Maine: Accessible Attractions in Clambake Country
Close your eyes and imagine you're sitting at a sunlit, outdoor, dock-side table overlooking the Atlantic Ocean as you dive into a plateful of fresh, luscious lobster, steamed clams, melt-in-your-mouth mussels, corn on the cob and tender, new potatoes, drawn butter for dipping, and an ice-cold beverage to wash it all down. It's not heaven—it's Maine, the first place in the United States to welcome the rays of the morning sun. Made famous by master-of-horror author Stephen King and its plump, sweet blueberries, Maine (the only U.S. state whose name has one syllable) is home to the second-most visited national park, world-famous outdoor-recreation retailer L.L. Bean, and a huge helping of wonderful wheelchair accessible attractions!
Commercial Street, Portland
Built upon old piers in the 1850s, Commercial Street runs on the edge of the city's downtown district, offering beautiful views of the harbor in between historic buildings, fishermans' wharf-style restaurants with superb seafood (don't leave Maine without consuming a lobster roll and clam chowder!), bars, and boutique shops. Salt air and seagulls add to the coastal charm of the area as you make your way down the street. Just across the street is Old Port, a district known for its architecture and cobblestone streets, which were preserved during redevelopment that incorporated accessibility. As part of Portland's downtown district, Old Port is brimming with boutique shops, bars, restaurants, galleries, museums, theaters—more than enough entertainment and nightlife to show you a great time!
It is "the world's largest globe," according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Eartha is a 3-dimensional scale model of Earth, complete with mountains and land forms in 3D, a 23.5 degree tilt (just like Earth), and it rotates and revolves to mirror Earth's real movements. Measuring just over 41 feet and weighing in at 5, 600 lbs., the globe was designed using computer technology and mapping data that took more than a year to compile. The globe's "skeleton consists of 6,000 pieces of lightweight aluminum tubing, and the "skin" is comprised of more than 792 map sections, printed on special material. You'll find Eartha in a three-story glass atrium at the headquarters of DeLorme, a widely recognized mapping company. This fully accessible attraction is free, and you can check out their other maps to see where in Maine to go next!
Baxter Brewing Company, Lewiston
Something good is always brewing here! If you're a beer aficionado, or your simply curious about how beer goes from grain to the glass, this is a fun stop. The tour and tap room are accessible, and you can even snack on locally baked soft pretzels when you sample their beers. One thing that sets the award-winning Baxter Brewing Company apart is its status as the first craft brewery in New England to can all of its beer for quality and environmental reasons, which follow their founding principles. Housed in an old grain mill, the brewery offers cozy, New England atmophere, along with lagers, pale ales, and stout, with seasonal brews with catchy names like Hayride, Stowaway, Tarnation, Phantom Punch, and Summer Swelter. Stop here for good beer and good cheer!
L.L. Bean, Freeport
Millions worldwide have browsed through and bought from this outdoor-recreation equipment-and-clothing giant's catalogue for decades, but few have actually been to L.L. Bean's legendary retail store. Your Maine vacation offers the perfect opportunity for you to navigate aisles and aisles of top-quality apparel and equipment for outdoor recreation. The L.L. Bean stores are part of the bustling Freeport Village Shopping Outlets, and you may be surprised when you arrive to discover two enormous L.L. Bean buildings. Inside one building you'll find clothing, equipment, and several equipment demonstrations, including a cool, fly fishing demonstration in a "lake" with real fish! Right acoss the way is another large Bean building with outdoor and indoor furniture, bedding, bath, and home decor that celebrates the adventurous spirit!
Acadia National Park, Bangor
Few of America's national parks have the range of natural features you'll find at Acadia National Park, the first national park established east of the Mississippi River. It's here where mountains, granite hilltops, the sea, woodlands, ponds, lakes, and wildlife capture the full attention of visitors and treat them to a breathtaking display of flora and fauna. Maine's rocky coastline alone will have your heart pounding like the wild sea against the rocks at Thunder Hole, a popular spot in the park. People with disabilities are eligible for a free, lifetime pass to America's national parks, and Acadia has accessible accommodation for parking, campgrounds, nature and visitor centers, and on Island Explorer fare-free shuttle buses. The fall foliage in this park is second to none, and a sunrise in Acadia is early-morning magic.
Bar Harbor Boat Tours, Bar Harbor
Choose from nature cruises that search for seals, porpoises, eagles, and other fascinating marine animals and birds (including the chickadee, Maine's state bird,) fishing cruises, or a Puffins, Seabirds & Lighthouses cruise along the rocky coastline. You may see a whale or two, too! When you're not checking out the timeless mansions dotting the shore or the wildlife that call Maine home, you'll oooh and ahhh at the magnificent coastline of the state that supplies almost 90% of the nation's lobster supply. If you've been visiting Acadia National Park, which almost surrounds Bar Harbor, you'll discover that this cruise shows you the park from the ocean's perspective. Knowledgeable naturalists and guides narrate the cruises and answer your questions. Those adorable puffins will melt your heart!
Sunday River Ski Resort, Newry
Just one of several Maine locations for adaptive winter sports, Sunday River Ski Resort partners with Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation to provide winter sport opportunities for people with physical disabilities. If you're an adventurous soul who's always wanted to try alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, or snowboarding, a Maine vacation in winter is calling your name! From early January to the beginning of April, Maine Adaptive provides the specialized equipment and expert lessons you need to take your winter activity to an exciting, new level. In fact, the organization has its own 4,300 sq. ft. slope-side facility at Sunday River, and you'll have your choice of several resorts, inns, and lodges with wheelchair accessible rooms. The best word to describe a Maine adaptive-skiing vacation? Exhilarating!
Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville
Imagine the works of art you'll discover in a museum "where risks are taken and experimentation is encouraged." The accessible museum's collections reflect diverse cultures and historical periods with a special emphasis on American art. Expect the unusual, like a fascinating collection of American weathervanes, mandala and painting (which is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed,) and black-and-white portait photographs by Andy Warhol among exhibits that feature traditional painting, sculpture, watercolor, printmaking, photography, and other fine arts created by Maine's creative community (which includes James M. Whistler, whose mother is famously captured on canvas), and top-tier national and international artists.
Peaks Island, Portland
How about an island getaway, even if it's for only a day? Peaks Island is actually part of the city of Portland, and its history is just as rich. Known as the Coney Iisland of Maine in the late 19th century because of its popularity as a summer destination, much of the island still retains a nostalgic charm. Easily passible streets and sidewalks lead to hotels, restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries, and other establishments you'd expect to find on a tourist-oriented island, but it's the uncommon aspects of this locale that you'll talk about when you get home. Kids here set up curbside lemonade stands; a collection of international umbrella covers hang from the ceiling and walls of the Umbrella Cover Museum; you can pick up a jar of homemade honey from the Peaks Island Honey Company—just leave $3 in the coffee can next to the honey. A wheelchair accessible ferry ride takes you there and back.
Ogonquit Playhouse Summer Stock Theatre, Ogonquit
They say it's worth a visit here just to see the signed publicity photos of the many great stars who played here like Ethel Barrymore, Bette Davis, and other actors from Broadway, film, and television who perfected their acting chops doing summer stock in intimate New England theaters. Also a training ground for would-be actors, summer stock started around 1919, and there's still a thriving summer stock circut that includes the accessible Ogonquit Playhouse, which has seen "83 years of Broadway at the Beach!" Take in a show like My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, Billy Elliot—the Musical, Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, and more. Be sure to check th season's schedule on their web site. To go or not to go—that's a good question. The answer is...
Go! Go to Maine for a vacation that's as visually stunning as it is exciting! And if you're a seafood fan—particularly into lobster and clams—you'll find supremely fine, fresh Maine lobster and steamed clams more than worth the visit!