Johnny’s List of Quirky Boston Events: 06/15/06 Extra

See last entry for what’s happening this weekend. I just wanted to take a break and talk about Maine, which I’ve been researching lately. Now I know a ton about Acadia National Park, which is supposed to be beautiful.

First off, Maine is a huge place which is frustrating because you can’t just explore the whole state. You have to sift through all the brochures and websites and figure out what’s going to be nearby. Acadia Park itself is sort of spread out, but it is mainly on Mount Desert Island, and the closest real town is Bar Harbor, ME. So that’s going to be your base, unless you’d prefer to camp in the park itself. All the amenities and tour guides and cultural events stem from Bar Harbor.

Two parts. First, On the Way Up to or From Bar Harbor, you’ll go through Portsmouth, NH, Kennebunk, ME, York, ME, and Old Orchard Beach, ME. The New Hampshire locations are on Rt 95 which is NOT the way to get to the White Mountains (Rt 93 is), so actually this is a nice excuse to visit a part of New Hampshire you wouldn’t normally go to. I’ve done quite a bit of research and these are the largest tourist attractions on this journey, excepting shopping outlets. 🙂

Funtown Splashtown Saco 207-284-5139 774 Portland Rd. Rt 1. Racing cars, water park, roller coaster, other rides.
Palace Playland Old Orchard Beach 207-934-2001 Old Orchard Street
Desert of Maine Freeport 95 Desert Rd
Mini Golf – Pirates Cove Old Orchard Beach 70 First St.
Racing mini-cars – Maine Indoor Karting Scarborough 23 Washington Avenue
York’s Wild Kingdom, Zoo & Amusement Park York Beach 207-363-4911 Rt 1. Just 10 minutes north of Portsmouth, NH.
Water Country Portsmouth NH
Strawbery Banke Museum Portsmouth NH

Each of these looks worth visiting, and I’ve actually been to Water County, which is the largest in New England, and great fun. Also I’ve been to the Strawbery Banke Museum which is like Sturbridge Village (1840s) and Plymoth Plantation (1620s) in that they have live recreation actors who will teach you a little about the 1890s and settlers.

There are not a whole lot of festivals in Maine, but Festivals on the way to Acadia include the below. I always try to plan my day trips and vacations to co-incide with some kind of festival because I figure that way I am getting the most out of the region.

Festivals – On the Way to Acadia
Great Falls Balloon Festival Lewiston 800-639-6331 Aug 18.
Great Northeastern War – Medievial Re-enactment Hebron Jul 14-16.
Maine Highland Games Brunswick 207-688-4515 Aug 19
Old Orchard Beach Parade & Sandcastle Sculpture Competition Old Orchard Beach 207-934-9068 Jul 3-4.

Some comments. The medeival re-enactment is an SCA event (Society for Creative Anachronism) and is likely to be very geeky and not necessarily accessible to outsiders. Any balloon festival is at the whim of the weather.

OK now let’s get to Part Two, Things To Do Around Bar Harbor (Acadia). These include:

Sand Beach The two beaches in Acadia National Park
Echo Lake Beach The two beaches in Acadia National Park
National Park Sea Kayak Tours Bar Harbor 800-347-0940
Coastal Kayaking Tours Bar Harbor 800/526-8615
Bike rentals The two most popular places to start your ride are Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond.
Acadia Bike Rentals Bar Harbor 800/526-8615
Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop Bar Harbor 800/824-2453
Moose tours
Bar Harbor Ferry to Winter Harbor Bar Harbor 207/288-2984
American Revolutionary War sites
Acadia Zoo Trenton 207-667-3244 9:30-dark. 45 species.
The Maine Lumberjack Show Ellsworth 207-667-0067 Shows nightly at 7pm, June 17-Aug 15. Also log rolling lessons.
Criterion Theatre Bar Harbor Mainly movies, but “Così fan tutte” July 22nd
Pirates Cove Mini-Golf Bar Harbor 207-288-2133 RR #1 Box 1150
Birding – Downeast Nature Tours Bar Harbor 207-288-8128 behavior and ecology of land and sea animals
The Grand Ellsworth
Birdsacre Wildlife Sanctuary Ellsworth
Rock Climbing
Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School Bar Harbor 888/232-9559
Atlantic Climbing School Bar Harbor 207/288-2521
Dive Tours Bar Harbor 207-288-DIVE Tourists watch but don’t do any actual diving?
Boat Cruise – Margaret Todd Bar Harbor 207/288-4585
Whale Watches
Acadian Whale Adventures Bar Harbor 207/288-9800
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co Bar Harbor 207/288-2386
Seacoast Fun Park Trenton 207/667-3573 go-karts, two short waterslides, and a miniature golf course

I don’t have any experience with these events, but the lumberjack show looks like a lot of fun — and finding something to do in the evening is the hardest part of a wilderness vacation. I went on a moose tour in New Hampshire and it was awesome, so I recommend that. Take some dramamine if you go on a whale watch. I went once in high school, the waves were choppy and about half the kids threw up. This is how I learned that I’m in the top half of non-queasy people, thank goodness.

If you can’t read these tables very well, email me,, and I’ll send you the spreadsheet.

Finally, here are the festivals I was able to find around Acadia. I’m quite sure that I haven’t missed anything big.

Arcady Music Festival Bar Harbor Jul 17 – Aug 24. Jazz is Aug 14-17. Just one band per week!
Bar Harbor Music Festival Bar Harbor July 2 – 30. All classical except July 23rd Jazz.
Independence Day Bar Harbor July 4th. Parade, seafood festival, lobster races, fireworks
Lobster Festival Winter Harbor Aug 12th

I am forced to say that I’m disappointed that so few cultural things are happening in the evenings. Acadia National Park is the only national park in New England and quite a few tourists attend. These people need more things to do when it’s too dark for nature walks. Specifically, the two music festivals seem kinda lame. The Bar Harbor festival is classical only, which is not my bag, baby. And the Arcady Music Festival features one group per week… so if you take a week’s vacation that’s good for one night tops. Call me crazy but I really think a “festival” is an event which is happening at a pace of at lease one performer per night.

Finally, a word of caution! Those crazy Maine people recently changed all their highway exit numbers, and some of the highway numbers too. So your old map may not work very well. Keep track of the names of the towns you pass, they didn’t change those, so I guess they think they’re clever keeping tourists away but we’ll outsmart them.

OK, now you know everything I know about visiting Acadia National Park. Personally I plan to go up August 12th and catch the lobster festival, and return Aug 18-19 and catch the balloon festival and the highland games.