Summer in Maine is full of fun, low/no-cost activities, and endless adventures to create lasting memories. From exploring local parks and nature hikes to enjoying a picnic with friends or family, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy the season without breaking the bank. Dive into refreshing waters at nearby lakes or beaches and build sandcastles. Take advantage of community events like outdoor concerts, movie nights, or festivals that offer affordable entertainment. Take leisurely walks or bike rides along scenic trails, or simply unwind with a good book under a shaded tree. This summer, savor every moment and check out some of these free and affordable options to light up your days.
Summer reading programs not only encourage children to read to prevent "summer slide" in their literacy skills but also provide incentives to break free of electronics and use their imagination in fun activities. Check out the local library, school, and business incentives. Below we've included some specific options, but be sure to check your local libraries, schools, or businesses for programs they may offer. There are also free options for bowling, rollerskating, or building something together with free tool lending.
● Bowling: With two free games daily, kids can bowl all summer at Junction Bowl in Gorham, Spare Time in Portland, Smitty's GameLAB in Sanford, and many other locations using the website www.kidsbowlfree.com. Each bowling center sets age restrictions, but the three sites noted are for ages 2-15.
● Rollerskating: Kids 12 years old and younger can roller skate for free Saturday afternoons from 1-4pm this summer at Happy Wheels in Westbrook using the website www.kidsskatefree.com.
● Reading Programs: Local Libraries have passes for lots of activities for free or at a discount! Baxter Library in Gorham and McArthur Library in Biddeford offer free passes for USM's Southworth Planetarium, The Portland Museum of Art, reduced-cost tickets to The Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine, and Maine Wildlife Park. They also offer tons of classes and programs for kids throughout the summer. FMI, call your local library. For the youngest kids, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library sends a free book once a month until age 5. The high-quality book is addressed to your child so they can enjoy opening their own mail. To sign up, click here.
● Gardening & Home Improvement: The Maine Tool Library in Portland offers the perfect opportunity to learn new skills and work on a summer project without a hefty investment. Check out the free tools they lend for a week at a time by clicking here.
OUTDOOR ADVENTURES FOR ALL
There is no better time in Maine to get outdoors and enjoy nature! Our state features countless state parks and groomed trails that allow tranquility and peace to escape the day-to-day fast-paced nature of our current lives. In addition, Mainers are so fortunate to have access to miles of beaches, lakes, and ponds to cool off during hot summer days. Check out some of the following outdoor adventure spots this summer:
● Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge: Located along 50 miles of coastline in York and Cumberland Counties, enjoy some solitude and peace on the trails through salt marshes and dunes to marvel at wildlife in their natural habitat. The refuge in Wells is open to the public for free 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. It is first come-first served based on parking lot availability. FMI, click here.
● A Walk in the Park: Deering Oaks Park in Portland provides abundant shade, and highlights include a duck pond with a fountain, playgrounds, restrooms, and stunning rose gardens. Go underground and follow the 16 markers of the Portland Freedom Trail to learn about the Underground Railroad and abolitionist movement in Maine, or enjoy a large Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am-1pm. FMI, click here.
● Eastern Trail Full Moon Walks: Join the Eastern Trail for monthly full moon walks along the Scarborough Marsh this summer. The walk leaves from the Pine Point parking area (138 Pine Point Road) and is limited to 25 people, with no flashlights or pets allowed. Registration is required (July 2 Walk; August 1 Walk; August 30 Walk).
● Summer in the Park: Kicking off on the Fourth of July, LL Bean offers a multitude of free activities almost every day, including yoga, art in the park, kids activity tent, gear testing, fly fishing casting, movie nights, high flying dock dogs, and a superb concert series. FMI, click here.
ART & HISTORY
Immerse yourself in the world of creativity and expression by visiting a local art walk or taking a trip to the museum this summer. Experience captivating paintings, unique sculptures, and masterpieces that evoke emotion, spark imagination, and showcase history and culture. Expand your horizons and discover the profound impact art and history can have on your perspective of the world.
● First Friday Art Walk: On the first Friday of each month from 5-8pm, Portland's Art Walk features art galleries, studios, and museums throughout the city. Come dance in the streets with live performers and check out the amazing artists selling their creations. FMI, click here.
● Biddeford ArtWalk: On the third Friday of each month from 5-8pm, Biddeford's self-guided walk leads you to local artists, a street fair atmosphere, or businesses exhibiting art. Each month is different, with street performances, open studios, hands-on workshops, and more. The August ArtWalk will also be combined with Fringe Fest and a block party from 4-9pm for added fun. FMI, click here.
● Colby Museum of Art: Open and free to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-5pm, this museum's collection is home to more than 9,000 pieces of art of various media and featured exhibitions. The museum also participates in First Friday: Waterville Downtown events to meet artists, participate in workshops, and listen to live music. FMI, click here.
● Portland Head Light & Fort Williams Park: The Portland Head Light is a historical landmark offering admission to the museum weekdays from 10am-2pm and weekends from 10am-4pm for only $2 for adults and $1 for children 6-18 (under age 6 is free). Fort Williams Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset with no admission fee to fly a kite, enjoy a picnic, stroll paths or walk along the cliffside loop, enjoy a scavenger hunt, and more. FMI, click here.
● Ogunquit Museum of American Art: For 70 years, this museum has been showcasing masterful art. This summer, the museum will stay open late and offer free admission on the first Friday of each month from 5-8pm, thanks to the generosity of the Nine Wicket Fund at the Maine Community Foundation. FMI, click here.
CONCERTS & FESTIVALS
Get ready to be thrilled by live performances, meet fellow music lovers, and make unforgettable memories in a fun and exciting celebration atmosphere. Experience the incredible energy of different types of music, dance, and festive spirit that brings people together and leaves you with a big smile. Take advantage of some of these fun options to fill your heart with joy.
● Concerts in the Park: Enjoy some acclaimed artists at LL Bean's free concerts in Discovery Park on select Saturday nights at 7:30pm. Grab a chair (put out as early as 6am), enjoy the activities offered throughout the day, and end the day with performances from musicians like Melissa Etheridge, Mackenzie Porter, Wilderado, and more! FMI, click here.
● Summer Concerts on the Lawn: Join Kennebunkport's summer concert series at Parson's Field for live music, food trucks, a bounce house, and face painting! These free concerts will occur on three Thursdays (June 29, July 20, and August 24) from 6-8pm. FMI, click here.
● Summer Concert Series: Every Thursday from 6:30-8pm at Memorial Park on Durant Drive in Scarborough, various popular bands will perform for audiences to dance, sing, or simply enjoy. Bring a chair and plenty of free parking in lots near Town Hall and the High School. FMI, click here.
● Music in the Park: Every Wednesday from 6-7:30pm at Shevenell Park on Main Street in Biddeford, bands from all over New England perform for audiences to dance, sing, or simply enjoy. Bring a Chair, blanket, or picnic. FMI, click here.
● Woofstock Food & Beer Festival: The Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk is hosting this free, family-friendly, dog-friendly beer and food festival on Saturday, July 29th, from 11am-3pm. Enjoy an afternoon of live music, food trucks, local craft brews, games, kids' activities, dog agility courses, raffles, makers and craft vendors, giveaways, and so much more! FMI, click here.
This blog is just the tip of the sand dune! There are so many options in Maine for free or affordable activities, so keep your eyes open, check out local Facebook events, search deals on CertifiKID or Groupon, and take a moment each week to browse www.PortlandCheatSheet.com for over 500 free events each month in Southern Maine. Have a fantastic summer while keeping your wallet in your pocket!