Five Portland, Maine Must-Do's
1) Holy Donut
If you've ever been to Portland, Oregon, you've been to Voodoo Doughnuts (and if you haven't, you best book the next flight to OR immediately). I completely understand your appreciation of the unique and creative Voodoo concoctions. I too am obsessed with their treats and would easily argue that they have the best nuts on the West Coast. However, the conqueror of the East Coast is, without a doubt, Holy Donut.
Holy Donut is truly a place of worship. The warm, rich, cake-like, Maine potato-based dough (that's right, the dough is made with potatoes!) is truly of deity status. Each donut (priced at around $2) is a piece of art, made with mostly local ingredients like Maine blueberries. My personal favorites are the dark chocolate sea salt (which is also available gluten-free) and the sweet potato ginger glazed. In the mood for something a bit more savory? Try the bacon-cheddar donut (which is more like the best breakfast calzone ever invented). If you really want the best possible Holy Donut donut, be sure to arrive just as the shop opens to ensure that you get a taste of the first glorious batch. Believe me, it's worth it!
194 Park Avenue, Portland, Maine 04102
Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Saturday 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Sunday 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
7 Exchange Street, Portland, Maine 04101
Pro Tip: During the summer and fall (April 26th-November), the Portland Farmers' Market is open from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., located at Deering Oaks Park, right across from the Park Avenue Holy Donut location. Grab a donut (or two) and take a stroll through dozens of kiosks filled with fresh fruits and veggies, letting the guilt of the dark chocolate sea salty goodness sink in. Maybe grab a carrot or two to offset the previous indulgence? Or perhaps you'd rather walk off those extra (heavenly) calories.
2) Old Port
If you've decided to grab a donut at the Exchange Street Holy Donut location, you're in luck! You are within walking distance of some of the most beautiful shops and amazing restaurants in Portland. Winter or summer, a stroll down the enchanting yet steep cobblestone streets to the Portland Pier is always a great time (unless you decide to wear heels and bust a knee open on the cobblestone; rookie mistake). If you're up for a little adventure, and have the money to spend, I suggest embarking on a sailing excursion around Casco Bay (sunset and sunrise sails are the absolute best). After a true sailing experience, return to land for some wicked good Maine seafood. Many restaurants located on the pier, like J's Oyster and Portland Lobster Company, get their fresh seafood from the rivers and bays right outside their establishments. After you've had your fill of sea creatures, grab a couple of drinks while listening to some sweet tunes at Bull Feeney's Irish pub and restaurant (my personal favorite). Not up for sailing or seafood OR raging to awesome music? WELL THEN GET OUT. But before you leave, you might want to visit some of the most picturesque spots around Portland.
3) Bug Light Park
When in Maine, it is absolutely necessary to visit some of the most historic and iconic light houses on the East Coast such as Bug Light. The park might be small but the Portland skyline views are grandiose (tourists, grab your cameras). The park was once home to WWII shipbuilders for the New England Shipbuilding Corporation as well as the South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation. Bug Light Park was a new sight for me (even though I lived in Maine last summer and thought I had seen it all). It is safe to say that I will be returning to this quaint spot again this April, with picnic basket in hand.
Pro Tip: This park is only a 15-minute walk to Willard Beach, a popular spot for residents to catch a tan and cool off in the chilly waters of Casco Bay.
4) Portland Head Light
When I think of Portland, I automatically think of Maine's oldest lighthouse, the Portland Head Light located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Located within the Keepers Quarters of the Portland Head Light, there is a small, yet informative must-see museum that has many pieces from the original lighthouse built in 1787. It sits in Fort Williams Park, a 90-acre playground filled with old WWII forts and bunkers as well as hiking and biking paths, picnic areas, and much more (basically enough outdoor activities to keep you busy for an entire weekend). In addition, Fort Williams Park has amazing hills for sledding in the winter! Are you finally ready to warm up after your extensive historic time travel? Meet some lovely folks while sipping on a drink that just might suit your fancy.
Location: 1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth, Maine 04107
Museum Hours and Prices: Open daily from Memorial Day to the Friday after Columbus Day and weekends from mid-April to Memorial Day and Columbus Day to Christmas.
Adult admission: $2.00 Children: $1.00 Children under 6 are free
5) Urban Park Fermentory
Kombucha. A word that once meant nothing to me has now consumed my life. After purchasing a Groupon for Urban Farm Fermentory, I soon became obsessed with the fizzy, probiotic-ridden tea. Kombucha begins as a tea that, through the process of fermentation, develops a 1.5% ABV (that's right folks, drink enough of this and you'll be rolling around the floor in no time...if you're the lightest of lightweights, like me). The delicious drink comes in multiple flavors, all of which are made from local ingredients native to Maine like white pine, ginger, Maine strawberry, and Maine blueberry. Some must-try flavors include ghost chili pepper, beet, and chaga chai. In addition to kombucha, Urban Farm carries dry ciders and meads. The knowledgeable staff is always more than happy to answer any kombucha-related questions you may have.
If you happen to purchase the Groupon for two, and I suggest you do, you'll receive a tour of the fermentation center, two paddles of four tastings, and two growlers (pronounced "growlahs" by true Mainers). If the Groupon isn't for you, just show up and grab a $3 paddle of four tastings or perhaps a 12-ounce pour ranging from $3-$5. The flavors change frequently so there is always something new to try each time you visit!
Location: 200 Anderson Street, Portland, Maine 04101
Tuesday-Saturday 12:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Pro Tip: Remember that summer and fall Portland Farmers' Market mentioned above? Well, there's a winter market too (located in the very same building as Urban Farm)! The market is open every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. from December to late April.