Art for Art’s Sake
Portland Museum of Art
at 7 Congress Square in Portland
displays more than 17,000 objects in three historic buildings showcasing three centuries of art and architecture. The collection contains fine and decorative works of art from the 18th century to the present, including paintings, sculpture, prints, photography, glass and ceramics, artists' books, furniture, and much more. Works by artists such as Frederic Edwin Church, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, Louise Nevelson, John Singer Sargent, Andrew Wyeth, and Marguerite Zorach showcase the artistic heritage of the United States and Maine. European art is represented by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, René Magritte, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others. Open year-round. Phone: 207-775-6148.
Beautiful Craftsmanship From Back in the Day
From an ornate hinge to a hand-carved oak mantel, workmanship of the past can be a beautiful source for furnishing the present. Portland Architectural Salvage
, at 131 Preble Street Ext. in Portland
is 20,000 square feet of carefully chosen objects from houses, churches, barns -- use your imagination. The company's motto is "Urban elegance and sophistication with an antique and architectural past." Gloss up your habitat with some built-in soul. Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Phone: 207-780-0634.
Board the Odyssey for a Whaling Adventure
A trip out into the Atlantic to see the carefree movements of whales is a not-to-be-missed part of a Portland
vacation. The captain of the Odyssey
, docked at 170 Commercial Street, sets a course for the feeding grounds of the majestic sea mammals. Enjoy the ocean air, sights of Casco Bay, and narration from a marine naturalist while you cruise 20 miles from land to meet the whales. Odyssey also offers deep sea fishing trips every day. Reservations for all cruises are recommended. Phone: 207-775-0727.
Charms of the Old Port
Portland’s Colonial maritime heritage and authentic 19th-century architecture make this vibrant downtown truly unique. Join guides of the Maine Historical Society for a comprehensive 90-minute tour
of the highlights of Portland’s history during a leisurely walk to the waterfront. The perfect way to orient visitors. Recommended for guests age 12 and older. Tours are offered on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Phone: 207-774-1822.
Children Stretch Their Imaginations
at This Touch-Friendly Museum
Looking for a great activity for the entire family? Located in the Arts District of downtown Portland
, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
at 142 Free Street, features a wide variety of interactive exhibits and activities for children and families. Among the exhibits are What about Whales?, a replica of a diner, a dress-up theater, toddle park, a fire truck; a care repair shop; a farm, a space shuttle, a tide pool touch tank and much more. The Camera Obscura is a mystery and a delight. Open year-round, daily, but closed Mondays from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Phone: 207-828-1234.
Chocolates, With a Giant Moose on the Side
Of course, the first thing you hear about Len Libby’s Chocolates
is the notorious Lenny the Moose, a life-size chocolate moose sculpted form 1700 pounds of milk chocolate who stands at the entrance to greet visitors. The store opened in 1926, making fine chocolate by hand and serving it in many forms. Guests are invited to tour the property and watch the chocolate-making in progress. There is a huge selection of tempting chocolate treats in the retail store for traveling and for gifts for friends back home. Phone: 207- 883-4897.
Come Out for Art
Held on the first Friday of every month, the Portland Art Walk
, home-based at 549 Congress Street in Portland
, is designed to introduce a wider audience to Portland’s artist community. The art walk, which features galleries run by many Maine artists, is free of charge and open to the public. This Friday event is fun, free, and invigorating to body and mind. Art Walk dates in 2013 are January 4, February 1, March 1, April 5, May 3, June 7, July 5, August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1, and December 6.
If external forces like rain or winter threaten to derail your outdoor activities on the Maine coast, turn to Maine Rock Gym
, an indoor wall-climbing facility made for weather-neutral fun and physical exertion. The gym, at 127 Marginal Way in Portland
, is highly controlled area that allows people of all ages to safely experience the sport of rock climbing. The facility is made up of many different walls, with more than 5,000 square feet of rock like textured climbing surface. Plan a family activity, stop in, and start climbing. Open daily, year-round, except for Mondays in the summer. Phone: 207-780-6370.
Eyeball on Portland
This is a place to bring a camera and a love of maritime history. Built in 1807 as a communications tower for Portland’s harbor, the Portland Observatory
at 138 Congress Streeet in Portland
is the last maritime signal tower in the United States. A National Historic Landmark, the Portland Observatory is the only remaining maritime signal station in the United States, and thus a unique architectural icon of maritime shipping and the Golden Age of Sail. Now, the Observatory operated as a museum and historic site, offering educational programs and guided tours. Open Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day, daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Phone: 207-774-5561.
Gems from the Heart of Maine
If you want a beautiful memento from your visit to Portland that is literally from the bedrock of Maine, visit the wonderful Portland-based Cross Jewelers
at 570 Congress Street. Among the store's collection are pendants, rings and other jewelry made with tourmaline from mines under the mountains of western Maine. Cross is closely involved with gem mining in Maine and it claims the largest collection of Maine tourmaline jewelry in existence, with more than 600 pieces of Maine tourmaline jewelry. The stones are brilliant shades of shades of raspberry, peach, cranberry, mint, blue-teal, and forest green. A beautiful gift for yourself or someone close to you. Phone: 800-433-2988
An unusual farm in Portland honors the craft of the common honeybee by harvesting honey and turning it into honey ale – or mead. Maine Mead Works
at 51 Washington Street makes mead by hand using a continuous fermentation process and a proprietary yeast strain. It is barrel-aged with American oak giving it complexity and depth. The public is invited to drop in at the factory, take a tour, and taste the mead from noon to 5 p.m. daily except Sundays. How often do you get an invitation to share a sweet meadieval treat? Phone: 207-773-6323.
Jewel of Italianate Architecture
, at 109 Danforth Street in Portland,
is a gorgeous example of the Italianate style of architecture loved by wealthy Victorians. Also known as the Morse-Libby House, its was a summer home of Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a Mainer who made a fortune running luxury hotels in New Orleans. The house was designed by Henry Austin of Connecticut and built between 1858 and 1860. The building details, interior décor, sculptures and furniture are wonderful samples of this style. Open for guided tours May through October 31. Phone: 207-772-4841
Made in Maine
When a shop is named Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine
you can believe you will find interesting, fun, and memorable gifts for yourself and your loved ones. With locations in Bath
and the Old Port neighborhood of Portland
at 35 Exchange Street Lisa-Marie’s invites you to visit its shops and also simultaneously explore two of the most beautiful and authentic old downtowns in the state. A Valentine’s Day gift or memento from Lisa-Marie’s could be artwork and photography, gifts for children and pets, Christmas items, home décor, skin care, jewelry, pottery and kitchen items, and more. All made in Maine, and the store’s name attests.
Old Port Taste Tour
Walk and taste your way through Maine food traditions on this culinary walking tour
of Portland's Old Port neighborhood, where the fish houses and canneries of the last century have given way to the scents of coffee houses, bakeries, and award-winning restaurants. Guides take tour members to several locations in the old neighborhood to taste Maine crabmeat, artisan cheeses, smoked seafood, wild blueberry preserves, whoopie pies, dark chocolate truffles, and unique ales. Tours last about 2 to 2 and a half hours and are offered weekends in the off-season and every day from June through October. Advance purchase is recommended. All ages are welcome. Phone: 207-233-7485
Peary's Warmer World
In April, 1909, Admiral Robert E. Peary, his son, and four Inuits planted the American flag at the North Pole. They were the first humans to reach the northernmost point on our globe. Peary’s summer home on Eagle Island
, off the coast of Harpswell, is now a Maine State Historic Site that welcomes visitors to hike, picnic, and tour Peary’s home. The island is open to visitors between June 15 and Labor Day. It can be reached by charter boats from Harpswell and South Freeport (boating information on the Peary website). Phone: 207-833-6545.
Short Trip to an Island Retreat
An island-based but not-too-remote day trip out of Portland is a trip to lovely Peaks Island
in Casco Bay, easily accessible via several daily trips (30-minutes long) on the Casco Bay Lines ferries
, based in Portland. The island is small, beautiful, and restful. You can rent bicycles cheaply for nearly-flat rides around the island; visit the GEM Island Artists
and the Umbrella Cover Museum
(yes, that is: covers of umbrellas); visit the Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial
; go kayaking; dine on seafood; and simply enjoy the day.
Take It Easy
The Big Easy Blues Club
on Market Street in Portland is a wonderful small venue, with a great view of the band from every seat. With lots of room at the bar, and some tucked-away seating, this bar makes for a great place to relax and enjoy a drink and the music after a long day of outdoor activities. Live (and excellent) music there virtually every night: blues, soul, some hip hop. Friendly bartenders and patrons send up a nice, relaxed vibe. There's even space to dance it it's not too crowded. Cover price is more than reasonable for what is offered.
The Name Is Standard; the Baked Goods Are Super
Located at 75 Commercial Street, across from the harbor in Portland, Standard Baking Co. is the city's -- maybe the state's -- most popular gathering spot for delicious baked goods along with the ebb and flow of people -- neighbors and visitors. It is heaven on Earth for people who love breads, sticky buns, and more baked treats. And the company has just come out with a cookbook that unveils many of its best baking methods. Open daily. Phone: 207-773-2112.