Winter in Portland, Maine: 14 Awesome Things To Do In The Off-Season Even If It's Wicked Cold
We recently spent a month in Portland, Maine. In the middle of winter. Despite experiencing multiple Nor’easters during our time there (what a novelty for us West Coasters!), we thoroughly enjoyed the things that Maine had to offer even though we barely scratched the surface.
Needless to say, we fell in love with New England and really feel like we could live there! Since most people travel to Maine in the summer and fall, we want to list the things you can do in the off-season since it can be just as fun even if it is a bit chilly.
So without further ado, here are 14 reasons why you should consider visiting Portland, Maine in winter:
14 Wicked Good Winter Things To Do In Portland, Maine
1. Grab a hot cup of delicious coffee and buy a few bags of freshly roasted beans to bring home
The coffee scene in Portland, Maine is really brewing! They are home to some really awesome roasteries who take coffee very seriously. Stay tuned for our next post which will be all about the coffee in Portland, Maine!
2. Visit a brewery or two (or ten!)
Portland, Maine is very similar to Portland, Oregon in a way, since it is home to A LOT of microbreweries. They take their food and beer very seriously in Maine, so it should come to no surprise that this is a major attraction in the area.
A few of our favourites include Allagash Brewing Company which specialises in Belgian style beers, Bissell Brothers who brew a wide variety of ales (we recommend their flagship beer, Substance Ale), and newcomer Nonesuch River Brewing in nearby Scarborough, which also has delicious food on the menu.
3. Visit Portland's Old Port neighbourhood
Step back in time and take a stroll down the cobblestone roads and alleyways in the Old Port neighbourhood of Portland, Maine. Lined with excellent eateries and boutique shops, this is the postcard-perfect part of town that can't be missed.
4. Visit the Portland waterfront and see a piece of the Berlin Wall
Yes, you read that right. Portland, Maine has its own piece of the Berlin wall on display by the waterfront which was an interesting surprise to us during our explorations.
5. Take a look at the Portland Observatory (from the outside)
This is an iconic landmark in Portland, Maine that can't be missed. It is the last standing maritime signal tower in the United States. It also boasts breathtaking views of the city and Casco Bay from the top, but unfortunately, it is only open during the summer months.
6. Take a stroll along the Eastern Promenade
Just east of the observatory is Portland's Eastern Promenade, a park with awesome views of the water and a nice promenade to walk. If you happen to be there after a snow storm, chances are you will encounter a lot of people sledding down the slopes here are well.
7. Head down to Cape Elizabeth and visit Fort Williams Park and the Portland Head Light
Cape Elizabeth is where we stayed during our time in Maine, and it is just a very short drive from downtown Portland. Fort Williams Park is a former 90-acre military fort with military ruins, ocean-views, and the impressive Portland Head Light, one of the most iconic lighthouses of New England.
8. Head a little further south to Two Lights State Park and The Lobster Shack
No visit to Maine is complete without trying some of their famous lobster. Unfortunately, if you are visiting in the winter months, The Lobster Shack might not be open. They open at the end of March every year, but early spring visitors can get a taste! Two Lights State Park and the area right outside of the Lobster Shack are still worth a visit in the winter, and you can watch crashing waves for hours on end, especially if you go right after a storm like we did!
9. Head north to Freeport and check out L.L. Bean headquarters and the outlet shops
Feeling a little chilly? Head to the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine to stock up on boots and winter gear to make your trip more comfortable. Be sure to also take an Instagram photo with the giant L.L. Bean boot along with all the other tourists. There are also many other outlet shops and restaurants to check out while you are there.
10. Visit a winter farmer's market
Maine is very into seasonal eating, and its farmer's markets are open year-round. In Portland, the farmer's market is open Saturday mornings at its indoor location on Stevens Avenue in the winter. Here you will find local root veggies, greens, grains, meat, dairy, baked goods, maple syrup, and more.
11. Go kombucha tasting at Urban Farm Fermentory
Urban Farm Fermentory, located in the West Bayside neighbourhood not only brews kombucha, but they also brew gruit, which is an old-style beer without hops. They use a plethora of different botanicals to flavour the beer instead. They also brew mead and "cidah". You can visit their tasting room with 22 rotating taps and for a fun way to get your daily intake of probiotics.
12. Take up a winter sport
Mainers are very outdoorsy and there is never a shortage of fun activities to partake in any time of the year. You can go ice skating at Thompson's Point or in Deering Oaks Park, or you can try out snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling if you venture out a little from the city.
13. Experience Maine Maple Sunday to satisfy your sweet tooth
Every year on the fourth Sunday in March, the sugar houses in Maine open to the public with demonstrations, free syrup samples, and activities. Depending on the year, sapping can start earlier in the year, so check out the websites of the various sugar houses to see when they open.
14. Don't forget to eat!
Did you think we would forget to mention food in this article?? Portland, Maine has a thriving food scene and it is one of the main reasons why we were excited to visit. We were in Maine for a month and barely scratched the surface of all of the delicious eateries Portland has to offer.
Our favourite places to eat in Portland, Maine:
- El Corazon Restaurante - By far the best Mexican food in New England. They started out as a taco truck but recently opened a full-scale restaurant on Congress Street. We visited four times during our stay in Portland and highly recommend getting the churros for dessert, which comes with warm cajeta for dipping, which is a caramel made from goat milk.
- OTTO Pizza - It's no secret that New England has good pizza, and OTTO makes some of the best pizza in Maine, serving up some unique flavours as well. Like El Corazon, this was a restaurant we visited several times during our stay. We recommend all of their pizza, but some of their more unique flavours include a mashed potato pizza, a butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry pizza, and a chicken, caramelised pear and fontina pizza.
- Little Tap House - A craft beer gastropub on High Street serving up excellent beers, burgers, sandwiches, and poutine.
- Nonesuch River Brewing - As mentioned above, a newcomer brewery and restaurant in Scarborough with excellent food. The menu is seasonal, but we had the shaved brussels sprout salad, tomato bisque, and Brew Burger.
- Duckfat - Ask anyone who has been to Portland for a restaurant recommendation and they will all say Duckfat. This small restaurant on Middle Street is famous for their hand-cut Belgian fries fried in duck fat, and the delicious poutine they make with said fries. They also serve excellent paninis, soups and salads.
- The Holy Donut - Another place that everyone will tell you to visit while in Portland, Maine. The Holy Donut makes their donuts with fresh Maine potatoes, which gives them a delicious, moist texture. Popular flavours include sea salt chocolate, maple, and fresh lemon.
There are plenty more things to do in Maine, even in winter, but these are some of our favourites. We hope to explore more of this beautiful state soon, and hopefully in better weather!
Have you been to Portland, Maine? What was your favourite activity or thing to see? Let us know in the comments!
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