Remember when you were a kid and your parents said, “Go out and play,” and you just did?
Even if it was freezing cold or snowing like crazy. Actually snowing like crazy was a good thing, because then you could start a snowball fight or build a snowman or pull the sled out of the garage.
Embracing Maine’s long winters requires thinking a little more like a child. Go out and play. But as adults, we’re not so spontaneous anymore and we need a plan. We need to know what we’re getting into, where and when it’s happening, and how much it costs.
Luckily, Maine is good at curating its outdoor recreation, with tube parks, outdoor skating spots, hiking trails, state parks, and nature preserves, to name a few. -ones. Here are a bunch of places to have fun this winter. It’s a good idea to check the websites for any new COVID-19 restrictions or cancellations.
SLIDING THE DAY
One of the simple pleasures of winter is sliding down a hill, and Maine’s tube parks make the experience easy. You don’t need to bring your own sled, for example, as they provide the tubing. You don’t have to worry about the snow getting too icy or melting because the parks have it ready for you. And at times you don’t have to climb the hill, because there are tow ropes to drag you and your tube to the top.
One of them is the Maine Family Snow Tube Park in the Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn. The groomed tubing routes are 600 feet long and there is a ski lift to the top. Sessions are 55 minutes long and cost $16, but group rates are also available. The park is open on weekends and the week of February school holidays. Lost Valley also offers downhill and cross-country skiing, as well as snowshoeing. For more information, visit lostvalleyski.com.
Seacoast Adventure in Windham also has a tubing hill, open weekends and school holiday weeks. There is a carpet lift – a kind of conveyor belt for people – to easily take you to the top. There are also evening sessions, including half-price student nights on Thursdays. Tickets are $30 per person for a two hour session. A combined price of $46 will get you a regular tube and a kid’s tube. For more information, visit seacoastadventure.com.
Maine’s state parks are famous for winter hiking and skiing. But what about ice skating? Well, if you want to skate outdoors while taking in some great mountain scenery, try the Mount Blue State Park skating rink in Weld, near Farmington. The Parks and Grounds Office website allows you to check conditions in the park, including whether the rink is open and ready to skate. The park also has a sliding hill, Center Hill, and there is always a fire in the nearby yurt for sliders and skaters to warm up. The park is open from 9 a.m. until sunset and admission is $5 for Maine residents, $1 for children ages 5-11, and free for children under 5. For more information, go to Maine.gov and search for Mount Blue State Park.
If you want to skate sheltered from the elements – but still for free – you can visit the Waterhouse Center in Kennebunk. It is a 100-by-120-foot indoor but open rink run by the city’s recreation department. It is currently open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. most days. If you want to see what it looks like and how busy it is at any given time, check out the rink’s live webcam. For more information and to see the webcam view, go to kennebunkmaine.us.
You can also skate under the shelter – the roof of an old train shed – at The Rink at Thompson’s Point on the Fore River in Portland. It’s a 10,000 square foot ice rink with a view of the water that is redone every two hours. Admission is $10, which gets you unlimited skating that day. Parking is in a paid lot. There are also hockey skates for rent, for $4. For hours and more information, visit therinkatthompsonspoint.com.
ALL IN ONE
If you have a family where everyone is into a different winter activity, try Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. The property has 5,000 acres of woods and fields and cross-country ski and snowshoe trails (rentals for both are available) on approximately 18 miles of trails. Adult ski passes are $2 per day, while a snowshoe pass is $12 per day. There’s also a free toboggan hill with sleds for rent, $5 a day, and a free ice rink at the farm. And if you’re hungry after all that activity, have lunch at the farm’s charcuterie or buy local produce at the market. You can also check the condition of the trails, the skating rink and the toboggan run daily on the farm’s website. For more information, visit pinelandfarms.org.
RIDE A BIKE?
Fat tire biking is a winter thing in Maine. People ride bikes with really big tires, which actually work in the snow. If you’ve never tried it and want to, you can find a place to rent a fat tire bike for the day. One place in southern Maine is Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, which has built trails and rents the bikes for $30 for two hours. This price includes a day pass to ride the trails, plus a helmet and the bike.
If you want to get away to the mountains to try out fat bikes, Sugarloaf Ski Area in the Carrabassett Valley rents them for $90 a day, including a trail pass, or $50 for two hours. . Sugarloaf, of course, has all sorts of other activities, including downhill and cross-country skiing, and an NHL-sized ice rink. For more information, visit sugarloaf.com.