48 Hours in Bend, Oregon: The Ultimate Itinerary

Bend, View from Pilot Butte State Park
Emily_M_Wilson / Getty Images

Outdoor adventure is certainly the main draw for Bend, Oregon, where hiking, running, and mountain biking are incorporated into the daily routines of both locals and visitors alike. This town takes getting outside seriously: if the sun is out, expect to spot locals paddle boarding and tubing down the Deschutes River, hiking the area's 65 miles of urban trails, or throwing on their gear for a vigorous day of rock climbing.

But Bend is also a great place for those who are looking for a laid back escape. Surrounded by wilderness filled with juniper and pine, this mountain town's scenery offers stillness and tranquility to all who visit it. Not even a culture vulture will find themselves without something to do or see—everywhere you go, you'll find art tucked in alleyways, charming local boutiques, and award-winning museums. And if you're a fan of beer, you're in luck: known as one of the top beer destinations in America, Bend is home to more than 30 craft breweries, many of which have racked up medals at nationwide beer festivals.

If you're heading to Bend and only have 48 hours to see the sights, here's what should be on your itinerary.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Sparrow Bakery Ocean Roll

Courtesy of Sparrow Bakery

10 a.m.: Drop your bags off at your hotel before your adventure begins. Due to its rise in popularity in recent years, Bend has no shortage of hotels to choose from, including the recently opened Element Bend, sustainability-focused boutique The Oxford, and the quirky McMenamins Old St. Francis School, a converted 1930s Catholic school that now serves as a combination hotel, pub and music venue. Take a stroll over to Downtown Bend, where you'll find a number of delightful shops that will give you your first taste of the town's local flavor. Stock up on outdoor gear essentials at OutsideIN, peruse locally made soaps and candles at Oregon Body and Bath, or check out a selection of new and used books at Dudley's Bookshop Cafe.

11 a.m.: Make a beeline over to one of two Sparrow Bakery locations in town, where hungry Bendites line up early to snag a bite of the bakery's signature Ocean Roll. Made fresh each morning, the famous rolls pack cardamom and vanilla into a buttery croissant dough. Pair it with an espresso for the jolt of energy you need for the day ahead.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

flight of beer
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1 p.m.: Bend's High Desert Museum is dedicated to celebrating the history of central Oregon, with exhibitions highlighting Indigenous culture, Western art, and the region's native wildlife. In a town already spoiled by outdoor beauty, there's no better way to top off an afternoon in Bend with an educational visit to the museum's animal exhibits, where you can see a bird show and greet baby otters. Though small, the museum is considered one of the most prestigious in the west; it was recently awarded the 2021 National Medal of Museum and Library Service, America's highest honor for museums and libraries.

3 p.m.: Founded in 1988, Deschutes Brewery is the centerpiece of Bend's infamous craft beer scene, credited with transforming this mountain town into a beer nirvana. If you're curious to get a peek at the brewery that started it all, the Deschutes brewpub is centrally located downtown, or head to their tasting room for a flight. If you're looking to drink where the locals do, head to Bend Brewing Company for elevated pub grub and beautiful views. Other can't-miss stops are Ale Apothecary for barrel-aged saisons, Monkless for perfect Belgian ales, Silver Moon Brewing for incredible amber ales, Boneyard Beer for top-notch IPAs, and Crux Fermentation Project for stouts and sours. Make sure to get a Bend Ale Trail passport and get stamped at each brewery you visit—beer lovers who complete a certain amount of visits score prizes.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Sen Thai Noodles & Hot Pot, Bend, Oregon

Courtesy of Sen Thai Noodles & Hot Pot

7 p.m.: There are plenty of choices for places to eat in Bend, but those looking to end their first day in town with a showstopper should book a table at the recently opened Sen Thai Hot Pot and Noodle House. An offshoot of Wild Rose, one of central Oregon's most popular Thai restaurants, Sen reimagines the classic Thai noodle shop, putting a spin on classic Thai street food in a beautiful setting right on Bend's Mirror Pond. Here, you'll find Thai cuisine with noticeable influences from India, China and Japan. The hot pot noodle soup experience here is not to be missed—although you'll need to expressly reserve a table for it—but those looking for a dry option can't go wrong with the Guay Teow Hang, a savory noodle dish topped with ground pork, pork meatballs, beansprouts, crushed peanuts, chili flakes, green onion, and a fried wonton.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Sunset at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon
David Gn Photography / Getty Images

8 a.m.: Rise and shine! Grab some java at Lone Pine Coffee Roasters, a locals' favorite since 2009 and a thriving community hangout in downtown Bend. Non-dairy drinkers are in for a treat: Lone Pine makes their own cashew and almond milk blend in-house, so your morning cup of joe will feel nothing short of luxurious. Whatever you do, don't miss out on the homemade pop tarts, a definite game changer and the perfect snack to grab before hitting the road.

10 a.m.: Any trip to central Oregon would be incomplete without a trip to the majestic Smith Rock State Park. A 40 minute drive from Bend, this park is widely known as the birthplace of American mountain climbing and features more than 2,000 climbing routes for all levels of experience. If rock climbing isn’t your specialty, a leisurely horseback ride through the canyons and winding along the Crooked River meadow will score you magical views of the high desert and red and volcanic rock. The park is also home to top-tier hiking routes that will take you through geological wonders, meandering rivers, and abundant wildlife. Brace yourself for stunning vistas that will make you feel like you're on top of the world.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Blockbuster Bend, Oregon

Courtesy of Bend Blockbuster

1 p.m.: After a long day on the trails, you've undoubtedly worked up an appetite, which makes it the perfect time to dig into a plant-based meal at Root Down Kitchen, Bend's coziest vegan cafe. From roasted cauliflower tacos topped with sumac onions to red lentil fritters drizzled with cilantro pesto, spicy aioli, and avocado, even a carnivore will find something to love. If you couldn't squeeze it into your already packed brewery list from the day before, Boneyard Brewing is just across the street—the perfect opportunity to grab a cold and refreshing afternoon brew.

3 p.m: Those who grew up renting VHS movies at their local video store will be enchanted to know that America's once giant video store chain—Blockbuster—is very much alive and well in Bend. In fact, as of March 2019, the Bend Blockbuster is the world's only remaining brick and mortar Blockbuster store. While visitors who come to visit the store may expect to see a museum catered to '80s and '90s video memorabilia, the store is still a regular everyday business, and locals continue to rent movies its bright yellow aisles of curated selections. Even travelers who aren't movie buffs will get a kick out of a visit to the store, where they can take a step back in time to a pre-Netflix world. Hardcore video nerds can prepare themselves for the visit by watching the 2020 documentary The Last Blockbuster, which details the continued success of the little store that could.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

River's Place Food Cart Pod, Bend, Oregon

Courtesy of River's Place

7 p.m: If there's one quintessential way to cap off your trip to Bend, it's by enjoying a meal the way the locals do—at a food cart pod. Cart culture is pure Bend, with the original Bend food cart pod, The Lot, dishing out eats since 2013. It's difficult to go anywhere in central Oregon without finding a food cart pod, and Bend has some excellent selections, like The Podski, which also boasts a beer cart, On Tap, River's Place, and The Office. Along with a vast selection of different food to choose from, you'll also get to take in the atmosphere of the Bend community and their passion for great eats—if a Bendite isn't impressed, you won't be lasting long in this town. Kick back, enjoy a diverse selection of grub, and make a toast to a great visit.