Bend Wins the Battle Against Boredom

Family Visits Chock Full of Adventure and Relaxation

Float the River - credit Jill Rosell

Recently, we found ourselves with back-to-back families visiting us for some Central Oregon summer fun. With three kids of our own (all under the age of 12-years-old) my husband and I were full of ideas on entertaining all the cousins and friends who occupied our much-used guest room. After all, Bend is one of the best spots for warm weather vacationing. Between downtown shopping, floating the river and the many activities along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, there was no way our guests would have a chance for boredom.

On the first day, the temperature was pushing 90 degrees and we were looking to keep cool. What better way to introduce our friends to Bend and Central Oregon than to head to Riverbend Park and float the Deschutes River? Located next to the Old Mill District, Riverbend Park is the one with a giant kayak art structure in the parking lot. This is the best place to not only put in, but rent sturdy float tubes from Sun Country Tours. For a couple of free floating hours, you can rent tubes for adults and kids (life jackets included) and meander along the river for either a quick 30 minute float that lets off near the park, or a longer float that lets off at downtown’s Drake Park.

Drake Park

A handy shuttle comes every 20 minutes to drive you and your tubes back to the beginning. Instant fun. (Side note: I don’t recommend sending any child younger than seven by themselves on a tube because halfway down the river is a spillway that calls for avoidance. My son shared my tube so I could ensure he wouldn’t have difficulty getting to shore at the right time).

For lunch, we cleaned up and drove a short distance to a favorite local joint, Jackson’s Corner. You can sit inside or out, at large picnic style tables and order everything from pizza to hot sandwiches, accompanied with lemonade and great brews on tap. The kids love it because they can play checkers or run around in the mini-playground area while they wait for food.

The SHARC Aquatic Center in Sunriver, Oregon

The rest of the afternoon consisted of a lazy stroll around downtown for ice cream cones from Goody’s and window-shopping the boutiques located between the streets of Wall and Bond. The second day with visitors included picking up pastries and coffee from Newport Market and making the twenty-minute drive to scenic Sunriver for the day. The kids spent hours at SHARC(Sunriver’s aquatic and recreation center) taking endless turns on the water slides and floating the lazy river. At the end of the afternoon, they headed across the parking lot to the tubing hill for one last thrill of the day.

Interior view of dining area at 900 Wall in downtown Bend, Oregon
900 Wall, Downtown Bend

Back in Bend, we made reservations at 900 Wall where the adults enjoyed refreshing cocktails and the kids ordered everything from Draper Valley rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes to gooey cheese pizza. There’s a great gluten-free menu there as well! On the last day, we drove the families to Todd Lake for a picnic and afternoon of frog catching and mini hikes.

This stunning setting, with a full view of the Cascade range, always makes for happy visitors. Upon their departure, our guests vowed to return next summer and do it all over again. We’re looking forward to it!

Nicole Meier
Nicole Meier
Nicole Meier is a writer, travel blogger and social media consultant. The Source Weekly named her travel blog, Have Tote Will Travel, ( among the best local blogs of Central Oregon in 2013. When she’s not running her three kids from pillar to post, Nicole and her husband can be found skate skiing, paddle boarding or camping in Central Oregon’s playground.
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