Portland is a delightfully walkable and interesting city, with ocean and lighthouse views, picturesque neighborhoods, dramatic history (including a massive fire) and even its fair share of ghosts. Portland Landmarks preserves and honors this history, and provides a nice selection of self-guided walking tours. Meet the neighborhoods of Munjoy Hill, India Street, the Western Promenade, the working waterfont and others. Learn about many styles of architecture to be found here, like Italianate, Federal, Queen Anne, Stick Style, and others. For $9.99, you can buy the 4 Walks Through Portland Family Guide, focusing on places and topics that will entertain young people. [Photo courtesy GPCVB and Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld]
Build Your Knowledge and Your Strength
Here’s a fun and kind of unusual mash-up of two activities that all people like most of the time or most people like all of the time. Take a guided walking tour of the dozens of the most interesting and beautiful places in Portland’s historic Old Pork neighborhood … and … perform a 90-minute fitness workout during the course of the tour. Historic Workouts is the brainchild of Leigh Rush Olson, a fitness professional who also loves to teach visitors about the past of this delightful oceanside city. The fitness tour and another, less-vigorous walking tour both take visitors to 50 historic places. Tours meet at Monument Square. $35 per person (guests age 16 admitted free). Ticket sales end two hours before the tour. 646-845-9714. [photo by Stewart Smith Photography]
Charming Strolling and Shopping on Stevens
The Deering Center neighborhood, on and near Stevens Avenue in Portland, is a charming area adjacent to nice walking areas like Baxter Woods and Evergreen Cemetery. Stevens Avenue is a sweet shopping and tasting area, featuring places to pamper the body, like Abura, an apothecary and skin care studio at 502 Stevens Avenue; Handiwork, a craft studio and market that hosts classes for the public at 199 Pleasant Avenue; and Darby, an upscale haven of “desirable nonessentials” that offers cards, small gift items, and pretty accessories, at 502 Stevens Avenue.
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
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.
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.
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]
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.
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
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.
Refurbished Museum Welcomes Kids to the Point
The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, reopened in 2021 at a new, 30,000-square-foot home at 259 Thompson’s Point in Portland, bursts with hands-on exhibits that combine learning and fun. Learn about science and the natural world through role play and deep exploration in three floors and an Outdoor Adventure. Kids can enjoy child-themed entertainment at Maddy’s Theatre. Museum hours are limited and advance tickets are required.
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.
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.
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