Maine

THE PINE TREE STATE

One of the best-kept secrets in Maine is that early fall is the best season of all to visit on an extended weekend getaway. Warm days, cool nights, and fewer visitors means that Vacationland is even more enjoyable to explore this month. There’s time to check out the new crop of restaurants statewide or get tickets for Harvest on the Harbor in Portland. There’s still time to book a foliage getaway at one of Maine’s classic inns. Looking ahead to next month, the state’s major crafts fair and an activities-packed Pumpkin Trail are on offer. For art lovers, the new N.C. Wyeth exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art that opens this fall promises new insights into one of the masters of 20th century American art.

When I think of Maine, the first thing that comes to mind is fresh lobster. Maine Lobster is known as the sweetest, most flavorful lobster on Earth. It’s been an integral part of the coastal region for generations and is sustainably harvested. Lobsters are harvested by hand, one trap at a time, to protect their quality and marine habitat. If you don’t want to wait until summer months when Lobsterfests are in season, try a lobster roll served year-round at the  Maine Diner in Wells, J’s Oyster in Portland, or Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery. All feature the delicious chilled meat on a toasted bun.

The common nickname of “The Pine Tree State” is known because of the extensive pine forests that have covered the state. The White Pine is considered to be the largest conifer in the northeastern United States and some of the tallest trees in eastern North America grew in Maine. The northeasternmost U.S. state is known for its rocky coastline, maritime history and nature areas like the granite and spruce islands of Acadia National Park. Moose are plentiful in Baxter State Park, home to Mt. Katahdin, endpoint of the Appalachian Trail. Lighthouses such as the candy-striped beacon at West Quoddy Head, dot the coast, as do lobster shacks and sandy beaches like Ogunquit and Old Orchard.

Lighthouse in Portland Maine In Fort Willams Park

If it’s lighthouses you wish to explore, the state of Maine is definately the place to visit. With 65 historical lighthouses still standing and spread out along 5,000 miles of coastline, inlets and islands, Maine is also commonly referred to as The Lighthouse State. These lighthouses have acted as beacons of light for sailors for hundreds of years, guiding sailors and fishermen safely in to harbors along the rocky Maine coastline. Today, lighthouses are an important part of Maine’s history and are popular tourist attractions. Although many Maine lighthouses are not accessible on land, lighthouse boat tours are an ideal way to see these attractions and get the best photographs.

One of Maine’s greatest winter secrets is the handful of smaller, family-run ski mountains that dot the state. Places like Lost Valley in Auburn, Black Mountain in Rumford and the community-owned Camden Snow Bowl on 1,300-foot Ragged Mountain, which offers skiers dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. In Bridgton, Shawnee Peak prides itself on providing families with a nostalgic, fun ski experience. At night, six lifts service 19 trails and three terrain parks can be skied under the lights. Mt. Abram has 10 beginner, 21 intermediate and 13 expert trails, making it a great mountain for families.

Make it an extended weekend and stay at the newest hotel in Portland, the AC Hotel Portland Downtown/Waterfront. Located at 158 Fore Street, this luxury hotel, across from Ocean Gateway pier II, features a chic minimalist European design. There are 178 guest rooms, a 40-seat restaurant, an outdoor patio, 2,700 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 24-hour fitness center. The AC Lounge has outdoor water-view seating, signature cocktails and a tapas menu. The property is ideally located two blocks from the shopping and restaurants of the Old Port District and is the only hotel in Portland with unobstructed views of Casco Bay. Visit the AC Hotel Portland Downtown/Waterfront.

The unofficial start of spring is Maine Maple Sunday, which falls on March 24 this year. Nearly 100 sugarhouses across the state will offer free maple syrup samples and demonstrations on how pure Maine maple syrup is made. Many farms offer games, activities, treats, sugarbush tours and music. The day is a long-standing Maine tradition among Maine’s maple producers, and most samplings and tours are free.

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