Why Winter in Maine is Just as Magical as Summer in Maine
Contrary to popular belief, there is more to winter in Maine than shoveling. I mean, that’s a big part of it, but there are plenty of other winter and holiday activities to pass the time until the snow melts…even if that’s not until May…which it very well could be. I digress, Maine in the winter is just as underrated as it is cold. Whether you’re around for the holidays, or visiting later in the season, Maine’s got you covered…and not just in inches of snowfall (har har har).
Boothbay Lights From mid November through December, the coastal town of Boothbay is lit up beautifully and features multiple events such as holiday fireworks , foodie tours, and Candlelight & Cocktails on Rails.
Gardens Aglow Light Show While in Boothbay, you’ll also find New England’s largest light display. Over 650,000 lights decorate Central Maine’s Botanical Garden.
Prelude in Kennebunkport + Fire & Ice Kennebunkport’s highly anticipated annual event transforms the town into a wonderland of lights. Don’t miss Santa ride in on his lobster boat, or the Dock Square Tree Lighting. Wrap things up at the Nonantum Resort where they hold their annual Fire & Ice event. The music will be loud, holiday drinks plentiful, but most importantly there will be snacks. Keep in mind, that a limited number of are sold and they sell out very fast!
The Nutcracker Each year, the Maine State Ballet performs the Nutcracker at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium.
Holiday show at City Theater. Biddeford’s historic theater presents holiday shows annually. Check out the showings and buy your tickets here.
The Polar Express Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum host this annual event that is perfect for children and families. The train is adorned in Christmas decor, and will ride about a mile and a half along Casco Bay on the Eastern Promenade to the “North Pole” where Santa will board to greet passengers. Hot chocolate and cookies will be passed, carols will be sung, and the timeless story will be read.
Magic of Christmas This annual show presented by Portland Symphony Orchestra’s is one of Maine’s most popular holiday traditions.
Victoria Mansion The halls are DECKED throughout this Portland landmark when it transforms at Christmas time. Decorated by local artists, the restored historic mansion is a holiday must. Tours are offered throughout the day into the evening and story hour for the kids lasts through December and into the beginning of January. They also put on an annual New Years Eve Soiree which includes apps, complementary drinks, a DJ, and champagne toast.
Boat Parade of Lights Casco Bay Lines hosts this special event cruise. Admire the boats adorned in holiday lights. Note: you can also see the boats form the Portland Waterfront.
Lighting of the Nubble The lighting of York, ME’s iconic lighthouse usually takes place in late November. The event includes cocoa, cookies, and maybe even a visit from Santa.
Festival of Lights Each year on Thanksgiving weekend, Rockland’s Festival of Lights celebration kicks the holiday season off. Santa stops by on a U.S. Coast Guard vessel as the world's largest Lobster Trap Christmas Tree is illuminated. The weekend also includes free horse-drawn wagon rides throughout the historic downtown arts & dining district, visits with Santa in his workshop, and holiday shopping opportunities.
Christmas by the Sea Ogunquit’s weekend long holiday celebration takes place early in December and includes a variety of activities. Wine tasting, ornament making, visits from Santa and craft shows are just some of the events planned for the event.
Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides These are offered throughout the state, but some of the best options include Maine Horse Drawn Services in Fairfield, Northern Heights Farm in Waterford, Hideaway Farm in Topsham, Rockin’ Horse Stables in Kennebunkport, and High View Farm in Harrison Chase Farms in Wells and Meadow Creek Farm in Sumner.
Night Skiing Shawnee Peak offers night skiing after 3:30PM Monday through Saturday, but Monday nights are by far the best night to go as they offer a Monday Madness promotion: 5.5 hours of skiing for $15, (or $20 on holiday Mondays).
Snow Tubing There’s certainly no shortage of places to go tubing here. Ski mountains like Sugarloaf and Sunday River have dedicated space to tubers in addition to the (many) other parks that feature it such as Oxford Plains Snow Tubing, and Seacoast Adventure in Windham.
Snowshoeing Inexpensive and requiring little skill, snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and pass the winter months. Maybe you know someone with trails in their backyard, but if not, plenty of outdoor centers and resorts have trails you can visit including Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, Bethel Nordic Ski Center at the Bethel Inn Resort, and Rangeley Lakes Trails Center
Ice Fishing While it may not be for everyone, it’s certainly for plenty of Mainers. If your interest is piqued, try going out with a guide or checking out a lodging property like New England Outdoor Center or Twin Maple Outdoors.
Snowmobiling Akin to driving a car in Maine’s winter, snowmobiles are everywhere. So much so, that the state has dedicated 14,000 miles of groomed trail to the sport. But it doesn’t stop there, there’s also a Free Snowmobiling Weekend each year which allows snowmobiles registered in any state to ride in Maine for three days. Wear your helmets, kids.
Ice Skating Winter in Maine goes hand in hand with this sport. There’s no shortage of ice rinks throughout the state, but The Rink at Thompson’s Point is especially impressive with its 10,000 sq ft of ice surface, heated areas, and theme nights.
LL Bean The Northern Lights Celebration takes place at LL Bean. Lights illuminate the campus and its trails. After you do a little shopping, you can visit Santa and his reindeer, check out the warming hut, and admire the model train village. Also, If you’re looking for something to do with the kids on New Year’s Eve, they’re hosting a special “Kid Night” NYE celebration.
Vintage Bazaar New England Holiday Edition: A place to check all of your holiday shopping boxes. With vintage and repurposed goods, live music, 75+ vendors, and more this place is basically the holiday shoppers dream.
Cozy Eats & Drinks
Bram Hall This candlelit speakeasy in the Old Port with a menu that features all kinds of comfort food, local beers, and creative cocktails.
Walkers Maine Serving seasonal dishes with farm to table ingredients, Walkers is a perfect choice for the winter (and spring, summer, fall) months. Extra points for it’s warming fireplace.
Bissell Brothers Brewing Company Come for the beer, stay for the beer (and the food trucks outside) and then walk across the parking lot to The Rink.
The Shearwater The Stage Neck’s restaurant is all kinds of dreamy. Surrounded by ocean views, and warmed by the fireplace, Its welcoming atmosphere makes it the perfect oasis form the cold. Hot tip: The pianist (hi, dad!) plays Friday through Sunday in the winter.
Duckfat It’s just.so.good. Grab a seat inside or in their heated and enclosed patio, stuff your face with french fries (with the truffle ketchup - oh my god it’s so good) and a milkshake while the snow falls outside.