Not to be confused with Portland, Oregon (although everyone assumes that’s where I’m headed when I say I’m going to Portland), Portland, Maine is an ultra-rad city in southern Maine that should definitely be on everyone’s Maine itinerary since, well, there are tons of amazing things to do in Portland, Maine.
Because if you’re into craft beers, love to eat all your feels, enjoy the sweet smell of the ocean, love listening to the ocean crash up onto the shore, then this my friend is the place for you.
Just do yourself a solid and watch out for a rogue seagull or two as you take in the sweeping views of Casco Bay from the Eastern Promenade and explore the many red-brick warehouses and narrow cobblestone streets that dot the Old Port area.
However, if you plan to do your visit to the biggest city in Maine right, then you’ll need to get off the well-trodden tourist path and explore ALL of the very best things to do in Portland Maine.
And I’m just the girl to help since I’ve visited Portland Maine at least 15 different times and want to show you exactly how to be like all the cool kids and get the very most out of this beyond glorious, hipster paradise.
So, buckle up since it’s gonna be one hella awesome ride. Because in this hipster AF small city, you’ll find museums, scenic train rides, art galleries, lighthouses, exquisite green spaces, and breweries aplenty – making it the ideal place for a weekend in Portland Maine itinerary.
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If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.
After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especialy since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic.
Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.
Where to Stay in Portland Maine
Have no idea where to stay while experiencing all of the best things to do in Portland Maine? No worries because I’ve got you covered. Here are some of my favie fave places to stay while I’m spending the weekend in Portland Maine.
- The Blind Tiger Inn – This is an upscale guest house with Individually decorated rooms that are all tucked away inside a stunning, Federal-style mansion from 1823, This amazing 3.5-star hotel is also conveniently located in Portland’s posh West End, with rooms that start at $190 per night. Heck, you’ll even get your very own personalized welcome note upon arrival and can dig into a complimentary continental breakfast every morning of your stay.
- The Inn on Carleton – This place looks beyond epic and I’m totally staying here during my next weekend in Portland Maine. Because not only do rooms here start at just $120 per night, but they are all uniquely outfitted with beautiful decor and sit inside a fully restored townhouse from 1869. Guests can also enjoy a scrumptious, two-course breakfast that is actually of foodie fame in the greater Portland area. And yes, I really would stay in a hotel just for their breakfast.
- The Press Hotel – This 4-star hotel is a Marriott Autograph Collection establishment with rooms that start at $140 per night. This historic building was also once the headquarters of the Portland Press Herald, so you’ll definitely find journalist-inspired decor scattered throughout the building (imagine vintage typewriters and old-school newspapers framed on the walls). Rooms also resemble chic writing nooks that are adorned with leather seats, old-world desks, and textiles from local artisans. There’s also a delicious on-site restaurant called Union, which is easily one of the best restaurants in the city (the here brunch is particularly delicious).
1. Eat ALL the donuts at Holy Donut
I’m not gonna lie, when someone first told me that inhaling a donut from Holy Donut was one of the best things to do in Portland Maine, I was a bit skeptical.
I mean, not only have I had my fair share of delicious donuts in my time (I am from NYC after all), but “Maine potato donuts” actually sounded pretty dang gross to me.
Like, really, why would I want potatoes in my donuts? #gross
But then I was planning a weekend in Portland Maine and everyone swore to me that I was forbidden from leaving the city before trying at least one Holy Donut.
And now? Well, I’m a total convert and cannot wait to plan my next trip to Portland Maine so that I can devour more of these gorgeous donuts.
Now, while I haven’t tried all their flavors, I can definitely recommend their maple donut (although I didn’t think it tasted like maple) and the sea salt and chocolate donut since both are moist, delicious, very much not-greasy, and not overly sweat either.
They are also BIG, so you could definitely share one. The lattes are also really good so if you want to chase your donut with a delicious coffee, then by all means, do so.
FYI, they also have multiple locations in the Portland area (Park Avenue, Exchange Street, and Scarborough) so feel free to hit up the Scarborough location (there’s plenty of parking) before visiting some of the many lighthouses in Portland, like Portland Head Light.
Pro Tip: They close at 4:00 pm so be aware of that since I was personally surprised they closed so early. This place is also really popular so try and get here as close to opening as possible (like right at 6:30 am) for the best selection of donut-y goodness.
And if you can’t make it to Holy Donut then you could always hit up HIFI Donuts instead. It sits right near the Portland Museum of Art and serves up some awesome crullers and epic flavored coffees like the salted cherry blossom cappuccino (YUM).
Address: 194 Park Ave, Portland, ME 04102
Hours: Open daily from 6:30 am to 4:00 pm.
Price: Donuts cost around $3.50 but the price does vary slightly by flavor.
2. Go on An Old Port Culinary Walking Tour
Spend a weekend in Portland Maine and you’ll quickly learn that one of the best Portland Maine activities of them all is to stuff your face silly with food, glorious food.
Because the foodie scene in Portland? Well, it’s second to none. Therefore, be sure to pack plenty of elastic waist pants before embarking on this list of the best things to do in Portland Maine.
Trust me, you’re gonna need them since I ate my body weight in cookies, donuts, french fries, and lobster rolls while I was here.
But, if you’re new to the city, it can be kind of hard to know where to eat and how to get around without getting totally lost – especially if you’re only spending a quick weekend in Portland.
And that’s where this Old Port Culinary Walking Tour comes in mighty handy!
Because during this three-hour, expert-led walking food tour of the Old Port area, you’ll stroll along quaint cobblestone streets and take in stunning ocean views – all while stuffing yourself silly with some of the best food that the city has to offer.
So, get ready to indulge in authentic, Maine-inspired food while discovering the fascinating history of this enchanting port city.
Along the way, you’ll also get to meet some local culinary rock stars, hear exactly how they got their start, and can even sample some local Maine craft beer (if you’re of age).
And while each tour is different, there’s a 99.9% chance that you’ll get to taste fresh Maine lobster, homemade desserts, a locally-sourced temaki (raw fish) roll, Maine-style “chowdah”, craft beer, Maine honey wine, and dark chocolate truffles made from Aroostook County potatoes.
So yeah, excuse me while I grab a moist toilette and indulge in a quick snack because writing about this epic food tour is making me more than a little hungry.
Address: Meet up at Union Kitchen (1 Union Wharf, Portland, ME04101)
Hours: Tours are offered daily, run for three hours, and depart at 10:30 am.
Price: $129 per person and limited to a group of no more than ten and no less than two people.
3. Victoria Mansion
If you love historic homes ALMOST as much as I do then the Victoria Mansion is easily one of the best things to do in Portland Maine.
Sure, it’s not overly impressive from the outside (of course there are lovely balconies and verandas to enjoy).
But, venture within and you’ll discover a stunning, Italianate palace from the 1860s with an interior that is perfectly outfitted with period-piece furniture, elaborate frescoes, awesome carpets, stained glass skylights, exquisite draperies, gilded walls, and so much more.
Decor that is reflective of the owner’s unique background since he was apparently a hotel big wig from New Orleans. As a result, he wanted the decor and stained glass windows here to pay tribute to Maine and the awesomeness of the deep south.
Eventually, though, the elaborate summer residence was bought from Ruggles Sylvester Morse and transformed into the gorgeous museum that you now see today.
So, add this bad boy of awesome to your weekend in Portland itinerary and learn all about the fascinating history of this amazing place from a super knowledgeable guide.
Also, be on the lookout for other SUPER modern amenities like hot/cold water and central heating. Yeah, they may not sound uber-fab now, but they were at the heights of modernity back in the day.
Pro Tip: If you can visit in December when the mansion gets bedazzled with ornate Christmas decorations and temporarily opens to the public for the holidays. Typically, at this time of year, the mansion is open between 10:00 am and 3:45 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, and from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Mondays. There’s also no big lot for you to park in so you’ll need to find some 1-2 hour on-street parking during your visit.
Address: 109 Danforth Street, Portland, Maine
Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, with the last admission at 3:45 pm.
Price: Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (62+), $5 for children (6-17), and free for kids 5 and under.
4. Go on a Craft Beer Crawl
Another one of the many fun things to do in Portland Maine? Why check out one of the thirty different craft beer breweries in the city.
And while I definitely haven’t been to them all (nor do I want to since I don’t drink), you can definitely check out one or two while you’re in Portland.
Personally, I stopped into the Urban Farm Fermentory since, in addition to beer, they serve a fantastic selection of non-alcoholic, homemade Jun and Kombucha.
I also loved the vibe since the staff are super helpful, there is a great selection of food and drinks on the menu, the decor is super fun/funky, and they have a large outdoor seating area where you can sit and listen to live music.
So, it’s a super chill place to relax and sip on a drink since the vibe is relaxed and not at all like a rave where drunk AF twenty-somethings are puking all over the place.
However, some other local craft beer breweries you might want to check out include:
- Bunker Brewing Company – it’s set inside a 1920s-era garage
- Novare Res Bier Café – A nice beer garden with a great food menu and a nice selection of beers from around the world.
- Allagash Brewery – This is Maine’s most widely sold beer and you can stop in for an Allagash White. For $5, you can also do a tour of the facility and enjoy some awesome samples (I’ve heard the tour is really good so definitely consider doing that).
- Hop on the Maine Brew Bus – It’s a bright green bus and experts will drive you and give you epic info about will take you on about some of the many distilleries, breweries and wineries in the area.
- Austin Street Brewing – It’s right across the street from Allagash and is a popular place to try light and refreshing beers that vary by season.
- Liquid Riot – it’s right in the Old Port area and feels more like a bar than a brewery. They also have a solid menu that makes this a great place for dinner too.
FYI, that’s not an exhaustive list but just some of the highlights.
And if you want to visit as many breweries in as little time as possible, then definitely check out this 3-hour, tasting tour of 3 different local breweries, including Allagash and Liquid Riot.
Not only will you get to enjoy generous samples of local craft beer with a bunch of fellow beer-loving travelers, but you’ll also learn all about the fascinating history of the craft beer industry in Portland.
Yup, just a fun, informative, and quick/easy way to experience the best of Portland’s craft beer scene – especially since you’ll enjoy lots of samples and snacks for just $79.50 per person.
So, sign up now and make the most fo your weekend in Portland.
Pro Tip: Another great place to go for a drink is Lincoln’s! It’s a secret speakeasy with a chill AF vibe where all the drinks cost just $5 (hence the name).
Address: Meet up at Old Port Spirits and Cigars (79 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101)
Hours: Tours are three hours long and offered saily at 11:30 am and 3:00 pm.
Price: The tour is $79.50 per person.
5. The Portland Museum of Art
Not gonna lie, I’m kind of a snob when it comes to art museums. I mean, I practically grew up in the MET and find that, as a result, I’m not usually all that impressed by most art museums since they just can’t compare.
And while The Portland Museum of Art definitely isn’t the MET, it is an amazing art institution in Portland (about a 20-minute walk from the Old Port area) that was first founded way back in ye olde 1882.
Fast forward over a hundred years and you’ll now find more than 18,000 different works of art in rotation here, as well as several special temporary exhibits on the ground floor – pieces that have been created by icons of the art world like Monet, Degas, Renoir, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and more.
Now, are most of the works here paintings? Yeah, 100%. But, there are also a ton of sculptures, drawings, ceramics, and video art installations on display here too.
And while some pieces are created by famous American and European artists, there is definitely an effort to showcase works done by local Maine artists too (think works done by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Louise Nevelson, and Andrew Wyeth).
So, if you like art even a little bit, then feel free to explore all three floors of this building, as well as the 1801 Federal-style McLellan House Galleries in the back.
Yeah, the McLellan House is a total must-see since it’s basically this fully restored historic home that also has a ton of 18th and 19th-century American art for you to enjoy.
Therefore, expect to spend anywhere between two and three hours here, depending on how much you like art.
Pro Tip: Either before or after your visit, feel free to stop by Speckled Ax for a coffee and CBG (a low-key bar/restaurant) for some delicious food/drinks. I had the coddled eggs for brunch (toast, truffle potatoes, poached eggs, creamed spinach, and toast) and had zero regrets.
Also, try and visit on Friday when admission is free for all. FYI, there’s no designated museum lot for parking. Therefore, your best best is street parking which is $1.75 per hour and free on Sundays and Saturdays after 6:00 pm.
Address: 7 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Open Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Fridays from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm when admission is free for everyone.
Price: Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors/students.
6. Ride the Ferry to Peaks Island
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Portland proper?
Then one of the best things to do in Portland Maine is to take the ferry to Peaks Island, or any of the other islands in the area really (aka Little Diamond Island, Great Diamond Island, Long Island, Cliff Island, Chebeague Island, and Bailey island in the summer).
Because not only is Peaks Island a mere twenty-minute ride away from Portland, but the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal is located right smack dab in the middle of the Old Port area and sits at the intersection of Franklin and Commerical Streets.
So yeah, this big, yellow ferry is super easy to find and has regular departures to Peaks Island. Obviously ferry times vary by season but even in the winter, they still have ferries that depart to and from the island every hour or so.
Fares are also pretty dang cheap since a round-trip ticket to Peaks Island will cost you a mere $7.70 for an adult passenger in the peak season and just $4.10 in the off-season.
And once on the island? Well, ride around and enjoy the sweet, sweet views of the ocean. Sure, there are a few restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, and one hotel.
But, on the whole, there isn’t a ton to do.
That’s why I’d personally rent a bike (turn left at the main street and there will be a self-rent bike place on your right where bikes are $10 per hour. And an hour should be enough time to ride around the island unless you want to stop and take a ton of photos like me) or drive a golf cart around the edge of the island (the island is pretty small so I don’t think a golf cart is necessary TBH).
If you want, you can also take some time to hike along some of the island’s many trails or visit the umbrella cover museum (it’s quirky AF and even has an x-rated section) and the Fifth Maine Museum too (a museum about the Fifth Maine regiment that served in the Civil War. it’s small with limited hours only on Fridays).
Pro Tip: Personally I don’t think you need an entire day on Peaks Island. I think devoting either a morning or afternoon to exploring the island should be more than enough time. Also, be careful where you park your car. Some lots charge $10 an hour while some charge $10 per day. So, be on the lookout for the parking lots with the more reasonable fees.
Address: 56 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: They vary based on the season and which island you want to visit. But in general, services start as early as 5:00 am and continue until well after 10:00 pm daily. But check their website for more info.
Price: Round trip tickets to Peaks Island are $7.70 for adults and $3.85 for children/seniors/disabled in the peak season and $4.10 for adults and $2.00 for children/seniors/disabled in the off-peak season.
7. Stroll through the Old Port Area
Personally, I’m not a HUGE fan of the Old Port area. Yes, it’s charming with its cobblestone streets, fishing piers, and repurposed warehouses overlooking the water (now stores, restaurants, and souvenir shops).
But, truth be told, it all feels just a little bit too touristy to me.
That being said though, if you’re planning your very first weekend in Portland itinerary then this is easily one of the best things to do in Portland Maine.
Plus, you’ll be in the area anyway since a lot of the items on this are right here. So yeah, it’s kind of like, umm, why not visit?
However, the real question remains, what should you do once you get here?
Well, here are some awesome Portland Maine things to do in the Old Port area:
- Attend a Festival – A lot of people flock to the area for the aptly named Old Port Festival in June and for Merry Madness in December.
- Shop Til You Drop – There are a ton of cool stores in the area like Sea Bags (they make chic bags out of old sailboat sails), Rough & Tumble (more handmade handbags), and Zane for designer clothes, just to name a few.
- Get some Items for your Home Kitchen – I’m not a cook but I’ve heard that Salt Cellar and Skordo carry the best fresh spices, herbs, and rubs for all your most dire cooking needs.
- Eat ALL the Food – There are a TON of great places to eat in the area. So, if you’re hungry after all this exploring, then hit up Duck Fat (it’s super popular since they have amazing fries) for delicious burgers/fries, grab a small plate at Central Provisions (the breakfast burger is supposed to be good), or grab an authentic lobster roll at The Highroller Lobster Co.
8. Get Creeped Out at Eastern Cemetery
Read my blog even once and you’ll know just how hardcore obsessed I am with the macabre and things that go bump in the night.
That’s why I couldn’t possibly create a list of the best things to do in Portland Maine without at least briefly mentioning the historic, Eastern Cemetery.
Because it was founded way back when in 1668 and is the final resting place for more than 4,000 of Portland’s most influential citizens.
It also gives you some pretty neat insights into the various socio-economic divisions of the past since sections of the cemetery are segregated based on a person’s affluence within the community.
And while you can definitely explore this place on your own, you can also visit it as part of a guided tour with Spirits Alive (tours run from June through October).
I haven’t personally done the tour myself since I usually visit in the off-season, but it’s high on my list of fun things to do in Portland Maine the next time I’m in town.
Pro Tip: This cemetery is a hop, skip, and jump away from the Maine Jewish Museum and the Duck Fat Friteshack where you can stop in for some of the BEST fries in town. So yeah, you can easily add all three of these things to your weekend in Portland Maine itinerary if you’re in the area.
Address: 224 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am to 6:30 pm from April to October and from 7:00 am to 4:30 pm daily from November through March.
9. Stop by the Portland Observatory!
No list of the best things to do in Portland Maine could ever be complete without mentioning the Portland Observatory.
Because this unique place is seven stories tall and is the only maritime signal tower still standing in the good old United States.
So yeah, take that sweet nugget of knowledge with you and go win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, you baller you.
Anyway, it was actually first built in 1807, by Captain Lemuel Moody, atop Munjoy Hill and was used to let ship owners know when their beloved boats were on their way home.
Since then though, the observatory has been transformed into a wonderful museum where you can go on a guided tour of the unique, octagon-shaped structure.
Each floor also has a ton of fascinating exhibitions that detail the history of Portland, the maritime industry, and the development of the building itself.
Whatever you do though, do not leave without climbing to the lantern at the tippity top of the tower. Once here, you can marvel at sweeping panoramas of Portland from the balcony here.
I pinkie promise it’s even cooler than it sounds.
Address: 138 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Open seasonally from late May through October, the tower is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm – with extended hours until 8:00 pm in July and August.
Price: Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids (6 – 16).
10. Walk Along the Eastern Promenade
Umm…even if you’re only planning to spend the weekend in Portland Maine, you can’t really come all the way to this beyond gorgeous state without exploring the great outdoors, now can you?
And of course, the only correct response to that question is a hard no.
Because one of the greatest things about any trip to Maine is the fact that you get to go back outside and renew your connection with nature – or develop one if you’re chained to your desk like me.
So, although Portland is definitely a city, there are still a ton of uber-fab green spaces where you can frolic along the coast, sit on the beach, and enjoy sweet views of about a bazillion different lighthouses.
And you’ll be beyond delighted to know that the Eastern Promenade is one of those places.
Just make a left at the Casco Bay Lines terminal and keep walking along the water until you hit this 2.1-mile trail that takes you along the water and offers great views of nearby Bug Light (more on that later).
It’s also not a secret so you will definitely be sharing this walking path with a ton of other people, including people riding bikes and walking their dogs.
Although, what you could do is start at Fort Allen Park (parking there is free) and then walk towards the Old Port area in Portland.
Either way, this is a lovely, incredibly accessible, paved walking path with stellar views of the ocean and surrounding area.
If you want, you could also relax on East End Beach (No swimming since the water is hella cold but you could launch a kayak or sunbathe) which is one of the few sandy beaches I’ve seen in Maine.
Pro Tip: Avoid the crowds and enjoy a killer sunrise from the Eastern Promenade if you can actually manage to get up that early. And if you really enjoy the outdoors, you can also check out the Back Cove Trail. It’s pretty flat, a mix of paved/stone-dust paths is a popular sport for running/biking/walking, and gives you nice panoramas of the city.
11. Go on a Vintage Train Ride!
Okay, is this one of those things to do in Portland Maine that is more than a little touristy? Umm, hi, yeah, absolutely.
But if you’re reading this post right now, then chances are pretty good that you’re a tourist and that type of thing will be totally up your alley.
However, rather than continue to be deliberately evasive, let me spill the proverbial beans and talk about the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad.
And while it’s technically a museum, that’s really a bit of a stretch since the “museum” is basically a giant gift shop and ticket counter with a few small plaques and displays about the history of the railroad.
No, the real highlight of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad is a 35-minute ride (15 minutes each way with a five-minute stop in between) aboard a super cool, vintage-style train that chugs along the Eastern Promenade.
Because the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad has preserved these historic trains so that they can be used by the public on a two-foot gauge railway that is 1.5 miles long.
Added bonus? Exceptionally knowledgeable train conductors and operators are always available (and eager) to give you all the juicy deets and historic info about these super cool trains.
So, if you’re looking for fun things to do in Portland with kids, then hop aboard and choose between their fully restored, historically accurate first-class cars or their open-air cars in the rear of the train.
Yup, just a super fun way to experience all that Portland Maine has to offer.
Address: 49 Thames St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Trains run daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm beginning on April 1 and ending on October 31st.
Price: Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for kids (3-12), and free for kids 2 and under.
12. Explore All (or Some) of Portland’s Many Lighthouses
Cool thing number 10,367 about Portland? There are about a bazillion different lighthouses within a 10-minute drive of the city.
Okay, yeah, that’s a total lie. There are actually more like five different ligthhouses within a short drive or Portland and I have definitely been to them all.
Which is why I wrote this insanely helpful post about 7 of the best lighthouses in Portland Maine.
It’ll have the inside scoop on everything you need to know to visit these beyond gorg lighthouses while you spend the weekend in Portland Maine.
However, that’s also why I’m not gonna go into a ton of detail about each one of these lighthouses since you can just read that nifty little post.
But, just in case you can’t be bothered to click through, here are all the different lighthouses that you can visit if you’re looking for even more fun things to do in Portland Maine.
- Bug Light – It’s little and cute and has an associated museum you can visit during peak season. It’s also probably the closest lighthouse to Portland and won’t really take that long to visit since it sits inside a small park. So yeah, you can get your photo ops and then peace out.
- Spring Point Ledge Light – You’ll have to go through a local community campus to visit this lighthouse. But it’s really close to bug light and definitely worth a visit. Just be REALLY careful when walking out to the lighthouse on the breakwater since there are HUGE gaps in the stone. So yeah, definitely not for anyone with limited mobility or small children. Also, don’t walk out here in the dark or in bad weather.
- Portland Head Light – Probably the prettiest lighthouse of the bunch and the one you’ll find on every Maine travel brochure ever made. It’s definitely worth a visit though since it’s just a 15-minute drive from Portland. It also sits inside Fort Williams Park which is a fantastic park and the perfect place to spend the day. If you go during peak season though, try to visit early on a weekday (like at sunrise) so that you can avoid the crowds.
- Two Lights (aka Cape Elizabeth Light) – Honestly, this one was my least fave of the bunch and the one you can probably skip if you’re short on time. And while there are two lighthouses here, one is actually a home and the other you can only admire from a distance. However, the views of the ocean here are really lovely and you can do a bit of low-key hiking in Two Lights State Park right next door if you want something fun to do in the area. Just don’t go looking for any lighthouses in Two Lights State Park because they aren’t actually there.
- Really love lighthouses? Then sign up for this awesome Portland Maine Lighthouse Bike Tour, with an authentic Maine lobster roll for lunch! It’s an amazing, five-hour tour that takes you through Ferry Village, one of the cutest parts of the city, and to Bug Light. Next, cruise down to Spring Point Ligthhouse, learn all about historic Fort Preble, and then continue along Shore Road to Portland Head Light. Once here, you’ll relax and enjoy a fresh Maine lobster roll while admiring stunning views of the ocean. And all for just $136 per person!
13. Check Out Tate House Museum
Oh look, another historic home made it onto this list of the best things to do in Portland Maine.
A fact that is shocking to exactly no one since your girl over here is hardcore obsessed with history.
Yeah, I legit get all those warm, fuzzy feels every time I step inside a historic home that has been meticulously restored to its former glory.
And the Tate House Museum is no exception to that rule since it was the former Colonial-era residence of George Tate – a man who has the honor of being the state’s last British ‘mast agent’.
What, no idea what a mast agent is? Yeah me neither. But Google tells me that it’s a person who snagged New England White Pine for the British so that they could use it to continue building their navy.
If you’re still confused, not to worry because you’ll learn about all this and more at the Tate House Museum, which is currently the only private residence from the pre-Revolutionary period that is open to the public.
So, step inside, see how the other half lived in 18th-century America, go on a nifty guided tour of the home, and learn all about the home, George Tate, the mast trade, and life in Colonial New England.
Pro Tip: Love museums or history in general? Then check out some of the following places because this list of the best things to do in Portland Maine is getting War and Peace level long.
- Longfellows House – This is the former residence of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and you can now take a guided tour of this stunning, Georgian mansion. Along the way, you’ll see many of Longfellow’s belongings, learn about his life, and can even explore the estate’s lush, Colonial-style gardens.
- Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine – More playground than museum, this is one of the best things to do in Portland Maine with kids. Highlights include a replica lobster boat, a fake cow you can milk, a sound studio, an indoor rock wall, and an optical illusion that projects an entire panorama of Portland through a tiny pinhole.
- Main Library – This is just a beautiful, architecturally stunning, 83,000-sq-ft building with unique glass installations that bend light to create a bright and airy environment where you can become better acquainted with the bookish glory that is Portland.
Address: 1267 Westbrook Street, Portland, Maine 04102
Hours: Open June 1 through October 30 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Wednesday through Saturday, and from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Sundays, with the last tour at 3:00 pm.
Price: Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $7 for kids (6-12), and free for kids 6 and under.
14. Eat all the Duck Fat Fries You Can Stomach
I love food, yes I do, I love food, how about you? And Duck Fat fries are no exception to that rule since they are served hot, crispy, and ready to eat with your choice of two dipping sauces (and just the right amount of salt).
So, mosey on over to Duckfat Friteshack and order all the fries you can stomach since they are hand-cut, made with the best Maine potatoes in the state, and are fried with, you guessed it, duck fat (hence the name).
You’ll also love that this fry shack actually shares a dining area with Oxbow Blending and Bottling.
So yeah, you can totally order all the fries you want – which is only because you obviously NEED something to soak up all that alcohol you’re about to ingest (wink, wink).
Just walk up to the window, order a behemoth serving of fries (they can definitely be a meal on their own or you can further fortify yourself with some poutine, milkshakes, and doughnut holes), and impatiently wait for your beeper to go off, indicating that you order is ready.
Yes-sir-ee, the hardest part of the entire process will be deciding if you want garlic mayo, curry mayo, thai chili mayo, horseradish mayo, or truffle ketchup as your dipping sauce of choice (remember, you get two for free).
Spoiler alert: The truffle ketchup was my fave.
Pro Tip: For a more formal dining experience, you can stop into the Duckfat restaurant near the Old Port area and try an assortment of delicious dishes from their full menu.
15. Eat all the Lobster You Can Find
I forbid you to leave Maine without adding, “eat lobster” to your list of the best things to do in Portland Maine. Unless of course, you’re allergic or just totally hate lobster.
In which case, rock on with your bad self and feel free to send me all of your residual lobster.
Because eating lobster is a quintessential part of any trip to Maine. And Portland has its fair share of decadent lobster joints where you can order a whole steamed lobster or an iconic Maine lobster roll.
And just in case you’re not 100% sure what a Maine lobster roll actually is, it should consist of a center cut, buttered and then toasted New England hot dog roll that is piled high with a ridiculous amount of fresh lobster – fresh lobster meat that is lightly tossed with mayo and sometimes served with melted butter too.
So, if you want to procure this decadent delight for yourself, then head to Susan’s Fish-n-Chips, The Highroller Lobster Co, Portland Lobster Company, or J’s Oyster and thank me later.
16. Enjoy a Delicious Meal at Central Provisions
Located in the dynamic Old Port area, Central Provisions is one of the best things to do in Portland Maine for you if you love quirky eateries (with charming brick walls) that serve a fantastic array of delicious small plates.
Therefore, it’s an ideal place to come with a large group of friends since you can easily share a range of different dishes among you.
Plus, the menu here is seasonal and constantly changing. As a result, you can always discover a new assortment of creative dishes with bold flavors and great textures.
However, during my last visit, the standout favorites for me were the fried cauliflower and fried Maine grains polenta.
Just be sure to save room for their refreshing key lime tart at the end of your meal and you won’t regret adding this place to your Portland Maine itinerary.
Pro Tip: This place is popular with a capital “P”. So, try and visit at an off-time to ensure you get a table since they do not take reservations.
Address: 414 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: Open daily from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and again from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Price: Small plates start at around $12.00 each.
17. Sail Casco Bay with Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours
No list of the best things to do in Portland Maine could ever be complete without discussing the always enchanting, ever beautiful, Casco Bay.
After all, it sits right along the shores of Portland and is best enjoyed by sea. And while there are many Casco Bay cruise companies operating in the area, Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours is one of my all time faves.
Not only are guides super knowledgeable (thanks Wendy), but you can do a land-based tour (in a super cute vintage trolley), a sea-based tour, or a combination of thew two.
Personally, I added a Harbor Lights and Sights Cruise to my list of top things to do in Portland Maine and was not disappointed since you get to see all the idyllic lighthouses in Portland Harbor and enchanting, Diamond Pass waterway too.
Add in some great expert commentary as you marvel at Maine’s famed, Portland Head Light, and you have the perfect addition to any Portland Maine itinerary.
Pro Tip: It can get REALLY chilly out on the water so be sure to bring/wear a jacket, regardless of when you visit.
Address: 170 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
Hours: 105-minute, narrated, day-time tours depart daily, between May and October, at 10:30 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:30 pm.
Price: Around $40.00 per person.
Other Maine Resources You’ll Love!
- 17+ Amazing Things to do in Rockland Maine
- 13 of the Best Hikes in Maine
- The Absolute Best Time to Visit Maine, with Amazing Expert Tips
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