By Jessica Takach
3.6 million tourists visit the largest city in Maine each year, and they are coming here for a reason. Quaint cobble stone streets of the downtown “Old Port” flow into the working docks and ships of the harbor. There’s a lot to do and see here, whether you are in town for the shops, museums, or the lobster. Bring your walking shoes!
The Old Port: This is the oldest part of town and arguably has the most charm. Some of the original cobblestone streets remain (which can be trecherous in heels!), and many of the buildings are hundreds of years old. You can see the harbor from Commercial Street, the main street with many interesting and unique shops.
Dining in the Old Port: Portland residents and visitors like their food, and maybe that is why Portland has more restaurants per capita than any other city-and luckily they are all very good. If you are looking for a gourmet meal, try Street & Company, located on Wharf Street, which has plenty of charming cobblestones. The lobster di friavlo for two is a fantastic deal, and you will not go hungry. Other downtown dining destinations include: Mims, Walter’s, Flatbread Company, Five Fifty-Five, Downtown Lounge, and Fuji Restaurant, just to name a very few. The price range varies greatly between all of those. The best meal for your money would probably be at the Downtown Lounge, which truly serves gourmet food for around $7.97 an entrÃ©e. It is small and is also a bar, so arrive early for a good table and an even better meal.
Museums and Historical Options: The Portland Museum of Art is an excellent museum that has changing exhibits as well as a permanent collection. It is certainly worth checking out. Other nearby historical fixes are the Longfellow House, where Wadsworth Longfellow lived and wrote. Also, as you explore the downtown area, you will see many galleries lining the streets. Check them out! Often the first week of the month many galleries have wine and cheese receptions.
Casco Bay Islands: To truly appreciate Portland, you need to get out in the Harbor to see its coastline and its exit to the sea. You can do all of this for around $6 round trip on the Casco Bay Ferry! Take a trip to Peak’s Island for dinner, ice cream, or just a stroll around this small island. The houses are lovely and the view incredible.
Catch a Play: If you are here in the right season, you can catch a play at the Portland Stage Company. In May, the Little Festival of the Unexpected is put on and is always a treat to see.
Catch A Symphony: The Portland Symphony Orchestra puts on delightful performances each fall and winter in the beautiful Merrill Auditorium. If you are up to see the leaves, I would recommend taking in a concert if you have time. These performances range from classical to Pops performances of modern music.
Go to a Game!: Portland is home of the Portland Sea Dogs and if you’d like to support the home team, grab some tickets! Tickets are very inexpensive and you get to see a pro game at beautiful Hadlock Field.
Get a bite to eat at the Portland Public Market: The Portland Public Market is a beautiful building which houses local vendors. There are tons of fresh flowers, organic produce, and excellent meats and seafood. If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, pick something up here to cook at home!
Just WALK!: There is no better way to see Portland than to walk. It is very much a pedestrian town, so feel free to explore on foot.
Catch Lobsters: That’s right, you can catch your very own lobsters. Check out the wharf area to find a lobster boat company that will take you out to learn about lobsters as well as bring in the traps. The company I have gone with is Lucky Catch Lobsters! You have the option of purchasing the lobsters you catch at the end of the cruise. Word to the wise, check out other wharf markets beforehand, so you know if you are getting a good deal. Oftentimes those lobsters you worked hard hauling up yourself are more expensive!
These are just a few activities to get you going in Portland, Maine. Enjoy your travels!