School’s out for summer. But despite what Alice Cooper told generations of kids in his 1972 rock song of the same name, it’s not out forever.

So you need to take advantage of summer vacation and all it offers while you can. Before you know it, the kids will be back in class, and the next long vacation won’t happen until Maine is covered with a sheet of snow and ice.

Luckily, Maine is a place that really embraces the concept of summer vacation. It’s not called Vacationland for nothing. So it’s not hard to find a huge variety of summer vacation options, from amusement parks and drive-in movies to beaches, lakes, museums, theaters and easy day-trip destinations.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. See a drive-in movie

Drive-in movies are one of those summer traditions that appeals to all ages. Lots of people grew up going to the drive-ins with a gang of kids – some smuggled into the place in the trunk – or on dates. Others remember going with their family as little kids, in pajamas.

While drive-ins aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, southern Maine is lucky to still have at least three. Prides Corner Drive-In on Route 302 in Westbrook, which opened in the early 1950s, is an easy drive from Portland and shows a lot of classic drive-in fare, including scary or adventure flicks. When in the Lakes Region, you can visit the Bridgton Twin Drive-In Theatre on Route 302 in Bridgton, also dating from the 1950s, with two screens for twice as many movies. South of Portland, there’s the Saco Drive-In on Route 1 in Saco, located on the property of Aquaboggan Water Park. The drive-in closed a couple years ago after operating for more than 80 years, before being moved and reopened by the owners of the water park.


Prides Corner Drive-In in Westbrook is one of at least three drive-ins in Southern Maine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

2. Go to an amusement park

Speaking of Aquaboggan Water Park in Saco, what better way is there to spend a hot summer day than getting wet and zooming down slides and rides? Some slides at Aquaboggan have ominous-sounding names like the Yankee Ripper, Turbo Drop and Stealth 5, plus there’s a giant wave pool, among other attractions.

You can get water slide fun and traditional roller coasters and amusements at Funtown Splashtown USA, also in Saco. There’s the Excalibur roller coaster, and also the 220-foot Dragon’s Descent, for people who like to go up and then down, fast. But there’s also the deceptively scary Wild Mouse roller coaster, with tight turns that make people think they’re going off the rails.

Dragon’s Descent is 220-feet tall at Funtown Splashtown USA in Saco. Photo by Stephen Davis Phillips

Seacoast Adventure in Windham has slow lanes and fast lanes, as far as adventure goes. There’s a Sky Swing and a go-kart track for people who like a little more edge to their fun, and a mini-golf course and a water playground for slightly milder amusements.

And, of course, there’s no place like a Maine beach for fun in the summer. Old Orchard Beach has sun, surf and sand for miles, plus lots of rides and amusements at Palace Playland. For those of you who started having fun before “gaming” meant being hooked to more technology than a NASA astronaut, there are quaint but cool games and rides like Skee-Ball and the carousel.

3. Take a road trip to the gem museum

Because school’s out for summer – the next couple months almost – you don’t necessarily have to stay close to home for fun. You can pack the car and take the family on a day trip, looking for adventures out of the norm.

One jewel of a destination that’s out of this world (puns intended) is the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum in Bethel, which includes a collection of meteorites and some impressive pieces of the moon and Mars. There are also minerals and gemstones, including more than 300 dazzling gemstones from Maine. It opened in 2019, founded by a Massachusetts couple enamored of the area and its rich mineral mining history. While in Bethel, a very pretty town high in the western Maine mountains, you could also stroll around and find other things to do. You could take in a movie or a show at The Gem theater (not part of the museum), or take a quick dip to cool off at Angevine Park Swim Pond.


A moon rock on display at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

4. Visit the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory

It’s hard to imagine Maine having the tallest anything in the world, but it does. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, which carries Route 1 over the Penobscot River from Prospect to Verona Island, is the tallest public bridge observatory in the world. You ride in an elevator up to the top of the observatory tower – some 420 feet – and get unimpeded 360-degree views of the Maine countryside, the river and Penobscot Bay. It’s become a tourist attraction for people traveling the Maine coast since opening in 2006. 

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge and observatory makes a nice day trip. Carey Kish photo

While at the bridge/observatory, check out historic Fort Knox, which sits on the bank of the river in Prospect, looking majestically over Bucksport. It was built beginning in the 1840s to protect the area from possible future British naval incursions and has tunnels and cool underground areas. It’s open daily until the end of October.

Fort Knox Historical Site on the Penobscot River in Prospect. Deirdre Fleming photo

5. See a play for kids

Theater is as quintessential to Maine summer as lobster rolls. From big auditoriums to local barns, venues across the state offer plays and musicals for audiences of all ages. Here are some shows specifically geared toward kids and families.

The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine in Portland will stage two shows this summer: Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In a Play!” (June 29-July 28), based on the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems, and “Red Riding Hood” (Aug. 10-25).

Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick will present three shows in its annual family series: Robin and Clark’s “Beauty and the Beast” (June 10), “The Story of the Nutcracker” (July 22) and “The Wizard of Oz” (Aug. 12).

Two musicals specifically for kids will also come to Ogunquit Playhouse this summer with daytime shows. “Seussical the Musical” will run July 6-9. Disney’s “Camp Rock The Musical” plays Aug. 10-13.


6. Ride a train

What kid doesn’t love a train? Maine has lots of attractions to rev up transportation enthusiasts, young and old.

The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport is the first and largest electric railway museum in the world. Visitors can find exhibits featuring trolleys, subway cars, locomotives, buses and other artifacts – and take a ride on a vintage trolley from the early 1900s.

Passengers ride the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad in Portland in 2019. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Ph

The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland offers scenic trips along the city’s waterfront, including an ice cream train and a sunset ride. In Boothbay, the Railway Village Museum offers rides in a vintage train and a Ford Model T.

In addition to railroad history, visitors can see more than 60 antique cars and trucks on display. The Owls Head Transportation Museum features more than 150 antique automobiles, aircraft, motorcycles, bicycles and engines.

7. Take a boat ride

For those more interested in water than land, the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath offers daily cruises on the Kennebec River and is home to the country’s only surviving historic wooden shipyard and a working boat shop.

8. Visit the Maine State Aquarium

Maine’s only aquarium reopened in June after a four-year closure that began because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and was extended after officials discovered damage to walls, floors and electrical systems. It has seen just over $1 million in renovations in that time, which included adding new displays, repairing walls and floors and improving pumps and filters in the tanks.

One of the most popular additions is a new 300-gallon touch tank designed like a tide pool on the rocky Maine coast, allowing visitors to view how animals in that habitat interact in real life.

The aquarium at 194 McKown Point Road, West Boothbay Harbor, will remain open through Labor Day, on Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults 13-59; $7.50 for children 3-12, adults over 60 and veterans and military personnel; and free for children under age 2.

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