Contrary to popular belief, we do more than just eat on vacation. Slightly more. I’d say this is one of the first trips where we really tailored our plans to Baby M – in the past we’ve worked around her, but this time we were trying to plan activities for her (and for our friends’ kids too). Here are some of the things we did. Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum
In exchange for a short fifteen minute walk from town you can get a pretty neat experience – the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum. Narrow gauge railroads don’t operate anymore, but their main difference from regular railroads is that their tracks are thinner. You might even say that their tracks are narrower than regular gauge railroads. Anyway, the Museum has a nice little train ride that is great for kids (with some nice views for adults).
Being obsessed with trains as a kid, I was happy to take Baby M on the train ride – she seemed to enjoy herself as well. I think this is a great family outing – you are allowed to eat on the train, halfway through you can get out, take pictures, and blow the steam whistle! Adults cost $10, kids 3-12 $6, and under 2s are free. The train tickets come with admission to the museum which is a large warehouse with a few old school train cars and plenty of activities for the kids.
The word “museum” is probably a bit of a stretch here, but the reality is there are enough fun activities that we stayed for an extra forty-five minutes after the train ride. In fact, we only left because Baby M needed to eat soon. She colored, ran around the train cars, sat in little train seats, and played with good old Brio train sets. She had a great time and it seemed that older kids (4 and 6 maybe?) who were running around were enjoying themselves as well. If you’re worried about “value”, I guess you could get more for $10. Personally, I really liked the museum; I got to expose my daughter to one of my first loves, she had a fun time, and it was nice to experience that old time feel. We also got a ton of exercise walking there and back which is always a bonus for Jess!
Portland Children’s Museum
Part museum, part playground – the Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine is awesome. It’s about a ten minute walk from town. On our way there, we happened upon a Memorial Day parade, which we stopped to watch. I avoid politics and the like on this blog, but hopefully I don’t offend anybody by saying I appreciated watching the parade and thinking about those who have sacrificed so much for this country. It made me savor and appreciate our trip just a little bit more.
We spent two hours at the Children’s Museum and I’m sure we could have spent an entire day there. Admission for everyone is $9 but it’s good for the whole day. The cutoff for free entry is 18 months – I guess they expect you to operate on the honor system which I respect. You can honestly get $10 worth of activities for an 18 month old so I think it’s pretty good. While it may not look super new, the museum has a ton of fun things to do. It is broken up into sections, including one specifically for toddlers and infants.
There are three floors, though one of them is mostly taken up by a theater for kids to dress up and put on shows. Some highlights? The fire station complete with firefighter outfits for kids to try on and a POLE TO SLIDE DOWN WHEEE! Baby M was a big fan of Whole Foods Market’s exhibit, which is basically like a large grocery store where you can shop for groceries. I could have sworn she tried to sneak a bite of fake fruit when I wasn’t looking.
There are also neat things like a working ATM that spits out toy money, a space shuttle cockpit, a touch pool, one of those running streams where you can play with toy boats, a gigantic climbing structure, large (LARGE) blocks you could build with, and an outdoor pirate ship. Yaaaar. We were there on Memorial Day and it wasn’t very crowded. One admission gets you in and out for the day; if we went back I’d consider going in the morning, leaving for lunch, and heading back. All three of the kids we brought there had a blast – it’s so relaxing just being able to sit and rest while the kids run around. Welcome to toddler life?
Fort Williams Park
I touched on this when I mentioned the lobster rolls at Bite Into Maine, but Fort Williams Park is a great place to go. Parking is free, there’s tons of green space, trails, and beautiful scenery. This is the perfect place to picnic, eat a lobster roll, or walk around enjoying the scenery. Of course the crown jewel of this park is Portland Head lighthouse – it’s quintessential New England. I ended up spending most of my time in the car with a sleeping baby but the little time I spent walking around was well worth it.
There is a lot to do and see just in downtown Portland itself (Old Port). Of particular interest to kids that are allowed to eat sugar – Gelato galore. If you don’t let your kids eat sugar, feel free to take them to the toy store, walk along the water, or just enjoy the ambiance.
For the record, I think Portland, Maine is a town worth visiting no matter your demographic. Baby M had a great time but Jess and I have enjoyed trips here in the past without her. There really seems to be something for everyone and its small enough that you can get around and do a lot on foot, a major plus. Leave the crowded, overly expensive sights in Boston and check out this great city!
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Dude. I live near Portland. If that picture on the Narrow Gauge was in the past few weeks or so, we may have seen each other. But you gotta stop writing about my area or I’m going to run out of material fast 🙂
Glad you enjoyed your visit. I’m not a native (“from away” they call me) but I’ve spent a few good years here and am proud of this city. Drop me a line the next time you head back.