Summer Adventures in Portland, Maine
Lighthouses, lobsters and L.L. Bean (the store) are the three Ls of Maine. Portland, its major city along the coast, exudes classic New England charm. Summer is the ideal time to visit with beautiful weather and many outdoor activities. We loved our visit here last year with its beautiful natural scenery and various outdoor activities. Here are some fun things to do in Portland with kids during the summer. See why Maine is called “Vacationland!”
5 Fun things to do in Portland, Maine with Kids this Summer
1. Visit Lighthouses
Maine is also referred to as The Lighthouse State with lighthouses as one of its most iconic symbols. Portland has six lighthouses within a 20-minute drive from downtown worth visiting. Check out this lighthouse driving tour. Want to exercise while sightseeing? Lighthouse bicycle tours are also available. For something more relaxing, there are also scenic lighthouse cruises.
The oldest and probably one of the most photographed in the country is Portland Head Lighthouse. We loved getting up close to this historic structure and learning more about it at the museum. There was a small trail that led to a rocky beach area perfect for a short scenic hike. It was located in Fort Williams Park with trails and wide-open green spaces for picnics, strolls and playing with wonderful ocean views. There are two playgrounds on site. My kids also enjoyed exploring the military ruins here.
2. Eat Lobster
Maine produces over 80% of the lobsters harvested in America. Eating anything lobster here is a must! Lobster rolls were cheap and delicious so we didn’t hesitate to eat them multiple times throughout the day. We’re a seafood-loving family so we were in lobster heaven. But, our most memorable experience was going out with a lobster fisherman to catch our own lobster.
Lucky Catch Cruises provides 90-minute tours everyday with various routes. They gave us various tasks and even outfitted everyone properly. We learned a lot about lobsters, how to put herring on the bait basket and haul up lobster traps. Who knew lobsters could regenerate their legs and claws? It was also a relaxing way to see Portland from the bay and was a lot of fun but also educational.
Tip: We recommend going on the last tour just in time for dinner. We were able to buy lobsters we caught at wholesale prices. Portland Lobster Company across the docks cooked them for us for $10 along with some sides.
3. Go Cruising
There are various scenic cruises that leave Portland everyday for a picturesque tour around Casco Bay. Sightseeing cruises around the bay are the most popular in addition to the lobster fishing and lighthouse cruises. It’s a great way to see the city from the water and spot birds and wildlife. There are also sunset, sunrise and moonlight cruises. We would have loved to cruise to some of the other outlying islands like Peaks Island that had hiking and biking trails, a beach and tide pools.
4. Visit the L.L. Bean Store
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’re most likely familiar with the L.L. Bean brand and its catalogs. We’ve bought many items from them over the years and were excited to finally visit a store. Its flagship store is located in Freeport, ME, which is 17 miles from Portland and is a Maine landmark.
However, this L.L. Bean isn’t any ordinary store. It’s open 24 hours everyday all year. A 16 1/2-foot tall Bean boot outside greeted us, which was a magnet for photo ops. The store felt like a natural history museum with various taxidermy animals, like elk and moose, displayed in many places. There was a 24-foot long Riverbed aquarium to keep kids occupied while parents shop. The children’s department even had several play areas and interactive stations. They also offer various free clinics and activities.
Freeport is also a charming town that offers great outlet shopping with many of the retailers in historic colonial buildings. It’s a shopper’s paradise for tweens and teens.
5. Explore Downtown
While most sightseeing puts an emphasis on the cruises, we also loved exploring Portland’s quaint cobblestone streets. The Old Port, along the waterfront, is a wonderful warehouse district area for shopping, dining and entertainment. For some educational fun, Portland has a self-guided Freedom Trail walking tour. The trail has 16 marked historic sites connected with some of the people who played a role in the Underground Railroad and Portland’s anti-slavery movement. Visit Beal’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt for some delightful and unique flavors to cool down after all that walking.
In addition to strolling the area, several land sightseeing and narrated tours are also available that kids will love. How about exploring the city aboard a vintage fire engine? We didn’t get the chance to do this but it was amusing to watch several boys’ little faces aboard this tour. There was also a Portland Discovery trolley tour that included seeing historic homes and a lighthouse cruise.
Do you have any attractions or activities to add when visiting Portland, Maine in the summer?
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Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…