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7 things to do in Bend if your kids are hooked on screen time

Hiking around Lucky Lake

I came home from work the other evening and asked the 14yo what she did all day. Her response? “Oh, just sat in my room on my phone.”

Tell me I’m not the only parent who dies a little when hearing that?

We’ve reached the mid-point of summer where we worry our kids have forgotten everything their teachers spent nine months lovingly layering into their brains. When school starts up, will they remember how to take notes or study or dress themselves in something besides PJs?

For parents desperate to add a little learning to a Bend vacation and give kids a much-needed break from the brain-draining effects of excess screen time, I’ve got you. Here are 7 ways to make that happen.

High Desert Museum

Your kiddos can learn about all kinds of animals at the High Desert Museum.


Hit the High Desert Museum

If you hear “museum” and think your kids will be bored to tears, rest easy. It’s not that kind of museum.

Sure, the High Desert Museum has living history exhibits and art and all the “normal” stuff you’d expect at a top-notch museum.

But you’ll also find unique exhibits like a replica of a homestead ranch where kids can see firsthand what life was like during frontier days. There’s also a working sawmill, plus an indoor exhibit where you stroll through historical settlements like a fur trapper’s camp, a Northern Paiute shelter, and a historic mining town.

Of course, the highlight of the High Desert Museum is the animals. Otters, eagles, porcupines, badgers, and the ever-popular raptor shows with birds of prey swooping low above guests’ heads. Check the daily schedule before you go to get a feel for what’s happening when, and plan on spending at least a couple hours.

Your kids won’t want to leave.


A side of smarts with your outdoor adventure

Want to be a little sneaky about pouring knowledge into your kiddos’ brains on vacation?

Blogger Tawna, along with her stepson, Cedar, enjoying a cave tour from Wanderlust more than six years ago.

Book an adventure with Wanderlust Tours. They offer everything from cave tours to moonlight canoeing and a dozen other outings that are super family-friendly.

Best of all, they’re led by well-trained naturalist guides who find fun ways to lace in lessons about local geology, plants, animals, and historical details about the area.

It won’t feel like homework, and everyone will go home with a little extra knowledge (not to mention vacation memories to last a lifetime!)


Add a lesson on personal responsibility

There’s a growing population of travelers seeking ways to teach their kids about protecting the environment and practicing responsible travel. If that’s on your list of family goals, there are some awesome ways to do it in Bend.

Bend Pledge Sunset

Taking the Bend Pledge as a family can help kickstart conversations about sustainable travel and personal responsibility in the wilderness.

Kick off your vacation by taking The Bend Pledge together and talking about ways you can follow Leave No Trace practices while recreating. It can be as simple as packing reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic, or carrying a small trash back to pick up litter along the trails.

You can also time your travels to coincide with one of countless volunteer opportunities in Bend, and fully embrace the trend of voluntourism.

Want to take it to the next level? Through the new Pledge for the Wild initiative, we’re making it easy for outdoor enthusiasts to give back to the nonprofit land managers who tend our trails and protect our wilderness areas. Just text WILD4BEND to 44321 to make a donation in any amount. All money goes directly to the Deschutes Trails Coalition for trail maintenance and conservation.

While even a dollar makes a difference, consider adding up all the hours you spent recreating in Bend’s wilderness areas and donating $1 for each of them. Bonus: It’s a fun way to reflect back on your Bend adventures as a family.


Get artsy with the family

Bend has a spectacular array of public art, and you can explore all on your own with a trek around the Roundabout Art Route or a walk through downtown Bend to check out the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection.

Enjoy some art with a view at the annual Art in the High Desert event.

Want a little hand-holding, along with insider info about Bend’s art installations? Book the Art Safari Tour through Bend Tour Company and prepare yourselves for one of the most engaging guided tours you’ll get anywhere. Even folks with no interest in art education will be blown away by all the quirky stories and the hidden artwork gems scattered all over the city.

If you’d prefer art you can take home at the end of the day, the annual Art in the High Desert event is a great way to explore paintings, sculptures, metalwork, and much more from 120+ acclaimed, hand-picked visual artists from across the US and Canada. For 2019, the event takes place August 23-25 on the beautiful banks of the Deschutes River. It’s a great place to buy that one-of-a-kind souvenir you choose as a family.


Beer with the kiddos? Really?

Believe it or not, brewery tours are a great way to expose kids to the science and culinary magic that goes on behind the scenes in the brewing process.

The Hopservatory at Worthy Brewing is a great spot to introduce kids to stargazing through a telescope.

Tours at the bigger facilities like Deschutes Brewery and Worthy Brewing will wow kids with the massive bottling and canning lines and the huge array of shiny, bubbling fermentation equipment.

You’ll even find family-friendly perks like Deschutes Brewery’s homemade ginger beer and root beer (a perfect non-alcoholic option for kiddos and parents alike) or Worthy Brewing’s stunning Hopservatory offering insights on astrological wonders and a view of the heavens through their high-powered telescope.


Chill out at the library

Parents of younger children know there are moments you’d give your left ear for an hour of air-conditioned quiet with the kiddos occupied doing something that doesn’t involve screen time.

Any sort of outdoor adventure with your kiddos is a learning opportunity in Bend!

In moments like this, the Deschutes Public Library is a lifesaver. Peruse their collection of children’s books, or check their online calendar for events like Toddlin’ Tales story time or Universe of Crafts.

Free entertainment served with free entertainment? Sign me up!


Make your own adventure

There are zillions of ways to create your own educational opportunities in Bend. Broaden your musical horizons by checking out a concert at the Tower Theatre, the Les Schwab Amphitheater, or the freebie Thursday shows through Munch & Music.

Hit the Deschutes Historical Museum to admire their display of native artifacts like arrowheads and tools used more than 2,000 years ago at the Lava Island Rock Shelter. Then visit the site yourself for a family hike and a chance to see where prehistoric settlers lived and used the tools.

Scope out Visit Bend’s event calendar to see what’s happening in town on the dates of your vacation.

The possibilities are endless, and you can always swing by the Bend Visitor Center for ideas to suit your family’s needs and interests.

Happy travels!




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