Bangor is more than the northern Maine city with a name so frequently mispronounced, celebrity residents recorded an anthem to help folks from away get it right. Don't have time to listen to the three-minute video? Think of literary legend and Bangor resident Stephen King, and you'll remember to say Ban-GORE. Now, jump in your car or fly into Bangor International Airport, and discover all this riverside city has to offer. Here are nine must-see sights and fun things to do in this former hub of the lumber trade turned surprisingly fascinating and tourist-friendly city.
Bangor's best-known resident, author Stephen King, has penned not only masterful works of horror— "Carrie," "The Shining," "It," "Pet Sematary" —but gripping tales like "The Green Mile" and "Rita Hayworth" and "Shawshank Redemption," which have also leapt from the page to the movie screen. Fans have been making the pilgrimage to King's hometown for years, and even if you've never picked up a single one of his novels, you'll see intriguing parts of the city with SK Tours of Maine: Bangor's only company offering private, expert-led, Stephen King-themed excursions. Book a tour any day of the week year-round, and set out with lifelong Bangor resident, noted King authority and former bookstore owner Stuart Tinker to see the author's former and current residences, filming locations like the cemetery in "Pet Sematary" and other landmarks that have inspired King's stories. Groups of up to 14 can be accommodated, and tours are even pet-friendly by advance arrangement, so you can bring your own little Cujo along.
Your kids will love digging for dinosaur bones, stepping into the pages of "Goodnight Moon," singing in the Karaoke Studio, climbing to the top of a treehouse, peeking inside a beaver lodge and meeting live reptiles at the largest children's museum north of Boston. Interactivity makes this three-story attraction in the heart of downtown Bangor a place where families can spend hours creatively engaged. It costs just $7.50 per person — little or grown-up — to get in, and you'll want to check the museum's calendar for special activities and events that coincide with your visit.
Sure, Bangor is a long way from the Hollywood most folks know. But a bit of glitz awaits at this casino and live harness racing track. Hollywood Casino Bangor is one of only two casinos in Maine, and while slot machines, table games and a live poker room are certainly the main attraction, you'll want to check out the entertainment calendar and dining options — like the half-mile-long, all-you-can-eat Epic Buffet — while you're there. From May through November, wagering on live and Simulcast horse racing adds excitement: The track predates the casino and enabled Bangor to be the first Maine destination with slot machines back in 2005.
Did you know there's a city named Brewer, Maine? And it's a suburb of Bangor? Well, there is, and as you might guess this region is a beer lover's dream come true. Clean, clear water is a key reason so many breweries have sprung up in the Greater Bangor area. Right in the city, you'll want to visit Bangor Beer Co., where you can pair the latest releases with Asian fusion fare; Sea Dog Brewing Co., one of the state's pioneering breweries; and Orono Brewing's downtown tasting room, where you can bring in your own food to enjoy with more than a dozen beers on tap. Across the river in Brewer, you'll find Geaghan Bros. Brewing Co.'s new tasting room, and burgers and an eclectic range of beers at Mason's Brewing Co. Already feeling overwhelmed by all of the options? The easiest way to sample the Bangor region's best brews is to hop aboard the Growler Bus for a guided beer tour.
The University of Maine Museum of Art is open free to the public, and its downtown Bangor location makes it a hub of contemporary creativity. In addition to a permanent collection of 4,000 works by well-known Maine artists like Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth and such notables as Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper and Pablo Picasso, the museum's walls showcase fresh works during a variety of special exhibitions each year. Education is an important part of the museum's mission, and workshops for children and adults are offered on-site.
Now, don't go getting hauled into the station for naughty reasons. But, believe it or not, the Bangor Police Department has a humongous fan base far beyond city limits. This is thanks to Detective Lt. Tim Cotton's folksy, informative and infectiously humorous Facebook rants and ramblings. Follow the page before your Bangor trip, and you'll already feel immersed in local goings-on before you arrive. It might not be easy to arrange your own photo op with the Duck of Justice, but if you call ahead on weekdays (207-947-7384), you can tour the Bangor Police Department Museum, which displays uniforms, news clippings and artifacts that date back as far as the 1700s. There's also a mobile, one-person jail cell on display. A visit to the police department also places you in the vicinity of Bangor's biggest drive-by landmark. From the station, it's just over a half-mile walk to the towering, 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan statue in Bass Park at 519 Main Street.
This affordable, family-owned ski area just 10 minutes from Bangor in Hermon, Maine, has 100% snowmaking capacity, so you're guaranteed fun on the slopes during northern Maine's long winter season. There are 20 ski trails for beginner and expert skiers, and there's night skiing under the lights every day except Sunday. Don't ski or snowboard? This is an ideal place to learn, with group and private lessons available for all ages. Non-skiers can also embrace the thrill of snow tubing on New Hermon Mountain's 600-foot, lift-serviced hill. Three-hour sessions, including a tube, are just $15 per person.
The city has a surprising amount of open space for recreation including 680-acre Bangor City Forest, with extensive trails for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Other parks that should be on visitors' radar include Riverview Park overlooking the Penobscot River and lovely Cascade Park, where walking trails beckon and the waterfall, fountain and gazebo make this an attractive destination for a picnic. Pick up a Paul Bunyan Italian Sandwich and other picnic fixings at Legacy Sandwich, just a mile west on State Street, before you go.
See an Old-School Drive-In Movie
Want to experience a nostalgic night at the movies? The Bangor Drive-In, which went silent in 1985, was brought back to life 30 years later in the summer of 2015. Now, the latest Hollywood releases and retro films are shown nightly on its two screens from spring through fall. Park, tune your FM radio to the movie frequency, and enjoy a tradition that began in Bangor in the 1950s. The concession stand sells movie munchies and Maine treats like red hot dogs and whoopie pies. Restrooms are available, and there's a playground to keep kids amused before the movie starts.