Four reasons that Portland Maine is one of the coolest cities in the US
As I get ready for the 47th annual Portland Sidewalk Art Festival, I want to share a few reasons that make this small gem of a city one of the coolest places in the country. Besides being the place where I met my husband Chris, it holds a particular place in my heart for its unique combination of great restaurants, art galleries, funky shops, and outdoor spaces. Here are four reasons I find Portland to be a fantastic place to spend a weekend in the summertime…
1. Restaurants, restaurants, restaurants
It’s been said that Portland has more eating establishments per capita than San Francisco. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it would be easy for me to dine on great food for at a least month without returning to the same place twice. That said, I find myself returning to the Green Elephant on Congress Street again and again. Everything on the menu is vegetarian, which is heaven for someone who is usually stuck with pasta primavera at a typical place. Another great spot is the Pepper Club on Middle Street. When we were young and struggling to make the rent, it was a big deal for Chris and I to save up $20 and ‘splurge’ on two entrees here --20 years later it is still a favorite.
|dusk, oil on canvas. ©2010 Kristina Wentzell sold|
The rocky coast of Maine has few beaches, but most of them are bunched up along the southern coast from Portland south to the New Hampshire border. In the Portland area, Bug Light is a great place to get a view of the city and find some amazing sea glass and other treasures, especially at low tide. Within a twenty minute drive are Crescent and Scarborough beaches, both of which offer a great place for an evening stroll. If you want to swim, try to time your visit during an afternoon high tide, when the incoming water washes over sand that has baked in the sun all morning, making the water much more tolerable than normal.
|by the shore, oil on canvas. ©2010 Kristina Wentzell sold|
The city of Portland includes two community islands complete with regular ferry service. Peaks Island is a commuter’s dream, just 20 short minutes from downtown, it is essentially a bedroom community surrounded by the Atlantic. It’s a great place to bike or walk, get a bite to eat and even spend the night. Cliff Island is more remote, facing the open Atlantic about an hour ferry ride from Portland. There are a number of other resident islands served by Casco Bay Ferry Lines, and the regular mailboat run is a fabulous way to see them all.
4. Outdoor dining
One of the most stunning dining experiences in the area is the Lobster Shack, a seasonal restaurant perched on the rocks of Cape Elizabeth, overlooking the open Atlantic. You can watch lobster boats hauling traps, and let your kids scramble around on the rocks looking for creatures in the many tidal pools. I’ve visited this same spot in winter when the Shack is closed and massive storms bring enormous waves to the Cape, blasting across the rocks with a furious roar. In summer, the ocean tends to be much more calm, and the dependable sea breeze makes this one of the coolest spots to eat in Greater Portland.
|once by the ocean, oil on canvas. ©2010 Kristina Wentzell|