The coastal town of Portland, Maine is the largest city in the state. Traveling with children doesn't need to be expensive, as Portland offers many budget-friendly activities. Kids will enjoy riding on a real steam train, visiting native Maine wildlife and explore a working farm. This picturesque New England seaport offers many activities to help keep kids happy and active while on a budget.
The Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine has interactive exhibits that allow children to pretend play and learn about careers and environments. The museum also features exhibits that showcase Maine, including "Lobster Boat," "Oakie Acres," "Tidepool Touch Tank" and "We Are Maine." To reach out to families that cannot make regular museum hours or cannot afford the regular admission, the museum extends its hours and lowers admission to $1 per person on the first Friday of every month, as of May 2013. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum preserves the history of Maine's railway systems. Kids can view exhibits and artifacts in the museum and see the preservation process in action. Train rides are also available, and riders travel past lighthouses, forts and a working waterfront. As of May 2013, tickets for children ages 3 to 12 are $6 for museum admission and unlimited train rides, or $2 for museum admission only.
Parks and Trails
Capisic Park is an 18-acre nature preserve centered around Portland's largest freshwater pond. Kids can enjoy catching frogs and bird watching during the summer, or ice-skating in the colder months. The Capisic Brook Trail is a one-half-mile one-way dirt path that meanders through the park. Deering Oaks Park offers a rose garden, a seasonal farmer's market, playgrounds and a visitor's center located within a building inspired by a castle. Just south of Portland is Fort Williams Park, which features playing fields, a beach, tennis courts, picnic facilities and plenty of walking trails. Admission is free. Fort Williams Park is also home to Portland Head Light, a lighthouse built in 1790. The lighthouse houses a museum; at the time of publication, admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6 to 8.
At the University of Southern Maine, kids can explore outer space at the Southworth Planetarium. Located underground, the planetarium includes rotating and permanent exhibits, a gift shop featuring cool science items, public viewing nights and special shows in the dome. Admission to a show for children is $5 and up, depending on the show and viewing time. For a more active form of entertainment, Joker's Fun and Games offers rides and attractions, such as a 3-story playground, a rock-climbing wall, laser tag and a mini-Ferris Wheel. Tickets start at $2 per ride. A snack bar offers pizza, sandwiches and snack platters.
Wildlife and Farmland
Kids can visit over 30 species of Maine wildlife at the Maine Wildlife Park. Visitors travel to different habitats and exhibits, including a hatchery, tree trail, wetland trail and a warden museum. If you have a personal cell phone, you can take advantage of a free audio program that features information on each animal and exhibit. Bring your quarters to get a chance to feed the park's bear, deer, pheasants, ducks, geese and turkeys. As of May 2013, tickets are $5 per person for children ages 4 to 12. Children 3 and under are free. Located 25 miles north of Portland, Pineland Farms sprawls over 5,000 acres of breathtaking landscape. At the time of publication, for $5 a person, kids can participate in a fun and educational program or explore the grounds. Activities include visiting a working dairy to see cheese production, exploring the family farmyards and touring the equestrian center. Outdoor recreation activities include hiking and walking trails, a fishing pond, tennis courts, a garden and bird watching.