Why Bend’s the best for a President’s Day Weekend family escape


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Why Bend’s the best for a President’s Day Weekend family escape

President’s Day feels like a weird holiday that’s cooler than National Lost Sock Day but not nearly as fun as say, Thanksgiving or Fourth of July. You might have paid time off, but no plans to eat turkey, light fireworks, or…um, search for socks?

While I’m unclear on the rules for sock-themed holidays, I’m quite clear why Bend makes the best spot in the Pacific Northwest for a President’s Weekend family vacation. Here’s why.

K1 Bend is an indoor race track with electric carts.

Here’s your chance to connect

Confession: We just booked our family’s long-delayed Europe trip, and as we clicked “buy,” I cried. With the kids now 18 and 22, it’s sinking in fast how fleeting and precious family vacations can be. If your kids are at an age for travel with family, I urge you, beg you, to book a Bend getaway.

Bend’s brimming with ways to connect as a family. Our list of memorable adventures includes a moonlight snowshoe trip with Wanderlust Tours seven years ago. With kiddos in tow, plus my father-in-law, we trekked through a magical starlit forest. Our guide filled our heads with history and geology, then filled our bellies with snacks and warm beverages by a snowy bonfire. We laughed and threw snowballs and took tons of pictures.

The pics from that night? We shared them Sunday at my father-in-law’s funeral.

Please, please don’t miss chances to make family memories. Take older kids to throw hatchets at Unofficial Logging Company (and arrive hungry to share nachos and fries!) We’ve loved scaling the walls at Circuit Bouldering Gym for indoor family fun, and I can’t count how often we’ve ooohed over cute animals at the High Desert Museum. Explore volcanic caves with Wanderlust Tours, or do a family Forest Bath with R’Oming Yoga.

Go alpine skiing, snowboarding, or cross country skiing at Mt. Bachelor, where lessons and daycare make it do-able for families with different skill levels and interests. Afterward, find a family-friendly dining spot and make memories over a meal. 

Race go-karts at K1 Speed, or bounce ‘til you’re tired at Mountain Air Trampoline or Bend Trampoline Zone. Need more ideas? Check out our roundup of Bend Family Fun.

Just don’t miss your chance to make family memories. Trust me on this one.

Snowmobile Tour to the top of Paulina Peak just outside of Bend, Oregon.

Or maybe you want to disconnect?

I’m not saying I’m the mom who sometimes “forgets” to give kids the hotel wifi password, but it’s possible to plan a Bend vacation where you embrace offline time.

Find family-friendly hiking trails, even in winter when my most inspiring winter hikes really shine. With a printed map in hand (stop by the friendly Bend Visitor Center!) you can teach kids valuable skills for navigating sans technology. While you’re at it, snag some free Leave No Trace sticker sheets and an equally free pocket guide packed with tips for recreating responsibly.

Put everyone’s brainpower to the test with a Bend escape room outing at Bend Puzzle Effect. Make rules in advance for a phone-free challenge, then pat yourselves on the back for your low-tech problem-solving skills. 

Know what makes kids put their phones down? Keeping both hands occupied as they hang on for dear life while snowmobiling or enjoying a high-octane Bend all-terrain tour.

Nothing beats nature for the blissful sense of disconnecting from a stressful world. Take an early morning trail run to a Bend coffee shop, then bring back pastries for the fam to savor in your Bend vacation rental. If you’re traveling with Fido, let him run free at one of Bend’s nine scenic off-leash dog parks. Book a fat bike adventure with Cog Wild or take your regular ol’ bikes out on one of Bend’s awesome gravel cycling trail or mountain bike hotspots.

And at the end of the day when you wander back smiling to your Bend hotel and the kids start begging for TV? I won’t rat you out if you tell them it’s broken.

Budget-friendly + family-friendly = Yay!

Anyone else feeling the pinch of high prices right now? Here’s where Bend has an advantage.

Compared with similar towns like Bozeman, Flagstaff, Fort Collins, and Bellingham, Bend’s average daily rate for hotels is about $10 cheaper. That adds up fast on a family trip.

Not only that, but it’s shoulder season. In the tourism world, that’s code for “slower stretch of time when things tend to cost less.” February’s smack-dab in the center of one of Bend’s slowest shoulders, meaning President’s Day Weekend brings deals on dining and lodging that you’d never see in mid-July.

And it’s a lovely time to visit, with fewer folks on hiking trails and much to see in Bend’s winter wonderland. Tons of it costs zilch, from hiking to stargazing to walking the dog by the river. If money’s tight, book an AirBnB with a kitchen and hit a Bend grocery store (no sales tax!) to stock up on kid-friendly food. Explore public parks spanning dozens of acres filled with rivers, forests, playgrounds, wide-open spaces for running, plus pretty bridges you can spit from.

Er, is that just my family’s tradition? 

Bevel Brewing in Bend, Oregon.

Honey, we ditched the kids

Seeking President’s Day Weekend plans and not traveling with children? Bend’s got just the ticket! It just so happens one of my very favorite Bend beer events falls on Feb. 17 this year, and if you’re not familiar with Zwickelmania, buckle up for a fun ride. This statewide celebration of craft brewing finds countless Central Oregon brew pubs flinging open their doors for tours, tastings, and chats with brewers. The event takes place from 11-4, and participating breweries have great stuff lined up, from cookie and beer pairings (go, Wild Ride!) to a special beer release (hi, Bevel!) Bring your Bend Ale Trail app and a buddy who wants to score a prize through our designated driver program.

Not big on beer? Visit Bend’s event calendar is packed with fun events geared more toward a grownup crowd. From a romance in the cave tour to a crystal bowl didgeridoo reiki soundbath (say that six times fast!) there’s tons of adulty stuff to do in Bend this holiday weekend.

Go away, gray skies!

It’s been a dreary gray winter in parts of the state, with storms chasing folks indoors for much of January. Want to know what I did the day my brother couldn’t leave his Portland home because of ice storms? 

I went hiking with my husband and pup in LaPine State Park.

Curious how I spent the weekend my mom kept grumbling how it wouldn’t stop raining in Salem? I hiked my favorite trail in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.

And the day my sister-in-law in Seattle texted how she hadn’t seen the sun for weeks? I went snowshoeing with nary a cloud in the sky.

I won’t claim Bend never has inclement weather. We’ve had our share of gray skies this winter, too. But if you’re craving fresh air and good odds of getting outside to explore, I’d bank on Bend for President’s Day Weekend.

My ode to the road trip

You know how I said I got sentimental planning a final family vacay before our youngest leaves home?

I’ve got a soft spot for old fashioned family road trips. We’d play “I Spy” or the license plate game, stopping in quirky small towns for sandwiches and potty breaks. The kids would take turns playing DJ, with each of us sharing songs we loved. We’d gather stories to smile at for years, each of them starting, “remember that time we—” 

Don’t get me wrong. Airplane travel to Bend is plenty easy, thanks to tons of direct flights to RDM

But the memories you make in the car, all wide-eyed and wonder-filled, all stinky and covered in goldfish crackers?