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Fairy Houses, Free Family Fun in Mackworth Island & Portland, Maine

photo: Michele Horne
photo: Michele Horne

Michele Horne of A Yummy Mommy shared a few of her favorite summer activities with her children in and around Portland, Maine.

One is for children age 8 and under. It is the Children’s Museum of Maine on Free Street. It is a great little trip for the younger kids with exhibits that include a dress up theater and play vet clinic. The first Friday of the month from 5-8pm is free admission. There is a parking garage on free street to park since street parking is limited.

The Children’s Museum is located right next to the Portland Museum of Art. So, if you have older children, you can go next door afterwards and enjoy some wonderful local art. They also participate in free Friday admission from 5-9pm. Take the family out for the evening to both places for absolutely free!

But my favorite spot to take my kids is The Desert of Maine. It is in Freeport, which is a few miles up the highway from Portland. It was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not since it is the only naturally occurring desert in the East. It was formed as a glacier went through during the last ice age. It is very  interesting to see Maine’s pine tress growing up through the sand dunes. Some trees have trunks that are buried 50 feet! They offer tours on tram rides through the desert to educate visitors on the desert. Although Maine never really gets very hot, the temperature in the middle of the dunes can get to 20 degrees higher than Freeport. Aside from the guided tour, you can hike around on your own and explore. They also offer a mini treasure hunt at the end of the tour where the kids can dig in the sand for gems of their very own to take home. Children can also get lessons on some sand art or watch sand artists at work. This is a really fun trip all around that both my 8 year old and 3 year old loved. They have bathrooms and sell snacks, although you should bring your own lunch for a nice picnic lunch. I would avoid going on windy days for obvious reasons! We will be going back again this year, for sure.

A great day trip north of Portland is Mackworth Island:
Mackworth Island Fairy Houses, Mackworth Island, Maine. Cost: FREE
This is great for a family that likes the outdoors, which includes hiking, the ocean and working with natural elements. It is perfect for 2-10 year old children. This is a great little adventure along the island shore, where you can stop and take a dip or have a picnic. When I say hike, I mean that term loosely. My 2 year old daughter was able walk the whole trail all by herself. The trails are very clean, there is plenty of parking, it is dog friendly (with a leash) and there are bathrooms. The full loop of the hike is 1.25 miles.
There are dozens of hidden ‘fairy houses’ built by the visitors of the island. We went in the morning and spent a few hours splashing in the cold Maine ocean and then snooping around the forest for the hidden fairy houses. Each of my girls then built 2 or 3 of their own. The only rules? You use components that you find in the woods, nothing man made. Make sure to bring your camera to capture their creativity!

There are a few books out there on Fairy Houses, which might be a nice little addition for the drive there. It would give your children a further sense of anticipation and excitement.

Another great FREE summer Maine activity is LL Beans Summer Concert Series.  They have everyone from Blues Traveler to Dan Zanes (Grammy Award winning children’s musician which my children love).

Michele Horne is the mother of 3 girls, Ages 7 months, 3 years and 8 years and lives in Concord, New Hampshire.  Check out her blog: A Yummy Mommy for more ideas in New England.

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