Family Fun in Central Oregon
Our favorite things to do while on vacation in Central Oregon especially for babies, toddlers, kids, and their parents
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HIGH DESERT MUSEUM | WILDLIFE AND LIVING HISTORY
59800 S Hwy 97, Bend, OR 97702
Voted the #1 attraction in Bend by TripAdvisor! Set on 135 wooded acres, the High Desert Museum is home to more than 100 wild animals including birds of prey, porcupines, badgers, otters and a bobcat. Living history characters transport visitors to the Old West. Permanent and changing exhibits tell the story of the High Desert. Fantastic events.
WANDERLUST TOURS | DAILY CANOE, KAYAK, MOONLIGHT & STARLIGHT CANOE, CAVE, VOLCANO, & BREWERY TOURS
61535 S Hwy 97, Suite 13, Bend, OR 97702
Throughout the Summer Wanderlust Tours offers Daytime Canoe Tours, daily at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. with Moonlight and Starlight Canoe Tours offered nightly. You can also enjoy The Bend Brew Bus or Local Pour Tour if a relaxing day around town strikes your fancy. Wanderlust Tours excels at vibrantly sharing the the cultural and natural history of this spectacular area on each and every tour. Tours are open to all experience levels and come complete with a world-class naturalist guide.
OLD MILL DISTRICT
The Old Mill District is Bend’s premier shopping center entertainment district located on the banks of the Deschutes River. The Les Schwab Amphitheater is an incredible venue for live music by national acts and hosts a Free Summer Sunday concert series in the summertime. Enjoy walks on the river trail, historic plaques detailing Bend’s past or patio dining with spectacular mountain views. Rent a surrey at Wheel Fun Rentals and take the entire family on a scenic bike ride. Float the river or take out a stand-up paddle board from Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. The Old Mill District offers a fantastic array of shops and restaurants, numerous events as well as a unique 12-hole fly casting course, sand volleyball courts, and birding along the Deschutes River migratory corridor.
One of the best ways to get oriented — not to mention get a little fresh air — is to drive or hike up Pilot Butte as soon as you arrive in Bend. This ancient 500-foot cinder cone makes Bend one of just a handful of cities in the U.S. with a dormant volcano, and the summit offers panoramic views of the city and the region.
Once you’ve got your bearings, set out for some more sightseeing on the Deschutes River Trail near the Old Mill District. You also won’t want to miss a visit to Bend’s historic Drake Park and Mirror Pond. With giant Ponderosa pine trees, meandering pathways, and plenty of picnic sites with views of the Deschutes River, Drake Park will leave you wishing you could stay in Bend forever.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of room on your camera before heading out to Tumalo Falls just 11 miles west of town on Galveston Avenue/Skyliners Road. Savor the splash of the 100-foot main falls near the parking area, or continue up the trail to enjoy a plethora of smaller waterfalls.
Can’t get enough of Oregon’s volcanic landscape? Drive south on Hwy 97 and follow signs to the Lava Lands Visitor Center. The 500-foot summit of Lava Butte gives you stellar views of the Cascades, and the Lava River Cave a mile south of the visitor center is the longest cave of its kind in Oregon. You can also check out the 7,000-year-old Lava Cast Forest with mature )onderosa pines preserved by molten lava. After you’ve explored there, continue south on 97 to Newberry Crater National Monument and climb four miles to Paulina Peak, which offers views of high desert plateaus and the Newberry Caldera. Hike the seven-mile trail around Paulina Lake or bike the 21-mile trail around the rim of the caldera. You’ll find opportunities for boating and sailing, as well as an abundance of trout and salmon for fishing. You can also check out Paulina Falls, an 80-foot waterfall plunging into a canyon over volcanic cliffs, and the Big Obsidian Flow, one of the largest in the country.
A visit to Central Oregon would not be complete without a summer lift ride up Mt. Bachelor and a drive around the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway via Century Drive. Begin with lunch at Pine Marten Lodge at 7,775 feet on Mt. Bachelor while you soak in the sights, and enjoy one of Bend’s many award-winning microbrews. Then continue to Sparks Lake, a shallow trout lake offering breathtaking views of South Sister, Mount Bachelor, and Broken Top.
Elk Lake is another must-stop: rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the lake, and then spend the afternoon hiking part of the Pacific Crest Trail. You can also visit the Historic Elk Lake Guard station which opened in 1929 to serve as a base for the Forest Service. Bird watchers will be delighted by opportunities to observe osprey, cormorants, terns, and bald eagles at Crane Prairie Reservoir.
While Smith Rock State Park may be world renowned for its rock climbing challenges, it’s also a great place for hiking deep river canyons set against stunning basalt cliffs beside the picturesque Crooked River. For a unique vantage of Smith Rock State Park join Airborne Outback Adventurers to see it from the air!
Got time for a short road trip? Head south on Hwy 97 to take in the sapphire-blue waters of Crater Lake National Park. At an elevation of 7,100 ft., the lake is five miles wide and almost a mile deep — the deepest lake in the United States.