Over the summer, the kids and I explored Bend, OR. This was our first time in Oregon and I can easily say that it was one of my favorite stops on our entire cross-country adventure. The weather was fantastic and there was so much to do outside as a family, like tubing and kayaking on the Deschutes River.
While in Bend, we stayed in a yurt at the Bend-Sunriver RV Campground. Seriously, so much fun. As a bonus, there was a swimming pool, tennis courts, mini golf and arts and crafts activities. While we stayed just two nights at the campground, I easily could have spent a few more. I can’t wait to go back.
If you’re thinking about exploring Bend, take a look at my list of 15 fun things to do in Bend and Central Oregon with kids.
1. Go for a Family Hike. There are lots of family-friendly trails in Bend to explore, but one to check out is at Pilot Butte State Park. It’s an easy one-mile hike to the scenic viewpoint in the park and you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of Bend and the surrounding high desert.
2. Go Tubing on the Deschutes River. One of our favorite activities while in Bend was tubing on the Deschutes River with Sun Country Tours. It was a two-hour adventure along the calm waters of the Deschutes in great big red and blue tubes. If you can, bring along a rope to attach your tubes together.
3. Explore a Rock Garden. Make a side trip to explore the Petersen Rock Garden in nearby Redmond. Kids will love checking out scaled-down versions of the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall and the U.S. Capitol, all made from rocks, glass, petrified wood and shells.
4. Take a Tour of a Chocolate Factory. Head to Goody’s for a self-guided walking tour of the chocolate factory. It’s a fun way to see sweet treats, like fudge and toffee, being made. As a bonus, look for free samples at the end of the tour. I couldn’t help but buy some chocolate-covered popcorn.
5. Explore a Desertarium. Head to the High Desert Museum and get up-close and personal with lizards, salamanders, even the endangered desert tortoise, in the Desertarium. Stay for the 20-minute “show-and-tell” show to touch some of the animals, as well as snake skins and lizard scales.
6. Go on a Lava Tube Cave Tour. Try a three-hour tour of Central Oregon’s lava caves with Wanderlust Tours. Kids will love donning hard hats and head lamps as they explore the lava caves with a naturalist. Discover secret rooms and learn about the ecosystems that live in the hidden caves in Oregon’s high desert.
7. Take a Mountain Bike Tour. Sign up for a three-hour family mountain bike tour with Cog Wild. Enjoy nature trails, healthy snacks and a stop to cool off in the river. Local guides point out must-see flora and fauna along the way. It’s a must-do if you want to get outside and explore Central Oregon.
8. Check Out Public Art Across the City. Take time to see more than 20 pieces of public art across Bend that are a part of the Roundabout Art Route. Print out a map and seek out such pieces as Big Ears (a bronze doe and her fawn), as well as Yakaya, a sculpture made out of kayaks.
9. Hit the Ski Slopes. In the winter, it’s a must to head to nearby Mt. Bachelor. The ski resort offers skiing and snowboarding, as well as daily ski programs just for kids. Signature Start is great for little ones (ages 3.5 to 5) and includes a two-hour lesson, lunch and a half-day of indoor play.
10. Fish for Trout in a Kids-Only Stocked Pond. Just west of Bend, get your kids fishing at Shevlin Park. Look for a children-only fishing pond stocked with rainbow trout. The pond is located next to Aspen Hall and it’s a great way to start your kids out fishing.
11. Check Out a Kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard. Check in with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe to rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard to spend some time on the Deschutes River. The gear shop is maybe 50 feet from the water so you can really just grab the board or boat of your choice and go.
12. Go for a Picnic. In the summer months, head to the Cascade Lakes to splash and play. Bring along a picnic lunch and make a stop at Cultus Lake, which has white sandy beaches and towering evergreens. Look for plenty of picnic tables for you to enjoy lunch and the views.
13. Rent a Surrey Bike in the Old Mill District. Check in with Wheel Fun Rentals in the Old Mill District to rent a surrey bike built for two, four or six. Ride along the miles of bike trails before grabbing lunch or dinner at one of numerous restaurants in Downtown Bend.
14. Take in the Views of the Lava Lands. Head to Newberry National Volcanic Monument to take in the views of the Lava Lands of Central Oregon. Drive to the highest point within the monument – Paulina Peak – for views of the Cascades, Newberry Caldera and the surrounding high desert.
15. Become a Junior Ranger. I’m a big fan of Junior Ranger programs, so head to Tumalo State Park so your kids can earn an official Junior Ranger badge. Kids ages 6-12 complete activities and have their passport books stamped to earn badges. Visit three parks and complete activities to earn an official patch.