The renewed interest in preservation and merging Portland’s history with contemporary aspirations became much easier when the National Register of Historic Places added Commercial Street to its directory in 1974. Dotted with fishing wharfs and blanketed by culinary excellence, Commercial is the area you visit to relish a true taste of Maine. Old Port has everything from popular grab-and-go options to James Beard Award-winning chefs. As with many food-centric cities, Portland also has numerous locally grown or brewed options to make your taste buds shout “ahoy!” You can enjoy the newest craze in food art or experience the traditional shoreline Harbor Fish Market, which has been selling seafood and educating Portland for over 40 years. An Old Port classic, the Harbor Fish Market is a must for the seafood enthusiast. Ship some lobstahs back home or have your deepest, darkest fish questions answered at this Portland staple.
Be sure to check out a prime example of Portland’s coastal roots rendered through a twenty-first century lens with the uber-contemporary Ocean Gateway. Old Port’s newest attraction plays off of the area’s fishing history by jutting out into the cold ocean water like a ship’s bow breaking waves. Featuring floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking Casco Bay, Ocean Gateway is a definite show-stopper and perfect opportunity to add to your photo album.
Slightly off the wharf-lined Commercial Street farther into downtown, you’ll find a plethora of artistic and shopping distractions. The Portland Museum of Art is always sure to please with its abundant assortment of American, European and Contemporary art. Peppered with galleries throughout the neighborhood, downtown Portland has emerged as a small-city contender in the East Coast art scene. Be sure to browse through the kitschy boutiques and shops to find that perfect New England treasure. Many of the stores are settled into former shipping warehouses, complete with original architectural features. Ogle the late 1800s exposed brick walls and gasp at the beams towering above the funky mix of Portland trade. While downtown, take a stroll down memory lane in one of the old-time candy shops or ice cream parlors. Enjoy a chocolate-covered whoopie pie while people-watching at Boothby Square or revel in an old-fashioned ice cream cone as you watch the hardworking deck-hands slog through their catch, priming the night’s feast.