Posted: June 27, 2017
Beat the heat with these indoor tourist town attractions
Written by: Mary Ruoff
Up Next: 9 Maine beaches for each activity
Maine’s summer weather is often idyllic, but we do get hot and humid spells, even on the coast and in the mountains. When temperatures soar, folks just want to get into the air-conditioning, or at least break up outdoor activities with indoor time. To help beat the heat, we’ve compiled a list of indoor attractions – museums and theaters, even an aquarium – in popular tourist towns, most of them best known for spectacular scenery and accessible outdoor recreation. With one small exception, our selections are great for rainy days, too – or whatever the weather.
The marquee at Bar Harbor's Criterion Theatre, where live performances and special events makeup about 25 percent of the programming and movies the rest. Photo courtesy of Criterion Theatre
35 Cottage St., Bar Harbor, 288-0829. criteriontheatre.org
Movies, musical performances and plays aren't the only options for cooling off at this shell-shaped year-round theater on a downtown side street. Through September, free half-hour tours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. No reservations are needed, just meet under the marquee.
Reopened and refurbished a few years ago, the 762-seat theater's Art Deco interior looks much as it did when it opened in 1932, with pale-hued stenciling adorning walls and ceiling and a replica patterned carpet. Curtains, the geometric chandelier, many sconces and aisle seat side-moldings are all original. The chairs themselves, upholstered in rich purple fabric, are bigger than those back in the day. Performers take breaks in the green room, a former speakeasy.
An elevator will be installed by summer's end, making the beloved balcony accessible to all. Some balcony loges have tables, and wine and locally made Atlantic Brewing Co. beer is sold at the upstairs bar (no seating). The lobby concession sells alcoholic drinks, too, plus usual movie fare, with a twist. The popcorn is Maine-grown, and baked goods and some candies are locally made.
The live show lineup, from opera to jazz to folk/pop, picks up in summer when the theater is open daily. First-run and occasional classic flicks show nightly (typically 7 p.m., no matinees) unless there's a live performance (usually at 8 p.m.) A summer highlight: Singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, who has composed songs for Keith Urban and Tim McGraw, performs Friday, July 14. There are several daytime children's productions, including Barn Arts Collection and 3 Sticks' "Pinocchio" at 11 a.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 3.
Another way to chill: Also showing evening movies downtown, Reel Pizza Cinerama, 33 Kennebec Place, serves excellent pizza and Maine brews, and the seats have counters for food. For showtimes, call 288-3811 or go to reelpizza.net.
The gift shop at Rockland's Center for Maine Contemporary Art is on the other side of glass wall along on Winter Street's sidewalk and just to the left after entering the museum from the courtyard. You don't have to pay admission to amble in and shop. Photo courtesy of Center for Maine Contemporary Art
CENTER FOR MAINE CONTEMPORARY ART
21 Winter St., Rockland, open daily June through October and Wednesday through Sunday from November to May; $8, under age 18 free, 701-5005. cmcanow.org
When the center opened last year off Main Street near Farnsworth Art Museum and Strand Theatre, it became the second art museum downtown, also home to numerous art galleries. Showcasing contemporary artists who live in Maine or have a strong connection to the state (many are seasonal residents), the center isn't a collecting museum. Exhibits change throughout the year.
The modern building's sawtooth roof, reminiscent of waves, filters cool northern light into the main gallery, where "From Seal Point" displays recent paintings of leading abstract painter John Walker's coastal Maine property. An exhibit of early videos and drawings by pioneering video artist William Wegman, famous for art featuring his Weimaraner, Man Ray, is in one of two smaller galleries. Both shows run into October.
Corrugated metal clads much of the museum exterior, while glass walls frame the spacious street-side courtyard, bordered by the lobby and gift shop on one side and offices on the other. Anchoring the outdoor space is Jonathan Borofsky's 24-foot "Digital Man" steel sculpture. Identical cutout-like human figures of various colors stand one atop the other, testifying to human connection and community spirit.
On a recent visit, the grandniece and -nephew of the building's award-winning New York architect Toshiko Mori, who summers in North Haven, darted about the lower legs of the sculpture – a kid magnet and selfie favorite, for sure. Then it was on to ArtLab, a classroom neatly stocked with all sorts of art supplies (smocks, too). Unless a class or workshop is scheduled, visitors can create away and may be tempted to stay for the day, even if it's not a scorcher. The museum also holds special events like artist talks.
Another way to chill: Two wonderful museums are a short walk from the center: Farnsworth Art Museum, 16 Museum St., 596-6457, farnsworthmuseum.org; and Maine Lighthouse Museum, 1 Park Drive, 594-3301, mainelighthousemuseum.org.
One of two Forest Hart bronze sculptures on the grounds of Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, the facade of which was designed to look like a taxidermy shop from the turn of the last century. Photo courtesy of Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum
RANGELEY OUTDOOR SPORTING HERITAGE MUSEUM
8 Rumford Road, Oquossoc, open daily July and August and Wednesday to Sunday through October; $5, free under age 13, 864–3091. rangeleyoutdoormuseum.org
You won't work up a sweat looking for this up-and-coming museum: It's right at the intersection of routes 17 and 4 in Oquossoc, a hamlet on Rangeley's western edge along Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. Distinctive spruce siding and railings and wide eaves also make the museum easy to spot, as do outdoor displays. There's even a 12,000-year-old Paleo Native American meat cache.
There's no air-conditioning, but on hot days, towering pines and mountain breezes cool the museum, opened in 2010. Artifacts, photographs, artwork, film and text help visitors explore the mountainous, lake-strewn Rangeley region's history and culture. In the 1800s and early 1900s, "rusticators" came to the outdoors mecca, famous for its fly-fishing, to beat the heat at fancy hotels and full-service sporting camps. Before that, Native Americans fished and hunted in the area for thousands of years.
Rangeley Boats and Native American birch-bark canoes, fish and wildlife mounts, and famed fly-tier Carrie Stevens' streamer flies are among the museum's many intriguing exhibits. Perfect for a sizzling day, occasional field trips get visitors on the water to fish or scout for loons and eagles. The museum rents Rangeley Boats at three area locales. Saturday Summer Series in July and August features authors, artists, craftspeople and special events.
Another way to chill: Moose Alley isn't just a place to spot moose; it's Rangeley's happening bowling alley-plus, with 10 state-of-the-art lanes, a billiards room, a video/game arcade, live music and dancing Friday and Saturday nights, and a hip bar with stone columns and an indoor fire pit. Order food at the counter near the establishment's entrance; fare is delivered to your table, bar seat, lane or game spot. Find it at 2809 Main St. For more information, call 864-9955 or go to moosealleymaine.com.
It's all about the touch tank at Maine State Aquarium in West Boothbay Harbor. Photo courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
MAINE STATE AQUARIUM
194 McKown Point Road, West Boothbay Harbor, open daily late May through early September, then Wednesday through Sunday until Oct. 1; $7, $3 ages 3-12, younger free, 633-9559. maine.gov/dmr/education/aquarium
Nestled with other Maine Department of Marine Resources offices on a point jutting into Boothbay Harbor, the aquarium isn't air-conditioned, but still bring a layer on warm days. With cooling water flowing through display tanks and ocean breezes blowing in, this place gets chilly. But things heat up as kids hunker at the tidepool touch tank, lifting creatures like goo-dripping moon snails and scallops poised to squirt. On rainy days, the young crowds are two to three deep.
There's a shark/skate touch tank, too – nothing like touching a shark. The "extraordinary" lobster exhibit has all sizes (larva to 20 pounds), colors (albino to bright blue) and patterns (bifurcated, calico) of the crustaceans. Native Gulf of Maine species swim in tanks set in fake rocks resembling granite. Touchscreen computers and videos educate visitors about the region's marine life. The adjacent Discovery Center has hands-on activities and, this year, the exhibit "Sea Monsters: Past and Present!"
Check the sandwich board outside the aquarium for the day's programs. A lobster presentation on the porch is always scheduled. Other offerings include "Shark Encounter" and intertidal zone treks. Plan to stay for a few hours to take in a program and savor harbor views from the picnic area, which looks back on the downtown. Courtesy rods and reels (no license required) are on the dock.
Another way to chill: The marine department's Burnt Island hosts Living Lighthouse Tours on Monday and Thursday afternoons from July 6 through Aug. 24. Take guided tours of the light and keeper's house, and explore the 5-acre island at the western harbor entrance. Cost: $25, $15 age 2-12, younger free; includes boat ride. OK, this activity is largely outside, but Boothbay Harbor's candlepin bowling alley is no more. maine.gov/dmr/education/burnt-island/tours
Ogunquit Museum of American Art’s Sculpture Gallery is so-named because it looks out on the sculpture garden, with works of granite, marble, limestone, wood, bronze and other metals. Photo courtesy of Ogunquit Museum of American Art
OGUNQUIT MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
543 Shore Road, Ogunquit, open daily May through October; $10, under age 12 free; 646-4909. ogunquitmuseum.org
Heating up on Tuesday? More reason to head to here. Totally Tuesday Talks (6 p.m. usually; light refreshments, gallery viewing 5 p.m.) feature guest speakers. At 11 a.m., there's a walking tour of either the two former art colonies that were part of the museum's milieu, or the 3-acre sculpture garden surrounding its white, low-slung modern 1953 building.
Sea breezes wash over the garden, which overlooks Narrow Cove and the Atlantic Ocean and has flowers in bloom spring through fall. Joining 19 diverse permanent sculptures for the 2017 season are geometric pieces carved from found granite by sculptor Gary Haven Smith. Inside the museum, the window-walled Sculpture Gallery looks out on the garden and the water beyond.
Two shows from the collection are up through October: "Tradition and Excellence: Art and Ogunquit, 1914-1918" includes "Great War" posters and other wartime art by colony members, and "Ernest Hemingway and Henry Strater" explores the relationship between the novelist and the museum's founder, whose Hemingway portrait is exhibited. Settle in on a hot day; visitors leave books about these and other post-war expatriates in Paris.
Three of the five galleries change exhibits during the six-month season. Two major shows run until Aug. 29. "John Marin: On the Verge of Wilderness" features abstract yet distinctly Maine seascapes painted by Marin, who summered Down East and died in 1953. "Will Barnet: Family Homage" includes works from the family of the artist (1911–2012), whose figurative paintings have "abstract elements."
Have kids in tow? Artful Playdate bags are stocked with art supplies and activities. Stories by the Sea (reading, art project; $5) is at 9 a.m. on Thursdays in the summer.
Another way to chill: Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main St., puts on Broadway musicals from spring through fall (matinees Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and some Saturdays). Backstage tours are on select summer Sundays, Mondays and Fridays. For more information, call 646-5511 or go to ogunquitplayhouse.org.