The city of Portland, Maine sits on a peninsula that extends out into Casco Bay. It is situated around a 50-minute drive southwest of Augusta. This historic coastal town is home to waterfront shops and restaurants, and has plenty to keep your family entertained. Choose a downtown Portland vacation rental, and you will be within easy reach of outdoor activities and kid-friendly attractions. Stay at a cottage or cabin tucked away in the woods for a quiet retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Explore the area on foot or hop on a ferry for a day trip to Peak’s Island. Here are a few more activities to do with children in Portland.
1. Head out to the beach
Portland is surrounded by water and some of the best beaches are a short drive away. Crescent Beach State Park, just eight miles south of Portland, has long stretches of sandy beaches backed by grass-studded sand dunes. This mile-long crescent-shaped beach enjoys a gentle surf, lifeguards, restrooms, and picnic tables, making it popular with families A few miles further south, Scarborough beach has some of best swimming in the area with water temperatures reaching the high 60s in the summer months. However, there are daily rip tides so make sure to swim in designated lifeguard areas. There is a fee to use this beach from April through October.
2. Take a Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tour
For a memorable day out for all the family, Portland Discovery runs entertaining and informative combined trolley and boat tours. The tour departs daily from Long Wharf in Old Port from May through September, starting with an open-air trolley tour of the city. It continues aboard a cruise boat that heads out into the bay to spot wildlife and gives participants scenic views of lighthouses, forts, and the inner bay islands.
3. Visit Maine’s iconic lighthouse
A visit to Portland Head Light and its adjacent 90-acre Fort Williams Park makes for a great trip. Hike the walking trails stopping off at the regular viewing lens to take in the stunning coastal scenery, and allow at least an hour to visit the lighthouse, museum, and gift shop. The park also has a playground, and there’s a rocky beach to explore. To round off a fabulous trip, treat the kids to lobster rolls and gelato from the park’s regular vendors.
4. Paddle around Portland
Experience the fun of paddling out in Casco Bay with Portland Paddle. They run sea kayak and stand-up paddle boarding tours from their base at East End Beach. If you are new to the sport, they also offer lessons so you and the kids can build up confidence before setting out. One of their exciting sea adventures travels out to the islands with experienced and knowledgeable guides. Their Family Sea Kayak Tour is slower paced, designed for children of seven years and older. Children under 12 are required to paddle in a tandem kayak accompanied by an adult.
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5. Go for a bike ride
Rent a set of bikes from Portland EnCYLCEpedia and explore the Eastern Promenade Trail, or hop on the ferry to Peak’s Island. Located on the waterfront in Portland’s Old Port district, this friendly company has bikes for all the family. The experienced staff advises where to cycle and offers free biking and walking maps with turn-by-turn directions for some of the most popular routes.
6. Have a fun time at Funtown Splashtown
Located around 25 minutes south of Portland, Funtown Splashtown U.S.A. gives you two amazing parks in one. Funtown offers 50 rides and slides for all ages while Splashtown has some serious water park technology. Experience Maine’s only wooden roller coaster, shoot down New England’s longest and tallest log flume, and drop from the 220-foot tall Dragon’s Descent tower. Younger children can join in the fun aboard the gentler carousels and merry-go-rounds.
7. Enjoy a scenic train ride along the Promenade
Based in Portland’s Fore Street, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum has kid-friendly activities, such as a children’s story time, a special summer train ride along Casco Bay with free ice cream, as well as an autumn pumpkin train ride. The train ride in open or closed cars, depending upon the season, lasts around 35 minutes. Make sure you take time to visit the museum, view the exhibits, and talk with the knowledgeable docents. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad opens early May through late October with some additional seasonal events.
8. Tour the city in a vintage fire engine
Gain a unique view of the city as you tour the streets sitting high up atop a shiny, red vintage fire engine. This 50-minute narrated tour sets out from the front of the Portland Lobster Co. and explores the cobbled streets and historic buildings of the Portland peninsula.
9. Go go-karting
If you’re seeking some indoor fun for a rainy day, take the kids on a 20-minute drive to Scarborough to visit Maine Indoor Karting. Junior size karts cater to young drivers, ages 8 to 15, and there are even some specially designed 5MPH wheels, including a Barbie jeep and a red Mustang, for kids aged 3 to 7. After a bout of racing fun, you can all enjoy a round of mini golf or take a turn in the arcade. Afterwards, enjoy a pizza at the M.I.K cafe before heading back to your vacation rental.
10. Visit one of the country’s top museums
There’s plenty of hands-on fun for all the family at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine located in downtown Portland’s Arts District. Voted by Forbes magazine as one of the top 12 museums in the U.S.A., this museum’s exhibits include a tide-pool touch tank where your kids can see and touch some of the area’s amazing sea creatures. It also has a space shuttle complete with astronaut uniforms and a life-size cock pit, as well as discovery woods where youngsters can climb a rock wall, float a boat downstream, and learn basic survival skills. The museum opens daily from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.
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