Bend, OR Travel Guide 2024

Choosing Bend as a family vacation destination is an inspired choice. At once both a mountain town and a modern, hip city, Bend has brought families flocking to its Central Oregon location for years. There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep families busy on their Bend family vacation; there are also unique shops, history to explore and day trips that are all fun and interesting. Bend is a charming, friendly town that welcomes families with open arms. Bend is small-town enough so that shopkeepers might remember you by name but large enough that the selection and quality of activities are world-class. Bend is rapidly growing in popularity among family vacationers, so book your trip to Bend and find out why. The sweetness, friendliness, and excitement of this beautiful little town will capture your heart and make you wish your family vacation would never end!

The Inside Scoop

Bend is pretty much a daytime activity town.  It has few equals when it comes to outdoor resources and that’s why people move here.  As far as a nighttime scene, it used to be house parties when people’s parents were out of town, but that was when I just hit puberty.  Now it’s probably a martini bar or something.  Hook up with some of the friendly locals and ask them what’s up or pick up a copy of the free local weekly – The Source – for bands, DJs, and local events.  Pick up the Bend Bulletin for the local farming tradeshow schedule.


Pole Pedal Paddle lands on Saturday, May 14th, 2005.  The race starts at the top of the mountain.  After thrashing down to the bottom switch gears and Nordic ski a few miles around the base.  Then mount your bike and ride 15 miles into town.  Kayak two more miles and for good measure run 400 meters.  Then puke and die.  You can do it in teams or by yourself, psycho.

Clubs & Bars

The new McMiniman’s Pub is pretty cool.  Getting a pint at the Deschutes Brewery is pretty much like bowing before the cross in church – required.  There’s also Cascade Brewing Company.  The food is crap, but good for watching sports and shooting pool.  Club 97 (The largest dance floor in Oregon!) is for sale if you want to buy a nightclub.  Coolio performed their New Year’s Eve ’01 in front of a crowd of cowboys and Mexicans from nearby farming towns gettin’ all ghetto an’ shit.  There’s a spattering of martini bars like Mars Café and the Bend Distillery downtown.

Best Concert Venues

Les Schwab Amphitheatre is for big time artists like Jewel and The Pixies.  Just kidding – Jewel is there because of her enormous hooters. The Athletic Club of Bend gets the Taj Mahaj/Suzanne Vega crowd and their enlightened children.  The best music I’ve heard is at the Grove downtown.  Grab yourself a box of wine and head out to the Cascade Festival of Music which features outdoor classical and jazz throughout the spring and summer.

Bend Outdoors

The heart and soul of Bend are the beautiful outdoors. The high desert location of Bend puts it in the unique position of being a four-season family vacation destination. From skiing and snowboarding in the winter to warm days spent rafting on the Deschutes River in the summer, Bend provides endless outdoor activities for families to enjoy. Families on Bend family vacations flock to Mt. Bachelor to enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding. Mt. Bachelor is considered one of the biggest and best ski resorts in the Northwest. A dormant volcano, Mt. Bachelor also provides tubing, dog sledding and lots of bunny hills for the littlest members of the family. In the summer, Bend offers even more outdoor activities for family vacationers. Many mountain hikes are accessible and easily marked. An easy hike to attempt on your family vacation if you are a family with little ones is the Pilot Butte State Park, which has an easy, gently sloped 480-foot butte to approach on a wide, paved road. The views at the top belie the effort it takes to get up there! For waterfall lovers, another easy and short hike is Tumalo Falls, where the top of the waterfall is easily accessible and guaranteed to stun the whole family. If you want to attempt more strenuous hikes on your Bend family vacation, then try Tumalo Mountain, which is a steep climb of over 1,000 feet. Your family may be huffing and puffing, but in the end, your family will be rewarded with views that seem to reach all around the state. Many of these hikes are also accessible by biking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding as well, so you can choose which way best suits your family. If your Bend family vacation falls during the summer, then it would be remiss not to spend some time on the beautiful, wild, Deschutes River! Swim it, raft it, or just have a family picnic next to it. On a Bend family vacation, the Bend outdoors offers something for every family!

Bend Arts and Culture

On a family vacation, the words art and culture can often meet with dissatisfaction from the younger members of the family. In Bend, however, the arts and culture are often presented in such a way that they are enjoyable to even the hardest to please members of the family. If you and your family are art lovers, then plan your Bend family vacation around Art in the High Desert, an annual Ben art festival. If you would like to expose your family to art on your family vacation, then choosing to attend a festival is often a good idea. Art in the High Desert has music, food, performers, and of course, art. Some of the best artists in the country make it to this August event. The Central Oregon Symphony is a performing art group that the adult members of a family will love to attend a performance of, while the children might enjoy the Cascades Theatrical Company, which produces performances that are often comedic and always exceptional. For a fun, easy night out on your family vacation, then catch a movie or live performance at the Tower Theater, a local Bend landmark that you can see from all over downtown Bend.

Bend Museums and History

Spending a day of your family vacation exploring the local history is a great way to introduce you and your family to the region. Knowing the history of Bend makes you better appreciate the activities you then go out and enjoy on your family vacation. Start your Bend history exploration at the Deschutes County Historical Society at the Reid School Building. Pick up a free Heritage Walk Guide, which directs through local walking tours that you and your family can do at your own pace and your own style. Must-see stops for your family to make are the G.P. Putnam House, the home of the famous publisher; the Power Dam and the Liberty Theater. Do not neglect to learn about the outdoors on your Bend family vacation! The High Desert Museum, just outside Bend, is home to more than 100 rescued wildlife species outside, and inside is an exhibit called Spirit of the West which will introduce you to the history of the region in a very special way. Kids on Bend family vacations rave about the High Desert Museum!

Day Trips from Bend

Bend has enough to keep your family busy for the whole length of your family vacation. But while you are on your Bend family vacation, the whole scope of Central Oregon is yours to explore. Make sure to head back to your comfortable Bend family lodging at night time, however, do not hesitate to hit the road during the day. Sisters is a popular nearby town to visit on a Bend family vacation, located just 25 beautiful miles northwest of Bend. Sisters is known for its Old West-style downtown, complete with wooden sidewalks. Sisters is guaranteed to be a hit with the little members of the family. There are many family-friendly restaurants and shops in which to find that perfect souvenir of your family vacation. Another popular day trip for Bend family vacationers is the Cascades Lake Scenic Byway, which is often called Highway in the Sky. This is a driving loop considered one of the ten most important byways in the United States. This drive can be done in an afternoon, but it would be a shame to waste such beautiful scenery on a quick jaunt. Take the time to park at the overlooks, or pack a picnic for your family to enjoy. This loop takes you past Mt. Bachelor and several alpine lakes and is guaranteed to keep your camera snapping.

Dining in Bend

Eating out can be difficult on a family vacation! Kids are often tired and restless, and when you add hunger to the mix, things can melt down fast. In a town like Bend, however, family-friendly is the name of the game. Many restaurants are kid and family-friendly, and will provide fun, as well as food! The McKay Cottage, located on the shores of the Deschutes River has river-side picnic tables where the family can eat and the kids can run around and play. Peanut butter and jelly is a menu staple! Another restaurant to try on your Bend family vacation is Flatbread Community Oven, where kids can make their own pizza and then watch as it is tucked into a pizza oven. Family vacations can often get craziest around lunchtime. For a lunchtime that might save your sanity, then take your family to the Westside Bakery and Café, where there is a toy train zipping around the room and Mickey Mouse on the walls. Keeping kids entertained can be the hardest part of a family vacation; however, on a Bend family vacation, finding things that please all members of the family is never hard to do. Find out why so many families return again and again for a relaxing, exciting Bend family vacation!

Get your coffee and free wireless access at two places. Bellatazza located in downtown, and the College Coffee Shop just off Newport en route to the Central Oregon Community College. Get your sake buzz on at Yoko’s downtown or eat at one of the 50,000 Mexican restaurants. I like King Taco on Galveston. The chicken nachos rule. Lots of fancy and tasty eats are downtown, notably Hans’ for lunch, dinner, and pastries. There are some stellar bakeries like Great Harvest that always has samples. John Dough’s serves up a mean slice and the Greasy food at Jake’s Truck Stop is sure to give you a coronary.


McMinneman’s rents rooms and cabins.  Inn of the Seventh Mountain is a family resort with pools, tennis courts, an ice rink, horse rides, rafting, and easy mountain and golf course access.  Same with Mt Bachelor Village.  If you’re a chick shack it up at Gravy’s house.

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