Day Tripper: Portland, Maine

The Maine Day Tripper Portland by

Tanya Mitchell

dowtown p-town
photo by Tanya Mitchell

I think the two-hour drive from Searsport to Portland is much like the old advertising slogan for another New England favorite, Dunkin Donuts – it’s worth the trip! Corny, I know, but if you’re like me and you don’t mind rocking out to some of your favorite road trip songs during the drive, the ride to Portland can be a pretty good time, too. I really dig downtown Portland, so naturally when I arrive in the city that area tends to be my first destination. It can get a little challenging if you don’t know your way around, and in the summertime traffic can get quite heavy. But that’s OK, as long as you can find a parking spot, you’re golden. Exploring this part of Portland is a much better experience on foot because it’s easier to make frequent stops to check out the cool little shops along the way. I almost never create an itinerary for a trip like this because there are so many possibilities here, and it can be tough to choose. Besides, sometimes it’s just more fun to be spontaneous! If you start your excursion in Congress Street, you’ll have easy access to lots of small art galleries, shops and restaurants while you meander your way over to the cobblestone streets of The Old Port. The Old Port is home to tons of local pubs with lots of local character, unusual emporiums and unique stops.

If you happen to wander near the area of the Portland Lobster Co. near Long Wharf, take a look at the collection of locks attached to the chain link fence. The sight is pretty interesting, but when you look a little closer, each lock carries a message of love. It’s something that folks have been doing all over the world, and it’s a pretty neat thing to see gestures of love on display in this way, and stuff like this always makes me smile. If you’re into cycling, there are a few outfits around the area that rent bicycles for the day, and this method of transportation will allow you to see what’s happening around the city much quicker than you could on foot, or in a vehicle during the summertime, for that matter. And it’s great exercise, too, which you can look back on with pride as you’re ordering that second beer with dinner (more on that later).

portland locks

portland locks crop shot (2)
photos by Tanya Mitchell

If you’re into adventures on the water, you won’t be disappointed if you book an afternoon of sailing on one of the region’s historic schooners, like the Schooner Frances, or hop on the ferry and spend an afternoon at Peaks Island. I am always amazed at how easy it is to leave the fast-paced atmosphere of the city behind in the Portland area! The city also has about 70 miles of walking trails, so a peaceful stroll is never too far out of reach, either. And hey, what’s a trip to Portland without seeing a ballgame? Seeing a Sea Dogs game is a great alternative to the longer (and pricier) trip to a Boston Red Sox game. To me, the experience is just as fantastic due to the simple fact that it’s baseball. This sport has always been a summertime love of mine, even long after I traded my bat and glove for a writer’s notebook. Hadlock Field really captures the local spirit as it relates to New England sports. It has its own version of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, the Maine Monster, and a lighthouse emerges in center field each time the Sea Dogs win a game or every time a player hits a home run. If you think of it, bring along a baseball glove; if you’re even a little less clumsy than I am, you might be lucky enough to catch a game ball! If the rain clouds happen to come through the region during your trip, no problem.

You could always check out the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium for a laser light show. I have, and it’s something one has to see for themselves to truly appreciate it. It’s just pretty cool to enter a building and feel like you are at the center of the universe, even if it’s just for an hour or so. If you’re looking for a fun and funky place to dine, look no further than Silly’s.  Meals here have interesting names like The Imperial Thai Fighter, a dish featuring Portobello mushrooms or grilled chicken with sautéed vegetables and miso ginger sauce on a bed of brown rice. Aside from the Star Wars reference, which I thought was pretty sweet, I especially like the décor – comfy bench seats, tall tables and throw pillows everywhere you look. It would be a lot like eating a great meal at home, if I hired and interior decorator and if I was a decent cook (and anyone who knows me well knows I am not). They’ve got a nice selection of Maine brews, which is excellent for someone like me because I love to try new and different beers, and if I like what I try I’ll almost always order a second (it’s OK, remember? I did that hour of cycling earlier). Well, I think that’s going to do it for this lady, I’ve got a long drive filled with road trip songs and some great Portland memories ahead of me. Until next time, safe travels!

Tanya Mitchell

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