What to Do in a Small Town |Bangor, Maine

Check the Lay of the Land

– First Day

Although we got a late start on our first day in Bangor, my boyfriend and I eventually made it to the downtown area for a stroll around the city. Being a hot and muggy 88 degrees made walking around slightly uncomfortable. I am used to the dry heat in California, which is much easier to deal with than all the moisture hanging in the air in Maine. Having sweat drip down my neck from minimal walking surprised me initially, but I would slowly get used to it.

The town of Bangor is one of the greenest I have ever seen. There are so many trees and lawns throughout. But, Bangor is also one of the smallest downtown I have ever been to. There are sections of clustered shops taking up only a few blocks of downtown, which were then separated by a section of small restaurants, followed by old business buildings. I felt like we could walk from one side of downtown to the other in about fifteen minutes.

The Grasshopper Shop in Bangor, Maine
The Grasshopper Shop

Since we were mostly taking inventory of the town this day, we noted what shops and restaurants we would be coming back to in the following days. In particular, there is this one cute little eclectic store called The Grasshopper Shop that is definitely worth revisiting. I bought a couple of little purses/pouches for myself and my sister as souvenirs. There were also knick-knacks, clothes, coffees, candies, etc, that I would have to come back to.

Along with shopping, Bangor is rich with history. Numerous monuments and statues are scattered throughout the town, mostly of the citizens of Bangor. But, having driven past signs for historical museums, and my boyfriend being a history buff, we had to put the museums on our to-do list for the following days to come.

downtown Bangor, Main streets
Downtown streets

The town of Bangor is so small that it could probably be completely explored in one day, though it definitely requires more than the few hours the two of us gave it on that day. Considering our visit to Bangor would include having my sports editor boyfriend spend some hours a day covering the Senior World Series, our half-tour of Bangor hasn’t been idly spent thus far.

Sample the Local Flavor

Second Day

Having finally adjusted to the three-hour time change (Bangor, Maine is ahead of California), my boyfriend and I managed to go to the Sea Dog Brewery. Their beer is sold in California, so the label called my boyfriend’s attention while I was intrigued by eating somewhere near the water. Of course, since it was over 90 degrees, sitting indoors with the air conditioning promised to be a more comfortable lunch. However, we could still see the water from our table, anyway.

Sea Dog brewery beer samples in Bangor, Maine
Quenching thirsts with a flight of beer to sample

Decently priced, though not exactly a “cheap eats,” the Sea Dog Brewery offered various seafood dishes, which was exactly what I wanted in a Maine restaurant. Fresh calamari, fried and resting in a shallow pool of basil marinara made a scrumptious way to open my appetite. Both the rings and florets of the calamari were extremely tender, and they left me with anticipation of my coming entrée: lobster bisque.

A trip to Maine calls for lobster-based meals, in my opinion. The thick reddish broth that was creamy enough to coat, but not float the chunks of lobster meat, made my mouth salivate. But, the sweet and tender lobster meat swimming in my yummy broth gave an additional flavor that can only come from a fresh catch of lobster. I couldn’t help making my enjoyment audible as I ate. Initially, I somehow interjected a “yum” through my first bite of a full mouth of succulent meat and broth. I continued to hum through the rest of my meal. FYI, few foods can create this kind of reaction with me.

Sea Dog brewery paella
Paella of rice calamari, sausage, peppers

My boyfriend had seafood paella, which sounds a tad redundant, but I have never seen quite that much seafood in a paella before. The mussels, shrimp, and calamari were so abundant that the rice actually seemed outnumbered. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though, since all of the seafood was cooked to perfection, though I can definitely say that I have had better rice (mainly, my mother’s).

Along with the paella, my boyfriend also had to get a beer – we were at a brewery, after all. But, since he couldn’t choose one, he went with the sampler. Now, I am no beer connoisseur, but I can attest that the 12-beer shots are definitely eye-catching since we noticed incoming patrons crossing our table with awing smiles spread across their faces. Then again, the twelve shots came close to the equivalent of four beers, which could have also been what earned the stares.

Paul Bunyan with Bangor Main time capsule
The giant guards the time capsule.

Local Landmarks

After our long, relaxing, and quite filling meal, we slowly left the cool confines of the sea-themed brewery and went back into the hot mugginess. Though there are several malls within ten miles of each other (or closer) in Bangor, there was really nothing about any of them that seemed unique or had any out-of-state appeal about them. So, the only place that seemed worth visiting was the Paul Bunyan statue right next to the Chamber of Commerce. Of course, I had to take a picture of that… the statue I mean. Mr. Bunyan stands right next to a time capsule that will not be opened until around 2085, after having been closed off for a hundred years.

The next day’s events should prove to be even more eventful since my boyfriend doesn’t have a game to cover that day. We will have the whole day in Bangor.

– Third Day

Our day in downtown Bangor started by grabbing a relaxing lunch at the Central Café. I suppose it was my curiosity from California that made me order a “Californian BLT.” I just wanted to know what made the sandwich Californian… apparently it is just the addition of avocado. It was good, anyway.

My boyfriend and I then walked to the U Maine Museum of Art – a free museum. How could we pass that up? We quickly realized why the museum was free. The gallery consisted of only two actual rooms of art – one with photography and paintings, the other with sculptures/carvings of wood. I found the exhibit on photography alluring. There were underwater photos by Connie Imboden, including cabin and lake photos by David Hillard. The sculptures by Christopher Frost were intriguing, since the carvings consisted of mini houses and antlers.

Civil War Bangor, Main museum
Bangor, Main museum

After taking our time in each room, we only spent a half hour (if that) in the entire U Maine Museum. So, we had plenty of time for our next tour, which I think may be the smallest historical museum in the world. In reality, this civil war museum is based in a small old house, which contained furnishings from the civil war era. Still, even though there were only four rooms to observe, our tour guide was clad in a dress befitting the 1860’s, who gave extensive details on the past residents, as well as the furnishings and wares that were presented in the house… err, museum. The entire tour took over an hour, so it was well worth the $3 charge.

Along with our museum stops and much more walking around downtown, my boyfriend and I had big dinner plans – lobster dinner plans, to be exact. We knew what we wanted to eat after a long day of walking in the heat; we just didn’t know where to get it. After researching online and driving past a few restaurants, outside of the downtown area, we finally decided on Captain Nick’s.

The place may be a casual family restaurant, however, the seafood proved to be anything but casual. The boiled lobster dinner lived up to our expectations. Once again, I was humming through my meal. Apparently, lobster has this effect on me when it is cooked right. My boyfriend proved to be just as happy since he usually avoids dirtying his hands while he eats. With sweet meat and a light chew, the freshness of the lobster was evident, and neither of us cared as lobster juices ran down our wrists and butter smeared our lips.

We shared a two-pound lobster, which proved to have plenty of meat. The only problem with a large lobster is the shell. The bigger the beast, the harder the shell is to crack. Oh well. It was worth the initial struggle.

We had hoped to have room for a slice of blueberry pie for dessert – a specialty in Maine with their abundance of blueberries. But, that will have to wait for another day.

A Taste of Bangor

– Day Four

Sometimes, a name is more than just a name. My boyfriend and I had walked past the Friar’s Bake House in downtown Bangor several times, and finally decided we would pick up some pastries for brunch. We stepped into the bakery that was run by two actual friars dressed in their traditional garb. Although ours was a brief visit, the friars were polite enough to make some short conversation with us, explaining the confusion of most other patrons. A bakery downstairs and a small chapel upstairs tends to throw some people off.

On our way out, with a blueberry muffin and small cornbread in a paper bag, my boyfriend and I both smiled as we were bid a good day and a “God bless you.” I hope we can make time to stop there again. It is definitely a unique and pleasant experience to be in that little bakery.

It would seem that most of our trip revolves around food, which may be partially true. After breakfast, my boyfriend did some work, typing away the latest story on his laptop, while I went on my own laptop to figure out what we were going to do for lunch. I had seen lobster rolls on nearly all of the restaurants’ menus, so far; there were even signs posted on the sides of the road for deals on lobster rolls. Having never tried one of these rolls before, I just had to have one.

So, when it was lunchtime, we made a point of driving to a little off the road restaurant called, McLaughlin’s Seafood – an order-at-the-counter, eat-outside, picnic-table joint. It was a very casual and very tasty lunch. My boyfriend ordered a scallop roll, and I got my lobster roll. The buns for both sandwiches were lightly toasted and buttered, not to mention full of meat. There was plenty of fresh lobster, and only lightly coated with mayonnaise, so as not to distract from that unique lobster flavor. Even my boyfriend’s scallops’ sweetness tasted enhanced. There is just nothing like being within reach of fresh seafood. You’ve gotta love Maine for that availability.

After lunch, my boyfriend was off to cover another game of baseball, but when he was finished, we were once again ready to go back out and explore… and eat.

We decided to have dinner at Sea Dog Brewery. It only made sense to go back there since our first visit was so enjoyable and the menu was so large and intriguing.

Since it was such a nice night, we ate outside, over the water. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really see the anything since it was dark by the time we sat down. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable. My boyfriend ordered the stuffed pork chop, which tasted good, but really had a misleading name since the pork chop rested on a bed of stuffing instead of actually being stuffed. I ordered a grilled tuna Thai salad. The fish was rare, (just how I like it), only lightly kissed by the fire. And, the baby spinach was dressed in a sweet and spicy sauce, which was delicious and refreshing. Sea Dog Brewery was 2-0 for our meals there.

This time, we had room to finish our dinner with a slice of blueberry pie. It was a nice way to end our potentially last day in Maine. Our tours in Bangor depended on whether or not the team from California, which my boyfriend was covering, would win tomorrow’s game and move on to one more. With so much riding on this baseball game, it seemed only fitting that I attend the full game the next day.

Local Events

– Last Days

Although the Senior World Series was the reason for making the trip to Maine, I did not pay much attention to the outcome of the games until the final two matches. The second to last game in the series was set to start early in the morning. So, my boyfriend and I started our day by stopping at Dunkin Donuts on our way to the ballpark (a luxury that is denied in most of California. Good luck finding a DD in the Bay Area).

We actually got to the stadium early enough for me to sit wherever I wanted. With the extra time I had waiting for the crowd to arrive, I tried a couple of different places, comparing the different angles of the field and where the sun was going to hit. I eventually ended up in the center row, center aisle. Unfortunately, I could not expect to sit with my boyfriend since he was part of the press. He would be in the press box, under the shade. Oh well.

The game was surprisingly exciting since I was rooting for the Fremont team from California against Aruba. Add a little international competition and I’m suddenly intrigued with the game. After six runs in the first inning, and a break for a pink hot dog for me (luckily, the rosy hot link looked weirder than it actually tasted) Fremont won 6-4, earning a spot in the finals the next day against the Texas team. After all the excitement exuding from the crowd this day, I was all amped to view tomorrow’s game. I didn’t even mind the idea of the lengthy car trip back to the stadium early the next morning.

It’s interesting how the three-hour car rides, back and forth from Massachusetts to Maine, were far from boring for my boyfriend and I. We talked and laughed, even sang in the car. The trip on the road can almost be as much fun as the destination if you have the right company.

The scenery wasn’t bad either. More and more trees lined the highway as we got closer North, to Maine. For anyone making a similar trip on the East coast, expect many tolls as you drive through the states and cities. It’s a good thing we had a Fas Track that allowed us to zip right through the lines of cars.

On the last day of the Senior World Series (California versus Texas) the seats of the stadium were packed. I did not have my pick of seating on this day, regardless of how early we showed up. Even my boyfriend had trouble finding a seat by me. He got squeezed out of the tiny press box because some hot shots from ESPN took over. Apparently, the bigger media is allowed to push around the smaller papers who flew across the country to cover their local team.

The game was suspenseful as Texas took a strong lead and Fremont struggled to catch up I was actually on the edge of my seat for this game. I still made time to go down to the food stands and buy myself a lobster roll for lunch, though. I so badly wanted my local team to win. With a difficult crawl to reach Texas’ score, Fremont still lost 7-9.At least my lobster rolls was tasty and thoroughly enjoyable (despite the use of frozen lobster meat).

I may not be a sports nut, but I have to admit disappoint after rooting for a home team and watching them lose. Luckily, the rest of the past week’s events with my boyfriend were far from disappointing.


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