Well, our vacation is officially over and as we're headed down the highway back to New York, I've decided to compile my fave five highlights of our trip to Maine. Thanks to my friend Jennie at Baby Name Wizard , I was armed and ready with her family's favorite things to do in Bar Harbor and I have to say, Jennie was right on the money. So this list will include a few of Jennie's picks sprinkled in with our fave finds. Take a look...
1. Watching the sun set on Cadillac Mountain. One of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen in my life was the afternoon we drove through Acadia National Park and parked at the top of Cadillac Mountain. The views are incredible and the kids had fun climbing the rocks as we looked out over the water and watched the sun go down over the mountains. The colors are amazing - only suggestion - dress warm! Once the sun disappears, the temperature drops at least 15 degrees.
2. Diver Ed's Dive in Theater - This made Jennie's kids' top list and it does top my son's favorite adventure. If you and you're family are in the mood to be entertained by a guy who seems to be a cross between Jim Belushi and Zach Galifianakis ("The Hangover"), then I highly recommend this trip. Diver Ed, his wife, mini Ed (a preskool figure that takes a beating from sea creatures), Evil Ed, his nephew and two New Foundland dogs that demonstrate how to properly wear a life vest, offer an action packed underwater tour. No worries - the passengers don't participate in the dive (the water is way too cold), but Diver Ed jumps in three times a day along with a hi-tech video camera and a bag where he captures the activity under the seas and catches a few sea creatures that he brings back on board so that the kids can touch, carry and play. The only request - don't squeeze the animals! The tour lasts two hours and it's well worth the trip - even in the rain!
3. Jordan Pond Nature Trails & the Jordan Pond House - If you're up for a hike that's not that strenuous and ends in a meal or popovers overlooking Jordan Pond, then this is the excursion for you. Jordan Pond Restaurant can get busy so be prepared to wait or if you're impatient like us, buy a Popover mix in the gift shop and make them when you get home. The trail we took led us along the pond - giving us ample time to take frequent breaks where the kids sat on the rocks and my daughter accidentally stepped in the water with one of her converse sneakers - not a particularly fun moment for her but she survived.
4. Listen to the Waves at Thunder Hole - Another must see in Acadia National Park - where the water crashes into rocks made of granite and the sound that erupts bears a striking resemblance to thunder - hence the name. There are also places to climb although if you have a fear of heights, I'd say opt for the Jordan Pond excursion and hold onto the railing while you watch the waves.
5. Take a Walk to Bar Island During Low Tide - This was totally cool - in the morning, the entire area is covered in water and by late afternoon, the sand bar is exposed so that pedestrians, cars and dogs can walk across to Bar Island. The kids can cruise for shells and crabs while you take a lazy walk along the beach. But make sure you head back before the tide rolls back in or else you'll be swimming back to your hotel!
6. Whale & Puffin Watch, Nature Cruise or Lobster and Seal Watch - The Whale Watch takes the longest and fills up first and can also be tough for people with weak stomachs so I suggest the Lobster fishing and Seal Watching excursion that only lasts 90 minutes. Your kids will get the chance to touch sea creatures (like Diver Ed's adventure but not as funny) and you can get some great photos of seals. And they don't go too far out to see so the ride is pretty smooth.
7. Best Breakfast - Michelle's Bistro - There are a few breakfast joints in Bar Har including Jeannie's (there's always a wait) and Testa's, but our favorite by far was Michelle's Bistro - located in an Inn near some cute shops (my fave was the store that was full of Suncatchers). We sat outside on a deck, enjoyed blueberry pancakes, omelets, french toast and more and the service was fabulous. And the kids loved Rosie - the proprietor's fluffy dog.
8. Best food and fun for Adults & Kids - Geddy's - It took a few tries for us to get into Geddy's but once we did, we understood why there's always a wait. They have tons of lobsters, towers of nachos, fried seafood galore and friendly waiters who take your picture and put it on their website. Plus, the placemats for the kids rock. Trust me when I tell you they'll be coloring throughout dinner and once they're done, they can present their finished product to the gift shop and win a prize (some beads and tchotchkes from a treasure chest). We also loved Geddy's Down Under - the gift shop where the kids picked up cool sweat shirts and my husband got a rain coat for a steal (less than $30).
9. Blueberry Mojitos at the Harborside - This summer, it's been all about blueberries and since Maine is known for them, I had to try out all the alcoholic beverages featuring this incredibly healthy fruit! While Stewman's - the lobster restaurant next door offers a blueberry martini, the best blueberry beverage on the island goes to the Harborside which offers blueberry mojitos by the pool - in a word, delicious!!!
10. Best Ice Cream - Ben & Bills - Within 24 hours of arriving in Bar Harbor, we discovered Ben & Bills - where they make their own ice cream and fudge and the line loops out the door every night. In fact, they even sell lobster ice cream - which we tried - the kids didn't care for it much but instead, opted for the chocolate tsunami (chocolate, marshmallow, oreos and more) in a sugar cone and I went for the sugar free blueberry ice cream in a wafer cone. Just beware - while you're deciding what to order, the wait staff is constantly shuffling you down the line - it can get a bit off putting when you're trying to make a decision but I guess that's how they keep the patrons coming in fast and furious. I also found out that USA Today just selected Ben & Bill's as the best ice cream parlor in Maine and as an ice cream afficionado, I knew my senses were right on target!
A few more picks include Stewman's Lobster Pound which was visited by the Obama's this summer (they've got a sign to prove it), the amazing Italian restaurant at the Harborside where you get to create your own pasta dish and the Bar Harbor Club where we received a host of spa treatments - from a facial, to massage, a dip in the jacuzzi and a manicure.
Have you been to Maine? If so, share your top picks and stories!