Tucked away in the northeast corner of the country, Maine can seem like an imposing and even desolate place during the winter months.
While the state is almost always blanketed in several feet of snow, and the harsh New England winds can force you to bundle up to survive the elements, you might be surprised to find that there are many wonderful Maine winter things to do.
From popular outdoor activities — skiing, snowboarding, and ice fishing — to cozy indoor escapes that protect you from the cold, there are so many activities to enjoy throughout the entire winter in Maine. These are just a few fun winter activities to get you started on your winter bucket list.
Visit the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum
Located on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum is the best indoor winter activity to enjoy in Maine. While you may be able to escape the elements of a New England winter, you can still immerse yourself in the beauty of the Arctic.
The museum boasts a collection of more than 41,000 artifacts, including photographs, videos, and objects. There are rotating exhibits on display in the museum, giving people an opportunity to enjoy a new and exciting experience every time they visit.
Note: The museum is closed for winter 2022 while it moves to the John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies.
Embark on a Winter Lighthouse Tour
Maine’s majestic lighthouses are some of the most popular tourist attractions in the summer, and they are certainly wonderful to explore when the warm sun is glittering over the ocean.
However, there’s nothing like seeing these towering beauties against the snow-covered shorelines and icy cold waters. Some of the lighthouses that you may want to see for yourself during the winter include:
- Cape Neddick Light in York
- Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth in Portland
- Burnt Coat Harbor Island Light on Swan’s Island
In addition to touring the lighthouses and capturing the scenery, you may find walking trails on the grounds of these lighthouses that are accessible during the winter months.
Go Ice Skating on an Outdoor Rink
If there’s one benefit to the frosty temperatures throughout the winter months in Maine, it’s that the outdoor ice rinks are almost always frozen and ready for use. From figure skating to pond hockey, you are sure to find hours of enjoyment as you glide along these rinks.
One of the most popular outdoor ice rinks in Maine is Thompson’s Point in Portland. This massive ice rink stretches for more than 10,000 square feet, and it is conveniently located underneath an open-air pavilion.
With warming huts and hot chocolate vendors everywhere you turn, you’ll quickly see why everyone loves to go skating here.
Try Your Hand at Dog Sledding
The idea of dog sledding might conjure up images of the Iditarod, which takes place hundreds of thousands of miles away in Alaska. However, there are a surprising number of dog sledding opportunities in Maine.
Guided experiences, such as the ones offered by Dogsled Maine and the Ultimate Dog Sledding Experience, are a wonderful option for those who want to experience the thrill of dog sledding in a safe and enjoyable way.
Enjoy Cross Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
Maine is home to miles upon miles of recreational trails that are perfect for skiing and snowshoeing during the winter. Cross-country skiing — or Nordic skiing to locals — is one of the most popular outdoor winter activities in the state.
Avid skiers will find that the best trails are at the Nordic Centers, which feature both rugged and groomed trails. Many of the cross-country ski trails can be used for snowshoeing as well, allowing you to select the activity that you enjoy the most.
See If You Have What It Takes to Become a Toboggan Champion
Interested competitors are invited to form a team and design a sled before they race down the toboggan track at the Camden Snow Bowl. Teams of two, three, and four people are able to compete in hopes of becoming the next national champions in this famed wintertime sport.
And while you’re in Camden for the Toboggan Championships, don’t miss out on all the fun winter activities in Camden Hills State Park!
Experience the Wonder of Gardens Aglow in Boothbay Harbor
This annual event takes place each year from the middle of November until late December, and it has become a beloved tradition among locals in Boothbay Harbor and the visitors who come to witness its beauty each year.
The highlight of the display is being able to walk along the winding trail that weaves through the various gardens and discover the light features that are created from more than 750,000 brilliant LED lights.
Start Your New Year With the Penguin Plunge
The holiday season concludes each year in Boothbay Harbor with the Penguin Plunge when hundreds of community members dive into the icy cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a good cause.
This annual event takes place on New Year’s Day and is coordinated by the local Boothbay YMCA. Interested participants are invited to register in advance and show up on the first day of the new year to refresh themselves in an extremely memorable way.
All proceeds from the event are used to fund free swim lessons for young children in the community, so those who dare to take on this challenge can feel good about the hard work and effort that they put in.
Find Your New Favorite Book at a Local Maine Bookstore
If you would rather spend your winter relaxing inside with a good book, then you are in luck. Maine is home to dozens of local bookshops, where you can find the just-right novel for snowy winter afternoons. Some bookstores to visit in Maine this winter include:
- The Maine Bookhouse in Oxford — This bookstore is located in a yellow farmhouse, so you can’t miss it. Once you are here, you can browse more than 13,000 titles until you find the one you are looking for.
- Print: A Bookstore in Portland — This vibrant bookstore in downtown Portland Maine invites children and adults to come in and make a selection. In addition to having hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from, it hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
Sip on Hot Cocoa at a Local Coffee Shop
Whether you are in a bustling city like Portland or a charming small town, you will quickly discover that local coffee shops are on nearly every corner, serving up frothy, sweet hot cocoa.
While you can’t go wrong with nearly any cup of hot chocolate offered at a Maine coffee shop, you would be remiss if you didn’t make a trip to the Choco-Latte Cafe in Bar Harbor. It’s one of the best places to warm up after a day of exploring Acadia National Park, and it is known for its hot chocolate menu.
At this tiny cafe, you can choose from house-made hot chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate with a perfect blend of spices, spicy Mexican hot chocolate that packs a punch, and smooth white hot chocolate.
Experience the Annual Ice Harvest
Ice harvesting was a traditional part of Maine winters in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the annual ice harvest continues to take place each year in South Bristol, a small village along the southern Atlantic Coast of Maine.
The Thompson Ice House Harvesting Museum performs a historical reenactment of the ice harvest, giving visitors an opportunity to witness what was required to harvest and preserve the ice that formed in the region each year.
The date of the annual ice harvest varies based on the year and the conditions, but it often takes place in mid to late February.
Warm Your Spirit at a Local Maine Restaurant
When the cold winter winds get to be a bit too much, you can head inside to a cozy and welcoming local Maine restaurant where you are sure to find refreshing beverages, delicious meals, and plenty of fresh seafood. Some of the best local restaurants in Maine include:
- Hugo’s of Portland — A fine dining restaurant located in the heart of the Old Port District.
- Boathouse in Kennebunkport — This local restaurant offers riverfront views of the Kennebunkport River.
- Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn — This hidden gem can be found inside a charming bed and breakfast in Camden and offers a rotating menu based on seasonal selections.
Head to the Slopes for Some Downhill Skiing
Maine is one of the best destinations in the country for downhill skiing, and visitors from across the state and all over the country come to New England during the winter to enjoy those prime conditions.
Three of the largest ski resorts in the state include Sunday River, Saddleback Mountain, and Sugarloaf. But, visitors will find that many ski resorts in Maine offer a variety of experiences for people of all ages and skill levels.
Participate in the Maine Tradition of Night Skiing
If you are heading to Maine this winter for skiing, take a run at night. Night skiing is a rite of passage in Maine, and many resorts offer lighted hills, such as Lost Valley and Spruce Mountain resorts.
Downhill night skiing is a unique opportunity, and the many resorts that offer it are making skiing a more accessible and accommodating sport. With the availability of night skiing, even locals who are working during the week have the chance to ski their worries away in the evening.
Celebrate the Birthday of Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a famed American poet who lived in Maine throughout the 19th century, and the state is exceedingly proud of his legacy.
The town of Brunswick comes together each year to celebrate his birthday throughout the entire month of February, and visitors can learn more about the life and work of Longfellow by touring his home, viewing films about his life, and attending birthday celebrations that take place throughout the town.
There are even literary-themed church services to attend in his honor.
Experience Carnaval ME in Portland
Once known as Winterfest, Carnaval ME is a reimagined winter celebration of fire and ice that takes place annually in the city of Portland.
Visitors will find that it has all of the elements of a well-crafted festival, including delicious food vendors, live music performances, sporting competitions, and family-friendly activities designed for the youngest attendees. Carnaval ME takes place each year toward the end of February.
Delight Your Taste Buds with a Fresh Lobster Dinner
Fresh lobster is always on the menu in Maine, and winter is an excellent time to indulge in this savory seafood delight.
Whether you are looking to grab a lobster roll from one of Maine’s famed lobster shacks or you want to sit down to a gourmet lobster dinner at a fine dining restaurant, you are sure to find what you are looking for in nearly any town in Maine.
Explore Acadia National Park During the Peaceful Winter Season
Over the year, more than 2 million people head to Acadia National Park to witness its breathtaking beauty — but the vast majority of those visitors come during the summer.
For a private and personal experience, consider visiting Acadia during the winter, when you are likely to only find local Mainers exploring the snow-filled trails. During wintertime in Acadia, you will see that the expansive, rugged landscape is covered in snow, offering a perspective unlike any other.
Some popular winter activities in Acadia National Park include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along the trails. If you would rather enjoy the view from the comfort of your vehicle, you will find that many of the scenic drives offer unparalleled views of ice formations.
Discover Fat Tire Biking During the Maine Winter
Biking doesn’t sound like something you can do during an icy, long winter in Maine, but with the fat tire biking trend taking hold across the state, there’s a whole new world of possibilities.
Fat tire bikes have massive wheels with solid treads, allowing you to maneuver the bikes easily along snow-covered trails. Some of the state’s most popular fat tire biking trails can be found at Carter’s Cross Country Ski Centers in Bethel and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.
Spend a Day Learning at the Museums in Portland
Portland is the state’s epicenter of art and culture, and it is known for its many, world-renowned museums. One of the best ways to pass a chilly winter day in Maine is to explore the various exhibits at some of the city’s most popular museums. Some of the best museums in Portland include:
- Tate House Museum
- Portland Museum of Art
- Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine
Indulge Your Nostalgia on a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
Winter is the perfect time of year to relax and reflect on a simpler era, which is why horse-drawn sleigh rides throughout Maine are so appealing.
Many farms in Maine give visitors the opportunity to glide along the snowy paths on a classic horse-drawn sleigh. For example, you can embark on one-hour sleigh rides around Gorransen Farm that include a warm and toasty blanket, carols, and authentic jingle bells.
Take Advantage of the Storm-Watching Trend
The Atlantic Coast of Maine can experience some ungodly winter storms, and the act of simply sitting back in a warm room with a great view to witness their power has become a treasured activity in Maine.
Many hotels and bed and breakfasts in Northern Maine advertise their perfect storm-watching accommodations, so grab a room and sit back to watch Mother Nature unleash its power.
Get Everything You Need for Winter at the Original L.L. Bean Store
L.L. Bean has long been known as the place to go to get the best winter outfitting gear, but many people do not realize that its original location — and current flagship store — is located in Freeport Maine.
Whether you are planning to spend the weekend on the slopes or exploring the rugged coast, you can get everything you need to stay safe and warm here.
Watch the Water Sparkle During Portland’s Parade of Lights
Portland’s Parade of Lights is a holiday celebration unlike any other in the area. Rather than parading through the streets, this December event invites boaters to decorate their vessels and cruise along the waterfront to the delight of hundreds of people watching from the shore.
The event typically takes place each year in the middle of December and can be experienced from waterfront restaurants, shoreline streets, and other popular locales in downtown Portland.
Go Goat Hiking Through the Snow
Perhaps one of the most surprising winter activities that you can enjoy in Maine is goat hiking. Goat hiking is essentially exactly what it sounds like — a hiking adventure along a snowy trail with your favorite four-legged animal walking alongside you.
In addition to spending some time with bleating goats, you will learn about goat farming in Maine and the various goat products that are made from goat’s milk.
Lead an Alpaca Along a Snowy Trail
For another immersive animal experience in Maine, consider a guided alpaca trail walk. These guided walks invite visitors to learn more about alpacas as they walk along a peaceful trail.
The walks typically last about an hour, and during that time, you will get to pet, feed, and simply enjoy the company of alpacas.
Discover Local Products at a Winter Farmers’ Market in Maine
While it seems like there is a farmer’s market in every town during the summer months, it can be more difficult to find fresh, locally-grown produce and handmade products during the winter season.
Fortunately, there are several winter farmer’s markets in Maine that you can shop at, and they often include unique vendors and items that are not available during other times of the year. Some of the most popular winter farmer’s markets include:
- Augusta Winter Farmers’ Market
- Belfast Winter Farmers’ Market
- Lewiston Winter Market
- Portland Winter Farmers’ Market
Indulge in Winter Glamping Experiences
When people mention winter camping, you might immediately think of shivering in a freezing tent while dressed in every piece of winter gear that you own.
However, you can find several luxury glamping experiences in Maine that allow you to enjoy the unparalleled natural beauty of the state while still relaxing in splendor.
One popular winter glamping location is Maine Forest Yurts in Durham, which boasts spacious yurts that are both heated and furnished.
See the Stars at the Southworth Planetarium
Located on the campus of the University of Southern Maine Portland, the Southworth Planetarium is the perfect place to experience the breathtaking beauty of the vast night sky during winter in Maine without having to brave the elements. This planetarium puts on a variety of shows and experiences throughout the winter.
Find the Best Deals at the Outlet Stores
The Kittery Outlets in Kittery are one of the largest outlet malls in the state. With more than 100 stores to browse, you are sure to be able to find great deals for everyone on your holiday shopping list this year.
Shopping at these outlets is an experience that both residents and visitors enjoy during the cold winter months. Plus, there are many more Maine shopping experiences.
Start Planning Your Itinerary of Maine Winter Things to Do
Wintertime in Maine starts early and lasts well into March and April. With so many things to do during this season, though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s a time for discovery, exploring, comfort, and joy. And while it’s an ideal time for locals to enjoy their hometowns, it’s also the perfect season for visitors to explore this winter wonderland.