This is the month of Thanksgiving, and a good time to check out the new cider bars and tasting rooms that are showing up around the state. Those in a holiday mood can visit an imposing Victorian mansion decked out for the season and get into some serious shopping in Freeport. There are Christmas celebrations around the state that start in a few weeks, and a cornucopia of performing arts on display in Portland. It’s a good time to plan a snowmobile adventure up north in the coming months. For writers, editors and bloggers looking for short-lead news, there are immediate details under Happening Now. Those in search of longer lead news can scroll down to the Looking Ahead section.
Maine’s New Cider Bars
In a state with more than 3,000 apple varieties, including Red Astrachan, Yellow Transparent and Chenango Strawberry, cider is making a comeback. The preferred beverage of 18th century Mainers, cider is making its name at places like Perennial Cider Bar & Farm Kitchen in Belfast, where traditional and heritage ciders are the stars. The Cider House, in Portland’s West End, is a new cider bar serving ciders from all over New England. At Ricker Hill Hard Cider in Turner, visitors can go to the tasting room at the orchard and learn about making hard cider at the source. Visit Cider Guide for a list of all the cider makers in Maine.
Black Friday in Freeport
For those who need to be where the action is on the biggest shopping day of the year, Freeport is the place to be. It’s the home of L.L. Bean and its sprawling campus, as well as dozens of name-brand outlets, many of them planning to open their doors at 6 a.m. that Friday morning. Think Patagonia and Coach, J. Crew Factory, The North Face, Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West and Jones New York – about 170 shops at last count – so there are plenty of options for shoppers of all stripes. L.L. Bean is, of course, open 24 hours a day, so early birds can head in at any time. Freeport is also served by the Amtrak Downeaster train, so it’s an easy day trip on the rails from Boston. Visit Freeport.
Christmas at Victoria Mansion
In the heart of Portland, the Victoria Mansion, which is also known as the Morse-Libby House, was built between 1858 and 1860 as a summer home for Ruggles Sylvester Morse and his wife Olive. Designed by architect Henry Austin of New Haven, Connecticut, it is widely considered one of the finest examples of the Italian Villa style in America. A museum since 1941, it is famed because nearly all of the interior is original. The house truly comes to life during the holiday season when Christmas at Victoria Mansion is staged. This six-week celebration features decorations by some of the community’s leading and up-and-coming artists, florists, designers, and fellow nonprofit organizations to highlight the mansion’s original 19th century interiors. More than 8,000 visitors attend this annual event. There are daily tours, as well as a roster of holiday programming and events offered each year, including Night of the Nutcracker with Portland Ballet, Stories on the Staircase preschool story hour, and the annual favorite Holiday Gala. From November 29, 2019 to January 5, 2020. Visit Victoria Mansion.
The holiday season in Maine means festivals throughout the state. The 38th Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport runs from December 5 to 15 and offers a tree lighting, fireworks, a candlelight stroll, caroling and the arrival of Santa on a lobster boat. Christmas by the Sea is how Midcoast Maine celebrates in Camden on the first weekend of December, while the nearby town of Rockland has an even longer season with the Festival of Lights, kicking off the season with the arrival of Santa Claus by lobster boat and the lighting of a 30-foot-tall lobster trap tree. An Old Fashioned Christmas in Bath features a tree lighting and Santa’s arrival on November 30. There’s Trolley Caroling on December weekends, when many shops stay open to mark Alive After Five, not to mention the Bright Night Bath Fire & Ice celebration on December 13. Bar Harbor hosts The Village Holidays & Midnight Madness Sale on December 6, which welcomes guests to the Village Green for free hot cocoa and cookies, the songs of carolers, the arrival of Santa Claus and the annual Midnight Madness Sale. Go to Visit Maine for more on holiday celebrations.
Snowmobile Season is Revving Up
Maine is one of the major snowmobiling destinations in the Lower 48, offering challenging terrain, reliable snow and some true wilderness riding conditions. It’s also got a lot of local support thanks to the 280 snowmobile clubs that are key to helping to maintain more than 14,000 miles of marked snowmobile trails. Prime riding terrain can be found in the Jackman-Moose River area, the Moosehead Lake and the Rangeley Lakes region, the Millinocket and Katahdin area and the far north of Aroostook County. There are dozens of outfitters, sporting camps and resorts that offer rentals, overnight stays and guided sled tours. Go to Visit Maine for details.
Holiday Music & Dance
The Merrill Auditorium, a 1908 gem in downtown Portland, is home to holiday music and dance during December. The Maine State Ballet performs The Nutcracker from November 29 to December 8 while The Portland Symphony Orchestra performs a variety of seasonal music during the Magic of Christmas concert on December 12. The Portland Ballet will do A Victorian Nutcracker on December 17. On December 18, Christmas with Kennerley continues the beloved tradition of a holiday concert on the Kotzschmar Organ played by noted organist James Kennerley. He’ll play a variety of holiday favorites, both traditional and contemporary, and will be joined by the Kotzschmar Festival Brass and ChoralArt Singers.
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