This wildlife and living history museum allows visitors to experience the hands-on exhibits both inside and outdoors. Even the museums in Bend offer outside adventures!
The High Desert Museum may first appear small, but in actuality, the entire property is quite large at 135 acres. Inside, kids can explore the Spirit of the West as they walk through life-size diorama exhibits feature Native Americans, the Old West and gold mining days. The kids can mine for gold on Mining Day and then cash in on their findings at the Old West Bank.
There are Native American artifacts, fabrics and clothing on display, as well as a variety of art pieces in the form of paintings, photography, sculptures and first-person stories told through artwork.
Kids from Bend even get to see their own artwork on display as the museum visits fifth graders in Bend and teaches them about art and science. The kids create and then the pieces are set on display and an art gallery opening is held in their honor each year. Daily programs and nature walks and talks are always being held here, too.
There is a play structure inside called the Pack Rat Den that kids will love to climb and find hidden shiny objects that pack rats often hide in their dens. Rescue animals can be found throughout the museum. Many of the museum’s animals were injured or rescued and can no longer survive in the wild, so the museum is happy to host them.
Juniper the Porcupine will greet guests just inside the museum entrance and turtles, snakes, fish, and even a bobcat are found inside as well.
Outside, the living history and wildlife adventures continue. A paved, half-mile trail winds through a wooded area, providing plenty of shade and little nature sanctuaries to sit and daydream or play on the playground. There are manmade ponds and streams, and the Otter pool will surely be a hit. The whole family will delight in seeing the otters swim and play. Then head over to the Birds of Prey area and check out the owls, hawks and eagles, many of which were rescued after injury and can no longer fly high.
The real highlight of a visit to the High Desert Museum may be the Miller Family Ranch replica. The ranch emulates an Old West ranch from 1904 and features a woodworking shop and sawmill, chickens, and a Mustang horse named Sage, who likes to say hello from her stable. In the summer months, visitors will often find folks dressed in period clothes taking care of the ranch and telling stories. The kids are always encouraged to help with the chores like sweeping the cabins and feeding the chickens; surprisingly, the kids want to do these chores too! Don’t forget to swing by the outhouse on the ranch too, because you know everyone will want to take a family selfie there! It may be the most photographed outhouse in the West!
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March.
General admission ranges from $12 to $15 for adults and $7 to $9 for children ages 5 to 12. Children 4 and younger are free.
A small cafe is available to purchase snacks, sandwiches and beverages.
Free parking is available in the onsite lot.
Things to Know: Stroller rentals are available. About two to three hours is recommended to enjoy the whole museum.