Summer might just be the season to appreciate all this college town has to offer.
Most Mainers have been to Orono. As the home of the flagship campus of the University of Maine, the college town has been populated by students and professors alike since the university's inception in 1865. And chances are, even if you didn't go to school there yourself, a son or daughter, a sibling, a parent, or a friend did. But if, by some stroke of fate, you haven't visited this college town, by all means go. And the summer, when school's out, is one of the best times to do it.
DINING Orono is stuffed with an assortment of restaurants serving everything from soup and sandwiches to pizza, Mexican, and Thai food. If you don't know Orono for its academic reputation, then you probably know it for its culinary one: the birthplace of a Maine favorite, Pat's Pizza (11 Mill St., 207-866-2111). Step into the original landmark and sample what is arguably the best pizza in the Pine Tree State. If a burger is more your style, head to Woodman's Bar & Grill (31 Main St., 207-866-4040, www.woodmansbarand grill.com) and pair it with some of the best drinks in town. Back on Mill Street you can taste authentic Thai food (try the steamed dumplings and curries - just watch out for the spice) at Thai Orchid (28 Mill St., 207-866-4200). Or a few doors down, pick up a Janis Joplin or a Ringo Starr - sandwich, that is - at the popular Harvest Moon deli (18 Mill St., 207-866-3354, www.harvestmoondeli.com) and head to the campus for a picnic.
SHOPPING You can pick up a real Janis Joplin album in Orono, too, at the small but eclectic record shop Dr. Records (20 Main St., 207-866-7874). Don't miss a complimentary game of chess in the sitting area at The Store Ampersand (22 Mill St., 207-866-4110), where you can get a cup of Joe and pick up lots of organic products from candles and perfume to wine and spices. And though the temperature might be warm and muggy outside, you'll still want to stop in at the knitting store Fiberphilia (32 Mill St., 207-866-3423, www.fiberphilia.com) and peruse their great selection of yarns (think Christmas presents in July). You'll find instructional books to brush up on your knitting and purling or you can sign up for classes and knitting groups as well. If you happen to be a Black Bear alum, you might want to immortalize the pictures and clippings from yesteryear with the help of Judy's Scrappin' & Stampin' store (17 Mill St., 207-899-8000), where you'll find tons of materials to make a colorful and memorable scrapbook. For a larger purchase, check out the bikes at Rose Bicycle (9 Pine St., 207-866-3525, www.rosebike.com). The knowledgeable staff can help you find the bike for you, whether you are an ambitious cyclist or a leisurely rider.
ACTIVITIES You certainly don't need a bike from Rose's to get active in Orono. Alumni will be envious of the new campus Recreation and Fitness Center (207-581-1082, www.umaine.edu/campusrecreation), a multi-million dollar facility, open to the public, where you can swim, run, work out, or play racquetball, squash, basketball, indoor soccer, and more. (Don't miss the new tennis courts abutting the center, too.) For a more rustic experience, hop on a horse at Starwalk Stables (437 Main St.; 207-866-7511) and for just twenty-five dollars get an hour-long private horseback-riding lesson on their sixty-five acre plot. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, take a stroll on the Orono Bog Boardwalk (www.oronobogwalk.org), open from May to November. Trek the one-mile trail and meet the bog's unusual flora and fauna.
- By: Kathleen Fleury