Nicknamed the “Heart of York County,” Sanford Maine is a city with a small-town feel that is ideal for outdoor recreation, family fun, and unique dining options. With historic mills and factories, gorgeous architecture, and beautiful ponds, there are dozens of things to do in Sanford Maine.
It’s hard to find a city where everyone makes you feel welcome, but this is what you’ll experience in Sanford. Visit a local diner, and you’ll be greeted with a warm smile and prompt service. Just walking around town, locals will give a head nod and a “Good morning!”
If you plan to visit this friendly community, add some of these activities to your Maine getaway itinerary!
All About Sanford Maine
Sanford Maine is a relatively small city located in York County in the Southern Maine Coast region. It’s ideally located within a 30-minute drive of the beautiful Maine coast.
This city has an abundance of fun outdoor activities to check out in the warmer months and plenty to keep the family busy during the cold weather months. Visitors are treated to nostalgia in its family-run diners, and the vibrant bar scene features many great meet-up spots.
The perfect mix of city and nature with beautiful, scenic parks, ponds, and recreational areas, Sanford Maine is an excellent destination to visit year-round.
Sanford Maine History
Sanford has a rich history dating back to the 1600s. It started out as uninhabited land that was purchased by William Phillips in 1661 from the Abenaki Tribe. The 8 miles of land became known as Phillipstown and was settled in 1739.
In 1768, the name was changed from Phillipstown to Sanford after Peleg Sanford, a Rhode Island governor. Then, Sanford transformed into a mill and factory town shortly after the Civil War. The mills and factories produced many goods, including cotton and wool textiles — blankets, carpets, clothing, shoes, and more.
Sanford saw a boom in the late 1800s as the mills and factories drew in families looking for work. During this time, the town became more developed, and a library, hospital, airport, and town hall were erected.
While mills and factories closed after companies were sold to larger textile corporations, the city continued to remain relevant into the 20th century by welcoming biotech and manufacturing corporations.
Outdoor Things to Do in Sanford Maine
With so many outdoor things to do in Sanford Maine, it’s hard to decide where to go first. Whether you’re into water sports, baseball, hiking, golfing, bicycling, or swimming, there’s something for every interest. Check out these popular outdoor activities.
Sanford Mainers Baseball at Goodall Park
For the perfect summer family outing, catch a Sanford Mainers baseball game at Goodall Park. The Sanford Mainers are part of the New England Collegiate Baseball League and have been a mainstay in Sanford for over two decades.
Baseball legends like Babe Ruth and George Sisler have passed through Goodall Park over the years.
Games are reasonably priced at under $10 each and concessions are offered for those who bring their appetites. The season typically begins in early June, but check the website for an up-to-date schedule.
Pack a bottle of water and bug spray before you head to the Sanford Trails for a scenic walk or bicycle ride. The trails take you past the Mousam River and through downtown Sanford and the village of Springvale.
Your walk can be as challenging as you’d like, with flat boardwalks, paved bike paths, and rugged trails. As you travel along, you’ll notice historical markers and learn a little bit about the history of the Sanford-Spingvale area. The trails are free and open to the public year-round.
Pine Hollow Little Par 3 Golf Course
Open seasonally, the Pine Hollow Little Par 3 Golf Course is an 18-hole golf course situated on well-maintained grounds with both sunny and shaded areas.
Open April through October, weather permitting, the course is affordable and fun for everyone, from beginners to experienced golfers to children. The course has holes that range from 30 to 80 yards and include water hazards and grass bunkers to challenge all of their skills.
207 Water Ski School
The 207 Water Ski School is perfect for thrillseekers and those who love water sports. Offering one-hour, half-day, and full-day lessons, visitors can book a lesson to learn all about water skiing equipment, the boat, and how to water ski. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, check the site to schedule a lesson.
McDougal Orchards is a family-run farm offering apple picking and a bountiful farm stand. Pick-your-own apples is a popular activity at this farm with some busy weekends requiring reservations. The farm has over 40 varieties of apples, peaches, plums, pears, raspberries, pumpkins, and more.
The farmstand has delicious treats, like hand-pressed apple cider, apple cider donuts, local honey, jams and jelly, and maple syrup. There are wagon rides to the fields on weekends, and paying customers can enjoy a fairy village and corn maze. It’s a charming autumn destination for all things fall fun.
Southern Maine Aviation
Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to fly, or you’d like to sit back and enjoy a scenic airplane tour, Southern Maine Aviation will create a memorable experience from the air.
Scenic flights travel along the Southern Maine Coast to view popular Maine landmarks, such as Perkins Cove, the Nubble Lighthouse, and Goose Rocks Beach. The flights are one hour in length for up to three passengers.
If you’d prefer to fly the plane yourself, a Discovery Flight might be right for you. It is a 30-minute flight during which you learn to fly with an FAA-certified Flight Instructor. Open seven days a week, contact SMA to schedule a Scenic Flight or Discovery Flight.
Maine Attraction Water Ski
Maybe you don’t want to water ski yourself but would like to see others perform. Check out the Maine Attraction Water Ski Team.
Performing in the summertime, they’ve been doing entertaining water ski shows for over 20 years in the Sanford area. The shows are typically performed at Number One Pond and are free to the public.
Shaw’s Ridge Farm Mini Golf
At Shaw’s Ridge Farm, visitors can get ice cream, play mini golf, and attend an event in the BBQ barn — all in one location. This popular seasonal location is known for its challenging and fun mini-golf course.
It even offers Twilight Golf Under the Lights during the summer for a twist on your traditional daytime mini-golf experience. After a round of mini golf, stop by the ice cream stand or BBQ barn for some delicious treats and food.
Picnic at the Park
Sanford Maine has some beautifully landscaped parks that are perfect for scenic picnics. Stop by Gowen Memorial Park, which features picturesque stone walls, terraces, a gazebo, and a pond.
Gateway Park overlooks the Mousam River Dam and is ideal for taking pictures and enjoying the view from one of the park benches. Central Park is a smaller park located downtown with a few benches, and you can bring a blanket and set it on the grass for a nice picnicking spot.
Sanford Maine Indoor Things to Do
In Maine, you never know what the weather will bring, so it’s best to be prepared with some indoor entertainment options.
Sanford has plenty to keep the entire family entertained, from movies to arcades to bowling and shopping. Stop at one of these indoor venues when you need a break from all of the outdoor fun.
Smitty’s Cinema isn’t your typical movie theater and popcorn experience. At Smitty’s, arrive up to an hour ahead of your scheduled movie to enjoy a meal right in the theater.
Offering a menu with everything from nachos to steak tips, there’s something to please every palate. Traditional movie-going snacks are also available — popcorn, soda, and candy. Adults can enjoy a full bar of beer, wine, and mixed drinks too. The cinema even has dessert!
Seating in Smitty’s is comfortable with lounge chairs and long tables. Servers bring the food right to your table without interrupting the movie.
Smitty’s GameLAB is a one-stop family entertainment destination. Children and the young at heart will enjoy arcade games, virtual reality games, and air hockey. Throughout the year, this venue holds fun-themed events with dancing, DJs, and special menus.
Smitty’s has nine lanes of 10-pin bowling and is open seven days a week with fun glow-in-the-dark lanes and music. Bumpers are available for children or those who may need a little extra help with their game.
Catch your favorite sports teams playing on their numerous TVs, and order a beer and some appetizers — like wings — and burgers.
Bowl-a-Rama is a fun local hangout that offers candlepin bowling for all bowling abilities. On Friday nights, Glo-Bowl starts with glow-in-the-dark pins and dance music.
The bowling alley also has an arcade with games like Safari Buck Hunter, air hockey, and Deal or No Deal. You can win tickets in the arcade to redeem for prizes.
Louise B. Goodall Library
You don’t need a library card to visit the Louise B. Goodall Library. It’s open to the public and is a resource for visitors to the area. The reference desk can help with any local questions.
A library card is not required to access the internet, and Wi-Fi is free within the library. Browse local history resources — like Sanford High School yearbooks, town directories, and historical mill documents.
For children, the library has a broad collection to browse and programs throughout the year, such as storytimes.
Sanford-Springvale Historical Society
Sanford Maine residents are proud of their roots as a mill town. The Sanford-Springvale Historical Society is run by the Sanford Historical Committee and holds a collection of photographs, documents, artifacts, and other pieces of historical interest.
History buffs will love exploring the rich history of Sanford through the exhibits. Hours are limited, so be sure to check the website for the most up-to-date hours prior to visiting.
Sanford Massage & Wellness
Treat yourself to a day of relaxation at Sanford Massage & Wellness. The spa offers Swedish massage, stone massage, cupping, reiki, and more. A massage can help you relax and address any aches and pains. Call to book an appointment because the spa does not take walk-ins.
Marden’s Surplus & Salvage
Bargain shoppers should check out Marden’s Surplus & Salvage. This unique store has a huge variety of merchandise that changes daily.
Everything from clothes and shoes to food, overstock household goods, tools, and more are available. Locals love regularly stopping at Marden’s and seeing what kinds of deals they can find. The store is no-frills and merchandise is sourced from salvages, bankruptcy courts, and overstock centers.
Sanford Performing Arts Center
The Sanford Performing Arts Center features live music, dance, comedy shows, theater, and more. The theater has 860 seats and holds a diverse showcase of talent from the Portland Ballet to the Philadelphia Big Brass.
Holiday shows, such as the “Nutcracker,” and visiting symphonies are popular from November through December. Check the website for an updated listing of shows offered throughout the year.
Popular Restaurants in Sanford Maine
If you’re planning to visit Sanford, there are plenty of dining options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many local restaurants in Sanford have been around for decades, proving that they know how to make good food.
Meanwhile, newcomers on the scene offer unique dining options that can’t be found anywhere else. Check out these locations that have proved popular with Sanford residents and visitors alike.
Pilots Cove Cafe
Pilots Cove Cafe is an uncommon dining experience that’s entertaining for the whole family. The outdoor seating area is on the tarmac of the airport, so children will delight in seeing airplanes take off and land while they enjoy their meals.
Indoor seating is available for stormy weather days and for anyone who prefers to dine inside. The menu features a full bar, brunch, lunch, and dinner options with favorites like waffles, burgers, and sandwiches.
Lord’s Clam Box
A visit to Maine isn’t complete without a local seafood meal. At Lord’s Clam Box, you get a taste of the local fare by ordering from the freshest Maine-caught seafood menu in the area.
The restaurant is a casual experience and serves famous chowder, fried and steamed clams, and locally caught fish and lobster. The menu also features non-seafood options — like burgers, chicken, and hot dogs.
Third Alarm Diner
If you’re looking for somewhere fun to take someone special, check out Third Alarm Diner. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers indoor and outdoor seating (weather permitting).
What makes the diner a unique experience is its Third Alarm Adult Milkshakes. These milkshakes are available in seven flavors and infuse a typical milkshake with alcohol. Or, share a Third Alarm Rum Bucket, which is a special housemade alcoholic blend.
The food menu is moderately priced and has melts, sandwiches, pasta dishes, seafood, and steak dishes.
Shaw’s Ridge Farm
Every town has an ice cream place that locals flock to during warm weather. In Sanford Maine, that place is Shaw’s Ridge Farm. Open seasonally from May to October, Shaw’s Ridge Farm has been a local staple since 1922.
The ice cream menu features delicious concoctions like Grant’s Campfire S’mores, Grammy Shaw’s Original Coffee, and Salted Caramel Pretzel. Traditional flavors like Rum Raisin, Vanilla, Cookie Dough, and many more are also available.
Mel’s Raspberry Patch
For made-from-scratch, delicious breakfast and lunch fare, stop by Mel’s Raspberry Patch. This family restaurant serves fresh, homemade loaves of bread that you can take home to enjoy.
Mel’s homemade muffins and breakfast pastries are mouth-watering and made fresh daily. On top of all of the delicious pastries, you can dine in to enjoy breakfast and lunch options without breaking the bank.
Shain’s of Maine
A local staple, Shain’s of Maine gives diners a nostalgic feel with black and white checkered floors and wooden tables with bench seating.
Locals love the fresh Maine-sourced seafood — like fish and chips and lobster rolls. Children love the typical kids’ fare — like hot dogs and chicken tenders. For a treat that the whole family will enjoy, Shain’s has an ice cream menu with favorite flavors and toppings.
Back Street Sanford
If you’re looking for something fun to do in the evening, stop by Back Street Sanford. This restaurant has two levels of fun, creating different atmospheres that are perfect for dining with the family or taking a date for a laid-back night out.
The lower level is the main dining room where you can dine with the family and enjoy a signature dish — like Bacon Wrapped Scallops. Or, visit the upstairs Street Lounge with your sweetheart to listen to acoustic performances.
Comfortable Sanford Maine Hotels & Other Lodging
The best way to experience true Sanford Maine charm is to stay at a family-owned inn, residence, or campground. Locals know how to integrate the natural beauty and charm of Maine with safe and clean accommodations.
The Sanford Inn is located on Route 109 near all of Sanford’s attractions and other nearby York County attractions. This inn has no frills but offers clean, affordable guest rooms for visitors. The rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning.
Oakwood Inn Town Motel
The Oakwood Inn Town Motel is located in downtown Sanford Maine and is close to all area attractions. From this motel, visitors can walk to shops and restaurants. The rooms are affordable and offer a vintage vibe. Each features Wi-Fi, air conditioning, an in-room coffee maker, and a mini fridge.
Lakefront Home at Little Pond
If you prefer a private residence for your stay, browse the listings on VRBO — like this beautiful Lakefront Home at Little Pond. Great for large groups and families, private rentals like this offer a variety of amenities, clean accommodations, and dock access.
Sanford Maine vacation rentals are subject to change based on availability. So, check for the most up-to-date listings when planning a stay.
For campers, the Apache Campground has a traditional campground feel. It offers shaded camping sites, swimming and canoeing, an old-fashioned play structure, and more.
This campground isn’t for glamping but is a perfect home base for campers looking to be close to all of the local recreation. It’s affordable and offers all of the typical campground amenities and hookups.
FAQs About Things to Do in Sanford Maine
Is Sanford Maine truly a city?
Yes, Sanford Maine was incorporated as a city in 2013. Despite its title as a city, it has a small-town atmosphere.
Is Sanford Maine a walkable city?
Yes, it’s easy to walk around downtown Sanford Maine. While the city has many walking trails and a walkable downtown, you will need a car or other transport to get around the area. There is also a public transportation system.
What should I wear while visiting Sanford Maine?
Sanford Maine experiences different weather in all four seasons. Spring and fall can be unpredictable, with some days being warm and others being chilly, so dress in layers.
In the summer, opt for shorts or lightweight pants with short sleeves, but bring a light jacket or sweatshirt for cooler nights. In the winter, a heavy jacket, layers, gloves, and a hat are suggested because the days can be frigid and bring snow.
Is there a beach to visit in Sanford Maine?
Sanford Maine is a bit inland, so it does not have a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. However, it does have ponds where you can go canoeing and kayaking or enjoy other water sports.
Plan Your Itinerary of Things to Do in Sanford Maine
Now that you have the rundown on all things Sanford Maine, it’s time to get planning! Sanford is a wonderful family destination at any time of the year.
The rich historical buildings combined with the vibrant, more modern downtown brings the past and present together in a way that can only be experienced in person. Visitors will delight in the architecture, nostalgic diners, local seafood delicacies, and dreamy landscapes.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing and quiet getaway to unwind or a place where your kids can be entertained for days, Sanford Maine has something to delight every visitor.
And if you want to explore more of what the Southern Maine Coast has to offer, check out the area’s beaches and things to do in nearby towns and cities — such as The Berwicks, York Maine, and The Kennebunks.