Bangor is widely considered one of the best cities to visit in The Pine Tree State. This ultimate guide will provide a list of the best things to do in Bangor Maine, along with some surprising, interesting facts about the city, fantastic dining options, and places to stay!
All About Bangor Maine
The city’s namesake is from an Irish hymn called “Bangor,” said to be one of local pastor Seth Noble’s favorites. Bangor Maine was incorporated in 1791, even though the town was initially going to be called Sunbury.
Early settlers were quite drawn to the area because of an abundance of fishing and fur trading opportunities. Once the 19th century arrived, the woodlands around Bangor Maine became a primary industry and brought much wealth.
Eventually, Maine became the lumber capital of the world. Today, one of its major industries still revolves around trees, pulp, and paper. Also, Bangor has become one of the biggest urban centers in the state and is one of the most populated cities with a population of nearly 32,000.
Quick, Fun Facts
- It’s author Stephen King’s hometown.
- The record low temperature from 1925 to 2022 is -32 degrees Fahrenheit.
- There’s a massive Paul Bunyan statue in town.
Read on to discover more about the town and all of the amazing, fun things to do in Bangor Maine!
Outdoor Things to Do in Bangor Maine
Paul Bunyan Statue
Bangor Maine is said to be where this mystical and legendary lumberjack is from. The Paul Bunyan statue marks the birthplace of the familiar woodsman and has been an iconic Main Street sight since its construction in 1959.
The statue stands 31 feet tall and is touted as the “tallest Paul Bunyan statue in the world.” What also makes this idol unique is its crafter’s attention to detail and creation from vibrant fiberglass that’s able to withstand extreme weather conditions.
Another aspect that makes this iconic art even more, well, iconic is its appearance in Stephen King’s horror novel “IT,” where the chiseled Paul comes to life.
Mount Hope Cemetery
The famous Mount Hope Cemetery has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974 and was even featured in Stephen King’s major 1989 motion picture “Pet Sematary.”
The area itself is quite scenic. Visitors can amble through the historic, tree-lined grounds, which were constructed nearly 200 years ago. Mount Hope is one of the first garden cemeteries to be created in America.
Aside from the trees and garden paths, the rural area features a peaceful pond and some impressive architecture and artistic designs. When you visit in autumn, much of the area is warmed by beautiful shades of red, amber, and gold.
Orono Bog Boardwalk
The Orono Bog Boardwalk is a tranquil, 1-mile-long loop trail surrounded on all sides by lush greenery. It begins at the edge of the Bangor City Forest and crosses over into the Orono Bog throughout much of the loop, where dense vegetation like peat moss can be found blanketing the ground.
The trail is wheelchair accessible, and there are plenty of benches to rest and enjoy nature along the way. Read the trail’s educational signs if you want to learn more about the area’s diverse flora and fauna.
Note: Plan to visit this Bangor Maine attraction when the weather is warmer. It’s closed during wintertime.
Bangor City Forest
Bangor City Forest is a nearly 700-acre area full of scenic woodlands, plants, and wildlife. Visit year-round to explore the more than 9 miles of trails that can be used for walking, running, hiking, and biking. During the colder months, you can go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Cascade Park is one of the most frequented parks in Bangor Maine. The quaint park on State Street has plenty of picnic tables, nature trails to walk or run on, and a scenic gazebo.
Also, there are a couple of notable water fountains — one is surrounded by a small pond and has a walking bridge, while the other features a man-made waterfall that’s more than 20 feet tall.
As you wander through forested trails and nature areas, be on the lookout for local wildlife like deer! It’s a great park to find a quiet, relaxing spot to read a book and unwind, or throw down a blanket and dine outdoors.
Bangor Farmers’ Market
Head to Abbot Square every Sunday from May to Thanksgiving for the Bangor Farmers’ Market. The market offers a fantastic selection of local goods, eats, and fresh produce.
You’ll find a variety of apples, berries (including wild blueberries!), seasonal veggies and greens, organic eggs, coffee roasted in town, native flowers and plants, canned goods, handcrafted lotions, fresh lamb, beef, pork, chicken, delicious breads, pastries, donuts…and more!
Penobscot River Walkway
The Penobscot River Walkway is a short, half-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved walking trail that runs through Bangor’s Waterfront Park. Enjoy a morning or afternoon stroll with fantastic, sweeping views of the Penobscot River — the trail is adjacent to it.
Visit during spring, summer, and fall for a different experience each time. In autumn, the fall colors create a gorgeous backdrop against the water.
Staying a while? Catch a show at the Maine Savings Amphitheater. It’s a popular concert and live entertainment venue right by the river!
Explore the Penobscot River
Up for an adventure? In spring, summer, and fall, you can join Bullfrog Adventures’ The “Head of Tide” trip for a kayaking excursion on the Penobscot River!
The tour’s namesake comes from the Penobscot River having some of the highest tides in the country, with a tidal range of around 16 feet. The 1 to 2-hour kayaking tour can be catered to either beginners or intermediate kayakers depending on the time of day the trip embarks.
Whether you join a trip, or paddle or raft solo, the nearly 200-mile Penobscot River is worth exploring. It’s the longest river that runs only throughout Maine and provides plenty of opportunities for other outdoor activities too, like fishing, primitive camping, hiking, and backpacking.
It’s hands down one of the best things to do in Bangor Maine!
Go Ice Fishing
In the winter, anglers can enjoy this adventurous fishing style that’s part of traditional Maine culture. The teaching of ice fishing has been passed down for generations.
If you’re ready for a new experience fishing on the ice, you can join a guided ice fishing trip led by a certified guide with Jim Neville Outdoors. Feel the excitement as flags bob from fish under the ice as they grab baits!
Up to three anglers per group can join in on the fun, four-hour-long trip. Much of the day will be spent on the hard water, but don’t worry — you’ll still get to warm up. The tour group provides a shelter where you can warm up with hot coffee, listen to music, play cards, and relax.
Indoor Things to Do in Bangor Maine
Cole Land Transportation Museum
You’ll find a large and eclectic collection of Maine historic vehicles at the Cole Land Transportation Museum. Here are some intriguing antiques worth seeing in person:
- The Bone Shaker Bicycle, a handcrafted bicycle constructed around 1880
- The Excelsior Motorcycle, which was the first to be officially timed at reaching 100 mph in 1912
- A horse-drawn hearse, which was constructed in 1895 by skilled woodworkers who were Maine State Prison inmates
The museum is family friendly and even offers complimentary admission to visitors aged 18 and under.
Note: This Bangor Maine museum is only open seasonally, from May to mid-November.
Take a Stephen King Tour
Love Stephen King? Then you’ll know that the fictional town of Derry Maine is heavily inspired by King’s hometown — the real-life Maine town of Bangor! Derry is mentioned in multiple King works, including “IT,” “Bag of Bones,” and “Insomnia.”
Hop on an SK Tours of Maine bus to sightsee numerous Bangor Maine landmarks that inspired the prolific horror novelist, as well as places the author has lived, worked, and more. The immersive tours are 2.5 to 3 hours long and include several stops where you can briefly explore on foot, which is optional.
If you dare, take the seasonal Halloween-time tour. You have the chance to don a costume of one of King’s characters and win a prize!
It is worth mentioning that King does have a home in Bangor Maine, but it is not open to the public for tours. Fans of the renowned author frequently drive by the beautiful home.
Penobscot Theatre Company
Attend a wide variety of shows hosted by the wonderful Penobscot Theatre Company. This nonprofit, Bangor Maine theatre company hosts numerous musicals and plays all year long.
It owns and operates the only opera house in the city, the art deco Bangor Opera House. It’s the town’s only remaining opera house of the original seven, which led to Bangor being nicknamed “the little Broadway of the North.”
Backstage tours are available of the Bangor Opera House, and for lovers of the paranormal, there are also rumors that it’s haunted. When you attend a show here, expect nothing less than a high-quality, professional, and unforgettable performance that does its art form justice.
The Gracie Theatre
In the heart of Bangor Maine is The Gracie Theatre, a production company that’s part of Husson University. The theatre acts as a cultural center for the community and hosts many touring, international artists, as well as concerts, theatrical productions, and lectures.
Since its opening, the theatre has produced two full-scale, Broadway-style productions and Off-Broadway hit musicals like “Forbidden Broadway” and “Disenchanted.” It has even hosted performances by iconic actors and singers such as Molly Ringwald and Richard Troxell, an internationally-acclaimed opera singer.
Don’t want to visit Las Vegas to gamble? You don’t have to — gamble, indulge, imbibe, dine, and be entertained at Hollywood Casino in Bangor Maine!
The casino has more than 700 slot and video poker machines, as well as plenty of blackjack and craps tables to play at. It frequently hosts live music and other events as well.
If you’re ready for a bite, the venue has an on-premise, full restaurant and bar — Hops House 99. And don’t worry about missing a game while you eat because the restaurant has big-screen TVs. You can enjoy pub fare and toast with friends while you watch all the great plays.
Maine Discovery Museum
The family-friendly Maine Discovery Museum in the center of Downtown Bangor has plenty of interactive and hands-on exhibits that are both fun and educational. The museum is designed to inspire discovery through science, creative exploration, and play.
You and your family can explore more than 30 interactive exhibits within the three-story building. Aside from science, there are many displays revolving around children’s literature, nature, geography, anatomy, art, and music.
A couple of museum favorites include the Dino Dig — be a paleontologist for a moment while digging for fossils — and the Pet Vet — practice taking care of stuffed animal “patients.”
The Rock & Art Shop
Perfect for plant lovers, rock collectors, and more is The Rock & Art Shop, a family-owned and operated business that is proud to cultivate not only plants but also a love for oddities, the natural world, and the community.
When you walk into the Bangor Maine store, you’ll be greeted by a vast selection of rocks, gems, sculptures, plants, art, jewelry and accessories, and even some taxidermy. The selection rotates, but you’ll come across unique items like an intricately hand-carved horse skull.
Whether you bring home a plant (or five), a selenite bowl, or a larimar pendant, you’ll be happy with the treasures that you find.
Thomas A. Hill House Museum
Tours of the Thomas A. Hill House Museum are provided by the Bangor Historical Society. The historic, Greek Revival-style home was constructed in 1836 by renowned architect Richard Upjohn — his other known works include New York City’s Trinity Church and the local Isaac Farrar Mansion.
If you love to see impressive and/or historic architecture, don’t skip this thing to do in Bangor Maine. Interesting features of the home include a portico paved with slabs of granite, a double parlor that’s separated by a Corinthian column-supported archway, an Italianate stairway, and etched glass panel double front doors.
Note: Tours of the Hill House are only available seasonally.
Bangor Maine has a couple of great spots to hunt for antiques and other collectible treasures!
One of them is the Central Maine Antique Mall where you can dig through a treasure trove of goods, including fine art, vintage and antique wares and furniture, and more. You can even find some oddities here, like taxidermied animals and intriguing collectibles.
Another is the Antique Marketplace. It has something for everyone with a massive inventory of antique, primitive, and Victorian furniture; pottery, porcelain, and glassware; high-quality, vintage rugs; jewelry; rare coins; memorabilia; fishing gear; and much more!
Where to Dine in Bangor Maine
Timber Kitchen & Bar
The ambiance of this upscale restaurant is heavily influenced by Maine’s old title as one of the largest lumber producers in the world. It has managed to create an atmosphere that’s somehow both sophisticated and lumberjack at the same time.
Cozy up by the indoor fireplace at Timber Kitchen & Bar while sipping a glass of wine paired with Charcuterie boards, small plates, artisan dishes, and some decadent comfort foods.
2 Feet Brewing
Also in the heart of downtown is 2 Feet Brewing, a family-operated brewery and pub. You must try some of the signature dishes — the Maine lobster pot pie, Thai curry puffs, truffle fries, and roasted red pepper and smoked gouda bisque.
If you’re in need of dessert, this Bangor Maine restaurant has a rotating, homemade Cake of the Day. As for beer, the brewery has five rotating taps and one never-changing tap featuring its popular Barn Burner — a spicy, dark Saison brewed with roasted jalapenos and ghost pepper.
Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream
Gifford’s Famous Ice Cream began over 40 years ago at a family-owned, Maine dairy farm. Today, it has five family-operated scoop shops throughout the state, one of which is in Bangor.
Between the five shops, it serves more than 1 million cones each year, making it one of the most popular ice cream shops in Maine! Some must-try flavors include cannoli, banana cream pie, campfire s’mores, fly fishing fudge, and pink peppermint stick.
Frank’s Bake Shop and Catering
Frank’s Bake Shop and Catering has been serving delicious eats to the Bangor community for more than 70 years! The family-owned business creates both sweet and savory confections.
Try the fresh Dark Bread of the Day, or head there early in the morning while the dessert case is still packed with freshly baked donuts. Frank’s has a handmade variety of cakes, pies, cheesecakes, cookies, cupcakes, and cafe-style eats too!
Best Places to Stay in Bangor Maine
Big Red House
The “Big Red House” is a beautiful, traditional Bangor home available to rent in the Whitney Park Historic District. The 2,600-square-foot home sleeps up to six people and is in a prime Bangor Maine location.
The house is one of the oldest in the area and was built in 1869. The classic beauty of the house has been kept while mixing it with some modern renovations and luxuries.
The Country Inn at the Mall
The Country Inn at the Mall is a great hotel to stay at while visiting Bangor Maine. The homey, rustic, and comfortable inn is conveniently located with close access to plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues — Maine Savings Amphitheater and the Cross Insurance Center.
The Inn offers complimentary breakfast daily for all guests, along with an exercise area, free Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping, and coin-operated laundry facilities. Cozy up by the fireplace in the lobby, and grab a freshly baked cookie before you explore more things to do in Bangor Maine!
Bangor Inn & Suites
Bangor Inn & Suites is located in the Bangor Shopping District where there are numerous shops and restaurants to check out within walking distance. Also, it’s just minutes from the Bangor International Airport, historic downtown Bangor, major entertainment venues, and other popular destinations.
This casual, family-friendly hotel provides guests with complimentary Wi-Fi and a hot breakfast daily too!
Bangor Aviator Hotel
It offers excellent amenities, including recent renovations, complimentary access to high-speed internet, an indoor heated pool, a fitness center, pet-friendly and accessible rooms, free coffee in the lobby, and more.
Discovering Exciting Things to Do in Bangor Maine
There are so many exciting things to do in Bangor Maine for those of all ages and at any time of year! In fact, the city is one of the best places for a winter getaway in Maine. And while you’re here, you can explore more of the Highlands Moosehead region.