Explore the lively Portland harbor, take a tour of the lighthouses, visit the museums, dine at great restaurants, and have fun on the water. Whether you are planning a romantic trip, weekend getaway, day trip, or a family vacation, Portland, Maine, is a fun destination. Great attractions and things to do in Portland, ME, include the Victoria Mansion, the Merrill Auditorium, the Children's Museum, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum, and the International Cryptozoology Museum. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
© Courtesy of Portland CVB
Commercial Street runs along the edge of the city's downtown district along the water and is home to an array of busy restaurants, cafés, bars and boutiques. Resting right on the water’s edge, Commercial Street is a welcome haven for tourists and locals alike, with fresh sea breezes, beautiful maritime scenes of ships coming and going, and fisherman hauling in the catch.
Cobblestone streets lined with quaint, charming buildings from the late 19th and 20th centuries give the area an old-world European look. Shops selling succulent seafood and other Maine treats offer a quintessential New England feel.
If you are wondering what to see in Portland, Commercial Street is a great place to visit. Architectural gems will take you back in time, such as the Customs House, a unique fusion of Renaissance Revival and Second Empire architectural styles.
2.The Portland Observatory
© Courtesy of Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld/Portland CVB
Standing as a beloved symbol of Portland’s rich maritime heritage with spectacular views over the harbor, the Portland Observatory is a historic tower located on Munjoy Hill. Built in 1807, the tower is one of its kind, providing communication between ships and the shore using signal flags and a telescope.
The telescope was situated in the observatory's cupola (lantern) and could identify ships miles out to sea. Unfortunately, the telescope disappeared from the tower in 1939. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, the 86-foot (26 m) tall observatory tower is now a museum that is open to the public to explore.
Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the tower which focus on the importance of the structure to maritime history and the changes in the seafaring port of Portland in the last two hundred years. If you are looking for best things to do in Portland with the family, this is a great stop.
138 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-774-5561
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3. Portland Museum of Art
© Portland Museum of Art
Founded as the Portland Society of Art in 1882, the Portland Museum of Art is the oldest and largest public art institution in the state of Maine. Located in the downtown district of the city known as The Arts District, the museum houses a collection of over 17,000 decorative and fine arts objects dating from the 18th century to the present.
These works are separated into different genres, such as the State of Maine Collection, the European Collection, the American-art based Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection, with works by Homer, Rodin, Degas, Bellows and Wyeth.
The Museum boasts three architecturally significant buildings that unite three centuries of American art and culture, with the Charles Shipman Payson Building standing as the face of the museum since it opened in 1983. If you are looking for great things to do in Maine, this unique museum is a must-see.
The museum also hosts a number of educational programs and events throughout the year, such as gallery talks, PMA movies, and special exhibitions.
Seven Congress Square, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-775-6148
More ideas: Best Romantic Weekend Getaways in Maine.
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4. Maine Foodie Tours
© Maine Foodie Tours
Explore Portland’s culinary scene with a fantastic foodie tour. Maine Foodie Tours offers a variety of tours based on the delicious fare produced from the abundance of dairy products, fresh fish, seafood, and organic fruit and vegetables farmed in the region.
Maine’s chefs, artisans, brew masters, and bakers come together to create imaginative and flavorful local dishes – all of which can be tasted and enjoyed on one of the tours. These award-winning tours are led by local aficionados that are passionate about food and their city, and will share their knowledge with you visiting various neighborhoods in the city including the Old Port.
Maine Foodie Tours also offers cooking classes for all levels of the chef, from beginner to advanced, as well as private tours for special occasions and events.
Travel tips: Best Time to Visit Portland, Maine & Other Travel Tips
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© Courtesy of Jeff Schultes - Fotolia.com
Also known as the Morse-Libby House, Victoria Mansion is one of America’s best examples of pre-Civil War opulence and glamour. Built between 1858 and 1860 as an exquisite summer home for Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a Maine-born proprietor of luxury hotels who made his vast fortune in New Orleans, Victoria Mansion was constructed in the Italian villa style that was fashionable in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Mansion’s beautifully preserved interiors were designed by Gustave Herter and still boast over 90% of the furnishings he designed for the original owner.
Guided tours are offered May through October, as well as tailor-made group tours for particular interests. The mansion is a unique historic attraction in Portland that offers an active roster of educational programs for both students and adults interested in studying life as it was during the nineteenth century.
109 Danforth St, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-772-4841
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© Central Provisions
Central Provisions in Portland’s Old Port has been one of the city’s hotspots for years, with tightly packed tables, a buzzing subterranean bar and a seasonal menu that specializes in small plates.
Broken into categories of raw, cold, hot, and hearty, dishes are ordered a few at a time and arrive at the table as they are prepared - simple, easy eating in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Desserts are the same with sweet treats including local strawberry shortcake, and salted caramel mousse with cocoa and coffee. Friendly, efficient staff collaborates with diners to interpret the menu and offer advice on both the dishes and wines to accompany them.
Due to its extreme popularity, the restaurant does not take reservations, so order a drink at the elegant bar while you wait for a table.
414 Fore Street, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-805-1085
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7.Portland Symphony Orchestra
© Portland Symphony Orchestra
Established in 1923 and recognized as one of the top orchestras of its size in the country, the Portland Symphony Orchestra is a fully professional symphony orchestra that performs a wide variety of concerts at the Merrill Auditorium throughout the year.
Directed by Robert Moody, the orchestra frequently features renowned guest artists and hosts the “Magic of Christmas” which has been a much-loved tradition for over 25 years.
The Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) offers a range of educational programs and workshops for students to engage with symphonic music and explore the beauty of classical music. The PSO also contributes to the local community through events such as “Make Music Lovers” Luncheons, where guests can enjoy an in-depth look at musical topics from the PSO concert season and converse with Robert Moody and other special guests. If you are looking for romantic things to do in Portland at night, watch a performance by the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
50 Monument Square 2nd floor, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-773-6128
8.International Cryptozoology Museum
© International Cryptozoology Museum
The world’s only cryptozoology museum, the International Cryptozoology Museum celebrates “cryptozoology” which is the quest to discover hidden creatures, from elusive cougars to the famously mysterious Bigfoot.
Exhibits at this fascinating museum include an 8-foot tall Bigfoot made of musk ox hair, the Jersey Devil, the Mothman, various lake monsters, and the Abominable Yeti. The museum is also home to displays of unusual animals known as “cryptids” that were only recently recognized as being “real” such as the Komodo dragon, the panda, and the coelacanth.
Inspiring curiosity for visitors of all ages, the museum is kocated in downtown Portland and is open every day, except Tuesdays.
4 Thompsons Point #106, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone:
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© Petite Jacqueline
Situated in Portland's West End neighborhood, next to the city's popular "Arts District," Petite Jacqueline is a casual, laid-back French bistro that serves delicious café-style food, carafe wine, and excellent coffee.
Opened by Five Fifty-Five owner Michelle Corry and restaurant partner, Liz Koenigsberg, Petite Jacqueline was inspired by the need for a typical French bistro in Portland that served food akin to her grandmother.
The bistro’s food is a classic, traditional French fare (think French onion soup and foie gras) that focuses on simple ingredients and delicious flavors. Aiming to serve home-away-from-home cuisine that had diners coming back for more, the quaint French bistro has done just that.
46 Market Street, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-553-7044
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10.Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum
© Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum
Founded in 1992, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum is a remarkable institution established to preserve Maine’s historic two-foot gauge railroad equipment and educate the public about the importance and heritage of the state’s railway system.
Based in the Portland Company Marine Complex, the museum’s collection includes a fascinating array of rolling stock and historical artifacts from the narrow gauge railways that ran in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The museum offers visitors a selection of programs and presentations, such as the Diesel Guest Engineer, where you can operate a 23-ton, four-axle diesel-electric locomotive, or sit back and relax with an ice cream and take in the beautiful views of Casco Bay on the Ice Cream Train trip. If you are looking for things to do in Portland ME that let you learn about history, this museum is a great place to visit.
49 Thames St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-828-0814
11.Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill
© Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill
Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill is a high-quality family grill in Portland, known for its high-quality natural meats and extensive craft beer selections. The restaurant, which is located within the city's Deering Center neighborhood, showcases a gorgeous full bar featuring a restored 1930s garage sign, paying homage to the space's former life as the Elsmere Auto Garage. Barbecue combo plates feature selections like tender beef brisket, St. Louis-style slow-smoked ribs, housemade sausage, and hand-pulled pulled pork. Build-your-own options let diners deck quesadillas, nachos, flatbreads, burritos, and tacos with their choice of house meats, complemented by homestyle sides like collard greens, cornbread, and barbecue baked beans.
476 Stevens Ave, Portland, ME 04103, Phone: 207-536-1029
12.Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours
© Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours
Portland Discovery has been a leading tour company for 19 years, offering guided trolley tours around Portland and narrated harbor cruises on Casco Bay.
Tours are led by professionally trained guides who share their knowledge and passion for the city and its beautiful natural surroundings. The outings are conducted aboard premium trolleys and fully-equipped boats designed for maximum comfort and unobstructed views.
A variety of tours are offered, ranging from a scenic, 90-minute boat cruise through Casco Bay and its innermost islands to a historic trolley tour through the heart of Portland. Private charters and group tours can be arranged for special events and occasions, including exclusive lobster bakes, boat and trolley cruises (Phone: 207-774-0808).
13.The Honey Paw
© The Honey Paw
The Honey Paw is a delightful contemporary bistro in Portland's Munjoy Hill neighborhood, operated as the sister restaurant to popular oyster bar Eventide. The restaurant, which was opened in 2015 by owners and chefs Arlin Smith, Andrew Taylor, and Mike Wiley, is known for its creative pan-Asian inspired dishes, served up at dinner service Wednesdays through Mondays and at weekend brunch hours. Diners can enjoy a wide variety of noodle dishes, ranging from wok-fried biangbiang and ramen dishes to Burmese-style smoked lamb khao soi prepared with fermented mustard greens and jalapenos. Fried chicken service for the table is also served up, along with heirloom rice options such as mapo doufu prepared with heiwa tofu, Szechuan chili, and fermented black beans. At lunch, diners can choose from fare such as cold-cut bahn mi sandwiches, while at brunch, options such as curry puffs and togarashi biscuit breakfast sandwiches take center stage. An extensive drink menu offers imported draft beers, high-quality sakes, and a premium craft cocktail program.
78 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-774-8538
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14.Odyssey Whale Watch
© Courtesy of Patricia - Fotolia.com
Head out into the deep blue sea in search of whales, dolphins, sharks, sunfish and seabirds on an exhilarating Maine Whale Watching tour.
Tours are held aboard the Odyssey, a comfortable, fully-equipped ocean-going vessel that has ample seating and decks for spectacular viewing. The boat is captained and crewed by a professional and knowledgeable team, including a naturalist who will share interesting and informative facts about the ocean environment and the sea animals seen on the tour.
The tour takes guests 20 miles off the coast to the feeding grounds of the whales for the best sightings, lasting for about four hours. Snacks, sodas and alcoholic beverages are available in the enclosed galley and warm clothing is recommended, even if the weather is pleasant (Phone: 207-775-0727).
Rose Foods opened in 2017 by executive chef and restaurateur Chad Conley, best known for his work at the city's noted Palace Diner. The diner serves inventive fare seven days a week throughout the morning and afternoon hours, showcasing menu options prepared with top-quality ingredients imported from New York City and Belfast. Diners can choose from a variety of clever closed and open-faced bagel sandwiches, ranging from the Classic Nova, prepared with lox, cucumber, and dill to the L Train, which is crafted with oyster mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and pickled jalapenos. Classic sandwiches on rye are also served, along with full fisherman's feasts for two, which offer a sampling of the restaurant's greatest hits. A selection of coffees, teas, and juices are available to complement all meals, along with a variety of Dr. Brown's soda flavors.
428 Forest Ave, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-835-0991
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16.Rising Tide Brewing Company
© Rising Tide Brewing Company
Based in Portland's East Bayside, Rising Tide Brewing Company is a family-owned craft brewery that specializes in small-batch, artisanal hand-crafted ales.
The brewery makes a variety of light and dark ales ranging from year-round and seasonal beers to limited editions, such as the Seven Barrel Series and Hop Harvest Ale.
Tours of the brewery include an exploration of the production, ending with a sampling of some of the brewery’s beers from the tasting room where friendly staff are on hand to answer any questions.
103 Fox Street, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-370-2337
17.Eventide Oyster Company
© Eventide Oyster Company
It goes without saying that a visit to Portland, Maine means stuffing your face with oysters and lobsters in all shapes and forms. You won’t find better options anywhere else. One of the best spots in town for really excellent seafood experience is Eventide, a tiny, hopping seafood restaurant in Old Port near the East End with superb raw bar, fabulous lobster rolls and some very interesting takes on New England classics. They carry about 20 types of shells at all times and their lobster rolls, served in a steamed bun with brown butter, are to die for. Other dishes also have a special twist to their traditional version. The lobster stew is cooked with green curry and fried oysters are drenched in Korean BBQ sauce. Treat yourself to a house cocktail, beer, or wine while waiting for a table or a stool at the bar – the place is small, so expect to wait a little.
86 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-774-8538
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18.Standard Baking Co
© Standard Baking Co
Standard Baking Co. is Portland’s most popular bakery, located in Old Port, across from the harbor and below Fore Street Restaurant. You cannot miss it, there is always a line waiting for their fresh-from-the-oven breads, pastries, baguettes, croissants, and all sorts of other European-style baked delights. The aroma will guide you from miles away and you will not mind waiting. Once you get your goodies, you will have to take them with you as there is only one bench inside. During warm months, you can sit outside under the arbor and savor your pastries while still warm. All ingredients Standard Baking Co. uses for their breads and pastries are organic and locally grown whenever available and purchased from local growers. They use organic, unbleached wheat flour made from whole grains.
75 Commercial Street, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-773-2112
© Green Elephant
The Green Elephant is a vegetarian bistro that was opened in 2007 in Downtown Portland by owners and chefs Bob Wongsaichua and Dan Sriprasert. Unassuming and intimate, without the obligatory over-the-top décor so typical of Asian restaurants, the Green Elephant offers balanced, wonderfully prepared and presented dishes for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The menu is pan-Asian, with influences from Malaysia, Thailand, China, and India, and features innovative, delicious, and healthy dishes. The small lunch menu is expanded for dinner and includes such classics as crispy wontons, tempeh curry, tofu and vegetable teriyaki, and watercress veggie duck. The dishes use vegetarian soy meat.
608 Congress St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-347-3111
20.The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club
© The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club
The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is one of Portland's most acclaimed cocktail bars, opened in 2013 in the city's downtown district by Briana and Andrew Volk. The Scandinavian-inspired bar, which has twice been named as a James Beard Award semifinalist for its outstanding bar program, straddles the line between restaurant and cocktail lounge, offering a light menu of classic Scandinavian fare such as Swedish meatballs, gravlax, and krabba rulla served up alongside creative bar bites such as bacon-wrapped dates and housemade soft pretzels. Diners can share smörgåsbord-style charcuterie platters or enjoy popcorn and champagne service for the table, pairing the restaurant's signature green chili and parmesan popcorn with fine reserve sparkling wine. An extensive craft cocktail list is complemented by regional draft beers, international wines, and more than 60 high-quality whiskey selections.
75 Market St, Portland, ME 04101, Phone: 207-747-4754
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21.Maine Historical Society & Wadsworth-Longfellow House
© Courtesy of Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld/Portland CVB
Learn all about the history of Maine with a visit to the Maine Historical Society. Founded in 1922 and resting in the heart of the bustling Congress Street in downtown Portland’s arts district, the Society is a burgeoning museum that is home to an excellent library that is used as a national educational resource.
The Maine Historical Society (MHS) and museum is comprised of the Wadsworth–Longfellow House and Longfellow Garden, the MHS Research Library, the Maine Historical Society Museum and Store and the Maine Memory Network, which is a digital museum through which the MHS runs its educational programs. The Society is based on a campus across from Monument Square and is open to the public year-round.
Built in 1785 by General Peleg Wadsworth, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a historic house and museum that is operated by the Maine Historical Society and is open to the public. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962, the house is not only historically significant being the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula, but was also the childhood home of renowned American poet Henry Wadsworth.
The house documents the lives of four generations of the Wadsworth and Longfellow families, who played a significant role in the political, literary, and cultural life of New England and the United States. The house itself is an outstanding example of New England's architectural style at the time while its furnishings, artifacts and items illustrate changes in style, technology, and attitude over the 18th and 19th centuries.
489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine 04101, Phone: 207-774–1822
Opened in 1999, Hugo’s is an upscale restaurant in Portland’s Old Port, situated in the thriving India Street neighborhood. They focus on locally farmed, foraged. and fished ingredients to create seasonal, daily changing innovative menu. The dining room is a combination of opulent and rustic with comfortable leather chairs and banquettes, reclaimed wood, and wrought iron details that contrast beautifully with handmade china and a hand-stitched menu. The open kitchen is the focus of the room, and the best way to really appreciate what is created there is to go for their “blind tasting menu.” You will not be disappointed. You might want to try crêpe-wrapped arctic char or crispy-skin pork belly, and their peanut butter cup cake is stuff of legends.
88 Middle Street, Portland, ME, Phone: 207-774-8538
23.Islands of Casco Bay
© Courtesy of Portland CVB
Located just off the coast of Maine, the Islands of Casco Bay are well worth exploring, offering a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and unwind in a truly laid-back island-style way.
Also known as The Calendar Islands, there are enough of them to explore a different one each day of the year. These little islands can be reached by various ferries, making exploration simple and easy. Casco Bay Lines offers a convenient year-round service to the larger islands, with the last stop being at Cliff Island which is fantastic for bicycling and walking.
It’s a short 20-minute ferry ride to Peaks Island, home to beautiful sandy beaches, lovely restaurants, and an inviting artist’s community, while Great Diamond Island offers a historical look at former parade grounds of Fort McKinley.
For an unforgettable hiking and wildlife watching island adventure, the Maine Island Trail Association has conveniently mapped a route from the New Hampshire border to Machias Bay and offers a handy guide to all sorts of valuable and interesting information regarding the Casco Bay Trail.
25 Best Things to Do in Portland, Maine
- Commercial Street, Photo: Courtesy of Portland CVB
- The Portland Observatory, Photo: Courtesy of Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld/Portland CVB
- Portland Museum of Art, Photo: Portland Museum of Art
- Maine Foodie Tours, Photo: Maine Foodie Tours
- Victoria Mansion, Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Schultes - Fotolia.com
- Central Provisions, Photo: Central Provisions
- Portland Symphony Orchestra, Photo: Portland Symphony Orchestra
- International Cryptozoology Museum, Photo: International Cryptozoology Museum
- Petite Jacqueline, Photo: Petite Jacqueline
- Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum, Photo: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum
- Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill, Photo: Elsmere BBQ and Wood Grill
- Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours, Photo: Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours
- The Honey Paw, Photo: The Honey Paw
- Odyssey Whale Watch, Photo: Courtesy of Patricia - Fotolia.com
- Rose Foods, Photo: JJAVA/stock.adobe.com
- Rising Tide Brewing Company, Photo: Rising Tide Brewing Company
- Eventide Oyster Company, Photo: Eventide Oyster Company
- Standard Baking Co, Photo: Standard Baking Co
- Green Elephant, Photo: Green Elephant
- The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club, Photo: The Portland Hunt and Alpine Club
- Maine Historical Society & Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Photo: Courtesy of Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld/Portland CVB
- Hugo's, Photo: Hugo's
- Islands of Casco Bay, Photo: Courtesy of Portland CVB
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Paul Lemke - Fotolia.com
Summer Feet Cycling Adventures
Explore and discover Portland, Maine and the shores of Casco Bay on two wheels with a unique and fun bicycle tour with Summer Feet Cycling Adventures.
One of the most popular tours is the Five Lighthouse Bicycle Tour, which lets bikers soak up the beautiful natural scenery along the coast of Maine, five historic lighthouses, and an in-depth look at Portland’s history accompanied by a gourmet picnic lunch.
Before the tour begins, guests are supplied with a comfortable bike and helmet and taken through an introduction of the tour and safety briefing. As you cruise along the coast, you will visit some of Portland’s most famous landmarks including the Spring Point Lighthouse, the Portland Harbor Museum and Kettle Cove.
Tours depart daily from the Ocean Gateway Cruise Terminal/Visitor Information Center and cover roughly 10 to 12 miles. (Phone: 866-857-9544) More Maine vacations
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Allagash Brewing Company Tours
Allagash Brewing Company was established in 1995 by Rob Tod with the aim of producing Belgian-style beer and ales.
What began as New England's original Belgian-Style brewery, Allagash has grown into one of the industry's most distinguished and well-respected brands. Enjoy a guided tour of the brewery, during which you can explore the facility, learn about the beer-making process and get to taste four of the beers produced.
Tours are led by knowledgeable staff that will explain the process, impart interesting information about the history of the brewery and guide you through the tasting process. Tours are popular, so advanced reservations are advised.
50 Industrial Way, Portland, Maine 04103, Phone: 800-330-5385
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