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Welcome to Biddeford, Saco & Old Orchard Beach

Biddeford and Saco, off exit 32, were cotton and woolen mill towns for centuries, and today one of those massive mills has new life as the Pepperell Mill Campus a creative hub with residential, commercial, retail and community spaces. On the east side of the Saco River is a large tidal pool called Biddeford Pool surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches. Off exit 36, Old Orchard Beach—nicknamed OOB—is a fun-filled tourist magnet with a pier, amusement park, summer concerts, festivals, fortune tellers, t-shirt shops and a wide range of restaurants and takeout joints.

 

1. Old Orchard Beach & Palace Playland

Old Orchard Beach & Palace Playland. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

The Pier at Old Orchard Beach is one of the most iconic spots in Southern Maine—and one of the busiest in the summer. The seven-mile beach is the main attraction, and lifeguards are on duty in good weather. There are quieter spots along the beach, but being near the 500-foot pier means you can step off the beach for a few minutes and get some hand-squeezed lemonade, fried clams, pier fries or fried dough or even just catch some shade under the pier. In that same part of the beach, you’ll find Palace Playland, the only beachfront amusement park in New England. Nearby Old Orchard Street is lined with casual restaurants and gift shops. Parking lot rates vary, but are typically by the day. Public restrooms are available near Memorial Park (bring some loose change).

2. Funtown Splashtown USA

If the family is split between an amusement park or a water park, go for both at Funtown Splashtown USA on Route 1 in Saco. (funtownsplashtownusa.com)

3. OOB 365 Thrillin’ & Grillin’

A couple dozen professional barbecue teams compete at Aquaboggan Water Park (980 Portland Road, Saco) Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to represent Maine at the Jack Daniels National Championship in Tennessee. Aquaboggan has high-speed water slides, bumper boats, mini golf and a water playscape for kids. Bring your swimsuit and your appetite! (oob365.com)

4. Seaside Pavilion Summer Concerts

Seaside Pavilion. Courtesy photo

This covered pavilion a couple blocks from Old Orchard Beach has stadium seating open to ocean breezes and the scent of pine forest. Affiliated with the Salvation Army, Seaside Pavilion hosts an eclectic mix of concerts with a dual focus on oldies but goodies and the best in today’s Christian music. The August lineup includes classic rock ’n roll group The Diamonds (Aug. 6), The Guthrie Brothers Present “Scarborough Fair, a Simon and Garfunkel Experience” (Aug. 13) and worship and praise with Matthew West (Aug. 16). The pavilion is at 8 Sixth St., but parking is at Old Orchard Beach High School (40 E. Emerson Cummings Blvd.) with shuttles to the venue. (seasidepavilion.org)

5. Wood Island Lighthouse

Wood Island Light. Photo by Shannon Bryan

Southern Maine’s only island lighthouse open for public tours, Wood Island Lighthouse is a 15-minute boat ride from Biddeford Pool in Saco. Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, which has worked to restore and protect the structures there, will take you. Once you arrive on the 32-acre island, most of which is a bird sanctuary), you’ll walk half a mile on a wooden boardwalk to the lighthouse. Climb a spiral staircase up the 47-foot light tower for a spectacular view. To give a sense of how much history is in this place: The existing tower—the third one on the island—was built before the start of the Civil War. Tours run three days a week in July and August: Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. (Kids under 12 aren’t allowed up the light tower.) (Suggested donation—cash only—of $20 for adults, $10 per child; You must make a reservation online at woodislandlighthouse.org)

6. Blues Festival at the Ballpark

Blues fans lean back in their lawn chairs and enjoy five hours of live music at this family-friendly outdoor music festival Aug. 31, 16 p.m. (Gates open at noon.) Performers include NRBQ on Tap, Duke Robillard, Black Cat Road and Juke Joint Devils. No coolers, pets or outside food; there will be food vendors. The Ballpark is located at 7 Ballpark Way, Old Orchard Beach. (oobballpark.com)

7. Saco Drive-In

Double features under the stars have been a summer tradition here at 969 Portland Road in Saco since 1939. Gates open at 7 p.m. and shows start at dusk. There’s a snack shack in the middle of the lot. You’ll probably want to bring bug spray. ($15 for a carload of up to three people, $20 for a carload of four people or more; 207–286–3200; thesacodrivein.com)

8. Ferry Beach State Park

Ferry Beach State Park. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

Ferry Beach State Park, between Old Orchard Beach and Camp Ellis in Saco, has a beautiful sand beach and woodland trails with access to Saco Bay. The 100-acre park has a picnic area, guided nature programs, a nature center and changing rooms. Open daily 9 a.m. to sunset. Entrance to the park is off Bay View Road. Be prepared to pay a small entrance fee in cash. (207–283–0067)

9. Melanie DeMore Concert

Vocal activist Melanie DeMore, an accomplished songwriter, composer, choral conductor and one of the founding members of the Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, performs Aug. 10, 8–9:30 p.m. at Ferry Beach Retreat & Conference Center (5 Morris Ave., Saco). ($20 in advance; $25 at the door; 207–282–4489, ext. 1)

10. Biddeford-Saco Country Club

The Biddeford-Saco Country Club (101 Old Orchard Road, Saco) has offered some of the area’s best golfing since the early 1920s. The 18-hole course was designed by Donald Ross and features a clubhouse located in a refurbished farmhouse. In September, the club will host the 2019 New England Senior Amateur Championships. (207–282–5883 or biddefordsacocountryclub.com)

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