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Amy Paradysz

Amy Paradysz is a "Scene & Heard" columnist for the Portland Press Herald and a "Seen" photographer for MaineToday.com. She edits everything from proposal bids to blogs to cookbooks--and verbally edits everything she drives by.

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Posted: September 11, 2015

Fall Getaways are a bargain after Labor Day: Acadia, Nova Scotia, Pinkham Notch and more

Written by: Amy Paradysz
Joe Dodge Lodge, Pinkham Notch. Photo by Herb Swanson courtesy of AMC

Joe Dodge Lodge, Pinkham Notch. Photo by Herb Swanson courtesy of AMC

Labor Day has come and gone, and most of the tourists have gone too. And yet this region is spectacular in September and October as the foliage turns vibrant and the weather grows mild. It’s the perfect time to explore Acadia National Park, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, or quaint-and-trendy Kennebunkport. Chill out at Sebago Lake, hike to your destination with Maine Huts & Trails, or cruise to Nova Scotia, Canada on the NovaStar.

Let these getaway idea starters take you somewhere you’ve never gone before – or back to a favorite place at a different time of year.

Maine Huts and Trails at Flagstaff Hut. Courtesy photo

Maine Huts and Trails at Flagstaff Hut. Courtesy photo

MAINE HUTS & TRAILS ESCAPES

Mainers love natural beauty and wild spaces, but we also love home-cooked meals and local beer and wine. If all that sounds enticing and you can hike along rolling terrain for 1 to 3 miles, Maine Huts & Trails offers a unique experience at its four eco-lodges dotting the Western Maine landscape.

The area around the “huts” is mountainous, but these three huts are in low-lying terrain accessible through non-technical hikes of 2 or 3 miles from trail heads.

Huts are communal, with shared common areas and a variety of bunk rooms that can accommodate from two to 12 people. It’s supposed to be an “off-the-grid experience,” but there are hot showers, hot meals, and lights. During colder months, bunk rooms are heated.

Huts are fully staffed through Oct. 25 with dinner, breakfast and trail lunches provided by hut staff.

“And the food at the huts is probably the best food you can get anywhere in the Carrabassett Valley,” said Cayce Frigon, marketing and communications director. Through Oct. 25, rates are $90 per person per night, $45 for ages 17 and under.

The self-service season starts Oct. 25, which means you bring your own food to prepare in the kitchen – and pay much less: $35 per person per night.

But if you’re coming specifically for the food, Maine Huts & Trails has another deal for you. Come for just dinner on a Friday or Saturday night through Oct. 24 for $25 per person. Toward the end of that season you’ll want a headlamp for the 3-mile hike back out after dinner and dessert. Reservations are required a week in advance.

Note that dogs are not allowed inside the huts.

Maine Huts & Trails’ lodges are about two hours northwest of Portland. The main office is located in Kingfield. For more information, visit mainehuts.org.

Hidden Pond’s Earth Restaurant and Bar in Kennebunkport.

Hidden Pond’s Earth Restaurant and Bar in Kennebunkport.

EARTH AT HIDDEN POND FALL FARM & SPIRITS

Looking for a much more luxurious way to celebrate autumn? Kennebunkport Resort Collection’s Fall Farm & Spirits package, available through Oct. 29, features a two-night stay for two, with dinner, and a Kennebunkport swag bag filled with local goodies. Here, the “trail” maps are for self-guided tours of the local farms and spirits.

The resorts in the collection are: Hidden Pond, The Tides Beach Club, Cape Arundel Inn, Kennebunkport Inn, The Boathouse, The Grand Hotel, The Lodge on the Cove and The Cottages at Cabot Cove. Rates vary by resort.

If you haven’t heard about Earth at Hidden Pond, it’s a foodies’ favorite, serving innovative recipes focused on “farm to fork” freshness. The surroundings are just as thoughtfully put together. The walls are built from trees cut to clear the site, and a preserved apple tree strung with white lights hangs above the dining room as a chandelier.

Guests linger by candlelight, overlooking the pond, or beside the nightly bonfire. A two-night weekend in a bungalow at Hidden Pond including dinner for two at Earth will set you back $949. But we hear the swag bags are amazing. Plan your visit at kennebunkportresortcollection.com or call 888-967-9050 for reservations. Or be generous: The Kennebunkport Resort Collection offers gift cards.

Eagle Lake at Acadia National Park. Courtesy photo

Eagle Lake at Acadia National Park. Courtesy photo

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK SAMPLER

Acadia National Park, the oldest national park east of the Mississippi, brings all these Maine landscapes together: ocean shoreline, the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast, and freshwater, estuary, forest and intertidal habitats.

If it’s a deal you’re after, there’s no better deal than free, which is what the Acadia National Park entrance is on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 26. If you’re a return visitor, that’s probably all the nudging you need.

If you don’t know where to start, let Acadia National Park Tours give you the lay of the land in a 2½- to 3-hour narrated bus tour. Tours depart at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily through Oct. 27 and go from downtown Bar Harbor along Route 3 into Acadia National Park with three stops inside the park.

Take in panoramic views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman’s Bay and Eagle Lake. Stop for tea and popovers at The Jordan Pond House or check out the Sieur De Monts Spring (Wild Gardens of Acadia). Tours are $30 for adults, $17.50 for children 12 and under. Visit acadiatours.com.

You’ll find plenty of information about Acadia National Park at the National Park Service website (nps.gov/state/me).

Note, there are no hotels in the park, some campgrounds close in September or October, and the only campground that is open year-round offers walk-in primitive camping only.

But you’ll find plenty of places to stay in Bar Harbor (barharborinfo.com/places-to-stay).

Point Sebago. Courtesy photo

Point Sebago. Courtesy photo

POINT SEBAGO THEME GETAWAY WEEKENDS

Fall is the perfect time to chill out at Point Sebago with gorgeous fall foliage reflecting on Sebago Lake. Theme weekends are priced to include meals and entertainment, and you can get even deeper discounts if you’re able to jumpstart your weekend on Thursday night.

Even with all the activities planned, it’s still off-season, so if you’re looking for some quiet time amid the pines, you can find that too.

Every theme weekend listed here includes a meal package, and one of the meals is a lobster dinner. Rates are per person and depend on whether you bring a trailer or stay in a park home, resort cottage or vacation home.

Brew Fest Weekend, Sept. 25-27. This adults-only weekend includes admission to the popular Brew Fest on Saturday, celebrating Maine-made beers and wine. Enjoy all the Point Sebago staples – golf, tennis, shuffleboard, horseshoes, boating, and, last but not least, happy hour.

Murder Mystery Weekend, Oct. 2-4. This three-day/two-night weekend includes all your meals, and a lot of the weekend’s action occurs in and around those meals, starting with Friday night dinner. The theme is Deadtime Stories – not bedtime stories; this is another adults-only weekend. You’ll die laughing.

Columbus Day (Monte Carlo) Weekend, Oct. 9-12. If you’ve got a long weekend, why not spend it at an all-inclusive Monte Carlo weekend, with all proceeds benefiting Camp Sunshine? The high-rolling fun is for adults, but this is a family-friendly weekend with activities for all ages. The four-day/three-night package includes eight meals, including, of course, a lobster dinner. And it’ll be peak foliage season.

Halloween Weekend, Oct. 16-18. If your family just can’t get enough of Halloween, this is the weekend for you. Bring your costumes and enjoy a haunted house, hayrides, pumpkin carving and a spectacularly choreographed “Monster Rock Show.” And you’ll still have the “real” Halloween weekend two weeks later.

Point Sebago is off Route 302 in Casco between Portland and North Conway, N.H., less than an hour from Portland. For the latest information and reservations, visit pointsebago.com.

Joe Dodge Lodge, Pinkham Notch. Photo by Herb Swanson courtesy of AMC

Joe Dodge Lodge, Pinkham Notch. Photo by Herb Swanson courtesy of AMC

JOE DODGE LODGE AT PINKHAM NOTCH, WHITE MOUNTAINS

The classic outdoorsy lodge experience is still going strong in the White Mountains, where you’ll find Joe Dodge Lodge/Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).

Joe Dodge Lodge is open year-round, but vibrant fall foliage is the major draw this time of year. “It looks like someone spilled a giant box of Trix cereal on the mountain,” said Rob Burbank of AMC.

Surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, you’ll be on your way to some of the region’s best hiking. From Joe Dodge Lodge you can hike to the summit of Mountain Washington and back in one day (at least eight hours round-trip) or take it easier with a mile round-trip hike to Lost Pond. “You can take your pick, and our staff will help you decide where you want to go,” Burbank said.

But you’ll also have the comforts of a hearty breakfast and dinner, a trail lunch, and a comfortable bed or bunk (private family rooms with a shared bathroom with hot showers). Explore the Great Gulf Wilderness and come back and warm up in the comfortable living room by the fireplace.

Lest you be concerned about “roughing it,” you can drive right to the lodge, and Wi-Fi and a hiker shuttle are available. There’s a demo room where you can try out hiking gear. The Children’s Discovery Room has natural history resources, books and games. For the eco-minded traveler, they even have an electric vehicle charging station. Wheelchair-accessible rooms are available.

Rates are per person per night and depend on the type of room accommodation (including private rooms and bunk rooms), but none exceed $83.

Set your navigational device to 361 Route 16, Gorham, N.H. It’s less than a mile from Wildcat Mountain Ski Area, halfway between the towns of Gorham and Jackson, N.H.

To plan your trip and get reservation information, visit outdoors.org/lodging/lodges.

NovaStar White Point Lodge, Nova Scotia.

NovaStar White Point Lodge, Nova Scotia.

NOVA STAR CRUISE TO YARMOUTH, NOVA SCOTIA

If cost has been holding you back from taking a Nova Star cruise to Nova Scotia, check out the post-Labor Day deals available through the anticipated end-of-season date of Oct. 13.

There’s a 48-hour Yarmouth Sampler Vacation Value package for a mid-priced getaway for a couple: $498 for two adults, double-occupancy in an interior cabin. Leave Portland one evening, arrive in Nova Scotia in the morning, spend 24 hours at a Canadian resort, and embark for a leisurely overnight back to Maine. With something for everyone onboard – from the casino and spa to playroom and movies – passengers enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

You can get steeper discounts on four-day and five-day trips and spend more time at your choice of three Canadian resorts. And there is a cheaper package – just under $400 for two adults for a 24-hour round-trip. But a 24-hour round-trip only leaves you an hour and a half in port, which means that as soon as you get off the ship it will be time to get back on. Then again, if the goal is simply to get away, unwind and disconnect from at-home pressures, one overnight at sea might be perfect!

With any of the packages, families will be impressed with the low rates to add children to the reservation – free for ages 13 and under (up to three children) and steeply discounted for older teens.

Budget not only for the casino and spa but for restaurant meals on board, which run about $10 to $30. Also, be sure to have a passport, passport card or enhanced driver’s license for each person (birth certificates are accepted for passengers 15 and younger).

Nova Star leaves Portland’s Ocean Gateway nightly at 8 p.m. Eastern Time and arrives in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia at 8 a.m. Atlantic Time.

For the latest information and for reservations, visit www.novastarcruises.com.

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