Portland is a small New England city whose sophistication has earned its designation as one of Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live. Whether you enjoy the arts or the outdoors, you will undoubtedly find plenty of things to do in Portland Maine. First, let’s explore a bit of its history.
Portland, Maine was originally called Machigonne by the native people who first inhabited the area. In 1632, it was settled by the British who changed its name to Casco. The name was changed to Falmouth in 1658. In 1675, the city was destroyed by hostile Native Americans in a battle known as King Phillips War. Although it was rebuilt, it was destroyed again in 1775, during the Revolutionary War.
After the War a section of Falmouth known as "The Neck" developed as a commercial port. It quickly became a major shipping center. In 1786, Falmouth citizens formed a separate town in Falmouth Neck and named it Portland. When Maine gained its statehood in 1820, Portland was selected as its capitol. Twelve years later the capital was moved to Augusta where is has remained since.
A fire during and 1886 July 4th celebration destroyed most of Portland’ commercial buildings. Afterwards, some of the country’s best architects were hired to rebuild the city. As a result, huge Victorian Mansions were built along Portland’s famous Western Promenade. Other architects designed gothic, Colonial Revival, Mission Revival Style and ornate Romanesque buildings. Many of these buildings have been well preserved. Today, touring Maine’s historical architecture is one of the popular things to do in Portland Maine.
Many of these houses can be found along the Western Promenade. For example, the Adam P. Leighton House is an excellent example of Colonial revival architecture. Leighton is considered to be the father of the American post card industry.
A visit to the Portland Museum of Art is another one of the more interesting things to do in Portland Maine. The museum has an engaging collection of works that date from the 18th century to the present. These include works by American artists such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Rockwell Kent, Marsden Hartley, and Andrew Wyeth, as well as European artists Auguste Renoir, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt, and a number of others.
There are also a number of unique Portland Maine book stores. For example, Books Etc., which is located on Exchange Street in the Old Port District, is one of the Portland Maine book stores that specialize in books about Maine and by Maine authors. Curious City is one of the main Portland Maine book stores that specialize in children’s books.
If you are looking for entertaining things to do in Portland Maine, the Portland Maine Civic Center is a huge, multi-purpose entertainment and sports facility that plays host to a wide variety of family shows, concerts, sporting events, and trade shows. Sitting on 2.4 acres in downtown Portland, the Portland Maine Civic Center has 8,798 seats, all with unobstructed views! The Portland Maine Civic center has been hosting events since 1977. However, if you want to travel back in time to Portland’s earlier history, why not take a ride on the Narrow Gauge Railroad?
The narrow Gauge Railroad is one of the fun and exciting Portland Maine attractions. During the latter half of the 19th Century, Maine had a system of railroads that ran on rails that were a mere two feet apart. Eventually, there were five of these railroads that served the rural areas of central and western Maine. If you are a skier, here’s a bit of trivia. Narrow Gauge is also the name of a classic, narrow New England type trail at Sugarloaf.