Although many of us already find our summer weekends booked with weddings, barbecues and visiting friends and family, there are always those long, lazy days of summer, when people — kids and adults — get a little hot, a little antsy and very bored. What can you do on a weekday that doesn’t involve spending money or driving long distances? We’ve put together a list of free or very inexpensive things to do in Greater Bangor that are fun for the whole family, that give you an excuse to get outdoors and that happen on every day of the week. Start planning now. Summer is very nearly upon us.
Monday might be the start of the work week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fun things to do after work gets out. Take a pleasant 50 minute drive from Bangor to Blue Hill to enjoy one of that town’s most unique attributes: its community steel drum band, Flash in the Pans. This venerable group of musicians performs a delightful, danceable blend of calypso, pop and classical nearly every Monday through Labor Day, always at 7:30 p.m., usually at the Blue Hill Town Park. The concerts are pay-what-you-will and benefit various worthy causes, such as Healthy Peninsula and the Ark Animal Shelter. A full schedule can be found online at flashinthepans.org.
Did you know Bangor is home to one of the country’s oldest continually operating community bands? The Bangor Band celebrates its 158th anniversary this year. The band’s summer concert series begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, and continues every Tuesday through Aug. 8 at outdoor locations all over the city, including June 20 and 27, July 18 and Aug. 1 and 8 at the Bangor Waterfront. They perform a mix of marches, big-band classics, show tunes and contemporary pop in its “clampitheatre,” a portable, inflatable, clamshell-style bandstand. Bring a picnic, bring a blanket, bring grandma, and bring a donation to help them reach year 159.
Outside the beautifully renovated Bangor Public Library every Wednesday at 7 p.m. is the library’s Summer Concert Series, beginning June 21. This year’s schedule includes the Hampden Academy R&B Band on June 21; punk rockers the Jonee Earthquake Band on June 28; Bangor Symphony Orchestra cellist Noreen Silver on July 5; the Jump City Jazz Band on July 12; the country-fied Allison Ames Band on July 19; Dixieland ensemble Six Basin Street on July 26; the Hermon Pans, a steel drum, on Aug. 2; AcouSticks on Aug. 9; oldies cover band the Retro Rockerz on Aug. 16; Americana group October Gold on Aug. 23; and Swingmatism on Aug. 30.
Another midweek consideration is Bucksport’s yearly Wednesdays on Main series, a diverse collection of free music, theater, lectures, film and live storytelling events held at a number of venues outdoors and indoors along Main Street, starting at 5:30 p.m. They range from performances from the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers on June 14 and a children’s show from the Penobscot Theatre on Aug. 23, both at the Alamo Theatre; the annual WERU-FM live storytelling event, July 26, also at the Alamo Theatre; and live music from the Mark Nelusan Combo with vocalist Betsey Peters Epstein, June 28, bluegrass band Blue Northern, July 19, rockabilly band the Crown Vics, Aug. 2 and Stesha Cano, Aug. 16, all performing along the Bucksport Waterfront. A full schedule can be found online at bucksportwom.com.
There’s lots more live music outdoors on Thursdays. Bangor’s yearly Cool Sounds Concert Series and Outdoor Market returns for nine weeks this summer, beginning June 29 with local rockers Souled Out and continuing through Aug. 24. Other performers include the Tough End String Band on July 13, garage rockers Fan Jones on July 27 and the Main Street R&B Review on Aug. 3. Peruse gifts, local produce and baked goods and other treats from local vendors, and get there early to score a spot close to the stage or on a patio at a downtown bar. Cool Sounds is, as always, free, and music starts at 6 p.m..
Belfast’s yearly Summer Nights Concert Series is also on Thursdays. The concerts begin on June 29 and going until Aug. 31. Locations vary between the corner of High Street, Beaver Street. Steamboat Landing Park and Belfast Commons Park, but it’s always outdoors, always starting at 5:30 p.m. and always free. Featured artists this year include Edith Gawler and Bennett Konesni on July 6, the Leaky Boot Jug Band on Aug. 10 and Tuba Skinny on Aug. 24.
Fridays are the day for art walks around Maine. First Friday art walks begin June 2 in Bangor from 5 to 8 p.m. and Bar Harbor from 6 to 9 p.m., and continue through October on the first Friday of each month. Belfast’s art walks are held on the fourth Friday each month from 5:30 to 8 p.m. through September. If you’ve never been to an art walk, the idea is simple: grab a map, walk around town, visit galleries, museums, studios and businesses, all showcasing visual artists, and get a feel for the art scene in a particular community. Visit dbac.org for information on the Downtown Bangor Artwalk, or artwalkmaine.org for information on the Bar Harbor and Belfast walks.
Also on Fridays in Bangor, there’s the yearly River City Cinema outdoor movie screenings, which begin June 23 and go for six Fridays, always held at sundown in Pickering Square. It’s free, though donations are always accepted. Make sure you bring a lawn chair or other comfy thing to sit on.
Additionally, Friday is the day for the yearly Ellsworth Waterfront Concert series, a totally free series of concerts held at 6 p.m. Fridays, July 7 through Aug. 25, at the Gazebo at Union River Park. Bands and artists set to perform include boogie woogie vocal group the Memphis Belles, July 7; singer-songwriter Kristen Thien, July 21; and Celtic fiddler Gus LaCasse on Aug. 18. A full list of shows can be found at grandonline.org.
It’s not free, but it is highly affordable: the Bangor Drive-In, located on Outer Hammond Street near the Bangor-Hermon town line, is now in its third season and offers the best deal for first-run movies in eastern Maine. For $22, a family of four or more can enjoy two movies from the comfort of their car — for just over half the price of a regular movie theater. There’s a playground for kids to enjoy before the movie, there’s a fully stocked snack bar with burgers, hot dogs, pizza, French fries and ice cream, alongside popcorn and candy, and you can even bring your well-behaved dog. This weekend, double features include “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” on screen one, and “Baywatch” and “Wonder Woman” on screen two. Check out bangordrivein.com for future screenings, as well as more information about the Throwback Series, which in the past has shown classic movies like “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” and “Labyrinth.”
Sunday may not have too many regularly scheduled cultural events to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do. We suggest checking out one of the many land trusts and preserves scattered all over eastern Maine. It’s always free to enter, and you can see some often much less-traveled beautiful trails and scenery. Some fantastic ones in the Bangor area include Bangor Land Trust’s many preserves, including the Bangor City Forest, Essex Woods, the Central Penjajawoc Preserve and Walden Parke. There’s also Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden, Mariaville Falls Preserve in Mariaville, the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands, and many, many more. For a big list of Maine land trusts, visit www.mltn.org/trust_guide.