The best things to do in Bend for January

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The best things to do in Bend for January

A new year is like a blank canvas. Actually, scratch that. It’s a field of fresh snow waiting for you to make your mark. Will it be a snow angel? Snowshoe tracks? The rounded butt print of a saucer sled pulled to the top of a hill before you sail screaming with laughter into a bright new year.

I could happily milk that snowy metaphor all day, but let’s move on to sharing the best things to do, see, eat, and explore in January when you’re in Bend.

Aerial view of the Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon under a blanket of fresh snow.
Enjoy the shops, restaurants, and river trail in the Old Mill District.

Score seasonal bargains

Bend’s busiest season goes from May through October, with spikes of excitement around spring and winter breaks.

But when January rolls around, everyone’s maxed out from holiday spending while still desperately craving a vacation reset. Relax. Bend’s got just the thing.

January’s when shops slash prices to get rid of excess holiday inventory and make way for new spring stuff. Hit some of Bend’s best shopping zones to score great deals this time of year.

Hotels are in the same boat with Christmas break crowds long gone and spring breakers still a couple months out. If you’re looking for bargains on Bend hotels and vacation rentals, January’s one of the best months to find killer deals.

Because it’s one of our slowest times of year, pay close attention to stores’ operating hours and which days restaurants are open. Double check what you see online, as small mom-and-pop shops may not remember to update web info when seizing the January slowdown for vacations of their own.

But some extra legwork is a small price to pay for…well, a smaller price to pay.

4,300 skiable acres at Mt. Bachelor are a quick 22-mile drive from downtown Bend.
4,300 skiable acres at Mt. Bachelor are a quick 22-mile drive from downtown Bend.

Bring on the snow!

I’ll admit 2023’s El Niño conditions haven’t been kind to Bend’s snowpack. But if any month can change that, it’s January. 

That’s also when things really ramp up at Mt. Bachelor. They’ve had time to fine-tune systems and build a nice, solid base. Want to know the best part?

You’ve got the slopes to yourselves.

When holiday breaks end and cookie-hyped kids head back to school, Mt. Bachelor shakes herself off and says, “let’s slow things down.” That brings some of the best conditions you’ll find all season at North America’s sixth largest ski resort. You’ll have 4,300 acres of lift-accessible terrain just for you and a handful of others smart enough to jump on January’s bargain prices and fab conditions. 

Now’s the perfect time to tuck the kiddos in Mt. Bachelor’s daycare center before heading out for a day of adults-only skiing. Better yet, get those young’uns into lessons through the Ski or Ride in 5 program or take advantage of Mt. Bachelor’s Kids Ski Free program.

There’s also nordic skiingterrain parkssled dog rides, and oh yeah—some of the best bloody marys anywhere. If you’re doing Dry January, I swear I won’t tell if you sip just one.

Winter hike to the summit of Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon.
Catch the sunrise from the trail at Pilot Butte State Park in the center of Bend.

What’s January hiking in Bend like?

The best thing about a lower snow year is the chance to explore endless Bend hiking trails––even in the dead of winter.

Head for the Oregon Badlands Wilderness to enjoy thousands of acres of magical desert landscape and all the solitude you crave after weeks of holiday houseguests. 

Got your heart set on popular spots like Tumalo Falls or Newberry National Volcanic Monument? Even with snow gates shut for the season, you can still reach them with the aid of snowshoes or (depending on snowfall) microspikes on your feet.

You can also book a snowmobile tour to see spots like Newberry or trails off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway in ways you can’t do two on two feet.

Want to stick closer to town? Pilot Butte makes a lovely winter hike, and the snow-capped Cascades look stunning from the top. You’ll seldom see a more epic sunset or sunrise than you’ll spot from the top of this dormant volcano. Just remember a headlamp if you’re hoofing it down in the dark.

Check out this blog post for more ideas on inspiring winter hikes. You’ll also find a few in this roundup of short but sweet hikes that are especially great for winter (think Shevlin Park, Deschutes River Trail, Pine Nursery, Cline Falls, and Riley Ranch Nature Reserve).

One thing to keep in mind when you’re playing outside in January: Winter range closures on Forest Service land and seasonal wildlife closures on BLM land. These closures protect furry and feathery friends like deer, prairie falcons, golden eagles, and other nesting birds. Those links I just shared have everything you need to know about where it’s fine to roam and where you should steer clear this time of year.

And if you’re bummed over missing those critters, may I suggest a visit to the High Desert Museum?

Forest Bath in Shevlin Park with Roam'n Yoga
A group on a forest bathing experience with R’oming Yoga in Shevlin Park. (Image courtesy: R’oming Yoga | Image credit: Stacie Muller)

Time for some self-care

You wore yourself ragged hosting holiday in-laws and shopping ‘til you dropped last month. It’s time for a self-care retreat to Bend.

Try a forest bath with R’oming Yoga and discover peace of mind like you’ve never felt before. True story: Following my first forest bath, my FitBit (which normally greets me each morning by telling me I slept terribly) had a solid week of informing me I’m the champion of all sleepers. Coincidence? Doubtful.

Embrace the ultimate meditation with a visit to Easy Float. You’ll spend over an hour suspended in saltwater with all your senses switched off. Talk about an immersive experience!

Schedule a massage at brand-new The NOW Massage boutique or one of countless other luxurious Bend day spas. It’s also a great time to get in touch with your spiritual side by taking a workshop at a Bend wellness center like Blissful Heart or Bend Community Healing.

Tower Theatre in the snow in Bend, OR
Catch a show at the Tower Theatre in downtown Bend, Oregon.

Soak up some culture

While Hayden Homes Amphitheater keeps concert crowds rockin’ all summer, winter’s when Bend’s indoor venues shine.

Ring in the New Year in style with the Mad Hatter Ball at the Riverhouse Convention Center, featuring dinner, live music, and more. There’s also a swanky bash slated for New Year’s Eve at Lady Bird Cultural Society, featuring live music and a mouthwatering four-course tasting menu.

Find a concert to enjoy at Bend’s historic Tower Theatre, which brings in an impressive mix of well-known artists, indie performers, and niche musicians you won’t often see at larger venues. 

Snap up tickets to Jazz at the Oxford, and kick off your swanky evening with cocktails and dinner at Roam. I highly recommend the Blood Moon made with sun ranch vodka, créme de cassis, lillet blanc, earl grey tea, blackberry, coriander, lemon, and soda water.

For more epic ways to get your groove on this time of year, scan our Event Calendar for live music in January.

Resolve to try something new

January’s natural slowdown brings out the best kind of creativity from Bend hotspots hungry for your business.

A glimpse at our Event Calendar reveals a quirky array of activities ranging from adult dodgeball to magic shows to trivia nights to burlesque nights to comedy shows held at local watering holes. No joke, Craft Kitchen & Brewery has a “ball pit comedy night” where crowds are encouraged to throw balls at standup comedians. 

Take a look at what’s happening, then vow to kick off your year by trying something different from your normal Bend adventures. 

Even better? Swing by the Bend Visitor Center and ask the friendly staff for their recommendations. Anyone who wishes Visitor Center Manager Catherine Carroll a happy birthday month gets a free sheet of Leave No Trace stickers.

Welcome to the new year, friends!