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Historic Downtowns

With gorgeous architecture, historic sites and longstanding local shops, Maine’s downtowns are rich with heritage and charm. Maine wasn’t officially a state until 1820, but British colonists established towns throughout the region as early as 1652, creating centuries of history to explore.

Portland’s Old Port, with its signature cobblestone streets, is lined with Victorian buildings that house shops, boutiques and cafés. The brick-paved sidewalks lead you down to the working harbor where lobster boats are still docked just as they were in days past and today’s catch is on the menu at Portland’s remarkable restaurants.

Home to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor was the former summer playground to presidents and the country’s wealthiest families during the Gilded Age, and today vestiges of this opulence remain. Stroll down Bar Harbor’s Main Street through the original business district and pop into shops, or see grandiose architecture from the past like the former Ledgelawn Inn on Mt. Desert Street.

Maine also has 10 nationally accredited Main Streets that are part of the Maine Street Maine program. Among them is Biddeford’s town center, which has re-invented itself to be a fast-growing vibrant downtown with popular dining options, performances at City Theatre, mill tours at Biddeford Mills Museum, a scenic river walk and monthly art walks held May through October. The town bustles with locally owned shops like a vintage market, custom apparel shop and a sustainable clothing store.

Gardiner downtown offers art and music festivals, such as the Swine & Stein Brewfest, as well as historical sites, such as the public library that features high ceilings and stained-glass windows. And of course, don’t miss the A1 Diner, an original 1946 Worcester diner car in all its chrome glory. The city of Bath has cozy streets lined with 19th-century buildings chock-full of delightful shops and restaurants. Learn more of the city’s heritage at the Maine Maritime Museum, celebrating over 400 years of shipbuilding history.

The other notable downtowns included in Main Street Maine program are Augusta, Brunswick, Saco, Belfast, Rockland, Skowhegan and Westbrook. Some honorable mentions that are also worth checking out include Houlton, Norway, South Berwick and Thomaston. All these Maine historic downtowns are waiting for you to admire and enjoy.

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