With rich history and a flourishing local arts community, Maine has always been a destination for fascinating cultural institutions.
From centuries-old homes in York (the nation’s first chartered city in 1641) to modern urban art sanctuaries in Portland, Cliff House is set amidst some of the best – including the two southernmost stops on the Maine Art Museum Trail.
Portland Museum of Art; Photo: Erin Little
The brick arches of the Portland Museum of Art are one of the most recognizable features of the city’s arts district. Named among the top museums in Maine, the enclave houses a collection of more than 18,000 American and European artworks from Andy Warhol to Claude Monet, as well as a curated series of lectures and films. After a recent reimagining, the museum – with more than 100 years of history – offers a new experience for even longtime visitors.
Salem Witch Museum; Photo: Robert Deschene
This museum may not be in Maine, but at just an hour’s drive from Cliff House and offering a spectacular recreation of the Salem witch trials, it is well worth the drive. At the Salem Witch Museum, visitors can become witnesses to the historic events of 1692, in which 20 innocent people were put to death. Thirteen life-size stage sets and narration bring the trials to life, and the following exhibit, Witches: Evolving Perceptions, showcases the history of witchcraft from the time of the trials to present day.
Photo: Old York
In the heart of York Village, the Old York Historical Society takes visitors back in time to explore the history, architecture, and art of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century York. You can walk through nine maintained historic buildings, beginning with The Old Gaol, the nation’s oldest royal prison, and continuing through Jefferd’s Tavern, the Old Schoolhouse, Remick Barn, John Hancock Wharf, George Marshall Store, and several period homes.
Photo: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum
On the Eastern Promenade of Casco Bay, a working train follows a two-foot gauge railway for 1.5 miles along the waterfront. Hop in an open-air or closed car and enjoy Portland’s diverse scenery while the crew provides information about the railway. Then peruse the accompanying museum, where you will find historic rail cars and exhibits related to the railway’s history. (And during the winter season, the Polar Express event is a must for families.)
*Open May 1 – October 31, 2017
Victoria Mansion; Photo: J. David Bohl
A landmark in the city of Portland, the nineteenth-century Victoria Mansion provides a glimpse into another era with its Italian architecture and elaborate original interiors. Designed by architect Henry Austin and interior designer Gustave Herter, the home is called the most important expression of the Italian villa style in American domestic architecture.
*Open May 1 – October 31, 2017 and during the Christmas season
Just steps from the beaches of Ogunquit, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art offers a fascinating indoor and outdoor experience. Renowned Maine artists such as modernist painter Marsden Hartley are showcased inside, while lush gardens bordering the shoreline feature an extensive collection of sculptures. Considered to be one of the best museums in Maine, the OMAA is the only museum in the state devoted exclusively to American art.
*Open May 1 – October 31, 2017
Photo: International Cryptozoology Museum
Yetis, lake monsters, sea serpents, and the infamous Bigfoot are highlights at the world’s only cryptozoology museum. Recognized by TIME magazine as one of the weirdest museums in the world, the space showcases species that remain unverified by science as well as recently discovered animals like the okapi. More than five decades of field research translate into exhibits filled with rare zoological specimens and homages to folk traditions.
Featured Photo: Erin Little; Portland Museum of Art