If your kids are already begging to head out on your Central Oregon summer vacation, who can blame them? There’s so much to see and experience in and around Bend with a child’s wonder. You’ll have a jam-packed trip for the whole family, with indoor and outdoor entertainment that includes ancient lava flows, ninja fitness fun and the region’s fastest go-karts. Here are some ways to share great fun and make memories with the entire family.
High-Octane Fun at K1 Speed
If your family loves go-karts, make time on your trip for K1 Speed in Bend. With zero-emissions karts imported from Italy, kids taller than 48 inches in junior karts can safely reach speeds up to 20 mph — adults can go double that speed. The compact indoor course features several twists, turns and straightaways that present a fun challenge for drivers of all skill levels. You’ll even find occasional glow-in-the-dark experiences. The whole crew will also enjoy arcade games, virtual-reality machines and an on-site cafe (with locally brewed beer and cider for parents).
Golf and Grub at Walt Reilly’s
Walt Reilly’s is one of Bend’s newest entertainment venues, and golf fans are going to love it. The entire family should start with the nine-hole indoor mini-golf course. If it looks familiar, that’s because the greenery is modeled on Central Oregon’s native landscape. Older kids may want to tee off at the Golfzon simulator, which brings to life 9- or 18-hole options at nearly 200 courses around the world — each rendered with high-definition, 3D graphics. The simulator even has features that mimic common surfaces and slopes for an added dose of realism.
Non-golfers in the family can step into a virtual baseball simulator and either pitch to a virtual batter or take a swing at a pitching machine. When you’ve worked up an appetite, relax on the partially covered patio or groove to live music in the industrial-inspired space as you enjoy the eatery’s creative takes on pub grub — think wings dredged in potato chips, grass-fed beef burgers and brussels sprouts tossed in chipotle honey.
See a Show at the Tower Theatre
The iconic neon marquee of downtown Bend’s Tower Theatre first shone brightly in 1940. Today the 466-seat theater remains an essential arts-and-culture destination. Take little ones to the fully stocked concession stand for popcorn and sweet treats. A gently sloped seating area assures there’s no bad seat in the house, and a spacious second-story balcony gives watching the stage a new perspective.
With an overflowing events calendar, there’s something new to see nearly every night. Take the kids to enjoy free feature films, or cool live acts like Japanese taiko drumming or live music set to animated classics.
Get Active at Free Spirit
Housed in Bend’s Old Mill District, the bustling Free Spirit fitness and play facility finds ways to make exercise fun for the whole family. Their Ninja Warrior gym includes activities for kids as young as 10 months old. Older children can enjoy an obstacle course, a climbing wall, rope ladders, a towering slide and more. Parents can choose from open-play hours or sign up for the gym’s Kids Ninja Warrior class, which combines climbing, gymnastics, parkour and other age-appropriate activities.
While adults can’t climb across rope bridges or scale colorful climbing walls, they can sign up for yoga or fitness classes, and try Free Spirit’s innovative Yoga Wall, which invites guests to practice various poses vertically on the wall.
Go Underground at the Redmond Caves Recreation Site
There’s plenty to see above ground around Central Oregon — but what about below ground? That’s the intrigue of a visit to the Redmond Caves Recreation Site.
From a distance, the site resembles Central Oregon’s iconic high-desert landscape, teeming with yellow-tipped sagebrush and gnarled juniper. But a closer look reveals five caves, all open year-round, that formed when a single lava tube emptied out and collapsed thousands of years ago.
Caves one, three and four are the most accessible, with entrances tall enough for most to walk through. As you explore the caves, you’ll see a few basketball-sized lava rocks dotting the floor, along with occasionally jagged walls and ceilings that hint at the area’s explosive past. These caves remain cool, even on warm spring and summer days, perfect for a day trip when the weather heats up.
Check out the Bureau of Land Management’s tips for exploring the caves before heading out and take care not to disturb bats or their habitat. You’ll definitely want to bring multiple flashlights or headlamps and sturdy shoes for the rugged rocks. And watch for rattlesnakes, which cool themselves under rocks and around the shady caves. For this and any outdoor recreation in Bend, take the Bend Pledge to leave the area better than you’ve found it.