Victoria Mansion#8 in Best Things To Do in Portland, ME
Architecture buffs and lovers of interior design will be swept up by the opulence of the Victoria Mansion. This National Historic Landmark was originally built in the mid-1800s as a summer house for hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Morse. But after it was damaged during a hurricane in 1938, the house was scheduled for demolition to make way for a gas station. A Maine resident quickly bought the home and turned it into a museum in honor of Queen Victoria.
What makes the Victoria Mansion so important in the eyes of historians is that it's seen as an exemplary illustration of pre-Civil War grandeur. The exterior of the house was modeled after an Italian villa and features an ornate square tower, numerous balconies and piazzas. Inside, prepare to be even more amazed. Ninety percent of the original interiors are still intact, with carved wood paneled walls, gas light fixtures, cherub-clad crown molds, and ornate draperies and carpeting throughout. Designed by Gustave Herter of Herter Brothers, one of the most popular design firms of the day, it is the only work of his kind in the U.S. that remains intact. Another interesting aspect of this house is that it was actually considered modern in its era. The property features running hot and cold water, gas lighting, central heating and a system to alert servants.
All the house's bells and whistles impressed recent visitors. Travelers were in awe of the well-preserved state of the mansion's interiors. Others appreciated the knowledgeable staff, though some expressed a little disappointment that visitors don't have access to all areas of the house. You can find Victoria Mansion in downtown Portland, about a half-mile southwest of the Old Port. Admission costs $16 for adults; $5 for youth ages 6 through 17; and it's free for children younger than 6. Hours and guided tours vary by day and season. For more information, visit the Victoria Mansion's website.
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#1 Casco Bay Islands
Though beaches are few and far between in Portland, shorelines abound in the nearby Casco Bay Islands. The Casco Bay Islands are a group of islands located off the coast of Portland, six of which are accessible by ferry year-round. Each island has its own personality, history, attractions and activities.
Cliff Island, one of the smallest Casco Bay Islands, is home to only 60 residents year-round and is the only year-round island that features unpaved roads and as such, cars are seldom used. Meanwhile, Great Diamond, which was home to historic Fort McKinley, is lauded for its quintessential Maine landscape and boasts shallow, rocky shorelines backed by lush forests. Cars aren't allowed, so walking, biking or getting around on golf carts are the modes of transportation. You'll find plenty of beaches on this isle, specifically the stunning Diamond Cove, as well as a small museum, a bowling alley and tennis courts. You can make a weekend of it and stay at the Inn at Diamond Cove, which has a host of activities and excellent dining options.
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