Sadler House

Sadler House

Rockland, Maine

Kid-Friendly

All of the posts under the "Kid-Friendly" tag.

Midcoast Maine Spring Fun

As we head up Route 1, our excitement builds. We’re finally going to see Sadler House again, heading right into the Maine spring after being absent the entire fall and winter. “Where do you want to eat dinner tonight?” I ask the boys. Rockland has become their second home after all these years, and they are full of opinions. After discussing the many kid-friendly options in town, the boys settle on The Waterworks Restaurant. The free popcorn may be giving those folks a little edge.

People always look at us strangely when we say we’re heading to Maine for spring break. The easiest way to explain it is “We have to do spring cleaning at the house,” but the truth takes a little bit of convincing. In reality, we love being back in Rockland at the onset of mud season, when we can get a last glimpse of the snow my kids pine for in Virginia and see the crocuses arrive. The Maine spring may not feature all the charms of summer, but it has plenty of advantages. Many of our favorite places in town will be open, but few will be sustaining the crowds of summer. Visitors may be largely absent, but local friends abound. We are nearly guaranteed to run into people we haven’t seen since August. You can hardly go anywhere in town in the quiet season without seeing people you know.

As the car heads up our favorite stretch of the journey (the “almost there” part) we talk about the plans we have for the week. There are so many ideas flying around that I’m pretty sure we won’t get to all of them. Looking back now on the week, I’m impressed with how much fun we squeezed in, even if a few ideas got tabled for our return in June. So what is there to do in midcoast Maine spring?

The answer: A heckuva lot.

Maine Maple Sunday

Maine Maple Sunday - Maine Spring Fun

Simmons and Daughters in Morrill, ME

The day after we arrive is Maine’s traditional Maple Sunday event, statewide. On this day, the sugarhouses and other community locations across the state host a wide variety of fun activities celebrating the flowing of that spring sap and the delicious treats it provides.

After consulting local friends, we decide to head to Simmons and Daughters. The drive from Rockland to Morrill is really scenic in a way you would never experience the Maine countryside in the winter. When we get there, cars are all up and down the long road leading to the sugar house.

The joint is absolutely jammin’.

There are fat flakes falling in the sunshine, as we approach the festivities. Despite the brisk air, happy people are crowding every outbuilding on the property and eating maple hot dogs and other treats from local vendors. We stand in one short line for a free ice cream sample with maple syrup. Then we get in another to buy what turns out to be just about the best maple syrup I’ve ever had. We also score some delicious maple cotton candy and some maple hardcandy to take home.

We end up back in the car with muddy feet, sugary treasures, and a plan to have pancakes for dinner. Then we head toward Belfast, stop for some hot coffee, and enjoy the trip all the way down Rt. 1 toward home.

Rheal Day Spa

Maine Spring Fun - Rheal Day Spa

I’m rather overly relaxed and am not ashamed to show it.

There’s a joke that goes around, that being mom on vacation means doing dishes with a view. Luckily, we have a dishwasher, but it’s true that Mom often ends up sacrificing her own relaxation on these family trips, just to make sure everyone else has fun. This time, I’m determined to finally use a gift certificate I’ve been hanging onto. It’s for Rheal Day Spa and I made sure some “me time” happened this visit by booking myself a facial for Tuesday morning.

I’m so very glad I finally got into this extremely popular local spot to really see how wonderful it is! I’m not one who splurges on a lot of spa services, but I have had facials at big spas in New York City and also in the D.C. area. While the experiences are uniformly good, Rheal is something special. Even though they have a busy roster of local and visiting clients, you really feel the intimacy and relaxation there as soon as you walk through the door.

Rheal Day Spa - Maine Spring Fun

 

I’m provided with a robe and flip flops in the cozy changing room and directed to a sunny sitting room in the back, where I pour myself some green tea. Soon the owner, Rhonda Nordstrom, appears to usher me in to what turns out to be a luxurious and peaceful facial. I try to be quiet and relax like normal people, but I can’t resist chatting her up a little and hearing about her business. One of the key pieces of info I glean from her is that she has her own skincare line, and I am lucky enough to take home a couple of samples of the wonderful products she has apparently applied to my thirsty face.

I really should do this more often.

I’m so happy I took this time out for myself on a Tuesday in March, and I leave the comforting embrace of the day spa feeling hydrated, relaxed, and pretty determined to do the same thing again next year! I highly recommend anyone who needs a little TLC or “me time” or “mom is done” time make an appointment in advance of visiting and experience the day spa, themselves. You can read all about the services and various lovely products they offer at their website.

Owls Head Transportation Museum

Maine Spring Fun - Owls Head Transportation MuseumOne thing Rockland is rocking all year is the art scene, and the perfect Maine spring activity is visiting the state’s many fascinating museums. Last year, I convinced my then-eight-year-old to spend the morning with me at The Farnsworth. This year, my eleven-year-old is the one hoping for a museum trip, so his dad takes him to one of his very favorite places: The Owls Head Transportation Museum. I can’t even count the number of times we’ve visited this spectacular place and, if you’ve never been, I predict it will exceed your expectations. Whether your interest is in vintage planes, trains, automobiles or…gypsy wagons… there’s something at this wonderful place for you. It’s also enormously kid-friendly, offering a special area where kids can try out a beach wagon and other climb-in vehicles.

The guys have a typically spectacular visit and are excited to hear that the Hemmings 2018 Great Race City Stop will be happening when we’re next in town. They’ll be back!

Shopping

Browsing stores is a perfect activity for a chilly March day, and we are here for it!

Antiques and Vintage Finds

Maine Spring Fun - the Rockland Marketplace

This book is at our house, now!

While my oldest and his dad are wandering the museum, my youngest prefers to accompany me on a different type of vintage appreciation expedition: our nearby antiques markets.

Our first stop is our mainstay, The Rockland Marketplace, which is just literally around the corner from us on Rankin St. From the time we moved in, this has been our go-to spot for finding everything from a dresser to a coat rack, and we’ve landed a number of other delightful smaller items you will find sprinkled throughout our house.  With over 50 dealers under one roof, this place can occupy a treasure hunter for simply hours! My son and I check out every corner and leave with a vintage LP of a cappella tunes and a 1950’s copy of “Into the Maine Woods.”

Maine Spring Fun - Antiques, Etc.

Antiques, Etc.

We also cross the street to check out the newly-opened Antiques, Etc. and are delighted by this airy, attractive space, as well. I am loving the beautiful old wood floors. Both of us stop to peer through binoculars standing in the windowsill, facing the harbor. We don’t leave here empty-handed, either. I head out with three vintage Nancy Drew hardbacks, wishing I’d kept mine from so many years ago!

It’s hard to believe so much vintage goodness exists just 2-3 blocks from us, on foot! There’s even more on Main Street for further exploration, but we are antiqued-out for the day.

Handmade Crafts and Wooden Treasures

Maine Spring Fun - Maine State Prison ShowroomThe next day, all four of us venture out to one of our favorite stores: The Maine State Prison Showroom. To anyone unfamiliar with midcoast, it’s important to explain that this wonderful store in Thomaston is the outlet for the many gorgeous woodworking and craft creations of inmates in the Maine prison system. They make these beautiful items, you buy them, and the proceeds go back to supporting their program.

I am a huge fan of the cutting boards, and I actually buy extras to bring to people as gifts during the holidays. The boys always bring their allowance and end up going home with handmade trucks, cars, and airplanes. Every time we visit, there are new and clever items, ranging from tableware to Christmas ornaments to games. We even bought a beautiful luggage rack there (and you are invited to stay with us and put your luggage on it!)

Maine Spring Fun - Maine State Prison Showroom

We are always in the store longer than we expect and walk away with a treasure trove to take home with us. The service is helpful and friendly, too. You can read more about everyone’s great opinion of this place on Tripadvisor!

Candlepin Bowling

Maine Spring Fun - Oakland Park Bowling in RockportNow we’ve spent most of our mad money, but there are still fun family activities on the horizon that don’t cost an arm and a leg! After wanting to try this for ages, we finally get up to the locally famed Oakland Park Bowling Lanes in Rockport. I have quickly found that folks who grew up in the area also grew up having fun here, since it’s been around for over 55 years. As soon as you step through the door, the feeling of community is obvious. Right by the coat rack, you can see pictures of record holders on the wall. Even with only a few older folks bowling on this weekday (when local kids are in school) it’s a friendly and welcoming place.

The man behind the counter helps us get the right shoes and explains the rules of the game to us, since I’ve never done candlepin bowling and Dan hasn’t since he was a kid in Massachusetts. Apparently, this special kind of bowling is native to New England, which is why I didn’t see it growing up in other regions. The pins are tall and thin and the balls are conveniently small for the kids and also easy for us to lift!

Maine Spring Fun - Oakland Park Bowling in Rockport

Arcade old school…

We proceed to our lane, past vintage arcade games like Pac Man, which get the boys super excited. The next 45 minutes or so of bowling are a great family time. Our nine-year-old almost takes first place, beaten only narrowly by his Dad. It’s such a fun, low-pressure activity and I wonder why we haven’t done it sooner.

Once we’ve played through our entire game, the boys each get some change and play on their first real full-size Pac Man game. I’m drowning in nostalgia.

We reluctantly return our shoes and head out saying, “We’re definitely coming back here. This place is awesome.” The nine-year-old helpfully suggests we should tell all our guests about it.

On the way home, we stop for a cupcake at Three Dogs Cafe in Rockport which now actually has four dogs! We admire them playing in the yard. It’s a perfect finish to the afternoon.

Date Nights

This week isn’t complete without the parents getting a couple of great grown-up restaurant nights. The boys are tired and happy to stay home for two nights with their favorite babysitter, so we set up two dates for ourselves.

Ada’s Kitchen and In Good Company

On Thursday, we start by checking out the hoppin’ new bar at Ada’s Kitchen on Main Street. The beer selection is excellent and we get the most delicious cheeseboard. The pastas coming to the diners there look incredible and we think longingly of coming back here for a meal. However, we are off to another location!

We finally are able to take advantage of one of the “Food Journeys” offered by In Good Company. These are a series of prix fixe menus created along a theme each year and served only on Thursday nights. This year, the dinners are based on Melody Wolfertz’s favorite cookbook authors, and the subject of this evening’s dinner is Carol Field.

Every seat appears taken, and we sit down to our two requested spots at the bar. The wine is excellent and the meal is lovely from start to finish. Every bite disappears. Then we have the good fortune to have a friend stop by at the end to have another glass of wine with us and catch up. It’s a wonderful evening enjoying town.

Long Grain, the Drouthy Bear, and Fog Bar and Cafe

The next afternoon, the boys cheer the return of the babysitter and we take the opportunity to finally (FINALLY!) get up to Camden to try Long Grain. Everyone in the midcoast has raved about this wonderful restaurant, and we easily see why. Thank goodness for reservations: the small and unpretentious dining room is absolutely packed. While we’re waiting for our table, numerous hopeful couples appear and are regretfully told there are no available tables for hours. Takeout is booming, as well. We see many people pick up their dinner at the bar and take it away.

Overwhelmed by the delicious options on the menu, we start with jasmine tea, pork dumplings and spring rolls. I want to take a picture, but I feel massively uncool doing so in such close quarters with the other delighted diners. After the appetizers, we move on to Ramen and Yakisoba noodles. Against the odds, we eat ALL OF IT. We leave saying, “When can we return?” I want to eat every single thing on the menu.

After dinner, we stop in to finally see The Drouthy Bear. The mood is jovial and we score a spot at the bar, where we watch the bartender amaze people with a card trick. He’s in a great mood despite being extremely busy. This is clearly a favorite and cozy local spot and we’re really impressed with the incredible whiskey selection. We could stay here all night, but we want to go home, park the car, and make one more stop in Rockland.

Fog Bar and Cafe is always a favorite place for us to end the evening. They’re playing Casablanca on the wall, and little white lights twinkle above the bar. We enjoy a glass of wine (me) and a cocktail (Dan) and have a fun chat with two men sitting next to us at the bar. As we exit the front door, I snap a photo of the marquis at The Strand Theater all lit up, and we quicken our pace to beat the cold rain showers home. We don’t quite make it, but this last stop in town was well worth getting a little soaked – especially with a warm house and our couch waiting for us.

Kid-Friendly Kudos

Our tales of the Maine spring break week wouldn’t be complete without a thanks to the restaurants that make our lives easier by being so darn nice to our kids. In our experience, the servers of Rockland are amazing. They easily handle our pickiest eater, our kids’ offbeat plating requests, the need for crayons, and the occasional outburst of less-than-perfect behavior and they always make the four of us welcome. This week we had that usual stellar treatment from Trackside Station, The Waterworks Restaurant, Rock Harbor Pub, Archer’s on the Pier, and The Home Kitchen Cafe. You can definitely feel good taking the kids to all these local favorites in any season!

Maine Spring Break Over and Out

By Saturday, we have to face the reality that it’s time to wrap up all our spring cleaning projects and pack for departure.

It’s been another amazing week and, as we close the door behind us, leaving the house to our April and May guests, we are already dreaming of the wonderful things we’re going to do when we return in two months.

…and June is another story.

 

Midcoast Maine Fishing Trips Made Easy

Maine is known for its wealth of outdoor activities, so it can be intimidating when you grew up sort of an “indoor” person and then begin spending time in Maine. I was never a camper and didn’t have a lot of family hiking experience as a kid. I don’t know how to sail and never had friends with boats. You know what else I’d never done?

Fishing.

Midcoast Maine fishing trips can be easy to plan! Find out how to do it hassle-free and have a great family day.When our 8-year-old son began asking about learning to fish, we balked. My husband had never fished, either, and we started off by buying him a silly fishing rod Dan saw on the internet and going down to our neighborhood lake in Virginia. The rod became hopelessly tangled after five minutes and no fish were caught.

I started thinking how there must be so many places near our home in Maine to do just this, but I didn’t know who could help us. Putting aside the obvious problem that we don’t know how to fish, we also had no boat, no fishing licenses, no gear…and no idea how to obtain some of these things. Sure, we could have done lots of internet research and gone to sporting goods stores. Still smarting from the last fishing rod failure, however, I knew that was not going to work out. Having a solo successful midcoast Maine fishing trip seemed pretty unlikely.

Maine Outdoors Saves the Day

Luckily, I stumbled upon Maine Outdoors on Twitter and followed the links back to Don Kleiner’s site. Lo and behold, while Don takes out very experienced fishing enthusiasts and is a Master Maine Guide, he also helps inexperienced novices like us, via his fantastic offering of a half-day family fishing trip.

Contacting him through his site was a piece of cake, and I was able to easily reserve our trip on the day of my choice through his online reservation system. Shortly thereafter, he was in touch via e-mail with all the preliminary details. Namely, all my husband, father-in-law, and two boys would need to do was show up at the appointed location at Megunticook Lake at the reserved time. They didn’t need gear, licenses, or even bottled water for staying hydrated!

Midcoast Maine Fishing Trips

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Midcoast Maine Food Trucks and Shacks

Watermans Beach Lobster TableAs much as we all love a great restaurant meal, it’s no secret that some of today’s greatest food is being served through a window. There is no place where this is more true than in midcoast Maine, where lobster shacks have long been a huge draw for visitors and a way of life for locals. There’s more than just lobster to be had at these casual spots, though. Nowadays, visitors to the midcoast of Maine can find every type of cuisine from Thai to tacos being sold outside. For visitors who want to enjoy the weather, or who are on a budget, or who just can’t stand barking at their kids through one more seated meal, a lobster shack or a food truck can be a godsend.

Here’s the thing, though…how do you locate these little gems? So often, the informal addresses or teeny tiny nooks where these great places are located make them tough for the visitor to find. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate looking like an idiot, driving around and thinking “Is this that pier? Is that the alley?” It has taken us a couple of years to scout out all the good pass-through-window food in Rockland and we still have some places to check out.

I’m going to make this easy for you.

Buoy Park, Rockland, Maine

Buoy Park in Rockland – a great place to eat!

What follows is a list (by town) of the midcoast Maine food trucks and shacks I’ve been able to find out about in the areas around Rockland, Camden, Rockport, and South Thomaston. Then, to make your life less awkward, I’ve plotted all these elusive little gems on a map, which you can use to find them without embarrassing your From Away visiting self. I hope this gives you the courage to patronize some of these delicious establishments. Eat like you’re in-the-know and enjoy!

In order to fully take advantage of the food truck and food shack offerings, though, you need to understand a few unwritten rules. The main one is that these hardworking folks have basic hours, but those may change day to day due to weather or other random circumstances. This is what they need to do to stay in business, so just take advantage of their social media postings and, when in doubt, call them! The hours I’ve listed below are probably correct, but I cannot guarantee them.

Midcoast Maine Food Trucks and Food ShacksThe other plea I would make to you is to be nice. Sometimes they’re mobbed and sometimes they’re not. I’ve seen visitors get super crabby about waiting a little extra time for their order or not getting their straw. Every one of these people behind the window is working in a hot, small space and churning out the best food they can at the fastest rate they can manage. If your order is a little long in coming, enjoy the view and be cool. It’ll be worth the wait. If you want to get a feel for the enormous challenges of managing a place like this, I highly recommend 16 Lessons I Learned After My First Year of Owning a Food Truck by Malcolm Bedell, owner of ‘Wich, Please and blogger at From Away.

Or you can just take my word for it.

Please note that most of these food trucks and food shacks judge opening and closing by the prevailing weather each year. Wherever I have noted “seasonal” you can assume that means roughly late May to early October, but during those times you may want to double-check to see if they are open.

Disclaimer: I realize this doesn’t cover all midcoast towns and cities. Just managing this area was a good initial challenge! Listings south of Damariscotta are a work in progress.

With that said, let’s start at home base, shall we? Read more →

Owls Head General Store: MidCoast and Down Home

When you start spending your vacations in the midcoast of Maine, there are just too many things to do and too many places to eat. Especially with a vacation rental to run and maintain, and kids to manage, you just don’t get to all the great local spots fast enough. This generates what I’m beginning to think of as The Secret Slacker Shame. You find yourself getting red-faced all the time because people are raving about the places you still haven’t been, but you don’t want to admit you haven’t been there.

Alright, well, that’s over for us with the Owls Head General Store. Visiting the Owls Head General Store - Maine

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Kid-Friendly Day in Rockland

Parents know that half the battle on vacation is finding things you can do with the kids and still have fun. There are so many kid-friendly activities to do in the mid coast of Maine, but I’ve thrown together an example of a great day you can spend with your kids in Rockland. Choosing just a few activities and restaurants was hard, but here’s a sample of one great day you can plan.
Kid-Friendly Rockland Infographic

 

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