Why Vacation in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon, USA?
Are you a golfer? Do you love the mountains? How do you feel about pure crisp mountain air and some of the most beautiful vistas in the world? Maybe shooting raging rapids onboard a whitewater raft, or standing hip-deep in a clear mountain stream trolling for trout, is your idea of a good time? Then don’t wait another second. Pack your bags, hop into your car, board a train, or book that flight for the Bend – Sunriver, Oregon area. You are in for one of the most relaxing and memorable vacations of your life.
Both communities are located in the Deschutes County of central Oregon. Both are located at the base of the Cascade Mountain Range, but one, Sunriver, is a commercial development; the other, Bend, is a regular city.
Bend, as its name suggests, is named for the bend in the Deschutes River, upon which it is located. It was once known as, “Farewell Bend”; a postmaster arbitrarily shortened the name. At that time, Bend, due largely to its huge population of Ponderosa pine trees, was known for its lumber industry. Today, an old sawmill remains, but the city’s tree-chopping days are long gone. Bend is now a modern fast-growing metropolis that is home to about 75,000 people.
Sunriver has a small population of about 17-hundred permanent residents. Military buffs may be interested to know that Sunriver developers built their resort on the grounds of a WWII training facility, Camp Abbot. Builders incorporated part of the area’s heritage by preserving a 1940s Officer’s Club; it has been upgraded and renamed the “Great Hall.” But Sunriver’s history goes way back to the days of the fur traders, the gold rush, pioneers and wagon trains.
Sights and Attractions in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon
The Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory is a popular attraction in the area. The center hosts a number of special events including an Astronomy Week and a Star Party. The center is located in Sunriver on River Road, next to Lake Aspen. Admission is extremely reasonable at $3 for adults; $2 for kids.
Lava River Cave – This natural geological attraction is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, located in the Deschutes National Forest. The cave attracts layman and professional geologists alike from all over the world. The cave is about 62-hundred feet long (about a mile long) and can be 60-feet tall in some spots. This is a chilly adventure so be sure to bring along some warm clothes. The Lava Cave is 14 miles south of Bend. It is open mid-May through early October.
Anyone interested in geology should be sure to visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center, and the volcano cinder cone of Lava Butte while in the area. It’s a phenomenal lookout spot for the park.
High Desert Museum – You’ll find this eclectic tourist attraction just 10 minutes outside of Bend. Parking is free, and if you are staying at a hotel or resort in the area, you can show your key card for a 10% discount on admission to the museum. Admission fees vary, but children under 4 years of age are free.
Expect to spend about half a day at the museum to take full advantage of all the attractions. Exhibits are divided into both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Outdoor exhibits include the Lazinka Sawmill, the Homestead Ranch, the Mustang Corral, and a Nature Walk. Inside, you will find depictions of life of the early Settlers, history of the Oregon Trail, Native Americans, and the U.S. Forest Service.
The High Desert Museum is open from 9-5 year-round, except for major holidays.
Deschutes County Historical Museum – This is the area’s cumulative response to its rich heritage. Exhibits feature a cross section of history from ancient volcanic rock carvings artifacts to WWII military displays to lumbering and fur trapping mementos.
The museum is located in the old Reid School, Bend’s first modern school built back in 1914. The building’s future is secure as it is now protected as a member of the National Register of Historic Places. Admission is very reasonable at $5 for adults and $2 for anyone 12-17 years of age. Kids under 12 are free.
Crooked River Dinner Train – Are you up for a murder? How about a train robbery? Join in the fun aboard the Crooked River Dinner Train. This Western-themed adventure train runs out of Redmond, which is just a short drive from Bend or Sunriver.
The whole family is invited to take part in this unique attraction. Everyone will be well fed and well entertained aboard this 1800s steam train as it makes it way through the Crooked River Valley.
The train has a regular schedule with special events slated for major holidays, Christmas.
Art Galleries – Bend hosts nearly a dozen art galleries including the contemporary Arte Divino Gallery, the Glass Symphony, Jill’s Wild Tasteful Women & Friends and the Lava Gallery. Featuring jewelry, glass sculptures, original paintings, handcrafted furniture, and original historical Native artworks, there is sure to be something for every art lover’s taste.
Outdoor Recreation in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon
This central Oregon area caters to a huge variety of vacationers and tourist interests including those who might enjoy a flight-seeing tour. Other options include fishing and fishing lessons, whitewater rafting, hiking, and of course, golf.
Golf in Bend – Golf lovers will have a tough time choosing from the vast array of courses in this central Oregon area. Bend offers eight 18-hole courses including River’s Edge, The Club at Pronghorn (Fazio and Nicklaus Courses), Awbrey Glen, Broken Top, Bend Golf and Country Club, and Lost Tracks courses. But a further 11 courses are located a short drive away in LaPine, Redmond, Powell Butte, Sisters, and Sunriver.
Golf in Sunriver – Sunriver plays host to three award-winning courses including Crosswater Club, Sunriver Lodge and Resort (Woodlands and Meadows courses).
Reserve your tee times for any of the golf courses in the Bend – Sunriver area online HERE.
Mount Bachelor Ski Resort – Skiers and snowboarders love the easy access to one of America’s largest ski areas; the highly acclaimed Mount Bachelor is a leisurely half hour drive away. Or during the winter months, catch the very inexpensive Super Shuttle out of Bend’s Park-N-Ride ($5/one-way ride).
Mount Bachelor is one of nine ski resort areas in Central Oregon. It offers 12 chairlifts and a full-service Nordic Center. In addition to the regular winter activities, the resort also offers snow-tubing, snowshoeing, and sled dog rides.
Parents will find the on-site government-regulated daycare a blessing. The center is licensed to accept babies as young as 6 weeks old all the way up to 10-year old kids.
Need a place to stay? Mount Bachelor has its own community of short-term vacation rentals: Mount Bachelor Village.
In the summer months, enjoy the view from the chair lifts, or pull on a pair of hiking boots and hit the trails. Interpretive tours with a Forest Service guide are available. Hiking may be tough for the disabled in your group, but the chair lifts are handicap accessible.
The Sunriver Resort offers a host of outdoor activities during the summer months, too, including pony and wagon rides, challenge rope courses, whitewater river rafting, biking, hiking, a kids’ activity area called “Fort Funnigan,” boating sports, and a downhill mountain bike tour. In addition, the Sunriver has three swimming pools, 28 tennis courts and riding stables.
But if all that vacation activity gets to be a little much, a Deep Tissue or a Maternity massage is always available at the resort’s Sage Springs Club and Spa. Or lay back and enjoy one of the resort’s signature spa treatments (a Vichy Shower, an Oregon Hazelnut Scrub, an Anti-Aging Hand Treatment or a Sunriver Nourishing Body Wrap). They’re sure to have something to make all things right in your world again, and get you ready to hit the links again the next day.
Festivals, Fairs, and Concerts in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon
Sunriver and Bend are rich with activities and special events throughout the year, including Bend’s hugely popular Winterfest held annually at the beginning of February. But for a full sampling of fairs, festivals, and other special events, visit the area’s printable calendar posted on its official website.
Expect to find everything from rodeos to coffeehouse jazz; a Saturday Market to live theater; photography exhibits to live animal shows.
In particular, a very popular summer event is Bend’s 30-year old open-air artisan’s market which runs every Saturday from the end of May to the end of August. It is located downtown between Bond and Wall streets. Expect to find a wide selection of handcrafted goods (jewelry, clothing, handbags, glassworks, candles, wind chimes, soaps, herbal cosmetics and more) created by local artists.
And if you are in the mood for shopping, be sure to visit the Old Mill Shopping Center.
Old Mill Shopping District – This charming collection of shops and services is all that’s left of Bend’s timber mill past. But it’s sure to be a big hit for those who love to shop or window shop.
Dining in Bend – Sunriver, Oregon
Both the major resort areas have their own gourmet dining areas.
Scapolo’s Italian restaurant serves up pizza and Italian favorites in the Pine Marten Lodge at Mount Bachelor. A specialty is the restaurant’s “Sunset Dinners.” These dinners are seasonal; they start at the end of June and run to the third weekend in August. The resort’s Mile High Grill is perfect for those craving BBQ burgers and hot dogs.
The Sunriver resort has the Meadows Restaurant, the Owl’s Nest Lounge, and the Merchant Trader Deli.
The city of Bend has a full range of dining options from coffee shops and microbreweries to fine dining. These are the top restaurants as selected by the October 2005 issue of Gourmet Magazine:
- The Blacksmith (eclectic gourmet fare housed in an old blacksmith shop) Conde Nast Traveler rated this as one of the BEST NEW restaurants in the world.
- Cork (elegant setting and gourmet fare)
- Ariana (Mediterranean foods with an elegant flare and gorgeous decor)
- Merenda (Gourmet extraordinaire and wine bar)
- Deep (Asian)
Sunriver is not to be outdone with its offering of several dozens restaurant choices from fast food to full gourmet. Below is a sample of the dining choices in Sunriver:
- Aloha Café (Hawaiian)
- Bella Cucina (Italian)
- Figaro’s Pizza
- Chen’s Garden Restaurant (Chinese)
- Hot Lava Baking Company (Bakery)
- South Bend Bistro (American and French)
- Trout House Restaurant (Surf and Turf)
In addition, fast food outlets include a Subway and a Taco Bell Express.
Getting to Bend – Sunriver, Oregon - Plane, train, bus or automobile – all roads lead to this popular tourist destination.
Airports – Travelers must fly in to the Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM) when vacationing in central Oregon, as it is the only commercial airport in the district. Flight connections will be made out of more major cities like San Francisco, Portland, Eugene, Seattle, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The following airlines service the Redmond airport:
Bend has its own single runway Municipal Airport, too. It was once used during WWII for pilot training.
Sunriver also operates a small airport, the Sunriver Resort Airport.
Both Bend and Sunriver are only a short drive away from Redmond: 16 miles south to Bend; 31 miles south to Sunriver.
Taxi and Shuttle Services – Several taxi and shuttle options are available at the Redmond airport, including a Bend service:
- American/Smile Transportation
1-541-389-0423 or toll free 1-866-484-3980
- Bend Cab or City Cab
- Cascade Towncar Service
- Central Oregon Breeze
1-541-389-7469 or toll free 1-800-847-0157
- Country Cab
- Deschutes River Taxi
- Green Energy Transportation
- High Desert Taxi
- Owl Taxi
- Redmond Airport Shuttle
1-541-382-1687 or toll free 1-888-664-8449
- Redmond Taxi Service
- Smile Shuttle Service
- Star Limo Service
1-541-593-4196 or toll free 1-888-349-4235
Arriving by Car – Bend or Sunriver is a day’s drive away from major cities like San Francisco (8.5 hours) and Boise, Idaho (6.5 hours). Eugene, Oregon is a short 2.5 hours away, while the drive from Seattle will take 6 hours. You may need an overnight stay somewhere along your route if driving from Los Angeles as the drive is 13 hours.
Driving directions are fairly straight forward as both Bend and Sunriver are reachable via major Interstate routes.
Car Rentals – Four rental car companies service the Redmond airport:
Bus – Greyhound services the Bend and Sunriver areas; one can take the bus straight into the Bend terminal.
Local Bus Service - Bend offers public transportation under its B.A.T., the Bend Area Transit, which offers limited service.
Train – Like other cities and towns in the United States, Amtrak, the country’s rail service, is a good transportation option.
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