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Greetings Internet Stranger! Many tourists have their One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary during the summer. They like to kick back, relax, and become one with the lobsters. But even though Portland is small, it has many exciting cultural attractions, like the Portland Art Museum. So don’t just spend your time in Portland on the water! There’s fun to be had on dry land too, unless you are a mermaid.
Follow me for a One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary, and I’ll teach you about one of Portland’s most famous sons, give you a typically ridiculous docent tour of the Portland Art Museum, and finally take you to the best secret restaurant in Maine. You won’t want to miss an hour!
One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary
Where to Stay?
Did I mention that Portland was the second most expensive hotel city in the United States? So that means you really have to save your pennies if you want to afford a room in the city itself. Since I don’t drive, I really wanted a central location, and I also wanted a hotel that wouldn’t put me in the poorhouse.
That’s why I was thrilled to find the Portland Regency Hotel and Spa. Was it cheap? Absolutely not? Did it wipe out my travel budget so I could even afford one bite of lobster during my One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary? No, no it did not. And it was within walking distance of pretty much everything in the city, like the Portland Art Museum, so I could drink as much craft beer as I wanted and still get home safely. Can’t ask for more than that!
One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary
What to Pack
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in New England, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary
Morning: The Wadsworth-Longfellow House
One of the most famous people to ever live in Portland, Maine was Mr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His most famous poem was “Paul Revere’s Ride”, but he wrote many others. He was certainly the most famous and popular American poet of his day. So his home is the perfect place to start our One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary.
And we are in luck because we can actually go inside the Wadsworth-Longfellow House where he grew up! It’s only open for tourists during the summer months, but why would you be visiting Portland outside the summer, Internet Stranger? Do you just delight in being contrary?
Once you buy your ticket, one of the helpful docents will let you inside the house. There you will be presented with much more than…
three fun facts: henry wadsworth longfellow
1) why was longfellow so famous?
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Maine claim to fame was his long, historical poems. Aside from “Paul Revere’s Ride”, he also wrote Hiawatha, Evangeline, and “The Courtship of Miles Standish”. The docent at the house told me that Longfellow was such a popular poet, he actually invented a woman’s name. Evangeline wasn’t a real name until Longfellow used it in a poem, and then it really took off. Longfellow was really a guy who knew how to make fetch happen.
The coolest artifact is the house is Longfellow’s own writing desk, on which he wrote his famouse poetry. You can’t sit in the desk, but the docent will be happy to take your picture standing next to it. Longfellow was passionate about having his personal space just so when he was writing. When he left home, his mother rearranged his writing nook and he wrote her an extremely dramatic letter about how it had killed his love for writing. I hope Longfellow took good care of his mother after he got successful, to thank her for putting up with this nonsense.
2) was longfellow famous for anything else?
Longfellow was also a master linguist. He was the first American who translated The Divine Comedy from Italian into English. But according to the docent, Longfellow didn’t always have such a proficiency for languages.
When Longfellow was a young man, he was hired to teach modern language at the prestigious Bowdoin College in Maine. This meant that he was supposed to speak several languages other than English. Unfortunately for Longfellow, he didn’t know any of them. So he took a trip to Europe where he learned French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German without really stepping foot inside a classroom. Learning about Longfellow is starting to make me feel like I’ve literally accomplished nothing in my life.
3) was longfellow the only one to live in the house?
No. The house belonged to his mother’s family, and Longfellow had seven siblings. So even though he grew up in the house, he didn’t own it as an adult. The last person in the family to live in the house was Longfellow’s sister Anne.
Anne Longfellow Pierce married a lawyer. I know it’s hard to be sad when a lawyer dies, but it was most tragic for Anne when her husband died just a few years later of an Olde Tyme disease. So she moved back in to this home with her parents. She never remarried and dedicated herself to making crafts and helping to care for her jillion nieces and nephews.
Anne spent most of the Quality Aunt time with her brother Stephen’s children. Stephen was a hot mess whose wife divorced him for being a drunk and an adulterer. And that was back in 1850, when a man really had to be doing terrible things for his wife to divorce him. Stephen must have been the 19th century equivalent of Michael Fassbender in Shame.
24 Hours in Portland, Maine
Afternoon: Portland Art Museum
Now that I’ve become the first person to discuss Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shame in the same blog post, it’s time to move to our next destination of our One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary: the Portland Art Museum. The Portland Art Museum claims to be the 7th oldest museum in the United States.
Considering Portland is such a small city, the Portland Art Museum has an impressively large collection. You can easily spend several hours here, and if it’s a nice day, the Sculpture Garden is the perfect place to soak up the Maine sunshine. Opening times and admissions change, so check their website for the most up to date information.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get down to…
approximately top 5: portland art museum
1) highroller lobster company
I can’t allow you to go to the Portland Art Museum on an empty stomach! So before the art, let’s get some lunch. Like so many things, the Highroller Lobster Company started life as a cart. But it proved to be so successful that they were able to turn the business into a brick and mortar store. There’s always a bit of a wait here, but it is worth it.
The specialty at the Highroller Lobster Company is the fresh lobster roll served on a warm brioche bun. But I wanted to try something funkier, so I got the lobster taco in a cheese crust. It was mischievously spicy, with lime and jalapeno sauces. So delicious and so hard to eat!! I got cheese and jalapeno sauce all over my chin.
Good thing there were plenty of napkins because they don’t let you in the Portland Art Museum if you are covered in taco crumbs. Not even if it’s lobster taco.
2) mt desert island ice cream
One more snack before we hit the Portland Art Museum? I can never say no to you, Internet Stranger! Mt Desert Island Ice Cream is a shop that specializes in wacky flavors. They started in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the company really took off when the Obamas stopped in to have ice cream. So they decided to open up shop in Portland.
I strongly urge you to not just get chocolate or vanilla here unless you are truly committed to being a boring person. I recommend the Butterbeer (butterscotch + root beer) to any and all Harry Potter fans. But I was also tempted by the White Russian-flavored ice cream known as The Dude. Whatever flavor you try, I’m sure you’ll abide by it.
3) wreck of the dt sheridan
All right, our tummies are full and it’s finally time to enter the Portland Art Museum. Nothing can be more appropriate here than focusing on art that depicts the sea. The painting above is American artist Rockwell Kent’s depiction of the wreck of the DT Sheridan, which was a real boat that actually sank. It’s intriguing how calm the sea, sky, and birds look now that the storm is over, even though there was a devastating fog that wrecked the ship. The birds are perched so peacefully on the shipwreck. They don’t even give a what.
The moral of this painting is that birds don’t care when humans die. They’ll come for us all one day. Hitchcock warned us, but we didn’t listen.
4) winslow homer
Winslow Homer is one of the best-known artists in the Portland Museum of Art. This makes sense because Homer spent a good portion of his life in Maine, even though he wasn’t born there. The Portland Museum of Art even owns the Winslow Homer Studio, his old home in Prouts Neck, Maine. You can visit it through tours that leave from the Portland Art Museum.
This painting above, “Weatherbeaten”, was painted at Prouts Neck by Winslow Homer’s Studio. So in a way, it’s advertising for the Portland Art Museum tours of the studio. “Weatherbeaten” is basically the opposite of “The Wreck of the DT Sheridan” because there’s a storm, and there’s neither boat nor birds. (Unless the birds are lurking in the background, waiting to strike.)
Much of the art I saw at the Portland Museum of Art was American. But here we have “Confidences”, by a Frenchie named Renoir. (Yes, that Renoir.) My audioguide told me that there are clues that this young lady is a courtesan, also known as a highly paid sex worker. Some of these clues include that she is with a man unchaperoned even though she doesn’t wear a wedding ring, the fact that you can see her pink shoes, and the little white dog in the corner.
So I guess pink shoes and a little white dog were the 19th century French equivalent of thigh-high boots and fishnets? I feel like Pretty Woman would have been a very different movie if Julia Roberts had been wearing this outfit when Richard Gere met her.
6) dark harbor fishermen
Next to Winslow Homer, the artists most associated with Maine are the Wyeths. Andrew Wyeth was extremely famous in his own right, but I’ve chosen to talk about this painting by Andrew’s father, N.C. Wyeth. It’s called “Dark Harbor Fishermen”. The title of this painting sounds ominous even though the waters and fishermen are peaceful. But things won’t stay peaceful for long. The birds are waiting and watching. They always are.
PS. N.C. Wyeth’s full name was Newell Convers Wyatt, and I don’t know why he shortened it. If my name were Newell Convers Wyatt, I would insist on everyone in my life calling me by my full name at all times.
7) mclellan house
This adorable house used to house the entire Portland Museum of Art, but now the museum is much too big to be contained within its walls. However, you can still explore the McLellan House. It’s included with the price of admission to the museum.
My favorite feature of the house is this floating staircase. I’ve never seen one like it before. It truly seems to be suspended in mid-air. But wait! Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s secretly being held up by a group of evil birds waiting to crash the staircase when you start to walk up. That’s why I didn’t head up these stairs. Better safe than sorry.
One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary
Late Afternoon: Soakology
After all that art and history, you’ll probably be a little tired. So let’s stop for a relaxation break at Soakology. This place is one of the most genius business ideas I’ve ever heard. Here you can have a foot soak and drink tea at the same time. What could be more relaxing? Just be sure to make a reservation in advance for your One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary because they fill up quickly.
I opted for the salt soak. They leave you alone during the soak, but they refill your water as many times as you need. Plus you get a hot pack for your back. Bring a book or a friend, put your feet in the water, and let your troubles melt away!
One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at David’s Opus Ten
I promised you a secret restaurant, didn’t I, Internet Stranger. And I always keep my promises. David’s Opus Ten is a secret restaurant inside David’s Restaurant. David’s Opus Ten is only open for 40 nights a year, during the summer. If you’re in Portland when David’s Opus Ten is available, you have to try it. David himself prepares a tasting menu using the best ingredients from the farmer’s market that day. So you never know what you will get. It’s the perfect place to end our One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary.
If you’re not in Portland when David’s Opus Ten is around, I’m sure you’ll have a great dinner at David’s Restaurant. But if you are…get ready for a treat with…
approximately top 5: david’s opus ten
1) lobster boudin
Only in Maine can you eat lobster twice in one day and have it be NBD. The lobster boudin was served with scallop mousse, ricotta and corn porridge, anise cream, and pickled cabbage and peppers. The pickles added a needed crunch to this soft dish. It sort of reminded me of an Extremely Not Kosher gefilte fish. (Shellfish is definitely treyf.)
Let’s remember that lobster is not the only fish in the sea, even in Maine. The next course was Atlantic cod. This dish was full of summertime flavors: succotash, parsnip puree, and minted pea sauce. I always think of minted pea sauce as something to serve with lamb. But why not serve it with cod? Pescatarians deserve mint sauce too.
3) coup du milieu
One thing that makes a David’s Opus Ten tasting menu unique is he serves a coup du milieu, or refreshing cocktail, in the middle of the dinner. I had seen this before because some restaurants in New Orleans do a coup du milieu. (We never need an excuse to drink in New Orleans.)
This cocktail was just as summery as everything else on the menu: peach, lime, and mint sorbet served with frozen spiced rum. I felt like a pirate on spring break when I was drinking it.
The coup du milieu cleared the way for the more substantial courses. Up first we have quail served with gnocchi, mushrooms, foie gras, and Madeira jus. It was as rich as the cod dish had been light. And you’ll never hear me complain about having lobster and foie gras in the same meal.
I did feel a little guilty at this point in the meal, though. Not because of the calories, but because the couple next to me called the little potato dumplings in this dish G-Nocki instead of pronouncing it “nyoh-ki” and I giggled a bit. But all foodies have to start somewhere. Good on them for trying a tasting menu when they don’t know what gnocchi is.
The final Maine course was Magret duck with bacon, risotto, and plum and ginger gastrique. This was a simple and delicious way to finish out the meal. There wasn’t a lot of bells and whistles, just a perfectly cooked duck. And though duck is often served with fruit, I appreciated the inventive plum and ginger sauce instead of a more typical orange or cherry.
The final course is a mouthful: pistachio-almond dacquoise (a type of nut meringue), blueberry curd, poached pear, mascarpone, burnt orange cookies, and mint. And thus the Most High Law of the State of Maine was fulfilled because we were served lobster and blueberries in the same meal. The burnt orange cookies were my favorite part of the dish, as they absolutely melted in my mouth.
But I was also excited about the blueberry curd. I had experienced all manner of citrus curd, but never blueberry. Oh, I just love finding new ways to eat curd!
That’s a Perfect One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary
What would you do with a One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary? How terrible a husband did you have to be for your wife to leave you in 1850? And when the birds come for you, will you be ready? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY enjoy a One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary. If you have time for another One Day in Portland Maine Itinerary, try this one.