Oregon – High Desert Museum

Oregon – High Desert Museum

A must-see on any trip to Bend, Oregon, is the High Desert Museum. This is one of those museums that has a little bit of everything, and is perfect for families.

High Desert Museum - Bend, Oregon

The museum is a combination of a history museum, art museum, zoo, living history museum, and park. That may sound chaotic, but all the exhibits are tied together with a common theme: the High Desert, a region that covers parts of eight states and British Columbia. The museum is both fun and educational. Many thanks to the museum for providing us complimentary admission so that I could research and write this article.

The Spirit of the West exhibit provides a glance into the history of the region with detailed displays.

Spirit of the West - High Desert Museum - tent

High Desert Museum display - Spirit of the West - wagon

Art galleries display art inspired by the High Desert. Many of them are landscape paintings.

By Hand Through Memory is an exhibit that tells the story of the Native Americans of the Columbia River Plateau and how they retained elements of their culture while transitioning to modern times.

The museum is home to several species of animals. Two cats can be viewed from the hallway: a lynx and a bobcat. I think this was the lynx:

A Desertarium shows off animals of the desert.

More animals can be found in the outdoor portion of the museum. Be sure to visit the otter exhibit, pond, and birds of prey center.

The Living History Exhibit is a must-see. Visit a 1904 Family Ranch and Sawmill where costumed interpreters portray the Miller Family. Tour their cabin, barn, corral, and sawmill and spend some time talking to the interpreters. Encourage your kids to ask questions.

You can learn about the types of chores the family did.

We also learned what they did for fun back in 1904, like rolling hoops and throwing rings with sticks.

We also enjoyed learning about the sawmill.

My daughter enjoyed this hands-on exhibit where she got to remove bark from a log.

Kids will also enjoy two play areas created just for them: one indoor and the other outdoor. The outdoor play space is called Dig Crawl Climb and features natural play elements.

The indoor playspace is called Whose Home? and allows kids to play in giant animal dwellings.

We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the museum, but had to rush through parts of it. We could have easily spent another hour or more in order to see everything at a more leisurely pace. My kids thought it was fun and I would definitely say this is a must-see for visitors to the Bend, Oregon, area. Also, make sure you check out the daily schedule when you arrive and plan your visit around any shows, talks, or animal encounters that you’d like to see.

Ready to visit?

High Desert Museum
59800 South Highway 97
Bend, OR 97702
(541) 382-4754

Adults $15
Youth (5-12) $12
Child (4 and under) Free

May 1 – Oct. 31: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Nov. 1 – Apr. 30: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Many thanks to Travel Oregon for coordinating our trip.

This attraction appears in my e-book, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.

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