November 2, 2020 – Maine is ready to welcome visitors back for holiday shopping and early winter activities. The state has taken a multilayered approach to protect Mainers and visitors, and reduce, to the greatest extent possible, COVID-19 risks associated with travel. Details can be found at the Keep Maine Healthy FAQs page. Maine lodgings, restaurants, shops, museums and other attractions have implemented recommendations from the state CDC and completed a safety checklist before opening to the traveling public in an effort to make Maine one of the safest places to travel this winter.*
Portland Extends Outside Dining
Portland has what is arguably the most vibrant food scene of any small city on the East Coast. But like every other city and town around the country, its restaurants have struggled through the restrictions resulting from the pandemic. Many Portland restaurants have been offering outdoor dining this past summer and fall and they have now been given the go ahead to extend outdoor service until January 4, 2021. Diners can expect to see many more outdoor heaters and fire pits as the colder weather sets in, with restaurants permitted to operate on private property, public sidewalks and in parking lanes until then.
Snowmobile Season on the Horizon
Anyone looking for a great way to socially distance in the great outdoors this winter should head north to the snowmobile capital of New England. Maine is renowned as one of the best snowmobiling destinations in the United States, with 14,000 miles of marked trails, terrain that ranges from exhilarating to challenging, and a wide support system, thanks to the state’s 280 snowmobile clubs. It’s a state that loves the sport, and Mother Nature typically cooperates with a bounty of snow. There are trails throughout Maine including some great wilderness routes in the Millinocket and Katahdin area and the far north of Aroostook County. The Jackman-Moose River area, the Moosehead Lake region and the Rangeley Lakes offer superb riding and great support for riders. Go to Visit Maine for details.
Shopping Maine-Made Brands
While Freeport and Kittery are both major shopping destinations for Black Friday shoppers heading to nationally-known outlets, there’s another side to Maine shopping. Maine-made goods are known for their fine craftsmanship and they can be found throughout the state and online. Visit Maine Made, an organization that builds recognition for Maine products, their producers, and Maine industries. For those who can’t travel right now, the website is a great source and can be searched by type of goods, by makers and by the region of the state that they hail from. The range of goods is very broad, from jewelry and apparel to paintings, photographs and fiber arts. The site links to purveyors of food, wine and spirits, while furniture makers, sporting goods companies and home furnishings are also well-represented.
Visit a Maine Christmas Tree Farm This Season
The best way to buy a Christmas tree is the old fashioned way: visit a tree farm and cut down the tree of your choice. Maine is lucky to have many flourishing tree farms, and most of them offer a “choose & cut” option. Borrow a handsaw from the farm and then head out to find and cut down the tree of your dreams. Some farms also offer the option of simply “tagging” the tree that you want and letting a farm worker fell it for you. Handmade wreaths, Maine-made gifts and extra cheer like hot cocoa and cider can turn the excursion into even more of a holiday experience. There are participating tree farms all over the state, including The Old Farm Christmas Place in Cape Elizabeth, the Holmes Tree Farm in Kennebunk, the Piper Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Newburgh and Balsam Ridge in Raymond. There are many more farms listed on the site of the Maine Christmas Tree Association (MCTA), a non-profit organization comprised of family farms that produce real Christmas trees and wreath products for retail, wholesale, mail order, or choose & cut during the Christmas season.
Christmas Celebrations in Maine
This holiday season in Maine will be different and unlike any other this year. The good news is that there will still be events and celebrations. Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay is one of the holiday season’s most treasured events. This year, it will run from November 21 to January 2, but it will be a driving tour. This will accommodate the safety protocols necessary for large events and all tickets must be purchased in advance. The Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport has been changed to a Virtual Prelude on December 3, along with an in-person weekend outdoor Christmas Market. This year, Camden and Rockland’s Christmas by the Sea will be held from December 4 to 6. Watch Santa arrive by lobster boat, catch an evening parade, and enjoy tree-lightings, downtown holiday music, visits with Santa Claus, a virtual story time, and a family scavenger hunt. Time-honored events, such as the parade and tree lighting in downtown Camden, will feature modified formats. Plans are still shaping up for An Old Fashioned Christmas in Bath this year, but expect some changes and modified events.
*Residents of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont can travel to Maine without the quarantine or negative test requirements. Everyone else is asked to complete The Certificate of Compliance in order to visit safely. Visitors must complete a certificate of compliance indicating they have either received a negative COVID-19 test, or agree to quarantine for 14 days (or the length of their visit, if less) upon arrival in Maine. For a comprehensive look at what the state of Maine is doing to keep residents and visitors safe, go to Visit Maine.
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