Looking for a great location for a family vacation or reunion? Check out Sunriver, Oregon! Here are 10+ family-friendly activities to do when traveling with kids in and around Sunriver!
I’ve been absent from the blog for a week, but it’s with good reason. We’ve been traveling again…this time to a family reunion in Sunriver, Oregon! Despite how much work it is to get everything ready when traveling with kids, I love a good adventure. Plus, this reunion was with my parents, my siblings, and their families, so I was highly motivated to make it happen.
Why Sunriver, Oregon? No, I don’t have any immediate family in Oregon. We all drove 7-12 hours to get there from Utah or California. We originally were planning to meet in San Diego, but apparently booking five months in advance is not soon enough to get a reasonably priced place to stay in San Diego for 20+ people. (Note to self: when planning reunions for large groups, try to book a full year in advance!) So, we started considering other options…Lake Tahoe, Yellowstone…and Sunriver, Oregon. Because of reasonable cost, our ability to find large houses to accommodate all of us close together (with large indoor gathering places), and a ton of great family-friendly activities in the area, Sunriver won.If you’ve never heard of Sunriver, you’re missing out! We did several family reunions with my dad’s family there when I was a kid, so I had fond memories of the place. Sometimes it’s hard to know if a place will live up to your childhood memories, but I’m happy to report that Sunriver totally did. We had so much fun! I only wish we’d had a few more days to spend there.
In case you’re in the market for a great, affordable location for a family reunion…or just your own family’s getaway, here’s a list of the things we did and loved in Sunriver, Oregon.
Traveling with kids:
10 things your family will love about Sunriver, Oregon
This is one of the few things I remember doing in Sunriver from when I was a kid. It is a mile-long trek down into an old lava tube–cool! When I first told my kids about going into a lava cave, my two-year-old seemed really hesitant about wanting to go. After talking to him, I realized he was concerned that there would still be actual lava flowing in the cave….poor kid was afraid for his life! Note to self: tell your kid that it’s a cave where lava used to flow, but now it’s all just totally safe rock.
It is absolutely pitch black inside, so I recommend bringing powerful flashlights/lanterns (you can rent them there if you prefer). Tip: give each of your kids their own little flashlight or headlamp. Or, give them glow sticks, like my mom did. The novelty is fun and takes away some of the fear of the dark. It’s also cold in the cave (around 42 degrees), so make sure you dress warm.
A lot of the houses you can rent in Sunriver come with SHARC passes, which gets you access to the awesome aquatic center at the resort. It’s really pricey without the passes, so it’s good to rent a property that includes enough SHARC passes for your group. This is not just another hotel pool; it’s really more of a small water park with indoor/outdoor pools, toddler area, adults-only hot tub, water slides, lazy river, winter tubing and summer disc golf. We spent an afternoon happily splashing around, floating and swimming. The toddler area even has a sandy “beach” with toys for the kiddos to play. I didn’t take pictures while we were there because…well…water…but you can get an idea of what’s there if you visit their website.
Yes, it’s full of overpriced resort shops, mini golf ($9), bumper cars ($4), and a train ride ($4), but the kids loved it! And you don’t HAVE to spend lots of money. There are a couple of free kids’ play areas, an ice cream shop (Goody’s), and one of the two grocery stores on the resort’s property (helpful if you didn’t stock up in Bend before coming into Sunriver…or if you realize you forgot your toothbrush like I did).
If you go to the village with a budget for how much you’re willing to spend and give your kids choices (and limitations) on what you’ll do there, it’s a fun area to walk around and spend an hour or two. We did the train, and then we agreed to let Little Man do some chores around the cabin to earn money for mini-golf (which he was DYING to do, too). This is also where we rented our bikes (see below).
Our last morning in Sunriver, we rented bikes and hit the paved trails around the resort (they have 40 miles of paved trail). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to bike on this trip (being 6 1/2 months pregnant had me hesitant to get on a bike), but the rental place had an adult tricycle…how awesome is that?! That way I didn’t have to worry about crashing as much, so I decided it was safe. My husband rented a bike with a trailer for the boys, and I rode in style on my trike.
This was my FAVORITE activity of the trip…maybe in part because we were finally getting a sunny day and I was really enjoying the chance to get out and move, see the beautiful scenery, and soak in the sunshine. We rented from Village Bike & Ski and were totally satisfied with our experience, but there are several other rental shops in the village as well if you want to shop around.
If you want toddler-friendly hiking, it doesn’t get much better than Benham falls. It’s about a 1/2 mile easy walk to the falls (they are really more like rapids than a large waterfall, just FYI). You walk across a bridge and along the river most of the way, so keep an eye on kiddos, but the trail is wide and I was never worried about my kids falling in or anything. It’s just a nice hike to get our in nature that anyone of any age could do.
I’m not gonna lie. I wasn’t originally planning on going to the High Desert Museum on this trip, and when my sister suggested we take the little kids there while the big people went river rafting one morning I wasn’t all that excited about it. I’m not opposed to museums, but I recognize the limited appeal that most museums have for young kids. However, once I looked at their website, I was sold.
This museum really is geared toward kids–even toddlers. They have otters, porcupines, raptors, fish, tortoises, lizards, and all sorts of other live animals for kids to see and interact with. They have indoor and outdoor play areas as well as an old pioneer village and sawmill you can visit to see how people lived in the olden days of Oregon. We spent almost 3 hours there (mostly outside), and there was lots to keep the kids’ attention. Tip: take advantage of the scheduled events of the day. My kids got to pet a snake and feed the rainbow trout in the pond by going to the ranger talks. It’s not cheap, but we got our money’s worth out of the experience.
If you have older kids (I think you have to be 8 or older), rafting in Central Oregon is a memorable experience. We sent the older folks off rafting one day while some of the moms and littles went to the museum (above). I remember rafting in Oregon when I was eleven, and it was unforgettable adventure! Our group this time had an equally good experience, judging from the stories I heard. Here’s the company we used.
Sunriver borders the Deschutes river, so we wanted to make sure that we got in the river at some point. The most convenient way to do this is to rent a canoe, kayak, or tube from the Sunriver Marina (they don’t have a website). You can rent a watercraft and do one of their float trips, or if you have really little kids that you don’t think would stay in a boat for 1 1/2 hours on the river, you can just rent by the hour in the afternoons and paddle around in the inlet right by the marina (which is what we did). Simple, fun, and beautiful!
This is a great park to take the family for a picnic and games. There is a playground, tennis, basketball, volleyball, tetherball, and lots of picnic tables and grassy areas for running around. I wish we had spent more time here.
My only complaint about the trip really (other than unseasonably cold weather our first day) is that it was too short. There were so many other things I wanted to do that we just didn’t have time for. As always, my husband and I started planning our next trip to Sunriver as we were driving home. Not that we actually have it scheduled, but we always like to make a “next time” list, so we can remember the things we want to do if we’re ever in the area again.
Our “next time” list for Sunriver:
We couldn’t do horseback riding this time because of my pregnancy, but when we have kids a bit older and I don’t have a huge belly, I’m getting on one of the gorgeous horses they had grazing in the fields by marina.
Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory
The observatory is Trip Advisor’s #2 recommended attraction in Sunriver. They have several large telescopes that guests can use to look at the night sky. With slightly older kids than my own, I think it would be a great evening adventure.
I wish I had read about this place sooner. If I had, we probably would have done it on this trip. It’s a lake in the caldera of an old volcano where you can boat, fish, camp, picnic, etc. It looks like a great spot to take a large group for a fun day at the lake.
In addition to the lava caves, you can explore the lava lands above ground. There is a visitor center where you can learn about the unique geology of the area and get a Junior Ranger packet for the kiddos. You can travel up through the lava rock to the top of the butte and get great views of Oregon. Count me in!
Have you ever been to Sunriver, Oregon? What were your favorite things to do?