Holiday shopping can feel like a job.

You have a series of tasks to establish in a set period of time. You make lists. You have very specific requirements (picky people’s Christmas lists) you need to meet. The whole process can be very stressful.

But there are ways to make it fun, including doing your shopping in a place where there are some fun things to. There are shopping destinations all over southern Maine that offer other, less stressful activities, many with a decidedly holiday theme – like visiting with Santa, having a cocktail while your presents are wrapped or getting to see a tree lighting. Others are just fun, like sliding a curling stone on the ice, listening to live music or snacking on a toasty s’mores.

Here are some suggestions for shopping spots where your holiday errands might be a little more merry.


The Rock Row retail area in Westbrook, near the Portland line, is calling its schedule of seasonal fun Holidays on the Rocks. The shopping area’s outdoor gathering space and beer garden – Quarryside – will be decorated with 100,000 lights and will host weekly free family events Thursdays through Sundays. These include a happy hour (Thursday and Friday), a Makers Market (Thursday through Saturday), and the Lone Pine Brewing acoustic music series (Thursday through Saturday). There is also ice sculpting on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and s’mores all day Sunday. Visits from Santa are scheduled for Dec. 8, 14 and 21. For more information, go to


Take a shopping break to toast some s’mores at Rock Row in Westbrook. Photo courtesy of Rock Row


You might want to reward yourself after an afternoon of Old Port shopping with a drink. Even more rewarding would be having somebody wrap your gifts, for free, while you’re knocking back a cocktail or a beer. That’s the idea behind the Wrappy Hour at Inkwell Bar, in the Press Hotel on the edge of Portland’s Old Port. The Wrappy Hours will be Dec. 6, 13 and 20 from 5-8 p.m. For more information, go to

Have a drink while your presents are wrapped, at the Press Hotel on the edge of Portland’s Old Port. Photo courtesy of The Press Hotel


L.L. Bean’s annual holiday festival will be mostly outside at its flagship retail store in Freeport. One new activity this year will be ice lanes for curling, near the Discovery Park Stage. People will get a chance to slide a stone, just like in the Winter Olympics. There will be demonstrations on Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and instructors to help people at various other times. There’s also The Big Snow Globe, where you can have your family’s photo taken inside. There’s also a giant model train layout in the store, a Holiday Activity Barn where kids can mail letters to Santa and, of course, holiday lights all over the place. There are visits with Santa and his reindeer on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For specific dates of activities and more info, go to

Puneet Bansal, left, of North Yarmouth offers a pointer to son Liam Bansal as they play on one of the two curling lanes at L.L. Bean in Freeport. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


The massive Christmas Prelude celebration – which started on Nov. 30 – will still be happening in and around Kennebunkport and Kennebunk through Sunday. So if you find yourself browsing some of the shops there, you’ll find plenty of chances to take a break and experience some holiday cheer. On Friday at 4 p.m., there will be a Prelude Family Street Festival with strolling carolers, ice carving, food vendors, live music, a selfie snow globe and more. Later, around 6:15 p.m., there’ll be a Christmas fireworks show. Some of the other activities on various days include a Gingerbread Village display, trolley rides, boat rides and crafts for kids. For a complete schedule and more info, go to


The Merry Tuba Christmas concert will once again be part of the Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport on Sunday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


For lots of shopping fun under one roof, it’s hard to beat the Maine Mall in South Portland. The mall itself hosts a variety of activities, including photos with Santa (you can book online). There’ll be performances on Friday afternoons throughout the mall by the Salvation Army Brass Quartet, as well as local pop-up vendors on weekends. Gorham High School is having a gift wrapping fundraiser on Dec. 16. For more information on the mall events or to book Santa photos, go to

Jordan’s Furniture at the Maine Mall includes a ropes course for those who might want to do more than shop for furniture. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The mall is also home to Jordan’s Furniture, which has a wild ropes course, billed as the largest indoor ropes course in Maine. There are more than 40 activities, including angle rope ladders, a floating line, cargo nets and zip lines. While you’re up high, you’ll see all sorts of dazzling video images. The course is open every day and admission starts at $15, $10 for smaller folks – 48 inches and under. For more information, go to

Round 1 Bowling & Arcade at the Maine Mall is always a place to find fun, so it’s a bonus that’s also located in a major Christmas shopping destination. There are some 300 games on the arcade floor, including pinball, shooting games, fighting games, crane machines, music-based games, basketball and Skee-Ball. There’s also bowling, karaoke and billiards, and it’s open on all major holidays. For more information, go to

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