Last Updated November 11, 2022
Oregon is one of the top relocation destinations in the country, and there are a lot of good reasons for that. There are plenty of lifestyle perks to living in Oregon, but if you’re moving here with your family, you’ll have your own unique considerations.
When all is said and done, it comes down to the question: where can you can create the best life possible for yourself and your kids? What’s the balance between a safe, close-knit community and an environment which gives your family as many opportunities as possible to grow and thrive?
We think that both Bend and Eugene are places where it’s relatively easy to find that balance, making them two of the best cities in Oregon to raise a family. At the same time, your decision of where to relocate will depend upon a number of factors that are completely personal.
We’ve prepared this guide to help you assess Bend, Eugene, and Oregon in general as possible destinations. The process is about gathering data points – and honing your own vision for raising a family.
Basic Questions to Ask if You’re Thinking of Raising a Family in Oregon
Whether or not Oregon (and Bend are Eugene) are the right places to raise a family will depend on your answers to a few questions. What kind of values are you trying to instill in your kids? What opportunities do you want to expose them to?
If you’re thinking of moving to Oregon with your family, you probably already have some sense of how you’d answer. From there, it’s just a matter of finding “Where in Oregon?”
When people think of the Pacific Northwest in general, the first thing that usually comes to mind is nature. From forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and deserts to some of the finest public beaches you’ll find anywhere, Oregon has it all. It’s important now more than ever for kids to grow up hiking, camping, swimming, and climbing.
Needless to say though, summer vacation only lasts a couple of months out of the year. The rest of the time, your kids will need opportunities to play, learn, and grow inside the city limits of whatever community you’re moving to.
In the most basic sense, “family-friendly” means easy access to schools, parks, extracurricular activities, and of course other kids. In many parts of the country, the days when children would roam around the neighborhood playing outside with other kids are coming to an end. That’s especially true in cities. But that vision of childhood is still alive and well in many Oregon communities, including both Bend and Eugene – as long as you end up in the right spots.
Of course, it’s probably not just a question of the “best” city in Oregon to raise a family. You might also be wondering what Oregon’s most affordable family-friendly cities are. The maybe not-so-good news is that Oregon is, on average, a relatively expensive place to live, thanks to high state income taxes and hot housing markets.
Some of Oregon’s housing markets are less affordable than others. To get it out of the way straight off the bat, Bend is one of the most expensive places to live in Oregon. Eugene, however, is relatively affordable as far as Oregon cities go. We’ll have more on Bend and Eugene’s housing markets further below.
What Makes Bend and Eugene Great Places for Kids?
Both Bend and Eugene are medium-sized cities with plenty of educational, cultural, and recreational activities for young children, pre-teens, and adolescents alike. If you’re looking further down the road, both have excellent community colleges and thriving universities. Inspiration and positive role models are never far away.
At the same time, both Bend and Eugene have plenty of neighborhoods that retain a close sense of community. That’s a balance that’s hard to find in most places. In Eugene and Bend, you’re unlikely to land anywhere where neighbors are virtually strangers and you can’t feel comfortable letting your kids walk around the block unattended once they reach a certain age.
Both Bend and Eugene feature schools that are highly-ranked, as well as private and charter schools. No matter which neighborhoods you end up in, there are plenty of public parks and open spaces, and hiking, camping, rivers and lakes, and other outdoor opportunities are close at hand.
Best Places to Live in Oregon For Families: Eugene
Keep in mind that the Eugene metro area does have upwards of 200,000 people and isn’t immune to the problems that plague most cities that size. Downtown Eugene isn’t exactly an urban center, but it does have some of that feel. The adjoining neighborhoods–the Whiteaker, parts of Jefferson Westside, and West University–won’t be at the top of most peoples’ lists for the best places to raise a family in Eugene.
You won’t need to venture too far from Eugene’s city center, however, to arrive at some of the city’s most family-friendly neighborhoods.
Amazon is our pick for Eugene’s number one neighborhood, and it’s one that both parents and kids can enjoy. You’ll be plenty close to downtown, the University of Oregon, and the shops and restaurants of Midtown along Willamette Street. At the same time, the residential streets off of the busy Hilyard Avenue have a more secluded feeling.
Amazon Park is the neighborhood’s centerpiece and features a swimming pool, running and biking paths, athletic fields and a dog park. South Eugene High School, ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the number 3 high school in Oregon, is right next door. Affectionately referred to as the “University of South Eugene,” it’s an intellectually-stimulating environment with fantastic extracurricular programs, offering teenagers the perfect opportunity to find their niche.
Meanwhile, nearby Roosevelt Middle School and Edison Elementary are ranked by Schooldigger as #42 and #83 respectively among Oregon public schools (schools in the wealthy suburbs of Portland tend to dominate these rankings.)
When it comes to Eugene neighborhoods though, North versus South is perhaps the first question you need to ask. South Eugene is a quirky, eclectic place where many people are raising their kids in an alternative manner.
In addition to the aforementioned Amazon neighborhood, the Southeast Eugene and Friendly/College Hill neighborhoods are other great choices if you’re looking for the South Eugene experience for your kids.
North Eugene represents something closer to the mainstream, and its neighborhoods have a much more suburban feel. With that said, Cal Young and Harlow are two of Eugene’s most livable neighborhoods. Sheldon High School isn’t too far behind South Eugene, ranked number 38 among Oregon high schools.
River Road and Santa Clara are also worth your consideration. The south section shares the quirky charm and eclectic population of neighborhoods like Amazon and Friendly but with significantly less expensive housing. The Willamette River is of course nearby, with plenty of parks and walking and biking paths, making this an obvious destination for families.
Best Places to Live in Oregon For Families: Bend
There aren’t really any bad places to raise a family in Bend. Property crime rates rise as you approach the city center, but Bend has exceptionally low rates of violent crime.
With that said, certain parts of Bend tend to attract retirees–think the gated communities and golf course frontage of Century West and Summit West. You’ll find lovely homes in the west hills of Bend, but premium prices make them less attractive destinations for working families.
If you can afford it, however, schools on the West side are excellent. William E Miller Elementary and High Lakes Elementary are two of Bend’s best, while Pacific Crest is its top middle school. Being at Northwest Crossing will put your kids within walking distance of several schools and parks.
River West, meanwhile, is one of Bend’s most bikeable and walkable neighborhoods, and its easy access to the Deschutes River and riverfront parks is hard to beat. The Highland Magnet School at Kenwood is not only Bend’s highest-rated, but it’s also one of the top-rated elementary schools in Oregon. There’s plenty here for parents too, with easy access to downtown and some of Bend’s best restaurants, shopping, and breweries.
If you’re looking for more affordable real estate, access to schools, and a central location, consider the Orchard District. It’s one of the more established neighborhoods in Bend, which means larger lots than many of Bend’s newer neighborhoods. Children can walk and bike safely to a number of neighborhood parks and to Juniper Elementary and Pilot Butte Middle School. It’s also centrally-located, meaning that you and your kids will have easy access to all the cultural amenities of downtown.
Home is Where the Heart Is: Finding Your Home in Bend or Eugene
Even if you’ve found the perfect location for your family, it’s going to be hard to fully enjoy it if the house you’re in doesn’t suit your needs.
It’s a complex calculus of having the right house size and yard size, being close to schools and parks but not too close to busy streets, and being within easy commuting distance from work. Are you looking to move into a starter home while you save up money to buy the home that will meet your family’s long-term needs? Or, do you aim to keep your family in the same home from K to 12 and maybe beyond?
Entering into a tight market like Bend or Eugene’s has a way of intensifying these questions. Depending upon our particular situation, Redmond or Springfield might be alternatives worth considering.
Where you live will be a big determiner of your and your kids’ future, so you want to make the right choice. At the same time, you need to be able to navigate the realities of the housing market.
Everyone’s individual needs are a bit different, and somewhere that’s a great spot for one family may not be so great for another. We’re simply here to help you make the right choices. Shoot us a line, and we’ll be happy to start the conversation about whether Eugene or Bend might be right for you and your family and what to expect from the housing market.