Bend, Oregon is one of my favorite family destinations, due to sunny skies, warm summer weather, and sheer number of outdoor options, from hot-air balloon excursions to biking trails. Families can go cheap (finding free or low-cost options, such as lake days or skate parks, free family concerts or skywatching experiences). Or pay extra for Bend-area tours and camps, such as horse-riding or rock-climbing camps, giving parents time together.
Fun Stuff to Do with Kids in Bend: Outdoors
- Meet a well-known local: Smith Rock, at Smith Rock State Park. Hike, climb, fish or watch for deer, falcons and otters, or even spend the night (I love camping here, which runs only $8/night).
- Float the Deschutes River starting at Riverbend Park Beach, using the great instructions in the link, plus your float of choice and a free kids’ life jacket rental.
- Spelunk at the Lava River Cave, which is only open in summer But don’t forget water, warm clothing, headlamps for everyone in your party and solid hiking boots.
- Ride down a lazy river, splash in a zero-entry baby pool or play in the sand at Sunriver’s SHARC complex. But get there early — poolside seats go fast, and shade can be hard to come by. Tip: If you’re staying at Sunriver, make sure passes are included in your rental. Because the SHARC can take a bite outta your wallet.
- Let the kids climb the rocks (versus the walls) with a 4-day Kids Camp with Chockstone Climbing Guides.
- Spy nebulae in Central Oregon’s clear night skies or stare at the sun (safely) at Oregon Observatory at Sunriver or the Pine Mountain Observatory.
- Laze away an afternoon (pack a picnic!) at a local greenspace such as Columbia Park, which boasts a pirate ship.
- Cycle along Bend’s beautiful paths next to the Deschutes River, renting from outfitters like Let It Ride Electric Bikes, or Wheel Fun Rentals, which offer trailers, trail-a-bikes/tag-a-longs or kid-sized bikes.
- Giddyup among the sage and pines with a horse-riding lesson or tour from Flyspur Ranch, Diane’s Riding Place or Sunriver Stables.
- Balance a stand-up paddleboard on Elk Lake or kayak the Deschutes with a rental (or class) from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, which also offers kids’ camps in Bend.
- Snap gorgeous family pictures at the top of Newberry National Volcanic Monument’s nearly 8000-foot Paulina Peak, which offers awesome vistas of Oregon.
- Hike a trail and encounter a (cooled) lava cone at Pilot Butte State Park. Just saying the name aloud tends to delight kids…
- Ride the rapids or float serenely on a multi-day river adventure with Ouzel Outfitters River Trips (kids must be over 50 lbs) or Sun Country Tours.
- Heft your inflatable raft into one of Central Oregon’s fresh waters, such as Sparks Lake, Mirror Pond or Hosmer Lake.
- Ollie at Ponderosa Park’s 8000-square-foot skate park.
- Play putt-putt golf and billiards or drive go-karts at Sun Mountain Fun Center.
- Become a Junior Ranger at Tumalo State Park, then go for a hike, slide on the playground or sleep in a yurt. Tip: It’s one expert’s pick for one of the best family campgrounds in Oregon.
- Fly into the sky with Big Sky Balloon Company (kids ages 8 and up only).
- Enjoy a free summer concert *with bounce-houses* in Bend at the Les Schwab Memorial Center or Alive After 5.
Indoor Activities with Kids in Bend: Indoors
- Learn homesteading skills on a 1904 ranch, enjoy an eagle’s-eye view, hang out with a monster (gila monster, at least), and burrow in an outdoor play area (weather permitting) at the High Desert Museum. This is one of my favorite museums in the Pacific Northwest, with lots of hands-on opportunities for kids to enjoy. Head here first, to better understand the region’s fascinating history.
- Go rolling skating at Cascade Indoor Sports (kids 4 and under free!) which has more than 50,000 feet of indoor activities—great for hot days.
- Visit a 1916 schoolroom at Deschutes Historical Museum.
- Meet local wildlife at Sunriver Nature Center, go on one of the center’s moonlight hikes or sign the kids up for one of the center’s camps (they’re great!).
- Stop into Lava Lands Visitor Center and learn about the region’s super-heated history (younger kids may not find it as enjoyable).
- Sample the sweet side of nostalgia at Powell’s Sweet Shop, which stocks hundreds (yes, hundreds) of candyriffic options, including gums, bars, sodas and even wax lips.
- Bowl a strike at Lava Lanes Bowling Center in Redmond, about 23 minutes north of Bend.
- Make a splash at the indoor children’s pool at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center Recreation Swim.
- Catch a cheap movie and a slice of pie at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School, a quaint school converted to a quaint hotel/brewery/theater. It’s just one of many kid-friendly dining options in Bend.
- Slip into the sweet little nook and pick up a great new picture book at Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe or Sunriver Books and Music.
- Check out Leapin’ Lizards Toy Company for a souvenir, or a board game for family night.
Updated January 6, 2019 for accuracy.