Family Friendly Learning Activities
If you are looking for family-friendly activities that are fun and educational, here are some active learning opportunities in Maine to explore together with your children.
Fort Knox – Bucksport
Open daily, 9 a.m. to sunset, May 1 to Oct. 31
Fort Knox was established in 1844 to protect the Penobscot River Valley against a possible future British naval incursion and is one of the best-preserved military fortifications on the New England seacoast. Try and catch a free guided tour from a volunteer, or take in the beauty and engineering feat of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.
Fort McClary – Kittery
Open daily, 10 a.m. to sunset, Memorial Day to Indigenous People’s Day
For more than 275 years, a fort has stood to protect the approaches to the Piscataqua River at the southern gateway to Kittery, Maine. The buildings presently on the site represent several different periods of construction as the fort was upgraded and modified to meet the area’s defensive needs.
Fort Popham – Phippsburg
Open daily, 9 a.m. to sunset, April 15 to Oct. 30
Fort Popham is a semicircular granite fort that was never completed, though construction began in 1862 for use during the Civil War. Modifications were made, and the fort was used again in the Spanish American War and in World War I.
St. John Valley Cultural Byway – Hamlin (Rt. 1A/1) to Dickey (Rt. 161)
The St. John Valley Cultural Byway, also known as the Parcours culturel de la Valle, is rich with Maine’s Acadian heritage and culture. The byway stretches a total of 92 miles along the northern border of Maine and through the St. John Valley.
Maine Maritime Museum – Bath
Open daily, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Experience Maine’s rich seafaring history, from watercraft and lobstering to shipbuilding and sea trade, with indoor and outdoor exhibits at the museum campus on the banks of the Kennebec River. There’s a full-scale replication of a lighthouse lantern room, a Pirate Playship and other interactive exhibits.
Grounds open daily, dawn to dusk
The museum’s vast campus has many exhibits and replicas depicting life in the 1800s and early 1900s, including a smokehouse and trapper’s cabin. Leonard’s Mills is at the actual site of an early pioneer settlement, identified by remains of a stone dam and foundations of several houses. The museum educates people on Maine’s sustainable forest culture.
Museum L-A – Lewiston
Open Thur.-Sat., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Learn about Lewiston/Auburn’s mill town heritage. The collection consists of both modern and vintage locally produced textiles, machinery involved in local production, shoe shop artifacts, personal items and tools owned by the mill workers, and photographs of mill work and social life.
Patten Lumbermen’s Museum – Patten
Open Tue.-Sun., 10 a.m.-4 p.m., through Oct. 11
Learn all about Maine logging history, including the use of bateaux on waterways to transport supplies, the stories of the fearless river drivers, what life was like inside a remote logging camp, and even the role of bean-hole beans. The museum houses replicas of an 1820s single camp and a double camp, typical of later years, which visitors can explore.
Owls Head Transportation Museum – Rockland
Open daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Owls Head Transportation Museum features more than 150 antique automobiles, aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles, engines and more.
Science - Natural Environment
Acadia National Park – Mount Desert Island
Acadia National Park protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States, an abundance of habitats and a rich cultural heritage. Visitors enjoy 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads. Attend a Ranger Program to learn more about the park’s history and natural elements.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens – Boothbay Harbor
Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., through Oct. 17
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is located on 295 tidal acres in the MidCoast. Attractions include a story-book themed children’s garden and a Butterfly House with surrounding gardens of native host and nectar plants. Learn about some of our favorite winged pollinators and witness transformation firsthand — egg to caterpillar to cocoon or chrysalis to moth or butterfly.
Cape Elizabeth Land Trust – Cape Elizabeth
Trails open dawn to dusk
Within Cape Elizabeth’s 9,000 acres, you will find a remarkable variety of natural habitats, including tidal saltwater marshes, old-growth forest, bold ocean promontories, sandy beaches, dense coniferous woods and open fields.
Desert of Maine – Freeport
Open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., May through November
How did sand dunes end up in the middle of a forest? Learn the natural history the Desert of Maine. Take a self-guided walking tour referencing the tour map and museum-quality signs that show the history and science in words and pictures.
Maine Wildlife Park – Gray
Open daily, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., April 15 through Nov. 11, cash or check only
The park is home to over 30 species of Maine wildlife that cannot be returned to their natural habitats. Some are there because they were injured or orphaned, and others because they are human dependent — raised, sometimes illegally, in captivity. You’re guaranteed to see moose and more animals in a day than you could ever spot in the wild.
Hardy Boat Coastal Seal and Nature Cruises – New Harbor
Open late August through Oct. 11, reservations recommended
As you approach Webber’s Dry Ledge, summer home to the harbor seals, you can see the seals either sunning themselves on the rocks or frolicking in the water around the ledges. The history and biology of the resident population of seals is explained in an entertaining and enjoyable way.
Viles Arboretum – Augusta
Open daily, dawn to dusk
Viles Arboretum is a free, easily accessible botanical garden with 6 miles of trails, several botanical collections and local art (all marked and signed), on 224 acres. Trail maps are available at the trailhead kiosk. Dogs are allowed on the trails, on a leash at all times. Pet owners must pick up after their dogs.
Wells Reserve at Laudholm – Wells
Trails are open daily, 7 a.m. to sunset
The coastal lands comprising the Wells Reserve include upland fields and forests, freshwater and estuarine wetlands, and a beach-and-dune system. The protected area reaches from the Little River (at the Kennebunk line) to the Ogunquit River.
Science - Geology
Maine Mineral and Gem Museum – Bethel
Open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (closed Tue.); Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Explore a collection of gemstones celebrating Maine’s gem, mineral and mining history, and see the world’s largest collection of moonrocks and meteorites.
Coos Canyon Rock and Gift – Byron
Open daily, April 1 to Oct. 31
Coos Canyon is a natural gorge along the Swift River known as one of the best places to pan for gold in Maine. Get a free demonstration to learn how to pan for gold, with the equipment you need available to buy or rent. Pan in the on-premises panning pool or along the Swift River and its tributaries.
Science - Astronomy
Maine Solar System Model – Presque Isle to Houlton
Aroostook County, in Northern Maine, is home to a 40-mile-long scale model of the solar system, at a scale of 1 mile equaling the distance from the earth to the sun. The model extends along Rt. 1 between the University of Maine at Presque Isle campus and the Houlton Information Center at the end of I-95.
Farnsworth Art Museum – Rockland
Open Wed.-Mon., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through October 31
The Farnsworth Art Museum offers a nationally recognized collection of works from many of America’s greatest artists, with 20,000 square feet of gallery space and over 15,000 works in the collection. It has one of the largest public collections of works by sculptor Louise Nevelson, while its Wyeth collection features works of N.C., Andrew and Jamie Wyeth.
Langlais Sculpture Preserve – Cushing
Open daily, dawn to dusk
The Langlais Sculpture Preserve is open to the public for day use only. Twelve large wooden sculptures were restored on-site. In addition to an ADA-accessible trail around the sculptures, a half-mile trail takes visitors inland into the wooded portion of the property.
Nervous Nellie’s “Nellieville” – Deer Isle
Open Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
The grounds of Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies in Deer Isle are composed of a meadow and woods filled with sculptures made by Peter Beerits from discarded metal, locally milled lumber and dump-foraged material. A Western town — jail, lawyer’s office, fortune teller, hotel, saloon, Chinese laundry — sits shoulder to shoulder with a Delta-style juke joint, Deer Isle general store, church, Grail castle, wizard’s tower and 50s garage complete with jam session, all of which comprise Nellieville, a lifelong work in progress.
Portland Museum of Art – Portland
Open Wed.-Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (free admission on Fridays)
The PMA welcomes families and makes it easy for parents, grandparents and children of all ages to experience the museum and explore art together. They have activities and amenities for families of all sizes, including family museum guides, gallery activities and a whole variety of kid-centric events.
Story Walks - Caribou
Follow a children’s tale on a walk around Collins Pond in Caribou on a story walk. Panels of a children’s book are placed along the path, so participants can read as they walk, with different stories in spring, summer and fall. Other communities offer story walks as well, including Cumberland, New Gloucester, Norway and Sears Island.