The best restaurants, breweries, trails, and sightseeing destinations in Portland, ME

Portland is one of the top places that comes up when people talk about cities anywhere near Colby. Its hour-long drive from Colby makes it a tough place to go for a quick meal or visit, and a lot of times it is simply a place to pass by on the way to Boston or a place to drive to for the airport. However, it is important to remember that, especially as the warmer season is now upon us, Portland has a wide variety of interesting sights to offer that make it worth a trip from Colby.

One thing Portland, and the entire state of Maine, have become increasingly known for are their breweries. Visitors in Portland can find a variety of breweries to visit, and can even travel on the “Maine Brew Bus” to see almost all of them if desired. But if you’re just looking for one or two, the Allagash Brewery and Bissell Brothers Brewing Company are good choices, as they are both relatively well-known beyond Portland. Allagash Brewery offers a wide variety of mostly Belgian-style Ales, and their factory and facilities are open seven days a week for tours, with a tasting room that offers free samples. Bissell Brothers is a relatively new brewery, having opened in December 2013, but has already made a name for itself, especially due to a popular IPA of theirs, “The Substance Ale.”

In addition to trying a variety of beers, Portland’s growing restaurant presence makes it a great place to grab a meal.  Some of their most popular restaurants include Fore Street Restaurant, a high-end restaurant listed by Business Insider as the 12th-best restaurant in the United States, and Eventide Oyster Company, a classic oyster bar and seafood-focused restaurant. Both restaurants utilize local ingredients and have become destinations for restaurant enthusiasts even beyond New England. However, their fame does come at a price, so they might not work for those visitors on a budget. For people looking for a quick and less-expensive bite, it might be worth going to Otto Pizza, a classic by-the-slice joint with several locations in the Portland area (and now in Massachusetts as well). A food truck is also a good option, including those that serve lobster rolls, obviously a Maine staple. Bite Into Maine, a food truck with a view in Cape Elizabeth, is a good lobster roll truck to try.

For visitors looking simply to take in the scenery of the Maine waterfront, there are plenty of ways to do that as well. One such way is to utilize the many walking trails in the Portland area. People looking for all their choices can find a map of these trails on trails.org, but for those looking for quick walks near the center of town, there are a couple of easy walking trails to take advantage of. One is the Eastern Promenade Trail, located in the East End neighborhood, which goes through Fort Allen Park and gives visitors a great view of the water and the many islands surrounding Portland. Another easy trail, the Harborwalk, goes along the piers downtown and makes it easy to  stop for food and explore the center of Portland. The Harborwalk will give people a picturesque view of the piers, boats and neighborhoods.

If the walking trails don’t provide visitors with enough scenery, there’s always the Portland Observatory, a tower atop a hill in Portland that provides 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, the tower is only open in the less-frigid times of year, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. However, if visitors in Portland want to hop over to the many surrounding islands, that can be done year round. Casco Bay Lines runs ferries that leave from Downtown Portland and go to several nearby islands, including Peaks Island, Long Island, Cliff Island, and Great and Little Diamond, and are much cheaper in the colder months. Upon arrival, bicycles are available to rent for people looking to bike around these charming islands.

Visiting the rugged coast of Maine also calls for a visit to a lighthouse, and there are several in the Portland area to choose from. The most famous is the Portland Head Light, located in the nearby town of Cape Elizabeth. The name of this lighthouse might not be known to all Colby students, but all of us have certainly seen it in pictures during our time in Maine. It is a classic landmark, and certainly worth a visit. There are also two other lighthouses closer to Portland if tourists have a time constraint: the Bug Light and Spring Point Light. Both are located in South Portland, a quick drive from downtown Portland over the nearby Casco Bay Bridge.

Finally, if all these options haven’t filled up a day, there are plenty of museums for tourists looking to experience Portland. The Portland Museum of Art is well-known in Maine and has a number of iconic artists represented, including Winslow Homer, Claude Monet and Andy Warhol. In addition, unknown to many, Portland is home to the International Cryptozoology Museum, the only of its type in the world. Cryptozoology, for those who don’t know, is the “study of and search for  animals and especially legendery animals (as Sasquatch) in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence,” according to www.merriam-webster.com.

Overall, though Portland may seem to be a relatively small city to Colby students coming from outside of Maine, it certainly has enough to fill up a day trip for people looking to escape the Colby bubble, even in the winter months.