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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: January 3, 2017

Watching your wallet? Here’s where to find cheap thrills.

There’s free ice skating in Kennebunk and Yarmouth, discount movies, $5 comedy nights in Portland and free music all over the place, including at the South Portland Public Library.

Written by: Ray Routhier
lzf/Shutterstock.com

lzf/Shutterstock.com

Feeling all tapped out after emptying your bank account in search of holiday frivolity?

What you need is to get tapped in to all the cheap and free stuff to do in southern Maine. Once you start looking for cheap stuff to do, instead of just stuff to do, you can quickly get the hang of it.

It helps to begin with a genre, say the outdoors. What’s free to do outdoors in the winter? Skating, though some places charge. But if you ask around and search online you can find outdoor skating rinks, with warming huts even, that don’t charge a thing.

Wanna see a movie? Well, many movie operators know people won’t come out in droves on a Tuesday in February, so they may offer a weeknight discount. Many bars have $5 comedy nights and free music. Libraries have free author talks and some have free concerts.

Here are some specific suggestions of fun things to do without racking up (too much) more debt.

The skating is free, and free of rain and snow because of the roof, at the Waterhouse Center in downtown Kennebunk. Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The skating is free, and free of rain and snow because of the roof, at the Waterhouse Center in downtown Kennebunk.
Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

PUT IT ON ICE

One free skating option is the very formal-sounding Orland H. Blake Skating Pond & Village Improvement Society Warming Hut, at 196 Main St., Yarmouth. The hut looks like a little Victorian-era train depot. Inside there’s a stone fireplace to warm frozen toes, and the rink is lit at night, often until 11 p.m. Get more info at yarmouthcommunityservices.org.

A real gem of an outdoor rink is The Waterhouse Center, 51 Main St., Kennebunk. This covered, open-sided ice rink is in the middle of Kennebunk’s quaint downtown. It even has its own Zamboni resurfacing machine run by community members. You can also check to see if it’s crowded by going to the website and looking at a webcam picture at kennebunkmaine.us

The Scarborough Ice Rink, at 20 Quentin Drive, is a big, well-maintained rink behind the Wentworth School. There are two areas, one for hockey players and one for just skating. There’s a nice indoor space for putting on your skates, as well as a concession stand with hot cocoa, hot dogs and other goodies. You can check conditions at 883-7645 or get more info at scarboroughmaine.org.

Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland is the place to be on Tuesdays, when admission is only $5. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland is the place to be on Tuesdays, when admission is only $5.
Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

HALF-PRICED HOLLYWOOD

Why does everyone want to go to the movies on the weekend? Wouldn’t stars like Denzel Washington (currently in “Fences”) or Jennifer Lawrence (“Passengers”) shine just as bright on a Tuesday night? For $5, they sure would. That’s what Nickelodeon Cinemas, 1 Temple St., Portland, charges for all shows on Tuesdays. Most evening showings at theaters these days are $10 to $11, so the Nick is basically charging half-price. See what’s playing there now at patriotcinemas.com.

Another discount movie day around here is Monday at the various Smitty’s Cinemas, where meal-worthy food is served beside the standard popcorn and soda. The discounted prices are $7.50 in Windham and Topsham and $7 in Biddeford and Sanford. Get more info at smittyscinema.com.

Comedian Audra Welton delivers a joke from the upstairs stage at Bull Feeney's, where $5 Portland Comedy Showcase nights are held on Wednesdays. Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Comedian Audra Welton delivers a joke from the upstairs stage at Bull Feeney’s, where $5 Portland Comedy Showcase nights are held on Wednesdays.
Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

THAT’S FUNNY

How many comedians does it take to fill all the comedy nights in Portland? A lot. Portland Comedy Showcase hosts local and regional comics on Wednesdays at Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., usually for a $5 cover.

The Laugh Shack is a Thursday night comedy show at Lincolns on Market Street (no address given, finding the secret door is part of the charm). That’s also $5 — as is everything at the aptly named bar (get it?). Both Portland Comedy Showcase and Laugh Shack have Facebook pages for more info.

Maine Event Comedy hosts a Funny First Friday comedy show, usually at 7 p.m., at Andy’s Old Port Pub, 94 Commercial St. in Portland. It’s $6 in advance and $8 at the door. Maine Event Comedy also has a free Third Thursday Comedy Showcase at Bear Bones Beer, 43 Lisbon St., Lewiston. One frequent performer at Maine Event Comedy shows is Dennis Fogg, comic and owner of Uncle Andy’s Diner in South Portland. maineeventcomedy.com.

MUSIC IS IN THE AIR — AND IN THE STACKS

The Maine Marimba Ensemble will perform for free Jan. 14 as part of the South Portland Public Library's After Hours concert series. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Maine Marimba Ensemble will perform for free Jan. 14 as part of the South Portland Public Library’s After Hours concert series.
Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

One place where you can always here music on the cheap is Blue, a club at 650A Congress St. in Portland. There’s never any cover, instead people are asked to “donate” what they want to help out the musicians. The place hosts jazz, rock and folk musicians of all kinds. There’s often an Irish session on Wednesdays. To see who’s playing when, go to portcityblue.com.

There’s also no cover at Andy’s Old Port Pub, 94 Commercial St. in Portland, with live music pretty much every night of the week. Singer-songwriters, blues players and funk groups can be heard. See the lineup at andysoldportpub.com.

Libraries used to be known for their deafening silence. But at least a couple around here are hosting free live music now. In January, the Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Way, will host the weekly Noonday Concert Series on Thursdays, featuring musicians and faculty from the Portland Conservatory of Music. Banjo virtuoso Peter Mezoian will perform Jan. 12, and guitarist Don Pride will perform Jan. 26. Then in February, the Noonday concerts will move to the First Parish Church, 425 Congress St., through April. To see the full schedule of weekly performers, go to portlandconservatoryofmusic.org.

Just over the Casco Bay Bridge, the South Portland Public Library, 482 Broadway, hosts a monthly free “After Hours” concert series at 7 p.m. on Saturdays. The next one, on Jan. 14, is a Zimbabwean-style concert by the Maine Marimba Ensemble. Marimbas, by the way, are large wooden xylophone-like instruments, and the group usually features eight or nine performers. southporltandlibrary.com.

DON’T CLOSE THE CURTAIN

The Portland area is buzzing with live theater, and the competition among theater companies means audiences can grab cheap seats. This year, Mad Horse Theatre Co. at 24 Mosher St. in South Portland has pay-what-you-can performances on the first and second Thursday and the first Sunday of the run of each show. For the upcoming run of “The Nether” by Jennifer Haley, pay-what-you-can performances are Jan. 19, 22 and 26.

Offering affordable tickets is a smart way for Mad Horse to build audiences, said artistic director Christine Louise Marshall. Mad Horse has been doing it for years, and it’s proven effective. “People are seeing shows they would not have seen otherwise,” she said. “If we don’t have an audience, what’s the point?”

Some people pay more than the regular ticket price, which is $23 for adults. Others pay less.

Newcomers are often surprised that pay what you can actually means that, Marshall said, adding “once they realize it, they come back.”

The Footlights Theatre, 190 Route 1 in Falmouth, also offers pay-what-you-can night for all 7 p.m. Thursday performances of its mainstage shows and for various events throughout the year. All performances of its most recent show, “Holidazed!” were pay-what-you-can “as our gift to our regular patrons and hoping to attract new people into the theatre — which it did,” said executive artistic director, Michael Tobin.

Next up is Norm Foster’s “Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun,” which opens Jan. 19.

Shays Grill Pub in Monument Square has drink specials every day of the week, from 4 p.m. to close. Photo by Katy Kelleher

Shays Grill Pub in Monument Square has drink specials every day of the week, from 4 p.m. to close.
Photo by Katy Kelleher

FAT AND HAPPY

When you live in a foodie town, going out for dinner and drinks isn’t an easy thing to give up. But if you’re willing to go at somewhat odd hours, you can still enjoy the city’s hot spots on a budget.

From 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Otto will give you a free slice of pizza with the purchase of a beer or glass of wine at all of its locations. Still hungry? The Corner Room on the corner of Exchange and Federal streets in Portland puts out quite the happy hour spread from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The changing offerings have included calamari and pizza, free to bar-goers, who can get select wines, prosecco and draft beers for $3.

Still thirsty? Shays Grill Pub in Monument Square has drink specials everyday of the week after 4 p.m., including $4 martinis on Tuesday (which are only a dollar more the rest of the week) and $3 house wines on Thursday. Next door, David’s offers weekday happy hour specials, including $5 well martinis, Manhattans and infused cocktails, along with select appetizers at severely slashed prices. For only $4, you can get things like bruschetta or pot stickers. That’s well worth the splurge.

Staff Writers Bob Keyes and Leslie Bridgers contributed to this story.

 

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