Once a logging town, Bend, with a population of about 58,000, has now emerged as a center for culture and art. While geographically located on the state’s east/west border, the city’s social and cultural makeup also combines elements of Oregon’s green west with its high desert east. In Bend, you will find one-of-a-kind museums and attractions highlighting the area’s abundance of fossil beds and prehistoric lava flows. The city also prides itself on progressive thinking, conservation and open-mindedness that make it particularly attractive to people relocating from larger cities in the Northwest and California. Evidence of Bend’s growing urbanism can be seen everywhere, from its array of art galleries, theater and shopping venues to its microbreweries and fine dining restaurants.
For good basic planning help with your trip, contact the Central Oregon Visitors Association (visitcentraloregon.com). In addition to setting up hotels and other logistics, they can help to plan activities. After all, most groups who visit Bend will be interested in some outdoor activities, whether summer fun like golf or any of the “-king” sports (biking, kayaking or hiking), or in the winter, skiing, dog-sledding and snowshoeing. Much of the local recreation is centered around Mt. Bachelor, a 9,065-foot mountain that gets about 370 inches of snow each year; Mt. Bachelor ski area is equipped to handle meeting and event groups of all sizes (mtbachelor.com).
In the past, Bend would have to relinquish many larger meetings to the state’s northwestern venues, according to Ron Botts, director of sales for the Riverhouse Convention Center (riverhouse.com). Not so anymore. Set to open in November is the new convention center, after an expansion and renovation to the existing Riverhouse Hotel and Resort in the heart of Bend’s downtown. Botts says that the new free-standing convention center, located on the banks of the Deschutes River, has already taken bookings through 2008.
While you’re in town, visit the McMenamins Old St. Francis School (mcmenamins.com). Built in 1936, the building has transitioned to a destination hotel, complete with classrooms-turned-guest rooms, a pub, brewery, bakery, movie theater and 4,400 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
For some group activities arrange Wanderlust Tours (wanderlusttours.com), they can take your group on one - to multiday rafting and fly-fishing trips. Or, for a more physically demanding adventure, let your group test their skills and stamina at Smith Rock State Park (smithrock.com), known worldwide as a premier rock-climbing destination. The park is made famous by Monkey Face, a 350-foot spire resembling, well, a monkey’s face.