Ever since Maine began allowing anyone age 16 and over to get vaccinated, there’s been a flood of folks younger than 50 scrambling to grab a shot anywhere they can. With vaccine slots snapped up within minutes of them opening in southern Maine, many people from the Portland area are looking north to Bangor — with its well-oiled machine of a clinic, operated by Northern Light Health at the Cross Insurance Center — to get their shots.
After a two-hour or more drive north, followed by the sometimes-emotional experience of getting a vaccine you’ve been waiting for for more than a year, you might find yourself looking for something to do while you’re in town. Here are our suggestions for lunch, shopping, beers, sightseeing and other stuff to do when you’re in the Queen City for the day. While still wearing your mask and keeping 6 feet away from strangers, of course — this pandemic isn’t over yet!
Given that you’re probably only in town for a few hours, you’re likely looking for something on the quicker side when it comes to grabbing lunch. For coffee, pastries and quick noshes, check out West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse for Tandem Roasters coffee or, just up the hill, Wicked Brew Cafe, located on Park Street, which also has the best and most authentic bagels in town.
Sandwiches? Wow, are there lots to choose from! Bagel Central’s got a reliably tasty menu of classic sandwiches, while Harvest Moon Deli, a longtime local favorite, makes hot and toasty crowd-pleasing sammies. And The Grindhouse, on Central Street, specializes in flatbreads and gourmet hot dogs (some people say hot dogs are sandwiches!).
For something a little more substantial, Umami Noodle Bar offers up create-your-own noodle soups in a hip atmosphere, while you can grab some great pizza at either Blaze Restaurant, Tesoro or Portland Pie Company. Ichiban has been a staple of downtown Bangor for decades now — and it still makes great sushi and other Japanese dishes.
And if you really just want to give yourself a treat for being such a brave boy or girl after getting your shot, you could always get an ice cream at Gifford’s on Broadway, a slice of pie at Dysart’s, or splurge on a cake pint at the new Wild Flour Bakery in downtown.
Want to grab an afternoon beverage? Paddy Murphy’s is a cozy and well-loved place for a Guinness. Bangor-area craft beer stalwart Black Bear Brewery, on Exchange Street, also offers up the homey vibes, as does the mom-and-pop local brewery 2 Feet Brewing, on Columbia Street. At Queen City Cinema Club, you can quaff a Maine craft beer and enjoy some pinball or Street Fighter at the retro-themed arcade. And, of course, there’s always the legendary Waverly, the best dive bar in town (and maybe the best in Maine).
I mean, you deserve to buy yourself a present, after you did the right thing and got your vaccine, right? Jewelry, clothes, home goods and other fun stuff can be found at a number of downtown boutiques such as The Rock & Art Shop, with its collection of curios and cute things; Maine Jewelry & Art, packed with beautiful objects made by Maine artists; and apparel shops such as Valentine Footwear and City Drawers, which sell fine shoes and fancy undies, respectively.
For antiquers, there’s lots to choose from in the Bangor area, including Antiques Marketplace and Antiques Alley, both in downtown; Central Maine Antique Mall, on outer Union Street; and the Schoolhouse Antique Mall in Brewer. Music lovers have two great record shopping options: the Vinyl Canteen in downtown, or Dr. Records, on Hammond Street. Comics? Check out Top Shelf Comics on Main Street, or Galactic Comics and Collectibles, on Hammond Street.
And don’t forget: Bangor is home to one of the biggest and best TJ Maxx locations in the state, out on Broadway. And the Marden’s in Brewer can often turn up some unexpected and wildly affordable treasures. And there’s a huge Bull Moose Books & Music on Hogan Road.
A rainy morning on Saturday is predicted to give way to a cloudy but not unpleasant afternoon. Want to meet up with a buddy and go for a walk? Some places in Bangor (or just a stone’s throw away) to go for a nice stroll include the Bangor City Forest, out near the mall area; Essex Woods on Essex Street, which is also home to Bangor’s dog park; the Brewer River Walk, which winds its way along the Penobscot River; and Mount Hope Cemetery, one of the prettiest and least spooky cemeteries you’ll ever walk through. For directions to all these places, check out the Bangor Greendrinks trail map.
And, if you really are a true Bangor newbie, you could also check out Stephen King’s famous house and the Thomas Hill Standpipe, Bangor’s iconic hilltop water tower. In getting your shot at the Cross Center, you’ll have already had a view of the Paul Bunyan statue, so you’ve already checked one thing off your list.