Portland is Maine’s largest city, with a population of 230,000, the Greater Portland area is home to almost one-quarter of Maine’s total population. The population of the city of Portland is 62,500. Portland is located on a peninsular and is surrounded by water on three sides.
Originally called Machingonne (Great Neck) by the Native American Indians who first inhabited it, Portland’s peninsula was established by the British in 1632 as a trading and fishing settlement. Industry grew and Portland’s waterfront became a mecca for shipping and trading companies. Referred to as the Phoenix, the city was destroyed for the 4th time by the Great Fire of 1866. History blends gracefully with the new as you stroll along the waterfront or cobblestone streets of the Old Port section of town. City bus tours and guided walking tours can introduce you to the careful craftsmanship and fine architecture of the past eras and lovingly restored museum homes offer a glimpse into the past lives that continue to shape the region’s character.
Cruise boats offer narrated tours of the bay, seal watching or lighthouse exploration tours, even a lobster bake (featuring freshly caught lobsters). Kayak rentals let you get up close and personal with the sea, exploring the nooks and crannies of ledges, perhaps attracting a friendly seal.
The Calendar Islands are spotted throughout Casco Bay. The Calendar Islands were given their names since it was once believed that 365 islands lied in the bay – one for every day of the year. Several of the larger populated islands can be visited by ferry.
For the art scene, Portland was named one of countries top 25 art destinations by American Style magazine. Portland’s Stage company presents professional theater in the intimate Portland Performing Art’s Center. Portland Symphony Orchestra performs classical, pops and popular in the Merrill Auditorium. The Portland Museum of Art is one of the area’s best-known cultural treasure, offering three centuries of art and architecture, including collections of renowned Maine artists Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth.
Personal sporting activities include golfing on manicured golf courses, roller-blading, kayaking or bicycling on trails.
Activities for kids include visiting the Southworth Planetarium or the hands-on exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Maine have a host of activities designed to stimulate your kid’s imagination. Take a ride on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, an authentic two-foot gauge train which chugs along Portland’s waterfront. Cheer for the home team at a Portland Sea Dog’s baseball game or a Portland Pirates Hockey Game. Visit Lenny, The world’s only life-size chocolate moose at Len Libby’s Homemade Candies. See real moose, bears and other wildlife at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray (wildlife sighting is not guaranteed). Tour the Desert of Maine in Freeport, an unusual natural phenomenon existing in the midst of the region’s otherwise lush vegetation. View the world’s largest rotating globe at Delorme’s map store in Yarmouth.
In the heart of downtown Portland you can stroll around the airy, indoor Portland Public Market and take in many of the local flavors, fresh produce, oven fresh bread and fresh free range chicken. You can also check out the flavors of the locally brewed ales, stouts and other beers at most restaurants and pubs. There are even tours of the microbreweries that allow you to sample various brands and types. Take a stroll through the quaint streets of the Old Port where street lanterns accent the architectural style of the surrounding buildings. Once the home of the warehouse district, the red brick buildings have been transformed into pubs, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Other areas of the city to explore include the Art’s District, and the Business and commercial district.
Located at 109 Danforth Street is the Victoria Mansion dating back to 1858. The mansion is one of the finest examples of Italian Villa-style architecture. Build at a cost of $400,000, approximately 90% of the building furnishings are original as designed by Gustave Herter. The mansion is closed Mondays.
Located 45 minutes from Portland is Kennebunkport Maine. On the way there pass stunning Federal and Victorian style mansions that were built by the wealthy sea captains and merchants of the 1700s and 1800s. Stop at Dock Square and stroll through the picturesque streets lined with shops, galleries, unique stores, pubs and restaurants. See Walker’s Point, which under the Bush Administration served as the Summer Whitehouse.
Do you like lighthouses? There are a number to visit but Portland’s Head Light was commissioned in 1791 by President George Washington. This 80 foot conical tower of white fieldstone and brick still shines it beacon at the entrance to Portland Harbor. This lighthouse located in Fort William Park in Cape Elizabeth, is Maine’s first and most famous lighthouse.
In New England you have to sample some of the local favorites including fresh lobster, creamy clam chowder and/or steamed clams.
For shopping, a 30 minute trip to Freeport provides access to numerous brand name designer stores include Mikasa, London Fog, Nike, Polo, Ralph Lauren to name a few. In total there are 110 stores for you shopping pleasure. Freeport is also the home the L.L. Bean. Here you can find anything you may need to explore Maine’s great outdoors. The L.L. Bean flagship store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. After an afternoon of shopping you can relax beside the indoor trout pond and the kids could try their prowess on the moving rock-climbing wall. Another alternative is the Maine Mall, located in South Portland. With 140 stores, it is Maine’s largest indoor shopping center. .
During the summer, lightweight clothes are advisable. Keep in mind, the Evenings will be cooler and may require a sweaters and long pants. In the autumn, a heavy sweater is usually sufficient but a supplemental jacket is advised. In October, the average temperature hovers 61 during the day and the upper 30’s at night.
Source- Greater Portland’s Visitor Bureau.
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