Portland, ME Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Visit in Maine
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Courtesy of Joe Potato Photo/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Portland, ME

If you have extra time, Cape Elizabeth is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Portland, ME
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    #1 in Portland, ME
    Cafes, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Old Port is without a doubt the beating heart of Portland. This downtown neighborhood is considered the city's center and bustles with things to do left and right, all the while gracefully maintaining its historical facade. The area is lined with cobblestone streets and 19th-century warehouses, and with the wharf just steps away on Commercial Street, the city's heydays as a world-renowned port town are easily felt. Tourists can benefit from ferries and cruise experiences as well as the delectable catches that dock there daily.

    Away from the waterfront, travelers will find plenty of options to sustain and entertain. Some of the city's most popular restaurants can be found in Old Port. Duckfat, Fore Street and Eventide Oyster Co., some of Portland's best dining spots, are within a three-block radius of one another. Though dining and shopping is spread out through the neighborhood, Congress Street is a great starting point; restaurants, boutiques, local art galleries and theaters line this thoroughfare. The edge of the Old Port neighborhood is also considered the beginning of the Arts District, which houses plenty of notable attractions, including the Portland Museum of Art, the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine and the Portland Stage Company, to name a few.

  • #5
    Eastern Promenade
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    #5 in Portland, ME
    Beaches, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Portland's waterfront is at its most picturesque at the Eastern Promenade. Beloved by locals, the Eastern Promenade is a 68-acre waterfront park located on a stretch of land separating Back Cove from the Fore River. The park offers trails, beaches and plenty of grassy areas to simply kick back and unwind. To make the most of your visit, take a stroll along the 2-mile-long Eastern Promenade Trail, which starts in the heart of the Old Port.

    Once an old rail line, the Eastern Promenade Trail takes visitors away from the excitement of the city's center to the rocky banks of Fort Allen Park. Once you've gotten your fill of the scenic shoreline, consider a climb up the park's grassy hills for sweeping views of the bay, as well as the islands and boats that dot its deep blue waters. From there, you'll hit the small yet charming East End Beach (Portland's only public beach), where you'll find plenty of locals embarking on bay adventures and soaking up the sun. Those looking to continue their coastal trek can follow the Eastern Promenade Trail and connect directly to the Back Cove Trail, which snakes along Back Cove. There are plenty of other shorter trails and paths located in the park that bring hikers to various points of interest.

  • #6
    Cape Elizabeth
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    #6 in Portland, ME
    Beaches, Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Along with the Casco Bay Islands, Cape Elizabeth is a nice daytrip option for those in search of rolling hills and beaches. The town is located about 9 miles south of Portland and is best known for its lighthouses. You may recognize the Two Lights lighthouse, which is featured in Edward Hopper's well-known "The Lighthouse at Two Lights," a painting housed in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cape Elizabeth is also home to the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park. Commissioned by George Washington in the late 1700s, it's Maine's oldest lighthouse. Portland Head Light is also considered one of the most photographed lighthouses in the U.S., and some even say the entire world.

    The area is also home to the beautiful Crescent Beach State Park. The mile-long beach offers gentle waters backed by a spacious shoreline and grassy (and depending on the season, flowery) dunes. From the beach, visitors enjoy sweeping views of the ocean and a lush offshore island. The area is also packed with amenities, including a snack bar, picnic tables, restrooms and a lifeguard (in the summer), making it a popular spot for families.

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