Craft beer, craft coffee and history around every corner: Maine’s liveliest town reinvigorates classic New England traditions.
Food and history at the waterfront location, Portland is a place Bostonians will immediately recognize as reminiscent of their home. But over the past two decades, the city has developed its own distinct flavor between the old and the new that makes it a must-see destination in its own right, with the reputation of being a burgeoning hotspot teeming with creative, shops and, of course, a killer food scene.
After your quick trip along the coast, stock up on malt iced coffee and sticky cinnamon buns at Café Tandem + Bakery in the heart of the West End, one of the best preserved Victorian neighborhoods in the country. When you’re ready to hit the pavement, head to the East End’s Portland Observatory, where you can admire panoramic views of the city center and get your bearings. As the country’s only historic maritime signaling station, it’s a great place to soak up elevated views as well as a quick history lesson. From there it’s a quick walk to East Promenade, a 68-acre waterfront park designed by the Olmsted brothers, known for creating Boston Common.
After all, you’ll need a lot of long walks to enjoy the abundance of fabulous food across the city. Do not miss Cafe Louis, a Costa Rican and Caribbean restaurant with inventive dishes like fiddlehead empanadas stuffed with Cabot cheddar cheese; Front Street, the upscale farm-to-table destination restaurant that ignited the Portland food scene 25 years ago; honey paw, a “non-denominational noodle bar” of the people behind Eventide Oyster Co.; and the new one Brickyard Hollow Brewing Company, for craft beers and pizzas topped with Maine blueberries and smoked pulled pork.
If you have time after your culinary journey, consider taking a cruise with Portland Schooner Co., which offers two-hour tours of the harbor and Casco Bay in windjammers built in Maine and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After all, on a warm fall evening, few things are more memorable than seeing the city lights from the water.
Get in the car and you’ll be in Portland in two hours, or you can relax on the Amtrak Downeaster train and be there in two and a half hours.
If under the radar is your thing, check in Blind tiger, a restored 1823 guesthouse nestled in the residential West End, and wake up feeling like a real Portlander. If hip and event are more your speed, book the new one Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront, where the rooftop bar is one of the last beehives in town for an alfresco drink.