Your Epic Central Oregon Vacation

Annette Benedetti

It’s hard to believe, but Portland families are just three hours away from an adventure like no other. Central Oregon, including the Bend and Sunriver areas, is home to epic outdoor excursions, incredible high desert learning experiences, and delectable delights for foodies of all ages. If your family is into scenic hiking and biking paths, wants to hit the rapids or loves infusing family vacays with hands-on learning opportunities you’ll find all of this and more in Central Oregon. Read on for our epic itinerary to a world-class Central Oregon vacation.


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Located in Oregon’s High Desert region, families from all over the country flock to Bend and Sun River Oregon for their long-awaited summer vacations. While Central Oregon thrives through the winter months offering visitors easy access to world-renowned skiing and snow play on the slopes of Mt. Bachelor and nearby mountain and forest trails, the spring and summer months draw families for a whole slew of reasons.

Boasting 300 plus days of sunshine, Central Oregon is home to the wild and winding Deschutes River, the spires of smith rock and the iconic Sun River Resort making it the perfect place to stay, eat and play on your next family vacation.

Where to Stay During Your Central Oregon Vacation

Sunriver Resort is located a mere 18 miles south of Bend. It is an idyllic spot to set up your Central Oregon adventure basecamp. The 3,300-acre resort offers visiting families 245 rooms and suites and is home to award-winning golf courses, 10 restaurants, swimming pools for all seasons and reasons, a spa, 45 miles of biking and hiking paths and so much more. Your family could spend an entire weekend at the resort without leaving.

When choosing your accommodations, we highly recommend a stay in one of the resort’s lodge suites. This option offers spacious accommodations featuring Northwestern décor, a private deck or balcony overlooking the Meadows Golf Course, and stunning views of the Cascade Mountain Range. You can choose from a number of beds and each suite boasts spacious bathrooms with double sinks, a soaking tub, and there are even room options that include a fireplace! You’ll be thankful you booked one of these relaxing suites after a day packed with adventure.

Where to Play During Your Central Oregon Vacation

Sunriver

There’s so much to do in Bend and Sunriver that it’s hard to know where to start. Why not start with the adventures that await right outside your front door. Grab a property trail map some bikes from the Bike Barn and explore the property’s trail system. Hit the Sunriver Nature Center your family can seek out snakes, lizards, frogs and salamanders within the dark corners of the Creature Cave. There’s also access to activities like pickleball, indoor tennis, and the Cove Aquatic Center.

The Cove Aquatic Center offers visitors year-round swimming. The center features an indoor and outdoor pool, jetted spas, private outdoor cabanas, an indoor and outdoor waterslide, a gently flowing eddy, a nature walk and discovery area, lakeside trails, and a special lawn where you can soak up the sun.

The nearby Sunriver Village has a host of fun family activities including an Alpine express train, rock climbing wall, bouncy houses, mini golf and bumper cars. Before you hit the bed after a long day of play, make sure to check out the Oregon Observatory. The observatory is the largest of its kind in the country and because of Sunriver’s elevation and dark skies free of light pollution, it provides awe-inspiring views of the night sky. Over a dozen telescopes ranging in size are focused on different objects in the night sky offering visitors spectacular views and the opportunity to learn about our universe.

Bend

Bend offers visiting families incredible shopping opportunities in both its downtown and Old Mill areas. This small city also provides unmatched outdoor recreation adventures including hiking, biking and rock climbing in and around the city limits. If you are planning a vacation during the summer months you’ll want to get wet and wild on the Deschutes River. You can float the calmer sections that run through town on your own, or book a white water rafting experience with Sun Country Tours. Along with white water rafting tours, they offer relaxing floats down the river by stand-up paddleboard or inner tube. 

If your little monkeys are into climbing, you’ll want to head south on 97, where you’ll find the world-renowned Smith Rock. The guides at Chockstone Climbing Guides book private trips designed specifically for families. Book the Family Rock adventure for your crew!

Of course, don’t forget to stroll through the iconic Drake park and watch the ducks and geese play. For longer hiking trails head about 24 miles up the Cascade Lakes Highway where you will find several lakes to explore including Todd Lake which offers an easy and mostly level hike perfect for families. If you have older kids make sure to explore the trails and caves at Lava Lands Visitor Center (the center opens in May) at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just off Hwy 97 outside of Bend.

Finally, just a short drive from either Bend or Sunriver is The High Desert Museum where you’ll find indoor and outdoor exhibits including animal viewing (think bats, otters, birds of prey, and other high desert critters), interpretive trails and so much more.

Where to Eat On Your Central Oregon Vacation

You can’t visit Bend without stopping at the famous Deschutes Brewery where you family can sip on some suds and order a family pizza or small plates. But Bend has some incredible newer spots your family will love. Grab brunch or lunch at Blissful Spoon where you can grab some gluten-free pastries and a coffee or take a seat and dine or menu items like Churro Waffles, the Open Omelet, Spicy Prawn Toast and the Blissful Morning Sandwich. The customer service is exceptional, and you’ll experience a taste of bliss with each bite.

For lunch or dinner head to the Old Mill where you’ll find Boxwood Kitchen. This hot spot serves small plates like the Korean Fried Chicken Bits, Brussels Sprouts and Mac N’ Cheese. For bigger appetites try the Boxwood Burger or the Seared Trout.

If you want to eat closer to your basecamp, hit one of Sunriver Resorts’ onsite restaurants. The Lodge Kitchen offers American fare with a seasonal menu to choose from while the Owls Nest serves up craft cocktails and an incredible dining experience with gorgeous sunset views.

Wherever you decide to play or dine on your Central Oregon adventure, one thing is guaranteed: you’ll end each day with full hearts and bellies, and totally tuckered out.

Editor’s note: Travel expenses were paid for by Visit Central Oregon but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.

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