Thursday, May 30, 2013

Backyard Tourist: Things to this summer in Maine

For the past few years, I’ve been a backyard tourist. We usually take a vacation at some point in the summer and go somewhere outside of Maine, but that leaves quite a few weekends to fill with summertime activities and here in Maine, there are plenty.

In fact, I bet I could come up with some thing to do in Maine this summer that would fill every day between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That’s 98 days.

Many publications put out their “things to do in Maine this summer” lists. I know that mine will have some of the same ideas. In fact, I’ve compiled suggestions from many of them as inspiration for this post. They all try to be a good assortment, pleasing all. This is not one of those lists. I’m not out to find something for everyone. I’m out to find things for people like me.

I just celebrated my birthday and that always brings a bit of retrospection into my life and into my to do lists. So, because of my mood and because I am unique but not so unique that no one out there will share my interests, I will put forth a list of things to do this summer in Maine that interest me. It’s not a list of suggestions that everyone will like. It’s a list of things to do that I’ve done and want to do again and a list of things I have never done but want to try. This list is for all the other 48 year old women with a teenage daughter, a husband, a couple of cats and a busy life who enjoy the sun, great views, a well planned picnic, a good book, lots of time behind the camera, funny names, humorous juxtapositions, roller coasters, deep fried things, clever gadgets and a comfy pair of flip flops.

Here we go . . .


  1. Wild blueberry festival & Union Fair – Union – Agricultural fair and celebration of the state’s favorite berry.
  2. Old Port Festival – June 9th Been there. Had a blast. It’s been a few years and time to go back.
  3. Whoopie Pie Festival – June 22nd – Haven’t been there but am dying to go. I love whoopie pies and this festival grows every year. Held in Dover Foxcroft, this year’s festival will encompass more of the downtown and have more to offer. Again, for me – a previous engagement will keep me away from the festival. Have a whoopie pie for me if you go.
  4. Windjammer Days – June 25th – I haven’t been to this annual event yet. Now in it’s 51st year, the festival takes place in Boothbay Harbor and includes lots of nautical history, fireworks, concerts and food.
  5. La Kermesse Franco American Festival – June 20th – 23rd – held in Biddeford, this is a fond favorite of mine. Experience Franco American history, food, music, and just plain enjoy some summertime festival fun.
  6. South Berwick Strawberry Festival – June 29th I’ve been to this one quite a few years ago and really enjoyed the whole thing, the atmosphere, the strawberry shortcake, the arts, the strawberry shortcake . . .
  7. Moxie Festival – July 12th – In Lisbon Falls, this festival has been on my list for years. Moxie’s iconic presence in the state makes it one of the most unique events around. Fireworks, music, carnival, and a Chug-n-Challenge are included in this free event.
  8. Yarmouth Clam Festival – July 19th – it’s been a while since I’ve been to this one. The arts and crafts and the food, of course, were spectacular.
  9. Maine Lobster Festival – July 31st – Aug 4th – hard to believe I’ve never been to this one. It’s always seemed like so much fun, but something else always conflicts and this year it’s a family vacation. The Lobster Festival is held in Rockland and has lobster related events for the whole five days.
  10. York Days Festival – July 28th  Christmas in July will illuminate the Nubble Light house.
  11. Bangor Sidewalk Arts Festival – downtown Bangor – painters, sculptures, photographers, glass artists, jewelry makers, display and sell their work.
  12. Kahbang Music and Arts Festival – Aug 8th – 11th – held in Bangor, this festival gets better every year. Music, Art, Film, Go.
  13. Great Falls Balloon Festival – Aug 16th – 18th -This one I’ve been to and really enjoyed. Not only are the hot air balloons spectacular, the setting in the Lewiston-Auburn area by the river is beautiful.  Another cool thing about this event is that the concession vendors are all local and fundraising for something. There are crafters and demonstrations and of course, you can watch the balloons light up the evening sky and take off. Rides are available too!
  14. Cumberland Arts & Crafts Festival  - Cumberland – a favorite of artists throughout the state.
  15. Machias Wild Blueberry Festival – Aug 16th – 18th (see what I mean about conflicting events – so much going on here) This downeast celebration of the state’s star berry has grown to include pie eating contests, cooking contests, the Blackfly Ball, parades and
  16. American Folk Festival – Aug 23rd – 25th – in Bangor. This is one I have attended for quite a few years, in rain and in extreme heat. The Folk Festival draws thousands to the Bangor waterfront to listen and dance to music from all over the world, Cajun, Calypso, Irish, Fiddle, you really get a world tour of music at this event. It’s not only the music here. The craft tent, food vendors, and storytelling sessions make this one of my favorite festivals of the year.
  17. Open Farm Day – all over the state – July 21 - Farms around the state open their barns, lay out samples of their products and welcome guests.
  18. Bangor State Fair – Bangor – this 10 day fair is the largest state fair in Maine. Rides, shows, animals, food, the midway, a photo contest.
  19. International Seaplane Fly in -     Greenville – this event has grown substantially and now includes an average of     planes, street festival fun, food, and an amazing view of Moosehead Lake.  
  20. Bangor Beer Festival – June 22nd - – Bangor waterfront – 16 breweries join forces with the Greater Bangor Convention & Visitor’s Bureau for this first time event. for more info and to purchase tickets.


  1. Waterfront Concert Series – Bangor’s Darling’s Waterfront Pavillion will host an impressive roster of musicians this summer including Sting, Miranda Lambert, and Kenny Chesney. Improvements to the location of the stage and layout of the grounds will allow for better sound quality.
  2. Birding – Noted as “the warbler capital of the world” more than one hundred species of birds flock to Mount Desert Island each year.
  3. Portland Observatory – on Congress St in Portland, this Portland landmark is open daily 10:00 to 4:00 and on Thursdays offers sunset tours. I’ve never been but this in on my list for this summer. The view has got to be fabulous!
  4. Sabbath Day Lake Shaker Village – New Gloucester – I recall going to the historic village as a child but haven’t returned since. Really would like to go this summer.
  5. Stephen King tour – Bangor – “Tommyknockers and More Bus Tour” the author is a Bangor resident and was inspired by the area for many of his tale’s locales. Four times per summer. See dates and get more info at
  6. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens – Boothbay Harbor – kitchen garden, a children’s garden, paths, a wonderful experience.
  7. Cadillac Mountain – you can drive, bike or hike to the top. It’s the first place on the east coast to see the sunrise. You’ll never catch me up there at that time of day unless I’ve had some kind of breakdown (mechanical or mental) but I hear it’s beautiful.
  8. Acadia National Park’s Carriage Trails – the best place to bike ever.
  9. Fort Knox & Penobscot Narrows Observatory – Verona Island – very cool to check out. The fort is amazing, historical, and reportedly haunted. The observatory provides views that stretch hundreds of miles. 
  10. Roosevelt Campobello – This international park is shared by the US & Canada and once served as the summer resting spot for FDR. Afternoon Tea With Eleanor is a popular event and reservations are suggested.
  11. Downtown Bangor Cool Sounds – Bangor – live music and open crafters markets every Thursday night during the summertime. Check the website for the schedule
  12. Camden Hills State Park –  Mt Battie tower & Mt. Megunticook. The view from the tower is really cool, with Camden Harbor spread out below. The view from up on the high points of the trail is even more spectacular, Owl’s head, Blue Hill, all the way to Acadia. The best part is that it’s not very strenuous or extremely long.
  13. Littlefield Gardens – University of Maine Orono – gorgeous horticultural gardens. Often a spot for weddings (like mine) you can wander amongst the flowers and trees, to the pond, and through the orchard. 
  14. Moosehead Lake – Greenville - huge subject, huge lake. They claim that moose outnumber people 3 – 1. Go in May and June to see the Mamas and the babies, then in the fall for the large racks on the males. Remember that moose lose their antlers every year and regrow them through the summer. They’re also very tall and colliding into one on the road will likely crush your car. Oh and the lake is beautiful too.
  15. Camden harbor – eat, shop, wander. Take a lot of photos. That’s what I do there anyway. Very cool little toy store downtown called
  16. Belfast – shop, eat and wander around downtown Belfast and the waterfront.
  17. Maine Lumber Jack Show – Trenton - “Timber Tina” Sheer and her crew are amazingly talented with axes and saws.

  1. Searsport Flea Markets – Searsport – fun to make your way through the stalls. You really never know what you might find. Route 1.
  2.  Big Chicken Barn – I’ve always loved the name. The place is darn cool too. Used books, music, antiques, various memorabilia.
  3. Maine Cottage Furniture – I haven’t been in here yet, but drool over their furniture in magazines. I love the bright colors and spend hours fantasizing about how I’d decorate my dream cottage. Not really, but I do need a new coffee table and something in a plum would be perfect.
  4. Marden’s – any of them, really. I understand the store in Waterville is the original, but the one here in Brewer is pretty darn good, too. Go when you have time to poke around.
  5. Perry’s Nut House – Belfast – I remember this place when I was a kid and still love it when we stop in now. Just fun stuff, and they actually do sell nuts.
  6. Hussey’s General Store – the sign says it all – Windsor –
  7. Stonewall Kitchen – York – years ago, my sister worked next door to their original shop and started giving Stonewall Kitchen’s fabulous concoctions to us as gifts. The list of my favorites is too long. Just go to the website and develop your own.
  8. Kiwanis Auction – Orono – usually falls mid July. Like a giant yard sale and auction for a good cause. So much stuff. The best part – they sell these awesome sausage and pepper sandwiches. Bring a pocket full of cash and go have some fun.
  9. Portland Architectural Salvage – I’ve been wanting to go for so long now. Got to make it there this summer.
  10. L.L. Bean – I know that every book you read about Maine is going to mention L.L. Bean, but if you’re anywhere near Freeport, just go. Notice that there are no locks on the doors since they’re open 24/7 every day of the year. As a seasonal employee, I can tell you they have customer service down better than anyone. It’s actually spoiled me for shopping at other stores. I’m appalled if there are limits on returns or satisfaction. I know the prices are higher than at other places but I swear you’ll have the darn pair of shorts for the rest of your life.
  11. That reminds me: Goodwill – I have no proof of this but the last time I was in the Goodwill store in South Portland, the shear quantity of L.L. Bean sweaters and other clothing they had there got me a thinkin’ that it may be a donation center for the outfitter.
  12. Goodwill in Brewer is rumored to be one of the best in the state because of “all the rich summer people going to Bar Harbor” and dropping off their “gently used” clothes there.
  13. Mexicali Blues – Bangor, Freeport, Portland, - channel your inner deadhead. Sandals, skirts, peasant blouses, sundresses (my favorite part) patchouli and incense, fun jewelry and scarves, too.
  14. Metropolitan Soul – two locations Bangor and Orono – fun, funky, really great place for gifts for your sister or friend. Stuff guys don’t understand, like inspirational wall hangings and pretty bags.


  1. Portland Museum of Art – When I lived in Portland I went to this museum quite often but haven’t been for years. It’s one I hope to get to this summer. It is home to some of the great Wyeth paintings and a must for art lovers visiting Portland.
  2. Ogunquit Museum of American Art – it’s hard to believe this museum will be celebrating it’s sixtieth year and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never been. Maybe this year’s Andy Warhol exhibit, featuring 50 photographs by the artist, will be the catalyst.
  3. Hudson Museum – University of Maine at Orono – Closed Sundays and Holidays FMI on hours, exhibits, events and collections:
  4. Maine Discovery Museum – Bangor – three floors of fun for kids right downtown. Critters, crafts, sciency stuff . . body parts, constellations, shipping and receiving, world culture, waterworks.  Seriously, I could go on. This place holds good memories for me and my daughter.
  5. Patten Lumberjack Museum – Patten – with the rich, multi generational lumber history in this part of Maine, it seems that everyone has some kind of connection to the industry’s past.
  6. Leonards Mills – Bradley – also in the lumbering tradition, Leonard’s Mills is a working lumber and living history museum. Special events in their seasonal calendar include Children’s Days and the Blacksmith’s Roundup.
  7. University of Maine Museum of Art – Bangor – located right downtown, this museum’s admission is free and exhibits rotate regularly.


  1. Bunganut Lake State Park – Lyman/Alfred – nice playground, sandy bottom swimming for kids.
  2. Mousam Lake – Acton – There is a small public beach with swimming area but this lake is also a great place to rent a cottage for a week and relax. Boaters and anglers are welcomed.
  3. Beth Pancoe Pool – Bangor – open to the public for residents and non residents. An inexpensive break in the middle of the city with water slides, a zero entry area, all kinds of things that splash and spill and dump on top of you. Grassy lawn to spread out your blanket and chairs. They have changing rooms and vending machines. It’s also a regular stop for the ice cream truck.
  4. University of Maine Campus Recreation Center – Orono – Open all year but do check the hours on the website as they change according to the school schedule. This facility is worth a stop for the pool alone. A daily entry fee of $7 for non members gives you access to the hot tub, sauna, vortex pool (yes, continually whirling water), lap lanes, shallow splash/play area for kids, and use of the lockers, showers, etc.
  5. Mother’s Beach - Kennebunk – a sandy beach, plenty of tidal pools, and a playground all in the same place? It’s no wonder that Kennebunk Beach is affectionately known as “Mother’s Beach”. Parking is right at the beach but does get crowded on hot days. Get there early if you can.
  6. Fortune’s Rocks Beach – Biddeford – a gorgeous beach decorated with smooth beach rocks tucked into the sand.
  7. Biddeford Pool – Biddeford – ahh … a beach from my teen years when you slathered with baby oil and baked in the sun. last summer we spent an afternoon here and it was deliciously spacious, clean, a sundrenched spot I hate to disclose. Get a parking pass at city hall or you could get shut out
  8. Sand Beach – Acadia National Park – beautiful little beach. Gets crowded in high season and requires entry to the park to access but if you can get there early, do it.


  1. Rachel Carson Wildlife Reserve – Wells – Birds and wildlife, a good accessible pathway, and some wonderful views of the inlets.
  2. Mt Hope Cemetery – Bangor – might sound strange to suggest a walk in a cemetery but this is a beautiful one, with hills, views, a pond with ducks, many people run and walk here.
  3. Orono Bogwalk - beginning in Bangor’s City Forest, the peat bog crosses over into land owned and maintained by the University of Maine. The Bog boardwalk is a one mile loop where you can see birds, wildlife, and plants native to the area. Benches and informational signage along the way can help you determine what you saw.
  4. Eastern Trail – Part of the East Coast Greenway - enters Kittery, Maine from the west at the New Hampshire border, meanders through southern Maine, 65 miles winds up at Casco Bay. Well marked with ET signs, bridges over busy roadways, rest stops along the way, it’s kind of a hop on hop off hiking trail where you can go long distances or shorter ones, depending on your tolerance, schedule, and how badly someone needs to pee.
  5. Appalachian Trail – the 100 mile wilderness runs from Monson to the top of Mt Katahdin and is reportedly the most demanding and unforgiving portion of the trail which begins in Georgia. I’d like to wander on the trail someday, like for an afternoon, although Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk In The Woods” taught me of the history and culture surrounding the trail and is a great read for anyone with a pair of hiking boots and a sense of humor.
  6. Macworth Island – Falmouth – just off of Route 1, on an island accessible by causeway, Macworth Island is home to the Baxter School For the Deaf and is a state park, with a hiking trail that loops around the island, places to sit along the way, and the best part (if you have kids or are a kid) is the fairy garden. Gather natural items along the way and use them to create your own little fairy mansion.
  7. Downeast Sunrise Trail – Brewer to Calais – this portion of the Eastern Trail is being developed. The portion from Brewer to Ellsworth is a railroad bed. I haven’t done this yet, but will this summer.
  8. The Heath – Saco – This living peat bog has trails and a boardwalk to get out and enjoy the wildlife and birds.
  9. Baxter State Park – Millinocket & beyond – This is a big one. Baxter State Park is crested by Mt. Katahdin, the northern end of the Appalachian Trail and a grueling ½ day hike up, then back down. Several ways to the top, all demanding an early start.
  10. Acadia National Park – the quiet side – over on the Schoodic Peninisula has trails, coastline drives, and turnouts for scenic stops.


  1.  Jordan’s – Ellsworth/ - playground outside, just like the outdoor seafood stops of my youth. Gets me all misty.
  2. Spring Creek BBQ – Monson – when the meat’s gone, they close. Bring your own drinks.
  3. Ruth & Wimpy’s – Get your photo taken with the giant lobster out front. I think it’s the law.
  4. Mainely Bar-b-que – two locations that I know of, one on Mt. Desert Island sharing space with Atlantic Brewing. The other on Rte 3 (?) and cozies up with an ice cream parlor for a match made in the heaven of my mind.
  5. Wasses Hot Dogs – Rte 1 & 3 Belfast – in the Reny’s parking lot. Grilled dogs with fried onions. Get two.
  6. Rapid Ray’s – Saco – growing up in the Biddeford Saco area, I recall when this was truly just a food truck, and not even one of the fancy ones like are all the rage these days. Get in line and order yourself a big one with cheese and everything, a cheese dog, fries and a choc. Rapids is a tradition, an institution, and so simple good and cheap.
  7. Dysarts – Bangor – truck stop, bakery, breakfast spot, featured on Food Network and loved by millions. Awesome pot roast and pies. 
  8. Gelato Fiasco – in the Old Port in Portland – last summer I had something that sounded disgusting but was incredibly delicious – Sweet Sorghum something. Don’t fear. Try it.
  9. Bucks Naked Barbeque – I’ve been dying to get naked and eat barbeque (just kidding about the naked part). Friends have raved about this place in Freeport, Windham, and Portland.
  10. Garsides Ice Cream – Saco – ice cream of my childhood, great flavors, old time feeling. Sit outside on a summer night – Perfect. Ferry Rd.
  11. Ken’s Place Seafood – Pine Point Rd. Scarborough – not really a secret but us locals love this place. My mother swears they have the best clam cakes. I am mighty fond of the shrimp dinner.
  12. Mike’s Pool Street Market – Biddeford – everyone’s got a favorite place to get lobster rolls. Some make the big publications and get raves. This one seems to be a secret to locals. Mike’s makes huge lobster rolls and doesn’t charge huge prices. Get a few to go when you’re headed out to the beach.
  13. Alex Pizza – Biddeford – maybe because it’s the pizza of my youth or maybe it’s the crust or the greased stained thick paper plates or the one size pizzas stacked in a paper bag that waits on the counter for you but this is one of my favorites.
  14. Loco Coco’s Tacos – Kittery – I realize Maine isn’t known for its Mexican connections but I hear this place is very cool, with a ton of sauces and a casual atmosphere.
  15. Pat’s Pizza – statewide – the original is in Orono. I didn’t get formally introduced to this until later in my life. Now the thin crusted, pepperoni and pickle calls out. In house bottled orange or grape or cream soda is perfect with it.
  16. 4 Points BBQ & Blues house - Winterport – Haven’t been yet but am going to get there soon.
  17. Maine Diner – Wells – I know, I know, many of you know about this already but it is a Maine landmark and the food is good. Made it to Diners, Drive Ins & Dives.
  18. Farmer’s Markets – all over the state – we are an abundant and resourceful bunch.


  1. Beach to Beacon Road Race – Aug 3rd Cape Elizabeth to Portland Head lighthouse at Fort Williams Park. This 10K road race passes through some gorgeous coastal scenery and raises money for charities each year.
  2. Zip lining – statewide – my first zip line ride was in Mexico and I’m excited to try some of the zip line rides here in Maine.
  3. Blueberry picking – statewide – June & July – high bush, low bush and wild. Whatever you want. Bring pots for picking.
  4. Strawberry picking – statewide – June –

Ok – so there’s something to do for every day this summer in Maine. Feel free to expound upon my list and send me your suggestions for this backyard tourist. 

1 comment:

  1. Awesome list Celeste! I'm saving it for whenever I get to Maine.