This past week, my Mom & I took a girls trip up to Portland, ME. I know many people are wondering – what is travel like during a pandemic. Although we stayed local to the New England area, I wanted to share a bit about what we did to make it safe.
Before departing, we each took advantage of the free COVID19 testing program in Massachusetts. Since we are not household residents, we had only previously been hanging outside and keeping our distance. This was precautionary and allowed us to travel to a different state feeling confident we were not part of the spread.
We researched hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants and breweries before leaving to learn how everyone was handling COVID19 and if there were outdoor seating. Our main goal was to limit the amount of time we were inside with others, even if we were masked. Portland has been taking the pandemic very seriously and it was evident everywhere we went. Stores required you to use hand sanitizer when you entered, the state of Maine has a mask mandate for all public spaces and most restaurants have adapted to provide outdoor seating.
We made the decision to travel up to Portland on Wednesday night and return Friday. We thought it would be less busy than a weekend, which allowed us to safely enjoy Portland without feeling crowded. We chose to stay at the Holiday Inn By the Bay, primarily for its location and price. If you are a member of Triple AAA, you can also get a deal with this hotel, which we were able to take advantage of! They have a parking garage on site which was $10 a night and we were walking distance to many amazing downtown sights. Since we arrived late Wednesday night, our adventure didn’t truly begin until Thursday morning.
We started our day with a lovely breakfast at Hot Suppa, which was walking distance from our hotel. They have made a back patio seating area with heat lamps, so we were able to safely enjoy our meal outdoors. We highly recommend getting a side of their biscuits with sausage gravy!
From here, we continued downtown to do some shopping. Portland has a lot of lovely shops that’s perfect for holiday shopping. A few of our favorites include: Blanche & Mimi, Folly 101 & Sherman’s Bookstore. However, if you wander in the direction of those stores, you are sure to find many other wonderful shops!
After spending a lot of time walking around, we finally decided it was an acceptable time for our first drink of the day. (After all, we were on vacation!) We headed over to Shipyard Brewery, which has both outdoor and indoor seating. We were able to get a spot outside and ordered a flight of beer! They are the creators of the original pumpkin beer, which is a great Fall drink, however I also tired their Melon beer which I would recommend as well.
After a few drinks, it was time for us to eat lunch. While our original intention was to grab takeout from Duckfat, the wait was over an hour when we arrived. Instead, we took the recommendation of a family friend to try High Roller Lobster Company, which was back in the direction of some of the shops we were at earlier. Mom tried the lobster roll and I had a burger. Their french fries (covered in Old Bay seasoning) with garlic mayo was to die for! They also had outdoor seating since the city had closed down the road for pedestrians only. They have you order and pay on your phone and then they simply bring it out to your table. It was just what we needed to fuel us for the rest of the afternoon.
After lunch, we decided it was time to check out a few more breweries. We stopped at Rising Tide next, which had a massive outdoor seating area with heat lamps. We had a flight here as well, but it’s important to note that most of their beers are IPAs, so if you are not a fan, I would try a different spot.
The last brewery stop of the day took us to Oxbow, who also had some fire pits and outdoor seating available. While they don’t offer flights, they have some amazing sour beers we were able to try!
After a day of shopping, eating & drinking, it was time to head back to the hotel. With the sun setting, it was starting to get colder and we wanted to bundle up before dinner. Once we had some proper layers on, we walked from the hotel to Slab Sicilian Street Food. Sicily has been a dream trip of ours for a while, since my Mom’s family is from there, so we thought this was a good substitute in the meantime. They have an outdoor patio area, but no heat lamps so it might have served as a better lunch spot than dinner. Nonetheless the pizza warmed us up and it was a great meal! They even have some vegan options if you are dairy free. We snagged a cannoli to go, so we could enjoy it later that evening at the hotel. We walked over 6 miles on Thursday around Portland so we earned an evening to relax!
The following morning, we walked to Holy Donut for breakfast and got some donuts to bring back to the hotel to enjoy. They have vegan & gluten free options so it’s a great spot for everyone.
We then checked out of the hotel and decided to drive North to Freeport, ME where L.L Bean is located. They also have some other fun shops there as well, such as Mangy Moose, Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars and Bridgham & Cook (a British themed shop). It’s a great way to spend the afternoon if you’re looking for more shopping to do!
We enjoyed lunch at Linda Bean’s Lobster Cafe which had a covered outdoor deck on the second floor and a lot of outdoor patio space below. Even if you are not a fan of seafood, they had a variety of different dishes to choose from. After shopping in Freeport, we drove down to York to visit the Stonewall Kitchen shop. It helped to break up the drive home a bit and we were able to pick up some yummy gifts.
Overall, I was impressed with Maine’s COVID guidelines and felt safe the entire time we were there. It was a trip filled with good laughs, delicious food & great beer. I’m grateful to have had the chance for a short getaway with my Mom during this uncertain time and I hope if you are able to, you can also take a responsible getaway!
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