Things to Do in Bend with Kids | Oregon

Located in Central Oregon, Bend is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state. In the winter, there’s plenty of skiing on nearby volcanic peaks and in the summer people flock to the river, the mountains, and the waterfalls. It truly is an outdoor lover’s paradise and there are so many things to do in Bend!

exploring Bend Oregon with kids

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We recently had the chance to spend a few days in Central Oregon and stayed at Sunriver Resort, near Bend. While it’s not technically IN Bend, it’s only about fifteen minutes away so it’s totally possible to combine visits to Sunriver and Bend when you’re exploring Central Oregon. So without further ado, let’s get to all the fun things to do in the Bend area!


Hiking the Big Obsidian Lava Flow in Central Oregon with kids

Before planning this trip, I didn’t realize that most of the mountains in the Pacific Northwest are actually volcanoes. I mean, I knew about Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier, but I didn’t realize that many of the other peaks (Adams, Hood, Baker, etc) were also volcanic. When I saw that Wanderlust Tours offers a Volcano Tour of the Newberry Caldera, it became the #1 thing on our list of places to see – and I’m SOOOO glad that we went.

First things first, Wanderlust Tours is absolutely phenomenal – and if you’re staying at Sunriver Resort, they can pick you up right at the lodge instead of meeting in Bend. All of their tours are given by highly qualified naturalists. Our guide, Kiana, was great with the kids, kept them engaged the whole time, and knew so much about the area we were exploring. Again, highly recommend Wanderlust Tours if you’re visiting the Central Oregon area!

So back to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It’s made up of over 50,000 acres of land and runs from just north of Lava Butte (where the Lava Lands Visitor Center is) to the Newberry Caldera at the south. For our tour, we focused on the Newberry Caldera area – and for those that aren’t familiar, caldera refers to the crater at the top of a volcano that is created when the sides of the volcano collapse as the magma chamber is emptied. The Newberry caldera covers 17 square miles and the volcano itself covers roughly 1200 square miles – about the size of Rhode Island! – and is still active seismically and geothermally. The Newberry caldera was formed about 75,000 years ago during a massive eruption, and as the crater collapsed, East Lake and Paulina Lake were created inside the caldera.

Lava flow and pine trees in Central Oregon on Newberry National Volcanic Monument tour

With our trusty guide, we ventured out to the Big Obsidian Lava Flow Trail. The Big Obsidian Lava Flow formed just 1300 years ago and it’s the youngest lava flow in the state. The one-mile trail takes you up several flights of stairs and across rocky terrain as you climb 200 feet through the lava flow of obsidian (black glass) and pumice. But the views are amazing, especially seeing the juxtaposition of volcanic rock against the green of the forest.

Finding obsidian on Wanderlust tour with kids

Because it’s part of the national park system, you cannot take the obsidian that you find in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. If you want to find some to take home, head to Glass Buttes where you can legally collect the volcanic glass.

Near the Paulina Lake Loop trail on Wanderlust tour Newberry caldera

Unfortunately for us, the blue skies quickly turned gray so we did not do the drive up to Paulina Peak – the highest point in the park. Instead, we headed over to Paulina Lake and hiked several miles of the 7.5 mile Paulina Lake Loop Trail. Well, first we took a break on the shore of Paulina Lake and had a quick snack, and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Kids at Paulina Lake in packable jackets from Amazon

While I was originally upset that we didn’t spend more time on the lava flow (due to weather), I am so glad that we had the opportunity to check out this trail. The lake is absolutely GORGEOUS and we learned so much about the ecology and geology of the area from our guide. The kids now know how to tell what kind of pine tree it is by the needle configuration – something we never would have learned without a guide!
The kids all have these packable jackets from Amazon and they are perfect for traveling. They roll up super small and have their own carrying bag so they take up minimal room when we’re traveling. They’re water-resistant and warm enough for cool fall days – though I would definitely pack something heavier for winter travel.


Mt Bachelor with Kids on the Mt Bachelor chairlift

Mount Bachelor, on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, is a popular skiing destination in Central Oregon, and the slopes are less than half an hour from Bend or Sunriver Resort. If you’re visiting in the summer, you can ride the scenic chairlift and check out the views of the neighboring Three Sisters peaks, Broken Top, and some of the Cascade Lakes as you make your way up Mt Bachelor.

views of Cascade Range from Mount Bachelor chairlift

At the top, the kids enjoyed playing in the end-of-season snow, but the real highlight was the views. Well, the views + the thrill of riding the chairlift! I’d love to come back at some point in the future and take the kids skiing (or snowboarding, depending on the kiddo!).


Tumalo Falls with Kids; view from the area by the parking lot

Less than half an hour from Bend, Tumalo Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Bend/Sunriver area. At almost 100-feet (its height is contested and measurements range from 89-97 feet), it is the tallest waterfall on Tumalo Creek and is quite impressive. You can easily see the falls and Tumalo Creek from the lookout right by the parking lot, but it’s even more impressive the closer you get to the falls.

Go behind Tumalo Falls with kids

To get a better look, you can hike up to the Tumalo Falls Viewpoint overlooking the top of the falls. It’s about a half-mile roundtrip, on the well-established North Fork Trail, though it is pretty steep. On our way up, we got to a trail junction and the big kids opted to take the unmarked, but well-worn, trail behind the base of the falls. There are no guardrails or anything, so definitely do this one at your own risk.


Bend Food Cart scene; teen boy with food

The food cart/truck scene is craaaazy in Bend! I read somewhere that there are more than 200 different ones in Deschutes County (where Bend is located). But these food trucks don’t just pull up along the curb in the downtown area, they congregate in pods so you can visit multiple trucks in one evening. Or, in our case, I just handed each kid $20 and told them to go get whatever they wanted to eat. Nick opted to visit the Himalayan Bites food cart and thoroughly enjoyed his Nepalese/Tibetan food.

Bend Food Trucks perfect for kids

One of the great things about these pods is that have open space for running around or laying out a picnic blanket, and many of them have picnic tables and firepits plus beer, wine, and other refreshments! This food cart pod is called On Tap and is located on Bend’s Eastside – it was voted the best food truck lot in 2020!!

fun things to do in Bend with kids

We also visited The Lot – Bend’s original food cart pod + taproom – because we really wanted to visit FRICKEN FACO. Fried + Chicken = FRICKEN, Fish + Taco = FACO. Oh my gosh, it was sooooo good!!


Not surprisingly, we didn’t have time to do it all while we were in Bend. You could easily spend a week exploring the area and STILL not see it all. If we had more time, we definitely would have made sure to:

  • FLOAT THE DESCHUTES – This is a quintessential Bend activity! You can rent a tube + personal flotation device or bring your own. Tumalo Creek has packages available that include your tube + PFD along with a shuttle so you don’t have to walk back to your car when you’re done. Make sure to bring along water shoes, sunscreen, and plenty of water if you’re going to float the river!
  • HIGH DESERT MUSEUM – Learn all about the native wildlife and the history of the high deserts of Central Oregon at this impressive museum. The High Desert Museum is great for both kids and adults and the Autzen Otter Exhibit is a can’t miss!
  • LAVA CAVES – There are several different lava caves to explore in the Bend area. Lava River Cave is part of Newberry National Volcanic Monument and has a self-guided tour of the mile-long lava tube – it’s also the longest one in the state! Wanderlust Tours also does tours of lava caves, though not at Lava River Cave, and I definitely would have signed up for one if we had time.

So, have you visited Bend or Central Oregon before?? Have any favorite places to visit that we missed?? Leave us a note in the comments with your faves!!

Ultimate Guide to Sunriver Resort | Oregon

Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon has always been one of my dream destinations. Growing up in Arizona, I knew SO MANY people that went there on vacation every summer but alas, my family never visited. So fast forward to planning our big 2021 summer trip, and I just knew that Sunriver Resort needed to be included. And honestly, it’s one of the best places you can stay when exploring Central Oregon. There’s a ton to do within the boundaries of Sunriver Resort itself, and it’s a great jumping-off point for exploring Bend and the surrounding area.

what to do in Sunriver Central Oregon

Thank you so much to Sunriver Resort for hosting us – we received a complimentary stay, but all opinions are honest and my own. This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you choose to purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

With lodging options comprised of guest rooms and vacation house rentals, there’s something for parties of every size and budget at Sunriver Resort. The River Lodge rooms are located south of the Main Lodge, have a view of the river, and are slightly larger than the Lodge Village rooms. But, Lodge Village is closer to the Cove Aquatic Center and has a suite option with 2 queens + sofa bed that sleeps 6, so it was the clear winner for our family.


Key card for suite at Sunriver

Welcome to the 2 Queen Suite at Lodge Village. Sidenote – as soon as Ellie saw the picture on the key, she wanted to ditch the room tour and head to the pool!!

Sunriver Lodge Kitchenette

One of my favorite features of the suites in Lodge Village is that they include a kitchenette – really, they have everything but an oven, including dishes for the whole family. While we didn’t cook in the room on this trip, we often prep easy meals in the hotel to save a little money or have a relaxing evening in.

Living area Lodge suite Sunriver Central Oregon

The living area was spacious and had AMAZING views. The kids said the sofa bed was one of the most comfortable ones they’ve ever slept on!

where to stay in Bend

And everyone was excited that our room had two floors! We have a two-story house at home, so it’s not like it was a foreign concept for the kids, but they all went on and on about how cool the layout was – I think they really liked the loft concept.

where to stay in Sunriver - 2 queen suite

Upstairs there were 2 queen beds + the master bathroom. I didn’t include a picture of it, but there was another full bathroom downstairs by the front door. Initially, I was concerned about the loft concept and noise, but it worked out perfectly for our family. And honestly, having 2 bathrooms makes everyyyything easier when traveling with a slew of children.

Of course, there’s more to Sunriver than just staying in the room. In fact, there are tons of different things you can do around the resort!!


Sunriver Cove Aquatic Center outdoor pool

As soon as we unloaded the bags and got situated, the kids wanted to go straight to the pool. It didn’t matter that it was only 70º outside – the pools at the Cove Aquatic Center are heated, after all!

Sunriver pool with kids

The Cove Aquatic Center recently went through a massive expansion and just reopened a couple of months ago. In addition to the outdoor pool, there’s also an indoor pool, new waterslide, hot tubs, and plenty of space to spread out. Head to this post for all of the Cove Aquatic Center details.

things to do in Sunriver

The outdoor waterslide, the Paulina Plunge, was a favorite with all the kids. This one is CHILLY, though (just like the real Paulina Plunge waterfall!), so be aware of that if it’s cold outside. The indoor waterslide is heated and perfect for cooler weather!


Oregon Observatory Sunriver Resort

Located next door to the Sunriver Nature Center, the Oregon Observatory has the largest collection of telescopes available for public viewing in the country. We didn’t have a chance to visit during the day to see the sun, but we did visit for some late-night star viewing!

The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver offers an Exclusive Star Party private event. During this one-hour experience, your family or private group of up to 15 gets exclusive access to all of the telescopes, a laser-guided tour of the constellations, stories, knowledge, AND JOKES(!) from the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory staff.

Night sky at Oregon Observatory Sunriver

We had an absolutely phenomenal time at our Star Party at the Oregon Observatory. The sun doesn’t set until after 9pm in Central Oregon, so I signed up for the latest timeslot to ensure it would be as dark as possible – our private event was from 10:45-11:45pm. Since we often go to bed early/get up early when we’re traveling, I had to make some adjustments to our schedule (like having everyone take an afternoon nap/rest) in order to do the late night, but it was totally worth the rearranging!

Milky way at Oregon Observatory

I’ve never seen as many stars as I saw that night because there’s too much light pollution on the east coast. Sunriver really is in the middle of nowhere, and it is DARK outside at night!! AND, it was the FIRST TIME that the kids were able to see the Milky Way!! We learned so much, saw everything from globular clusters to nebulas to binary stars, and we had the best time. The Oregon Observatory is definitely a must-do if you’re in the Sunriver area!


Sunriver Resort Shuttle

When you’re staying at Sunriver Resort, you don’t even HAVE to use your car (depending on where you want to go!). You can call the Resort Shuttle from anywhere on the resort grounds, and it will come pick you up and take you resort-wide! The big kids called it one afternoon to catch a ride to the Starbucks in The Village at Sunriver!

Coffee shop in Sunriver

Speaking of The Village at Sunriver, it’s full of restaurants, including several coffee shops, a grocery store, and plenty of cute shops. We grabbed a coffee and wandered around for a while before the afternoon rain chased us away.

Blondie's Pizza Sunriver

Pizza is a favorite in our house, and we often order it when we’re traveling since it’s a crowd-pleaser. We ordered from Blondie’s Pizza of Sunriver – more than once because it was SO GOOD! They have free delivery after 5pm to anywhere in Sunriver, and we were pleasantly surprised with how quickly it was delivered!


Carson's American Kitchen

Now, we obviously don’t do pizza EVERY night when we travel. Sometimes we like to change it up and have a fancier, sit-down meal. Carson’s American Kitchen in the Main Lodge at Sunriver Resort fit the bill perfectly. Reservations are recommended, but they’re still offering Curbside To Go if you do not want to eat inside or you can’t get a reservation.

Carson's American Kitchen Sunriver Resort Dining with kids

They sure do clean up nicely! I love that the kids are at ages where they can appreciate a nicer meal – and behave appropriately the entire time we’re at the restaurant!

BEST Caesar salad - Sunriver dining

We all started with a salad, and this Caesar was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was lemony, perfectly dressed, and the perfect size.

Where to eat in Sunriver

We ordered a variety of entrees, including the New York Strip, the Crab Mac & Cheese, and the Muffaletta (all pictured), but the absolute BEST thing we ordered was the Elk Meatloaf (sadly, not pictured). It was wrapped in bacon, drizzled with Sunriver’s coffee bbq sauce, and it was absolute perfection. We were all too full to order dessert, but they had several options that sounded delicious.


  •  Biking – There are over 40 miles of paved trails on the Sunriver Resort grounds, and the Bike Barn has over 300 bikes available to rent. Rentals are available for 1-6 days, and the daily rate decreases if you pick a longer rental period. Sunriver Resort guests receive a 10% discount on bike rentals.
  • Horseback Riding – For the 7 – adult crowd, trail rides are a fun summer activity at Sunriver. There are 45 and 75-minute options, and reservations are recommended. Pony rides are available for younger kids; no reservations are needed. Sunriver Resort guests receive a discount on horseback riding.
  • Float the Deschutes River – Visit the Sunriver Marina and rent a raft, canoe, kayak, or SUP and float the Deschutes! We planned to do this when we visited, but the marina closed due to an afternoon thunderstorm. Make sure to check the weather if you’re interested in floating the river. Sunriver Resort guests receive a 10% discount.
  • Sage Springs Spa – Make a reservation for some pampering on your next visit! With massage and facial offerings, a nail salon, and a hair salon, you can relax on vacation! Reservations are required.
  • Golf – With 4 award-winning golf courses, ranging from 9 to 18 holes, it’s a golfer’s dream. Call or book a tee time online.

things to do near Sunriver Oregon

If you find that you still have some time to fill on your Central Oregon vacation, there’s so much to do within 30-60 minutes of the resort!


  • Newberry National Volcanic Monument
  • Paulina Lake
  • Mount Bachelor
  • Tumalo Falls
  • Bend Food Cart Scene

So, have you ever been to Sunriver or Central Oregon?! Is there somewhere that you always wanted to visit as a child? Let me know in the comments!!

Make a Splash at the BRAND NEW Cove Aquatic Center | Sunriver Resort | Oregon

Sunriver Resort, just south of Bend, Oregon, is one of the most popular resorts in Central Oregon – and for great reason! With plenty of guestrooms and suites, as well as condos and vacation homes, there’s something for families of every size AND budget. There’s plenty to do in and around Sunriver (and we’ll cover all of that in a future post) but one of the main draws at the resort is the brand new Cove Aquatic Center.

Cove Aquatic Center Sunriver Resort

Thank you so much to Sunriver Resort for hosting us – we received a complimentary stay, but all opinions are honest and my own. This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) if you choose to purchase when you click on the links. Thank you for supporting Love Dwells Here!!

Outdoor pool at the Cove Aquatic Center

Starting outside, the outdoor pool is GORGEOUS, especially the stonework! The pool was nice and warm which was great since the outdoor temps were a bit on the cool side when we visited!

Paulina Plunge waterfall slide at Sunriver

The outdoor waterslide was a favorite for our crew, but beware, the water in “The Plunge” is COLD, just like the natural waterfalls found in the Sunriver area!! As soon as we dropped our stuff on our chairs, the kids beelined for this slide – and then went on it over, and over, and over!

One of the best resort pools in Central Oregon

Can you think of a better place to relax on a sunny day in central Oregon?! While pool reservations were required when we visited, effective July 3, reservations are no longer required and the pool is available on a first-come, first-served basis for resort guests.

Smiling kids at Cove Aquatic Center Central Oregon

One of the most impressive features of the new Cove Aquatic Center are the roll-up doors on the indoor pool building (seen behind these two sweet kiddos!) allowing for an open-air concept in the warm summer months, and an indoor concept in the colder winter months.

Views of Mount Bachelor from Sunriver

Such an amazing view from the outdoor pool at the Cove Aquatic Center!! Sunriver Resort is located in SUCH a beautiful place!!

Cabana Rental at Cove Aquatic Center

There are three cabanas available to rent at the Cove Aquatic Center, in addition to plenty of lounge chairs surrounding the pool.

Kids in Cabana Sunriver Resort

We had a cabana rental one afternoon while we were staying at Sunriver Resort, and now that I’ve been spoiled, I don’t think I can go back to pre-cabana life! Comfortable chairs, shade, and enough room for all of us to spread out! If you’re planning to spend time at the outdoor pool on a hot day, especially as crowds increase, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a cabana rental!

Cabana snacks at Sunriver Resort Central Oregon

You can order food from The Spotted Frog and have it delivered to your cabana – and we did just that! In addition to an extensive drink menu, they had a great variety of appetizers and snacks that we created a happy hour type menu from. The kids enjoyed snacking throughout the afternoon and it was a nice change from a structured meal.

Indoor Pool Cove Aquatic Center

The indoor pool facility is all-new this year at Sunriver Resort. With a zero-entry heated pool and an awesome waterslide that goes outside of the building and then back inside, there is something for everyone! NOTE: the “Cinder Cone” slide (paying homage to the cinder cones located around Central Oregon) does have a height minimum of 48inches.

Brand New Cove Aquatic Center Sunriver Resort

Accessible from the main pool, there is a meandering “eddy“ to play in. Think small lazy river but no flotation devices are needed and there is a light current to help propel you through the “river”. This was smaller than I expected but the kids had fun going around and around and around – and not once did I hear them say anything about the size!

Water fun at Cove Aquatic Center

Also inside, and brand-new this season, you’ll find these bubblers at the zero-entry part of the pool. They’re sure to delight the little ones and even my big kids had fun playing and dancing around with Ellie in this area!

Underwater and Smiling Teen Cove Aquatic Center

Are you ready to splash into fun at Sunriver Resort’s new Cove Aquatic Center?? Remember, the Cove Aquatic Center is just for resort guests at Sunriver Resort, so book your stay today!

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