OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine - The mere mention of Old Orchard Beach evokes images of crowded arcades, sticky cotton candy, and sunburned children sprawled across the beach. But what happens in the fall? Turns out, this beach town has a good deal to offer when the vacationing families pack up and go home. Here, single friends can rent entire beach houses, gorge on lobsters, dominate nearby bowling alleys, and mingle in bars with the locals who emerge out of hiding. Easily stroll the miles of sandy beaches as New England welcomes its fabulous fall.
Lodging here is cheap and varied. Head to Echo Motel & Cottages
(8 Traynor St., www.echomotel.com
, 207-935-5174. Rooms start at $65 and ones with kitchenettes fetch $70) with friendly hosts, Leslie and Paul Puchalski. Echo, about half a mile from the pier, offers Wi-Fi, BBQs, and a pool. But a group of friends are best advised to pool their money and rent an oceanfront cottage that can accommodate up to 8 people. If you want a bit more attention and luxury, then check out Maine’s oldest resort inn, Old Orchard Beach Inn
, (6 Portland Ave., www.oldorchardbeachinn.com
, 207-934-5834. Rooms start at $89 during the “tranquil season’’ after Sept. 8. All boast their own private bath and feature options, including one or two double beds.). Located three minutes from the famous Old Orchard Beach Pier, the inn, built in the 1730s, features pinewood floors, antique furnishings, and period details.
Offering panoramic ocean-view dining, Joseph’s by the Sea
(55 West Grand Ave., www.josephsbythesea.com
, 207-934-5044. Entrees $18-$29.) features creative American and European fare, handcrafted desserts, and a garden patio. You will suffer entree envy if you do not get the baked stuffed lobster packed with scallops, parsley, garlic, and cracker crumbs. Or you can check out the casual Bua Thai
(194 Saco Ave., buathai-rest.com
, 207-937-3337. House specials $9.95-$12.95.). The spicy Thai basil noodles offer flavorful plump shrimp, and the yellow curry featured squash, potatoes, peppers, carrots, and pineapple. Do not leave without having the mango and sticky rice dessert.
During the day
Maybe it’s not warm enough to slip into your bathing suit, but the 7-mile stretch of beach is still the top attraction. Roll up your pants and walk down this oasis with gorgeous waves lapping at your feet. Bring picnic supplies and set up on the sand, or grab a drink at one of the few bars on the Pier open through the fall, like the Pier Patio Pub
or Hooligan’s Steak and Ale
). When you’ve had enough beach fun, take a 10-minute drive to nearby Saco for one of the coolest new additions in the area, Run of the Mill Public House & Brewery
(100 Main St., therunofthemill.net
, 207-571-9648). The brewery opened last year in an old mill building on the Saco River, and features 23 beers throughout the year with seven on tap at a time. If you’re lucky, you can watch Nate Duston brewing some batches through the open windows and get a quick tour of the underground maze of stainless steel tanks and brewing contraptions. Live music starts on Sunday afternoons at 5.
What would a trip to Old Orchard Beach be without some nighttime boozing and, of course, a mechanical bull? Welcome to Jimmy the Greek’s
(215 Saco Ave, www.jimmygreeks.com
, 207-934-7499), which features the town’s best karaoke on Friday nights and dancing on the aforementioned bovine on Saturday nights. The bar-club-restaurant has 120-plus beers with an impressive selection of international brews. For an evening without bulls, head to Vacationland Bowling Center
in nearby Saco, (812 Portland Road, www.vacationlandbowling.com
, 207-284-7386). You can still get your groove on with the center’s evening “glow bowling’’ which features candlepin bowling in a glow-in-the-dark dance club atmosphere featuring strobe lights, disco lights, and rope lights with rock tunes blaring over the sound system ($3.50 per game, plus $2 shoe rental).
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