Augusta, Maine Vacation Guide
Augusta is Maine’s capital city, and therefore, is appropriately known by the slogan, “a Capital Opportunity.” That is not its only claim to fame, however. Augusta’s riverfront, bordering the Kennebec River, continues to undergo some exciting redevelopment, and the city has a new, modern high school, and a world class cancer care center. The capital city also has a rich heritage in arts and culture, and exciting recreational opportunities and events. Add the Augusta Civic Center, the premiere venue for business meetings and entertainment, and visitors to the Pine Tree state have significant reasons to plan a visit to Maine’s capital city!
Conveniently located about 70 miles northeast of Portland, Maine’s largest city, Augusta is easily accessible from I-95 via exits 109, 112, and 113. Augusta is situated within Kennebec County and as of the 2010 census, had just over 19,000 residents, earning it the designation as the nation’s third-smallest capital city.
Maine’s capital city has a rich heritage in Native American culture. Augusta’s original inhabitants were members of the Wabanaki, an Algonquin-speaking tribe of Indians. The first English settlers were Plymouth Pilgrims, in the early 1600s. The 17th and 18th centuries saw an influx of French settlers. Conflicts ensued among the Indians, and the English and French inhabitants, leading to military occupation and the erection of Fort Western. The Fort area was originally named Hallowell, but eventually separated into a separate township. It was named Augusta officially in 1797, and two years later, served as the “shire” town, or designated seat of government, for the newly appointed Kennebec County. Maine became the 23rd state in the union in 1820 and Augusta became the capital city of Maine in 1827; however, the first official meeting of the Maine Legislature did not occur until 1832. Finally, 17 years later in 1849, Augusta became chartered as a city.
Attractions & Places of Interest
The capital city has an impressive collection of historical sites, museums and buildings that visitors to the area will want to make sure to see, including the following:
- Old Fort Western: Located along the Kennebec River and registered as a National Historic Landmark, America’s oldest surviving wooden fort, dating back to 1754, is a “must-see” attraction!
- Maine State Museum: Visitors can learn about the state’s history through exhibits of its commerce heritage, natural environment, and social history.
- Maine Military Historical Society Museum: The only museum of its kind in the state, dedicated to the Pine Tree state’s military history.
- Maine State Archives: Maintains archival records dating back to 1639, plus genealogical research records and a large collection of Civil War memorabilia.
- State House, Governor’s Mansion, Capitol Park: Offers visitors a “triple” attraction of Maine’s government history, impressive architecture, and scenic beauty.
- Augusta Civic Center: Perhaps one of the capital city’s most renowned attractions is its 49,000 square foot Civic Center, a premiere venue for corporate meetings and conventions, trade shows, craft shows and expositions, trade shows, and high-profile entertainment and concerts. The Augusta Civic Center consists of a main auditorium, two ballrooms, and 23 rooms with flexible capacity, so they are suitable for small and large crowds alike. Full catering services are also available.
- Children’s Discovery Museum: Offers a variety of activities, including interactive science workshops, performing arts, and family events.
- Pine Tree State Arboretum: Plants, shrubs, and trees fill 200 acres, cultivated especially for educational, recreational, and scientific purposes.
Augusta is home to the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), a full-service campus with regional accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. UMA offers numerous bachelor’s and associate degree programs at its Augusta campus, Bangor campus, and numerous University College centers throughout the state, as well as through online studies.
Augusta Maine Major Events
In addition to numerous events held throughout the year at the Augusta Civic Center (see above), visitors will want to consider attending other events, such as the folllowing:
- Annual Augusta Arts and Crafts Show
- Annual Maine Fiber Frolic
- Annual Maine Quilt Show
- Annual Parade of Lights and Tree Lighting
- Augusta Walking Tour “Museum in the Streets”
- “Whatever” Family Festival
The capital city’s prime location by the Kennebec River offers the opportunity for a variety of water sports, such as swimming, fishing, rafting, and boating during the summer season, and winter activities such as skating, ice-fishing, and ice hockey.
Visitors won’t be at a loss to find quality lodging in the capital city. Nearly a dozen choices, ranging from hotels and motels, to inns and suites, offer a variety of selections to suit most any taste and budget. One of the city’s more renowned lodging facilities is the Senator Inn & Spa, which consistently earns rave reviews from guests – such as “lavish spa facilities” and “award-winning restaurant” – and receives awards year after year under “Best Hotel” in various categories.
The capital city offers up a smorgasbord of dozens of dining choices to suit any palate, from the usual fast food restaurant choices, like McDonald’s, KFC, and Subway; to casual dining such as Longhorn’s Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday, and Pizza Hut. For visitors who desire a different dining experience offering something other than primarily American food, Augusta offers a variety of choices, including restaurants featuring Asian, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Mexican, and Spanish food.
Augusta’s Nearest Neighboring Towns
The quaint town of Hallowell was originally part of Augusta, but officially became its own city in 1852. This tiny town of just under 2,500 residents only covers about five square miles along the Kennebec River. In spite of its small size, Hallowell is large on its rich heritage and culturual aspects. These include many historic mansions, impressive art galleries and numerous intriguing antique shops, fine dining establishments, quality service businesses, and vista that includes hiking trails and waterfalls along the Kennebec River. Hallowell is also historic for producing Maine’s first automobile.
The town of Gardiner touts the motto of “Where History & Progress Meet” with good reason. From its beginnings as a chartered city in 1849, Gardiner and its residents relied on industries including ship building, paper mills, and shoe manufacturing for their livelihood. Situated closely to the Kennebec River and Cobbosseecontee Stream, Gardiner is also easily accessible by major highways, including I-95, I-495, and Route 201. The town’s population of about 6,000 residents live within just over 16 square miles. Gardiner is known for its historic architecture, as well as its emphasis on culture, as exemplified in the town’s Friends of Gardiner Heritage Museum and Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center.
Other Towns in the Augusta Area
Other towns in the area surrounding Augusta include Manchester and Litchfield to the west; Belgrade, Sydney, and Vassalboro to the north; China, Palermo, Windsor, and Somerville to the east; and Chelsea, Farmingdale, Randolph, Pittston, Dresdon, and Richmond to the south. Attractions in these towns include the Brick Schoolhouse Museum and Historical Society in Dresden, Swan Island and its Wildlife Preserve, and Peacock Beach State Park in Richmond and the Maine Fiber Frolic and the Fair Grounds in Windsor.
Whether your plans are for a daytime visit, an overnight stay, or a leisurely vacation in the Augusta area, you will find plenty to do and see – and you certainly won’t be disappointed in your “capital” adventure! You will find activities, attractions, food, fun, lodging, and much more in Maine’s capital city of Augusta and surrounding towns.
Augusta Area Directories
Visit the following directories to find lodging, dining, attractions, shops, services and recreational activities in the Augusta, Maine area.
- Augusta Maine
- Belgrade Maine
- Belgrade Lakes Maine
- Chelsea Maine
- Dresden Maine
- Farmingdale Maine
- Fayette Maine
- Gardiner Maine
- Hallowell Maine
- Litchfield Maine
- Manchester Maine
- Monmouth Maine
- Mount Vernon Maine
- Pittston Maine
- Randolph Maine
- Richmond Maine
- Somerville Maine
- Wayne Maine
- West Gardiner Maine
- Whitefield Maine
- Windsor Maine
- Winthrop Maine