So you’ve got kids. Whether they belong to you or you’re simply entertaining for the day, Maine has countless ways to keep those young ones happy, engaged, entertained…and not driving you crazy saying, “I’m bored.” Boredom doesn’t belong in Maine. Ever.
So peruse the list, ask the kids what kind of adventure they’re up for today, pack a lunch and go do something memorable and fun.
If only there was an entire building filled with fun and engaging activities geared toward children! Wait – Maine has three of those! Maine’s children’s museums feature permanent exhibits that your kids will have tons of fun with and they’ll being engaging their brains, too. Double win. The museums also host ongoing events, too, so your kids can make sock puppets, build ice castles or put on a play with new museum friends.
Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor | www.mainediscoverymuseum.org
Children’s Discovery Museum, Augusta | www.childrensdiscoverymuseum.org
Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, Portland | kitetails.org
Read more: 8-year-old Dinah reviews “Down to the Sea: An Outdoor Adventure” at Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
If your kids show an interest in every insect in and around the house or have taken to tracking the neighborhood squirrels, then they’ll get a huge kick out of Maine’s wildlife parks, where they can see and learn about animals that they probably won’t find hanging out in your backyard. Find reptiles and birds to tarantulas, camels, zebras and wallabys – and yes, even squirrels. York’s Wildlife Kingdom also has a Butterfly Kingdom filled with different species of butterflies that fly all around you. At the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, kids can get a good look at some of Maine’s most notable native animals, like moose, black bears, foxes and eagles (and they’ll be learning about
York’s Wild Kingdom, York | www.yorkswildkingdom.com
Maine Wildlife Park, Gray | www.mainewildlifepark.com
Do you often find yourself telling your kids to stop climbing on the furniture/shed/neighbor’s permanently parked RV? Perhaps some sanctioned climbing is in order. Maine’s coastline offers plenty of climbable rocks – Fort Williams and Two Lights State Park, both in Cape Elizabeth – are excellent locations for outdoor climbing adventure. You can also head inside to one of southern Maine’s indoor rock gyms, both of which have climbing programs for kids.
evo Rock + Fitness, Portland | www.evorock.com
Salt Pump Climbing Co., Scarborough | www.saltpumpclimbing.com
There’s an easy 1.25-mile walking trail around the island, along with a couple of staircases down to the water to poke at snails and climb on old barkless trees that went horizontal years ago. But be sure to have your guests tuck some rocks, shells and sticks into their pockets – they’ll need those later at the Fairy Village. The Fairy Village, you see, is a place where humans (of the kid and adult varieties) build fairy-sized shelters out of natural materials (leaves, pine cones, shells, stones). While you probably won’t see any fairies during your visit, I always assure my guests that the fairies are going to be psyched to see their new digs (last year, we even built the fairies a really fantastic outhouse).
Mackworth Island is accessible by car and the trail is open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk. You may need to jockey for parking during busy hours.
Mackworth Island, Falmouth | trails.org/our-trails/mackworth-island-trail/
Island adventure awaits on Swan Island, which sits on the Kennebec River just off the town of Richmond. Wildlife abounds there – bald eagles and hawks as well as coyotes and porcupine and moose. Visitors can paddle over from the mainland or reserve a spot on the ferry, which departs from Richmond four times a day. Bring bicycles and ride the seven miles of island trails or explore the island by foot. Kayak rentals are also available – as is a fishing pond (gear provided!).
Swan Island is open daily from May through the end of October. Day use fees are $8 person, free for visitors age 5 and under.
Swan Island | www.maine.gov/ifw/education/swanisland/index.htm
Go where the waterslides abound! Water parks are a great way to stay cool on hot summer days and keep the kids entertained (and contained). There are two water parks to choose from in Saco – Aquaboggin and Funtown Splashtown. (Don’t know which to choose? (Link to Heather’s story)) In Bar Harbor, check out Wild Acadia Fun Park and Water Slides for water fun plus go-karts, mini golf, climbing wall and more.
Aquaboggin, Saco | www.aquabogganwaterpark.com
Funtown Splashtown, Saco | www.funtownusa.com
Wild Acadia Fun Park and Water Slides, Bar Harbor | www.wildacadia.com
Whether your kids ski or not, Maine and New Hampshire’s bigger ski areas (like Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Gunstock and Loon) are a great place to go in the summer. Think ropes courses, ziplines, mountain biking, yurts, gondolas, glacial caves, trails, bungee trampolines, paddleboarding, Segway tours, archery and – ah yes – climbable spider webs. There’s quite a bit happening and it’s all very kid-friendly.
Read more: Summer at the ski areas: Ropes courses, mountain biking & glacial caves at Maine & NH ski mountains
There’s lobster everywhere – on dinner plates and license plates. But learning where that lobster comes from can be an afternoon adventure, even for kids who don’t tend to eat crustaceans. Aboard the Lucky Catch, kids can help haul traps, measure lobsters and prepare the bait bags – and get quite a lobster education, too. Tours run about 90 minutes and include a scenic jaunt around Casco Bay. Lobster learnin’ and boat ride? Win win! Tours are available daily except Sundays from the first weekend of May through the last weekend in October and depart from Long Wharf in Portland.
Lucky Catch Cruises, Long Wharf, Portland | www.luckycatch.com
Mini golf courses might be smaller than those 18-hole courses with their long fairways and fancy clubhouses. But a win at mini golf still feels huge, especially for the under-16 set. And besides, mini golf courses have better windmills and there’s often ice cream nearby.
Read more: Swing, toss, putt: Great Maine spots for mini golf, disc golf & batting cages
Since you’re probably always telling your kids to stop picking things (their noses, their scabs), wouldn’t it be nice to encourage their picking for once? From summer strawberries and blueberries to fall apples and pumpkins, there are a bunch of Maine farms and orchards to choose from around the state.
Pick-your-own in Maine: www.pickyourown.org
Maybe the kids aren’t quite ready for Mount Katahdin, but they can still hike a kid-friendly mountain for great views. In Pownal, Bradbury Mountain is very kid accessible and has a great summit views. In Phippsburg, Morse Mountain is an all-levels hike that empties out onto a gorgeous beach. Both are open year-round.
Bradbury Mountain, Pownal | www.bradburymountain.com
More Mountain, Phippsburg | alltrails.com
It’s like golf, without the clubs. Or the ball. Or the tee. Or the hole. Oh, forget it, it’s nothing like golf. But spending a couple of hours on a well-groomed course is a good way for your kids to hone their disc-throwing skills, which will come in handy later in life. Maybe.
Read more: Swing, toss, putt: Great Maine spots for mini golf, disc golf & batting cages
Blow your kids’ minds and invite them to play in the dirt all day. Not just that, but they’ll be mining for gems, too, which is enough to get any kid’s treasure-hunting fantasies running wild. At Mount Apatite in Auburn, visitors can “use hand tools to explore for mineral and gem specimens to a depth of two feet,” according to the Maine Geographical Survey. Bring your own claw hammer, chisel, work gloves and freeze bags (to carry the bounty back home).
Read more: Maine Mini Adventure: Rock hound in Auburn, eat burgers & custard in New Gloucester
As if bowling wasn’t a family friendly good time already, you can bowl and dance to groovy music under a disco ball and fun lights, too. Vacationland Bowling in Saco offers Glow Bowling on Friday and Saturday nights – it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer in there!
Vacationland Bowling, Saco: vacationlandbowling.com
Kids sometimes have a hard time understanding how things “used to be,” or that there was ever a time when Hot Pockets didin’t exist (gasp!). But a trip back in time via one of Maine’s history museums might help shed some light on yesteryear.
Check out Museums of Old York (3 Lindsay Road, York) and explore the Old Gaol, Elizabeth Perkins House and Steedman Woods, among other properties. Learn the history of Old Fort Western in Augusta and journey back in time at Norlands Living History Center in Livermore.
Museums of Old York, York | www.oldyork.org
Old Fort Western, Augusta | www.oldfortwestern.org
Norlands Living History Center | www.norlands.org
Since we generally think of ice skating in the winter, it’s easy to forget that there are indoor rinks open for skating year-round (this is especially good to remember on hot summer days). Rentals are available for kids who don’t have their own skates (or who’ve already outgrown the skates you just bought them last year).
William B. Troubh Ice Arena, Portland (formerly Portland Ice Arena) | www.portlandmaine.gov
The Ice Vault, Hallowell | www.thebankofmaineicevault.com
Falmouth Family Ice has sporadic options for open skate in the summer but they re-open for open skate in October | www.familyice.org
Could your kid eat a 1,700-pound moose made entirely of milk chocolate? It’s a question you’ll likely discuss at Len Libby’s store in Scarborough, where Lenny – the giant chocolate moose – happens to live. There’s also plenty of other chocolate goodies there that you can actually fit in the car. In Westbrook, Haven’s Candies offers public tours of the candy-making operation and shares educational fact about cocoa harvesting.
Haven’s Candies, Westbrook | havenscandies.com
Len Libby in Scarborough | lenlibby.com
Read more: Our 8-year-old reviewer finds Haven’s Candies tour in Westbrook to be sweet experience
Thomas the Tank Engine likely helps drive traffic to Maine’s historic trains with kids who love the show looking to meet their own real-life train.
Boothbay Railway Village has a steam locomotive and lots of history in the recreated village in Boothbay. Special “North Pole Express” rides celebrate the holiday season | railwayvillage.org
The Seashore Trolley Museum hosts story time, ice cream nights and shares the rich history of trains in Kennebunport. Special “pumpkin patch” events are coming up in late September | trolleymuseum.org
Maine Narrow Gauge is open until mid-October and then reopens during the Christmas season for special “Polar Express” story-telling rides | mainenarrowgauge.org
If your kids love animals, especially of the equine variety, take them on a horseback trail ride. No experience is usually necessary (except a basic comfort level with horses), but there are age-restrictions. Contact each farm to inquire about these details.
Carousel Horse Farm, Casco | chfmaine.com/guided-horse-trail-rides-maine
Rocky Ridge Farm, Dayton | rockyridgefarmtrails.com
Horse Island Camp, Peaks Island | horseislandcamp.com/?page_id=9
Read more: Ride horses on Peaks Island: Horse Island Camp offers trail rides along the ocean
This generation of children are recounting their experience at libraries that always about checking out books. Libraries host weekly story times for babies to preschoolers open to all families, not just those living in that town. After school as well as weekend programs are a regular part of the community library calendar. A few libraries with active events calendars include:
Portland Public Library, Portland | www.portlandlibrary.com/audience/kids-families
Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick | www.eventkeeper.com
Lithgow Public Library, Augusta | www.lithgow.lib.me.us
Camden Public Library, Camden | www.librarycamden.org
York Public Library, York | www.york.lib.me.us
The wading pool at Deering Oaks Park is only open in the summer, and during that time it’s a cool, shaded respite from the summer heat. Plus it’s shallow enough for the little ones (and for parents to skoot across with their shoes still on, should they need to chase after a loose child). There’s also a playground, beach volley ball and tennis courts (which are a great place to practice roller skating or riding a two-wheel bike, if no one’s playing tennis at the time).
Deering Oaks Park, Portland | www.deeringoaks.org