Written by | Derek Carlson

12 Things To Do When It’s Smoky in Bend

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Summers in Bend are a magical time but, unfortunately, it also means the return of wildfire smoke. As a parent to two young kids, it can be tough to find things to do in Bend when smoke lingers for days on end and ruins what would otherwise be a beautiful summer day.

It feels like the most visited website on my phone in the late summer months is purpleair.com to check the AQI each morning! Seriously check out that site though if you’ve never used it. There are sensors that cover the region, including Mt. Bachelor, so you can quickly find areas to escape the smoke.

Luckily there are still plenty of things to do in Bend on smoky days to keep yourself and your kids busy while keeping your lungs healthy.

Things To Do In Bend On Smoky Days

Here are some of our favorite ways to keep adults and kids busy in Bend on those smoky summer days.

Visit the Lava River Cave

Looking back at the entrance to the lava river cave

Does it count as being indoors if you’re hiking inside a cave that doesn’t have a door? hmmm….

Either way, Lava River Cave is the longest cave in all of Oregon and it only takes venturing inside a few feet before the smoky outdoor air completely dissipates.

While you will be outside for a few minutes at the start for orientation, you will quickly make your way inside the cave where you will walk for the next 90 minutes or so.

Reservations are required to visit the cave but there are usually next-day options available aside from busy summer weekends. You can find more information on visiting the cave at our post on caves of Bend.

Bounce Out Some Energy at the Trampoline Zone

Located in NE Bend off of Empire, Trampoline Zone has it all to keep kids entertained for an hour or three.

In addition to the regular trampoline areas they also have basketball hoops, a jumping platform (our 4-year-old spent an hour jumping off this one), laser tag, a dodgeball area, and ninja warrior-style obstacle courses.

Learn to Play Pickleball at Pickleball Zone

Located right next to the Trampoline zone is the not-surprisingly named Pickleball Zone.

As is required when writing anything about pickleball, it is the fastest-growing sport in the country, and Bend has been quick to accommodate this demand with courts popping up all over town.

The downside of the popularity is that courts are often booked up quickly so head to their site and reserve your space early if you want to knock around the pickle for a while (I doubt that’s what they call the ball but I think the name should stick.)

Pickleball Zone features 8 courts, a lounge for grabbing a beer, a pro shop, and a reception area with changing rooms, spin bikes, and monitors to keep you updated on court availability.

Head Up Above the Smoke at Mt. Bachelor

Riding up to Pine Marten Lodge at Mt Bachelor in the sumer

Sometimes when we end up with a smoky inversion in Bend you can climb up above the smoke by heading to Mt. Bachelor.

From there the world is your oyster to try your hand at downhill mountain biking (they have some beginner trails to start on), zip lining, hiking, or just riding the chairlift to grab a beer and a bite to eat at the Pine Marten Lodge.

Visit the High Desert Museum

The High Desert Museum is a great place to spend a few hours learning about the history and animals of Central Oregon.

Indoor exhibits are frequently changing and you can also check out the desertarium and porcupines without heading outdoors.

If the smoke isn’t too bad you can quickly hop outside to watch the otters swim, raptors fly, and check out the high desert ranch and sawmill.

Go Swimming at Juniper or Larkspur

While the main summer attraction at Juniper during the summer is their outdoor pool and waterslide that doesn’t mean you can’t still swim on a smoky day in Bend.

Both Juniper and Larkspur fitness centers feature indoor pools with play areas for kids. These pools are often busy with lessons though so check the schedules ahead of time to make sure there is open swim time available.

Bend Parks and Rec are quick to update their schedules based on the current smoke conditions so check out their website to see the current happenings.

Race Go Karts at K1 Speed

If you see the word go-karts and think back to your days of driving karts at the county fun center, you’re in for a shock when you visit K1 Speed.

The go-karts and track here are no joke.

The courses feature elevation changes while the karts are 100% electric and have a ton of torque and speed.

There are karts here for both adults and youth (>48 inches) so everyone can get into the action and enjoy this 100% indoor go-kart racing setup.

Catch A Movie At the Old Mill

Some days when it’s hot and smoky just call for hanging out in a cool movie theater for a couple of hours, enjoying some popcorn, and catching the latest movies or reruns of classics.

Luckily, the Regal Cinemas at the Old Mill offers both options. We’ve stopped in to watch the latest kid’s movie releases while we also bookmark the re-releases of our favorite Miyazaki films that rotate through each month.

You can skip the lines by reserving your seats online which makes it easy to quickly hop inside, grab a snack, and watch a flick.

Release Your Inner Ninja Warrior at Free Spirit

Just down on the other side of the Old Mill from Regal Cinemas is Free Spirit Yoga.

Whether you’re looking for a fun yoga class or want to let your kids burn off some energy at the Ninja Warrior gym they have options for everyone.

We love their morning open play for kids under 5 as the little ones can explore the space without worrying about an older kid knocking them over.

They also offer 3-hour evening drop-off programs for kids over 6 so you can get some kid-free time to enjoy some of Bend’s less kid-friendly evening offerings. Or to just sit at home and enjoy some peace and quiet.

Climb at the Bend Rock Gym

The Bend Rock Gym has seen consistent growth since it first opened back in 2010. The gym is now made up of three separate neighboring buildings with each holding its own unique set of climbing features.

A pass to the rock gym, whether it be a day pass or monthly membership, allows you access to all three buildings so you can climb the routes that best fit your skill level.

From bouldering to 50-foot walls with auto-belay systems you will find a fit for you.

The gym offers both adult and youth passes so the whole family can make a day of it.

Play on the Big Play Thing at Cascade Indoor Sports

If rock climbing isn’t your thing but your little ones still want to do some climbing then head down the road to the Big Play Thing at Cascade Indoor Sports.

For $10 your little one can explore this MASSIVE play structure that includes bridges, slides, climbing ropes, tunnels, and more. Our kids play indoor soccer here and LOVE playing on the big plaything after practice.

It also makes for a great birthday party spot so we’ve spent more than a few hours exploring the space.

There is a small snack bar that serves food, soft drinks, and beer to keep the adults entertained as well.

Get Creative at Wondery Art & Adventure School

Located on the south side of town, Wondery Art & Adventure School is a space that will allow your kid’s creativity to flourish.

Each day the studio is set up with a theme to allow your kids to explore their creativity through nature, art, and wonder. We love visiting as there is always something new to paint, draw, or sculpt with so the kids never get bored.

Like Free Spirit Yoga, Wondery also offers an evening drop-off program where the kids can get their art on while the parents head off for dinner.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Bend When It’s Smoky

We hope these ideas inspire you to get out on these smoky summer days and enjoy some of the things that Bend has to offer.

Thanks for reading! Take a look at our latest posts here and follow us on Instagram (@RoamtheNorthwest) to follow along with our next adventures!