Living in Maine has its benefits. There are the things you immediately think about when you think of Maine, like access to fresh seafood, lots of fresh air, and surprisingly, some fresh ideas.
For some folks traveling to Maine, the ride is a long one. While the grownups know the hours are worth it, to the little ones in the car, it can be a torturous prospect. Aside from rest areas and the off ramp convenience store, wouldn’t it be great to find a place you can release the kids for a little stretch and rejuvenate your own energy levels? Sometimes the network of parenthood works its magic. Here are some recommendations from a mom in Maine for some things to do on your way to wherever you’re going.
The beaches of Southern Maine are beautiful. The whole region is a destination on its own. But if the end point is somewhere up the coast, and you need a little break, stop in Perkins Cove in Ogunquit. Marginal Way, a paved public shoreline footpath, runs about a mile, stretching to Ogunquit Beach. The views are wonderful and refreshing. It’s stroller friendly and there are benches along the way to stop and enjoy the salt air and sunshine.
- In southern Maine, you can spend days at amusement parks like Funtown, Splashtown and Aquaboggen. You know the drill; everyone needs the day pass and you’re pretty much committed to immersion. As a theme park and roller coaster fan myself, I get it – it’s a lot of fun but can be exhausting and expensive. An alternative, especially when the final destination is still a way down the road and you and the family just need a fun little break, try Palace Playland at Old Orchard Beach .
- The whole scene in high summertime at Old Orchard Beach is that classic beachfront amusement park experience that’s been happening here for decades. Ferris Wheel, kiddie rides, games, gift shops, pizza, French fries (try Pier Fries with vinegar), ice cream, and that hot summer vibe that – well, for me anyway, brings you back to your youth. As a parent, the best thing is that the kids can ride a bunch of rides or just a few, depending on how much time you have and the age of the kids. You just buy as many tickets as you need for each ride. You’re not signing up for the day. You can ride the carousel, have a bite to eat, walk out on the beach and dig your toes in the sand and then get back on the road.
Macworth Island, just off of Route 1 in Falmouth is home to a permanent and ever-changing collection of Fairy Houses. Macworth Island is also home to the Baxter School for the Deaf and was donated to the state by Gov. Percival Baxter in 1946. It’s a day-use only island in Casco Bay that’s accessible by a causeway. There are hiking trails with benches and swings along the way. Let the kids scramble to the beaches and run! Collect shells and leaves, twigs and rocks along the way for building your fairy house. The view of Casco Bay is incredible, making you feel miles away from Portland after only a short drive.
- Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens, Boothbay: Gorgeous extensive gardens with places kids can hide out and be surprised. There’s a kitchen garden and a children’s area with a small pond, storytelling, vegetable garden and some woodland paths that inspire exploration. Off of Route 27 if you’re headed to Boothbay Harbor, it’s relatively easy to find. Directions are on the website. Be sure to check the events calendar. We visited the gardens in early August a few years ago for their Fairy Festival. Great experience – bubble machines, stories, costumes, ice cream, and extensive Fairy Houses built by little kids and big kids. Lots of fun. There is a permanent, yet ever-changing Fairy Village at the Gardens.
- Playland Adventure, Brewer: Think bounce house for older kids, teens and even adults. Tucked at the back of the parking lot between Lumber Liquidators and TD Bank on Wilson Street in Brewer, is Playland Adventure. Picture a big box type space filled with inflated, climbable, bounceable, structures, like a bouncy boxing ring with huge inflated gloves, inflated bowling pins with a clear inflated ball that you can put your brother in and roll him down the lane to knock down the pins. If you’re at the end of a long road trip and the kids have been squawking for the past 200 miles, take a break and give them a couple of hours of running, bouncing, and unbelievable fun. DQ is right across the street. Go over and get a tray load of Blizzards and relax for a bit. In the summer months, they add to the fun by setting up inflatable water slides in the parking lot. A good stop on your way to Bar Harbor and the Downeast Region.
- Just off of Interstate 95 in Bangor, at Exit 187, is Bangor’s City Forest. It is home to some good walking trails and well as being the location of the Orono Bogwalk. The Bogwalk is a one-mile boardwalk loop that begins and ends at the edge of the City Forest. A wooded start opens up to the Orono Bog, a peat bog that serves as habitat to a wide variety of creatures, birds, butterflies, and plant life. It’s an easy to find location that’s great for a quick break. Area nature groups like the Audubon Society offer guided tours on many topics, such as birding and flora.
Don’t let the long drive stop you from visiting Maine. It’s a large state with a lot to offer. Make it fun. Take your time. I hope some of these stops along the way make your experience here one that creates good memories to build on and encourages you to come back for more.