In the winter my son is always asking, “Dad, can we go skiing?” Well, that’s a little hard to do, I tell him, considering we live in San Francisco now, not Colorado.
In the summer, my daughter’s always asking, “Dad can we go for a bike ride?” I’d love to, I tell her, if she’d get off her phone and stop texting for five minutes.
And all the other times of the year, my wife asks, “Honey, can we just get away?” No, I say, we’re stuck with these crazy kids in this wonderful life.
Sometimes she laughs at that.
But this year, I had an answer for them for our annual family trip.
I tried to keep the destination, Sunriver, Oregon, a surprise, and it was easy to throw them off the scent with my clues for what to pack.
A winter coat, stocking cap, gloves, tennis shoes, shorts, swimsuit, sunglasses, hiking shoes, t-shirts, golf shoes, binoculars, cycling gear and most importantly I joked, a family-sized sense of adventure.
The kids sometimes laugh at that.
All jokes aside, Sunriver has been on my vacation radar for some time after learning about the golf courses there during a golf industry trade show recently. And I remember seeing Crosswater Club on TV when it hosted a Champions Tour event for many years.
The guys manning the booth pitched the resort as a true four-season destination, but I had my doubts, thinking that spring would likely be the worst time to visit. It’s not too hot, not too cold and probably kind of dead.
Wait, did I say “worst” time?
Anyway, I was sold after looking online and finding an annual event in May where racers alpine ski and cross country ski at nearby Mt. Bachelor, bike down the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, run along the Deschutes River Trail and kayak along the Deschutes River. In the same day. (Learn more about the U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle.)
That got me thinking of our own family “multi-sport” vacation with Sunriver as our home base.
I was surprised to find a direct – and not all that expensive – flight from San Francisco to Redmond, just 30 miles north of Sunriver. We rented a car and made the quick drive – in Central Oregon a traffic jam usually involves a herd of deer and luckily on our drive there were none.
We were staying in Sunriver for a long three-day weekend and knew we weren’t going to want to (or could afford to) eat out every night. So we decided to rent a small house within the resort to take advantage of the kitchen, hot tub and other amenities that would make us feel at home on vacation. (Namely, the foosball table.)
The rental home, offered by Discover Sunriver Vacation Rentals also had bikes in the garage for us to use – and offered us free access to Mavericks, the resort’s health club. (More on that in a bit.)
As soon as we arrived at the resort, we made a bee line for The Village at Sunriver, a little retail center and community hub filled with restaurants, shops, places to get rental gear. We knew this would be a popular place for us during our visit.
But for now we were in search of a quick lunch and some groceries for our weekend stay.
Finding somewhere to eat that the entire family can agree on should be an Olympic sport – a sport our family wouldn’t come close to medaling in.
And the diverse options in front of us only made things more difficult. So we settled on a family favorite, pizza at Panini’s Pizzera.
(Pro tip: Check out the Village’s website before going. Some of the restaurants offer discounts with special “code words.” In talking to a couple of tourists from Montana, we learned they got 15 percent off their tab at the Village Bar and Grill for saying the words “The Tradition Continues.” )
Stuffed with a basic, but delicious pepperoni and green pepper pizza we ventured over to the Sunriver Country Store for some rations.
We picked up some staples like peanut butter, coffee, cereal and beer – some highly recommended local craft beer – but the small store was also well stocked with some locally grown veggies, fish and more from the Oregon coast and meats from Central Oregon farmers. It had all the guilty vacation pleasures and pantry necessities of a 7-11 with the upscale offerings of a boutique market. Perfect.
Our headquarters for the weekend was a very short drive away and we were anxious to get in, get unpacked and check out the place.
It was even better than the pictures online. The 1,800-square foot, two-story house had three bedrooms, two and a half baths and a private hot tub in the back which butted the forest Sunriver lies within.
The kids found their room (and frowned at the idea of bunk beds), we unpacked a little and sat around the kitchen table to devise a weekend plan. I had the destination and our accommodations planned out, but beyond a round of golf, I wanted to kind of play our activities by hear based on the weather.
And that wasn’t going to be a problem. I was told the forecast for the week was pretty typical for this time of year – highs in the upper 50s, maybe reaching the low 60s. And overnight lows would dip into the 30s – perfect for the late evening hot tubbing we had planned.
We stayed in for dinner on night one. I made some burgers, taking advantage of the gas barbecue grill out on the back patio near the hot tub. The kids were on a mission to get into that hot tub and cleared their plates in record time.
We were up and ready to go before 10 for our first full day in Sunriver. A day we had decided the night before would be spent outside.
Our rental house came with discounted rental bikes at 4 Seasons Recreational Outfitters, but the house itself also came with enough bikes and helmets for all of us. They weren’t top of the line mountain bikes, but they would be perfect for the bike path adventuring we’d be doing that day.
With water bottles and snacks packed into one heavy backpack (carried by dad, of course) we headed out.
The map we found at our rental house showed there are more than 30 miles of paved bike paths that parallel the golf courses, cut through the forest and tunnel beneath the main roads of the resort.
We weren’t planning on doing all 33 miles, but the gang was up for being out for a while exploring just about every corner of the resort, which we did in about two hours, including a stop for a short snack and game of “real” putt putt at the 9-hole family-friendly putting course behind the main Sunriver lodge, next to the Meadows Course clubhouse.
I planned on a round of golf at the course the next day so it was nice to get a quick lay of the land and take a peek at the rental clubs I had arranged for myself.
We got back to the house just after lunch and the kids were eager to not do anything for a little while – I had put them through a pretty good workout already.
While they messed around with the foosball table upstairs, my wife and I sat out on the plastic Adirondack chairs on the back porch and had an afternoon beer, a necessity while on vacation with the kids. We marveled at how quiet it was where we were when we had seen so many people and cars making their way through the resort while on our bike ride. It was by no means “crowded,” but it was nice that sounds from even the limited “hustle and bustle” never made it to our little corner of the woods.
By late afternoon, we were eager to continue our Sunriver adventure and I was surprised to hear the kids actually suggest we ride our bikes to dinner instead of drive. So that’s what we did, taking our bikes to the Village where we’d do a little shopping for trinkets and a souvenir for our dog sitter back home.
Remembering the little code word discount deal, we agreed to do dinner at the Village Bar and Grill, where I had the fish and chips (delicious) my wife had a wild mushroom risotto (apparently decadent) and the kids had chicken strips and a burger. Pretty standard fare for our family in a fun and cozy joint filled with other tourists like us.
Luckily, we weren’t too full to ride our bikes back home where we’d watch a DVD on the big screen TV and call it a night. We had big plans for the next day.
A shuttle service made getting to the ski area a breeze. It dropped us off right next to the rental shop where we got fitted and geared up for our morning. We paid full price for our tickets, but there are a bunch of great deals for multi-day tickets that include free lift tickets for kids 12 and under.
It was a picture perfect day. Bright blue skies contrasting with the vibrant white snow seemed almost too good to be true. It was early May, but there was still ample snow on the mountain – definitely enough on the groomers for our limited abilities.
As we rode up the chairlift for the first time, I asked my son if this what he had in mind when he kept bugging me about going skiing. He just nodded, taking in the scenery.
Several runs and two hot cocoa stops later, I bid the family adieu and grabbed the shuttle back to the resort for my round of golf. I couldn’t tweet that fact fast enough to my buddies stuck at work back home.
I ran back to the house, changed clothes and scooted over to the Meadows course where my rental clubs were already on a cart waiting for me when I arrived. (Top of the line Nike rental clubs – not the grab bag of ancient sticks you might find at your local muni.)
The pro shop joined me up with three other guys who were having a similar vacation with their families and on the first tee we laughed at the idea that we’d later be paying for leaving the kids alone with our wives for four hours of golf.
The Meadows Course was challenging, but fair. And I could see, from the back tee boxes (which I only visited) why it’s hosted several NCAA events, including the Men’s and Women’s NCAA National Championships.
I played a pretty good round considering it was my first time out for the year, and I really enjoyed the guys I was grouped with. The day couldn’t have been much better for me and I could only hope the kids were making things tolerable for my wife.
By the time I had a post-round beer with the fellas and got back to the house, the kids were in the hot tub and my wife was sitting on the back deck reading the local visitors guide.
She asked me if I wanted a beer and set down the magazine, open to an ad for the Sage Springs Club and Spa.
Subtle. (And point taken.)
My wife was on her phone when she came back with my beer – finishing up reservations for a manicure and massage the next morning.
The kids and I piddled around the house that morning and had some laughs during an early morning hot tub session where we planned an afternoon hike once mom got back.
We drove a couple miles north from Sunriver to Lava Lands, the interpretive hub of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. We did both the short walk through the Trail of Molten Land, which was otherworldly compared to the forest that surrounds the lava rock, and the longer walk up the road to the top of Lava Butte to take in a panoramic view of Central Oregon. The binoculars I told them to pack proved useful up there to help the kids see a hawk we spotted on the hike.
It was the perfect end to our short Sunriver Spring Break. We headed back to our house to relax for a while, make one more family dinner, one final hot tub and good night’s sleep before our 5 a.m. flight home.
A successful spring break that offered everything my family could ever want in a vacation…A vacation my wife and I joked that provided us some truly exhilarating unwinding.
Once we got home, everyone now had the same question.
“When can we go back?”