When you think of Maine, you probably envision warm summer days strolling the docks, visiting countless lobster shacks, and walking the sandy coastline while soaking in the stunning sunsets. But did you know the Pine Tree State is also a winter wonderland of fun? Not only will cold-weather enthusiasts enjoy the endless opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, or ice skating, but there are also plenty of indoor adventures to be had for those looking to escape the chill.
Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm in Wells, Maine, offers seven miles of trails for hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. If you’re looking for a more intense cross-country skiing experience, Harris Farm in Dayton, Maine, offers 40 kilometers of trails over 500 acres, ranging from beginners’ level loops to advanced adventures. The day lodge has a wood stove, and the large sunroom is the perfect spot to warm up while sipping a hot beverage!
A day trip will get you to some of the best downhill skiing in the region, including Shawnee Peak located in Bridgton, Maine. It’s the closest ski area to the inn (about 1.5 hours away), and the drive will take you through the picturesque Sebago Lakes region. A bit further out and about 2.5 hours away, you can enjoy verticals of 2,340 feet at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine, and also some of the best resorts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, including Bretton Woods, Black Mountain, and Attitash.
A former Mobil gas station lot on Main Street in downtown Kennebunk transforms into an ice skating rink in the winters, while the Park at Crow Hill in Kennebunkport offers a skating pond. Biddeford’s West Brook Ice Rink is popular, along with the frozen pond in the center of the 52-acre Deering Oaks Park in Portland, considered one of the best spots in the state for ice skating.
Rockin’ Horse Stables offers family-friendly rides in authentic sleighs pulled by draft horses. Each ride lasts around 30 minutes and leaves from a 100-year old barn. Afterwards, you can thaw out while savoring a mug of hot chocolate next to a cracking fireplace in the reception area.
With all the physical outdoor activity, you may need to soothe some of your sore and tired muscles. You can book a 60 or 90 minute massage here at the inn (available in the suites only), or at nearby Cottage Breeze Day Spa.
Want to raise a toast without ever having to leave the comforts of the inn? You can purchase a delicious varietal right on-site! But, if hitting the town for an evening wine tasting is on your menu, try Down East Wine Imports in Lower Village. Do you harbor aspirations of being the next Julia Childs or Mario Batali? Like you, they both started somewhere. You can schedule a personal cooking class at the inn or at Stonewall Kitchen’s location in York, and learn the foundations for becoming more proficient in the kitchen.
Mast Cove Galleries in Kennebunkport features over 80 artists and is Maine’s largest privately-owned group gallery. But they don’t just features paintings; they host a music series featuring jazz and blues. The Chris Becker Gallery also in Kennebunkport features the artist’s own works of fine art and documentary photography.
Maine is a true winter playground, offering myriad ways to get out and explore the beautiful landscape, but also packs plenty of indoor ways to enjoy the season. The Inn at English Meadows is the perfect place to use as a base for your winter adventures, whether they involve sliding through wooded glades on cross-country skis or learning new cooking techniques in a cooking class. Afterwards, return to the Inn to relax by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of wine. We have compiled a sampling of some of the many ways to enjoy Maine in the winter below:
Cross Country Skiing – In southern Maine you can cross-country ski alongside the ocean, across golf courses and through scented pine forests. Check out the trails at Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm or the lovely Bridal Path. L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools offer inexpensive “Walk-On Adventures” in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing right from their retail store in Freeport. Some other resources for cross-country skiing include:
- Harris Farm XC Ski Center - Dayton, (207) 499-2678, www.harrisfarm.com – This 1,000-acre center has 40 kilometers of trails for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers, with skating lines. Snowshoeing also available. Amenities include a day lodge with woodstove, snack bar, rentals, and ski shop.
- Smiling Hill Farm - Westbrook, www.smilinghill.com – 34 kilometers of trails for novice, intermediate and advanced Nordic skiers and snowshoers, as well as marked nature trails. Amenities include rentals, a farm building with snack bar, woodstove, changing area, gift shop and dairy store.
- Five Fields Farm - Bridgton, (207) 647-2425, www.fivefieldsski.com – This 70-acre orchard offers 27 kilometers of trails for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers and snowshoers. Of special note is the unlimited backcountry terrain to the top of scenic Bald Pate Mountain and the surrounding 450-acre land preserve. Other amenities include a warming house and rentals.
Ice Skating – Close by, the Park at Crow Hill in Kennebunkport offers a skating pond and a former gas station in downtown Kennebunk has been transformed into an outdoor community ice skating rink. West Brook Ice Rink in Biddeford is also a popular outdoor skating destination. When the conditions are right, the pond in the middle of the beautiful 52-acre Deering Oaks Park in Portland is considered by many to be one of the best ice skating spots in Maine. City crews make a special effort to keep the ice cleared and its surface well groomed for skating. Up for a bigger challenge? The ice goes on for miles at Sebago Lake and other lakes of the nearby Lakes Region.
Skiing – Some of the finest skiing in the east is to be had at Maine mountains. Located less than two hours away are Shawnee Peak in Bridgton and Lost Valley in Auburn. Sunday River in Bethel is close enough for a day trip, as are numerous ski areas in the White Mountains of New Hampshire like Cranmore Mountain Resort, Bretton Woods, Black Mountain, Wildcat and Attitash.
Snowmobiling – Northeast Snowmobile Rentals, with locations in Gorham and Fryeburg can set you up with everything you need for an adrenaline-filled adventure over miles snow-covered trails and open fields. (800) 458-1838 or www.northeastsnowmobile.com.
Go for a sleigh ride – Enjoy snow sprinkled pine trees and frost tipped fields while you glide leisurely in a horse-drawn sleigh. Rockin’ Horse Stables offers horse-drawn sleigh/carriage/wagon rides. 245 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport 207-967-4288.
Bowling – The classic indoor sport is a favorite of young and old alike! Vacationland in Saco is a quick drive away, offering candlepin lanes and a billiard room. At Bayside Bowl in Portland’s revitalized Bayside neighborhood, you can bowl in an intimate, upscale alley and enjoy excellent food served right at the lanes.
Catch a game – The Portland Pirates tear up the ice at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland – look for their home games all winter long as well as those of Maine’s D-league basketball team, The Maine Red Claws.
Relax in a spa – What better way to unwind in winter than by pampering yourself at a day spa. Treat yourself to massage, a facial and aromatherapy; it’s the perfect antidote to the mid-winter blahs. Cottage Breeze Day Spa is right around the corner and numerous other spas are mere minutes away.
Take in a cooking class – Schedule a personal cooking class here at the Inn at English Meadows. Alternatively, at Stonewall Kitchen’s company headquarters in York, classes are held almost daily on such savory topics as bread making, holiday menus, ethnic specialties and seafood delights. 877.899.8363 or www.stonewallkitchen.com. Wine lovers can often find a tasting at Down East Wine Imports in Lower Village Kennebunk or at Browne Trading Company or LeRoux Kitchen in Portland’s Old Port.