Even though my family and I are not what you would call “outdoorsy” really in any way, we fell in love with Sunriver and Bend, Oregon on a recent family vacation there. And this place is Outdoorsy for sure.
We traveled to Central Oregon as guests of the Central Oregon Visitors Association and spent 5 super happy days exploring the beautiful area and doing a lot of family bonding. It was a great vacation, and not only would we go back again for sure, we can highly recommend the area to families, no matter what age the kids are.
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(This is the first of three posts about the trip: look for one about all the activities for families and one about the dining.)
Staying in Sunriver
There are many vacation rentals options and some hotels in Central Oregon. We stayed at the Sunriver Lodge in one of the suites, which made all of us happy for different reasons. First of all, my kids loved that the beds were up in a loft, since we don’t have stairs in our house and they got a kick of out going up and down (often, I might add). They were also happy there was a push-button fireplace, which they could safely operate themselves, especially on the day it was chilly.
I was happy for the practical reason that there was a kitchenette with a stovetop, fridge and microwave, so I could make our breakfasts and a couple of meals during the trip to save a bit of cash. I have debated over this feature in the past: it means having to shop, cook & clean during your vacation, but it sure saves money, so I’m back to thinking this is a good idea for traveling families.
My husband loved sitting on the big front porch and staring at the breathtaking view. He brought some of his painting supplies along and did a few sketches. And one morning a deer came by to have breakfast and just hung out for about an hour just about 15 yards from our room. It was pretty magical. And truthfully, we all liked the view, I will not lie.
The resort has a restaurant on property, and tons of activities, including golf, kayaking & canoeing on the Deschutes River, horseback riding and gliding. Not to mention bike rental and riding. There’s a kids’ club, which would be great for the younger set, and a pool & spa on site as well, that we didn’t even have time to take advantage of. (Stay tuned for details on all of these things in upcoming posts.)
Nearby is the Village, with restaurants and a very well-stocked “general store”, so once you’re out in Sunriver, if you don’t feel like going back to Bend, you really don’t even have to. However, Bend itself is not to be missed.
Downtown Bend, Oregon is totally walkable, whether your kids walk or ride in strollers, a very manageable size and there’s lots of fun window shopping to be done. There are plenty of restaurants as well, and if you’re looking for bargains, there are factory stores and big supermarkets for taking provisions back to the room.
There’s also the Old Mill District. Reclaimed after the sawmills that built Bend shuttered years ago, the area is now home to high-end shopping and dining, plus riverside strolling and outdoor fun. It’s just gorgeous, but I found that to be true everywhere we went in Central Oregon.
Beauty & Nature
I found myself saying the word “breathtaking” many times a day on our trip. The scenery was truly incredible, not just up in the mountains, but even driving past the river or through the trees. My eldest son even noticed the Urban Beauty, noting that he hadn’t seen any graffiti or trash on the ground the entire time we were there. It’s pristine.
Aside from the aforementioned deer who hung out with us one morning, and the several others we saw skittering away along the roadside, we saw countless chipmunks, ground squirrels, and lizards while we were in Central Oregon. But the coolest thing by far was seeing not one, but four, Bald Eagles flying and hunting.
Most people in Bend & Sunriver spend their days in shorts and t-shirts, a fleece or hoodie if necessary – and it can be necessary – and I would describe the look as “Patagonia Yogini/Lumberjack.” In other words, no need to bring a set of fancy clothes unless you want to. Another handy feature for families, or at least my family of boys who don’t seem to like to get dressed up. (But please do check the weather report carefully before you pack; we were not quite prepared for an unseasonable cold snap and wish we’d taken a moment to pack a fleece or two. It only lasted a day and then warmed up to normal Summer temps, so we were fine after that, thank goodness.)
Safe & Quiet
Even in downtown Bend, there was not a lot of noise pollution. An occasional train whistle blasts, but otherwise life is pretty quiet in Central Oregon, and certainly it was in Sunriver. We often remarked on how still it was and how different from Los Angeles. We could get used to it, I think. And in terms of safety, people routinely leave bags in cars and they are not stolen here. Shocking to an Angeleno, I must say. But they trust that it’s safe enough to do so. Yet another reason this is Family Travel Heaven.
Family Travel = Family Time
We live busy lives, like so many people do these days, between school, work, sports, and just running to the store & back, that it’s often hard to find time together as a family. This trip gave us that time, and all of the other wonderful things we got to do made it even better. We loved Sunriver and Bend, Oregon and can highly recommend this destination to families for sure.
Stay tuned for a review of the activities & food we sampled while on this trip to Sunriver and Bend, Oregon – coming up in parts 2 & 3.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA.com. 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.