Location: Gorham, Maine
Hours: Open Seasonally. If not during Maine Maple Month/Maine Maple Sunday, call directly for an appointment. Recommend checking their Facebook page for updates.
Parking: Dedicated Parking Lot
Family Friendly: Yes
When I think of March in Maine, I think of two words: Mud & Maple. The snow begins to melt and we welcome "Mud Season" in Maine where everything is well, sort of a muddy mess. And even though our Bean Boots and subsequently our houses are covered in mud, there is one major silver lining for the month of March in Maine: Maine Maple Weekend! Historically, this happens towards the end of March, but with the ever changing COVID restrictions this year, many places opened up all month long to properly spread out the crowds. After a long, weird year, I was pretty stoked to take advantage of this.
Merrifield Farm in Gorham was one of the first places that caught my eye. It was clear they were taking COVID restrictions seriously and opted to spread out their visitors, which I very much appreciated. We popped over on a Sunday morning and were the first ones there. The women behind the counter were so thoughtful and engaged our 4 year old to teach her how they tap trees. They walked her through the process without being prompted to and continued to show us around to help us make informed decisions on our purchases. Additionally, there is a small playground on the farm which was a totally welcome surprise! Our kiddo was able to get some sillies out after devouring a whoopie pie in two seconds flat.
Another cool thing about Merrifield is their partnership with many local businesses who use their syrup in their offerings. Lone Pine Brewing releases their "Maple Sunday" beer that is finished with Merrifield's maple syrup on the 4th Sunday of every March (the evening after we visited the farm, we popped over to Lone Pine to give it a try - because why not have more maple that day - and it was totally delish.) Parlor Ice Cream Co out of Biddeford uses their maple syrup in their seasonal flavor "Maple Blueberry."
Location: Carrabassett Valley at Sugarloaf Mountain
Accommodations: Apartment. Basement unit below home.
- Master Bedroom with ensuite bathroom
- Alcove Bedroom with two twin beds and a set of bunkbeds
- Second bathroom has tub + shower
Amenities & Perks: Washer & Dryer, Strong Wifi, Television, Fully stocked kitchen with stove and dishwasher, parking.
Deciding on the best season to visit Carrabassett Valley depends on who you ask. Obviously, most people flock this way for Sugarloaf once the mountains are dusted with snow - but you'll also find plenty of golfers, hikers and more visiting during the "off" season. Which is my preferred season (check out our Area Guide here.)
Our family heads to Carrabassett Valley every year when the leaves begin to change. There's nothing quite as remarkable as the drive up to Sugarloaf mountain taking in the endless colors that dot the trees. There's so many beautiful hikes and adventures to be had just before the winter season that keeps me coming back every year. I feel like we've just scratched the surface on this area.
And our first trip here fully ruined us. And I mean that in the best way. It'll be tough to top the apartment we rented that was nestled into one of the winding roads that make up Sugarloaf mountain. The location puts you at a 2 minute drive to the golf course and a 5 minute drive to the Base Lodge. No matter what is bringing you to Sugarloaf, you are steps away from it by staying at this apartment.
The apartment is the basement unit at a local's home. There is a separate entrance in the back with plenty of parking. Even though mentally you know there are people living above you, we didn't hear anyone our entire stay and it really felt like a private, detached getaway. The unit is spacious with plenty of room for little ones to play and spread out. A full kitchen, board games and more await. And keep your eyes peeled - you may just see a moose.
The locals that own the place? Well, let's just say that one of us forgot to pack our daughter's overnight bag up when we checked out. I got a text from the owner, Denise, with a picture of the bag asking us if we forgot something - oh no! Sadly, we were already hours away on our way back home and turning around would be a not so fun day with our little one in the back. While debating what to do, Denise offered to have her husband meet us at a rest stop near Portland the next day as he would be passing through for work. So, he tacked on time to his commute by meeting my husband to drop the bag and truly he couldn't have been nicer. Just really genuine, kind Mainers and even beyond the bag snafu, the love and care put into their rental is evident. When you rent from them, just know you are renting from some pretty great folks.
Location: New Gloucester, Maine
Parking: Plenty of Parking
Dogs: Not Permitted
Family Friendly: Yes
It's Holiday Break from School. Christmas has passed, along with all of my ideas to keep my little one busy. What do you do when you need some entertainment for a 4 year old but also really want some delicious cheese and to see some cute animals? Head on over to Pineland Farms.
The first thing you'll notice as you enter Pineland Farms is the pure magnitude of it. Their land is massive and houses many different companies and operations. As you drive past the adorable market where you know the best goodies are kept, head on up the hill until you reach the barns.
Once we arrived, we popped in to check in at The Smokehouse (their welcome center - you can make a 2 hour reservation online to have access to wander the farm on a self guided tour.) We were given a map (and an adorable kid's map as well) to help us chart our course.
We started at the various dairy and cow barns. We visited with the little calfs and eventually made our way over to the dairy barn - pretty fascinating stuff and woah those guys are huge! We ventured up to the poultry barn (where I made friends with one extra noisy chicken) and the goat/pig barn. Our little one got to feed the pigs and I contemplated whether or not I could have a pig as a pet.
After visiting with all of the farm friends, we drove back down to the market to grab lunch. Once we entered and I saw just how much deliciousness was surrounding me, I proceeded to buy MANY (many many many) things that I do not need. Except for this ridiculously delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter spread that was 100% necessary.
You can make your own sandwich (with their homemade cheese, of course) and stock up on groceries (or things you don't really need like I decided on.) We ordered some sandwiches and snacks and hopped back into the car for the new normal during COVID times: car lunch.
You can make an entire day out of your visit here. There is plenty of room for the littles to run, education to be had and plenty of unnecessary (necessary) treats for adults to purchase.
Location: New Gloucester, Maine
Parking: Plenty of spots along the road at the start of the trail.
Family Friendly: Yes
A 1.7 mile trail loop along a stream that ends at a waterfall? Oh, and a 1947 Plymouth along the route? Sign me up.
We explored on a cold January afternoon. I can't imagine what this would look like on a beautiful summer day - we shall be back. It's a moderate walk/hike that is both dog and kiddo friendly, and there is plenty to keep the little ones entertained. We threw rocks along the frozen stream and marveled at them gliding across the ice and sat for a few (welcomed) peaceful moments at the waterfall that came crashing down amongst the icicles that had formed. The trail is filled with a mix of hemlock, pine and beech and it's remarkably quiet. It's an excellent place to catch your breath and reflect.
And when the land was donated - so was the 1947 Plymouth parked towards the beginning of the trail. What an exciting find for a 4 year old. And let's be honest, her parents too.
Sitting down and looking at our summer calendar had me feeling a little down. Normally, our summer calendar would be filled with friends visiting us to get in some quality Maine summer time, family trips, etc. Obviously, this summer is pretty different and our (obvious) focus is staying safe and healthy, and doing the same for our family and friends.
We've always tossed around the idea of renting an Airstream and taking our daughter on a massive adventure. And we figured this summer was the perfect time to do it. However, we condensed our adventure to a long weekend and made sure to stay in state.
We rented a 2015 Airstream Interstate from Outdoorsy and did a pickup in York, Maine from the awesome owner, Gregory. Booking through Outdoorsy was almost too easy and the pickup from Gregory was equally seamless. The Airstream was spotless and he made sure to help these newbies understand the ins and outs of the vehicle. The bed is a Queen size bed (tight, but was totally fine for the three of us) and there is a bathroom on board - an antsy 4 year old kid's dream.
So, he handed over the keys....and we were off.
We made the drive from York to Moosehead Lake. We rented a camping site from Moosehead Family Campground, a no-frills, simple campground that is family run that had hook-ups for the RV. It was about a 5 minute drive from the bottom of the lake. The thing that is so incredible about this place - and really all campgrounds I looked at in this area - is how affordable they are. I really had no idea what to expect. The sites range from $20-$40/night. There were people camping, RVing and a mix of both - and it was more than worth the price, in my opinion. We were greeted by rabbit friends every morning and it was totally quiet at night.
We arrived around dinner time so immediately plugged our RV in and made the walk over to The Farm at Moosehead. That is the other awesome thing about this campground - they are only about a 1 minute walk to this particular restaurant and then about a 5 minute drive to the rest of downtown.
I had read about their wood fired pizzas, BBQ and their beautiful little farm. We ordered a pizza from the sweet couple/owners who greeted us and made our way to an outside picnic table overlooking the farm. They encouraged our daughter to greet all of the animals before dinner came and she happily took them up on this. We met baby pigs, baby rabbits, many chickens and more. If you ask Harper what her favorite part of the entire Airstream adventure was, she will tell you it was meeting the animals our first night. And the food was delicious (get the cheesecake if they have it, trust me.)
After our bellies were full and Harper pretty much kissed every animal goodbye, we raced to Lily Bay State Park to catch the sunset. And man, I was so glad we did. Lily Bay is a gem of a state park that sits on Moosehead Lake with plenty of trails to explore, campsites, playgrounds, a beach - it goes on and on.
The next day I had one major thing on my mind: Moose. Here's the thing I've learned about Moose. Unless you are on, like, a "Moose Safari" with one of those companies - you'll never see them when you want to see them. If you actively go searching for them, at least for me, they decide it's a good day to stay to themselves. One day, I'll learn this lesson and be more carefree in my moose searches.
However, we'll save that lesson for another day. I had searched and searched to find a bog that would almost guarantee a Moose sighting. The Lazy Tom Bog, located just past the town of Kokadijo (where their welcome sign proudly boasts: "Population: Not Many") is a Moose hotspot. So, after stuffing some breakfast in our face we made the drive from the campground. It's a beautiful drive, but once you pass Kokadijo, the road turns to rough dirt/rocks, so make sure you have a car that can handle it.
When we arrived, we parked just to the right of the bridge and walked down to the water. Pretty, but we didn't see a Moose. So, we walked back up to the top of the bridge where we found two other people on the search as well. Once they saw us, they said "Wow! You were so close to him!" WHAT?! Apparently, a Moose had been watching us directly across the bog but scurried off before we could see him. Oooooooof.
After waiting (im)patiently in the hopes to see another moose (alas) we carried on for our next adventure. After having lunch in the RV (I mean, the convenience of it all is insane!) we headed to hike Mount Kineo.
To access Mount Kineo, you have to take the Golf Course Shuttle across Moosehead Lake which carries, of course, golfers but hikers as well. I know, you are probably thinking: why would I want to hike a mountain that is located at a golf course? But Mount Kineo is a special place. The glorious mountain has incredibly beautiful, family-friendly hikes all while hosting an impeccable golf course. It's sounds strange on paper, but trust me on this one.
The hike to the summit is easy, and one that our four year old really had no trouble completing. The rewards of views at the top were enough to keep her motivated.
After this, we decided we deserved an adult beverage. We made our way to the Spotted Cat Winery. It is, indeed, as cute as it looks. We were greeted by the owners, a couple who live on the property and were treated to a wine tasting before making our purchases. They make the wine on their property and sell fun tshirts, candles and other goodies to accompany your wine purchase. PS: Get the Strawberry wine!
After a cozy night's sleep (read: Harper's arms and legs hitting me all night), we woke up and were on the road early to head to our next stop: Bar Harbor! After a stop and start 3 hour drive, we made our way to Echo Lake. It's a gorgeous lake situated on the western side of Mount Desert Island with stunning cliffs (part of Beech Mountain) that have a couple trails that lead to an impressive lookout. We spent a better part of the morning swimming and building sand castles. Bonus Points at Echo Lake (and much of Bar Harbor/MDI at that): they have parking specifically designated to RV's - score! Made parking totally painless with an oversized vehicle.
Once again we thought: you know what we deserve, an adult beverage. That's what. We ventured to Atlantic Brewing and sat outside on their patio while Harper happily snacked. A perfect pint on a beautiful day.
We then made our way to our campsite for the night at KOA Bar Harbor. So, I'm obviously an RV rookie - but this is a spot I would recommend to everyone, all ages. Our site was directly on the ocean, with a private beach. I literally couldn't believe it when we pulled in. Harper was a busy bee all afternoon playing at the beach, and we had to literally bribe her to make her go to dinner. We didn't partake in the many offerings at the campsite (activities for kids, bonfires, etc.) but next trip when the world is in better shape, we certainly will. Highly recommend this spot.
After our bribes were complete, we made our way into Bar Harbor for dinner. We had reservations outside on the patio at Salt & Steel. They followed all safety protocols to a tee, and the food was top notch. We'll be back here for sure.
To finish our awesome long weekend, we raced back to our site to drink the wine we purchased from The Spotted Cat Winery, roasted Marshmellows at our private site and watched the sunset. And felt really, really grateful.
My husband and I have an affinity for visiting locations in their "off-season." Mount Snow in July? Sign us up. Kennebunkport in Winter? Sounds like a dream.
We had a weekend coming up with nothing on the books and we'd been curious about visiting Sugarloaf for awhile. I hopped on AirBnB to see if anything might be available 5 days out and was met with multiple fantastic options for all super reasonable prices. Off season, folks.
Also, I am just going to say it now: this was our favorite adventure we've taken so far in Maine. I'll be checking myself as I write this to see if I am overly romanticizing it, but if this post sounds like a love letter to Carrabassett Valley it just might be.
We rented an apartment at Sugarloaf Mountain that was the lower level of someone's gorgeous mountain home. We were met with treats and wine when we walked in.
But first I need to talk about the drive here. October in Maine and especially this part of Maine, was unlike anything we'd really ever seen. The rolling mountains and changing of leaves was enough to even make Harper stare out her window for the long drive and take in the ridiculous beauty around us. Okay, it's already getting mushy, don't know what to tell ya.
Also, if there was ever a place to see a Moose this would be the place. And just to loop you in: seeing a Moose in the wild is quite literally a bucket list item that I talk about on the regular. I'm...obsessed with them and may or may not seek out adventures that put me in a strong position to potentially see one. Though I have come up moose-less on past adventures, you can't stop me from trying.
We arrived late afternoon on Friday, unpacked a bit and made a straight away to The Rack which was a 5 minute drive down the mountain. Simple, not fussy food in a super packed restaurant. Lively, fun and very kid friendly. A true après ski bar, even during golf season.
The next day we were up and at 'em early, because you know, kids. We swung by D'Ellies, a slope side bakery with easy breakfast options (we opted for the nutritious option of a bacon, egg and cheese) and were ready to start adventuring.
The day started with the Little Bigelow Hike which is a family & dog friendly hike that is part of the Appalachian Trail. It was just under 45 Minutes from the AirBnB and most of the drive was on a dirt road. The parking lot to access the hike is situated directly next to Flagstaff Lake. We spent some time skipping rocks down at the water and taking in the views, and then got lost finding the entrance to the trail. Some nice folks pointed us in the right direction.
The hike was an easy, fun start to our day and I was proud of how much our little one crushed it and what a champ she was walking. And because every hike deserves a ridiculously delicious treat, we made our way back to the mountain for a brunch I was very much looking forward to.
At Alice & Lulus, which is situated in the Sugarloaf Mountain Village, they offer a raclette cheese brunch. Like, the most insanely delicious cheese gets POURED ON TOP OF YOUR MEAL.
As you can clearly see, I was shooting for straight health this day.
As it wasn't their busy season and we were solo in the restaurant, we were able to chat with owner, Laura, for a bit as she happily indulged all of my prodding questions on this divine cheese and what it was like to live in Carrabbasset. She shared her love for the area and all that went into getting Alice & Lulu's open with her wife, Ciana. She basically convinced me to sell our house and move to the mountain.
We had planned to do a chair lift ride to take in more views, but frankly, I needed a nap after this meal. If I were to do it again, I'd recommend a chair lift ride first that will then swoop you directly into the loving arms of the raclette brunch that are steps away from each other.
After my cheesy slumber and a good walk for our pup around the mountain, we packed up for another adventure before a dinner reservation. I had been scoping out the Cathedral Pines Campground in Eustis not for camping, but for the views. It was on route to dinner, and I thought it might be a quick 30 minute adventure, but we happily ended up spending over an hour on the property.
The campsite was empty (again, off season = best season) and we were free to roam the opposite end of Flagstaff Lake from our earlier adventure. Our daughter was able to get all of her sillies out before dinner, run free through endless pine trees and delighted in discovering (and playing) on an empty playground.
We walked the water's edge and I did my best to capture the beauty around us.
We made a 5 minute drive to the sweetest of sweet restaurants, The Coplin Dinner House in Stratton. Chickens greeted us as they scurried throughout the property.
The restaurant is a special gem in this area. It's in a restored 1836 Farmhouse and the entire restaurant feels inviting and warm, while also being elegant. They were kind and patient with our little one and we definitely overstayed our welcome as I just didn't want to leave.
On Sunday, I planned for a couple quick adventures on our way back home. We made our first ever visit to Rangeley Lake and popped in and out of some stores where I bought totally unnecessary knick knacks. The little had a major meltdown in one of the stores and we were certain the town of Rangeley would ask us to leave and never return.
Though we were permitted to stay, we got the exhausted little into the car and made our way, with trinkets in tow, to a lookout spot I'd been obsessing over for quite some time. The Height of Land overlooks the entire Rangeley Lakes region and is one of those places where no picture will really do it justice.
Satisfied with a beautiful, extremely Maine weekend we started our drive home.
But then, as the sounds of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" played from the backseat of our car, it happened. If I didn't do a sufficient job of foreshadowing at the beginning of this post, I'll just say it simply here: A MOOSE. As we turned a corner down a windy mountain, A MOOSE RAN ALONGSIDE OF US. And then it suddenly stopped. Walked slowly and magnificently in front of our car, crossed the street, stood on a FREAKING PERCHED LEDGE in all of it's glory for a solid 15 seconds, and then ran off into the distance.
With my literal jaw on the floor I managed to barely capture the one lame photo you see here: