June 19, 2018
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50 things to do in Maine this summer

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

Greetings, Mainers. Welcome, visitors.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is as follows.

Go have fun.

Dance. Sing. Watch. Listen. Ride your bike to work. Put on your swim goggles and dive right in. Learn something you never knew about your hometown, or visit a place you’ve never been to before. Pick up a skill. Try making sushi or woodworking. Finally go to that restaurant you’ve heard people rave about. Grab a blanket and some sunblock and hit the beach, or a grassy spot at an outdoor music festival. See a movie that’s not one of the big summer blockbusters; maybe even go see a play. And, just once, eat ice cream for dinner.

You can do all of that and more in Maine. You don’t have any excuse: Here are 50 things to do this summer. Lots of them are free; the rest are affordable. Many are extremely family-friendly, and some are just for grownups.

This list will not self-destruct in five seconds; in fact, you should clip it out, put it on the refrigerator, keep it in the car or your purse. But most importantly, read it and try something different this summer. Over and out.


Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival June 25-Aug. 29, Kneisel Hall, Blue Hill; kneisel.org.

Every year some of the most talented young classical musicians from all over the world come to Blue Hill to learn from some of the most talented professional musicians in the world. At 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 4 p.m. Sundays, there are concerts spanning centuries of compositions, in the beautiful Kneisel Hall. Tickets are $20-$30.

Nateva Festival July 2-4, Oxford Fairgrounds, Oxford; natevafestival.com.

Further featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, the Flaming Lips, Moe, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, She & Him, Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, Drive-By Truckers, George Clinton/Parliament Funkadelic, Jakob Dylan, plus around 40 more. Camping all weekend. ’Nuff said.

17th Annual North Atlantic Blues Festival July 10-11, Harbor Park, Rockland; northatlanticbluesfestival.com.

This laid-back celebration of sunshine, beer, the ocean and the blues features such luminaries as Keb Mo’, Shemekia Copeland and James Cotton, among many others. And don’t forget the pub and club crawl after hours.

KahBang Music and Arts Festival Aug. 6-14, downtown Bangor; www.kahbang.com.

The KahBang Festival is back again this year, and it’s twice its original size and includes a film festival this time around, as well as events all week long in downtown Bangor, leading up to the two-day waterfront music fest. Biz Markie and OK Go headline.

Beltek Festival Saturday, Aug. 7, Port City Music Hall, Congress Street, Portland; beltekfestival.com.

The outdoor electronic music festival, held in the past on a farm in Belmont, this year had to move off the old property into a club in Portland. The party was just too big. Beltek 2010 is an all-night dance party with some incredible DJs; proceeds go toward making sure Beltek 2011 can return in all its outdoor summer glory.

Arootsakoostick Music Festival 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, Thomas Park, New Sweden.

Maine-made music in tranquil, scenic northern Maine, organized by true believer Travis Cyr. Hear some of the best indie rock, bluegrass and power pop bands the state has to offer. Donations benefit the park.

Bar Harbor Jazz Festival Aug. 18-27, downtown Bar Harbor; barharborjazzfest.com.

Nine days of Maine jazz and jazz-influenced groups take over every park, bar and restaurant that’ll have them. It’s arguably the peak of the season for Mount Desert Island, so take the opportunity to enjoy some free Maine-made music all week long.

Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festivals June-17-20, Aug. 26-29, Litchfield Fairgrounds; blisteredfingers.com.

Not one but two bluegrass festivals, featuring a who’s who of Maine and New England musicians and a satisfying handful of other groups from around the country. Tickets start at $10 for a day, which surely is enough to get you pickin’ and grinnin’.

American Folk Festival Aug. 27-29, Bangor Waterfront; americanfolkfestival.com.

It goes without saying that the ninth installment of the music and traditional arts festival is a must-do. Free, family-friendly and an amazing opportunity to hear music from all over the world.

R Space at Lincoln Street Center for the Arts 24 Lincoln St., Rockland; facebook.com/rspaceatlsc.

This new community space in Rockland hosts shows typically on Thursdays and Saturdays, all summer, and is open to all ages. Want to hear some great young bands from all over the state? Like rock ’n’ roll? This is your place.

Unity College Center for the Performing Arts 42 Depot St, Unity; unityme.org.

This 100-year-old barn was repurposed awhile back into a beautiful, intimate place for live music. Almost every week there’s a great Celtic, bluegrass, folk, blues or rock group playing.

Eat and drink

Bah’s Bakehouse and Stella’s Jazz Nocturnal 26 Water St., Castine; bahsworld.com.

Who doesn’t love brunch? Bah’s Bakehouse in Castine offers a huge assortment of brunchable dishes, from quiche and soup to cookies and scones, for an ultimate brunch experience. Evenings Tuesday through Sunday, June-September, Bah’s turns into Stella’s, a fine dining restaurant with live jazz on the weekends.

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream 7 Firefly Lane and 325 Main St., Bar Harbor; 51 Exchange St., Portland; mdiic.com.

Thai chili. Salted caramel. Nutella. Blackstrap molasses and banana. Chocolate wasabi. Indian pudding. Stout with fudge. Mount Desert Island Ice Cream might be the best ice cream in the state.

Whoopie Pie Festival 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 26, Center Theatre, Dover-Foxcroft; centertheatre.org.

All whoopie pies, all day. Tons of bakers bring their iconic Maine desserts for festival-goers to taste-test; music from Dave Mallett, comedy from the Marden’s Lady, artists and craftspeople and much more. Oh, and a 5K road race to help you burn off all those calories.

Claremont Boathouse 5:30-9 p.m. most nights, July and August; theclaremonthotel.com.

One of the most quietly elegant places to get a cocktail in Maine is the Boathouse at the Claremont Hotel. A small, simply decorated building right on Somes Sound, with a tranquil dock leading out into the water. The mojitos are especially wonderful. Call ahead to make sure they’re open.

Maine breweries Portland to Bar Harbor; mainebrewersguild.org.

We’re spoiled in Maine; there’s great local beer just about everywhere. There are old favorites like Shipyard and Sea Dog, and there are craft breweries like Black Bear Brewery in Orono, Andrews Brewing in Lincolnville, and Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. on Front Street in Belfast, which sells only on-site. That barely scratches the surface. Check with breweries to see if they have tastings.

El El Frijoles 41 Caterpillar Hill Road, Sargentville; elelfrijoles.com.

The best Mexican food in Maine is served in a restored barn in Sargentville, halfway between Blue Hill and Deer Isle. Chef Michele Levesque learned Mexican cooking in her home state of California; now hungry travelers can get quesadillas, burritos, spicy lobster, horchata and ice cream sandwiches. You can have an incredible meal for under $10.

TABLE: A Farmhouse Bistro 66 Main St., Blue Hill; farmkitchentable.com.

James Beard award-nominated chef Rich Hanson quietly opened his second restaurant last summer; this year, its menu is refined to reflect a casual but elegant sensibility. Classic, affordable dishes made with Maine seafood, beef, pork, cheese, vegetables and much more are available Tuesday through Saturday.

Farmer’s Fare Route 90 and Cross Street, Rockport; farmersfare.com.

Think of it as a smaller, locally owned Whole Foods. Loads of fresh Maine everything, from produce and seafood to gifts and personal care items. There’s a butcher shop on-site and a cafe with daily specials. There’s some sort of workshop, lecture or tasting almost every week. Oh, and they deliver.

Maine Oysters oysterguide.com.

The region around Damariscotta and Pemaquid, as well as farther up in North Haven and off MDI, are renowned for their burgeoning oyster industry. There are raw bars at Cleonice in Ellsworth, Three Tides in Belfast, the Quarterdeck in Bar Harbor, and the White Lion Bistro in Camden, among others.

Maine Garlic Festival 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, Smuggler’s Den Campground, Southwest Harbor.

The 13th annual Garlic Festival offers music, vendors, beer and an overwhelming assortment of food featuring the flavorful root. Try the garlic beer can chicken, but be sure to bring breath mints.


Stonington Opera House Stonington waterfront; operahousearts.org.

The performances that come out of Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House are of the highest caliber. This summer they’re premiering a children’s opera (July 1-4, 9-11) based on Robert McCloskey’s “Burt Dow, Deep Water Man,” they’re again offering Shakespeare and the Stonington Jazz Festival, and Aug. 3-7 brings the performance installation “Q2.”

Maine International Film Festival July 9-18, throughout Waterville, miff.org.

A chance to see cutting-edge films from around the world, this yearly festival will in 2010 screen offerings such as the Spanish prison drama “Cell 211,” and the quirky, dark comedy “Get Low,” starring Bill Murray and Robert Duvall.

Center for Maine Contemporary Art 162 Russell Ave, Rockport; artsmaine.org.

A reinvigorated Center for Maine Contemporary Art is back, offering a vast array of talent from Maine and beyond in its beautiful space in Rockport. Current exhibitions include the CMCA Biennial Juried Exhibition and photography from Meggan Gould. Admission is by donation.

West Athens Fourth of July parade 11 a.m. Sunday, July 4, Valley Road, West Athens.

Most likely, you’ve never been to a Fourth of July parade quite like the one in the Somerset County town of West Athens. Wild costumes and revelry more akin to a Mardi Gras parade have occurred each year since the early 1970s. Bring your sense of humor.

Belfast Art Walk 5-8 p.m. every Friday in July and August; artsbelfast.com.

Nineteen galleries and studios participate each year in Belfast’s weekly summer art walks. There’s always music of some sort throughout downtown Belfast, as well as the town’s many restaurants and shops. Best of all, it’s free.

Eastport Arts Center Washington Street, Eastport; eastportartscenter.com.

As far Down East as you can get, the Eastport Arts Center has a diverse, vibrant array of events all summer long. Music from the Eastport Strings and the Passamaquoddy Bay Symphony Orchestra, exhibits from local artists, and performances from the Stage East theater company are just some of the offerings.

River City Cinema 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 25-July 30; rivercitycinema.com.

Every year River City Cinema shows free outdoor movies in Pickering Square in downtown Bangor. They pick a theme and run six classic movies on a big screen. Bring lawn chairs, buy popcorn and enjoy. This year’s theme is heist flicks, ranging from the original versions of “Ocean’s Eleven” to the hilarious “Return of the Pink Panther.”

Penobscot Bay Observatory fortknox.maineguide.com.

If you haven’t yet been up in the Penobscot Bay Observatory, it’s a must-see: it’s a mesmerizing view of the landscape of the lower Penobscot River. For just $5, you get into both the observatory and Fort Knox State Park, which is one of the most fun state parks for kids in Maine.

Nylander Museum of Natural History 657 Main St., Caribou; nylandermuseum.org.

Perhaps the best-kept secret in Maine, this museum houses thousands of specimens and artifacts from the billions of years of history of Maine: from pre-Cambrian to pre-European settlement. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.

Maine State Aquarium 10 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week; 194 McKown Point Road, West Boothbay Harbor; 633-9674.

Kids will flip for the petting pool at this small but comprehensive aquarium in scenic Boothbay. And no matter what age you are, it’s pretty neat to get up close and personal with a small shark. An exhibit featuring live footage from a VideoRay robotic sub shows what it’s like under the waters.


Maine Winter Sports Center 552 Main St., Caribou; mainewsc.org.

Its name may lead you to believe otherwise, but the Maine Winter Sports Center offers more than just skiing. All summer, running, biking, boating and other outdoors events are planned by the MWSC; check the website for full listings.

Tommyknockers and More Tour 2 p.m. July 4, Aug. 22 and Sept. 19, meet at Bangor Waterfront; tickets at bangorcvb.org.

Bangor Convention and Visitor’s Bureau offers three guided bus tours of Bangor this summer, visiting every spot in town that has anything to do with a Stephen King novel or movie. It’s fascinating, whether you’re a fan of the author or not.

Maine Celtic Celebration July 16-18, Belfast Waterfront; mainecelticcelebration.com.

Three days of jigs, reels, bagpipes, potatoes, cheese rolling, boot tossing, log tossing, cod tossing, road races, boat races, wheelbarrow races, dancing and a Men in Kilts competition.

Black Fly Ball 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, 3 Elm St., Machias; machiasblueberry.com.

Part of the Machias Blueberry Festival, the chem-free, all-ages Black Fly Ball is organized by the Beehive Collective, and is one of the most raucous, explosively fun nights you’ll ever experience in Maine. Jazz and swing groups start out the night, followed by a punk rock marching band.

Independent Wrestling Entertainment Weekends all year; iwe.homestead.com.

By day, some everyday guys. By night, they’re transformed into professional wrestling stars. IWE hosts events several weekends a month, and they’re great fun to watch. Coming events include 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26, at Medway Middle School. It’s also televised at noon every Saturday on Fox 22.

Schoodic Arts Festival Aug. 2-15, Winter Harbor; schoodicartsforall.org.

Two weeks, featuring more than 100 workshops, 26 music and theater performances, a silent auction and much more. Learn Mexican, Japanese and Indian cooking; build baskets, chairs and boats; make jewelry and home and personal accessories; learn swing, hula or salsa dancing; master basic Web design and video editing skills. The possibilities are endless.

Eastport Pirate Festival Sept. 10-12, downtown Eastport; eastportpiratefestival.com.

The fifth annual Eastport Pirate Festival features schooners in the bay, sword fighting demonstrations, and pirate-theme bed races, dunk tanks, beach parties, barbecues and an ultimate pirate costume contest.

Monkey C Monkey Do Zip Lines Wiscasset, open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week, through Sept. 10; monkeycmonkeydo.com.

Maine’s first-ever zip line course opened this summer in Wiscasset; it’s a family-friendly day trip for adventurous kids and parents. Navigate through more than 30 obstacles from 20 to 50 feet in the air, then zoom along one of the zip lines. The three-hour excursion involves 45 minutes of training, and is a certified challenge course. Call 882-6861 to make a reservation.

Schooner rides through the summer; multiple-day and single-day excursions available.

Experience the Maine coast in a way you probably never have: on board a traditional Maine schooner. The schooner Olad (maineschooners.com) out of Rockland does day trips; many others do three-, four- and five-day trips. Check with your local coastal chamber of commerce for options. Prices can range from $35 to more than $500.

Drag shows first and third Wednesday of each month, Therapy Lounge, Howard Johnson, Odlin Road, Bangor; June 17, July 15 and Aug. 19, Carmen Verandah, Main Street, Bar Harbor.

Somewhere in between “American Idol,” Miss America and the musical “Cabaret,” there are drag shows. It’s for the open-minded — or for those who think Lady GaGa and Dolly Parton are just shy of divinity.


Roots & Tendrils 2 Cross St., Belfast; rootsandtendrils.com.

Bub and Meg Fournier offer clothing, jewelry, stationery, accessories, home goods and more from all Maine designers, with a funky, alternative edge. There’s a different artist hanging on the walls each month, and most weekends, there are excellent regional indie rock bands playing.

Rock & Art Shop 1584 Bangor Road, Ellsworth; therockandartshop.com.

Bet you didn’t know you wanted a fossilized squid or a huge hunk of malachite — but after stopping at the Rock & Art Shop, you’ll find out you did. The Sohns family also sells works from Maine artists, and they maintain a neat little nature trail in back of the bright yellow shop.

Lippincott Books 36 Central St., Bangor; 942-4398.

This quiet sanctuary in downtown Bangor is an eclectic paradise for book lovers; it’s easy to get lost in the more than 30,000 titles stocked inside.

Naturalist’s Notebook 16 Main St., Seal Harbor, Mount Desert Island; naturalistsnote.wordpress.com.

Books, Maine goods, and scientific artifacts, along with nature-inspired gifts. It’s as educational as it is easy to emerge from the shop bearing a new treasure for yourself or another.

Orphan Annie’s 96 Court St., Auburn; 782-0638.

Stuffed to the gills with unique antiques, Orphan Annie’s boasts a stunning collection of early 20th century jewelry, furniture, clothing, lamps, pottery and strange little pop cultural artifacts. It’s a fantastic detour into downtown Auburn.

Farmers Markets all over the state; getrealmaine.com.

Besides the obvious things, such as fresh produce, meats, cheese and bread, farmers markets also offer a wealth of other goodies, such as fresh cut flowers, handmade gifts, freshly made dishes and soaps and personal care items.

Center for Maine Crafts off the I-95 West Gardiner exit; open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

More than 300 Maine artisans musicians, authors, illustrators and artisan food producers. Can’t find that perfect gift for a friend, relative or co-worker? Get something uniquely Maine here.

Spruce and Gussy 12 Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor; 288-2454.

This latest addition to downtown Bar Harbor specializes in home goods, such as lighting, planters, pottery, books, candles, crafts and more. There also are soft, funky scarves, handbags, jewelry and other distinctive items.

Searsport Flea Markets along Route 1 in Searsport; open most weekends.

Old lobster buoy? Check. Mounted moose head? Yep. Huge selection of used records? Got it. Toys from the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s? All set. You never know what you’re going to get at the Searsport Flea Markets, but odds are, you’ll find something inexpensive to buy, but priceless to own.

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