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Family Activities in Sunriver & Bend, Oregon

This is the second of three posts about our recent Family Vacation in Sunriver & Bend, Oregon. In 2014, Sarah and her family were guests of the Central Oregon Visitors Bureau. Please read the first in the series, which is a detailed review of Sunriver Resort and the area around Bend, and stay tuned for the third one, coming next week, which will be a review of the dining and drinking options we found in Bend, Oregon.

Family Time on Vacation

There is nothing like a vacation for being able to play together as a family. No work deadlines or school homework to get in the way, this is a time when families can all have the same agenda and experience life at the same pace. Our trip to Central Oregon was an amazing opportunity to learn and play as a family and we loved it. Here’s a rundown of all the activities we experienced there.

High Desert Museum

This is a gem of a place, filled with helpful, informative people who are there to explain the natural history of the area, as well as dioramas and exhibits designed to enlighten. Turns out the Oregon High Desert gets less rain annually than Los Angeles, on average (although of course they get much more snow than we do). I can personally attest to the dryness, since I felt the need to moisturize quite often while we were there. Since we’ve been home, by comparison, Los Angeles has felt almost humid.

collage of the High Desert Museum in Oregon
The High Desert Museum is a terrific place to visit

The Museum hires docents dressed up as people who would have lived in the area at the time when the area was first settled by loggers. We met a certain village doctor, who “examined” my husband in the log cabin that was milled on site at the working mill that still exists.

And the daily raptor show is not to be missed: we saw owls, vultures and a falcon right up close, and they swooped right by us. We were all pretty impressed, even my teenager.

collage Raptor experience at the High Desert Museum
The Raptor experience at the High Desert Museum was truly impressive


Biking is huge in Central Oregon, and you will see serious cyclists all along the roadways wherever you go. But it’s a family affair as well and the Deschutes river provides many scenic vistas to bike along, as well as protected paths so even the least experienced rider will feel safe.

We rented bikes at the Sunriver resort and rode around beside the gorgeous river for about an hour, which was a great start to our day one morning. The bikes were available for longer rentals, even to those not staying at the resort – and of course if you’ve brought your own, which many people driving in have done, you’ll save a few dollars there.

kayak collage in oregon
Kayaking was a great experience for us

Kayaking in Cascade Lakes with Wanderlust Tours

We were treated to an afternoon pretty far outside our comfort zone when we joined Wanderlust Tours and followed our earnest and knowledgable guide Jared up to Sparks Lake and into a couple of 2-person kayaks.

We were complete novices, having never been in a kayaks before, and we were possibly unreasonably nervous about capsizing. But Jared assured us we would be not only safe from falling into the lake but also that it would be very easy to get the hang of paddling, and I have to say we did pick up pretty quickly. No unanticipated swimming for us that day.

And it’s a major ab workout, by the way. Who knew? The way you sit in the kayak and have to hold yourself up, as well as the side-to-side paddling required got us at least an inch closer to those six-pack abs we are all working on.

On top of everything else, the setting was amazing. Just take a look at the snow-capped mountains in the background, and take my word that that water was crystal clear, apparently being fed by a glacier. Just about as far away from Los Angeles as we could get as a family, literally as well as figuratively.

The panoramic view from the Lava Butte
The panoramic view from the Lava Butte was spectacular


Central Oregon is located along the Pacific Rim Ring of Fire, the volcanoes and tectonic plates/faults ringing the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to Alaska and into Oregon. Mt Bachelor, Broken Top, North, South and Middle sister are all part of the Cascade mountain range, and are all (luckily dormant) volcanoes. Near Sunriver there’s a National Volcanic Monument called Lava Lands built around a cinder cone known as Lava Butte. There are hiking trails all through the lava, and just a few miles down the road there are hiking trails to waterfalls on the Deschutes River. We hiked to Benham Falls, which was just a ½ miler and all flat, right up our alley.

There are longer trails as well, so if your family is up for more, you can hit those as well or instead. Bonus? Plenty of rock skipping potential along this river.

SHARC Water Park

As soon as it’s warm enough, people in Sunriver and Bend head to SHARC water park. It’s a beautiful facility with a lazy river (my favorite pool invention ever), two water slides (one for inflatables and one for swimmers only), a family pool only 1 foot deep, and a large pool for everyone with a beach entry, perfect for the little ones. There’s also a hot tub, an indoor pool, a snack bar and swim shop to round out the facility, with a park & seating area next door, making it a place families could come and spend all day.

My only complaint about SHARC is there was not enough shade available, which would really help on a hot day, not to mention it would help protect everyone from sunburns.

SHARC Water Park in sunriver oregon
The SHARC Water Park is super fun


Golf has become a family affair, and after the kids and I took our first lesson at the Lakes in El Segundo a few weeks ago, we’ve been hooked and ready to try a round of the real thing. So when they said we could play at Caldera Links, we jumped at the chance. I will say this: we had tons of fun playing on this very reasonably-sized course, because this is what we did not do: play well. Which is fine, of course, since we are still learning. But boy are we amateurs! If any real golfers were watching us, I apologize for how we butchered your sport. But like I said, we had fun.

family golf collage at sunriver oregon
Family Golf – what could be more fun?

Other activities

Other options in the area include horseback riding and pony riding, white water rafting along the Deschutes, rock climbing, flying lessons and glider flying, and, like any tourist town, there’s also shopping to do at either the factory store Outlet Mall or at the many boutiques in Bend – both in downtown and in the Old Mill District, which is a super cute upscale shopping and dining destination.

Sunriver and Bend, Oregon offer many family activities, virtually ensuring that you’ll be able to spend time as a family doing something other than looking at the same TV screen. We all enjoyed ourselves and we highly recommend visiting.

MomsLA is your source for Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles

Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of In 2014, she and her family traveled as guests of the Central Oregon Visitors Bureau; the lodging, some activities and some meals were comped and the rest they paid for themselves.

Disclaimer: MomsLA has made every effort to confirm the information in this article; however, things can often change. Therefore, MomsLA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy of the information published here. MomsLA strongly urges you to confirm any event details, like date, time, location, and admission, with the third party hosting the event. You assume the sole risk of relying on any of the information in our list. MomsLA is in no way responsible for any injuries or damages you sustain while attending any third-party event posted on our website. Please read our Terms of Use which you have agreed to based on your continued use of this website. Some events have paid to be listed on MomsLA.

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julie strobeck

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Hello I'm visiting sunriver in August can anyone visit sharc

Sarah Auerswald

Sunday 29th of May 2022

Have a great trip! It looks like they have General Admission tickets for sale:

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