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Visitors often come to Portland, Maine, for the first time because they want to spend a summer weekend in a quaint city by the water, or because they’ve heard about the city’s superlative seafood (80 percent of the United States’ lobster comes from in Maine). Attracted by the easy access to nature and relative affordability, many return for longer stays or even for good. Between 2020 and 2022, Maine’s population will have the highest percentage increase of any New England state.
But Maine’s wishes are not new. Artists, artisans and writers have long been inclined towards the state; They established an art colony with two painting schools in Ogunquit, on the southern coast of Maine, in the first half of the 20th century, and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, founded in 1950, continues hiring instructors and students. from all over the world. More recently, the state’s creative spirit has resulted in a dynamic food scene. Stop down any one of Portland’s cobblestone streets and you’ll find more quality restaurants and bakeries (both old- and new-guard varieties) than you might expect in a place with just 68,000 residents. . The same is true just northeast of the city, in the mid-coast region, especially in the town of Rockland — an easy and scenic 90-minute drive away — with a burgeoning food and arts scene on track to rival Portland’s .
Kazeem Lawal, the owner of clothing and accessories store Portland Trading Co., moved from New Jersey to Portland 14 years ago, and has witnessed its stratospheric growth from a small port town to a destination city. “It’s a bit like the Brooklyn of 20 years ago, with old and new coexisting,” he said. “and it continues to grow and change, as all cities should and do.”
Here, Lawal and three other Mainers share their favorite spots in and around the state’s largest city.
Alex’s daya co-owner of Death & Co. The cocktail bar (with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, DC), moved to Portland in 2019.
Lily KingThe novelisthas lived in Portland since 2002.
Kazeem Lawalthe creative director of the clothing and accessories store Portland Trading Co.moved to Maine in 2009.
Toshiko Morithe architect and principal at Toshiko Mori Architectdividing his time between New York City and a home on an island in Maine’s Penobscot Bay.
“Before my husband and I moved to Maine, we tried all the lodging options in Portland. I like the AirBnBs in Munjoy Hill, but if going the hotel route, The Francis is my favorite place — comfortable, centrally located, exquisitely curated, and home to one of Portland’s coziest restaurants, Wayside Tavern.” (Rooms from $129 per night) — Alex’s day
“Best Bower is a contemporary guesthouse at the top of Munjoy Hill with six warm, beautiful rooms and rotating works of art by artists-in-residence. Blind Tiger in the West End, whose billiards room was once a prohibition speakeasy, offers more luxury; and on Chebeague Island there is magic Chebeague Island Innwhere drinks and dinner are served on its wraparound porch.” (Best Bower Rooms from $165 per night, two-night minimum; Blind Tiger, from $259 per night; Chebeague Island Inn, from $219 per night) — Lily King
“I prefer new hotels, and the Canopy Portland Waterfront is two blocks from downtown. Spring for a room with a water view, and plan to drink at the rooftop bar.” (Rooms from $199 per night) — Kazeem Lawal
“In Rockland, 250 Main is extremely pet-friendly. The hotel provides dog treats from Loyal Biscuit Co., a great pet supply store just around the corner. The rooms are simple and comfortable, with views of the harbor and excellent coffee from its neighbor Rock City Coffee Roasters.” (Rooms from $169 per night) — Toshiko Mori
“Little ones, a small neighborhood cafe-bar and supply store in the West End, some of the best coffee and small plates around. On lazy Sundays, I travel for a cappuccino, then walk up to Zu Bakery for a textbook croissant. And J’s Oyster is the perfect combination of old-school charm, a fun team and delicious seafood that couldn’t be fresher.” — A.D
“It’s hard to eat bad food in Portland. Doctor Wrong my favorite restaurant now. Opened less than a year ago by chef and owner Nonglack Thanephonesy, [this Thai restaurant] is new enough that you can still get a table in high season. I’m addicted to his drunken noodles.” — LK
“If you want the Ferrari of a lobster roll, go to night. The buns are steamed, the lobster meat is slathered in brown butter, reservations are extremely limited and when they tell you how long the wait for a table is, you’ll probably pass out. Go early, put your name down and then spend long hours waiting to explore. If lobster isn’t your thing, the fish and chicken sandwiches here are poppin’, too.” — KL
“Leeward, a restaurant with Italian-style seasonal food, focuses on pasta, but the menu also highlights local seafood, such as Maine bluefin tuna crudo with pickled rhubarb, or a cucumber salad with smoked eel, sumac and fried capers that are fresh and earthy. — TM
“Just a walk from our house, the Fore River Sanctuary, a series of hiking trails winding through forests and marshlands, is a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. I like to start at Jewell Falls and work my way up the Fore River. The deep banks as you near the end are the remains of an 1800s canal that connected Portland to Sebago Lake.” — A.D
“Take the ferry to Commercial Street and visit any of the Islands of Casco Bay. Or, if you want to see them all, book a mail boat ticket. It runs three times a day (at 10 am, 12 pm and 3 pm) and the journey takes two and a half to three hours. Take it all in: the boat crews, the fishermen navigating their boats in Portland harbor, the beauty of Maine’s rocky coast. — KL
“The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland has a deep collection of works by [19th- and 20th-century] Maine artists, including Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth and Louise Nevelson, as well as the work of young contemporary artists. Across the street (behind Atlantic Baking Companywhich makes a great apricot-pistachio cookie) is the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, found in a building I designed. It has temporary shows of work by artists living in or connected to Maine, including Reggie Burrows Hodges and Lois Dodd. — TM
“I can lose an hour at the knife and kitchenware store Strata flipping through books, admiring the delicate Japanese glassware too thin for my clumsiness or — as it should be done here — chatting with the very knowledgeable and friendly staff about the shop’s large collection of culinary knives, most of which was made by Japanese smiths. I have yet to convince my husband that the knife factory is an acceptable date night.” — A.D
“For antiques, drive 20 minutes north to Cabot Mill Antiques in Brunswick, which is a multidealer antique mall in an old mill building. Or drive to Arundel, in Arundel Antique Village. In both places, you can find things that are hard to find in most big cities.” — KL
Take it home
“I consulted the shopping expert in my life, my daughter Eloise King-Clements. He says Blanche + Mimi has the best quilts ever, like block prints made from soft cotton.”
“In Rockland, Trillium Soaps is a small batch family producer of handmade soaps subtly enveloped in the fragrance of nature found in Maine. My favorites are the pine, Maine seaweed, black rosemary and orange calendula soaps, and I can’t live without Trillium’s gardener’s soap, with poppy seeds and cornmeal as an exfoliant, calendula petals, geranium and cedar oil to keep your skin soft hands afterwards. gardening. The store also carries antique farm baskets, ceramics and linens. — TM
“One of the reasons I moved to Portland was the convenience of our small airport. It rarely has a TSA line of more than a few people. But during the busy summer months, when flights become very expensive, I fly in and out of Boston’s Logan airport. I’m generally a bit hesitant to take the bus, but Concord Coach comes right outside baggage claim and goes directly to Portland [a two-hour trip], and on the way back, it drops you right in front of security. It’s cheap, clean and has a very friendly driver and Wi-Fi.” — A.D
“Bring a book. At some point, even on the bleakest summer day, you’ll want to curl up in a hammock or porch swing or window seat and read. I don’t know if that feeling is in the water or the air, but it will catch up with you. If you’re going to have a foggy day or two, you might need some books. Get ready.” — LK
“The best time to visit is June and September. June is lush, with amazing flowers, including lupine and lilac, and it’s strawberry season. The air is crisp and cool and you’ll be here before the tourists in July and Aug. In September, there is the largest organic farming fair, the Common Ground Country Fairand the Camden International Film Festival, the best documentary film festival — and it’s less crowded, and the weather is good for sailing.” — TM