The Gift of Maine
Why not treat a loved one to the biggest gift of all: The Pine Tree State.
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill
Whether you’re a parent looking to give your family the perfect winter weekend at Sugarloaf, or a sibling looking to spark your sister’s artistic instincts through pottery lessons, offering the Maine experience to your loved ones this holiday season may be the most lasting gift of all.
Maine Dog Sledding Adventures
P.O. Box 544, Millinocket
For more than twenty-five years, Don and Angel Hibbs have been guiding dog sled tours over and around frozen Nahmakanta Lake, just south of Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park in the heart of Maine’s spectacular winter wilderness. Half-day tours, from $375 for a group of four, suit all ages and abilities. “Depending on which trail we choose, we can customize expeditions for the physical level of the client,” Don Hibbs says. “Our dogs do 95 percent of the work. Last year I had a grandmother and her ten-year-old grandson.” The Hibbs also offer longer, overnight rides where clients get to drive their own sleds led by a team of huskies. “The clients are not cargo,” says Hibbs, who suggests that a customer learning to mush is akin to learning to downhill ski. Overnight trips, from $725 per person, include lodging, meals, and a cedar sauna at the cabins, accessible only by sled.
Sea Kayaking Excursions
1740 Rte. 1, Cape Neddick
Explore southern Maine’s hidden beaches, historic lighthouses, and tidal rivers with a gift certificate for a customized sea kayak adventure. Anyone, from beginners to advanced paddlers, will benefit from the expertise of two generations of experienced Maine guides at this family-run operation. “It actually provides the opportunity for someone who isn’t an avid kayaker to experience a little bit more than they would be comfortable doing themselves,” says lead guide Mike Sullivan, who runs the trips through his joint business Dixon’s Coastal Maine Campground. “We try to get out and go along the ocean coast as much as we can.” Guides, who include Sullivan’s two daughters, weave in local history while providing scenic tours of Cape Neddick Lighthouse Station, the working harbors, and waterfront. Half-day trips are $60 for adults and $50 for children. Overnight island camping trips in the Casco Bay region are also available, from $250, as is an adult paddle club, $200, with weekly trips all summer.
Maine Rock Gym
127 Marginal Way, Portland
Rock someone’s holiday with a membership or gift certificate to conquer up to five thousand square feet of rock-like, textured walls at this indoor climbing club. While most activity takes place inside, the gym runs outdoor trips for the whole family. “We would see if they have climbed before and suggest an area for them to climb,” says gym manager and co-owner Keith Morris. “Our guide would set up everything and take them out. We don’t just say this is what you are doing. We get to know them, what they want to get out of the day, and we mold the package so people get the most out of their experience.” Prices vary, but a customized half-day climb for two starts at roughly $190. First-timers may enjoy an introductory indoor climbing package, with specialty shoes, gear, and training, for $28. “We deal with kids from ages four and up,” Morris says. “Everyone comes in here to have fun.”
Maine Foodie Tours
Tickets available at Vervacious, 227 Commercial St., Portland
Sample Maine-inspired foods on a two-hour, eat-as-you-go walking or trolley tour of Portland’s famed restaurants, bakeries, and breweries. “They are highly interactive,” says tour owner and operator, Pam Laskey, who this year added chocolate tours of Portland’s Old Port and Freeport. “My guides are very talented. Plus the food is very good.” For $36 and up, participants can visit up to seven locations and meet the makers of the area’s finest pastries, breads, honey wines, seafood, handcrafted beers, and treats. Chocolate tours include learning where cocoa beans are grown to their health benefits. “It is both education and entertainment,” Laskey says. Tours meet on a designated street and are by advanced reservation.
Oxford Plains Snow Tubing
Rte. 26, Oxford
With four runs, individual or family-sized tubes, and a lift to haul riders to the top of a towering peak, Oxford Plains Snow Tubing offers fun for the holidays. “We have groups that come out every year,” says Butch Lenberg, director of marketing. “Families and teens love it.” Just two miles south of the famous Oxford Speedway, thrill seekers can rent an inflatable tube, for $12 an hour or $20 for a full day, and lie back as a lift tows them to the top of the mountain before an exhilarating ride down. “Boy, it is fast,” Lenberg says. “It is fast!” A warming hut and concessions are also available at the business, which makes its own snow.
Maine Huts and Trails
375 North Main St., Kingfield
Cross-country ski, hike, or mountain bike the thirty miles of trails that make up the Maine Huts and Trails network in the shadow of Sugarloaf, one of Maine’s most popular resort mountains. The gift of a home-cooked meal and a night at one of the non-profit’s three backcountry eco-lodges gives a sporting loved one the opportunity to conquer the trails in any season. There is no charge to use the thirty miles of trails. “Ski in for lunch and a beer, or stay overnight,” says Conrad Klefos, director of marketing. “If you want to take a trail lunch with you, we can do that, too.” Meals start at $10 for a hot lunch. For non-members, winter overnights start at $79 for adults and $42 for children and include meals. Or consider a supporting membership, $100 for an individual, which includes one night of free lodging.
River Tree Arts
35 Western Ave., Kennebunk
Artists of all ages will find inspiration at this thirty-year-old arts center, which offers a wealth of workshops, after school classes, and month-long courses in all manner of drawing, painting, sculpture, jewelry making, theater, music, and dance. “Most of our instructors are working artists,” says Juliette Coldreck, program director. “Once we find a really great artist and teacher, we try to keep them around as long as possible.” Saturday workshops, such as Japanese papermaking, cost $40, while four-week sessions for classes, such as painting in plein air, rise to $110. The center, which began in a church on the banks of the Kennebunk River, frequently holds faculty concerts and gallery openings featuring the crafts, jewelry, paintings, and sculptures of local artisans. Gift certificates are good on creative pieces and events as well as classes.
118 Washington Ave., Portland
Hand-thrown, painted pottery gains an appreciated layer of intimacy for its owner when the potter is a close friend. So how about a gift certificate to Portland Pottery for that artistically inclined acquaintance? In the heart of Maine’s largest city, this full-service supply store and gallery offers eight-week courses and daylong workshops in pottery, metal smithing, and jewelry making. Local potters and artists teach students of all ages from beginner to semi-professional. “The art form is a big draw for people,” says studio manager Chris Cooper, referring to how a pottery class not only develops a new skill but provides a finished object, all at a relatively low cost. Classes start at $60 for a four-hour workshop and $245 for an eight-week class, and gives students full studio access. “We provide clay, glazes, and refining,” Cooper says. Gift certificates can also be used toward pieces for sale in the studio’s upstairs gallery, books, and supplies.
L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery School
95 Main St., Freeport
Each year more than thirty thousand people enroll in L.L. Bean’s outdoor workshops, clinics, and outings to improve their outdoor skills and take part in adventures with some of Maine’s finest guides. This year, to celebrate the outdoor outfitter’s hundredth anniversary, the company is adding an even wider array of classes. “We are doing everything we have done all along,” says Discovery School Manager Gretchen Ostherr, “but we are adding programming with historical value.” That means fly fishing expeditions to the favorite spots of the store founder L.L. Bean’s grandson, Leon Gorman, and hunting expeditions with his great grandson, Bill Gorman, who has his own hunting TV show. Also new this year, L.L. Bean has partnered with the Appalachian Mountain Club and Maine Huts and Trails to offer overnight trips that combine the non-profit clubs’ facilities with the outfitter’s instructors. Starting from $10, the school offers everything from introductory and full-day classes, to multi-night trips, and customized outings appropriate (with the exception of shooting) for children ages eight and up.
Salt Water Farm Cooking Classes
2299 Atlantic Hwy. (Rte. 1), Lincolnville
Give the foodies on your list a gift certificate for a feast they make themselves at this oceanfront eatery and cooking school located in a post-and-beam barn on a working farm in rural Lincolnville. Depending on the day, participants may forage for mushrooms or chop the head off the food they’ll soon be enjoying. “On one of our wilder classes, we take everyone out to an island to go foraging and come back and make dinner with all the wild edibles we collected from the seashore and caught fishing off the boat,” says owner and chef Annemarie Ahearn. Classes, from $75, led by guest chefs from around the globe, range from authentic Italian cooking to preparing a French feast. Each concludes with a sit- down meal. For a less intense experience, consider a once-a-month Full-Moon Supper or Sunday Supper, each $75, featuring an amuse-bouche followed by a four-course dinner of fresh Maine ingredients eaten alongside the local farmers who grew the food and seafarers who caught the fish.
41 Wooden Boat Ln., Brooklin
Learn to set a sail or build a boat at the Wooden Boat School’s popular summer family week, held biannually on its sixty-four-acre waterfront campus on Eggemoggin Reach. “We offer five or six different courses,” says Rich Hilsinger, director of the school. “Some family members will take sailing and some will take boatbuilding. Or sometimes they all build a boat together and take it home at the end of the week.” A variety of maritime courses, from seamanship to woodworking and related crafts, are offered year-round. Tuition includes food and use of the school’s many boats. Participants may camp, stay in a campus dorm, or lodge at a nearby inn. The family week sailing course begins at $550 per person. The family boatbuilding class begins at $600 plus materials. Children’s rates are half price, with discounts for large families.
First Chance Whale Watch
4 Western Ave., Kennebunk
Get your loved ones ready for summer with the gift of a Maine whale watch or an interactive lobsterboat tour through Performance Marine. “Maine is home to a vast array of sea life that you are not going to see other places very readily,” says Marge Keller, general manager. And where else can you see a former president’s home from the water while trolling for lobster traps? The four-and-a-half hour whale watch aboard Nick’s Chance, $48 for adults and $28 for children, takes passengers twenty miles into the Atlantic. Guests aboard Kylie’s Chance, $20 for adults and $15 for children, head along the Kennebunkport coastline for a shorter tour that often includes viewing seals on Bumpkin Island.
Maine Maritime Museum
243 Washington St., Bath
Give the opportunity to take a lighthouse or nature cruise along midcoast Maine’s coastal rivers and bays and the recipient gets two days admission to one of the state’s top museums for free. That’s the deal with every boat ticket and Bath Iron Works trolley tour sold by the Maine Maritime Museum. Cruises and shipyard tours begin in May, but the popular museum and gallery on twenty acres of the west bank of the Kennebec River is open year-round. Lighthouse lovers, maritime history buffs, and bird watchers will find plenty of excursions to choose from, starting at $35 for adult non-members and $15 for children. One of the most popular voyages is exploring Merrymeeting Bay. “It is more of a nature cruise,” says Dave Garrison, director of marketing. “There are seals and osprey. It is just a beautiful area.”
Down East Windjammer Cruises
P.O. Box 28, Cherryfield
Indulge someone’s love of fishing with a four-hour expedition on Frenchman Bay with Down East Windjammer Cruises. Located in the heart of one of Maine’s most popular harbors, the M/V Tiger Shark leaves twice a day all summer from the Bar Harbor Inn Pier. “The captain tries to find the spots we are going to have the best luck at,” says Kelly Mitchell, gift shop manager for the cruise company. The company also offers island ferry service and voyages on its tall-masted schooner the Margaret Todd. Fishing trips, $45 for adults and $32 for children, include bait and gear as well as your catch, which is cleaned and bagged courtesy of the crew.
111 Pascal Ave., Rockport Marine Park, Rockport
Sail into cinematic history aboard the classic schooner Heron, which made its movie debut this fall as a wealthy man’s yacht in The Rum Diary with actor Johnny Depp. The sixty-five-foot vessel, a replica of a schooner from the 1920s, was built in Camden by Nigel Bower, who co-captains the vessel with his wife, Bonnie Schmidt. “The design makes it fast and comfortable,” Schmidt says. “It is very sleek in the water, and yet it is heavy, so it can take a lot of wind and still be comfortable.” For the upcoming summer, consider the two-to-three hour onboard lobster roll luncheon, wildlife cruise, or sunset tour, from $45 for adults and $20 for children.
Merry Memberships & Tantalizing Tickets
20 Gilsland Farm Rd., Falmouth
People can stroll, cross-country ski, snowshoe, or spy animals for free at Maine Audubon’s eight wildlife sanctuaries and three centers. But a membership, from $35, makes a great gift and helps preserve thousands of acres of natural habitat. The holder receives program discounts and a subscription to Habitat, the organization’s quarterly publication. “Our members are a huge part of how we fund our conservation work,” says membership manager Debbie Atwood. “The membership is where we get away from just a beautiful walk in the woods to making sure those resources remain. We deal with everything from vernal pools with those teeny, tiny little creatures to moose, wind power, and the North Woods. It is a much deeper organization than most people realize.” Best of all, a local membership includes national membership as well.
Maine State Music Theatre
Pickard Theater, Bowdoin College
22 Elm St., Brunswick
Give the gift of the best guaranteed seating at one of Maine’s most popular professional music theaters. Beginning June 6 with A Chorus Line, enjoy four seasons of Broadways hits and old-time favorites with a subscription starting at $126. Subscribers not only get first dibs on seats, they also save money, receive regular theater mailings, and get first shot at future concerts. “The great thing about giving tickets at Christmas,” says executive director Steven Peterson, “is here we are in the dead of winter, and when you get those tickets and see in June you are going to see Legally Blond, you know you are going to have a great experience to look forward to.”
Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival
223 Lisbon St., Lewiston
Know a film fan? Consider wrapping up a VIP pass to L-A’s hot, new film festival. No, not that L.A. The one right here in Maine. From April 13 – 15, organizers will show more than a hundred films from around the world at galleries, businesses, and other spaces turned into movie theaters for just one day. “It is something that is definitely unique,” says Molly McGill, managing editor for the Lewiston-Auburn Magazine, which sponsors the festival. “Last year we had films from Syria, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and more.” Viewers select which films — including those made right here in Maine — earn prizes. A $22 ticket gets guests into all the films and workshops. A limited number of VIP passes, available for $130, include Friday’s opening party, Saturday’s awards dinner, and Sunday’s brunch at Lewiston’s acclaimed Fish Bones American Grill.
Bicycle Coalition of Maine
P.O. Box 5275, Augusta
Register that bike-enthusiast acquaintance with the advocacy organization that’s helped Maine earn the ranking of third most bike-friendly state. Coalition members can participate in two annual group rides — Camden’s Lobster Ride & Roll, which includes a lobster roll lunch, and Freeport’s Maine Women’s Ride — and gain access to discounts on weekly trips, helpful trips, the best trails, quarterly newsletters, and updates on bike-related legislation and events. “The wonderful thing about a bicycle is that almost everyone who grew up in this country rode one when they were little, and you never forget,” says executive director Nancy Grant. “You just hop on there and go, ‘This is fun!’ ” A membership is $10 for students and $35 for supporters and don’t miss the group’s annual Portland bike swap, which attracts more than two thousand bargain shoppers.
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
294 Crosby Brook Rd., Unity
Need a great gift for a gardener? A $50 membership to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) includes entry for all three days to the Common Ground Fair, program discounts, and access to a wagonload of agricultural experts who will personally answer individual questions about gardens and livestock. In addition, the organization offers hands-on workshops throughout the year, which include everything from forestry management to kitchen licensing. “Everyone in Maine is affected by healthy farms and healthy communities,” says membership assistant Kacey Weber. “If you are a home gardener, you can’t get anything better than this.”
Maine Discovery Museum
74 Main St., Bangor
For a year-round gift that is both educational and fun, how about a $99 family membership to the Maine Discovery Museum? “Our new Fit for Fun kiosk should appeal to an older crowd,” says executive director Niles Parker. Participants enter interactive kiosks to hang glide over Maine or snowboard down a snow-packed mountain using satellite imagery broadcast on giant video screens. Even those who only visit occasionally can get plenty of use from the museum’s “reciprocal membership” for $125, which includes admission to hundreds more museums nationwide. Or, get into the spirit of the season by giving a gift membership to a local family in need for just $65.
The Guest Houses at Pineland Farms
16 Pineland Farms, New Gloucester
Set on five thousand acres of working farmland, these six finely furnished guesthouses accommodate groups from two to twenty. Snowshoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and ice skating are available at the non-profit working farm and creamery as are farm tours, fishing, mountain biking, tennis, and hiking. Prices range from $400 per night for a two-bedroom guesthouse perched atop the farm’s equestrian center to $850 per night for a seven-bedroom farmhouse with sauna. For a night out, shopping spree, or day trip, the farm is less than thirty minutes from Portland, Freeport, and Maine’s Lakes Region.
Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Lodge
15 Moosehead Lake Rd., Greenville
Enjoy a private cabin or shared bunkhouse on Long Pond through the Appalachian Mountain Club. “It is a beautiful spot,” says property manager Dan Rinard. “Right now we have ten cabins, and we are in the process of opening two more.” Each cabin, from $134 for non-members, is warmed with a wood-burning stove. Meals take place in the brand-new LEED-certified lodge, part of the club’s four-lodge, thirty-seven-mile trail network in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness. A wood-fired sauna, eighty-miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, and meals are also included. The club will even help arrange dog-sled rides, but to get there you’ll have to ski, hike, or ride as the camps are not accessible by car.
Whitehead Light Station
P.O. Box 242, Brunswick
For adults wanting to learn new skills or simply relax on the edges of Maine’s rocky coast, consider a leisurely holiday at this historic Maine lighthouse station. Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1803, the Whitehead Lighthouse is still operated by the Coast Guard, but a decade-long renovation of the station house, situated on eleven acres off the coast from Spruce Head, has turned it into a seven-bedroom retreat. From $1,600 per person, guests can select a six-day course including mindfulness stress reduction, knitting, painting, and beer making. “Everyone who has come out here has counted it among the best experiences they’ve ever had,” says program director Benjamin Swan.
Robinhood Marine Center House Floats
340 Robinhood Rd., Georgetown
Give someone the chance to relax on his or her own floating island with a getaway aboard the Tessie Ann or The Charles Andrew — two unique house floats moored in Georgetown’s Riggs Cove. From $175 per night, each solar-powered, tug-shaped float at this full-service yard includes a galley, dinette, shower, queen bed master state room, and spacious deck. “It goes nowhere, stays on a mooring, and each one comes with its own skiff,” says rental manager Warren Harbison. “It is a gas. You don’t really have to pay for anything else except food.”
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill