With summer quickly winding down and autumn in the air, right now is the best time to visit New England. Fortunately for us, we happen to live in this beautiful region of the United States, allowing us easy access to the best it has to offer. Back in August, we spent a long weekend in Portland, Maine. While Maine is the epitome of New England summer, it's also the perfect place to visit during leaf peeping season! Or really, any time of year - especially in the off season.
Portland has a thriving culinary scene that will impress the biggest of foodies. Most places that are worth your while do not take reservations. Get there early, put your name in and grab a drink nearby. It'll be worth the wait, we promise.
Start your morning with a donut from Holy Donut. Get there early (trust us) and don't be alarmed by the line. It moves quickly. Try the Bacon Cheddar or the Sea Salt varieties. They even have Vegan and GF options available. So. Good.
And because breakfast should be a balanced meal, make sure to get your greens at Maine Squeeze. The Green Light was DE-LISH! Can't last a day without my green smoothie :)
Looking for a great lunch spot? Duck Fat serves up the tastiest fries, poutines, paninis and shakes. Tim and I shared the poutine with farm egg and a meatloaf panini at the recommendation of our server. It was incredible.
If a picnic lunch is more your jam, head over to Lois' Natural Market to stock up on healthy snacks. Make sure to order a panini from the takeout counter in the back. The ingredients are top notch and well crafted.
After your day of exploring, cozy up at Central Provisions. These small plates are out of this world. Some highlights for us included the steak tartar special with crispy farro and thai spices, burrata, eggplant crostata, street corn and foie gras (get the bigger one, trust us). The service was top notch and the wine excellent. We even considered coming back a second night, it was that good.
Another favorite of ours is Fore Street. Local, sustainable and downright divine, this place is not to be missed. We both ordered the whole roasted fish (local black bass) and trust us when we say that the two-month wait was well worth it!
Another option that we seek out on a regular basis is Izakaya Minato. Be forewarned they don’t have high chairs or much space for strollers, but this spot is hands down worth your while. Understated, yet top notch sashimi, Japanese tapas and more. Don’t miss the JFC and the Beef Yukke.
And of course, no trip to Maine is complete without a lobster roll. Although Tim is allergic, I was happy to indulge on a quick stop at Mabel's in Kennebunkport.
Love the Titanic? Check out the exhibit at the Portland Science Center, which features interactive and educational exhibits for the whole family.
Traveling without the kiddos? Sample some of Maine's best craft beer offerings at Shipyard or Bissell Brothers Brewing Co. TIP: If you come on a canning day, get to the brewery in the afternoon as there are long lines the first hour or two for 4-packs. Also, you can bring open your cans next door at Big J's Chicken Shack!
Portland is home to many local artists. Stroll through downtown to explore the galleries filled with unique artwork, pottery and glass.
While you're downtown, check out the boutiques on Exchange and Congress Street. Here you'll find exquisite nautical housewares as well as designer clothes.
Another great option is the city trolley tour, which provides some nice history of Portland!
If you're more at home on water, there are many boating adventures to be had. We took a sunset lighthouse tour of Casco Bay and had a blast. We were lucky enough to catch a few glimpses of seals and bald eagles, in addition to stunning views of Portland Head Light, making it even more fun.
We had a great time in Portland and have enjoyed our annual trip up there. Our favorite part? Being able to bring our dog, Stanley, along!
Every year, we stay at the Hyatt Place Old Port. The staff is incredibly helpful and LOVE dogs. For $75, you can bring your fury friend with you, which is such a great bonus. We've been able to use points to snag award-eligible rooms for just 12,000 points/night (cash value of $400 plus tax per night). TIP: It does get a little loud on the weekend as there are bars and restaurants in the area. Ask for a back room for some quiet, or enjoy the view on the noisier side and take advantage of the in-room noise cancelling machine!
Stanley really enjoyed his stay here. He especially loved the view from the bed.