Maine is known as vacationland, the Pine Tree State, and the state motto is, The Way Life Should Be. With all those things going for it, it is no wonder that each summer, thousands of vacationers flock to Maine to enjoy the stunning, rocky coastline, the thick forests full of moose and bald eagles, and of course, the sought-after lobster dinners. Maine can feel like a trip back in time, with its generally small town feel and country flavor; but as many surprised visitors will find, Portland, Maine, while a relatively small city, compared to some of its East Coast neighbors, had all the cultural offerings of a large city, but without the hassle of traffic and transportation.
Portland, Maine is Maine’s largest city, which, at about 250,000, is not saying much. With Boston, Providence, and New York City, just down the coast, Portland seems small. But most towns in Maine have an average population under 5000, so Portland, to the locals, is the big city. Many of the medical specialists are in Portland, as are the largest mall, and much of the industry of southern Maine. Portland is situated right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, with a small cove pushing in to part of the city. It is an extremely clean city with scenic parks and walking paths around the cove, the town, the old Port, and of course, the beaches.
Culturally, Portland competes with its larger counterparts. The Portland Symphony Orchestra, which performs in the majestic Merrill Auditorium in downtown Portland, gives its visitors a big city musical treat. With many performances throughout the year, the Portland Symphony orchestra brings classical music, modern variations, and special ballets and other events to Mainers and to visitors of Maine. Why spend the money to go to Boston when a wonderful symphony is right here in Maine? Portland also has an abundance of art museums and galleries. The Portland Museum of Art has regular shows including world renowned artists, local artists, special events, and if planned well in advance, the art museum will even host events such as retirement ceremonies and wedding receptions. Anyone familiar with Maine knows that Winslow Homer is a favorite artist from Maine’s past. The Winslow Homer Gallery in Portland is a charming gallery that all Homer fans must see. Other galleries include the McLellan House and L.D.M. Sweat Memorial Galleries, as well as many smaller galleries tucked around the Old Port.
Speaking of the Old Port, this is where Portland gets its name. The Old Port is a working port, or waterfront, with all the delights that go along with such things. Not only does it sport the fishing and lobster boats, as well as seagulls and crusty, Maine fishermen, the Old Port also boasts many charming shops and restaurants. DeMillo’s is a restaurant every visitor to Portland will want to try. Set on a ship, DeMillo’s gives patrons an amazing night time view of the ocean and the Old Port, and the entire skyline around the bay. The food is decadent and the service is perfect. There are many other restaurants wtih every type of food imaginable, from the typical Maine lobster dinner to Thai food and Indian cuisine. Pubs and night clubs are also popular around the Old Port.
Portland also has a baseball team called the Portland Seadogs. Baseball fans will love Haddock Field where they can experience big time baseball in a small town stadium. In the winter time, the Portland Pirates hockey team plays at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Tickets are inexpensive and the entire family can go to these games.
And perhaps most importantly, Portland has its share of lighthouses. Maine is known for its beacons on the coast, and visitors to Portland will not be disappointed. The Portland Head Light, just south of town, has a quaint museum that tells visitors about many of the lighthouses in Maine, and a gift shop for taking home a souvenir of your visit. On sunny days, the view is magnificent.
The next time you head to the East Coast for a vacation, consider Portland, Maine. It is the small city with the big city benefits, and as in all the rest of Maine, it is the Way Life Should Be.