KidTripster Teen: 10 Ways to spend a memorable Central Oregon vacation
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When Oregonians want to get away - especially families - they head to Oregon’s playground, Bend. With the highest average number of sunny days in the state (and folks here seriously need of some vitamin D!), Bend is a perfect choice for any season. Read on to discover my favorite things to do.
Photo courtesy: Visit Bend
1/Float down the Deschutes
The Deschutes is a beautiful river that’s also super fun to float. Just grab or rent an inner tube or kayak, and you’re ready to go. Start at Riverbend Park beach, just beyond the Old Mill District. Midway down the floating corridor, you’ll need to make a decision to exit the river or ride the rapids through “The Passageway.” For those with small children, climb out of the river before the Colorado Avenue Bridge and then walk to McKay Park where you can re-enter the water. The usual stopping point is Drake Park in downtown Bend. To float that distance takes about two hours. Cost of tube rental from the Sun Country Raft Tours kiosk: Youth (6-12) $10; Adult $15.
KidTripster Tip: Make sure to bring a life jacket and sunscreen, and don’t forget to use floating devices that are meant for river use and not the pool. Life jacket rentals are available for free at Riverbend Park at the Sun Country trailer, starting Memorial Day weekend.
KidTripster Tip: A municipal shuttle is available from Drake Park back to Riverbend Park for $3 per person. Sun Country Tours sell wristbands for the shuttle at the rental kiosk.
Photo courtesy: Sun Country Raft Tours
2/Eat at a lot at The Lot
These food carts are located on NW Columbia Street and NW Hartford Avenue. I think that they’re a perfect choice for families because there’s a wide range of food - everything from burgers to Thai. Sit outside, where you sometimes can listen to live music.
Photo courtesy: The Lot
3/Be Strictly Organic
Strictly Organic Coffee Company is a great little cafe in the Old Mill District. It serves really good lemonade, as well as coffee that my parents always enjoy. Plus you can grab pastries, brownies, granola, and other snacks. The place has a casual vibe with big windows and murals on the wall, and the service is top-notch.
Photo courtesy: Strictly Organic Coffee Company
4/Go wild at the High Desert Museum
To see “where wild meets west,” head to the High Desert Museum, just five minutes south of downtown Bend. This unique museum reveals the natural world and cultural history of the West’s High Desert region through artful exhibits, alluring animals, engaging programs, and meaningful history. I especially like the hands-on pioneer exhibit where you can play games, cook food, watch reenactments, and more. Plan to get lunch at the on-site Rimrock Cafe that serves burgers, hot dogs, soups, sandwiches, as well as kids’ meals.
KidTripster Tip: The museum has outdoor sections, so don’t forget sunscreen in the summer or a jacket during the cooler months.
Photo courtesy: High Desert Museum
5/Climb to new heights on Mt. Bachelor
Mt. Bachelor is Bend’s mountain playground. During the winter and early spring, you can go skiing and snowboarding; you can even go dog sledding! To find out more about a ski vacation to Mt. Bachelor and read about KidTripster’s recommendations, click here.
In the summer and fall, take the ski lift up the mountain for breathtaking views and then hike or mountain bike down for some exercise (or you can ride the lift).
Photo courtesy: Mt. Bachelor
6/Shop & walk at the Old Mill District
Formerly occupied by two lumber mills, the Old Mill District is a vibrant area of shops, galleries, restaurants, and a movie theater along the Deschutes River. Flat and very walkable, it’s a ideal area to let your little ones run some of their energy off. Don’t miss a stop at Sweet Tooth Candy Shoppe to sample some of its 300 kinds of candy!
KidTripster Tip: Rather roll than walk? Wheel Run Rentals has surreys, tandem bikes, kids’ bikes, Norge boards (think really long skateboards), and more to rent.
Photo courtesy: Old Mill District
7/Hike to Tumalo Falls
About a 30-minute drive outside of Bend, you’ll find picturesque Tumalo Falls. The last few miles of the access road are unpaved and bumpy, but once you reach the parking lot, it’s an easy, 2-minute walk to the main falls. But don’t stop there! Plan to hike to the base of the falls and along the creek. Bring a picnic lunch and spend a half day breathing in Oregon’s pine-infused, fresh air. Cost: $5 parking fee.
Photo courtesy: Visit Central Oregon
8/Slide down a waterfall
This tour may end up being your kids’ favorite activity of your entire vacation! Located just 30 minutes south of Bend, The Paulina Plunge is a mountain bike route where you descend more than 2,000 vertical feet on fat tire mountain bikes. Along the way, you stop at six waterfalls - two of which are natural water slides; yes, water slides! The tour company provides a shuttle to the top of the mountain, a guide to make the trip with you, and a shuttle back. Helmets and bikes also are provided, including trail-a-bike tandems for parents and younger riders. The excursion is appropriate for ages 4 and up. Cost: $65/person in May and June; $70 per person in July and August.
Photo courtesy: Visit Central Oregon
Explore the Lava River Cave. To be more precise, this cave is really a one-mile long lava tube that can be explored on your own in about 1-1/2 hours. Bring a flashlight or lantern, plus warm clothing as the temperature is 42°F. Cost: Free, but you will need a $5 day pass that can be purchased on site.
Last but not least, I recommend The Pancake Wagon, located on NW Colorado Avenue. This individual food cart is all-pancakes-all-the-time, including small, baby cakes for younger kids, puffins (pancakes + muffins), and purritos (pancake + burritos) for someone who wants something more unusual. It has a nice outdoor seating area and a friendly staff; they accept call-in orders, too.
Originally from Germany, Anouk Haffner is a high school freshman living in Oregon. Her interests include ballet, playing piano, and listening to music.