Taking the Kids: Here’s What You’ve Got to Do in Bend, Oregon

We spent time in Bend, Oregon in 2015 when we embarked on a seven-week cross-country road trip. We loved it so much, in fact, that I knew I had to add it to our road trip itinerary for this summer that would include California, Oregon, and Washington.

This time, we stayed at the brand new Best Western Premier Peppertree Inn at Bend. It was a short walk to the Deschutes River and Farewell Bend Park, which boasts a fantastic children’s playground. It’s also a relatively easy walk to the shops downtown.

There’s no question that this hotel was made for families. Once we checked in, my kids quickly made a beeline for the Rogue Room, which has a ping pong table, a giant-size Jenga game, tic-tac-toe tables, and a flat screen TV on the wall.

The Rogue Room is also adjacent to the breakfast room. The two are separated by a glass wall, so I could drink my coffee and keep an eye on the kids. Speaking of coffee, the complimentary hot breakfast was a hit with my kids, especially the make-your-own waffles with a “BW” imprint on them (love the branding).

While there are loads of restaurants in-town, it was a plus to have a restaurant inside the hotel called ZPizza Tap Room. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to get back into the car to venture out after a fun day. The hotel also boasts an indoor pool, free (and fast) wi-fi, a top-notch fitness center, and a room to store your bike (if you brought one).

As far as the hotel room, that was a hit too. There were six of us, including four kids and two adults. Usually this means two queen-size beds and a sleeper sofa, but it was so much better at the Best Western Premier Peppertree Inn.

The main area had two queen-size beds for the kids. Then there was another area adjacent to the kids’ space with a king-size bed separated by a partial wall. There was no door between the two rooms, but there was enough of a wall to enable us to each have a bit of privacy, providing a nice break after spending a full day together.

If you’ve got Bend on your mind, book a room at the Best Western Premier Peppertree Inn at Bend, then add these 10 must-do’s to your list for a stay filled with loads of family fun. Enjoy.

1. Hike to the Top of Pilot Butte. There are lots of family-friendly trails in Bend to explore, but one to check out is at Pilot Butte State Park. I took on this one-mile hike to the summit and was rewarded with 360-degree views of Bend and the surrounding mountains. There’s also a nice playground and open field at the base of the butte.

2. Go Tubing on the Deschutes River. One of our favorite activities when we explored Bend the first time was tubing on the Deschutes River. You can rent tubes at Riverbend Park and pass the time floating along in a giant red or blue tube. Bring along a rope to attach your tubes together and enjoy the views of the Old Mill District.

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3. 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. Regular programs, like the Otter Encounter and Birds of Prey Encounter, allow visitors to get up close with wildlife of the region.

4. 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.

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5. 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 panoramic views. Hike the easy one-mile Trail of the Molten Land to see how the lava impacted the landscape.

6. 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.

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7. Rent a Bike in the Old Mill District. Check in with Wheel Fun Rentals in the Old Mill District to rent a cruiser bike or 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 Bend.

8. 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.

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9. Eat Dinner at a Food Truck Park. It’s a must to make a stop at a food truck park while in Bend, like On Tap in Bend’s Eastside. The night we visited there were six food trucks, including my favorite, PHILLYSTYLE. For kids, there are cornhole games set up to pass the time while enjoying the evening in the outdoors.

10. 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.

Disclaimer: My kids and I were guests of Visit Bend. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.