Bend, Oregon has become a popular destination over the years thanks to the beautiful vistas, clear skies, and endless outdoor activities. Whether you want to venture out or stay in town, there are endless things to do with kids in Bend.
This list was made with parents in mind. You and your kids will love these activities. And remember, at the end of a long day there are plenty of kid-friendly brewpubs!
These are 10 of the best things to do in Bend with kids:
- Smith Rock State Park
- Benham Falls
- Drake Park
- Float the River
- Kayak or Stand Up Paddle Board
- Ride a Bike
- Spelunk at Lava River Cave
- Pilot Butte
Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock is a dramatic landscape of 500 foot tall imposing golden rock spires that emerge from the depths of the Crooked River. It has long been a climber’s mecca, with nearly 1,800 climbing routes. But you don’t have to be a rock climber to enjoy the impressive scenery.
The River Trail, which is 4.5 mile there and back, follows the Crooked River and has spectacular views of the cliffs and rock climbers. Aside from the initial descent into the canyon, the trail is relatively level. Coen tried his hand at rock climbing by scrambling up smaller rocks along the trail.
The park can get crowded and hot in the summer, so come early and don’t forget your recreation pass. They can be purchased on-site.
Bonus: On your way back to Bend, stop by Crescent Moon Alpaca Ranch. For a few dollars, you can buy a bag of alfalfa pellets and feed the goofy, gentle alpacas.
The sheer volume of water cascading through lava rocks is a stark contrast to the calm waters of the Deschutes River up and downstream from this point. It’s an easy walk from the parking lot to the waterfall viewpoints.
From the parking lot, continue along the Deschutes River Trail, which is a well-maintained trail that connects Bend and Sunriver. Bring your bikes or walk along the riverfront trail for beautiful views of the river and lava fields beyond.
You’ll need a recreation pass to park. Be sure to pick one up before you go.
Explore the boutique shops and galleries in the inviting center of town. Kids will love Leaping Lizards Toy Co, a locally owned store with fun toys, adventure gear, and a great book section. The selection restaurants, coffee shops, candy stores, and boutiques will keep everyone happy.
Bend loves festivals, so check Bend’s events website to see what is planned during your visit.
After exploring downtown, walk to Drake Park and stroll along Mirror Pond or have a picnic in the grass. You’ll find nearly a half mile of riverfront, acres of open lawn, an outdoor stage, restrooms, and small picnic tables. It’s a beautiful place to relax after a long day.
Float the River
The river calls to you on hot summer days in Bend. Answer that call by floating down the Deschutes River in the heart of Bend. The city has made this a summer tradition by building a whitewater park and providing shuttle service for a nominal fee.
Rent a sturdy tube and life jacket at Sun Country or Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe then head to one of the stops on the Bend Summer Shuttle (see the route map at the bottom of this page). Trying to park near a put-in spot can be a nightmare.
Don’t forget the sunscreen, and a hat will be your best friend. The central Oregon sun is intense and no matter what I do I always find a way to burn.
Kayak or Standup Paddleboard
If tubing is not active enough for your family, rent kayaks or standup paddleboards and paddle the Deschutes or take them to a nearby lake. These can be rented at Bend Kayak School, Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, or Sun Country. And I can’t stress this enough, bathe in sunscreen.
Ride a Bike
Bend is a biker’s paradise. Whether you want to cruise the paved paths through town or take your adventure to the mountains, you’ll have a great time exploring by bike. A popular option is to rent bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals in the Old Mill District and ride the paved paths along the river.
If you prefer the mountains, Bend has many bike rental shops and an extensive trail system in the nearby mountains. A good option for kids is the Deschutes River Trail. BendTrails has a great map of the region’s mountain bike trails.
Spelunk at Lava River Cave
Grab your sweatshirts and sturdy shoes and head to the longest known lava tube in Oregon. You can rent lanterns at the entrance and take a self-guided exploration of the mile-long lava tube.
Lava River Cave is a fun way to learn about central Oregon’s volatile geologic history.
If you’d rather stand on top of Oregon’s volcanic past, drive to the top of Pilot Butte for a spectacular view of Bend and the mountains beyond. A plaque at the top identifies each mountain peak you see, and there are a lot.
The clear skies and high elevation make central Oregon the perfect place see beyond our world and take in the vast expanse of the universe. A glimpse into the universe creates a sense of wonder and excitement in children. It’s a grounding experience that makes me realize that there’s so much more to life than the troubles of the day.
Find your peace at one of two observatories. Oregon Observatory at Sunriver hosts night sky viewings and daytime viewings with the nation’s largest collection of public telescopes. Pine Mountain Observatory is about an hour southeast of Bend and has public viewings on Friday and Saturday nights.
Sum It Up
Bend Oregon prides itself on being a family friendly destination. From hiking and biking to floating and spelunking, there are so many things to do in Bend Oregon with kids.
Have you been to Bend? What are your favorite things to do? I’d love to hear your recommendations!
If you’ll be in Portland Oregon, be sure to read about the best things to do with kids in Portland.