Winter travel can be tricky to plan, especially for families who may need to accommodate both skiers and non-skiers, navigate various ages and interests, and schedule around limited school holidays or vacation time. Consider Bend, Oregon, as a crowd-pleasing destination for kid-friendly winter fun.
This region of central Oregon has a unique ecosystem and landscape, where volcanoes and desert collide. While snow is almost guaranteed at the higher elevations, the city center may be dry and warmer. This means it’s easier to get around and explore the various attractions that make Bend and its surrounding area so fun for families.
There are many ways to spend an enjoyable few days in Bend as a family during the winter months. Some choose to spend most of their time on the slopes while others seek more variety; whatever your style, Bend can accommodate. These five ideas are a few of our favorite experiences for a getaway here and can easily fill a long weekend, or possibly even a full week for those with more time.
It may not be as famous as other western ski resorts, but Mt. Bachelor has a lot of appeal for families who love to ski and snowboard. The resort has a really local, casual feel. We love that the skiing terrain is world-class but can still accommodate all levels and abilities. In fact, Mt. Bachelor specializes in teaching first-time skiers or snowboarders to become lifelong participants in these sports, and there’s even a dedicated beginner’s lift. Private, family and children’s lessons can easily be arranged.
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Those who already feel comfortable on skis or boards will be challenged by the 4,300 acres of terrain and 11 lifts. Better yet, the ski season here is longer than most, as there typically are good conditions from Thanksgiving through May, so it even works as a reliable spring break ski destination. For non-skiers, there is a fun tube run that families love. There’s also on-mountain childcare available for newborns up to age 10.
Imagine a zoo and living history museum combining forces to create an indoor/outdoor experience that showcases incredible wildlife and fascinating history and culture. That’s the High Desert Museum in a nutshell. Among the highlights here are the otters, who spring to life in the winter months in their outdoor habitat — my family loved watching the crazy antics of these adorable creatures. There’s also a strong focus on the indigenous peoples who have called this region home for centuries.
Regardless of whether your family skis or not, it is fun to incorporate other outdoor sports and experiences during a trip to Bend in the winter. Backcountry trails, enjoyed via snowshoes, cross-country skis, or dogsled rides, offer amazing views of the mountainous landscape. Some tours end at a bonfire or warming hut; others take you from brewery to brewery (children can sample root beer at the various stops). It’s a fun, active way for the whole family to get into the old-growth national forest that surrounds the region.
Most kids have a natural interest in volcanoes, so parents have no trouble enticing them to check out the incredible tube formations that form underground via lava flows in this volcanic region. Much like hiking through a cave, this is a hands-on learning opportunity that just feels fun and even a little mysterious. Better yet, it works regardless of weather, so it’s a great option on a rainy day or when everyone needs a break from freezing temperatures and snow.
Lava River Cave is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and is open to the public. Other lava tubes in the area can be visited via private tours. Our Family Travel Advisors are happy to help arrange these experiences as part of our full trip planning service.
All this activity and fresh air will lead to one thing: huge appetites. Fortunately, Bend is a great destination for foodie families. It has a well-deserved reputation as one of America’s best cities for the number of eateries per capita. But it’s not just about quantity. Rather, the quality of the meals, from breakfast through dinner, reflects the fact that this small city has attracted some of the world’s best chefs. Families love the variety, from hole-in-the-wall ethnic spots to breweries in renovated historic buildings.
When the winter blues begin to set in, the cure can be found by planning a trip to Bend, Oregon, where families can enjoy a wide range of experiences, both indoor and outdoor, to please everyone.
See all kid-friendly accommodations and activities in Oregon on Ciao Bambino
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Editor’s Note: Kristi Marcelle was hosted by Mount Bachelor in order to review the area for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino.
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