So you’re broke. Or maybe you’re trying to stick to a budget this year so you can pay off your credit cards/get out of debt/afford that hovercraft. But being fiscally challenged doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your Maine winter. There are plenty of free things to do around here (or things that are so cheap they’re nearly free). The list below is what we’ve come up with so far – from wine tastings and poetry readings to arcades and full moon hikes. Almost everything on this list is free – but I did include a few things that cost $5 or less and some that welcome donations, so donate when possible.
First Monday of the month at 9 p.m. (arrive earlier for drinks/conversation), LFK, 188 State St., Portland, Portland. Free. www.facebook.com/word.portland or wordportland.weebly.com
The monthly reading series invites local poets, storytellers, and writers to share their work inside the welcoming confines of LFK, and “good words, good drinks, and good friends” are celebrated equally. Head over for drinks and conversation at 8 p.m. Readings begin at 9 p.m. We went a while back: Storytelling + poetry reading + bar: Word Portland at LFK
Third Monday of the month, Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., Portland. Free ($9 suggested donation). www.lynnecullen.com/Seanachie.htm
Hear old Celtic and British stories during this monthly series of musical storytelling performances that introduces the stories – with all their comedy, tragedy, and adventure – to an adult audience. Seanachie Nights is usually held on every third Monday of the month.
Free on Friday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m., Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress St, Portland. Free. www.portlandmuseum.org
Seize the opportunity to peruse the exhibits at Portland’s amazing art musuem – for free. The museum shirks its admission fee on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. (that’s every Friday, not just Art Walk Friday), meaning even the budget-conscious get to appreciate the art. Thank you, PMA.
You don’t have to be a student to appreciate the art on exhibit in the galleries of Maine’s universities and colleges. Those on-campus galleries regularly showcase amazing art and are open to the public. They’re also free.
Bates College Museum of Art, Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St., Lewiston
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Wednesday evenings until 7 p.m. during the academic year. Free admission. www.bates.edu/museum
Colby College Museum of Art, 5600 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday (open on Thursdays until 9 p.m. during the academic year), noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays. Free. www.colby.edu/museum
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 9400 College Station, Brunswick
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed on Mondays and national holidays. Free admission. www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum
First Friday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m. Portland. Free. www.firstfridayartwalk.com
There will be walking (it’s cool, the weather’s great this time of year) and there will be art. Possibly some complimentary wine and snacks.
Maine Beer & Beverage at the Public Market House in Portland does bi-weekly tastings of beer, wine, cider or bubbly. In addition to sampling wine/beer, you can also sample some select cheeses from K. Horton’s Specialty Foods. Tastings are bi-weekly on Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Browne Trading Company holds tastings on the occasional Saturday, Rosemont Market and Bakery also does wine tastings at their locations in Portland and Yarmouth, as does Aurora Provisions in Portland’s West End and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. Really, wine tastings are everywhere.
If you’re in the market for beer or spirits, check out a local brewery or distillery. Susan’s rounded them up here: Behind the keg: Maine breweries, distilleries offer tours and tastes
Pinball, Centipede. Halo. Whether it’s some old-school Nintendo, classic Pac-Man or computer games displayed on a big projection screen, there are plenty of inexpensive options to play games in Maine. Note: None are free, but with prices between $3 and $5 for an hour or two of games, these are still wonderfully budget-friendly ways to spend your time. Heather checked them all out: The best places to nerd out and play games in Southern Maine – pinball or Halo, start your thumb stretches now
HUD, 2 Main St., Biddeford (Building 18, suite 118)
Open 2 p.m. to midnight Mon-Thurs, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays, noon to 2 a.m. Saturdays, noon to midnight Sundays. $4 an hour or $6 for two, $12 day pass. hudgaming.com
You can play games against/with your friends, cheap.
Portland Arcade, 22 Cottage Road, South Portland
Open 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. $5 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour. www.facebook.com/portlandarcade and portlandarcade.wix.com
Great vintage games and at $5 for an hour, it’s a steal. Read our Kid’s Review of Portland Arcade (it’s not just for kids).
Arcadia National Bar, 24 Preble St., Portland
4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 1 a.m. Sunday. facebook.com/ArcadiaNationalBar
The place is packed on weekends even as the snow comes down. The beer selection is stellar and cheap.
8 p.m. Wednesday nights, Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., Portland. $5. www.facebook.com/PortlandComedyShowcase
The subject matter spans to gamut at the weekly Portland Comedy Showcase at Bull Feeney’s. But the intention every week remains the same: Make people laugh for 90 minutes on a Wednesday. And frankly, we could really use a good laugh during those long, frigid winter nights, amiright? I checked it out a while back: Midweek comic relief: Portland Comedy Showcase at Bull Feeney’s
7 p.m. Tuesdays, Elements Books Coffee Beer, 265 Main Street, Biddeford. Free. www.elementsbookscoffeebeer.com
You’re super smart. And attractive. Put those good-looking brains to use during Trivia Night at Elements in Biddeford. You can have a team of up to 6 people and there will be prizes. (Elements also has free live music Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.)
Of course, trivia nights abound. There’s event more here: 9 perfect places for pub trivia
After Hours Music Series at South Portland Public Library, 482 Broadway, South Portland | southportlandlibrary.com
One Saturday a month, the South Portland library stays open late for free live music. Music! In the library! Also look into their book groups.
Winter 2016 dates TBD, Mt. Abram, Greenwood. Free. www.mtabram.com/news-events
Hike up and ski down during a Full Moon Hike at Mt. Abram. You’ll hike to Mt. Abram’s peak, where music and mountain revelry await. There’s a heated lodge up there as well, not that you’ll need it. The 50-minute climb will raise your body temperature to such a degree that periodic disrobing will be part of the vertical journey. Then ski down (or ride down or snowshoe down or hike down, whichever you prefer).
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway. wfltmaine.org/roberts-farm.htmlThe preserve boasts 165 acres and tons of trails that are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. Even better, they offer free access to snowshoes, boots and poles for use at the preserve, so if you don’t own snowshoes of your own, you can borrow ’em!
Various evenings, Eastern Trail. Free. www.easterntrail.org
Walk part of the Eastern Trail under the light of the full moon. There are usually walks already on the schedule that start and end in Biddeford, Saco, Kennebunk and elsewhere but check back for additional walks.
It sort of goes without saying that playing in the snow is always a fun and free winter activity in Maine (except those really painful winters when Mother Nature decides to be stingy with the snow). Find a park, a roadside hill or the pile of snow left by your neighbor’s shoveling, and climb on it, tunnel through it, make a fort. And if you splurge on a pair of ice skates and an inexpensive sled, you can hit an outdoor ice skating rink or local sledding hill. Best free things to do in the state.