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3 ways to do a Bend family vacay when life throws a curveball


Everything’s ready. You’ve packed the kids’ bags, your Bend hotel reservations are set, and you’ve planned the perfect family weekend in Bend.

Then it happens. Something unexpected threatens to derail your perfect family vacation.

A cave tour with Wanderlust is an awesome way to spend a rainy day.

Been there, done that, forgot to pack the t-shirt. Fortunately, you can still pull off an awesome family vacay when life throws you for a loop. Here are three uh-oh scenarios for families (and some fun workarounds for each!)


It’s raining

Rainy days aren’t common here in the mountainous high desert, but they do happen. Fortunately, a drizzly day in Bend isn’t a dream-killer the way it might be with, say, a beach getaway.

First, check the Mt. Bachelor conditions report. What looks like rain in Bend (3,600 feet in elevation) might be perfect, fluffy snowflakes at Mt. Bachelor (elevation 5,700 to 9,065 feet). You could score a perfect day of powder skiing after all.

If skiing isn’t on the agenda, there are plenty of other options for staying dry while having fun. Escape the wet stuff by going underground with a cave adventure from Wanderlust Tours. Your naturalist guide will provide all the gear and transportation, not to mention a top-notch education on Central Oregon’s unique lava tubes.

Need help getting the wiggles out? Hit Mountain Air Trampoline Park for an hour or two of bouncy fun. The main court has 26 trampolines, plus a jumping and tumbling runway and a giant airbag that’s fun to pounce on from above. For more ideas on indoorsy fun in Bend, check out this blog post.

Okay, but what if you’re really, really itching to play outside? Don’t let the rain stop you. The high desert’s rare rainstorms don’t tend to last long, and they’re actually quite remarkable to experience. The scent of wet juniper and sage is an olfactory explosion everyone should savor at least once, and puddle jumping can be a giggle-worthy game for the kids. Just make sure you stay off mountain bike trails when conditions are muddy, or you’ll risk wrecking the trails for other users.


You’re battling picky eaters or food allergies

Moms and dads with challenging eaters: I feel your pain. Our family currently grapples with a lifelong egg/peanut/shellfish allergy in kid #1, plus a newly-diagnosed lactose intolerance in kid #2.

For those with younger kids, it can be an endless evolution of food preferences and tantrum-inducing meal planning. Your four-year-old who looooooves grilled cheese on Wednesday might think it’s the grossest thing ever by Friday.

Don’t worry, guys—Bend restaurants have your back.

First off, check out these roundups of good gluten-free and vegan dining options if that’s your jam.

Outside those parameters, you’ll find oodles of other Bend restaurants accustomed to handling special dietary needs. Zydeco is particularly great with food allergies (and with tweaking items on their menu to accommodate your needs). Ditto that for Broken Top Bottle Shop, which has most menu items carefully identified by their dietary properties.

Generally speaking, you’ll find staff in most Bend restaurants are friendly and knowledgeable when asked about specific allergens and dietary needs, and servers are happy to check with the chef for detailed info.

The Old Mill boasts a Red Robin, which can be a godsend when you just need to fill their faces with familiar-sounding food (bonus: killer river views).

Most of the breweries along the Bend Ale Trail also boast impressive kids’ menus, so don’t think you have to miss out on tasting Bend craft beer just because you have the young’uns in tow.


Someone gets hurt

This one sucks. It’s tough enough when your loved ones get injured, but when it happens right before vacation, it can throw a serious kink in the family’s plans.

Even with an injured kiddo, it’s easy to have fun in Bend. An inexpensive cast cover like this one keeps things nice and dry.

First, remember you have options. My stepdaughter’s broken arm a couple summers ago could have put a serious crimp in her dreams of swimming from June to September, but a quick google search led us to some awesome cast covers for swimming. Don’t be afraid to poll other parents on what they’ve done in your situation.

Second, roll with the punches. Maybe you can’t do that twelve-mile family backpacking trip you’d hoped for, but there are tons of shorter hikes to be found. Check out the Deschutes River Trail or Pilot Butte (which also allows you to drive up May through October if mobility is limited). Stop by the Bend Visitor Center and grab a good guide book or ask our friendly front desk staff for tips on great hiking spots to meet your needs.

Plenty of other Central Oregon attractions are easily accessible when mobility or stamina is an issue. Spend the day checking out critters and natural history at the High Desert Museum. They offer wheelchairs for use at no additional charge, plus ramps into outdoor exhibits, wheelchair accessible trails, and benches throughout the grounds for resting.

In the Old Mill District  you can cruise the paved riverfront paths and sidewalks and find tons of easily accessible spots for shopping and dining.

But don’t think you have to give up your dreams of skiing, biking, paddling, rock climbing, or zillions of other sports just because a family member is facing mobility issues or other challenges. Oregon Adaptive Sports offers a huge range of activities, adaptive equipment, and professional instruction to help everyone enjoy Central Oregon’s great outdoors regardless of ability. They have experience working with a huge range of populations, including amputees, visual impairment, Cerebral Palsy, ADD/ADHD, Down Syndrome, PTSD, spinal cord injury, stroke, and much more. Check out their website for info.


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