Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Portland ME: What To Do on a Winter Weekend

Eric and I are on vacation this week and we just returned from a long weekend up in Portland, Maine. Somehow, I had never been there before but I will definitely be back again. It's only 2 hours from Boston! This little trip also revived my love for trip blogging, so I am planning to do two posts about this trip and also create a travel page this week so if you want to read about any of my trips for any reason (recommendations or otherwise) they will all be in one easy to find place. See? I am already adding things to the Staycation To Do List! Fun things, I swear.  

I know it seems like Maine is more of a summer destination, and don't get me wrong, Maine in summer is beautiful. But if you don't want to fight traffic and crowds, I personally think Maine has a lot to offer in the winter months. 


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One of the major reasons that Eric and I wanted to visit Portland was to check out some of the many famous breweries up there. We started out at Allagash Brewing Company on Saturday afternoon when we first arrived in Maine. It was super crowded, so if you want to do this tasting and tour, definitely book ahead. The beginning of the tour started at the bar, where we were given 4 different beers to taste. My favorites were the white and the grand cru. The guys don't the tasting were funny, they clearly loved their job and had been drinking all day, so I guess what's not to love? 


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As you can see, they give you a good amount of each beer. After the tasting, they lead us into the back to give us a tour. I have to admit that I don't pay a ton of attention on these tours anymore, but it did seem like an informative tour. Lots of people asked intelligent questions and the brewer was good at answering all of them. 

The next brewery we visited was Shipyard, which is quite famous in the Boston area at least. They are open on Sundays and you don't need a reservation to go on the tours. They run every hour on the hour. This tour was significantly more low key. It starts with a brief video, and then they lead you into the space where you can see the brewing happen. It was much quicker than the Allagash tour, and ends rather than starts with a tasting at the bar area. 

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They gave smaller pours, but had more different varieties to try out. I tried a really yummy Apple Pie flavor, and Eric and I left the store with lots of Pumpkin beer! 

Right after, we walked about three minutes to get to the Sebago Brewing Company, which is actually a brew pub in the Portland location. Since we were hungry, it made sense to eat there and I'm glad we did because I had a really delicious lobster roll that made me feel like it was summer even though it was well below zero degrees outside. We also ordered a flight of beers so we could try some of the different kinds they have to offer. There were lots of IPAs which I am usually not a fan of, but they were actually all pretty good. 

The last brewery we visited before leaving on Monday was actually not a brewery at all, but Maine Mead Works. They give tours as well, but we just did a tasting. In case you are wondering, Mead is actually wine but it is made with honey. I tried it several years ago in Ireland and while the taste was nice, it was a bit too sweet for me to have more than a small tasting. At Maine Mead Works though, they actually want it to be a wine that you can drink all night so it was not overly sweet and really just tastes like a great wine with a hint of honey in it. I loved the semi-sweet and the blueberry. 

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Are you starting to wonder if the only thing to do in Maine in winter is drink? Don't worry, it's not. There is actually a lot more to do. 

Lighthouse Visits

Just a short drive outside of Portland, in a beautiful area called Cape Elizabeth, are some beautiful lighthouses. Even in the winter, they are worth a stop for a view of each lighthouse, the snow on the ground and the ocean view background.

Two Lights 

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Portland Head Light

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I don't really like shopping, and I'm particularly not a big shopper on vacation because I'd rather spent money on experiences. But, it's worth stopping into a couple of local stores in downtown Portland. The first recommendation I have is called Longfellow Books. I can't resist a good bookstore, and after reading that Longfellow books lost a lot of it's inventory to a pipe burst a few weeks ago, I knew I had to support them...

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I ended up buying two books for my students, and both Eric and I enjoyed browsing all the inventory that was still left. 


Eric and I did have much time to enjoy Portland's Museums but there are many to choose from including Portland Museum of Art, Children's Museum and Theater of Maine, and African Museum of Culture. However, the museum Eric most wanted to go to on his birthday was called the International Cryptozoology Museum. In case you have no idea what that means (I didn't), it's a museum dedicated to "yet to be discovered" animals, such as the Lochness Monster, Big Foot etc. Eric has a fascination with these creatures, which you may remember from our extensive adventures to swim with Nessie in Loch Ness and Champ up in Burlington Vermont. The museum was small, but did have some cool stuff, especially if you are someone who is interested in this sort of thing :) 

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I think Eric just likes the idea that there are creatures way bigger than him out there...

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Have I convinced you to take a trip up to Portland, Maine yet? I'll be back tomorrow to tell you where to stay and eat while you are there. Portland has a huge foodie culture so there is no shortage of amazing restaurants, even in the off season. 

Do you have any other things you like to do in Portland, Maine? If you've never been… tell me everything you know about Crytozoology, or a fun place to visit from where you live :) 




  1. My aunt and uncle live about 45 minutes outside of Portland. I love quaint New England best in the winter, when tourists head south!

  2. Oh fun! I am glad you guys had a good winter getaway. Burr - you look a little cold in that picture that you took outdoors when seeing the lighthouses. You are so lucky that there are so many places so close by for you to check out. This sounds like an awesome area and that book store looks great!

    A fun place to visit close to where I (currently) live is Duluth. I have sadly never visited this area much, but would love to explore the area some day. So maybe when I move back you can come visit. :) It's on the north shore of Lake Michigan so there is lots of great hiking and the city of Duluth is just plain charming!

  3. I had no idea Portland, ME was all about the breweries! Sounds a lot like the other Portland - which as you know, is a place I LOVE!!!

  4. I have always wanted to take a trip to ME and now you have made me want to just a little more. But maybe in the warmer months. The picture of you and Eric looks TERRIBLY cold.

  5. im so glad you had a good time in portland! i grew up in cape elizabeth and now live just a few miles from portland (westbrook). i love love allagash white, mmmmm (cant wait to have beer again this summer!)

  6. I'm a long time lurker who felt the need to comment on this post. I used to live near Boston, but just this fall moved up to Portland, ME and I'm loving it! I too am a big craft beer drinker and have done all those breweries you mentioned except Shipyard if you can believe it. Kind of like me waiting until I moved from Boston to finally do the Sam Adams tour. Anyways, next time you visit, you should check out the bar Great Lost Bear as it has a really cool Maine vibe and close to 70 beers on tap. It's a little outside of town (about a mile from Old Port), but worth a little trip. It's actually on the way to Allagash if you end up taking your siblings there. Maine Beer Company is on that same road and has fantastic beer, but they only do tours on Friday afternoons and they are moving to Freeport at some point soon so not sure if they'd be there the next time you visit.

  7. So funny; I went to Portland for a weekend exactly a year ago! We did the Shipyard and Maine Mead Works tours -- both were great. We also had lunch at Sebago. I absolutely loved being up there in the winter and would definitely do it again!

    We also had fun catching a show at the comedy club downtown.