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Queens Chronicle

PRIME TIMES: 60 Plus On The Road Again: Portland, ME

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 2:08 pm, Thu Aug 1, 2019.

Portland is both Maine’s largest city and the last major town as you head north on I-95 toward the Canadian border. Although it has long been a favorite weekend getaway for Bostonians, it has become “discovered” by those outside of New England in the last decade.

The city’s downtown is both very walkable and also has ample parking.

While downtown be sure to visit the Wadsworth-Longfellow Housewhich is which was where America’s most famous 19th century poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, grew up and wrote his early poems.

The Portland Museum of Art is located four blocks from the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and is home to an extensive collection of paintings from American giants as Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth and Rockwell Kent, as well as from such European masters as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Portland waterfront is about a 10-minute walk from downtown. Commercial Street is the main thoroughfare and many of the city’s seafood restaurants are located here. The locals with whom I spoke insisted that they are not tourist traps and that they do indeed dine at them.

You can also experience Portland’s most popular attraction, a ride on the Casco Bay Ferries, to the various islands in the bay such as Peaks Island and Long Island (yes, Maine has its own Long Island). Unlike our Staten Island Ferry, there is a charge but it’s worth it to enjoy an hour’s ride on the water.

The city of Freeport is a 20-minute drive north of Portland and is best known for being the headquarters of the legendary American clothier, L.L. Bean. There is both a large L.L. Bean retail store and outlet right on US-1. While the selection is extensive you have to be a savvy shopper or you’ll wind up paying full retail price (or close to it even at its outlet store). You can get a bargain if you look for clearance items with a red sticker on them.

Freeport was one of the first outlet centers in the country and for years this was a major tourism driver for this Portland suburb. As they’ve become both larger and more ubiquitous (think Woodbury Commons in Orange County and Tanger Outlets in Riverhead, LI) there isn’t the same urgency for shopping buffs to come here although there are still several good outlets here including stores for Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike and Vineyard Vines.

Anyone who has a sweet tooth will love a visit to Freeport because it is home to both Wicked Whoopies (whoopie pies are circular cake sandwiches that contain a large amount of sweet vanilla cream) store and the headquarters of Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, which offers walk-through factory tours on select dates.

The city of Kennebunkport, best known for being a summer getaway for the late President George HW Bush and his family, is a 30-minute drive south of Portland on US-1. The Bushes still maintain a private residence here so there are no public tours here but the compound is surprisingly visible from the road.

The Seashore Trolley Museum, which possesses one of the best collections of historic subway, trolley and cable cars, is located just off US-1 in Kennebunkport. You are greeted by a Flushing line No. 7 “Redbird” car that boasts a “2000 Subway Series Yankees vs. Mets” banner as soon as you enter the grounds. The highlight is taking a 45-minute ride in a cable car along the grounds.

The town of Scarborough is located between Kennebunkport and Portland. Scarborough Downs, one of the oldest harness racing tracks in the country, is a throwback in time. The Black Point Inn, which opened over 140 years ago, still has an elevator that requires an operator. It’s also one of the best fine-dining experiences you’ll have in the area and if the weather conditions are favorable you’ll enjoy a spectacular sunset over Saco Bay. The Black Point Inn was a favorite of President George “41” HW Bush.

A great place to stay in the Portland area is the Higgins Beach Inn located a block from the Atlantic Ocean in Scarborough. The Higgins Beach Inn has been operating seasonally (beginning of May through the end of October) since 1897 and it truly is classic New England lodging with its wooden floors, high ceilings and spacious rooms. There is always complimentary seltzer, coffee and tea available in the lobby. Be sure to obtain a package that includes breakfast in its popular Shade Restaurant. You can order scrambled egg whites with chunks of lobster. After all you are in Maine!

Former more information on the greater Portland area, log onto visitportland.com or call its tourism bureau at (207) 772-5800.

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