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It’s August. We all know summer in Maine breezes right by (it feels like it already has, no?) so we’ve got to make the most of every 70-degree moment. Get ready to rope-swing into a pond, doze off in the car at a drive-in and get your fill of pier fries and beach sand. Your mission: Make this summer the most memorable summer ever. Let our summer bucket list help:
Maybe you planned on picking your own strawberries this year but, like every year, strawberry season came and went in a flash. It happens. But late summer is when blueberry season hits, which means you can stop kicking yourself for missing out. I’m pretty sure that blueberries you’ve picked yourself taste better, too. Libby & Sons U-Picks in Limerick is my personal favorite (do not leave before stocking up on their amazing blueberry donuts. I tend to eat at least three just on the drive back to Portland). But you can’t lose wherever you go:
Live music, outside, because it’s beautiful out there and Mother Nature has amazing acoustics. There are a host of free outdoor concerts around Southern Maine. You bring the blanket, some snacks, and someone you really like to share the evening with. Check out our list of free summer concerts within an hour of Portland.
Alive at Five | 5 pm Thursdays through August 7 | Monument Square, Portland | www.portlandmaine.com
LL Bean Free Summer Concerts | 7:30 pm Saturdays thought August 30 | Freeport | www.llbean.com/summer
Music on the Mall | 6 pm Wednesdays through August 27 | Town Mall, Brunswick | www.brunswickdowntown.com
Free concerts at Fort Sumner | 7 pm Thursdays through August 28 | Eastern Prom, Portland | easternpromenade.org/summer-concert-series/
Biddeford Music in the Park | 5:30 pm Wednesdays through August 21 | Shevenell Park, Biddeford | www.biddefordmaine.org
Sure, sure. Lobster doesn’t seem like such a fleeting summer thing when you live in Maine year-round. But the opporunity to crack one of those puppies open at a lobster shack, while sitting on a picnic table, with the sea sitting idly nearby and two dozen gulls taking turns diving for your fries…well, that’s a summer-only sort of experience. The Lobster Shack at Two Lights is a popular spot near Portland, but there’s no shortage of shacks up and down the coast.
Thank heavens for people who tie ropes to sturdy tree branches that hang over Maine’s rivers, lakes and ponds. Who are these magical folks who so generously offer rope swings to the world? We may never know – but we can say “thank you” by grabbing hold of those ropes, taking a leap and flinging ourselves into the water with flair. (Rope swinging tip: Let GO. Don’t procrastinate! Else you risk swinging back…possibly into tree, pile of rocks, or something likewise painful.)
Try Buxton’s Pleasant Point Park to find a series of river rocks perfect for leaping, as well as at least one rope swing.
It’s essential: When you go to the beach, you must build the castle you want to live in but can’t afford to build IRL with bricks and mortar … or wood. Beaches have plenty of sand for this purpose, so once you have a blueprint, you’ll need to find a beach:
Baseball and summer go together like ice cream and chocolate chip cookies (which, for the record, you can get together at Hadlock Field. It’s the Sea Dog Biscuit, and it’s delicious). Going to at least one Sea Dogs game is a summer requirement for many, although I know some folks who’ve never been. How? How is this?! Tickets are $8-13.
Yeah, no one can actually think running is fun (right?), but maybe if you have a team or a friend … and maybe if it’s a race … and maybe if there are obstacles or mud or fire … Yeah! Plus, you can be one of those people who Tweets about how much more you’re enjoying that post-race salad/protein shake and we’ll all envy your health, talent and beauty.
Try a race that’s more focused on mud or colors than it is on, say, running. See: 14 Maine races that put fun before run
We’ve also compiled a list of 24 charity races in Maine this summer
If you’re looking for a race on the cheap, try the weekly Back Cove race. It’s $20 for the series of races, which goes through Labor Day.
Maine’s a beaut. Ain’t no doubt about it. She’s smart, too, and has quite the personality, but we can’t help stopping to stare at her rocky coast, cascading falls, and miles of mountaintops. No matter where you go in this state, there’s something unique to gawk at. But summer — that’s when she’s at her prime. Need inspiration? Think you’ve seen it all? Check out our list of Maine’s most beautiful places. We also have a list of great places to camp on the coast if you want to spend the night.
Eating local is a great idea for lots of reasons, but maybe No. 1 is that it’s so much tastier and fresher. This summer try eating as local as local gets: on the farm where the food was grown or raised. Watch animals graze, the sun set and the grasses blow in the wind while you eat some of the best food of your life. Check out our roundup of places to dine on the farm in Maine this summer.
One of the cool things about living in, or visiting, Portland is that as amazing as the city is, it’s so easy to escape it — by water. Hopping on a Casco Bay Lines ferry to spend a day on one of the outlying islands can make you feel like you’ve been far, far away. And, of course, there’s no better time to escape to a windy island than when it’s sunny and hot. Check out our roundup of offshore restaurants in Casco Bay.
Spending an afternoon cooling off in a local swimming hole is a summer staple. And while it’s sometimes hard to know where the best ones are (some folks understandably want to keep their favorite spots a secret), there are a few popular water spots we’re comfotable sharing. Where there’s a rope swing (see spots mentioned above), there’s a swimming hole. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. A couple more:
In Kingfield, just north of Farmington, there’s a rocky swimming hole on the other side of the falls. Swimmers can park behind Longfellow’s Restaurant.
Also in Western Maine lies Coos Canyon, Byron’s Happy Gorge conveniently set off the road to Rangeley (Route 17). There are three natural swimming holes in front of the park, and waterfalls above and below that. Cliff jumping is common, and snorkeling a favorite.
Classic. That’s what drive-ins are. Netflix and Hulu are fine for winter or those night when you can’t sleep until you’ve watched the entire season of Master Chef. But the drive-in is the best summer movie-watching experience. Try the Saco Drive-In, Bridgton Twin Drive-In, and Skowhegan Drive-In
A summer bike ride anywhere in Maine is a good idea (except on I-95.). But a pedal-driven cruise around Peaks Island is one of those annual summer excursions I always make sure to squeeze in. You can BYOBike or rent one on the island from Brad’s Bike Rental and Repair on Island Ave. (just bang a left on Island Ave. after getting off the ferry). It’s an easy and scenic coastal ride made even better with stops at the military battery on the Island’s east side (look for the sign amid the foliage) and plenty of time spent climbing on the rocks. Don’t worry, the bike won’t mind waiting. And if you have time to grab a drink at the Cockeyed Gull, The Peaks Island House or The Inn on Peaks Island, then do!
This doesn’t really require much explanation, does it. It’s summer. Eat ice cream. And lots of it. If you’re feeling ice cream adventurous, check out our roundup for interesting new flavors available in Portland:
Destinations are nice. But taking the Casco Bay Lines ferry for no reason other than to ride the Casco Bay Lines ferry is equally swell. The ferry is a budget-friendly way to get onto Casco Bay. Bring some friends, some snacks, something to drink, and recline back on the red bench seats. Your destination? Who cares! Cruises include the Sunset Run, which departs nightly at 5:45 p.m. The equally scenic Mailboat Run takes to the waters at 10 am and 2:15 pm through Sept. 2. And early birds will appreciate the 5:05 am Sunrise on the Bay run. Check out the music cruises, too. Tickets are about $15.
You know those gorgeous sailboats you often spot catching the wind in Casco Bay? Pretty, right? But have you been on one this summer? Is it even summer if you haven’t? Check out Portland Schooner Company’s day sails aboard Bagheera or Wendameen. Or how about taking a wine class on a sailboat? Or a sunset acoustic sail with local musicians? Check out the special events with Maine Sailing Adventures aboard Francis. Both Portland Schooner Company and Maine Sailing Adventures operate from Maine State Pier. Tickets start at about $39.
Check out this roundup of cruises, sails and other boat tours in Maine.
Who doesn’t love a good paddle? Even if you don’t have the luxury of owning your own canoe or kayak, there are plenty of places to rent one. Then you can paddle ’til your heart’s content. Or, you know, until your time runs out and you need to bring back the boat. The Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center (on Pine Point Road in Scarborough) rents canoes and kayaks for easy-going paddles along the winding marsh waters. They also do guided tours during the day and under the full moon. Prices start around $30.
We’ve got even more ideas for great places to paddle: 10 easy paddles in southern-ish Maine: Calm waters to explore by kayak, canoe or SUP.
Need to rent? Where to rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard
For me, summer officially arrives in Maine on the day I eat my first pier fries of the season. Admittedly, that’s usually in April, when Pier French Fries At Old Orchard Beach opens up on weekends. I love summer, can you blame me for being impatient? These fries can be loaded up with salt and vinegar and ketchup and devoured in front of the Atlantic. Two warnings: You will long for them come February. And please, eat your pier fries after you hit the rides at Palace Playland.
The ocean is a great place to go for a dip. But you know what the ocean doesn’t have? A Liquid Lightning continuous water slide. Water parks offer the cooling-off pleasures of water with the glee-inspiring addition of slides, tubes, and ginormous overhead buckets that spill over at regular intervals. And no worries about sharks! Close to Portland, check out Aquaboggin Water Park and Funtown Splashtown, both in Saco. Which water park is best for you? We did a comparison: Splashtown v. Aquaboggan: Which Saco water park has the best rides, slides, bathrooms
Cocktails, beer, wine, what-have-you. One of summer’s perks is outdoor drinking (responsibly, of course!). From beachside patios to outdoor seating that’s perfect for people-watching, Maine has plenty of places to imbibe outside:
Because picnic! Frisbee! Blanket lounging! Grass! We’re often lured to sandy areas in the summer, but a carpet of green and the shade of a tree make good companions on hot days, too. Pack a picnic lunch and rope in a friend for some down time in a local park any time. There are some great events going on in some of those parks, too, like Fenix Theatre’s free Shakespeare in Deering Oaks Park, Portland, or Bath Shakespeare Festival’s events in Library Park, Bath.
Building a fairy house sounds like a kid thing. And it absolutely is. Kids get a kick out of building a fairy-sized house for a miniature friend they can’t see. But it’s cool for adults, too. Go ahead, scavenge for sticks, shells, leaves, and pine needles and see what you can construct. Think you’re a better builder than a fifth grader? Head out to Mackworth Island in Falmouth (the road to the island is just off Route 1) and show the fairies what you’re made of.
Golfers start golfing as soon as a flick of green is visible beneath the melting snow. The rest of us? We’ll pick up a mini-round when the weather’s perfect. The great thing about miniature golf – aside from the neon balls, entertaining obstacles, and heightened hole-in-one potential – is the fact that you won’t spend half your afternoon hunting a lost ball in the woods. True, there aren’t any fun golf carts, but there is usually ice cream nearby!
Surfing, rock climbing, sailing, fly fishing. If you’re already a master of everything, then kudos to you. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, summer’s the time. Take a wind surfing lesson or learn to skeet shoot while the weather’s good! Besides, you don’t really want “fell asleep in the full sun for 12 hours” to be your only summer accomplishment.