Oregon Road Trip: Dig for Fossils, Meet Dinos & Haunt a Ghost Town

Each turn on an Eastern Oregon road trip presents a new view of the region. Driving through valleys and over peaks carved by ancient floods, you’ll encounter flat range where cattle graze, basalt mountains that stretch thousands of miles into the blue sky, yellow wheat fields bending with the breeze, white windmills generating power for a growing urban population. Truly unusual sights dwell here, yet it’s not too difficult to find a room, even during summer’s peak travel season. It’s like a little slice of undiscovered Oregon — so get out there. Here’s a trip to remember.

Eastern Oregon Road Trip with Kids, Stop by Stop:

Shop a tiny Powell’s at Country Flowers Soda Fountain, a one-woman emporium of gifts, lattes, great kitchenware, beauty supplies and yes, a very small Powell’s Bookstore. Really! It’s a book-lover’s oasis.Condon Café offers microbrews on tap, bottles, pizza, salads and fine service.

Country Flowers; Powell's in Oregon

Country Flowers; Powell’s in Oregon

Wash the grit off at the restored Hotel Condon, a welcome sight after a day driving along hot, dusty roads. This 1920-era hotel offers spacious rooms for families, cable, and yes, hot showers. Truly one of my favorite little Oregon hotels. Wine and cheese hour and a continental breakfast is included in the nightly rate.

Kid-friendly Hotel Condon in Condon, Oregon

Hotel Condon in Condon, Oregon

Drive back in Time. From Condon, it’s a 20-minute drive south along the John Day Highway, a valley with giant basalt mountains cut by floods, flanking both sides of the road, until you reach the town of Fossil.

Find fossils in the aptly named Fossil. Behind Fossil High School, you’ll find Oregon’s public fossil beds, where you can scrape and brush aside layers of dirt and rock to find your very own plant fossil, such as the needles of a metasequoia that fell 33 million years ago. The fossil tools are free for use by anyone, but there is a $15/four-person family admission fee.


Digging for fossils with kids in Fossil

Digging for fossils with kids in Fossil

Meet ancient residents at Oregon Paleo Lands Institute, which has a full-size Plesiosaur found right in Fossil, along with little puzzles and playthings for younger children. Don’t miss the family activities at OPLI, if you can arrange your visit around one of the hikes.

Oregon Public Lands Institute with Kids

Oregon Public Lands Institute with Kids

From Fossil, you have two good choices. You can drive for another hour south toward the Painted Hills, which are stunning; I recently wrote about the Painted Hills. Or you can drive a half-hour west  for an otherworldly hike at the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds, just 18 miles west of Fossil; giant rock outcroppings almost look like a sci-fi high-rise made of stone (those little holes/windows look they belong in alien condos, for sure). It’s a great place to picnic.

Clarno Unit with Kids

Clarno Unit with Kids

Heading north again, don’t miss a chance to creep through the Oregon ghost town Shaniko, where the town’s  remaining buildings are painted in almost-giddy colors. You can still get lunch or ice cream in town though — without scaring your wallet.

Shaniko Ghost Town with Kids

Shaniko Ghost Town

From here, it’s about a 90-minute drive to The Dalles. Eat at Burgerville, just for me. Drive back toward Portland along I-84, through the Columbia River Gorge.

Long Family Camping Trips in Washington State

Seattle-based parenting consultant Jenni Pertuset and her 8-year old daughter Meg like camping. No, scratch that – they love camping. The duo have camped for thousands of miles around Washington State for the past three years. Each year, they wrap a different theme around their two-week camping trips.

The first year, mother and daughter toured Olympic Peninsula destinations Jenni visited with her parents, when Jenni was a child. She revisited these places, in part, to remember her father, who had recently passed away.

The second year followed Lewis and Clark’s westward water route in Washington by road, starting from Canoe Camp in Idaho, following the land along Washington’s Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia Rivers, and ending at Cape Disappointment  on the Washington coast.

Camping with Kids at Cape Disappointment in Washington State

Camping with Kids at West Beach, Deception Pass in Washington State

In year three, the two camped for the entire month of June, with occasional overnight returns to Seattle to connect with loved ones and to wash up. The third camping year focused on water-centric campsites in Washington State, where they could swim. “We stayed at eight campsites, all on bodies of water,” she says. “Considering that my girl will immerse herself in the Puget Sound even in the coldest months, in effect this meant I could pick anywhere with water, as long as it moved slowly enough not to whoosh her away.”

So yes, they love camping in Washington State. Here’s a quick interview to find out how one expert mom camps with her kid.

1. Your Washington State camping trip in year two (following the Lewis & Clark trail) sounds amazing. What was your favorite part of Year Two?

We visited cultural sites, museums, interpretive centers, and Confluence Project installations learning more about the Corps of Discovery and the Native people whose lands they crossed. With a couple of notable exceptions, most were interesting and engaging. We especially enjoyed the Interpretive Center at Sacajawea State Park in Washington State and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in Oregon.

But far and away the highlight of the trip was the interpretive center at Fort Clatsop (near Astoria) where the Corps wintered on the south side of the mouth of the Columbia. The museum itself is nothing special, but the replica of the fort and the living history guides there are remarkable. My then-6-year-old and I engaged with one man in period dress for over two hours, both of us fascinated the entire time while he told us stories and answered questions, offering interesting facts and considered opinions remarkably well-informed by his studies of the Lewis and Clark journals. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

2. What’s your favorite type of campsite?

I love camping on the salt water best. Whether it’s a sandy beach on the coast or a rocky one on the Puget Sound, my girl and I are content to spend hours toe-dipping, seal-watching, pit-digging, fort-building, crab-hunting, and sun-soaking. I don’t think you can go wrong with a beach.

Meg’s favorite spot was Rainbow Falls State Park, because the Doty General Store nearby sold penny candy.

3. Any tips for multi-night camping stays, particularly for parents trying it for the first time?

Go to one or two sites, and stay put. Stay to see the details of one place. Decide what you care about, and relax about the rest. I love cooking over the fire, and it suits us to spend a few hours a day at the campsite to prepare meals. But you might prefer to pack super easy food so you can get out on a trail.

Expect everything to take a long time. Linger. Let it slow you down.

4. Which Washington State campsite would you recommend for first-time camping with kids?

I think Deception Pass  State Park is a great choice for first time campers. It’s astonishingly beautiful, with beaches and trails for miles, and it’s still close to civilization in case you’ve forgotten something or just need to escape from unexpected rain in a public library for a couple of hours. For Seattleites, it’s a quick trip out of town, and if you go mid-week (or on the spur of the moment early in the season as we just did to catch the pre-summer sun) there are plenty of spaces available. Don’t try to go on a weekend in August without a reservation made well in advance, though. And make sure you get a spot inside the main park, rather than across the road at Quarry Pond.

Deception Pass State Park with Kids

Swimming at Deception Pass State Park

5. Anything you always bring on camping trips that you would miss if you forgot it?

Apart from the essentials required to shelter, clothe, and feed ourselves, I’d be disappointed if I forgot a book. Reading by the fire or in the tent before sleep is one of my pleasures while camping. As for tools, my two favorite things are telescoping roasting forks with a knob on the handle that allows you to rotate the fork (you can get them for a few dollars at Fred Meyer OR Lora’s example: Coghlan’s 9670 Telescoping Fork) and battery powered LED holiday lights for the inside of the tent.

Rain paints! Rain pants are the best invention ever, ever, ever. I’ve spent plenty of days out in a canoe or exploring a beach, or even sitting at the campfire, totally comfortable because my backside wasn’t soaking wet.

Two things I’ve stopped bringing: my camp stove, because I cook every meal over the fire, and my camp lantern, because as retro cool as it is and as much as it reminds me of camping with my dad, it’s a hassle to light and it’s blindingly bright.

6. Which games, activities and songs you both enjoy while camping?

We often drive long distances to campgrounds, so we usually have an audio book going in the car.

I usually bring a handful of things to do — art materials, a card game — and we never use them. We mostly poke around at and around the campsite, often literally. Meg dedicates hours to digging a “pit trap” at almost every camp site.

Columbia River Gorge Camping with Kids

Jumping into the Columbia River Gorge

7. Any favorite camping foods?

I usually plan for one night of very easily prepared food — sausages and raw fruits and veggies — for every couple of nights of food that takes a bit more effort. We still get to enjoy the fire, but it allows for more flexibility to stay longer at the beach or hike an extra mile or get the tent up before dark.

I tend to keep it fairly simple, but I cook anything that I could make on the stove or grill at home, using a cast iron pan, foil on the grate, or roasting forks. I haven’t taken my cast iron dutch oven recently, but in the past I’ve taken that along to make stews, soups, and cobblers. (An example of a Dutch oven: Esschert Design USA FF117 Fire Pit Dutch Oven)

One important camping tip: Put a big pan of water on to heat while you cook and you’ll have hot water for dishes and for a post-marshmallow washcloth.

Jenni Pertuset and Meg

Jenni and Meg

Thanks, Jenni & Meg!

Readers, what would you bring on a long family camping trip?


A (Very Opinionated) Guide to Social Coupon Deal Sites in the Pacific NW & BC

By now, you’ve probably already signed up for one of the online coupon sites – Groupon, LivingSocial or another – so you can receive great offers directly in your in-box. But did you know it’s also a great idea for family travelers? If you sign up for a favorite city you’d like to visit, you may discover a great deal on a four-star hotel, a favorite family restaurant or an activity you’d always thought you’d like to try but never had the money for (heli-skiing, anyone?).

Right now, it’s mostly the cities that offer great social deals, from Whistler to Eugene, and focused on the big players (Vancouver, Seattle, Portland)

However, read the fine print and use your web research skills. While $40 worth of food for $20 seems like a great idea, but if your steak’s not cooked properly, the fries are limp and your margarita tastes like cleaner, its not such a hot buy. ALWAYS check Yelp.com reviews (in Canada, Dinehere.ca) for general restaurant reviews pre-purchase.

The same goes for hotels. The hotel may be offering the discounted stay because few people have heard of the gem of a stay – or it could be because people have read the Tripadvisor reviews and stay away in droves. Or because it’s located at the airport, which we all know is located NOWHERE NEAR THE FUN STUFF. Or it’s located in a suburb with nothing much going on. Check Tripadvisor and double-check the location. Check the fine print on whether they’re going to charge you extra for kids (and do not buy those that do, unless you have like seven kids and you really won’t fit into a hotel room).

And similarly for activities, services and memberships. I tend to think the memberships are a great deal, particularly in your own city – but sometimes also in cities you plan to visit. At 50% or more off, you may still be saving over the typical family admission. Check fine print about expirations and who’s included (adults only? Kids?).

Finally, one more caveat. Many small businesses feel like the coupon sites are a terrible deal for them – charging immense fees and leaving the small biz unprepared for the onslaught of cheapskate customers. A small biz will have to determine for themselves whether this form of marketing works, but I do advise always tipping for the full amount and not cheaping-out too much.

The sites:

Groupon.com. The Big Daddy of online coupon sites, Groupon is (at this point) one of the best sites to sign up for – there’s a daily deal for every metro area, generally, and most are pretty solid. I’ve seen amazing deals here — 50% off Victoria Clipper fare, great hotels, cool experiences. I dread reading the copy, however. I wish they’d ditch the hyper-adjectives and just give me the information. My sneaking suspicion: Groupon uses MadLibs to write each description.

Destinations covered: Vancouver BC, Victoria, Tacoma, Seattle, Portland.

LivingSocial.com operates much like Groupon, but it also offers the appealing “LivingSocial Escapes,” often to local destinations (Whistler, etc.). Without the annoying writing style.

Destinations: Bellevue, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Eugene, Vancouver (BC).

Wagjag.com has offered some fabulous boutique hotel stays and restaurants. I’d sign up for this one if going to Vancouver at any point soon.

Destinations: Vancouver, BC only.

Savvy Source and Mamapedia are both for parents, and often present cool deals for family-centric activities (plays, museums, symphonies, ballets). Of course, sometimes the bargains are a dud or not really family-pertinent, and they’re very limited in cities offered.

Savvy Source Destinations: Seattle

Mamapedia Destinations: Portland, Seattle

Goodnews.com and Stealthedeal.com are also both offered in Vancouver, BC only. Goodnews.com combines local deals with local charitable causes – so you can feel doubly good about your discounted dinner or gelato.

Destinations: Only offered in Vancouver only at this point.

Dealpop.com is the WhitePages entry into the market. Eh. There have been one or two items that are mildly appealing.

Destinations: Seattle only.

Did I miss any coupon sites that offer savings for family travelers?

Families Travel! Corene goes to Orcas Island

Luckily, Seattle-area foodie blogger Corene Caley (foodiepatootie.com), husband Calvin and daughter Arden (age 5 ½) always knows where to eat when arriving on Orcas Island.

The happy family

Caley is more than qualified to dish on Orcas’s culinary delights. “We go to Orcas two or three times in the summer and about every other month in the fall/winter/spring. I’m sure that will change now that Arden is starting elementary but hopefully we’ll fit it in.”

Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands, is located about two hours northwest of Seattle via Anacortes, Washington and the Washington State Ferry system.

Why does your family frequently visit the San Juan Islands?

I was lucky enough to marry a great guy. His family just happens to have a place on the North Shore. Lucky me.  His father built the house himself in the 60’s. We get up there often and have watched the island become a true foodie family destination over the past 10 years.  “Farm to Table” is an understatement – It’s incredible!

Can you tell us about your favorite, kid-friendly Orcas Island restaurants?

Roses Bakery and Roses Bakery Cafe, Eastsound (382 Prune Alley, Eastsound, 360-376-4292) Local produce is the star for breakfast and lunch.  Food is excellent, but our favorite is the bakery attached to the cafe. The bread rivals any I’ve eaten worldwide. Our favorites are the Hearth loaf (available daily, can be sliced for you) and the Tortano (a very large circle of the most delicious bread you’ll ever have) which is only available on Saturdays and sells out quickly. The cold case is filled with a nice selection of cured meats, cheeses and (when available) beautiful house-made pâté.  House made pies, pie dough and meat pies available in the freezer case. Roses is always busy and deserves all the praise it receives from locals and visitors alike.

Allium in Eastsound – We had the pleasure of dining at this 3 month-old restaurant a couple weeks ago. Owner and chef Lisa Nakamura took over the space once occupied by Christina Orchid, who is an island and foodie legend.  Lisa’s resume includes the Herbfarm and French Laundry so needless to say we were excited. The staff was very accommodating to our 5 year old (who of course used her princess manners the whole time).  Beautiful views and even better food.  Favorites were Roasted Vegetables with Caramelized Onion and Herb Dip, Chilled Roasted Baby Beet Soup
Fresh Dill, Toasted Hazelnuts and our chicken and halibut “bigger plates” were excellent.

The Madrona Bar & Grill, Eastsound. This restaurant is another newcomer to the island.  Kids allowed!  We were wowed by the casual fare here.  Fish and chips, best burger I’ve had in a long time and our daughter wolfed down her pasta with pesto cream and perfectly cooked prawns.  Delicious.

Orcas Island kid-friendly restaurant

An Orcas Island restaurant

Vern’s Bayside, Eastsound. Vern’s is a local institution on Orcas.  Big portions, big view and sassy service.  Mostly Americana and Bar fare – but the real treat is breakfast.  The Crab Omelet is embarrassingly full of fresh Dungeness. Plenty to split.  Crab Benedict is also delish.  Definitely kid-friendly – when we walked in the owner gave our daughter a logoed flying disc and made sure we knew they were “the only restaurant in Eastsound to offer a kids menu!”.  Not sure on that one.

The Orcas Hotel, Orcas Ferry dock.  This is the place that makes going home a little easier.  We arrive at the Ferry dock early (which you need to do anyway) and head straight to the hotel for breakfast.  There is a full service dining room but we like order at the counter cafe which is serving up a great breakfast sandwich.  We are not talking low fat here…it’s a freshly baked croissant stacked with always perfectly scrambled egg, sharp cheddar and your choice of bacon or giant sausage patty.  Served with a nice selection of fresh fruit.  Hot chocolate, coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.  Should we get that homemade cinnamon roll too?  Sure, throw it in – we’re still on vacation right?

What does your family like to do on Orcas Island?

Orcas Island Farmers Market (Saturday, Village Green, Eastsound). FOOD FOOD FOOD!  Local artists, jewelry makers, farmers and FOOD. Locally made grilled Italian sausage, ribs, vegetarian goodies, cupcakes… seriously good food abounds.

Orcas Island Pottery. Drive up the country lane, look for the “Faint not…” sign and you’re there. The island pottery and views are lovely but our favorite is the recently added tree house.  Total delight.  Plus they are open every day except Christmas and Easter and encourage picnicking and general lingering.  What’s not to like?

Black Dog Farm, just up the road from our place on the North Shore (short drive or longer walk from Eastsound).  Open Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus they do the Saturday Farmers Market in Eastsound. Produce, meats, eggs and flowers. Family owned by very nice folks.

Howe Art Sculpture Park (items for sale), just outside of Eastsound. You can see a few of the kinetic sculptures from the road but make the trip up the winding hill to this magical sculpture park.  Everyone in our family loves the moving sculpture – truly a special place.

Orcas Island structure

A wood ball at Howe Sculpture Park

What does your daughter like to do on Orcas Island? Any child-friendly favorite activities?

She loves to play on the beach, visit the farms, walk to the “point,” which is a rocky outcrop along Orcas’ North Shore, S’mores, collect shells, visit Howe Art sculpture park, eat Roses Bread, catch crab, take walks in the woods, hike to Cascade Falls (this is a VERY easy hike for kids…it’s more like a walk and it’s only a few minutes for big payoff)

Hiking in Moran State Park

A kid-friendly hike on Orcas Island

We’ve also been to the Funhouse, a very cool kids play and learning space with drop in learning/play. It’s surprisingly fantastic for something on an island. There was a craft ‘yurt’ with tons of supplies which she loved. I would compare it to a more interactive version of the Seattle Children’s Museum – on Orcas Island!

Families Travel! A mom to 15 kids tells you how she travels

Sarah Reese is a 36-year-old Bellingham mom to 15 kids. And she loves family travel. Yes, you read those two sentences correctly.

Sarah was a single mom to just one child when she met her husband Robert, who was a single father to four children. Like a Super Brady Bunch, the duo combined their children, then adopted foster kids and Haitian orphans. Eleven children live at home; four are grown and have moved out.

She blogs (beautifully and with vulnerability) about her journey and parenting struggles at Mom to 15. Many of Reese’s children have special needs – physical, medical or psychological. Seriously, her blog sucks me in. I admire her ability to parent with such reflection and compassion. She also takes excellent photos (the photo below is in Pioneer Park, in Ferndale, Washington). It’s difficult to get that many kids arranged and smiling!

“We’ve found that travel and having adventures is what brings us all together,” Sarah says.

So as you can imagine, Sarah knows a lot about how to travel as a larger family, how to save money on trips and why travel is so important for families. Let’s discover how she does it:

1. Where have you gone recently?

The most recent trips have been overnights to Seattle. We often try to combine Children’s Hospital appointments with adventures in Seattle. Typically we have all the little children plus a few bigger ones with us too.

Last summer we did several local camping trips, including Olympic National Park, Vancouver Island (including Victoria) and the North Oregon Coast. On the Oregon Coast, we were with another family who had five children. It was a wild time!

2. What’s your family’s biggest challenge while traveling?

The amount of “stuff” that it takes for our family to travel, especially when we are camping. It’s difficult to not over pack and I am someone who always likes to be prepared. Now we have a good system down for camping and we typically make a list of each item and where it is; which bag, which container, and so on.

3. How do you save money when staying in hotels?

When we stay at hotels we typically stick to two brands: Marriott Residence Inn or Embassy Suites. The Marriott Residence Inn has a “penthouse” suite that we can get for less than two hotel rooms. It has two bedrooms and a fold out sofa. It has a full sized kitchen so we are able to stay on budget with food costs. Both hotels have free breakfast and swimming pools.

Embassy Suites we love because they have a room with a living room area that has a fridge and microwave. We do get two rooms but it’s almost like having four, because of the way that its set up.

If we have to stay outside of these two options we always call ahead to the hotels and let them know how many children we have and see if they have connecting rooms or can guarantee side by side rooms so there are no surprises.

We also always have extra sleeping bags and single air mattresses in the van in case we need to have an extra bed for someone on the floor.

We participate in reward programs, and use AAA or other discounts we can find online. We also always keep our options open to staying at a KOA or renting a cabin or home from VRBO.com.

We’d love to house swap, and have offered several times. Yet no one is taking us up on our offer- might be the family size!

4. How do you save money on food expenses when traveling?

We have half a family of vegetarians and several picky little eaters. This is how we save the most money — by not eating out.

We do try on each trip to have one meal out where we go someplace local and have the experience and the great food! In Victoria, BC, we had fish and chips on the water at a popular place and it was a hefty price, but well worth the experience.

I know that this doesn’t sound luxurious, but spreading out paper towels on the dashboard and laying down PB & J’s works just fine with us. Saving our money for great locally made ice cream or other indulgences is much more rewarding then going through a drive through each time.

We also try to bake muffins and other things so that we have them in the car for snacks and meals on the go. We pack fresh fruit and cut up vegetables and take a huge cooler that we restock on the road.

We also sometimes order pizza and have that in our hotel room or even heat up something in the hotel microwave. Our children are just as happy eating some cheese and crackers with fruit salad for dinner as anything else.

5. How about on things to do; how do you save money on activities?

We did our research and bought family memberships at many big places like the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center, The Seattle Children’s Museum, and so on. We bought the memberships specifically because they have reciprocal programs in many other places. We try to utilize them as often as we can.(Read more about reciprocal memberships)

We also divide and conquer. We split up and go to the activities that are really important to us. We would rather split up and give everyone the chance to do the things that they really want to do instead of paying entrance fees for everyone even though certain children are indifferent about going.

We also do our research ahead of time on Tripadvisor and other websites so we can see what other people recommend for visiting. We try to go to as many “free” places as possible. We use local swimming pools and recreation facilities if they are unique. We attend free events and try to avoid big theme parks and other money sucking places.

Each of the children typically have their own money saved ahead of time to spend on something for themselves but we don’t go overboard with buying things or shopping on vacations.

6. So many people give up traveling after they have kids. What do you think?

Travel is what keeps life exciting! Living in such a wonderful area of the world (Pacific Northwest) is certainly a blessing that we should all be taking advantage of. There are so many options for travel of any size family on size of a budget.

The longest trip that we have taken as a family was two months long. My husband was working from home at the time and was able to work on the road.

The farthest trip was across the country – yes — with all of our children. Once your family gets into a good routine of traveling the whole concept becomes second nature to the kids.

I would suggest for families who are able to travel outside of the busiest travel times to do so. It’s been incredible being able to go places that are popular and save a ton of money and have free reign because the crowds are non-existent.

Next Monday, for part two of this interview, we’ll find out what Sarah thought of her trip to Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia.

High Desert, Kid Friendly: Bend, Oregon

Have you been around the Bend? Bend, Oregon’s warm, dry air is the perfect prescription for rain-inflicted doldrums. As a kid, I loved going to Bend and rubbing scented sagebrush between my fingers, riding bikes along flat (flat! really!) paths and hiking the twisted trails by the Deschutes River.

So why don’t we ask a local family for their favorite Bend locales? Bend resident Sarah Laufer and husband Justin met while they were both guiding whitewater rafting trips in Colorado. They soon moved to Bend, where they’ve been raising their two kids, 5-year-old daughter Chloe and 3-year-old son Avery.

Sarah’s also the co-founder of PlayOutdoors.com, an online store specializing in children’s adventure gear and clothing. This mom knows her great outdoors. Here are Sarah’s tips on where to eat and play in Bend, Oregon.

Where does your family like to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Bend? Which Bend restaurants are kid-friendly?

Breakfast: Go to Cafe Sintra. Manuel, the owner, loves kids and the food is so yummy and family friendly.  It’s breakfast with a Portuguese twist.

Lunch: Go to Croutons, which offers yummy sandwiches and salads, along with special kids meals. Locally owned, totally affordable and with great outdoor seating.

Dinner: Pastini in the Old Mill right near the river trail. What kiddo doesn’t like pasta?! There is awesome outdoor seating and food is yummy and comes out lickity split! Want Mexican instead? Try La Rosa in Northwest Crossing.

If you knew of family friends coming into town with kids, where would you take them? What are some things to do in Bend with kids?

In the winter, we would head up to the Wanoga Snow Play Area with some treats and a thermos of hot cocoa for some sledding and cross-country skiing.  There is even a warming hut with a wood stove and plenty of wood to get cozy and take a break for the next round of romping in the snow. Don’t forget your Sno-Park Permit.

In the summer, we would probably head to Shevlin Park for a picnic, rock skipping in the river and a nice walk/hike. Also fun to bring bikes and go for a ride on the pavement or trail. There is actually a dirt road that goes all the way to Sunriver Resort, if you’re up for it.

Drake Park is a great place to take a walk around Mirror Pond. The park also hosts summertime concerts (Munch and Music) and the Bend Farmers Market. It’s right near downtown.

Bend Oregon with kids

Drake Park with kids. Photo courtesy of Play Outdoors.

But there’s just so much to do outside in Bend year round! In the spring, you can float the Deschutes River, ski Mt. Bachelor, go for a bike ride, and head out for a walk on the Deschutes River Trail all in one day.  That makes for very happy — and tired — kidlets.

And in bad weather? What would you do in the rain with kids in Bend?

The High Desert Museum is by far the best museum in Central Oregon!  They have great kids programs along with current exhibits all about the plant and animals in the high desert.


For more family-friendly ideas on what to do on your Bend vacation with kids, see the Visit Bend’s Family Fun Page. Or order The Children’s Travel Guide to Bend, Oregon by Crystal McCage.

For more kid-friendly restaurants, read Top 5 Family Friendly Restaurants in Bend, Oregon, an article in True North, a parenting magazine for Central Oregon families. Browse True North’s calendar to discover timely activities and events.

And read this highly opinionated (and hilarious) piece from Bend Oregon Restaurants, “Family Friendly Restaurants” — with notes on where to have a not-too-annoying kid birthday party when you’re in town.

Which kid-friendly restaurants, activities, shops and hotels do you recommend in Bend, Oregon?