Our family (two adults, four small children) enjoys familiarizing ourselves with various cities and towns by exploring their downtown areas. There is something so quaint and fun about all of the little speciality shops and restaurants that we really enjoying seeing. Now most people might think that downtown shops are not really designed to be enjoyed by children but we would argue the opposite. Our young children absolutely love browsing shops and – yes – they can even do this without touching anything. (The idea of showing respect for another’s personal property absolutely can be taught and boy does it make shopping a more enjoyable experience for everyone concerned, shop keepers included!)
Before traveling we usually give our kids a couple of months’ warning that we’ll be going on vacation so that they can start saving up their spending money. When we travel, they always enjoy a chance to pop in some stores and see what catches their fancy. We parents also enjoy this aspect of our journeys because we get a better feel for the area we are visiting when we see how the locals market their wares.
Downtown Bend is a charming, safe, and clean place to visit with the kids. It’s a mix of old architecture and new, antiques and the modern lounge. We ate lunch at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (it was delicious) and then we spent the next several hours walking the downtown area.
Some highlights that you might want to check out when in downtown Bend:
- Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe – If you are a book lover then you’ll enjoy this little spot, not so much for the books as for the decor. I’ve never seen a more welcoming spot for a reader. It is quite inviting. But as a reader I have to say that this shop is more about the ambience than the books themselves. The selection isn’t anything to write home about but the pictures below should convince you that it’s worth ordering a drink just to sit and be inspired to read (more than you already do).
- Leapin Lizards Toy Company – If you have small children (or grandchildren) then you have to know about this shop! Heavy on Melissa & Doug, Playmobil and active imaginations, this shop is a highlight on the route. The shop keepers are very friendly and inviting and willing to help the customer locate whatever might delight them. Stop in and check them out!
- Wabi Sabi – The sign on the store front says “Cool Japanese Stuff” and that’s certainly true! This is a unique store, full of things imported from Japan. There are a lot of curious treasures to be found. The store owner is positively delightful. As a mother to three children herself, she was very kind and friendly to our four and our kids enjoyed making some purchases at this shop.
- Powell’s Sweet Shoppe – This most incredible candy shop in existence (or close to it) is located right next to Wabi Sabi. This is a “don’t miss” even if you are lacking a sweet tooth. We have never seen so many variety of candy in one place all our natural born days. This place is packed to the gills with Starbursts, lollipops, salt water taffy, imported mints and Pez Candy Dispensers the likes of which you probably haven’t seen in awhile. Find other unique items like dried larve and life sized gummy rats. (Yes, indeed!) Our children will be talking about this candy store for the rest of their lives.
- Lone Crow Bungalow – Fun home decor shop. They have some lovely canvas pillows, bungalow/cabin style wall hangings and rugs. Definitely a fun place to shop!
- Townshed’s Tea Company – I am a tea drinker and I’ve gotten snobby enough about my tea habits that I can’t stand going to ye olde coffee shop anymore. I’m consistently disappointed by the tea offerings at most coffee houses. It’s hard to find tea “on the go” and so when traveling I usually just bring my own. I couldn’t resist popping into Townshed’s Tea Company just to see what it was like and now I want to move to Bend just to be “next door.” It was a bright, sunny day when we went and I fancied some iced tea. I knew that would be a next-to-impossible order to place just about anywhere else but I held out hope for Townshed’s. Imagine my surprised upon being informed that I could chose any variety of tea that I liked on their extensive menu and I could have it iced as I pleased! I refrained from ordering about 10 different varieties for the sheer pleasure of drinking them but I could not refrain from ordering a Rooibos Rose bubble tea “on the side.” My kids were curious to find out what bubble tea was and this seemed as good an opportunity of trying one as any.
After walking around for awhile, it was nice to stop and enjoy some bubble tea and (gluten free) brownies. Then, of course, I had some iced Darjeeling to go. I am absolutely over the moon about Townshed’s Tea Company. If they existed in my home town I would visit multiple times a day. (Check out their website with menu and directions for how to prepare a proper cup to tea. Love it.)
Note: this is not necessarily a “child friendly” environment but, again, enjoying this establishment with children can be done. They do have a small collection of games and puzzles near the counter for their customers to play while they are relaxing showing us that they do welcome fellowship and fun. We enjoyed ourselves.
- Tired after all of that walking? Just a block or two away from all of this shopping is the beautiful Deschutes River. The city of Bend has done a smashing job creating a gorgeous river front area where you are welcome to rest your feet while sitting on a bench while you take in the view. If you feel like walking, there is also a well kept pathway which winds along the river.
There are a lot more shopping experiences to be had, farmer’s markets to attend, and any number of events going on in Downtown Bend. To learn more about the area and see what’s happening, check out the Downtown Bend official website. (See here for a map of the area.)We loved it and most definitely plan to visit again!
Thanks, Bend, for the fun!