You probably expected good food, wine, and music. But who saw golf, public art, or otherworldly landscapes coming from this part of the state?

Paulina Peak
Hike to the highest point in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, near La Pine, for stunning Paulina Lake and sunset views. Photo by Dylan VanWeelden, courtesy of Travel Oregon

Late spring into early summer is a fleeting seasonal sweet spot for travel. And when it comes to making the most of it on vacation, chances are you want it all: natural beauty, city-style culture plus country charm, outdoor adventure, and maybe a round of world-class golf. Of course you crave excellent food (and excellent beer and quaffable wine wouldn’t hurt either). And while we’re at it, easy to get to would be awesome. Enter your new favorite Pacific Northwest getaway that has all of that and more: Central Oregon, home to Bend and many other charming towns, including Sunriver, Sisters, La Pine, Redmond, and Prineville. Here’s the ultimate guide to making Central Oregon the center of your summer travels.

You Can Fly Right into Redmond 

Getting to Central Oregon is ridiculously easy thanks to Redmond Airport, the kind of right-sized, stress-free airport that feels like a return to the golden era of travel. Served by seven airlines (now including low-cost carrier Avelo) your hometown is likely a quick flight away. 

Out. Door. Concerts.

Outdoor Concert in Bend

Steve Heinrichs Photography

You know that clichéd image of fit happy people drinking craft beer against the backdrop of the Cascade mountain range? This summer it’s a reality in Bend where outdoor concerts are back in full force with over 50 shows scheduled at Hayden Homes Amphitheater in the Old Mill District. With a roster of diverse acts ranging from super sisters Haim to chill pop act Khruangbin to ZZ Top, your taste in music is likely covered.

You Can Sip Serenely

For the past 30 years or so Domaine Serene winery has been making insanely good Pinot Noir beloved around the world. While the Dundee Hills appellation where the winery is located is some three hours away from Central Oregon, Domaine Serene just opened a top-flight tasting room in downtown Bend so you can partake in tasting flights of their excellent Pinot, Chardonnay, Rosé, and sparkling wines in nearly every vintage. It’s an elegant and immersive evening experience with wine-friendly food pairings like pinot-braised oxtail pappardelle and oysters on the half shell.  Reservations are recommended. If your tastes run more toward oak-aged artisanal saisons brewed with local hops and fruit, visit the brand new artisanal brew house Funky Fauna in Sisters and sip the season in their welcoming rustic modern taproom.

The Golf Is Grand

Boasting three courses in the Golf Digest Top 100, Central Oregon is one of the West’s most exceptional golf destinations with resorts that offer every amenity on and off the green. Stay at Sunriver Resort to gain access to the private heathland-style Crosswater (one of the Golf Digest honorees). Tetherow Resort is another honoree, offering striking views of the Cascade mountain range, and motorized GolfBoards and Finn scooters so you deftly carve up the paths between holes. 

The Forest Is Lava

Lava Butte

Steve Heinrichs Photography

Yes, you know about Oregon’s mountain ranges and pine forests, but the Deschutes National Forest is home to one of the most striking natural features in the West: Lava Butte, a cinder cone formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago that is now home to a ranger observation post and offers sweeping views of the forest and a first-hand reminder of the geologic history of the region. The site is otherworldly—so much so that from the 1960s to today, astronauts have used the surrounding area to test space suits in the conditions that mimic those of the moon. Check out Paulina Lake Loop Trail, which sits within Newberry Crater formed over 500,000 years ago. 

You Can Pop over to La Pine 

La Pine Big Tree

Dylan VanWeelden, courtesy of Travel Oregon

Some 30 miles south of Bend on the way to Crater Lake, La Pine has long drawn visitors for its proximity to camping, biking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. If you’re pressed for time and not feeling super adventurous, you can’t beat this double dip as a chill way to get in touch with nature your way: Visit La Pine’s 500 year old Ponderosa pine, aka Big Tree, the largest example of the species in the world, followed by an al fresco afternoon of cornhole, music, and Old Fashioneds on the sprawling patio of the Badlands Artisan Distillery and Bistro

The Food Is Flexitarian

Having culinary options is important when you’re on the road: Sometimes you don’t want the down-time of a sit-down meal, which is why Market Hall at the Grove in Bend works so well, whether you’re on the way to a concert or a hike, or your fellow travelers aren’t in the mood for what you are: think arancini and pasta at Sunny’s Carrello to Thai-style tapas at Thaipas and chorizo or vegan burritos at Bend Breakfast Burrito. For a more classic PNW food experience, swing by Midtown Yacht Club where local beer is on tap and food carts cater to all tastes. Here comfort-food seeking vegans can dig into plant-based delights from Lively Up Yourself while carnivores can delight in lamb kawarma and other Israeli street food from Shimshon. The Barn in Sisters is also home to a pod of food carts dishing up street tacos at Chulita’s, wood fired pizza at Boone dog, and barbecue at Pop’s. Or go truly old-school in Prineville at Club Pioneer, which has been serving locals and visitors since 1942. Order a round of oyster shooters, bacon-wrapped wagon wheels, and a potent rattlesnake punch and soak up the saloon vibes. 

There’s a Rural Mural Revolution

Redmond, Oregon mural

Courtesy of Travel Oregon

For that postcard-level selfie, pose in front of one of the freshly painted, vintage-vibes “Greetings From…” murals emblazoned on walls in the towns of Redmond, Sunriver, Maupin, La Pine, and Sisters to prove once and for all you made most of your summer vacation in Central Oregon. 


Read the Current Issue

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!

Keep Reading: