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Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Christchurch
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Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Hi All

We are a family of 4 (Mum, Dad & two teenage boys) from the South Island of New Zealand. Our family is planning its last big ‘all together’ family holiday for Dec 2013/Jan2014 (this is our big long summer school holiday time). After that the teenagers will start leaving home for study, work and move out to flats etc. So our plans at present are to spend 2-3 weeks in Florida looking at wildlife, visiting the space centre etc.

BUT- one thing we have put off over the years is seeing family living near PORTLAND, MAINE. My husband’s aunt and all the extended family live around there. We have travelled to the US several times over the years but mainly over on the West Coast, the closest we got was Illinois. SO this time I have considered traveling to MAINE before we head south to Florida.

My hubby has been there once about 5 years ago when he was able to add a few personal days to a business trip. BUT he thinks it would be too cold and not enough to keep us occupied during an approx. 5 day visit over the Christmas period (Dec 2013). I have read some previous forum threads and they indicate the weather can be variable and that if ‘fine’ it is okay to do outside things if you rug up. So that would work – BUT what if it is snowing – we don’t ski or normally do any other winter sports – any suggestions?

I would ask the family in Maine these questions but don’t want to raise any hopes we may come and then disappoint them when we can’t or don’t. I need to get all the foundation facts together first before approaching them. So any other information re weather etc would be welcome.

Thanks

Kiwi

Bar Harbor, Maine
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1. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

I love the phrase "rug up" ! I know a rug is a warm throw or blanket in Britain. We would say "bundle up" to mean the same thing.

I think you could have a wonderful five days around Christmas in the Portland area. Winter can be so very pretty in Maine. Even if it is snowing, you can still get about unless there's a blizzard and then, for that day or evening, you can just rest, relax and watch it blow knowing that very likely the next day the sun will shine, the air will be crisp, and the whole world will be a winter wonderland. Maine does an excellent job of keeping the roads plowed, starting to clear things off while the snow is still falling.

Portland and Freeport, an outlet town, just to the north of Portland, will be all decorated for Christmas. Possibly there will be carolers and carriage rides. You can go down to the beach towns of Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, and Old Orchard Beach. You can walk the beach and smell the wonderful clear winter, ocean air. It really doesn't get all that cold near the ocean in December. Probably the highs during the days will be close to 40F. We have a saying in Maine: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing."

Southern Maine
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2. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

It could be very snowy, not snowy at all, extremely bone-chilling cold or weirdly warm. Sorry - that's been the past few years around Christmas time. I would add to bonniemaev's list of sayings: "If you don't like the weather in Maine, wait a minute."

We know what you don't like to do (winter sports), but not much about what you like to do, so it's hard to say if you'd enjoy yourself or not. I would have to guess that visiting with the relatives would take up quite a bit of your time.

Christchurch
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3. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Thanks CB48 & Bonniemaev for the info

The novelty of a Christmas at winter alone will be different. While hubby and I lived in the UK for 3 years and had a ‘White Christmas’, the kids have not. Our Christmas Days temps are often between 20-30 deg C (warm) and Christmas dinner often is planned around the bbq and outside dinning.

But CB48 is right – we will spend a reasonable amount of time with the relatives BUT the boys won’t tolerate too much of that so we will have to sprinkle in activities. No we are not into winter sports but we are into photography (hubby), film making (teenager #1), food (teenager#2), and watching wildlife. The wildlife watching is enjoyed by all the family esp me. Here in NZ we have no native land mammals – what we do have has been introduced. So we love seeing the wildlife in the US & Canada. Last July we travelled through the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. We were so lucky that we saw so much wildlife – bears, wolves, foxes, moose plus lots more. Even the chipmunks and squirrels are a novelty to us. Scenery is also a big travel motivation – while NZ has stunning scenery we have loved the different types of scenery we have seen in the Southwest etc. We have travelled to and through many of your National and State Parks. But anything different we are happy with.

We are not great city people though unless there is something very interesting – so travelling for shopping would probably be at the bottom of our list. Hope this fills in some of the gaps.

cheers

Kiwi

Southern Maine
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4. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

The son who is into food will be in foodie heaven. Portland has become a "go to" destination with an incredible array of dining opportunities.

If it's not too cold, a trip on the Casco Bay Lines would give you an "on the water" experience and some good photo ops. The ferries run year-round, as they serve the island populations.

http://www.cascobaylines.com/

It would help to know where your relatives live in case there are good drives that will offer scenery and perhaps wildlife viewing along the way or near your destination. You can come to my house and take all of the chipmunks and squirrels that you want! :-) (They have risen to pest level...)

One activity that doesn't really qualify as a sport is snow tubing. There are two places that offer it within reasonable driving distance of Portland:

http://www.oxfordplains.com/tubing_2006.htm

http://www.seacoastfunparks.com/snowpark.asp

Christchurch
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5. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Hi CB48 - sorry for the delay in answering - marking essays (not one of my favorite jobs).

The relatives live around Hollis Centre - which hubby tells me is about 1/2 from Portland. Number 2 Son will be very happy to hear re the food - he is really into seafood. Will look into other info you have given me once I finish the marking (so much for a holiday - I am meant to be on a weeks holiday but did not get the marking finished in time). But once done I will be back to planning.

The snow tubing looks interesting - we have done a little bit of water tubing but nothing too much - this sound like fun though.

Cheers

Kiwi

Southern Maine
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6. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Doing school work while on vacation - I hear ya! Hollis Center is about a half hour from Portland. There are farms in the area. One of them, the Harris Farm, offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (both on groomed trails) as well as skating on a small pond and sliding down their hill. They sell bottled milk in many flavors and you can check out the cows. I know you said that you weren't into winter sports, but snowshoeing is pretty low-tech and would get you onto some woods trails:

http://www.harrisfarm.com/

There are also numerous snowmobile trails in the area. If your relatives don't ride, you can walk the trails. We often walk the trail across from our house and have seen numerous deer as well as one ermine last winter.

If you head south from Hollis Center on Route 35, you can visit Kennebunkport. They have a pre-Christmas celebration, Christmas Prelude, every year, so the village is decorated for the festivities. There are also great views of the ocean near the first George Bush's compound, with spaces to pull off and look/photograph. Most of the restaurants and shops will still be open.

From Portland, if you head north on Route 26 (I'd take the turnpike to Gray, then jump on 26 from there), there are some nice scenic views. This would take you by the snow-tubing place in Oxford, if you choose to try it. You could also keep going up to the Bethel area and perhaps the Sunday River ski resort. If we don't have natural snow, they make snow, so your family can at least experience some. Another smaller ski area on that route is Mount Abram's. They are open on weekends only, except during holiday periods. This is a great mountain to try skiing on - it's where I started! (And yes, I'm remembering the "don't normally do winter sports" thing, but hey - it's Maine in the winter. :-)

http://www.sundayriver.com/summer.asp

http://www.mtabram.com/

Christchurch
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7. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Thanks CB48 for all the info.

I will sit down this weekend and talk to the hubby armed with this information. As for the winter sports - going on holiday is about doing something new or different - so I am certianly up for trying things. The relatives do have snowmobiles - so I am hoping they offer to take us out on those (assuming there will be snow).

Now I have got the marking finished I am going to spend the rest of my holiday doing research on Maine and Florida and putting together a rough plan - well thats after I check out our emergency kit - haven't checked that in 6mths and with the very big (7 mag) earthquake but albeit deep (240K) last night off the Lower North Island which we felt here in CHCH - I think that is a little reminder will require action today. The kids are home on holiday and its raining so they can help too.

Cheers

Kiwi

Rockwood, ME
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8. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Kiwi,

Up until now (Dec 3) the weather here has been unseaonably mild. Even in the Northwoods where I live (4 hours north of Portland) , we have no snow! Very unusual. If this weather pattern holds, it is unlikely there will snowmobiling at Christmas, even up here let alone "down south". It takes a while to build a base for snowmobiles.

Last year snow at Christmas was hard to come by down south. But, as someone said, "if ya' don't like the weatha' in Maine, come back in an houa' ". We could get dumped on.

Regards, and a blessed Christmas,

Chaz

Edited: 03 December 2012, 17:45
Southern Maine
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9. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

We actually had a pretty dusting of snow this past weekend. I was at Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport and it looked very festive. However, today it's 50 and the snow has mostly melted. Who knows? We could still get a ton of snow between now and Christmas or end up wearing our shorts...

Central Maine
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10. Re: Christmas in/around Portland Maine

Re-read this topic after it popped back to the top of the Forum listing due to recent responses from CallME and CB.... Just to help match expectations with likely reality as far as wildlife sightings in Maine in the wintertime go... Bottom line: if squirrel and chipmunk sightings really are a novelty, you may find your share of them, depending on the local populations near your relatives. And they actually can offer some interesting photo opportunities on a sunny winter day, when their natural colors make a nice contrast to the white snow and blue sky. But beyond that, winter sightings of larger wildlife are far less frequent than at other times of year unless you're really willing to work at it. Many of the mid-sized "critters" actually hibernate over the winter and are rarely seen until the weather warms up considerably. The larger animals, deer in particular, tend to congregate in heavily forested areas of the deeper woods where food is more plentiful, the can collectively keep more area and more trails packed down due to the greater numbers of animals using them, and because the deep-woods evergreens offer more protection from winterh snowfall and freezing rain. That's not to say that you might not get an occasional glimpse of wildlife, but chances of seeing them in the winter are generally less probable than in warmer seasons....