Traveling over the river and through the woods doesn’t just lead to grandmother’s house. For families who visit Central Oregon in winter, this magical path leads right to Sunriver Resort. A long-time Ciao Bambino favorite property, Sunriver Resort is a proven summer vacation destination. So I was excited to see what it offers guests in the winter, and my family soon discovered that there are a great deal of activities to enjoy year-round here, both indoors and outdoors.
Sunriver Resort feels deep in the great outdoors, but is actually quite easy to access. Families usually fly into the nearest airport, Roberts Airfield in Redmund, Oregon (airport code RDM), which is only about a 45-minute drive from the resort. Portland is more than three hours away, so it doesn’t work as a transportation hub unless you’re on a longer road trip through Oregon.
Sunriver is only 20 minutes from the town of Bend, which oozes the funky and natural charm for which the Pacific Northwest is known, not to mention a great deal of independent shops and restaurants that are fun to check out. It’s worth carving out a day or two to explore this community, and there is a lot to do and see around Bend in winter.
One of the reasons Sunriver appeals to families is the incredible array of accommodation options offered here. You name the group size, desired amenities, room configurations and required perks, and odds are the resort offers something to match, from standard hotel-size rooms that can sleep 2 to large homes that sleep 12 or more. It works well whether your family is traveling alone or with a larger group.
Among the more popular accommodations for families are the Lodge Villa Suites. My family of four found it really comfortable, as we were able to spread out and enjoy access to a kitchenette, dining/living area, gas fireplace and private terrace.
The sheer volume of options can get overwhelming when trying to narrow down choices and determine what’s best for your needs. Our Family Travel Advisors can help guide you through the process — the team has stayed in or toured many of the rooms, villas, condos and homes, so we bring relevant firsthand knowledge.
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In the warmer months, Sunriver Resort feels like an upscale family summer camp. In winter, it morphs into a beautiful winter wonderland, with a fresh layer of snow covering the gorgeous property. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do; in fact, just the opposite.
For those who want to immerse themselves in the great outdoors, horseback riding and horse-drawn sleigh rides are offered from the onsite stables. I loved watching families congregate around the many fire pits for a quick warmup or to toast marshmallows for s’mores. Perhaps due to its popularity as a multigenerational family gathering location, Sunriver also has a resident photographer ready to grab some shots of your group with a beautiful, snowy backdrop.
When you’re ready for a break from the cold, head inside to the nature center. Programming is offered year-round, which gives families hands-on opportunities to engage with the unique local ecosystem. The observatory is another highlight: Central Oregon is known for its limited light pollution, meaning the stargazing here is incredible. The long winter nights make it easy to enjoy this facility before bedtime.
There are several restaurants onsite at the resort, all of which offer stunning views of the natural scenery. The focus is on fresh ingredients prepared in innovative ways. But that doesn’t mean picky eaters will thumb their nose at the menu — there are still plenty of familiar, kid-friendly choices offered, and the casual ambience at all dining areas puts families at ease.
After returning from active days out, we loved digging in to après-ski specials, like freshly baked pretzels as big as our heads with flavorful dipping sauces, plus amazing cocktails during happy hour. The resort also organizes seasonal themes, such as a chocolate focus in February.
For those guests who really want to take advantage of their spacious accommodations, the market at the resort offers a robust selection of ingredients for self-catering meal preparation, including lots of fresh produce. Most of the restaurants also do takeout, which is popular with families. Sleep-deprived parents love the onsite Starbucks for their daily caffeine fix.
The indoor pool is a great gathering spot for families in winter, as are the indoor tennis courts. For children looking to up their tennis game, there’s a first-rate training program along with skills classes and private lessons. The state-of-the-art fitness center overlooks the courts, and there’s also a selection of fitness classes each day.
The spa is another highlight. In winter, a massage in one of the beautiful treatment room feels even more indulgent with the fireplaces crackling and generating cozy heat. Guests also love the use of indigenous products local to the area.
Hot tubs, located around the resort, are absolutely amazing in winter with the snow surrounding you. The perfect end to a fun winter day is a soak!
While there’s obviously a lot to do at Sunriver, and many families come here with the sole purpose of just kicking back and never leaving, it also works well as a home base for local exploration, especially in winter. For example, winter sports lovers take advantage of the daily shuttle to Mount Bachelor for skiing, snowboarding and tubing, and the resort wisely puts together attractive and competitively priced ski-and-stay packages each year.
Sunriver’s concierge service means many other activities can be arranged easily. Snowmobiling and snowshoeing tours are two popular options in wintertime.
Winter can be a drag, especially for families who live in regions where cabin fever and nasty weather conditions are the norm. A getaway to Sunriver Resort reminds us that there is a lot to love about this season: waking up to freshly fallen snow, warming up with hot beverages around the fire, dips in the hot tub and cozy nights in luxurious accommodations.
Editor’s Note: Kristi was hosted by Sunriver Resort to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Kristi Marcelle except where noted.
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