See the Stars Over Portland, With or Without Cloud Cover
Star show junkies will be pleased to know they can enjoy the towering firmament even when it is overcast above Portland. The Southworth Planetarium at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, at 70 Falmouth Street, offers astronomy and laser light shows throughout the year. Shows are tailored for all ages. What causes the Northern Lights? How do comets form? What about those dinosaurs? Topics of shows are published on the planetarium website. 207-780-4249.
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. 207-773-2112.
Let’s Eat: In Portland
The Public Market House at 28 Monument Square in Portland is a cornucopia of smallish businesses where you can taste a huge range of Maine foods under one roof. Formerly the street and basement level of the Surplus Store, the Market now shelters a pizza restaurant and bread company, along with restaurants serving crêpes, Pho soup from Vietnam, Ameera bread of the Middle East, and handmade soups. Also find non-dairy ice cream, a salad bar, Colombian food and a smoothie and juice bar. Many of these businesses are owner-operated, so you know the quality is the highest. 207-284-1016.
Indoor go-cart racing is fun for adults and fun for kids. And maybe especially fun for parents when the weather outside is frightful. Maine Indoor Karting at 23 Washington Avenue in Scarborough has been offering indoor thrills fr more than a decade. Adults over age 17 may walk in and race during normal business hours; no reservations needed. Racing hours also are offered for youth age 16 to 17 and age 8 to 15 (a safety class is required for the youngest group). Walk-Ins are welcome to race but be sure to call ahead or check the comapny's website for dates and hours of racing for different age brackets. Open year-round. 888-2-GO-KART.
Athletic Skill Is Optional for Snow Tubing
People who are not skilled athletes or even very coordinated can have a blast in the snow by trying out snow tubing – the winter outdoor sport that is skyrocketing in popularity. Seacoast Snow Park at 932 Roosevelt Trail (Route 302) in Windham offers 12 lanes of intense snow tubing and Express lift to the top. Sledding is especially magical at night. The hillside is lit and music fills the air. All single riders must be over 48 inches tall. Riders between 36 and 48 inches tall must ride in a double tube with an adult. Snowmaking provides near-constant tubing. Arcade, snack bar. Phone: 207-892-5952.
Prowl for Inspiration at Monthly Art Walks
Portland’s First Friday Art Walk is a free, self-guided tour of art galleries, art studios, museums, and alternative art venues. Starting in 2000, the monthly art walk welcome over 3,000 people to come downtown each to see artwork, performance and to stroll the streets. Galleries and museums to open in any given month are listed and described in advance on the Art Walk website. Hours are 5-8 p.m. It’s a fun way to enjoy an urban walk with other art enthusiasts.
Shipyard Shows Off Its Suds
The Shipyard Brewing Company at 86 Newbury Street in Portland has been making award-winning, beer in Maine for nearly 20 years. All are invited to the Shipyard Tasting Room to taste and buy flights, 10 oz pours, growlers, and packaged product as well as Capt’n Eli’s Soda.
Beer tasters can enjoy a rotating lineup of permanent and seasonal offerings.
No reservations are needed. Tasting Room is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Salt Pump Climbing Company at 36 Haigis Parkway in Scarborough wants to help you re-discover your inner (tree-climbing) child (and bring your own kids, too, of course). Right at the top of its website, the climbing gyn welcomes first-timers to its intro to climbing class, where you can learn the fundamentals, including basic climbing knots, proper belay technique, communication, climbing movement and bouldering, route reading, and auto belays. Experienced climbers all the way down to little kids are welcome, too. It’s a warm atmosphere of physical exertion and support. Open daily. 207-219-8145. [photo: Anne Skidmore]
Horse-Drawn Carriage, Sleigh and Trail Riding
Carousel Horse Farm at 95 Main Street in Freeport offers horseback, sleigh and carriage rides tailored to every season (sleighs depend on snowfall, of course). Enjoy tours of Casco Village or foliage-season rides near Parker Pond. In the summer, you may stop at Pear's Ice Cream in the village. Among the sights are Mount Washington and local wildlife. Winter and summer hours are by reservation. Spring and fall are the best times to ride, with perfect weather and vibrant flowers or leaves brightening your way. 207- 615-6948
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 year-round, but hours vary seasonally; check website. 207-780-0634.
Maine Beaches Welcome Hoofs Offseason
Bordering the south side of the mouth of the Kennebec River, Popham Beach State Park (its address is 10 Perkins Farm Lane in Phippsburg) has a very long stretch of sand beach where horseback riding is welcome from October 1 through March 31. Equestrians who have done it say riding on the beach in brisk weather is a thrill for both the humans and the beasts, and the wide-open sands of Popham are becoming known as the place to do it. If you’re are looking for a new and exciting outdoor activity, look no further than the Popham Beach State Park. The beach phone is 207-389-1335.
Belgian-Style Beer for You
Portland visitors who love beer should know about the Allagash Brewing Company, which offers free tours and tastings at its brewery at 50 Industrial Way in Portland. Founded in 1995 as a one-man shop, Allagash brews traditional and experimental Belgian beers. The beers are bottle-conditioned, meaning that a fresh dose of yeast is added just before bottling, allowing a new round of fermentation that enhances the traditional Belgian taste. Are you intrigued yet? Tours are offered year-round. Plan ahead; Saturdays are busy. Tours are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Phone: 207-878-5385
Visit the Maine Coast for British Shopping
Britain’s BBC has discovered and reported the pleasures of a visit to Portland and its nearby neighbors of coastal Maine. For Anglophile shoppers, the BBC has reported its approval Bridgham & Cook, Ltd. at 123 Main Street in Freeport. The shop sells British foods - teas, sweets, biscuits, preserves, and condiments - in addition to numerous English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh goods, clothing, accessories, and gifts. Scott’s Porage Oats, Thursday Cottage Curd, Barbour tartan purses, Bronte Moon Dales Scarf, and much more. Fun and unique shopping on Maine’s coast! Open daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 207-865-1040