. However, all content and opinions are our own.
Best things to do in Bend in winter
- Snowboarding or Skiing at Mount Bachelor
- Go Ice Skating at The Pavilion
- Visit the High Desert Museum
- Try Axe Throwing at Unofficial Logging Co.
- Explore Local and Nearby Hiking Trails
- Enjoy the Delicious Restaurant and Food Cart Scene
- Sip on a Tasty Cup of Local Coffee
- Go Snowshoeing in a Winter Wonderland
- Take a Lava Tube Cave Tour
- Try Fat Biking in the Snow
- Explore Miles of Cross-Country Skiing Trails
- Race Down Snowcovered Hills on Sleds or Tubes
- Gear Up for a Snowmobiling Adventure
Our Favorite Bend Winter Activities
1. Snowboarding or Skiing at Mount Bachelor
If you ask me, no Bend winter getaway is complete without a day on the slopes. We kicked off our first day of snowboarding this season at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort – and it was awesome!
Mt. Bachelor is one of our favorite PNW ski resorts. It has a wide range of terrain that caters to all skill levels and is perfect for families. With 4,323 acres and 101 runs, we found plenty of intermediate slopes perfect for our kids to get back in the groove of things.
If you love the park – or want to learn – Mt. Bachelor has you covered with Woodward’s network of terrain zones for any age or skill level. Play around at The Start Park, improve your skills at the various Progression Parks, or if you’re more experienced, head to The Sky Parks for more advanced features. We played in one of the progression parks, and I even managed to nail a box – once. But that totally counts. Right?! 😂
When you’re ready for a break from winter sports or need some food, pop into one of the three separate lodges for a variety of food and beverages.
Important Details & Tips:
- Purchase Your Tickets in Advance: While you can purchase your lift tickets in person, online rates are less expensive, and purchasing further in advance will give you the best rates. Plus, when you reserve ahead of time, you avoid waiting in the ticket window line and can quickly snag your ticket at a Pick-up Box. I was able to walk from the parking lot, grab our passes, make a bathroom stop, and walk back to our vehicle before the kids could even get their snowboard gear on – it was that fast!
- Reserve Your Rentals: If you need to rent gear, you can reserve it beforehand to ensure your size is available and prevent disappointment. Plus, if you’re renting multiple days, you get complimentary storage overnight, so you don’t have to schlep it back and forth!
- Download the Mt. Bachelor App: We have Verizon and had signal everywhere we went on the mountain, which is awesome! With the Mt. Bachelor app, you can see details such as lift status, wait times, and more.
- Arrive Early: If you’re staying in town, plan to arrive by 8:00 am to make snagging parking easier and avoid most of the traffic. We left our hotel at 7 am, snagged a breakfast burrito at Strictly Organic Coffee, and were in the parking lot a few minutes before 8 am, which was perfect!
- Childcare Options: Childcare is available for infants, toddlers, and children between 6 weeks and 10 years old. You can opt for a full day or half day. Or, if your kiddo is ready for lessons, Signature Start blends daycare and lessons AND covers rentals, lift tickets, and lunch!
2. Ice Skating Fun at The Pavilion
Ice skating on an NHL-sized ice rink? Yes, please!
During the winter months, The Pavilion in Bend transforms into a winter playground. It hosts ice skating, hockey games, and even curling sessions! We opted for an evening ice skating session as a family on our most recent visit.
If you want an activity that will plaster a smile on your place, this is it! It had been ages since my husband and I laced up ice skates, and the kids had never been. But from the moment we stepped on the ice at The Pavilion in Bend, it was nonstop giggles and grins.
And if you’re worried about getting too chilly, they’ve got you covered. Inside, there’s a viewing room with a fireplace. Or you can snag a hot beverage from the concession stand. But we especially loved warming up by the cozy firepits in the outdoor plaza!
Important Details & Tips:
- Check the Schedule Ahead of Time: Because there are a variety of activities at The Pavilion, you’ll want to plan ahead and find a skate session that works with your itinerary. Public skate sessions can be found on this schedule, and you can choose from various options such as Open Skate, Family Skate, or Cheap Skate Sessions (only $6/person).
- Rentals: Both figure skates and hockey skates are available to rent for a small fee. Some sessions, such as Family Skate or Cheap Skate, even include rentals in your admission fee!
- Safety: If you’re feeling a little wobbly on your feet, skate assists are available to borrow. In addition, they have helmets available to protect your head just in case you take a hard fall (or you can bring your own).
3. Visit the High Desert Museum
Another highlight of our most recent Bend winter vacation was our visit to the High Desert Museum. It’s a perfect blend of indoor and outdoor attractions, making it ideal when you need a break from the weather. This place is a treasure trove of attractions showcasing the people, wildlife, and places in the High Desert that are both fun and fascinating.
Along with permanent displays, the High Desert Museum has additional rotating exhibitions. We got lucky and timed our visit perfectly for the opening weekend of Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species exhibit. The vibrant colors and powerful imagery of Warhol’s art were such a treat to see! In addition, the Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan exhibit truly captivated us. The skill and dedication behind each shot were mind-blowing, and we loved the unique insight we got into the life of wolves.
In addition, we thoroughly enjoyed the engaging and educational animal encounters and talks throughout the day. A stand out was the Bird of Prey Encounter, where we got a front-row seat to learn about one of the museum’s peregrine falcons, including more about her species and the challenges she faces after an injury.
Important Details & Tips:
- Check the Daily Schedule: The museum hosts various talks and encounters that can be found on the daily schedule, so plan ahead to catch your top picks.
- Accessibility: The museum is well laid out, with accessibility in mind. You’ll find accessible parking spaces, ADA-accessible restrooms & doors, ramps into outdoor exhibits, and lots of benches throughout for taking a break. In addition, most of the trails are paved for easy navigation with a stroller or wheelchair. They also have wheelchairs available to use at no charge. And if you need a break from stimulation, ask the admission desk for a Brain Break Bag!
- Events: In addition to the daily schedule, you’ll find even more fun activities on the High Desert Museum’s Calendar, such as Winter Nights, Free Days, Natural History Pubs, and more.
4. Axe Throwing Adventure at Unofficial Logging Company
Looking for an indoor adventure you can do any time of year? Try axe throwing!
Our family’s visit to Unofficial Logging Company was an absolute blast, with lots of laughs – and a bit of smack talk. 😆 It was a unique winter activity our kids are already begging to do again.
Located in downtown Bend, this spot is perfect for those looking for something unique. Kids 12 and up can join in, making it an excellent option for families with teens and tweens.
Once you check in and sign your waiver, you’ll start with a short lesson from your coach. They’ll share safety rules and show you the basics of throwing. As you get more comfortable, they may even show you some trick shots!
You can even have dinner while you play. We opted for burgers, poutine, fries, fried pickles – and salad to balance everything out. 😋
Important Details & Tips:
- Footwear: Remember to wear closed-toed shoes. If you forget, they do have Crocs available to rent.
- Axe Throwing with Kids: Kids can join in before 9 pm (when it changes to 21+), but they need to be responsible – you know, because of the sharp objects and all 😉
- Reserving a Lane: It’s a good idea to book your lane ahead of time to ensure you have a spot. If you’re in a larger group, book multiple lanes, as each lane has a max of 5 people.
5. Winter Hiking
Though many of Bend’s trails turn into winter wonderlands, there are still many options for hiking around town without snowshoes. We couldn’t squeeze in a hike on our most recent trip, but we have on past visits!
In particular, we loved hiking at Smith Rock State Park in winter. One of Oregon’s Seven Wonders, it’s extremely popular and can get super busy, especially on summer weekends. However, in winter, the crowds thin out, and you can enjoy this stunning park with more solace.
More Nearby Hiking Trails and Parks to Try in Winter:
These nearby trails are all located within 90 minutes of Bend – some are less than 10 minutes from the heart of downtown! See a map of the entire list here or click the hike names below for more details.
- Sawyer Park
- Oregon Badlands Wilderness – Badlands Rock, Flatiron, Ancient Juniper Trail Loop
- Pilot Butte State Park
- Chimney Rock
- Tam-a-lau Trail
- Steelhead Falls
- Suttle Lake
- Deschutes River Trail
- Riley Ranch Nature Reserve – Juniper, Sage Flat, and Canyon Loop
- Tamolitch Blue Pool Hike
- Metolius River Trail
- Otter Bench and Pink Trail Hike
- Rimrock Springs Trail
Note: Though many of these trails will be accessible without special footwear through winter, it’s not unusual to get snow even in town! Be sure to check current conditions before heading out.
6. Enjoy the Amazing Restaurants & Food Carts in Bend
In Bend, every meal is an adventure in itself, with various options ranging from quick breakfast stops to cozy cafes to vibrant food carts perfect for satisfying your hunger during a day of exploring.
Each spot has its unique charm and atmosphere, offering a blend of local and globally inspired flavors. Whether you’re craving a hearty breakfast, a quick coffee, or a delightful dinner, Bend’s culinary scene won’t disappoint.
Some of Our Favorite Places to Eat in Bend:
- Bend Pizza Kitchen: Their extensive menu caters to all, including those who prefer plant-based options. Since I can’t tolerate much dairy, good pizza is hard to come by, and I was not disappointed! The Pistachio Spinach Salad is also a must-try!
- Chow: One of our long-time brunch favorites. Their Huevos Rancheros is my personal favorite (don’t skip their housemade hot sauces)!. The kids loved the Chow Mac ‘N Cheese and buttermilk pancakes, while Captain Duane’s Buttermilk Country Fried Steak was a hit with my husband.
- The Grove Market Hall: A one-stop spot for various options, including restaurants, ice cream, coffee, a brewing company, and a market! Thump Coffee’s Spicy Mayan Mocha and ginger molasses cookie were the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for the adults while the kids enjoyed Elly’s Ice Cream. We also snacked on the delicious spring rolls from ThAiPAS. 🤤
- Strictly Organic Coffee: Ideal for a quick, grab-and-go breakfast. Their burritos are SUPER hearty and perfect to fuel up for a day of outdoor adventure. The convenience of online ordering and fast service is a bonus! Plus, they even have vegan options!
- The Podski for Big Ski’s Pierogies: A long-time favorite of ours. John and I discovered Big Ski’s on our first trip to Bend together YEARS ago (long before we had a teenager with a mustache 😅), and now they’ve even been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives!
- Cafe Sintra: Cafe Sintra is another breakfast spot we love! Their dishes pay tribute to Portuguese cuisine, and their cocktails are delightful. We loved the Bloody Maria with House Infused Pineapple Serrano Batanga Tequila. 😋
- Spork: This casual street food style eatery pulls inspiration from a variety of global cuisines. With everything from noodles to curry to tacos, you’ll find options to suit everyone in your group!
- The Lot Food Carts & Taproom: Since 2013, The Lot has created an inviting space to dine year-round – they even have heated benches (and heaters) for winter! Currently, there are four food carts: á la carte (fries, salads, tacos), Burgz N Dogz, Fricken Faco (fried chicken & fish tacos), and Maki Maki Sushi.
7. Sip on a Delicious Cup of Local Coffee
Those of us in the Pacific Northwest take our coffee seriously. Thankfully, Bend does not disappoint.
Each coffee shop in Bend offers its own take on coffee culture, from the beans to the ambiance. So whether you’re gearing up for a day of adventure or need a mid-day pick me up, below are some of our top picks.
Best Coffee Shops to Try in Bend:
- Backporch Coffee Roasters: A staple in our Bend visits, Backporch is a favorite with ethically sourced beans and freshly roasted coffee. They even have instant coffee and single-serve pour-over packs perfect for camping or on the go!
- Thump Coffee: The Spicy Mayan Mocha at The Grove Market Hall location is delicious – not too sweet and a little spicy, it was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. Plus, if you’re hungry, there are many restaurants in the Hall to choose from as well!
- Strictly Organic Coffee: If Certified Organic and Fair Trade coffee is a priority for you, you can’t miss stopping into Strictly Organic. Not only does their coffee hit the spot, but their breakfast burritos are also a delicious way to start the day.
- Lone Pine Coffee: Lone Pine hand curates and roasts their own coffees – and it shows! They’ve been around since 2009 and are easily a local favorite with an inviting atmosphere and friendly staff.
More Winter Activity Ideas
Bend is one of those places that you feel like you can never get enough of. Though we’ve been multiple times in winter, we often spend the majority of our time on the slopes, but I keep a running list of things we’d like to try. Here are some of the ones at the top of my Bend bucket list.
We went snowshoeing for the first time a few years ago and loved it! But we have yet to go in Bend, and I’m dying to explore some of their trails and tours.
9. Lava Tube Cave Tours
Wanderlust Tours is the only guide service permitted to take you through caves that are not open to the public. Temps are consistent year-round in the caves (around 45°F), so tours can continue through winter!
In winter, you can choose from the Lava Tube Cave Tour or the Prohibition Cave Tour. They’ll provide transportation from their office, gear including a helmet and headlamp, and a professional guide. Check availability for the Lava Tube Cave Tour here 👇
Note: The Lava River Caves are part of the U.S. Forest Service and are open to the public, but not during the winter. If you choose to visit in another season, you’ll need a valid recreation pass (or pay a $5/vehicle fee) and a Timed Reservation Ticket.
10. Winter Fat Biking
Cog Wild Bicycle Tours offers guided Winter Fat Bike Rides, including bike rentals, warm mittens, shuttles, snacks, and post-ride beverages, and it is high on our Bend to-do list! We used to mountain bike (before kids) but have never done much in the way of fat biking, and it just sounds like a blast – especially in the snow!
They’ll take care of all the details and route planning based on what the snow is like. Rides last 3-4 hours and can range from 6-20 miles, depending on your abilities and the conditions. Kids do need to be big enough for an adult size frame to participate.
11. Nordic Skiing
Though most of the time, we opt for snowboarding or snowshoeing, if you’re going to try cross-country skiing, Bend is an excellent place to give it a go! Mt. Bachelor alone has 56 km of groomed trails. Still, other popular places to try are the Virginia Meissner Sno-Park, featuring 47 km of trails, and the Wanoga Sno-park, which allows dogs!
12. Sledding or Tubing
We love sledding in winter, and Bend has no shortage of places to coast down snowy hills. Aside from public parks in town, you can head to Wanoga Sno-Park or the nearby Autobahn Tubing Park at Hoodoo Ski Area.
Snowmobiling is one of the few winter adventures we’ve never tried, but it’s time to change that – maybe on our next Bend trip! The Bend area has hundreds of miles of trails for snowmobiling, whether you bring your own machine or prefer to take a tour.
Since snowmobiling would be a new adventure for us, I’m eyeing a tour with Central Oregon Adventures as an excellent option for the entire family. Drivers must be 18 and have a license, but kids 6 & up (and over 48″ tall) can join in the fun as a passenger!
Planning Your Trip to Bend
Where to Stay in Bend
When visiting Bend, finding the right place to stay is key to enjoying all the winter wonders comfortably.
We loved our stay at Riverhouse on the Deschutes! We stayed in a spacious Bunk Bed room with two twin over queen bunks, providing plenty of room for our family of four.
When sharing a room with everyone, one of my pet peeves is fighting for bathroom space to get ready in the morning. Our room solved that issue with a second sink and mirror outside the main bathroom. 🙌
Plus, the beautiful river views and easy access to activities were perfect. And if you’re bringing your four-legged family member, they have dog-friendly rooms!
Riverhouse on the Deschutes
✅ Conveniently Located with River Views
✅ Bunk Bed Rooms are Perfect for Families
✅ River Views & Pet-Friendly Rooms
If you’re looking for something a little different, here are a few other accommodations to consider:
- Tetherow Resort: If you want luxury combined with outdoor access, you’ll want to stay at Tetherow! It’s only 7 minutes from the Old Mill District and offers beautiful lodging, restaurants, a golf course, and more.
- Wall Street Suites: A boutique option with cozy suites located right in the heart of Bend. Some are dog-friendly as well!
- McMenamins Old St. Francis School: We haven’t stayed at this specific McMenamins location, but we have visited multiple times and have stayed at several other locations, and it’s always a unique stay! The building is an old Catholic school that has been renovated and turned into a hotel, complete with a soaking pool, restaurants, bars, live music, and even a movie theater on site. Each room has its own private bathroom at this location (if you’ve stayed at other McMenamins, you know this isn’t always the case!)
- LOGE Bend: On my list for a future family trip, LOGE Bend is perfectly positioned on Century Drive for easy access to both town and Mt. Bachelor. This unique hotel is kid and pet-friendly, has hammocks in every room, and is ideal for outdoor lovers – you can even rent gear or roast marshmallows on-site!
Winter in Bend: Weather & Travel Tips
Winter in Bend is magical, but you’ll want to be prepared for anything. The weather can range from sunny and crisp to snowy and cold or even cold and rainy.
Here are a few tips to ensure you’re prepared and your trip goes smoothly:
- Check Road Conditions: Winter driving can be tricky. Make sure to check the latest road conditions and carry the appropriate winter gear and tools.
- Carry Snow Chains and/or Have Traction Tires: It’s common for chains or snow tires to be required (sometimes both), so don’t skip this! We also like to travel with traction boards and a shovel in winter, just in case.
- Bring Additional Winter Driving Tools: Especially if you’re going to be exploring the outdoors, you’ll want some basics for safety in case. This Oregon Winter Driving Guide has a great checklist and additional tips.
- Pack Layers: The weather can change quickly, and nights can be colder than you expect in the high desert, so you’ll want to bring a variety of layers to stay warm and dry.
Leave No Trace
No matter where you adventure on your Bend winter vacation, remember to follow Leave No Trace principles. Bend’s natural beauty is breathtaking, and it takes all of us to keep it that way!
Following Bend’s seven principles of Leave No Trace will help preserve this destination for everyone visiting now and in the future. Commit to these simple guidelines and take the Bend Pledge to show your commitment to caring for the people and places you encounter.
Then, swing by the Visitor Center for a super cool Leave No Trace sticker sheet and be entered into a chance to win a Bend vacation! How’s that for patting yourself on the back?!
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Bend in Winter
There are always plenty of things to do in Bend – and winter is no exception!
Whether you love to ski or snowboard, enjoy visiting museums, or want to try your hand at axe throwing, you’ll find plenty of activities you’ll love.
Have you ever been to Bend? Share some of your favorite winter adventures! I’m always looking for new things to try and I’d love to hear your favs!