This past April, we spent a lovely weekend in Portland, Maine. Portland has long been on my bucket list, but I always imagined visiting in the summer. We were a little hesitant to go in early April….Portland can be really cold, the locals often refer to it as ‘mud season,’ and when one adds in further complications (and closures) due to the coronarvirus pandemic…yikes.
That said, we had just spent the winter in New England, so we were able to travel between states without quarantine restrictions. And since I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of MI, I’m no stranger to cold temps or muddy springs, and I know — despite the obvious downsides — that spring is also a time of raw natural beauty and few crowds.
Furthermore, Portland, ME has some seriously amazing food. And since COVID rates have been (mostly) low in Maine, many restaurants were still open (at least in some capacity) when we visited.
A Relaxing 3-Day Getaway In Portland, Maine
Our visit ended up being the kind of relaxing, lazy weekend we didn’t realize we needed. We spent our days wandering around outside, took a few family naps, and ate delicious food. Yes, it was chilly, but it was the kind of chill that puts a blush in your cheek and revs up an appetite. It was the kind of chill that makes warm drinks around the fire much more satisfying, or discovering a bloom — poking up through the hard ground — feel like renewal.
While there’s no doubt that we’d still love to visit Portland in the summer (when the seasonal fish places and beer gardens are open, maybe even when the coronavirus risk has passed and the museums and restaurants are operating at full capacity) there’s something thoroughly enchanting about Portland in the spring. We came back refreshed and happy — exactly what you’d want from a weekend away.
3 Days in Portland, ME
STAY – Blind Tiger Hotel
EAT – Duckfat, Eventide Oyster Company, Taco Escobar, The Holy Doughnut
DO – Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head Lighthouse, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, Eastern Promenade
WEATHER – Average temps are around 47 – 53 degrees F, and it rains, on average, 8 days
CLOSURES TO NOTE – Seasonal seafood restaurants, Beer Gardens (most open mid-to-end of April), Victoria Mansion, Eastern Cemetery, Portland Observatory, Fishing Charters, and Ferries to neighboring islands are closed until May.
Where To Stay In Portland
We stayed at The Blind Tiger Guest House, and highly recommend. It’s a converted mansion (originally built in 1823) on Danforth St., which is a near-perfect location for walking around Portland. There were roaring fires in the fireplaces every night (there was even a fireplace in our room if anyone else was in the shared spaces), a fabulous breakfast every morning, and all kinds of nooks to discover. My boys and I especially loved climbing up to the widow’s watch at sunset, or playing some pool in the game room downstairs.
Where To Eat In Portland
Portland is especially known for beer gardens and lobster rolls. The best places to get lobster rolls in Portland is the source of much debate, but we’ve heard (from many) that the food truck, Bite into Maine is one of the best. It’s also conveniently located in Cape Elizabeth, so you can grab a lobster roll than head to Portland Head Lighthouse.
While the food truck had not yet opened for the season, we had also heard good things about Eventide Oyster Co, and were not disappointed with their brown butter lobster roll, or their sides (with an Asian fusion twist).
Sadly, most of the beer gardens hadn’t yet opened for the season (most open in May), so we “consoled” ourselves (ha) with Duckfat, whose poutine is OUT of this world. This was a great place to bring the kids, too. They make their own old-fashioned sodas (sarsaparilla?) and it was fun to try (even though they’re not nearly as sweet as today’s sodas).
We were also completely blown away by Taco Escobarr, an easy walk from The Blind Tiger Guest House. Tables are first-come, first-serve, the atmosphere is festive and fun, and it’s that rare kind of place you can easily take the kids…or do a late-night dinner, just the two of you. The margaritas are fresh, and, if you are vegetarian, try the El Jefe Nachos (ask for sweet potato instead of the meat, and vegan cheese). Best vegan nachos I’ve ever tried.
For a fun breakfast, especially on your way out of town, grab a box of Holy Donuts. They’re Maine’s famous potato doughnuts (all made by hand), with seriously inventive flavors. Our favorites were the dark chocolate sea salt and pomegranate.
What To Do In Portland
Explore Portland Head Lighthouse – This was easily my kids’ favorite activity. Not only is this the ubiquitous Portland Lighthouse, but it’s a seriously fun place to explore. We walked along the paved path until we found an open gate, then we were able to get right on the rocks. It’s windy (and chilly) and best with kids who are old enough to be careful (don’t fall in, and watch the tides — they come up fast), but so impossibly beautiful. The rock scrambling (as long as you stay back from the ocean a bit) is tons of fun.
Walk right up to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse – This lighthouse is a cool experience because you can actually walk right up to it via a 950 ft. breakwater. If the tide isn’t high, the breakwater itself provides climbing and jumping opportunities and we ended up spending several hours here. There’s also a bit of rocky beach access for kids who need to splash around, even in cold temps/icy water. (Mine can’t be the only ones.)
Go for a stroll along Eastern Promenade – The Eastern Promenade is a two-mile path along Portland’s Harbor. Not only is it a gorgeous walk, but there’s a playground, basketball and tennis courts along the way. There’s also plenty of space for flying kites, and cute spots for picnics (less windy picnics than at the Lighthouses), as well as the Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck that we’ve heard rave reviews about.
Wander around Old Port – Portland’s Old Port is a really charming area to explore. Cobblestone streets, cute shops, and definitely a spot to grab ice cream, a drink, or some lobster (depending on what you’re looking for). Within walking distance of our hotel.
Hum snails out of their shell – My dear friend, Laurel, a Portland native, shocked us by humming to the snails. After a minute or two of her humming, they peeped out of their shells. Apparently the humming sound makes the snails think that they’re underwater, so they’re willing to come out and say hi. Try it — it’s kiiiiind of amazing.
What To Pack For Portland
Portland in the spring is a little chilly, with temps hovering around 50 degrees. It was sunnier than we expected, but it’s definitely mud season. We brought lightweight puffer jackets and/or windbreakers, winter hats and mittens.
I was happiest in my sneakers most of the weekend, but we did use our duck boots (cliche, I know) a good amount as well; they were great in the mud. But they weren’t great for climbing on the rocks.
All in all, we had one of the most relaxing weekends on record. There was something about the chilly weather and fewer options that made our visit feel renewing. Our kids were never bored, and I think there’s a lesson I need to remember about the simplicity of our days: wake up, explore lighthouses, take a nap, grab dinner.
It was a pretty fantastic weekend.
And for all our pinners…