Central Avenue in Downtown Great Falls is in the heart of Great Falls | Montana’s Basecamp for Art & Adventure. Flanked by Gibson Park, the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts, the River’s Edge Trail, and unique shops you’ll only find in Great Falls, Central Avenue holds many surprising discoveries. What will you find when you stroll down Central Avenue?

My favorite way to experience downtown – and Great Falls – is by bike; it takes me mere minutes to ride from my home, and once downtown, I lock my bike using one of the many bike racks created by CMR welding students and put in place by the Business Improvement District. The functional works of art line Central and Downtown Great Falls, creating a whimsical and fun vibe.

Once I’ve secured my bike, I head east along Central beginning at the ‘Fun-hundred’ block that includes Planet Earth, In Cahoots for Tea, Candy Masterpiece, and Studio Montage, an Aveda Salon and Spa. On the corner of 1st and Central is Tracy’s Restaurant, a 24-hour diner favored by the likes of Reggie Watts, a Great Falls native that makes a point of going to Tracy’s whenever he is home. The fries are amazing, and the table-top jukeboxes evoke nostalgia in a restaurant that looks like a 1960s time capsule (in a good way, of course!).

In the 200 block, DA Davidson Plaza hosts live music, so I always hear something to tap my toes to. The stunning plaza has one of my favorite statues in the city; that of CM Russell holding a cigarette while ‘talking’ to his horse; knowing what a story-teller he was, I can only imagine what he’s saying! Year-round, the Plaza is a welcoming and inviting space, and I always enjoy sitting on the benches to enjoy the fresh air and people watch.

The 300 block is one of my favorite parts of downtown, because it has one of my favorite places to grab coffee, a pastry, or lunch; Electric City Coffee & Bistro. But Electric City isn’t just a coffee house; they regularly host live music from local jazz musicians. During these events, we enjoy dinner, a glass of wine, and the vibrant atmosphere.

One of my favorite places in Downtown is the Mighty Mo. Craft beer is their specialty, but the Mo is so much more! Great friends, great atmosphere, and great food and craft beer beer is always found at the Mo. This award-winning brewery embraces tried-and-true brewing methods, while embracing innovation and ideas that propel the business forward. In the summer of 2017, The Mo became the 2nd city in the US to install a pedlet, a temporary sidewalk that allows for outdoor dining. The pedelt was so successful that other downtown restaurants will install them in 2018.

Every fall, The Mo hosts MOtoberfest, a nod to the traditional Oktoberfest with a distinctly Great Falls twist. MOtoberfest includes street games, a beer-based fun-run, live music, and plenty of craft beer. Throughout the year, the Mo hosts live music, and every Wednesday we enjoy pizza night with our friends. The Mo is always worth a stop when you’re strolling down Central.

I love to shop, so I love stopping into the Blue Rose, a boutique that carries classic, quality pieces for men and women. They offer a friendly, no-pressure shopping experience that focuses on personal attention to the customer’s shopping needs and expectations. Sometime I know exactly what I want to find and other times, I want to find a hidden gem. The Blue Rose offers both the personal service I need, and the space to find something new. I have found casual shoes, event dresses, and comfy work clothes. The owner travels the country to bring established and newer designers home, so you don’t have to go to a large city (or online) to find sophisticated men and women’s clothing for any occasion.

No stroll down Central is complete without a stop to Dragonfly, Montana’s largest Dry Goods Store. If my son is in tow, we stop into Amazing Toys (and rarely leave empty-handed), and my husband’s favorite store Downtown Dice & Games.

We recently spent an evening enjoying several newer establishments downtown; dinner at Fire Artisan Pizza, drinks at Enbar, and a fun experience at Escape the Falls. Having never been to an escape room before, our group was excited and nervous to be locked in a room and solve clues to escape in under an hour. We chose the Mystical Creatures room, which is a Harry Potter-style room with locks, cabinets, and riddles. Unfortunately we were not successful in solving the clues in under an hour, but it was an awesome experience! I encourage anyone looking for a fun challenge to check it out!

Downtown Great Falls is a vibrant place to explore, and there is always something happening, from First Friday Art Walk, Cruisin the Drag, the Urban Art display, and more, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time. And you’ll always find something new, whether it’s a new store, new restaurant, or new art display.