A couple of key milestones occurred simultaneously earlier this month that are worth noting. The CDC revised their health and safety guidelines, emphasizing that outdoor activity is for the most part safe now and recommended whenever possible vs. gathering indoors in large groups. Their announcement coincided with May Day, or the time when people recall that old poetic/riddle cliche of when April showers turn into May flowers, which is the most glorious period now and over the next four months or so in Maine to get out and enjoy the beauty of our state and region.

Fortunately, we have so many opportunities around here to get outside and experience Biddeford and Saco, alone or with others. Many of these open-air options have the added bonus of being free. For instance, you don’t have to drive hours to the mountains to enjoy some great hikes. Viewing the magical waterfall at Cascade Falls and exploring the woods in Clifford Park are two local favorites. Another good bucket list hike for locals is making your way out to Timber Island off Granite Point at low-tide, but don’t linger or you will need to swim back to the mainland! Bird-watching at the East Point Audubon Sanctuary is an interesting option, and if the birds are somewhere else when you go, the quintessential Maine rocky-coast view of the Wood Island lighthouse is a good fallback plan from that location. Other great walking options include the jetty off of Camp Ellis, and Laurel Hill cemetery featuring beautifully landscaped views to the river’s edge.

If you prefer biking, there are some great rides available locally, on coastal roads or on the calmer tree-lined Eastern Trail. Downtown events will thankfully be returning this summer, with the Saco Arts Festival a must-attend event courtesy of Saco Main Street coming up on June 26. Oh and don’t forget, the continent’s edge is to our East — otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean or “the beach” — which always makes for a fun day, even if (like me) you struggle with these newfangled beach games like spikeball.

In addition to things you can do at no cost, we have many businesses and Chamber members that provide fantastic and fun outside experiences for residents, their summer houseguests, and tourists alike. Here’s a sampler of fun outdoor experiences for purchase now and all summer from local businesses:

• How about going for a sail in Saco Bay? Broad Reach Sailing offers customizable trips daily including one that includes a tour of the Wood Island lighthouse.

• In lieu of wind-power, you can get out on the water in a kayak for enjoyment and exercise ∞ if you need to rent one, reach out to Kayak Excursions

• Go ahead, try to not have fun at our local amusement/adventure parks of Aquaboggan or Funtown/Splashtown, it’s not humanly possible

* This is the perfect year for you to learn to play golf, or lower your handicap – we have great courses around here like Dunegrass, Dutch Elm, and the Biddeford-Saco C.C. – as an added bonus, I’ve personally left dozens of balls for you to find at those courses in the woods adjacent to the fairways

• Maybe mini-golf is more your speed for a fun family outing — we like venturing over to Martel’s to add ice cream to the mix, or for a more ferocious Jurassic option check out Raptor Falls in Arundel

• Exercising outside is also a great option — and if doing it as part of a group is more motivating for you, Saco Sport & Fitness has just put in a fantastic outdoor group workout area at their club

• Don’t forget too that our local restaurants and retailers have been working so hard this past year to provide outside options as part of their services — whether it’s patio dining, sidewalk sales or curb-side pickup for food or merchandise. For unique, inspired, or Maine-centric specialty retail options, check out the Way Way Store, Whimsical ME, Wooven and Trillium.

Our local businesses have done a great job adhering to the CDC safety guidelines and going above and beyond to persevere and continue to thrive through this most challenging year. Whether they operate indoors or outdoors, the business community has worked so hard to keep customers safe, and the ongoing support the community has shown for these efforts are very much appreciated. Our regional momentum and progress has continued in spite of having to deal with such profound challenges, individually and collectively. Please keep supporting our local businesses and organizations that power our economic success locally. And as a special limited time offer to celebrate all the cool things available to us locally (like the above and so much more), stop in at the Chamber’s Welcome Center and tell us the exact number of outdoor fun ideas detailed in this article (hint: reread the headline) to receive a premium Chamber-branded wrist bracelet, with a retail value of $0.19, absolutely free of charge, along with a poster of Biddeford-Saco A-to-Z highlights while supplies last. There is no such thing as a free lunch they say, but there is such a thing as a free bracelet, woohoo!

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