Of course, Maine is known for lobster, lighthouses, and a laid-back vibe, but Maine, particularly its largest city Portland, also has a vibrant arts scene. In addition to galleries and craft shops, the city boasts a top-notch museum making this seaside spot an ideal choice for a fun, art-filled weekend.
The I.M. Pei-designed Portland Museum of Art, in the Arts District has a multi-faceted collection ranging from sculptures and paintings from iconic American artists like Frederic Edwin Church and John Singer Sargent to Impressionist works from Monet and Renoir but it is perhaps most associated with its Winslow Homer collection including his first oil painting, Sharpshooter, as well as his masterpiece, Weatherbeaten. Many of the Boston-born artist's works can be viewed year-round but this fall, the museum is mounting a large-scale Homer exhibit called Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine (Sept. 22-Dec. 30) featuring more than 35 oils and watercolors.
Coinciding with the exhibit is the much-anticipated opening of the Winslow Homer studio in Prouts Neck, an exclusive coastal community 12 miles from Portland where Homer lived and worked from 1883 until his death 27 years later—The Life Line, Eight Bells, and Weatherbeaten are some of the famous seascapes he created here. The two-story clapboard cottage was purchased by the museum in 2006 and, after a top-to-bottom $10.5 million renovation, is now restored to its original state. Visits (three times per day, departing from the museum on shuttle bus) will take place September-December and April-June.
Also in the Arts District are numerous locally-owned galleries. At Fore River Gallery, graduates of Maine College of Art showcase their ceramic wall hangings and oil paintings, while at Heron Point Studio in the cobbled Old Port area, browse among the one-of-a-kind pieces created by glassworker Bonnie Faulkner and jeweler Daniel Dostie. Most galleries also participate in First Friday Art Walk where from 5-8 pm on the first Friday of each month, the public can take self-guided tours, chatting with artists along the way.
And you'd be hard-pressed to leave Portland without buying some made-in-Maine items for yourself. At Edgecomb Potters, choose from glazed porcelain vases, serving bowls, and platters and at Pinecone and Chickadee you'll find an array of whimsical silk-screened cards and stationery on recycled paper created by husband-and-wife team Amy Teh and Noah DeFilippis who moved from Brooklyn to live and work in Portland.
Where to Eat
Portland has a nationally recognized food scene with many James Beard and Food & Wine award-winning chefs espousing farm-to-table philosophies. Perennial fine-dining favorites like Fore Street and Hugo's are still going strong; for more casual options try Petite Jacqueline, a stylish French bistro with escargot, steak frites, and local oysters on the menu, and Portland Lobster Co., a harbor-front alfresco seafood shack for steamed lobster, peekytoe crab cakes, and fried clams. Early risers can join the fishing crews for a hearty egg or pancake breakfast at Becky's Diner, a Portland staple.
Where to Stay
The Portland Harbor Hotel, in the charming Old Port just steps from boutiques and brewpubs, offers some of the city's most elegant accommodations. The 101 rooms feature antique wooden furnishings and fluffy duvets (some suites have fireplaces). Savor seafood dishes like scallops with chick pea polenta in Eve's at the Garden and pre-dinner, sip a martini in the flower-filled courtyard.
If you're interested in discovering Prouts Neck, stay at the Black Point Inn, a classic New England hotel with 25 rooms, a wood-paneled parlor with a wood-burning fireplace and the clubby Chart House for lobster rolls and clam chowder. It also offers access to Cliff Walk, a mile-long coastal trail that passes beneath Homer's studio and offers stunning sea views.
Photo Credits: Museum: At the Portland Museum of Art -- Portland, Maine by Joe TurgeonAttribution-ShareAlike License; Lobster: Courtesy of Portland Lobster Company; Hotel: Courtesy of Portland Harbor Hotel