Used to being a capital
Its history put down the roots for a friendly, busy town
BANGOR — Just a few blocks from the banks of the Penobscot River, a gigantic statue of Paul Bunyan welcomes visitors to what was the lumber capital of the world in the 1850s. Now the anchor city for the northern three quarters of Maine, with a population over 31,000 and a friendly, welcoming vibe, Bangor feels more like just a big town.
Right over the bridge, but within walking distance of downtown, The Fiddlehead Inn (5 E. East Summer St., Brewer, 888-983-4466, www.fiddleheadinn.com, $105-$125, with breakfast) is a meticulously renovated Victorian home with two guest rooms sharing one bathroom. Six miles north of downtown is Nonesuch Farm Bed and Breakfast (59 Hudson Road, 207-942-3631, www.bangorsfirstbedandbreakfast.com, winter rates $90-$125, with breakfast), an 1855 farmhouse and working farm, with cross-country skiing in the adjacent woodlands. Hedge your bets at Hollywood Slots (500 Main St., 877-779-7771, www.hollywoodslots.com, $130-$190), a downtown hotel with casino. Close to the University of Maine campus is the Black Bear Inn (4 Godfrey Drive, Orono, 207-866-7120, www.blackbearinnorono.com, $100-$275, with breakfast), where children under age 12 stay free with an adult.
Brother Kent and Brother Donald bake divine breads along with sinful whoopie pies and make scrumptious soups and sandwiches at Friars Bakehouse (21 Central St., 207-947-3770). Seasonally appropriate comfort foods with pizzazz are the served at Fiddlehead (84 Hammond St., 207-942-3336, www.thefiddleheadrestaurant.com, $13-$21), a downtown restaurant with a cozy, neighborhood feel. Massimo Ranni, a native of Rome, creates authentic fare at Massimo’s Cucina Italiana (96 Hammond St., 207-945-5600, www.massimoscucinaitaliana.com, $10-$25). The mother-daughters team at Market/Bistro (735 Main St., 207-941-9594, www.marketbistrobangor.com, $9-$28) prepares entrees ranging from rustic pizzas to osso buco. Thistles (175 Exchange St., 207-945-5480, www.thistlesrestaurant.com, $16-$28) serves creative continental entrees with a Latin flair, plus excellent homemade breads and desserts. Everything is prepared to order at Bahaar Pakistani Restaurant (23 Hammond St., 207-945-5979), with most choices around $10. Insiders give the nod to Yoshi Japanese Restaurant (373 Wilson St., Brewer, 207-989-9688, www.yoshi09brewerme.com, entrees start around $10) for the region’s best sushi.
During the day
Among the significant works in the collection at The University of Maine Museum of Art (Norumbega Hall, 40 Harlow St., 207-561-3350, www.umma.umaine.edu, Mon-Sat 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., free) are pieces by John Marin, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, and Alex Katz. Interactive exhibits encourage creative play at The Maine Discovery Museum (74 Main St., 207-262-7200, www.mainediscoverymuseum.org, Tue-Sat 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m., Sun noon-5, $7.50). Now for something different, the Bangor Water District’s Thomas Hill Standpipe (207-947-4516, www.bangorwater.org), a 1.75-million-gallon, riveted-steel water tower and observatory, is listed as both a National Historic Landmark and American Water Landmark. Four times annually, visitors can climb the interior staircase circling to the crown of the 1897 tower; next tour is from 2-5 p.m. on March 16. Explore nine miles of trails in 680-acre Bangor City Forest (Tripp Drive or Kittridge Road, 207-992-4514, cityforest.bangorinfo.com) on skis, snowshoes, or foot. Architecture fans will find an impressive collection of Victorian, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Greek Revival homes. Of special note is horror master Stephen King’s turreted mansion on West Broadway. Look for the wrought-iron front gate and fence festooned with iron bats and cobwebs.
In the evening
The city’s professional theater company, Penobscot Theatre Company (131 Main St., 207-942-3333, www.penobscottheatre.org), performs in the 1920 Bangor Opera House. Luna Bar & Grill (49 Park St., 207-990-2233, www.lunabarandgrill.net) has live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The next Bangor Artwalk (www.downtownartscollaborative.org) is March 18. Within easy striking distance is the Orono campus of the University of Maine (207-581-1110, www.umaine.edu), home to the Collins Center for the Arts (800-622-8499, www.collinscenterforthearts.com), staging live performances year round, including concerts by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra (800-639-3221, www.bangorsymphony.com), and housing the Hudson Museum (www.umaine.edu/hudsonmuseum, free), which focuses on traditional and contemporary world cultures. Campus is home, too, for the UMaine Black Bears teams (800-756-8326, www.goblackbears.com).
Hilary Nangle can be reached at www.hilarynangle.com.