25 Things to Do in Portland and Southern Maine

Indoors or Out, There's Something For Everyone

Portland Head Light, a Must See Attraction in Portland, Maine
••• There are so many things to do in and near Maine's largest city: Portland. A visit to Portland Head Light is one of the musts. Mabry Campbell / Getty Images

Portland, Maine, is a small but sophisticated coastal city that routinely appears on lists of America's best places to live, visit, dine and play outdoors. It's also an increasingly popular port of call for cruise ships. As northern New England's cultural hub, the city is a showcase for artists, musicians, craftsmen and actors. Portland and nearby towns in southern Maine are also a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and fans of spectacular scenery.

If you're looking for memorable things to do, here's your guide to some of the best attractions in Portland and southern Maine.

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1. Photograph one of southern Maine's numerous lighthouses: There are six lighthouses within an easy drive of Portland.

2. Visit an amusement park such as Funtown Splashtown USA or Aquaboggan, both in Saco, Maine; Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach or York's Wild Kingdom in York.

3. View the outstanding collection of American and European paintings and other works at the Portland Museum of Art: Maine's largest and oldest public art museum. Winslow Homer's restored studio is the museum's most exciting recent addition. Reserve a spot on a small group tour.

4. Behold Eartha, the the world's largest revolving globe, at the headquarters of map maker DeLorme in Yarmouth, Maine.

5. Browse through an antiquarian bookstore in the Portland area: There are two in Portland, two in Wells, one in Freeport...

where literary treasures and curiosities await.

6. See Maine in a unique way: from a hot air balloon! Balloons Over New England has flights available near Kennebunkport.

7. Paddle the quiet waters of the Saco River with Saco River Canoe and Kayak in Fryeburg, Maine.

8. Pick a winning harness racing ticket at Scarborough Downs late March through mid-December.

9. Take in a spectacular star show or laser light display at the University of Southern Maine's Southworth Planetarium in Portland.

10. Shop 'til you drop at the outlet stores in Kittery or Freeport or explore the unique boutiques in Portland's Old Port, and don't miss the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine: It never closes. Ever.

11. Treat wee ones to a memorable adventure at the Children's Museum of Maine in Portland, where hands-on exhibits--including a lobster boat, space shuttle and tidepool touch tank--will fascinate and entertain them.

12. Step back into the Victorian Age on a guided tour of the beautifully furnished Victoria Mansion in Portland, open May through October and for special holiday tours in December.

13. Take a walk along Casco Bay on the Eastern Promenade Trail, or walk the one-mile perimeter trail on Mackworth Island, offering views of Portland and the islands of Casco Bay.

14. Cheer on sports teams including the Portland Pirates hockey team at the Cumberland County Civic Center or the Portland Sea Dogs baseball team at Hadlock Field or the Maine Red Claws basketball team at the Portland Exposition Building.

15. Explore an old 18th-century fort such as Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Fort McClary in Kittery or Fort Popham in Phippsburg (near Bath).

16. Enjoy quality theater productions at John Lane's Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Portland Stage in Portland or The Portland Players, also in Portland.

17. Tour the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, birthplace of influential poet and famous Portland son Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

18. Walk barefoot along one of the fine sandy beaches in southern Maine.

19. Take a Casco Bay Lines scenic cruise or island trip, or, for a real taste of Maine, book passage aboard a multi-day Windjammer voyage aboard a historic tall sailing ship.

20. See a life-size chocolate moose and indulge your sweet tooth at Len Libby Chocolates in Scarborough, Maine.

21. Get back to nature in one of the beautiful parks or nature preserves in southern Maine, such as the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells or the Maine Audubon Society's Gilsland Farm in Falmouth or Scarborough Marsh in Scarborough.

22. Peruse the year-round Portland Farmers' Market , named one of the top 10 markets in the country, for locally harvested and produced foods.

23. Experience an odd natural phenomenon at Freeport's Desert of Maine, a 40-acre natural desert.

24. Learn a bit about regional history at one of southern Maine's many museums, including the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath or the Museums of Old York in York.

25. Savor a meal at the only floating restaurant on the northern New England coast: DiMillo's on the Water in Portland.

List originated by Debby Fowles, updated and expanded by Kim Knox Beckius.