Best of both worlds: Give your kids an urban and coastal experience.
When you think of Maine, you probably envision boats, lobsters, and lighthouses, and that is exactly what you’ll find in Portland. Situated right on the coast, Portland is a medium-sized city that perfectly blends urban-hip restaurants and shopping with working fishing wharves along the harbor. Portland has both an artistic and outdoorsy feel with tons of opportunities for kids to gain some culture and run around in the city’s many green spaces.
Photo courtesy: Visit Portland/GPCVB
Where to stay?
To experience the waterfront as well as the downtown, stay in the Old Port which is within walking distance to many dining options. We chose the Hampton Inn Downtown Portland. Impeccably-clean and newly-updated, this hotel offered us a perfect place to rest at the end of our busy days. Our kids loved the city views, the pool, and most of all, the buffet breakfast with its waffle station, complete with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Rooms start at $179/night.
What to do?
We packed our Portland weekend with enough activity to keep the kids happy all day and sleeping soundly all night. We started with an evening at Get Air Portland, an indoor trampoline park. Our kids jumped and flipped to their hearts’ content under the watchful eye of the staff. Cost: Youth (under 46’) $8/first hour, $6/hour for additional time; Others $14/first hour, $8/hour for additional time. We found that after an hour, our kids were happily exhausted.
KidTripster Tip: Go after 6 p.m. to avoid the crowds; trampoline park is open until 11 p.m. on weekends.
To appease my budding artist, my daughter and I spent the next morning at Color Me Mine, a sun-drenched pottery painting studio just outside of downtown. We chose coffee mugs and bowls to paint; but because we don’t live in Portland, we had our fired pottery pieces shipped (for a fee) to our home. Cost: Youth $6; Adult $10 plus cost of pottery.
Alternatively, you could spend the morning at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, a bright and colorful space with interactive exhibits and art activities, best suited for the 10 and under crowd. Cost: Youth (under 18 months) Free; Others $10.
KidTripster Tip: On the first Friday night of each month from 5 to 8 p.m., the entry fee is only $2/person.
To truly experience the coastal landscape, we drove to the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth about 10 minutes south of the city. With a packed picnic, this impressive park could entertain your family for a whole day. Take a tour of the historic lighthouse, walk along the shore, climb on the rocks or watch the surfers while sitting on the beach.
Minor League baseball always offers fun for the whole family, and the Portland Sea Dogs game was no exception. We lucked out with a warm, sunny day, and the kids enjoyed both the game and the between-inning entertainment on the field. At the end of the game, all of the kids were invited to come down to the field and run the bases. I thought that it would be chaos, but the staff separated the big kids from the little ones and adeptly herded everyone around and back to their parents.
On our last morning, we headed to the Maine Warrior Gym in Westbrook about 10 minutes inland. My son is a die-hard American Ninja Warrior fan and loved the challenging obstacle course and instruction from the coaches. If your kids are part monkey like mine, this cool, new indoor playground is a must-do. Cost: All (5 and older) $20 for day pass.
Where to eat?
Besides the complimentary breakfasts at our hotel and hotdogs at the ballpark, we enjoyed two excellent meals in Portland. DiMillo’s on the Water is a seafood restaurant built on a boat in Portland Harbor and includes all the classic, nautical charms of Maine. With a view of the water from every table, enjoy fish dishes, lobster or clams (or if you’re like my kids, chicken fingers and spaghetti). This is a napkin-on-your-lap kind of a meal that you may want to reserve for older kids.
Down the road, and again, right on the water, our favorite meal of the weekend was at Flatbread Pizza Company. With the sights and sounds of Portland’s seafaring atmosphere out the window, enjoy smoky wood-fired pizzas and salads made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. My husband and I loved the organic mesclun salads with local goat cheese as well as a spicy veggie pizza; our kids went for a classic pepperoni (nitrate-free) pizza. And we are still talking about the brownie sundae!
Portland is located on the southern Maine coast, approximately 100 miles north of Boston.
Emilie Brand Throckmorton is not from Maine but now calls it home. She loves to play tourist in her own state with her husband and two children.
This writer received a complimentary stay, plus complimentary activities and meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.