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.
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]
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Driving You to Drink in Portland
Some observers of American life declare that the existence of a lot of craft breweries is a sign of a city’s soulfulness. In any case, the Maine Brew Bus based at 111 Commercial Street in Portland scheduled and private tours of breweries in Portland and southern Maine. The tours give you a behind-the-scenes look at Maine's craft breweries, distilleries, wineries, and more. Tours are led by knowledgeable guides and a non-drinking driver. All tours include a snack or meal and trivia games. New tour is Birds on Tap: a guided tour of bird watching and beer-sipping. 207-200-9111.
Bring Your Best Game Here
Revive some old-fashioned entertainment that doesn’t rely on a power source, and has the benefit of bringing people together. Next time you are looking for indoor entertainment -- for people of any age – in South Portland, Diversions Puzzles & Games at 415 Philbrook Avenue. The store stocks new and classic games and high-quality puzzles for every age and interest. And, it has lots and lots of open game days and nights. Staff members can teach you how to play one of our many demo games. Open daily. 207-773-0300
Love Vintage? Scratch That Itch
The Portland Flea-for-All at 585 Congress Street in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland is a marketplace offering vintage, antique and artisan goods ranging from classic jewelry to old records and much more in between. Whether or not you have a special item in mind, chances are you’ll find something at the Flea. The Flea has reaped lots of admiring chatter in collection and decorating circles for its broad scope and welcoming attitude. Got something to sell? Drop in! Open Fridays through Sundays. 207-370-7570.