Escape to Maine for an experience you can only have this time of year. From winter sports to holiday shopping, each of these unique adventures ends with the secure promise of a Vacationland pint — practically worth the trip alone. These destinations are under a three-hour drive from Boston (with the exception of Acadia, which is a bit more of a hike), making them perfect for a weekend getaway.
Ski in Oxford
The Oxbow Beer Garden in Oxford, Maine, occupies a renovated 200-year-old barn at the trailhead of an impressive system of Nordic cross-country skiways. Utilize these trails with your own gear or by renting equipment onsite from nonprofit Portland Gear Hub. After, enjoy wood-fired pizza featuring estate-grown ingredients paired with Oxbow Brewing’s sought-after farmhouse beers, like Alpha Minor, a saison brewed in collaboration with Seattle’s Holy Mountain Brewing. On the way there or back, seek out one-of-a-kind holiday gifts at Maine’s largest flea market, the Willows, or the Christmas Fair at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village — the only active Shaker community in the world.
Shop in Freeport
Speaking of seasonal consumerism, a December trip to Freeport’s bustling shopping center means the L.L. Bean’s Northern Lights experience will be in full swing. Once you’ve taken a spin around the ice rink and met Santa’s reindeer, retire to nearby Maine Beer Company for a satisfying pint of hoppy Peeper pale ale while you watch the production team practice their craft through floor-to-ceiling glass windows separating the taproom from the brewhouse.
Hike in Acadia
Winter in Acadia — New England’s only national park — is pure magic. Prepping for a cold weather hike requires planning ahead with gear like walking poles and crampons, but the extra effort is worth it when you experience the signature rocky coast draped in white, or observe the park’s snowy owls in their natural habitat. After a guided ice climb of Otter Cliff, stroll through downtown Bar Harbor — which seriously decks the halls for the season — and post up at Atlantic Brewing’s Midtown location to sample a flight of small-batch beers from the brewery’s pilot project.
Snowshoe in Norway
Once the snowshoe manufacturing capital of the world, Norway, Maine, holds an annual Snowshoe Festival at Roberts Farm Preserve each February. Hustle through a 2k, 5k, or 10k snowshoe race, compete for prizes from “most creative” to “most historic” in the snowshoe fashion parade, and get the whole family involved in a slew of snowshoe games like musical chairs and a three-legged-race. Then, mosey up the road to Norway Brewing Company — a festival sponsor — to warm up with a pint of Mr. Grumpypants stout, featuring local Blue Ox malt, Maine Grains oats, and an Ethiopian light roast from Coffee By Design. Pair with the house poutine: twice-fried hand-cut Maine potatoes loaded with Pineland Farms cheese curds, Mr. Grumpypants beer gravy, scallions, and pickled onions.