So you want to get to know Bend. Intimately, right?
There’s no better way to do that than with an organized tour. Lucky for you, there are several fabulous ones in Bend, Oregon. You don’t even have to choose between them since you get a little something different with each tour. Try them all!
Here’s what’s out there:
Introduction to Bend walking tours with Visit Bend (free)
This is a great way to get your feet wet at the start of your Bend stay. Visit Bend offers free one-hour walking tours on Mondays and Fridays at 11 a.m. The tours last approximately an hour, and start at the Visit Bend office at 917 NW Harriman. A knowledgeable guide will lead you through Downtown Bend for an overview of the area’s architecture, noteworthy sights, and other hotspots.
Though not technically a historical tour like the other options on the list, the commentary does offer some delightful tidbits of Bend history. It’s the perfect way to get started, and you can’t beat the price. Be sure to ask your tour guide to recommend favorite shops, restaurants, picnic spots, local hikes, or anything else that interests you.
Don’t forget your comfy shoes and sunscreen, and water isn’t a bad idea, either.
The timing of the tour works perfectly if you want to grab a quick lunch and then do the Des Chutes Historical Museum’s Heritage Walk at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Des Chutes Historical Museum Heritage Walk (free with museum admission of $5 for adults, $2 youth, or free for kids 12 and under)
This one-hour walking tour of Downtown Bend offers an in-depth look at a handful of people and places that helped shape the city. Led by a museum staffer with a plethora of knowledge of Bend history, the tours begin at the Des Chutes Historical Society Museum and meander for 1/3 of a mile through scenic neighborhoods, into Drake Park, and past a number of historic downtown landmarks.
Your guide will not only be armed with oodles of historical knowledge of the city, but also with plenty of laminated photos to show the people and places spotlighted on the tour.
What’s great about doing this tour on top of the Visit Bend one is that you see different parts of the downtown area. There’s only one tiny area of overlap in the routes, and the information presented in both tours is totally different. Do the Visit Bend tour for an interesting overview of downtown hotspots with a sprinkling of history, and do the Des Chutes County Historical Society tour for a more intimate glimpse at Bend history and the people who helped shape the city.
Tours take place Fridays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m., weather permitting, through Sept. 4. They leave from the Des Chutes Historical Museum at 129 N.W. Idaho Ave.
Let it Ride Historic Electric Bike Tours of Bend ($45 per person)
If you’re looking to cover a little more ground – and to have an absolute blast while you do it – this is the way to go.
I’ll admit it, when I was first invited to try this tour, I was a little meh about the idea. Electric bike? How fun would it really be?
Trust me on this – it’s ridiculously fun. Like pee-your-pants fun (though I recommend cleaning the bike seat if that happens).
The tours start from the Let It Ride shop at 922 Bond Street in downtown Bend. It’s a guided tour that’s limited to six people per group. The bikes are standard cruisers with baskets and nice, cushy seats, but they have the added perk of a little electric motor and a throttle to control your speed.
A number of people in my group enjoyed peddling the bike like normal, which is a perfectly acceptable way to travel. However, if you’re lazy like me, you’ll be pleased to know it’s possible to do the entire tour without peddling even once.
The tour zips through downtown, along the Deschutes river, into Pioneer Park, along the First Street River Trail, back through Drake Park, and over to the Old Mill District. You not only cover a lot of ground, but get a lot of interesting trivia at each stopping point along the way. Stories range from historical facts (complete with photos and illustrations) to offbeat details about brothels and local fishing lore.
The tour lasts about two hours and departs daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Participants need to be at least 16, and helmets are required (and provided).
This is definitely one of those experiences I’d seek out if I were visiting an unfamiliar town. For that matter, it’s something I was thrilled to do right here in my own backyard.
So there you have it – three great ways to get an insider’s look at Bend. Which one do you want to do first?