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, 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?

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Noah

    The children’s museum there was fabulous, but apparently it’s closed now. 🙁

    When we were in Bend last we LOVED Flat Bread Community Oven in The Old Mill District. One of their kids meals is a “make your own pizza” where they bring out the crust and toppings, kids assemble, and then carry it to the cook and can watch the cook put it in the wood oven (they’ll put it near the front) and watch it cook. The food is delicious too!

    And of course we love Goody’s for ice cream!

  • Lynnette Braillard

    You can check out the virtual edition of the Visit Bend official visitors guide online here or request a printed one at There’s plenty of detailed information on hiking, biking, dining and lodging in Bend. There’s a kid friendly section, too, and our team of Bend Experts at the Visit Bend Welcome Center can answer any specific questions you have about the area. Bend has so many fun things for the family vacation.