A brand-new winter Carnaval kicks off this month, and a new world-class museum devoted to minerals, gems and meteors has just opened. If you’re heading to Maine this month, stop at one of the state’s classic diners for lunch and check into one of its highly ranked inns for some winter comforts. There’s a new exhibit of the painter and inventor Rufus Porter, a bevy of state parks offering cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and a preview of Maine Restaurant Week. 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.
Late January is when the inaugural Carnaval Maine kicks off, a three-day festival of ice sculptures, light shows and igloos on Portland’s Eastern Promenade, the 78-acre, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed green space overlooking Casco Bay. Modeled after Quebec City’s annual Carnaval, the Maine event will host light shows, art displays, ice sculptures, bonfires, and a rail jam constructed by Sunday River resort. The event, which starts on January 30 and goes through February 1, 2020, will feature a giant inflatable igloo to house the Bites & Brews events, showcasing Maine’s nationally recognized restaurants and artisan breweries. These include Allagash, Bissell Brothers, Maine Beer Box, Maine Beer Co., Rising Tide and Shipyard breweries, collaborating with Urban Farm Fermentory, Central Provisions, Highroller Lobster Co., Luke’s Lobster, Scales and UNION. A signature event is the Carnaval Maine Bicentennial Snow Ball on January 30 to mark the 200th year of Maine’s statehood. For more info, go to www.carnavalme.com/
Maine Mineral & Gem Museum
The Maine Mineral & Gem Museum has just opened in Bethel in western Maine. Filled with exhibits of minerals, gems and meteorites, this new scientific museum is due to the sponsorship of philanthropists Lawrence Stifler and Mary McFadden who have dedicated themselves to helping preserve western Maine’s rich mining history. The museum is comprised of 10 major local collections of minerals, gems and rocks. The 15,000-square-foot museum displays about 3,000 of its finest minerals in interactive exhibits that highlight the stories and the people behind the specimens. The museum is also home to a world-class meteorite collection that includes the five largest pieces of the moon found on earth. It houses the largest known piece of the Vesta asteroid and an igneous rock that, at over 4.5 billion years old, is said to be the oldest known volcanic rock in the solar system. For more, go to the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum.
Classic (& Not So Classic) Maine Diners
Winter is when the comfort food offerings at Maine’s classic diners are especially welcome. The Brunswick Diner is located in a converted railroad car, complete with working jukeboxes at each table, and has been serving Bowdoin students since 1946 with fare like French toast, lobster rolls and liver and onions. Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro is ideal for a lobster roll, fried clams and a whoopie pie for dessert. Dysart’s in Bangor is a haven for long-distance truckers, who swear by the Yankee pot roast, fried whole-belly clams, a hot Thanksgiving sandwich and blueberry pie. The A1 Diner in Gardiner is a venerable dining car perched above the Kennebec River with an eclectic menu that includes Reubens, poutine, mojito duck and Korean BBQ sliders alongside their take on more traditional diner fare. At the Palace Diner in Biddeford, the classics are revered, from the cheeseburger and fries to the Lumberjack Breakfast; a stack of silver dollar pancakes, two eggs, Palace Potatoes and bacon, ham or sausage that’s served all day. Even downtown Portland carries on the tradition at Becky’s Diner, the place to get homemade clam chowder, broiled Atlantic scallops in lemon butter and crumbs and grapenut pudding for dessert. Go to Visit Maine for more info.
Rufus Porter at Bowdoin College Museum of Art
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is exhibiting Rufus Porter’s Curious World: Art and Invention in America, 1815–1860 through May 31, 2020. This exhibition celebrates the artist and inventor Rufus Porter (1792–1884), an imaginative polymath and entrepreneur curious about art, science and communication technologies. This special exhibition includes more than 80 paintings, inventions and publications by Porter and a number of his contemporaries, including Samuel F. B. Morse, Robert Fulton, Charles Bird King, and Winslow Homer. Described posthumously as a “Yankee da Vinci” by Time magazine, Porter is under recognized compared to these contemporaries. This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue demonstrate that he merits broader attention in both the history of American art and of American science.
Perfect Inns for a Winter Getaway
Winter is the time to get cozy in a Maine inn. The Bethel Inn Resort, close to Sunday River, dates from 1913 and offers cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking, ice skating and comfort food at The Millbrook Tavern. The Camden Harbour Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property, features harbor views and fine fare at Natalie’s, an AAA Four Diamond restaurant. Cape Elizabeth’s Inn by the Sea is perfect for a wintery walk on a sandy beach and offers 61 luxuriously appointed fireplace rooms, and one and two bedroom suites. Chef Andrew Chadwick is at the helm at Sea Glass Restaurant, with spectacular ocean views and inventive seafood. Finally, The Kennebunkport Inn offers modern accommodations in a vintage inn, dining at The Burleigh, and a fantastic location in the heart of town. For more info, go to Visit Maine.
Maine Restaurant Week
Portland will once again serve as the headquarters for the annual Maine Restaurant Week from March 1–12, 2020. The event showcases outstanding restaurants and great chefs around the state. New for MRW 2020 is an optional MRW dining experience with some participating restaurants serving a specially priced cocktail and appetizer pairing. Maine Restaurant Week will offer multi-course meals at fixed prices, ranging from $25, $35, $45 and $55 per person, depending on the establishment. Participating restaurants can be found all over the state and typically number more than two dozen. This year’s early sign-ups include BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood in Portland, Hartstone Inn in Camden, MK Kitchen in Gorham, and Nonesuch River Brewing in Scarborough. The Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off on Friday, February 28, at Sea Dog Brewing in South Portland, is a charity event that kicks off the festivities. For more information, visit Maine Restaurant Week.
Winter in State Parks
Maine state parks are an incredible resource for outdoor winter adventures, with cross-country skiing, winter hiking and snowshoeing opportunities. Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, a mere five-minute drive from Freeport’s L.L. Bean flagship store, offers snowshoeing along the shores of Casco Bay. Parks such as Mount Blue State Park offer extensive trails and winter recreation opportunities, including winter camping, miles of snowshoe trails, groomed and ungroomed cross-country ski trails, and snowmobile trails, as well as an ice-skating rink, sliding hill and warming hut on Center Hill. Down East lies Cobscook Bay State Park, where the inner coves support a quarter of Maine’s wintering black ducks and the state’s highest concentration of bald eagles. Way up north, Aroostook State Park was founded in 1938 as Maine’s first state park and offers a wilderness cross-country skiing experience. Visit Maine’s Bureau of Parks & Public Lands for more information.
This week’s Fall Foliage Report from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry (DACF) reports less than 30 percent color change for central, coastal, and southern Maine. Forest rangers in the higher elevations report high color (less than 70 percent) in the forest.
The first of this year's fall foliage reports. Maine’s leaf-bearing trees will show off their brilliant colors of yellow, orange and red in the upcoming weeks.
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Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument designated as International Dark Sky Sanctuary