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Portland, Maine: Land of lobster rolls, craft beer and charming shops

Explore Portland, Maine, this summer.

Explore Portland, Maine, this summer. Photo Credit: Chris Lawrence

Lately Maine's Portland has been giving that other Portland a run for its money as far as hip and tasty things are concerned. From a growing craft beer scene to culinary hotspots to charming shopping district, here's your Portland itinerary.

What to do

Wander around the Arts District on Congress Street, right in the center of the city, as well as visit the historic Old Port, an area that runs along Portland Harbor where the old and new mesh in a jumble of chic boutiques, cafes and bars, all housed in charming brick buildings. Pick up sweets from the Old Port Candy Co. (422 Fore St., 207-772-0600), stock up on Maine-themed gifts like blueberry jam at Stonewall Kitchen (182 Middle St., 207-879-2409), get stunning local pottery at Edgecomb Potters (145 Commercial St., 207-780-6727) and for hand-crafted cloaks and capes perfect for keeping warm on the water, the family-run Old Port Wool and Textile Company (52 Danforth St., 207-541-7429) makes stunning garments.

Not in the mood to shop? Learn about lobstering with Lucky Catch Cruises ($30 adults, $28 seniors and ages 13-18, $20 ages 2-12, free under two), which offer tours on Casco Bay and show you what it's like to be a lobsterman. You can also take a 50-minute land tour aboard a vintage fire truck with the Portland Fire Engine Co. ($15 adults, $10 children), which gives you a good overview of the city. Beer lovers will want to take a tour and visit the tasting rooms found on Industrial Way, including Foundation Brewing, Bissell Brothers and Allagash Brewing Company.

Where to eat

Unless you have some unfortunate dietary restriction, getting a lobster roll is an absolute must. After all, around 90% of the nation's lobsters come from Maine. For a traditional Maine-style lobster roll, take a seat at the unassuming J's Oyster Bar (5 Portland Pier, 207-772-4828), where you simply get a pile of buttery lobster on a split-top bun with a side of mayo and potato chips. You can also get a good roll at the Old Port Tavern (11 Moulton St., 207-774-0444).

Another food that Maine produces in bulk are blueberries -- approximately 99% of the country's supply, in fact. You shouldn't leave the state without trying at least something with the berry, and good options include the seasonal blueberry pie at Becky's Diner (390 Commercial St., 207-773-7070) and the innovative blueberry desserts at Fore Street (288 Fore St., 207-775-2717).

As far as non-seafood joints or blueberry dishes go, the tiny sandwich shop Duckfat (43 Middle St., 207-774-8080) offers scrumptious Belgian fries made from local potatoes that get cooked in duck fat. At Fore Street, James Beard Award-winning chef Sam Hayward utilizes local farmers, forgers, fishermen and pastures to source the ingredients for his New American cuisine. And find a solid cup of coffee and ome-made breads, sweets and pastries at the Standard Baking Company (75 Commercial St., 207-773-2112).

Where to stay

If a bed and breakfast is your game, the classic and elegant Danforth Inn (163 Danforth St., 800-991-6557) is worth a look. Housed in a Federal-style mansion, this hotel was built in 1823 and you can almost feel the history in its walls. For a more down-to-earth and woodsy-feeling hotel, there's The Chadwick Bed & Breakfast (140 Chadwick St., 207-774-5141). There, get breakfast alfresco and take advantage of the location right in the heart of Portland.


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