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Imagine a snow-covered landscape glistening like a million diamonds in the dwindling light — that sets the scene for the beautiful evening you are about to embark upon when you arrive in Sunriver, Oregon. Set near the Cascade Mountain Range, just outside of Bend, Sunriver is where you come to unplug, to remove yourself from the chaos of everyday life, and to take full advantage of the opportunity to spend time together during an Oregon family vacation.
Here, you can play with the kids when you ice skate and snow tube right in the center of town. There are over 30 miles of trails perfect for walking around and enjoying simple things like seeing trees coated with ice and snow. As the sun rises, and the sunlight hits their frozen branches, they appear to be carved out of crystal. For traditional holiday fun, there’s Santa’s Workshop at The Great Hall, Brunch with Santa, kid’s ornament- and gift-making, cookie decorating, and so much more!
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When You Arrive at Sunriver
Adjacent to the main lodge of the Sunriver Resort is the “North Pole” tent, which is heated and offers tons of fun for little ones. After that drive, they’ll love the various types of arts and crafts, face painting, as well as other attractions! Grab a quick bite to eat at one of the food trucks. They also serve cocoa, coffee, and adult beverages, too.
After stowing your stuff, head out to the front of the lodge, where at 5:30 pm you’ll get to watch the Grand Illumination Ceremony. The crowd will start to count down: three … two … one & then BOOM! … thousands of lights spark up the night! The brightness of the resort and the surrounding grounds is stunning! There’s even a quick fireworks display to complete it. The parade that follows is short but worth staying for; the finale is a large parade float with Mr. and Mrs. Claus! The kids LOVE it!
* *Due to Covid-19 the Grand Illumination Ceremony & Parade will not happen in 2021. However, there will be the Holiday Light Show that runs nightly @ 5:30 pm | 6:30 pm | 7:30 pm, with holiday music in the resort’s backyard.
Things To Do at Sunriver
Speaking of memories, have you ever taken a sleigh ride in the snow? We hadn’t until we came to the Sunriver Stables. We all bundled up and took a beautiful ride along the river. We snuggled with the kids and enjoyed the views from a horse-drawn sleigh while singing carols and laughing all the way. They provide blankets, and I highly recommend bringing a camera. The pictures are ones you can use for holiday greeting cards or just display in your home. This attraction at the Sunriver Stables is ongoing, but hours may vary. For more information and reservations: (541) 593-6995.
Ever dreamt of going dog sledding? Oregon Trail of Dreams is owned by the father-daughter duo of Jerry and Rachael Scdoris at Mt. Bachelor. Jerry had a 35-year career training and racing Alaskan Huskies. Rachael, his daughter, ran the Iditarod. That usually is a monumental achievement in its own right, but Rachael was the first legally blind racer to finish the over-1000-mile race through the Alaskan wilderness back in 2006. They offer remarkable tours that can be booked by calling: (541) 382-1709.
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Want to go a little faster than a dogsled can pull you? Central Oregon Adventures Snowmobiling has you covered. From October through April you can rent a single or double-seater machine for a two- or four-hour adventure! A two-hour trip is perfect for those new to the thrill of snowmobiling or for groups with young children. They will customize the trip to your ability without making you feel like you have to pick up the pace. This exciting ride takes you through the dramatic Cascade Mountain Range around Mt. Bachelor. This two-hour trip will thrill both the experienced and novice rider and is terrific for families! The other option is a popular expedition for adults or families with teens. This trip is four action-packed hours exploring powder meadows and high mountain terrain. This tour allows time to stop at the remote and rustic Elk Lake Resort for a warm meal or a hot cup of cocoa. Advance reservations are required, so please call: (541) 593-8887.
Nordic Skiing & Snowshoeing
Another great option is snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, either at Mt. Bachelor, the Sunriver Resort, or on one of the guided tours by Wanderlust Tours. Wanderlust has several different types of tours they offer including moonlight and starlight tours and a special New Year’s Eve Bonfire trip. Children must be 8 years and older for expeditions. For information and reservations call: (541) 389-8359.
Things To Do With Young Kids
If you’re looking for something a little more mellow for smaller kids, try the Takoda the Bear Scavenger Hunt starting November 26th. Find all six illustrations of the Sunriver mascot Takoda doing his favorite things, identify all six of his activities correctly, and win a sweet treat from the Merchant Trader Gift Shop! Looking for something even more chill? How about Gingerbread kits? The gift shop has three different types of designs available for the whole family to get in on the fun! You can choose from a gingerbread house, a gingerbread family, or a gingerbread tree. All kits include candies, icing, and instructions.
Imagine a snow-covered landscape glistening like a million diamonds in the dwindling light – a beautiful evening in Sunriver, Oregon with lots to do with kids.
Delta, Alaska, and American Airlines run non-stop flights to Bend/Redmond (RDM) from Los Angeles (LAX). You will still need to rent a car, and the Redmond Airport has kiosks for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National, so you’ll be sure to find whatever fits your family’s needs. Be sure to book ahead, since rental cars can be a hot item in the peak seasons!
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find new deals. Try out their free 7-day membership to save BIG money on flights. I’m not kidding. They have the best deals out there and we’ve tried them all, or so it seems. There’s no need to buy a membership (you’ll still have access to great deals with their free trial).
Driving — Road Trip to Sunriver
Road trip anyone? It is just over 800 miles to Sunriver, Oregon, from the Los Angeles area. Unless you want to drive for about 13 hours non-stop with kids, this is a two-day road trip. Break it up and have some fun!
Leave LA, drive on the I-5N around 200 miles (between 3 and 4 hours) to take a break at The Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant. They are located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, a perfect place to stop, stretch, and eat. Continue your drive on I-5N for another 187 miles (about 3 hours) and stay overnight in Sacramento. See the capital of California or run the kids around in a park to help everyone feel more relaxed and ready to go the next day.
Leave Sacramento and head North on the I-5 for almost 160 miles (3 hours) to the Redding/Anderson area. Stop and grab a bite to eat at LumberJacks or From the Hearth Kitchen and Pie Shop (both excellent choices). From there, continue along the I-5N for about 60 miles to stop at Mt. Shasta and let everyone burn off some energy. Back in the vehicle, set off for another 134 miles via the US 97-N to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The views are extraordinary, and again everyone can get out and stretch for a few before the last 2.5 hours of the trip until you reach your destination in Sunriver. And don’t forget the most important ingredient on a successful road trip: snacks!
Finding the right place to stay at Sunriver is easy. Sunriver Resort offers a variety of accommodations with 245 hotel rooms and suites. They also offer over 300 fully-furnished condos and vacation home rentals, many with private hot tubs. Pet-friendly units are available so your fur-babies can enjoy the fun, too! Staying at the resort offers guests extra benefits such as the use of the Cove Aquatic Center, exclusive to Sunriver Resort guests, offering year-round swimming! The Cove Aquatic Center offers both an indoor and outdoor pool, as well as an indoor and outdoor waterslide, a hot tub, a nature walk/discovery area, and more! Also, staying at the resort takes the headache out of dining. With several different restaurants to choose from, you’re sure to find something to please everyone in your family.
A more budget-friendly option is private homes or Cascara Vacation Rentals. I found some fabulous houses for rent. We stayed at #14 Antelope Lane with our kids when they were young and loved it! The kids adored the upstairs loft area. We had plenty to do with the cards and board games that the host provided. The kitchen made it simple to put together a home-cooked meal (so much less expensive than eating out!), and the hot tub was simply divine after playing in the snow! We will always have fond memories of Antelope Lane.
We have also stayed at other rentals as the kids have gotten to be teenagers who need separate rooms. One such rental is #5 Pine Needle Lane, which we found to be fantastic. It has a much larger kitchen and French doors that lead out to the enormous back deck. *If you need more room for an even larger group, you should check out their other home located at #7 Pine Needle Lane.
Check out this interactive guide to see prices and availability for the days you want to visit!
When To Go
Anytime is a great time to visit Sunriver Resort, but the winter months are our favorite with so much to do.
The holidays are about being with your family and loved ones, stopping to appreciate each other, and being thankful for your many blessings. Being here evokes the feeling of not wanting time to move on, taking a moment to appreciate the quiet, and filling your lungs with the crisp mountain air.
There is something magical about Sunriver during the holidays. Watching my kid’s faces glow with excitement, year after year, I wish it could always be like this.
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