There’s nothing more wonderful than a family vacation. The starlit bonding over campfire s’mores. The shared laughter as you bob on innertubes with your toes in the icy river and the sun on your shoulders. The bickering in the backseat because the kids are tired and cranky and if I have to tell you one more time to STOP POKING EACH OTHER…
Wait, where was I?
Right. Family vacations. They’re amazing, they’re memorable, and Bend is one of the best places in the world to enjoy one. That said, the experience can drive parents insane without a plan for keeping the kids entertained, engaged, and behaving more or less like humans instead of rabid raccoons set loose in an overheated automobile.
Here are 6 ways to keep your kids from driving you nuts during your Bend vacation.
Tire ‘em out
Planning activities that leave the young’uns exhausted is key to earning a little peace and quiet for parents. Luckily, Bend has gobs of ways to physically drain your little bundles of energy.
Float the river together, making sure your tubes are the durable kind that let the kiddos ride the rapids through the passageway channel at the Bend Whitewater Park and enjoy it so much that they jump out and run back along the path to do it again and again until they’re sufficiently fatigued.
Get the wiggles out at Mountain Air Trampoline Park, which features a main court with 26 trampolines, plus a jumping and tumbling runway, a giant airbag, and special areas for games and for younger kids.
Even a simple family hike (especially if there’s some elevation gain like with Pilot Butte or Alder Springs Trail) can leave all members of the family worn out and happy, not to mention giving you some awesome, scenic memories. Just remember to pack lots of snacks, water, and sunscreen so your family adventure doesn’t turn into a disaster.
Stimulate their brains
Wearing out their physical bodies is a good starting point if the end goal is pleasantly exhausted kiddos, but it’s important to keep their brains engaged, too. It’s even more crucial in the summer months when freedom from school can lead to brain atrophy.
Bend Escape Room is an adventure game where participants are placed in a room and have to use teamwork to find clues, solve puzzles, and escape the room within a set time limit. It’s not only great mental stimulation, but a killer bonding experience that gives each family member a chance to shine.
A visit to the High Desert Museum offers a fun blend of culture, art, and educational exhibits(not to mention tons of cool critters to look at). Be sure to check their online event schedule to time your visit with special presentations and shows.
Schedule some quiet time
You love your family, but sometimes you need some silent break time where no one is talking to each other. I get it.
Regal Cinemas in the Old Mill District has an amazing program featuring $1 family-friendly movies all summer long. The showings are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and you can see the dates and movie selections here.
The Deschutes County Library offers a variety of kid-oriented programs and educational events in a blissfully-serene setting.
For older kids, summer concerts are another great way to get everyone sitting still and chilling for a couple hours. Munch and Music features an amazing lineup of free shows every Thursday night, or you can check Visit Bend’s event calendar for concerts happening during your visit to see if there’s one you and your kids can enjoy together. Some of my fondest family memories involve dancing on stage to Pink Martini with my stepdaughter (now 12, but it’s been our ritual since she was 5 or 6). And my 16-year-old stepson still regards the Shins concert at the Athletic Club of Bend Clear Summer Nights concert series to be one of the greatest experiences of his whole life.
I’m not proud. Yes, I’ve bribed my kids. Maybe it’s a tradeoff for being calm and quiet during an adult-focused activity, or maybe it’s a carrot to dangle (and by carrot, I obviously mean candy) that they can earn with good behavior. In other words, “If you two don’t stop bickering, we’re not going to go to Goody’s tomorrow.”
Yes, Goody’s. With ice cream and candy and an old-fashioned soda fountain, it’s a kids’ utopia. There’s even edible cookie dough you can get in a cone or a dish, and if that’s not a worthy bribe, I don’t know what is. You’ll find multiple locations in Bend, and they also do factory tours.
Fill your memory bank with a bucket list activity
Every family vacation should have one memorable activity the whole family talks about for years to come. On our recent trip to Guatemala, we planned a volcano hike that included the opportunity to roast marshmallows over an active steam vent.
Make sure your Bend vacation features at least one of these super-memorable bucket list items that’ll have the whole fam reminiscing over Thanksgiving Dinner 2025.
The Paulina Plunge—complete with mountain biking, a picnic lunch, and a chance to enjoy multiple natural waterslides in the wilderness—remains one of my kids’ most talked-about summer adventures four years after we first did it.
Waterfall hikes are another memorable adventure, and there are plenty of those to be found around Central Oregon.
Fill their bellies with good stuff
It’s tempting to gorge on fast food and sweets when you’re on vacation, but a steady diet of junk is a good way to end up with tummy trouble and cranky kids.
Luckily, Bend has lots of family-friendly dining options that’ll keep the kids happy while still ensuring they get some solid nutrition. Both MOD Pizza and Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza offer a unique spin on the build-your-own pizza concept that ensures everyone gets something they like. They also boast a nice selection of salads and veggie toppings to help you cram some healthy stuff down their gullets.
Parilla Grill sells a variety of custom wraps that are easy for smaller hands to hold, and you can make sure there’s a good mix of protein and veggies and other nutritious staples inside.
To start browsing restaurants start here.