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. Biddeford Mills Museum Tours
If you’re interested in Biddeford’s history as a mill town, take a 2-hour walking tour of the Pepperell Mill Campus, some of which dates back to 1845. The water power tunnels were built in 1837. Tours include discussion of technology, products, war efforts, immigration, community impact, worldwide prominence and cultural diversity. Tours are Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m. to noon, through Oct. 12. Register in advance by calling Heart of Biddeford. ($15 adults, $12 seniors 65+, $10 students under 18; 207–284–8520)
2. River Jam Festival
The Biddeford-Saco area celebrates the arts and the Saco River with this two-day event hosted by Heart of Biddeford and Engine. The fun starts on Sept. 20 Main Street Biddeford with live music, art vendors, roving performers and Pie Luck, a potluck of pies, from 5 p.m. until the pie runs out. You can work off that pie Sept. 21 with a 5K, kayak races (4-mile recreational and 8-mile competitive) or canoeing on the Saco River with Rumery’s Boat Yard. The 2-hour River Jam charter boat tours have sold out in advance the past couple of years, so book early. For a makers’ market and kids’ activities, head to Mechanics Park (Water St., Biddeford), from noon to 4 p.m., followed by live music 4–7 p.m. behind Run of the Mill (100 Main St., Biddeford). Check event website for locations and parking ideas. (riverjamfest.com)
3. 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. The club is hosting the 2019 New England Senior Amateur Championships Sept. 16–18. (207–282–5883 or biddefordsacocountryclub.com)
4. 60 Miles for Milestone
This fundraiser is a police-escorted feet-up motorcycle ride through Southern Maine to support Milestone Recovery, which helps Mainers dealing with addiction recovery and homelessness. After the ride, enjoy an afternoon barbecue with great food, live music, and compelling speakers at Biddeford-Saco Elks Lodge (68 Ocean Park Road, Saco). Don’t ride? Just come for the party. (milestone-recovery.org/events/60-miles-2019)
5. Biddeford Pool
This spectacular natural tidal pool is about 6 miles southeast of downtown Biddeford (3 miles from Kennebunkport) on Route 208, which turns into Mile Stretch Road. Pack up for the beach and make a day of it.
6. Old Orchard Beach
The Pier at Old Orchard Beach is one of the most iconic spots in Southern Maine. The seven-mile beach is the main attraction, but being near the 500-foot pier means you can step off the beach for 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 (rides run only through Labor Day, but the arcade is open Friday nights and weekends through September). Nearby Old Orchard Street is lined with casual restaurants, gift shops and candy shops. Parking lot rates vary, but are typically by the day. Bring some loose change for the public restrooms near Memorial Park.
7. Old Orchard Beach Classic Car Show
Classic car lovers will want to be at Old Orchard Beach the weekend of Sept. 13–14. The annual car show sponsored by the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce and Saco & Biddeford Savings starts Friday with a preview lineup at 1 p.m. and a car parade with police escort in the early evening. The fun continues Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with a variety of vehicles and prizes offered in several categories. There’s no admission charge—just enjoy a regular day in downtown Old Orchard Beach but with classic cars taking center stage. (1 Old Orchard St.)
8. Monkey Trunks
Monkey around on the zipline tour and adventure course—over 2,300 feet of ziplines—at Monkey Trunks, just five minutes from Old Orchard Beach off Route 1 in Saco in the woods surrounding Cascade Falls. Open every weekend through October. (603–367–4427; monkeytrunks.com)
9. Saco Drive-In
Double features under the stars have been a summer tradition at Saco-Drive (969 Portland Road, 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)
10. Ferry Beach State Park
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)