With streams and mountains, bike paths, fairways, gourmet dining, spa and river rafting, the Sunriver Resort has something for everyone.
Oregonians’ legendary love of the outdoors was one of the state’s main attractions when looking for a place to vacation with our active, independence-seeking teen. Because of our limited time and Oregon’s size, a central destination convenient to a variety of recreation was crucial. We settled on Bend, Oregon.
Neither mountain nor coast, some might find its scenic appeal rather elusive. Yet the high desert, arid plateau gilded by wild grasses, criss-crossed by streams, rimmed with mountains epitomizes The West.
That our chosen homebase, the Sunriver Resort outside Bend, offered so much more than convenience was a bonus. The resort makes rafting, boating, mountain biking, horseback riding and other local actitvities easy to do, and had a supervised program for teens in case our son grew restless.
After four days there, a 3.5-hour drive from the Portland Airport (Sunriver has its own airport for private places and charter jets), my family could have stayed a lifetime.
Extensive Facilities & Terrain at Sunriver Resort
Sunriver was developed on the grounds of the WW II-era Fort Abbott, a military training facility whose rustic Officer Quarters, with enormous exposed logpine rafters and lava stone fireplace, remain a prime example of classic Pacific Northwest style. Visit over any of the holidays and you’ll find the Great Hall in use, decorated with seasonal themes and ready to party.
The remainder of the Sunriver development is a tasteful combination of low-rise townhouse condominiums, private homes and shared facilities winding along the Sun River with views west to the ski resort of Mt. Bachelor. Short stay guests like us have a variety of lodging options at several price points and sizes.
Because Sunriver has a large concentration of privately owned condos as well as vacation homes, the active Sunriver Owners Association works to keep its kids busy during the summer. They organize poolside barbecues with a dive-in movie each week, as well as teen-only dances popular with residents, hotel guests and locals.
During the June to August high season, the SROA hosts a variety of different programs and events all open to hotel guests. At Fork Rock Park, younger kids can enjoy Adventure Camp and Guppy Camp. The North and South Pool will be the spot for swim lessons, family BBQS, Dive-In Movies, lap swims and water aerobics.
Sunriver Planned Activities for Kids
Additionally, children ages 3-10 can take advantage of Fort Funnigan. The 3,400-square-foot, log and lava building houses a state-certified children’s center open daily from mid-June to Labor Day, and weekends and school holidays year round. They offer full or half-day programs of pool play, sports, indoor rock climbing, boating and arts n’crafts. Sunriver’s porcupine mascot regularly hosts Dine with Spik for Sunday Brunch. Also, if parents want to take a break and visit the Sage Springs Spa or enjoy stunning sunsets at the outdoor bar the Sunriver’s childcare staff, all trained in recreation or Early Childhood Education, is available to give parents some free time.
Tough to please ‘tweeners (11-15 years) like our son participate in daily Guided Adventures as long as enough of them sign up in advance. The available options highlight some activities our family chose to pursue together, plus many others: hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing and rock climbing. Special daycamps only accept 13 to 17-year-old guests, devoted to Horseback Riding & Wrangling, or Whitewater Rafting, or Ropes Courses & Orienteering, each offered on one particular weekday throughout summer. There’s also a version of “Survivor” with a series of wilderness challenges, and Teen Time for ages 13-19 presents nightly outings such as cosmic bowling and archery.
Family Together Fun at Sunriver
However, our family came to do things together, and a large, convention and meetings oriented place like Sunriver boasts many options for active families. Until 8pm in summer there’s golf — 54 holes of it — and a terrific discounted “Family Sunset Golf Package” that allows kids 14 and under to play for free. My husband introduced our son to the putting green, an immaculate lawn that many children mistake for a mini-golf course. (The resort organizes day-glo putting contests too.) The on-site pros at Ron Seals’ Academy of Golf also offer family classes. Tennis buffs will appreciate the 30 courts, available teaching staff and loaner equipment.
With Oregon’s crisp evenings and comfortable summer days (high 70s), we didn’t spend as much time as we imagined in the three pool areas, each large enough to not feel crowded.
Our most-used feature at Sunriver was the bike path trail, because the resort’s bike rental shop was such fun. Knowledgeable staff outfitted us with three machines new to us: a slick mountain bike, a recumbent bike, and an upright bike with basket and balloon tires. The main path winds around a golf course on the edge of the Deschutes National Forest, past the resort’s private airport and a cluster of homes with private airplane hangars. We stopped to watch birds along the Deschutes River and then pulled up at the Sunriver Marina (where you can rent single or double canoes, kayaks, rafts or fishing gear).
Then we pedaled off to the Stables. Several children’s training programs, as well as escorted pony rides, sleigh rides, hay wagon rides and carriage rides, are offered according to season and interest. We were too early to watch the nightly running of the horses across Sunriver Meadows, but learned about the escorted day-long ride to Benham Falls.
Planning a Sunriver Oregon Getaway
Regardless of how long you stay at Sunriver Resort, don’t miss a visit to Bend, which follows in the footsteps of Lake Tahoe (the 1980s), and Salt Lake City (the 1990s), as a career-making destination for active recreation professionals.
Once a sleepy mountain town, Bend has an Old Mill District (mall and multiplex in a converted timber mill) that’s a new hub of shopping and fine dining. Bend’s High Desert Museum is part museum/part zoo, the place to show the kids indigenous raptors, porcupines and otters as well as tableaux of the area’s lifestyle.
We’re ready to return in winter, when nearby Mt. Bachelor, at 9,065-foot, opens for alpine skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing, although there are said to be groomed cross-country trails around Sunriver itself, as well as opportunities to snowmobile, snowshoe and ice-skating. Rates drop substantially, too.
We’ll just have to allow more time.
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