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Itinerary for an extended 4th of July mini-vacation/weekend in Portland and Greater Casco Bay area. 4 days.
DAY ONE: JULY 4TH
Arrive in the morning /early afternoon at Portland International Jetport (PWM). Portland Jetport is a rarity amongst US airports...located only four miles from city center!
Stay at the Holiday Inn by The Bay. Also known as "the old standard," this hotel is reasonably priced and puts you within walking distance of many Portland attractions. A free shuttle is also provided to get around the general area.
You've just arrived in Portland...hungry! Grab a bite to eat at Gritty's, Portland's brew pub with the local's stamp of approval.
Walk off your meal from Gritty's and explore the Old Port. The collections of cool shops and life around the pier makes this a must-see. Begin your journey by checking out "Cool as a Moose" on Fore Street for all your touristy needs.
Have dinner at the Portland Lobster Company. The name says it all. If it's not too windy, grab a table on the deck.
While you can walk from Old Port to the Eastern Prom for the big 4th of July fireworks, catching a ride on the historic steam trains to the action is so much more fun! The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad sponsors train rides to the fireworks and usually a donation is requested.
The Eastern Prom (as its called locally) is a nice park located near the water. Bring a towel, a frisbee or a good book and wait for the fireworks to begin. Get some yummy "fair food" like carmel apples and funnel cake from the vendors on site at the park. The fireworks generally start around 9pm. Due to rain this year, the fireworks began earlier around 8:30. Check the weather reports and local newspapers for start times as the big event nears. Ride the steam train back after the fireworks end.
DAY TWO: JULY 5TH
Start the day off right with breakfast at Becky's, a local diner favorite. Near the docks. If you're really good...arrive at 5am when the fisherman come in for a bite. Otherwise, plan your trip to Becky's carefully. Add a 30 minute cushion to allow for the wait to be seated. Becky's is very popular and if your party is more than 2, it could take awhile to find seating. Try the blueberry pancakes!
After a filling breakfast at Becky's, take a Duck Tour! This is literally a fun way to soak in some local flavor and history on land and water. The tour guides are locals with a great sense of humor and you'll cover a lot of ground in about an hour.
A visit to New England is not complete without a taste of chowder. If you're in Portland, Gilbert's Chowder House is a must. Gilbert's has great prices and great taste for lunch. They get high points for offering chowders that can be eaten by those allergic to shellfish--the chicken corn chowder is quite good!
Time for a mini-road trip! Cross the Casco Bay Bridge and go to Cape Elizabeth. Fort Williams State Park offers free access and romantic views of the ocean and the iconic Portland Head Light. If you want a more beachy experience, head to nearby Crescent Beach State Park.
Drive about 30 minutes to Scarborough, Maine for some fun and quirky Maine Adventures: The Chocolate Moose Tour at Len Libby's Candies and Candlepin Bowling
Len Libby's is a local institution that's serious about all things chocolate. While the chocolate confections are the major draw, the 1700 pound chocolate sculpture of "Lenny the Chocolate Moose" is not to be missed.
If chowder is a very new england food...candlepin bowling is a very new england pastime! Located about 2 minutes from Len Libby's is the Big 20 Candlepin Bowling. Center. Like it's mid-atlantic cousin, duckpin bowling, candlepin uses a much smaller ball than regular ten pin bowling. The pins in candlepin are also taller and thinner, making for a more challenging game. A fun way to burn off the calories from the chocolate at Len Libby's!
A staple on Portland's top foodie lists. They own the market when it comes to fries, which are done belgian style and cooked in duckfat (of course). A good place for a light and casual dinner.
A quick walk from Duckfat on Middle Street is the Stonewall Kitchen Company Store, Portland's answer to William-Sonoma. Check this place out for free samples and gift ideas.
Once you start walking around...keep going if it's a nice evening. Come back to the Old Port...it's hard to stay away from this cool area!
Move over, Starbucks..Bubble tea is an Asian drink that's starting to sweep the country one slurp at a time! Try this as a cooling treat as you walk around the Old Port. I recommend the Blueberry Slush with tapioca pearls (aka "boba").
DAY THREE: JULY 6TH
Take another mini-road trip to Freeport...about 30 minutes away from Portland.
Spend the day at the Freeport Village Outlets...quaint outlet shopping...it's true! The shops are integrated in the buildings of "old town" architecture. A pedestrian shopper's haven.
Have lunch at the Azure Cafe for fine Italian food in a casual atmoshpere.
Go to the Arts District of Portland as a pre-dinner outing. Head to the Portland Museum of Art and do some browsing of a different sort!
Tip: The PMA is free on Friday evenings 5pm to 9pm.
After seeing some of the established and well-known figures in the art world at the Portland Museum of Art, walk over to the Space Gallery. The Space Gallery features art work by emerging and underground artists in a funky gallery space that sometimes doubles as a club.
Reservations are strongly encouraged for this popular Portland restaurant. Fine dining in a chill atmosphere and reasonably priced. Do save room for dessert. The "Chocolate Tower" is a gorgeous dessert that must be seen to be believed!
DAY FOUR: JULY 7TH
Have breakfast at Marcy's in downtown Portland. Smaller than Becky's but just as much a local favorite. Try their homemade blueberry muffins, grilled!
Walk over to Monument Square, the cultural core of downtown Portland. If you are in Monument Square on Saturdays, a saturday market with local artisans is often present.
Before you say good-bye to the city and catch your early evening flight...Reward yourself for a journey well-done and treat your feet! After walking around Monument Square, head to Soak for a relaxing and therapeutic foot soak. Choose from a wide variety of teas as you indulge in a good soak.