Enjoy some high-flying fun at the High Desert Museum

On a recent summer trip to Bend, Oregon, my father and I took my 5-year old to the High Desert Museum. I was shocked that we spent 4 hours there and we definitely could have stayed longer.

We arrived at the museum around 9:45 a.m. and we were immediately given a schedule by the helpful ticket counter attendants. I looked at the schedule the night before, but it was helpful to find out how long it would take to get from one presentation to another. We bought tickets to the 11 a.m.  Raptors of the Desert Sky presentation and the rest of our day revolved around it. Boy, are we glad it did! More on that later…

Our first stop was in the main building to check out a porcupine climbing up a stump in its enclosure. It was quite fun to watch.


Then we visited the birds of prey in the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. It was awesome to see the birds up close and to learn the stories of how they ended up at the museum. We skipped the 10:30 a.m. fish talk since we didn’t think it would interest the kiddo and went straight to the 1904 Miller Ranch and Sawmill for fun turn-of-the-century games and broody chickens. Note that this is a living history exhibit and the actors will tell you all about their lives on the ranch.

We scooted over to the 11 a.m. reptile encounter back at the Birds of Prey center and enjoyed seeing a kingsnake up close and watching it slither around a pegboard. The wildlife expert explained that snakes do not like to be held and the pegboard allows us to see the snake move while keeping it safe and “happy.” We only had about 10 minutes here as we had to be at the gate for the  Raptors of the Desert Sky presentation by 11:15 a.m. 

The 11:30 a.m. Raptors of the Desert Sky presentation was definitely the highlight of our trip. After a thorough safety talk, we waited until we got word that the birds were ready and we then proceeded to walk 5-ish minutes to a spot with a seating area (wood chips on the ground and some benches), a roped-off area and a handful of perches for the birds. We were advised to stay seated and not raise our hands above our head…we soon learned why. We met six different birds and most of them soared very low above our heads from perch to perch. Thankfully, the handlers did not allow the turkey vulture to fly over us – he kept running into the bushes.



Some birds soared so low that they grazed the top of some people’s heads! It was amazing to see these birds flying up close and to learn about how to protect them.

The show lasted about 30 minutes and, at the end, we got to meet a peregrine falcon and a red-tailed hawk with their handlers. This was a great value at $5 per person for non-members (in addition to museum admission).

Tickets must be purchased by 11 a.m. and you can learn more here:

After the raptor show, it was off to lunch at the Rimrock Cafe. Yummy wraps and hot dogs were enjoyed and it was nice to cool off in the air conditioning.

I really appreciate the museum’s decision to reduce waste in the way they serve their food.  After the cafe, only stop into the gift shop if you are planning on spending money. There are lots of neat books and other items to you may definitely want to take home with you.

After lunch, we stayed inside the main building, checking out the Desertarium, the Spirit of the West exhibit, and the By Hand Through Memory exhibit. I wish we would have had a little more time before lunch to check out the Otter encounter at 12:30 p.m., but kiddo was too hungry and there were no more snacks left in my bag.

Note that if you want to do both the raptor show and the otter encounter, bring lots of snacks and water to help kiddos make it to lunch. There were more events occurring in the afternoon, but it was time for us to move on. This was a weekday in the summer, so many events may not occur at other times of the year.

Check the schedule here before you visit:  Bottom Line: If you are in the Bend area, definitely check out the High Desert Museum and the Raptors of the Desert Sky show! Don’t forget that much of the museum is located outside, so prepare yourself for outdoor conditions.


Written by BellaJ

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