Bangor, Maine Vacation Guide
Do you remember the legend of Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox Babe? Clad in a red plaid shirt and sporting an axe big enough to topple a pine in one swing, this fictional character welcomes you to Bangor. At 37 feet tall, the bearded wonder is there to remind you of Bangor’s logging history, and how one of Maine’s major population centers was carved out of the wilderness by pioneers, lumbermen and other hard working folk.
Paul Bunyan is also a symbol of the fun-loving nature of the residents, who regularly dress up their lumberjack for local events. At a recent Willie Nelson concert the statue sported a giant bandana. The Shriners, not to be outdone, replaced the logging cap with a giant fez for their convention. Author Stephen King, a Bangor native, also gave old Paul some celebrity attention, by bringing the statue to life in his novel “IT.” How can you resist a visit to such a fun-loving locale? Bangor offers local charm, history and a convenient gateway to the still remote Maine Highlands Region.
Bangor Maine Basics
Bangor International Airport is the gateway to the Maine Highlands Region. It sits on the western end of town, off of Interstate 95 and welcomes both domestic and international flights. Driving is an enjoyable option, particularly during the fall season when the leaves change from green to shades of red and gold. Drive yourself, Interstate 95 travels the length of the state and has several roadside rest stops, or hop on one of the local or national bus lines. Once you’ve arrived, The Bangor Area Transit (BAT) offers service within the city. The waterfront and downtown areas are best explored on foot, but to visit the outer areas of town, as well as the surrounding towns and open areas, you will need a set of wheels, car or otherwise.
A number of hotels are clustered near the airport, with several name brands and price points represented. Hotels are also found along the Penobscot River, near or on Main Street in downtown Bangor. The Charles Inn, a vintage Victorian property, doubles as an art gallery. The Hotel at Hollywood Slots hosts the city’s only casino. The Country Inn at the Mall is across from Bangor Mall, the area’s largest shopping center. Penobscot Plaza, fronting the river, is another option.
Most restaurants are clustered in the downtown core. Take your pick of Japanese, Chinese and Italian cuisines, as well as locally owned diners serving old fashioned American fare. It’s even possible to find a good old fashioned Irish pub, pouring Guinness and featuring old-country style snugs (seating areas that are semi-closed off, offering privacy but still letting you be part of the party). More eateries are found along Interstates 95 and other major roadways. Finding someplace to have an enjoyable night out, or to stock up for a trip into the back-country are easy in Bangor.
Bangor Historic Districts
The Broadway Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is where the lumber barons built their mansions, beginning in the early 19th century. A walk through these 500 acres of history reveals homes in the Italianate, Greek Revival and Colonial styles. In the center of the district is Broadway Park, a favored picnic spot.
Also on the National Registry of Historic Places are 40 buildings in Bangor’s downtown core. Much of downtown was destroyed in the 1911 fire, one of the largest urban fires in the United States. The city decided to rebuild, but this time all buildings would be made of brick, not wood. Some of the buildings resurrected include the Graham Building, Bangor Post Office and the Bangor Public Library, all examples of architecture from the earlier part of the 20th century.
Other areas listed include Whitney Park, 180 acres filled with 43 buildings of Victorian and Greek architecture and West Market Square from the same period. The Bangor Theological Seminary, founded in the early 19th century and Mount Hope Cemetery are also on the list. Walking through the grounds reveals the final resting places of Civil War generals, lumber barons, politicians and even one Vice-President. The Bangor Museum and Center for History offers tours throughout the summer.
Things to Do in Bangor
Find a bit of the outdoors within Bangor’s city limits. Cascade Park offers picnic tables, a waterfall and an elegant fountain. The Thomas Hill Standpipe, a water tower with 100 challenging steps to the top, offers panoramic views all the way to Mt. Katahdin on clear days.
The Bangor City Forest, on the northeaster corner of town, offers nine miles of trails, suitable for hiking in summer and cross-country skiing in winter. Despite its city location, the forest is filled with birds, deer, beavers, rabbits, turkeys, bears and even moose. The West Penjajawoc Grasslands, managed by the Audubon Society, is a favored bird-watching spot. Bangor is also a favorite treasure hunting spot for geocachers.
For those seeking a round or two of golf, the Bangor Municipal Golf Course, near the airport, offers 27 challenging holes. This is a membership course, but the greens and the signature Fairway Grille restaurant are open to the public. Multi-play discount passes are offered for both residents and visitors.
If you are traveling with children, the Maine Discovery Museum, formerly called the Bangor Children’s Museum, offers hands-on interactive exhibits spread out over three stories. The Dino Dig is a big hit, letting amateur paleontologists dig for replica fossils, measure and record them, just as they do in the field. Art, science and space exploration are also featured in various kid-friendly exhibits.
Annual events include the Bangor State Fair held the last two weeks of July through the beginning of August, the American Folk Festival the last weekend in August and the Northern Exposure Fireball Run in September.
Mt Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Moosehead Lake and much of the Lincoln Lake Region are all easy day trips from Bangor. The smaller, largely residential townships of Hampden and Orrington are to the south. Eddington and Veazie, both small residential areas fronting the Penobscot River, are between Bangor and the township of Orono. Hermon is directly west and home to the Hermon Meadows Golf Club, the Hermon Creative Playground and several campgrounds.
Brewer sits on the eastern bank of the Penobscot River, right across from downtown Bangor. Both cities are connected by the Oak Street and Union Street Bridges, making it easy to stay in one and explore the other as a day trip. Brewer does have its own airport, but it is a smaller facility than Bangor International. A few hotels/motels are available, most along Wilson Street. One exception is the Fiddlehead Inn, on Main Street. This elegant Victorian dating back to 1920 operates as a quaint bed and breakfast near the Brewer Mall.
Freedom Park is dedicated to General Joshua Chamberlain, a Civil War veteran that served at Gettysburg and who later became Governor of Maine. The park is a replica of the battle at Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Also of historic interest is the Brewer Historical Society Memorial, dedicated to the slaves that were hidden in homes of Brewer families that opposed the practice. Part of the Underground Railroad Tunnel ran through the town.
The Pine Hill Golf Club is a 9-hole public course south of town, near the airport. Southeast of the course is the Fields Pond Audubon Center, an undeveloped nature area that is a bird-watcher’s paradise. There are trails, but it is mostly forest, open meadow and the marshlands of Field’s Pond. This was once a private farm, where the owners harvested ice from that very pond.
Old Town sits northeast of Bangor and is a rural area that includes over 50 miles of waterways within its borders. Some of the Penobscot River’s islands are part of Old Town, as are some in the southern end of Pushaw Lake. A bridge connects the town to the Penobscot Indian Nation. On the western end of Pushaw Lake, across from Old Town is the township of Glenburn, known for fishing, camping and related water sports.
The Old Town Museum, founded in 1976, houses displays items from the logging industry’s heyday. The several mills in the area and the railroad that connected Old Town with the Port of Bangor put Old Town on the map. The museum is on Main Street, in the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Buildings on the National Registry of Historic Places include St. Anne’s Church and Mission, St. James Episcopal Church, the Old Town Main US Post Office and the Edith Marion Patch House. The latter, also called Braeside, was saved from becoming a fire training exercise by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The Gothic Revival property is undergoing restoration.
Sitting at the edge of the Great North Woods, Old Town is surrounded by smaller towns, such as Milford, Alton, Bradley and Greenbush. Milford is home to the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and was the site of a mill. Bradley, named for an early settler, once had 18 different mills. Leonard’s Mill now houses the Maine Forest & Logging Museum.
The township of Orono sits between Old Town and Bangor and is named for a Penobscot Nation Chief, Joseph Orono. Founded in 1806, Orono is bisected by the Stillwater River, a feeder river to the Penobscot. Orono is home to the original Pat’s Pizza store, a popular pizza chain started in 1953 and now found throughout Maine. The town’s Old Fire House, circa 1892, is on the National Register of Historic Places. There are a couple of motels in town, but most are along Interstate 95, closer to Bangor.
Home to the University of Maine, this is an active college town blessed with a number of outdoor recreational opportunities. Downtown, next to the Stillwater River, is a five acre picnic and concert venue called Webster Park. Off of Gilbert Street is the Sklar Wilderness Park, and near Forest Avenue is the Jeremiah Colburn Nature Area, 23-acres of open space left in its natural state.
Brownie’s Park fronts the river and offers hiking and biking paths. Summer Street Park, also on the river, has a launch ramp for kayaks and canoes. The University of Maine opens its fitness center to the public. Every summer the Orono Farmer’s Market lets you get some exercise while shopping for local foods, crafts and souvenirs of your trip to one of Maine’s most lovely regions.
Bangor Area Directories
Visit the following directories to find lodging, dining, attractions, shops, services and recreational activities in the Bangor, Maine area.
- Alton Maine
- Bangor Maine
- Bradley Maine
- Carmel Maine
- Brewer Maine
- Eddington Maine
- Glenburn Maine
- Greenbush Maine
- Hampden Maine
- Hermon Maine
- Holden Maine
- Hudson Maine
- Kenduskeag Maine
- Levant Maine
- Milford Maine
- Newburgh Maine
- Old Town Maine
- Orono Maine
- Orrington Maine
- Veazie Maine
- Winterport Maine