Top 5 Family-Friendly Winter Adventures in Central Oregon

Sunriver Resort Near Bend Oregon

There’s nothing quite like seeing your child’s face light up during a fun family activity – even if they’re laughing at you down on the ice after a spectacular, unintential and rather painful triple axel.

Ah, the family memories right?

Central Oregon has plenty of opportunities for you to reconnect with your kids while keeping them disconnected from their phones for at least a little while. Here’s some of your best bets for Kid-Friendly Fun in Central Oregon:

Ice skaters move around the public ice rink in Downtown Redmond at dusk.

Ice Skating

Everyone looks a little silly the first time they strap on a pair of ice skates. But it takes just a few timid shuffles along the ice to pick it up enough to have some fun. Enjoy the outdoor covered rinks at The Village at Sunriver and The Pavilion in Bend or the open air rinks at Seventh Mountain Resort and Centennial Park near downtown Redmond. All of the locations have rental skates and charge very nominal fees for use. If there’s snow falling, it might just be the most Normal Rockwell thing you do all winter long.

Mt. Bachelor tubing
Mt. Bachelor Snowblast Tubing Park

Sledding

Nothing elicits shrieks of pure joy like barreling down a snow-covered hill on a thin plastic sled. Throw in your older brother’s poorly designed ramp right where you reach maximum speed and let the fun begin! Wanoga Sno-Park is the go-to spot for sledding in the area. It’s on the road to Mt. Bachelor and features a large hill, warming hut and restroom. There’s even a food truck there serving hot beverages and offering rental sleds.

For a more “drag-racing-on-snow” experience, keep driving up to Mt. Bachelor and experience the Snowblast Tubing Park. You can pay for a two-hour window or all-day pass and let a motorized rope pull you and your innertube to the top of the 800-foot hill. The ride down is faster than you think, and an absolute blast. The Hoodoo Ski Area near Sisters has a tubing hill of its own. How fast is it? Well, it’s called “The Autobahn,” so make of that what you will.

Porcupine at a museum near Bend, Oregon

Indoor Fun

Sometimes the kids just can’t even with the snow and cold. And to be honest, you’d probably like some time to let the gear dry out. Luckily there’s a few places in Central Oregon for kids to have a blast inside. Maybe the best place for family fun indoors also happens to be a spot where you can mix in some hands-on education: The High Desert Museum. The museum features wild animals, interpretive history exhibits and much more. At Sunriver Resort, the kids will have a blast at Fort Funnigan, home to full or half-day camps with plenty of activities for the kids.

Looking to have the kids blow of a little steam? There’s no better place than Bend’s Bouncing off the Wall. The 11,000-square-foot facility is home to several GIGANTIC inflatable interactives and includes a large area for crafts, activities and other indoor play. They can literally bounce themselves to sleep with all the activity. (Seriously, I’ve actually seen a kid sleeping in one of the bouncy houses.)

bouncing off the wall 2

Sled Dog Rides

Ice skating, sledding…sure, you can do those things a lot of places. Sled dog riding? Now that’s another story – a super fun, unique story. Few places give you the chance to be pulled by a team of excited dogs, mushed by a past participant in the Iditarod. Oregon’s Trail of Dreams Sled Dog Rides at Mt. Bachelor is probably the most fun you can have on snow as you are whisked away into the woods.

dog sled_from J. Scdoris

Catch a Movie, Have a Soak

Sometimes you just want to catch a flick – even on a family vacation. You can find relatively new releases in a unique theater experience at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in downtown Bend. The McMenamins historic campus (dating back to 1936) includes a restaurant, four pubs, ornate Turkish soaking pool, music venue, hotel and theater. It’s one of those “must-sees” when you visit Central Oregon. Drop the kids off at one of the matinees and go have a soak just down the hall. Sounds like a perfect afternoon to me.

Soaking tub at McMenamins in Bend, Oregon

Fall Golf in Central Oregon: Amazing Course Conditions & Even Better Deals

Considering we have three of Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses and half of Oregon’s Top 10 courses according to Golfweek, there’s really no bad time of year to play golf in Central Oregon. Even in the middle of winter, courses such as Meadow Lakes in Prineville remain open for play. But for my money, fall is by far the best time to tee it up. Here’s why:

PERFECT WEATHER

September and October are usually pretty mild and a welcome reprieve from the summer heat.  Sure, the daylight might not extend as far into the evening, but there’s still plenty of time to get in 18 holes. (And if you tee off early enough, you can even get in 36.)

Sunriver Meadows Course Near Bend

CHEAPER GREEN FEES

Beyond the weather, fall golf in Central Oregon means discounted green fees. As a tourist destination, some of the resort green fees during the summer are a little steep for some folks. Come fall though, those rates go down dramatically making some of the country’s best courses more affordable. Sunriver Resort, for example, is offering an amazing unlimited fall golf package that includes 3-nights of lodging for less than $260/person.

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Resort

Fall = Pacific Amateur Golf Classic

For 21 years, the Pacific Amateur Golf Classic has been the Northwest’s premier amateur tournament. The event, now held exclusively at Sunriver Resort, includes 54-holes of tournament golf with a fourth and final championship round for the top qualifiers in each of several flights. The field is limited to 300 players and is held at Sunriver’s Meadows and Woodlands courses and the famed Crosswater Club.

River’s Edge Golf Course, Bend

FEWER PEOPLE

The crowds have thinned and the tee sheets are WIDE open, making it the perfect time for that group outing you’ve been wanting to throw for your clients or office. Pronghorn Resort has a sweet deal through September for groups of eight or more. Starting at just $549 per person, you and your buddies can enjoy:

*  2 nights in a luxurious 4 bedroom Villa

* Unlimited golf on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course

* One box lunch

* Free round-trip airport transportation

* Unlimited range balls

Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project, Ben

OFF THE COURSE LIFE

The “shoulder season” as we call it in the tourism biz, also means fewer crowds at some of the region’s most popular off-the-course spots. Brewpubs like Deschutes, Crux and Bend Brewing Co. can get packed during the summer, but you’re better off quickly finding a table for you and your 7 bros come fall. (Speaking of Deschutes, a brewery tour is a fun group activity after a round of golf and before dinner. )

Looking for a great golf-n-grub combo? After a round at Tetherow, head upstairs to The Row for one of the best 19th Holes in Central Oregon.

8 Pictures That Will Have You Rethinking Some Life Decisions (Central Oregon Food Edition)

Is this plate from 5 Fusion and Sushi Bar art or food? (It’s food. Definitely food.)

deschutes brewery burger

This Deschutes Brewery burger from a cow that was fed the brewery’s spent grain. BEER FED BEEF, PEOPLE. BEER. FED. BEEF.

Here’s a fish sandwich from Suttle Lodge & Boathouse that makes other fish sandwiches embarrassed to call themselves fish sandwiches.

These powdered sugar beignets from 900 Wall will make you forget the names of your own children.

This hilarious plate of nachos from 10 Barrel Brewing that’s on the appetizer menu.

I’ll just be over here at Crux Fermentation Project with the best house-made pretzel I’ve ever put in my face hole.

Cobbler with ice cream Pronghorn Club and Resort Central Oregon

OMG, this tiny cast iron pot filled with cobbler topped with a teeny dollop of vanilla ice cream at Pronghorn is the stuff of my tiny dessert dreams.

Find someone that pours sauce on you like this chef at Carson’s American Kitchen at Sunriver Resort pours sauce on this dish.

Hungry? Check out some more amazing Central Oregon dining options here.

A Patriotic and Fun 4th in Central Oregon

Summer in Central Oregon offers a feast for the adventurous and respite for the relaxers. Come 4th of July, add to that plenty of patriotism.

This year it falls on a Wednesday  – possibly creating a whole FIVE-day weekend for a lot of people. It’ll be a great weekend to find a great hike, play some golf at one of the two dozen courses here or maybe get crazy with a whitewater rafting trip.

Big Eddy Thriller

You couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate the 4th.

On the 4th, Bend features one of the quirkiest celebrations you’ll ever see – The annual 4th of July Pet Parade is exactly what it sounds like: Thousands of people and their pets parading through downtown in front of some 10,000 spectators. You’ll find all sorts of animals including cats, llamas, mini horses and a dog held airborne by balloons. (You just have to see it to believe it.) The parade starts at 1o a.m. and is immediately followed by an Old Fashioned 4th Celebration down the street in Drake Park. The party features food vendors, arts and craft booths, games for kids, music and much more.

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Fireworks across Central Oregon
Bend: Pilot Butte, 10 p.m.
Redmond: Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, 10 p.m.
La Pine: Frontier Heritage Park, 10 p.m.
Prineville: Reservoir State Park, 10 p.m.
Madras: Sahalee Park, 10 p.m.

After an afternoon of floating the river or heading up to the high lakes to beat the heat, end the holiday by finding a good spot to watch the fireworks show from atop Pilot Butte State Park at 10 p.m. (Local tip – Bend High School and Pilot Butte Middle School (click for maps) both offer good spots to see the show.)

Redmond’s “Baseball, Hot Dogs and Apple Pie 4th of July Parade” through downtown kicks off at 10 a.m. downtown followed by an Old Fashioned 4th celebration at the fairgrounds from 11 to 4.  The fireworks show starts at 10 p.m. at the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center.

In Sunriver, you could start the day with the family at the Kids Bike Parade or cool off at the Sunriver Aquatic Center (SHARC) before getting cleaned up and getting your groove on during the opening night of Sunriver Resort’s summer concert series.

La Pine’s Frontier Days actually start on July 1st with a variety of family-friendly activities, cook-outs, live music and more. On the 4th the party starts at 7 a.m. with a “Woodcutter’s Breakfast” followed by a parade at 10:30.

You can officially kick off the weekend with the monthly First Friday Artwalk in downtown Bend. Yes, there’s art – lots of it. But Artwalk is more than that, as businesses keep their doors open later, and offer wine and spirits to create a very festive atmosphere in every small shop you walk in.

To see a full listing of all the events and activities slated for the July 4th holiday weekend, visit our Calendar.

Central Oregon Vacation Rentals Offer an Affordable Home Away from Home

HomeSpun Vacation Rentals/Bend

There’s something quick, easy and consistent when choosing a hotel or destination resort for your vacation lodging.

But there’s something quirky, fun, interesting, spacious, well-appointed, private and luxurious about choosing a vacation rental home instead.

Central Oregon has more than 3,000 amazing vacation rental options, from cozy cottages near downtown to townhomes in the woods to expansive homes along the banks of the Deschutes River. They all provide a lodging opportunity that really lets you feel like a local as soon as you pull into the driveway.

Why choose a vacation rental home?

  1. More Privacy
  2. Less expensive for small groups
  3. You can save money by cooking at home
  4. Most are pet-friendly
  5. There’s often laundry on site

Granted, staying in a vacation rental isn’t the best option for every trip, especially if you’re only going to be in one spot for a couple of days. But if you’re planning a longer trip, say 3 days or more, you’ll likely get a lot of  bang for your buck in a rental home.

For example, if two couples looking for a place to stay close to downtown, the river, shopping, and tons of dining, they could split the cost of a nice 2-bedroom rental home for five days in late June for about $70/person/night. Or, go a little more upscale and rent a house (with a hot tub) on one of Central Oregon’s 30 golf courses for $109/night.That’s considerably cheaper than some rates for hotels during peak season here.

Vacation rental home in Sunriver, Oregon
Bennington Properties/Sunriver

Some rental homes amenities include hot tubs and BBQ grills in addition to cruiser or mountain bikes to check out the sights and sounds around Bend, Sunriver and beyond. Many of the homes are situated within well-established neighborhoods, lending themselves to a “local’s vibe.”

What else makes vacation rental homes so great? Here are a few highlights:

Bennington Properties in Sunriver might be the most dog-friendly vacation rental company on the planet! Not only do they offer an off-leash play area at the management offices, but there’s a complementary dog wash there too so you can clean up the pup after a day of adventuring. Stock up on provisions at Country Market in The Village at Sunriver or grab a bite and brew at Sunriver Brewery.

DiamondStone Guest Lodges in Central Oregon

At Diamondstone Guest Lodges in La Pine, you can stay way off the beaten path.

This rural resort has a wide variety of lodging including a bed & breakfast, a Log Cabin and more, including an upstairs “Treetop Lounge” that can host events. The bed & breakfast has a 3.5-acre meadow for small outdoor weddings. The resort is also home to a 3-day summer music and arts festival known as “The Newberry Event.”

DiamondStone also hosts MOTOFANTASY Motorcycle Rentals.  Experienced riders can choose from over a dozen unique bikes to ride for a day or a week.

Cold Springs Resort

Tucked beneath a canopy of Ponderosa and Tamarack and only steps from the spring-fed Metolius River in Camp Sherman the cabins at Cold Springs Resort offer the perfect family retreat. Hiking, biking, and world-class fly-fishing opportunities abound and all are within walking distance. Bring the kids, the dog and let yourself and your family unwind.

Cold Springs Resort was originally a dairy and the springs were used to keep the fresh milk cool before distribution.

Elk Lake sailboats in Central Oregon
Elk Lake Resort

Elk Lake Resort, on the Cascade Lake Scenic Byway, offers rustic or upscale cabins just steps away from one of the region’s most popular recreation spots. Grill on the deck or head on down to the lodge before renting a canoe for the afternoon. There’s often live music at the resort as well.

Vacation rental home at Tetherow in Central Oregon
Tetherow Vacation Home

Looking for destination resort amenities, but vacation rental lodging? Sunriver Resort, Tetherow, Black Butte Ranch and Pronghorn all offer vacation rental options. Tetherow has the region’s first vacation rental neighborhood called “Cairn,” which includes 4 and 5 bedroom homes along the award-winning golf course.

*These are just a couple of examples and rates will vary, but they are actual examples, from one of Central Oregon’s more popular vacation rental companies. 

My 11 Favorite Central Oregon Golf Courses

Central Oregon has quickly made a name for itself as a bucket list destination for true golfers from around the world. With 30 courses within 45 minutes of each other and three in Golf Digest’s Top 100, you can’t ask for much more. Throw in a zillion outdoor activities, nearly 30 breweries and perfect weather and, well, it’s a golf vacation paradise.

As a former assistant golf professional here in Central Oregon, I’ve had the chance to play just about every course here. Here are my 11 favorite tracks.

Widgi Creek Golf Club in Bend, Oregon
Widgi Creek in Bend

Widgi Creek Golf Club – Bend

I’m a bit biased as I spent the better part of five years playing this course nearly every day. But that’s the thing – it’s the kind of course that’s fun every single time you play. Tucked within the Deschutes National Forest, Widgi is tight and the Par 5s are long. Each set of tees helps create a different golf course of sorts. From the tips, none of the Par 5s are reachable in two and the Par 3s are BRUTAL. Move up just one tee and everything changes. I love it. (Named the Local’s Favorite Course more than 10 times.)

Tetherow Golf Club in Bend
Tetherow in Bend

Tetherow (Golf Digest No. 63) – Bend

A Scottish links layout in the heart of the High Desert, Tetherow is a feast for the eyes and a beast on your scorecard. But because you can play this course low to the ground, it’s actually a favorite among high handicappers and women who can get around it in decent shape thanks, in part, to very helpful forecaddies. (And on a Golfboard, just getting around Tetherow is half the fun.) After your round, The Row is one of the best spots in Central Oregon for beers, wings and other tasty dishes.

View of greens with Black Butte in the distance at Glaze Meadow Golf Course near Sisters, Oregon
Courtesy Mike Houska

Glaze Meadow, Black Butte Ranch – Near Sisters

Glaze Meadow is one of two courses at BBR (Big Meadow being the other) and choosing a favorite between the two is purely a matter of personal preference. Glaze is tucked way back into the resort, but it’s worth the winding drive to get there. A recent redesign earned it high praise from golf publications and players who appreciate the “new” classic look and feel. The new turtleback greens can be tricky – but if you play smartly from the tee and leave yourself in good positions to attack the pin, you’ll be just fine.

Pronghorn Golf near Bend, Oregon
The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn (Golf Digest No. 36) – Bend

By far one of the most immaculate golf courses you’ll ever play. Pristine fairways lead to the finest putting surfaces in all of Central Oregon. Beyond the green grass of the fairways and greens, the course is cut through unique lava rock outcroppings amid an ancient Juniper forest so it’s a scenic track for sure. The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn features rare back to back Par 5s on the back 9 – both are picturesque and neither yield many birdies.

5th fairway at Quail Run in LaPine, Oregon
Quail Run, La Pine

Quail Run – La Pine

Maybe the most underrated golf course in all of Central Oregon. Quail Run is WAY off the beaten path in La Pine (south of Sunriver), so it doesn’t get a ton of play. That means you get a course that’s quiet and always in great condition. There’s nothing fancy about Quail Run. It’s just a really good golf course with some fun holes and at just $55 during peak season, it’s a huge bargain as well.

Crosswater Club, 9th Hole

Crosswater Club (Golf Digest No. 50) – Sunriver

Crosswater is hands down the most famous course in the region and for good reason. It’s hosted a Champions Tour major championship, several NCAA National Championships, the PGA Professional National Championship (four times) and was the site of a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between John Daly and Fred Couples back in 1999. Crazy wide fairways are welcoming off the tee, but the course comes back to bite you with tough approach shots to shallow greens and hazards on nearly every hole. All told, Sunriver Resort has 63 holes including a fantastic short course called Caldera Links.

Juniper Golf Club – Redmond

A sneaky good course located just down the street from the regional airport in Redmond, Juniper Golf Club should be on your must-play list when visiting. Consider it “Pronghorn Light” in that it resembles the Nicklaus gem a great deal, but is packaged in a more laid-back muni-course vibe. In fact, it is the only municipally-run course in the region. Juniper was host of the 2007 and 2010 Oregon Open and a repeat US Amateur qualifier site for six consecutive years, 2006-2011.

16th hole at Lost Tracks Golf Club in Bend
Lost Tracks, 16th Hole

Lost Tracks Golf Club

Full disclosure: I also worked for a short time at this south Bend golf course so it’ll always have a special place in my golfing heart. Beyond the superb conditioning, Lost Tracks is known for the fact just about every Par 4 and 5 is a dogleg.  Also of note: the vintage railroad dining car that serves as a bridge to the island green on No. 16. Bring an extra bag tag to add to the hundreds that folks have left behind.

Broken Top Club Golf Course Sunset

Broken Top Club – Bend

Broken Top is a private club in the heart of Bend – in fact, you can see Tetherow from some of the fairways on the front 9. It’s a fun course that winds its way through the houses of one of Bend’s most upscale neighborhood. Expect a few holes with severely elevated tee boxes and lots of doglegs. You’ll get perfect putting surfaces and amazing views of the Cascades.

Bend Golf & Country Club

Bend Golf and Country Club – Bend

Bend’s oldest golf course opened in 1925. The private club has tiny greens, tight fairways and an undeniable charm. It’s absolutely one of my favorite tracks because it feels like a throwback golf course. Subtle elevation changes throughout create an interesting routing.

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon
Aspen Lakes, SIsters

Aspen Lakes – Sisters

Arguably Central Oregon’s most scenic golf courses as its situated in the shadows of the majestic Cascades. Aspen Lakes is known for its red cinder bunkers and challenging design with water coming into play on half the holes.

Casual Family Weekend in Sunriver

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Imagine this: you’re riding your bike through a rolling meadow, the Cascade mountain range in the background, and the only sound is from the whir of a prop plane taking off against a crisp blue sky. Up ahead, your children pull carrots from their pockets and present them to a gathering of friendly horses in an adjacent pasture.

Sound like the setting of a movie? It’s actually a scene from my family’s idyllic weekend in Sunriver. Because of the accessible outdoor activities and pristine setting, Sunriver remains a favorite getaway spot for my family of five.

Interior view vacation home in Sunriver, Oregon

While we usually stay at the resort, this time we went for a more relaxed trip and booked a house through Discover Sunriver Vacation Rentals. There are many lodging options to choose from, but since our three kids wanted to bring friends and spread out, we picked a four-bedroom house complete with a large kitchen, hot tub and killer views.

Renting a house is great for cooking in. I stopped at The Village at Sunriver and bought our groceries at Sunriver Country Store. I love this IGA grocer for its fresh produce and healthy choices (a big variety of gluten-free goods too).

Sunriver Country Store Near Bend Oregon

The house was stocked with a handful of bikes for all ages and sizes. Upon arrival,we quickly unloaded and claimed bikes and helmets before heading out to the local paths. My family and I rode through the village, out behind the lodge, across golf course bridges, and past the airport, marina and stables all within under an hour.

The paths are flat and well paved, making it an easy trek for all abilities. After lunch and a hot tub soak, the kids stretched out in the living room to play board games while my husband and I were free to lounge and unwind from a busy week.

Feeling too lazy to cook dinner for the group that night, I ordered delivery from Blondie’s Pizza. The pizza and salads were tasty. I also appreciated that there wasn’t a delivery charge for their speedy service.

The next morning, my husband made a swift trip into the village and brought back some coffee. It might have been cheating to go out for lattes, but we couldn’t resist.

Sunriver Brewing Company in Sunriver, Oregon

Our second day was just as pleasurable with more bike rides and time in the village for window-shopping and a casual dinner at the Sunriver Brewing Company. The kids loved their natural, Angus beef burgers. My husband and I ordered refreshing summer salads loaded with berries, followed by tacos with blackened cod. The selection of local draft beers was impressive, a draw for any beer aficionado. After dinner we strolled into Goodies for ice cream cones and a to-go bag of yummy caramel corn.

meier sunriver 4

Our last day in Sunriver ended with a scenic trail ride courtesy of Sunriver Stables. My two girls and I opted for the thirty-minute “Bald Eagle Loop,” which took us along the Deschutes River and out across the Sunriver Meadows. The staff was very welcoming as they helped us choose equally affable horses. My only complaint was that photos aren’t allowed on the ride. The views were so stunning that I would have liked to capture them with my camera. We will definitely plan for a longer ride on our next visit.

I can’t wait to go back.

Sunriver Family Adventure

Sunriver Resort Lodge Entrance in Sunriver, Oregon

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.

crosswater 12th hole

 

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?

Hmm.

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.

Exterior evening view of a building in Sunriver, Oregon

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.

Sunriver Country Store Near Bend Oregon

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.

Interior view vacation home in Sunriver, Oregon

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.

A family riding bikes at Sunriver Resort near Bend, Oregon

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.

Those plans included a trip to Mt. Bachelor, the popular ski resort about a half hour away and, for me, a round of golf while the wife and kids hit up the indoor pool at the SHARC.

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.

Mt Bachelor in Central Oregon

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.

Meadows golf course in Sunriver, Oregon

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.)

Kah-Nee-Ta spa, resort, Warm Springs

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?”

Sleigh Rides, Santa’s Workshop Highlight Sunriver Traditions Festivities

Traditions are what make the holidays so special and in Sunriver, the end of November and all of December is dedicated to helping you and your family create new memories.

Some of the most magical moments you’ll experience are in the great outdoors. Here, you don’t just get to sing about a one horse open sleigh, at the Sunriver Stables, you can actually load your family and friends up in one and go dashing through the snow. The views from your sleigh ride are enough to take your breath away as the icy Deschutes River snakes around each bend piled high with snow.

If you’re looking for something a little more action, how about a parent versus kid race down the tubing hill near the SHARC? After a quick hike to the top that’s appropriate for all ages, you’ll fly down the track and immediately want to go for round two, and then…round three!

Throughout the holiday season, there are lots of opportunities for your little ones to get creative in Santa’s Workshop. Not only will they leave with something special to take home, this is the perfect bonding opportunity where they’ll create life-long memories with family.

Deck the halls doesn’t quite sum up what the Village at Sunriver looks like this time of year. Everywhere you look, there’s little bits of the Christmas spirit. When the kids are all tuckered out and you’re ready for a festive drink, head to the Twisted River Tavern at the Sunriver Lodge for a classic cocktail, the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Sunriver Resort is Your Central Oregon Hot Spot for Winter Family Fun

Sunriver Resort Lodge with snow on the ground in Central Oregon

If you are like most people, when you think about Sunriver Resort you think of all the wonderful summer activities that take place here; rafting, biking, golfing, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, tennis… you get the picture. What most people don’t usually think of is everything that the area has to offer when that cold white stuff is all over the ground. Whether you are the outdoorsy, adventurous type or the sentimental, family type (or perhaps a little bit of both) you are in for a treat. While the possibilities and combinations are endless, we have taken the liberty of putting together our recommendations for a five day stay.

Day 1

AFTERNOON Welcome to Sunriver! With so many amazing experiences waiting for you, it’s hard to know where to begin. Start by winding down and warming up with the family in your room beside your private stone fireplace and prepare for an unforgettable five days in Central Oregon!

EVENING For an unforgettable dining experience, visit The Village at Sunriver. With its exceptional central location, the Village features a wide array of unique dining options. After dinner take advantage of quaint boutique shopping at its finest. You will find everything you need to complement your trip, from Sunriver branded souvenirs and apparel to high performance sporting gear and equipment.

View of courtyard and log structure in Sunriver, Oregon

Day 2

MORNING You’ll want to wake up early for a day of outdoor adventure! Start off with breakfast at the new Carson’s American Kitchen at the resort. You will be ready to take on whatever the great outdoors throws your way.

AFTERNOON It’s time to hit the slopes! Gear up and head to the main lodge to catch the ski shuttle up to beautiful Mt. Bachelor. Named one of 2015’s Top Ranked Western Ski Resorts and just 18 miles away, Mt. Bachelor not only offers a beautiful backdrop for Sunriver Resort, but also endless recreation opportunities. With 88 runs, 3,683 skiable acres, and 462” of snowfall a year, Mt. Bachelor is perfect for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, there is something for everyone!

Tumalo State Park in Central Oregon

EVENING After dinner, take a family outing that is out of this world! Plan a private star party for the entire family at the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver. Staff and volunteers provide a relaxed, fun, and educational atmosphere for viewing the starry night skies. Sunriver’s elevation, pitch-dark surroundings, and crystal clear air make it perfect for star gazing. With the largest public access viewing facility in the country, there is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the amazing spectacle.

sunriver-stables-winter

Day 3

MORNING After breakfast, treat your family to a time-honored holiday tradition: a one horse open sleigh ride! You’ll be laughing all the way as bells on bobtails ring through Sunriver and along the scenic Deschutes River. These beautiful Victorian-style sleighs are sure to create lasting memories for the whole family.

Start your day off right with a morning of harmonious relaxation at Sage Springs Spa. From massages and facials to body scrubs and nail treatments there is something for everyone.

Arrive early for your appointment to relax in the eucalyptus steam room, hydrotherapy spa or relaxation lounge.

AFTERNOON Experience winter in Central Oregon the way the locals do, with a snowshoe tour from Wanderlust Tours. These naturalist-led trips will create terrific memories for guests of all ages. Daily tours are held as well as Moonlight & Starlight tours to make your trip absolutely unforgettable.

EVENING Drive just 20 minutes down the road to Bend for a wonderful culinary immersion. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the diverse selection of restaurants and dining options in Bend. Enjoy the epitome of fine dining with meals prepared by some of the world’s finest chefs, or visit one of Bend’s many microbreweries.

Day 4

DAY TRIP! Get ready to experience one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world: Oregon’s only National Park, Crater Lake. Located about two and a half hours from Sunriver, even seasoned travelers gasp at the 20-mile radius of cliffs, tinted in subtle shades and fringed with hemlock, fir, and pine surrounding the lake of indescribable blue. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the ten deepest in the world. Crater Lake National Park is host to a diverse array of activities. While enjoying the natural scenic wonders, you can hike in old growth forests, participate in a variety of interpretive activities, or even cross- country ski during the snow season. (During the summer, when Crater Lake’s north entrance is open, it’s only 90 minutes from Sunriver to the park’s gate.)

EVENING Upon returning to Sunriver, take a trip to the Lodge and stop by the Merchant Trader Gift Shop to pick up a s’mores kit and head out to one of the many fire pits around the resort. Bundle up and enjoy these tasty treats. Graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate; now that’s a recipe for great memories!

Day 5

MORNING After a relaxing breakfast at one of our fantastic area restaurants, take some time to visit the High Desert Museum on your way north. Indoor, outdoor and rotating exhibits bring history, science, nature and art to life. Their staff will keep your kids curiously engaged and provide an exciting new perspective on the High Desert of Central Oregon.

Offering outdoor activities and adventure year round, Sunriver Resort truly provides something for everyone; families, group events, a perfect retreat for couples, sports enthusiasts and more. Whether you stay for a day, a week, or a lifetime, you are destined to find adventure, discovery, relaxation and inspiration.