Maine is a well-known summer and fall destination, but honestly, winter is simply magical. I say that for a lot of my winter posts (can you tell that I love winter?!), but there’s something about seeing all the different landscapes that Maine offers covered in fresh snow that really allows you to fully appreciate it.
On top of that, the Pine Tree State really knows how to celebrate everything winter is all about, including awesome outdoors activities, romantic Valentine’s Day ideas, amazing holiday celebrations and cozy getaways. This post is all about the best things to do in Maine in the winter, so let’s jump in!
Is Maine Worth Visiting In The Winter?
Absolutely! I love visiting Maine in the winter season because it provides such a variety of things to do including skiing, but also offers the best winter escapes with off-season rates in places like Portland and Kennebunkport. Whether you’re looking for a city getaway, an adventure in the mountains or even a winter road trip, Maine offers all of this, and more.
Best Things To Do In Maine In December
Planning a Christmas getaway? You’re in luck! Below is a round-up of all the best things to do in Maine throughout the month of December to help you kick off the holiday season in the best way possible.
1. Experience Christmas Prelude In Kennebunkport
One of the best towns in all of New England at Christmas is Kennebunkport, and it’s even been regarded as one of the top 5 towns in the entire country for all things Christmas!
During the month of December, you’ll find all the traditional holiday events you could possibly imagine, including Santa’s arrival into town by lobster boat, amazing decorations throughout town, tree lighting ceremonies, caroling, candlelight home tours, wreath-making classes, awesome shopping and an atmosphere so full of cheer you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
Pro Tip: Kennebunkport is a very popular Christmas destination in December, and hotels can fill up quickly. Book in advance if you can! I also suggest you get a hotel close to Dock Square, as parking can be tough in town this time of the year (especially on weekends).
2. Attend The Sparkle Celebration In Freeport
The Sparkle Celebration in Freeport is another magical place to tap into your Christmas cheer during the holiday season. Typically held the first two weeks in December, the event kicks off with Santa’s arrival, who brings the talking Christmas tree to life! Curious what that’s all about? Guess you’ll just have to visit to find out for yourself 🙂
During the rest of the celebration, you can experience the Northern Lights display at the L.L. Bean Flagship Campus (which is there for all to enjoy through New Year’s Eve), the Frosty Frolic event with food trucks, fire pits and special holiday shopping and the Sparkle Lights Parade.
This is just a small sampling of the events that take place during the Sparkle Celebration, and there’s so many more festive happenings to check out during your visit. Click here for more information!
3. See Nubble Lighthouse Decorated With Lights
Every year during the holiday season, one of Maine’s most famous lighthouses is decorated with lights for an extra festive touch of Christmas along the coast. Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick begins its light display the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and visitors can enjoy it through New Year’s Day.
Since Nubble Lighthouse actually sits on its own little island, you’re not able to go right up to it. However, that actually works out in your favor because seeing it from a close distance is actually more impactful.
When you arrive at Nubble Lighthouse, the parking area is right at the viewpoint point to see it. And while it’s on an island, you still get an amazing view of it from the overlook. This is also a great photo opportunity.
Pro Tip: If you enjoy your visit to Nubble Lighthouse, consider making a donation on their website to preserve the grounds, local wildlife and the future of this beautiful icon. Click here to make a donation!
4. Check Things Off Your Holiday Shopping List In Portland
One of the best places in Maine to get some holiday shopping done is Portland. And not only can you visit all the fun and unique boutiques in the city, you can also take advantage of the special holiday pop-ups and markets.
During the first weekend in December, you can browse through artisan-made and local products at the Last Call Christmas Arts & Craft Fair and the Maine Made Arts & Crafts Show. The second weekend of December typically brings the RWS Open Studios & Holiday Market, where the best art studios in the city open their doors to shoppers to explore unique and handmade pieces of all different mediums.
Here are a few of my favorite shops for gifts in Portland:
- Pinecone + Chickadee
- Taproot Magazine & Market
5. Ride The Polar Express Train
For kids from 1 to 92, the Polar Express Train is such a treat during the holidays in Maine. Hosted by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland, this authentic steam-powered train ride experience features beautifully decorated and historic passenger cars, hot cocoa, a visit from Santa and a special souvenir sleigh bell.
When making your reservation, you can upgrade to either First or Presidential class for an extra special experience, but regardless of where you sit on the train, it’s a really festive way to celebrate the holidays.
6. Get A Holiday Cocktail At Blyth & Burrows
For those over 21, a night of holiday cocktails at Blyth & Burrows is one of the most fun things to do in the winter in Maine. Located in Portland, this vintage-inspired cocktail bar is really fun to visit year-round, but they create the coolest holiday-themed drinks for the Christmas season.
A crowd favorite that they tend to bring back each year is the FRA-GEE-LAY, which includes a very cool nod to A Christmas Story (that you kind of have to see in person to believe it!).
If you need some food to accompany your cocktails, they have you covered there, too. They have an awesome menu of delicious small plates that include local oysters, deviled eggs and soft pretzels. Between these, the cocktails and the very awesome decor, you’re in for a fun night during the holiday season at Blyth & Burrows.
7. Take A Wreath Making Class At Snugharbor Farm
There are actually quite a few places that offer wreath-making classes throughout Maine, but one of my favorites is at Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunkport. During the first half of December, they open their studios up for Christmas wreath and centerpiece workshops.
During the workshop, everything is provided to make a gorgeous wreath or table centerpiece including freshly-cut evergreens, red berries, eucalyptus stems, boxwood and so much more. And with all the supplies, you’ll learn how to perfectly place everything to take home the most special handmade piece to display throughout the holidays. Click here for more information!
Things To Do In Maine In The Winter
Once the holidays are over, winter really takes off in Maine with all kinds of exciting outdoor activities, festivals, seasonal flavors and ways to stay cozy. Here’s my list of all the very best things to do in the winter season in Maine.
8. Cozy Up In The Cutest Little Fish Shacks At Batson River
Even though Kennebunkport is one of the best Christmas towns in the entire country, it also makes for a very cozy winter getaway. And thanks to Batson River, you can enjoy an extra special dining experience in the winter season.
Through the chilly months, Batson River welcomes you to reserve a special fish shack for a private dining experience at their Kennebunkport location. The inside of the shacks are so cozy, perfectly decorated and heated. They also have a sound system with music for the perfect ambience. And, of course, you can expect delicious cocktails, beers and foods during your time there.
9. Be A Spectator At The U.S. National Toboggan Championships
One of the most fun events in Maine in the winter is the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, which is typically held the first weekend in February at the Camden Snow Bowl (which is the next suggestion on my list!). This is the only organized wooden toboggan competition in the U.S. The best part, though? Anyone can go and watch.
And honestly, it’s really fun. Everyone is in such a happy mood, enjoying the brisk winter weather, sipping hot cocoa and cheering on the participants. This is one activity that’s sure to cure your winter blues.
Pro Tip: This event has gotten quite popular, so you’ll want to anticipate crowds during your visit.
10. Visit The Camden Snow Bowl
Speaking of the Camden Snow Bowl, this is one of the best spots for outdoor winter activities in all of Maine. It’s also one of the most unique places for skiing on the East Coast because not only does it provide incredible mountain views, you also can enjoy views of the ocean while you ski.
At the Camden Snow Bowl, you’ll be able to go skiing, snow tubing and … tobogganing! Outside of the weekend of the U.S. National Toboggan Championship, the toboggan chute is open to the public. Slide down the handmade, wooden chute and fly out onto Homer Pond for a really exciting winter experience.
11. Experience The Norway Snowshoe Festival & Winter Carnival
In mid-February each year, the cute little town of Norway, ME celebrates all things winter with their Snowshoe Festival & Winter Carnival. During the event, you can enjoy snowshoe races, scenic snowshoe walks, snowshoe winter games, a Valentine’s Day Dance, drinks and food. If you’re looking for a really fun community event, this is one you don’t want to miss.
Fun Fact: Curious why there are so many snowshoe events in Norway, Maine? Because it was one regarded as the “Snowshoe Town of America,” as it was once the home of 4 big snowshoe industries.
12. Sample The Seasonal Brews
Maine is home to some of the best breweries in New England (and arguably, the entire country), and one of the best ways to celebrate winter while staying indoors is to tour some of the local breweries.
Some of my personal favorite breweries in Maine are:
- Bissell Brothers – Portland
- Maine Beer Company – Freeport
- Batson River – Portland, Biddeford, Wells & Kennebunkport
- Barreled Souls Brewing – Saco
- Moderation Brewing – Brunswick
Most of these breweries will have seasonal beers on tap that really accentuate the flavors of winter, and most of them (especially Batson River) are very cozy, and have a fun atmosphere for a perfect winter afternoon.
13. Hunt For Antiques
Maine is one of the best New England states for antiquing, and in fact, a few towns in Maine are widely regarded as some of the best in the country for antique hunting. So if outdoor activities in the winter aren’t really your thing, make a day of hunting down treasures through the state’s antiquing trails.
One of the best destinations in Maine for antiquing is Wiscasset. Not only is the town of Wiscasset incredibly charming, it’s also home to the Wiscasset Antiques Mall, one of the largest antique shops in the state. Throughout town, you’ll also find other amazing storefronts featuring antique treasures.
Wells is another town that’s regarded as one of the best destinations in all of New England for antiquing. The main roads through Wells are packed with gorgeous antique shops, and since it’s in such a great location, you can also squeeze in nearby towns like Kennebunkport, Portland, Ogunquit, Biddeford, York and even Portsmouth, NH.
14. Go On A Dog Sledding Adventure
One of the best experiences you can have in the winter season is dogsledding, and Maine has plenty of opportunities to cross this off your bucket list.
What I love about dogsledding in the winter is the bond you create with the sled dogs. Of course, it’s a simply magical ride through snow-blanketed landscapes and forests, but forming the relationships with the dogs as they happily pull you across the snow is such a heartwarming and memorable experience.
A few dogsledding experiences to check out are:
- Mahoosuc Guide Service – Newry
- Ultimate Dogsledding Experience – Oxford
- New England Dogsledding – Bethel
Pro Tip: Unsure about how ethical dogsledding is? That’s actually a good thing, and I’m glad you’re thinking about this. I encourage you to do your own research, but what you’ll find is that the dogs used for dogsledding want to do it. In fact, they actually need to work in this capacity for their own mental and physical well-being, otherwise they can become unhappy and depressed. As long as the service provider takes care of their pups when not sledding, then this is something you can enjoy without worry.
15. Hit The Slopes
Skiing is an awesome winter activity anywhere, and Maine is no exception. As mentioned earlier in this post, the Camden Snow Bowl is one of the best options in Maine, and also a unique one because of the mountain and ocean views. But there are lots of other places to hit the slopes in the winter.
A few other places to check out for awesome skiing in Maine are:
- Camden Snow Bowl (as mentioned)
- Sunday River Ski Resort
- Black Mountain
16. See Acadia National Park In A New Way
Acadia National Park is one of my all-time favorite places in New England, and while many of the trails are closed in the winter, you can still experience the wonder of Acadia in the chilly months. In fact, it’s actually really special and beautiful to visit in the winter.
Park Loop Road, which is one of the most scenic drives in the park, is partially open in the winter (and the parts that are open are some of the best!). Driving parallel to Ocean Path on your way to the Otter Cliffs offers incredible, snowy views of some of Maine’s most iconic landscapes.
Jordan Pond is open in the winter, and is also one of the most scenic places in the park that’s easy to visit.
Bass Harbor Light is another popular landmark in the park that’s open year-round. Just practice extra caution if you choose to climb down the rocks to get a good view of the lighthouse, as they’ll be extra slippery in the winter.
Acadia is also home to lots of groomed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in the winter, so if you’re looking for one of the most scenic places for those activities, you’ll want to plan a winter visit.
17. Visit A Sugar Shack
New England sugar shacks are really cool places to visit in the winter months. While sugar harvest season isn’t until early spring (around the end of March), many of the shacks are open all winter long, offering tastings and tours of their properties. And, of course, samples of their maple-flavored goodies.
Here are a few sugar shacks you can plan to visit during your winter trip:
- Sweet Williams – Casco
- Ricker Hills Orchards – Turner
- Balsam Ridge – Raymond
- Dad’s Maple Sugar Shack – Harrison
18. Have A Snowmobiling Adventure
Fun fact: Maine has 14,000 miles of groomed snowmobiling trails. So, if this is something you’ve ever wanted to try, this is a great place to start!
A few of the best areas in Maine for snowmobiling are Rangeley Lake, Moosehead Lake and Eustis, and there are so many places you can rent snowmobiles in these areas, so no need to worry about finding your equipment.
If it’s your first time, your equipment rental will also come with a quick tutorial to make sure you’re feeling confident enough to hit the trails.
19. Dine Outside By A Cozy Fire In Ogunquit
Ogunquit is known as being one of the best beach towns in Maine, but it also has a few tricks up its sleeve for the winter season. Not only is a brisk, winter walk on Ogunquit Beach a really fun thing to do on a chilly day, you can cuddle up by the fire pit at Beachfire Bar & Grille for a cozy night of dinner and drinks outdoors.
The fire pit at Beachfire is open most days in winter (unless there’s severe weather), and it’s an awesome place to sip on cocktails while staying warm outside. On top of that, they serve up great dishes, and have all the comfort food favorites like pretzel bites, burgers, chili, BBQ selections and mac and cheese.
20. Attend The Portland Carnaval Winter Festival
Each year in early March, Portland celebrates the winter season with the Carnaval Winter Festival. During this very cool (pun intended!) festival, visitors can enjoy live ice sculpture demonstrations, craft beer tastings and pairings in the Bites & Brews Igloo, crafts and face paintings for the kiddos, live music and tons more.
The festival takes place right in Old Port in downtown Portland, making the location very convenient!
21. Hit Up The Shops
Maine is home to some amazing shopping destinations, and if being outdoors isn’t really your thing, then a shopping day may be the perfect option for you!
The Kittery Outlets is the best place to run to if you’re looking to hunt down the best deals. There are well over 50+ stores at this sprawling outlet mall, including brands like Le Cruset, Eddie Bauer, Crate & Barrel and Lindt Chocolates. They even have some local favorites like Sea Bags and a candle store by Stonewall Kitchen.
Need a break from shopping? Head to Woodland Brewery tasting room at the outlets to sample some locally-crafted beer!
Just over an hour from Kittery is Freeport, where you can get lost at the L.L. Bean flagship campus store, which is honestly … huge. Freeport’s downtown is also cute, and home to a great mix of franchised shops and independent boutiques.
Bonus Suggestion: See The Lighthouses Without Any Crowds!
While spring, summer and fall are the best seasons for a lighthouse tour around Maine for weather, it’s not out of the question to visit them in winter! As long as driving conditions are safe, seeing the lighthouses in Maine’s off season is actually wonderful because you’ll hardly run into any people. And if you get especially lucky, you could get the chance to see these beautiful structures with a light dusting of snow!
Romantic Things To Do In Maine In February For Valentine’s Day
Looking for fun things to do in Maine for Valentine’s Day? I have some awesome ideas for you. Below is my recap on ways to celebrate the season of love throughout Maine.
22. Paint The Town Red In Kennebunkport
During the month of February, Kennebunkport celebrates all things Valentine’s Day with their Paint The Town Red celebration, and this is the perfect destination for a romantic winter getaway. Throughout town, you’ll find Instagram-worthy heart decorations, special dining experiences, and red-tag sales in the shops.
In addition to all that, hotels are curating special packages for overnight stays, and there are really fun events happening throughout the month. Here are some experiences you can look forward to during your Paint The Town Red visit:
- Wine and cheese pairing classes at Earth at Hidden Pond
- Valentine’s Day cake decorating at Gemini Cakes
- “Make One, Get One Free” scent blending classes at Sea Love
- Frosted Ice Bar event at The Boathouse
- Oyster shucking at Ocean
23. Cozy Up In A Romantic Yurt
Yep! Even in the winter, you can go on a fun and romantic glamping weekend in Maine! Imagine campfires with s’mores in the snow, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails just steps outside your door, and cuddles by a wood stove.
There are a couple places in Maine that offer year-round yurt rentals for the ultimate glamping experience in the winter season:
Both of these options come with a stove for heating and a secluded atmosphere for the ultimate weekend of recharging and unplugging. Maine Forest Yurts is only about 40 minutes from Portland, and Frost Mountain Yurts is just over an hour from Portland, allowing you to get some sightseeing in, too!
24. Splurge On A Romantic Stay At The White Barn Inn
If it’s a luxury winter getaway you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk. Just outside the village of Kennebunkport, this resort is such a cozy way to spend a Valentine’s weekend. Right at the resort, you’ll find an incredible fine-dining restaurant housed inside a gorgeous barn, rooms and suites with jetted tubs and fireplaces, and a relaxing spa.
25. Hold Hands Ice Skating At Thompson’s Point
There’s something really romantic about holding hands while ice skating with your special someone, am I right? The Thompson’s Point Ice Rink in Portland is a great place to plan a date night. Skate under twinkle lights after sunset, grab a hot chocolate afterward, and cozy up in the yurt for an after-skate cocktail!
Don’t have any skates? No worries! Rentals are available right at the rink for a very reasonable fee.
Note: The Thompson’s Point Ice Rink is closed for renovations for the 2022-2023 season, but plans to reopen next season.
Bonus Suggestion: See The Heart-Shaped Wreath At Nubble Lighthouse
Earlier in the post I touched on the beautiful holiday lights display at Nubble Lighthouse. Well, in the past, they’ve hung a gorgeous, white, heart-shaped floral wreath on the property for all to enjoy during the week of Valentine’s Day.
Now, here’s the deal: the reason this is a bonus suggestion is because it may not come back each year. The wreath decoration was displayed during the Coronavirus pandemic, and was a way to show appreciation for healthcare workers, first responders and all essential workers that played such an important role in the world’s battle against the virus. It was also meant to spread cheer during a difficult time.
I recently reached out to the lovely people at Nubble to ask if the tradition would continue, and they said at the moment, there are no plans to hang the wreath in 2023. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t ever come back!
I suggest taking a peek at their Facebook page, which is regularly updated, and see if they ever have plans to bring the wreath back for Valentine’s Day. Who knows – we may get lucky and have another chance to see it! Click here to visit the Nubble Lighthouse’s Facebook page!
Where To Stay In The Winter
Portland in the winter is such a great time! And also, tends to be less expensive than other seasons, which is a bonus. It’s also accessible to a lot of different places like Freeport, Kennebunkport, Cape Neddick and Ogunquit. And, you’ll of course have access to everything the city has to offer like the lighthouses, incredible culinary scene and gorgeous architecture.
Here are some great places to consider staying in Portland:
Upscale: The Press Hotel. Great location, beautiful rooms, and walkable to a lot of sites.
Moderate: The Portland Harbor Hotel. Also a great location in a beautiful building.
Budget: Inn at St. John. A cozy little inn that’s in a convenient location in the West End.
Camden is a great place to stay in Maine if you’re looking to spend a lot of time outdoors because it’s so close to the Camden Snow Bowl. On top of that, Camden is a really charming town with great restaurants and shops.
Here are some great places to consider staying in Camden:
Upscale: 16 Bay View. Great location right in the center of town, with walkability to the waterfront, shops and restaurants. Many rooms come with soaking tubs and fireplaces.
Moderate: Hartstone Inn & Hideaway. Cozy, New England-style rooms in a quaint inn that’s also walkable to everything in town.
Between the Christmas celebrations and Valentine’s Day festivities throughout town, this is a really great place to base yourself for a winter getaway in Maine. You’ll also be close to Portland, Ogunquit, Freeport, Biddeford and Cape Neddick.
Here are some great places to consider staying in Kennebunkport:
Upscale: Kennebunkport Captains Collection. A gorgeous historic building-turned-inn with beautifully appointed rooms, and walkability to everything in Dock Square.
Moderate: King’s Port Inn. Great location with walkability to everything in Dock Square, and clean and comfortable rooms, and complimentary breakfast (try their homemade waffles!).
Best Winter Resorts In Maine
Besides the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, there are two really awesome resorts in Maine that make for an awesome winter getaway.
Cliff House is known for being one of the top summer resorts in Maine, but during the winter season, they open up their weekends for incredible cold-weather getaways.
Every inch of the property boasts stunning views of the coastline, which is such a welcomed view during the winter season. Your stay here will be completely relaxing and restorative while you enjoy the ocean views, on-site dining, fire pits around the property and the luxurious spa.
Just a short 20-minute drive to the Camden Snow Bowl is the Samoset Resort in Rockport. And guys, they really know how to celebrate the winter season here!
Open on weekends only, you’ll find all kinds of winter fun here including groomed cross-country ski trails, fire pits with s’mores, a special ice bar in January, heated outdoor igloo dining (plus other restaurants on-site) and a spa.
And, as mentioned, since you’re so close to the Camden Snow Bowl, you can enjoy all the amazing winter activities there, too, like snow tubing, downhill skiing and the toboggan chute.
What Is The Weather Like In Maine In The Winter?
This entirely depends on where you are in Maine, as it’s a pretty large state! But generally speaking, the northern half of Maine is pretty snowy in the winter, while the southern half will also get snow, but not as much. Also, if you happen to stick to the coast, it tends to be less snowy there.
But generally speaking, it’s still the third snowiest state in the U.S., so you’ll want to anticipate snow and cold temperatures during your winter visit.
In southern Maine, you can expect temperatures to average about 20-25°F, and in the northern and inland areas, average temperatures hover around 15-20°F.
You may also find these posts helpful:
- Day Trips From Portland, Maine
- Magical Things To Do During Christmas In Maine
- Best Christmas Towns In New England
- Tips For Visiting Kennebunkport At Christmas
- Best New England Gifts For Everyone On Your List (Including Yourself!)
- Should You Visit Portland, Maine or Portsmouth, NH?
- The Most Incredible New England Lighthouses To See
- Amazing Places For Fall Foliage In Maine
That’s A Wrap On The Best Things To Do In Maine In The Winter
And there you have it! Now that you’ve been filled in on all the best things to do in Maine in the winter season, you’re ready to plan the perfect winter getaway to the Pine Tree State. Whether you’re hoping for a romantic and luxurious getaway at the White Barn Inn or Cliff House, or you’re looking to play in the snow at the Camden Snow Bowl, or hit the snowmobiling trails, there’s so much that Maine has to offer this time of year to really showcase the very best of what this season’s all about.