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
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. Aquaboggan Water Park
When you’ve had enough of the Atlantic, try the wave pool at Aquaboggan Water Park on Route 1 in Saco. They’ve got high-speed water slides, bumper boats, mini golf and a water playscape for kids. (aquabogganwaterpark.com)
3. 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)
4. Seaside Pavilion Summer Concerts
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. There’s a free July 4 concert with the Don Campbell Band at 6 p.m. The oldies lineup in July includes: Studio Two: The Beatles Before America (July 9); Chicago 9 Tribute Band (July 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. The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach
When you root, root, root for the home team here, you’ll be rooting for the Old Orchard Beach Surge, a minor league baseball team that plays in the independent Empire Professional Baseball League. The season runs through mid-August. 7 Ballpark Way, Old Orchard Beach. (oobsurgebaseball.com)
6. 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. Rates are $15 for a carload of up to three people and $20 for a carload of four people or more. There’s an affordable snack shack in the middle of the lot. Bring bug spray. (207–286–3200; thesacodrivein.com.
7. 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)
8. Greek Festival
St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church (186 Bradley St., Saco) hosts one big fat Greek festival, July 19–21, with Greek music and traditional dancing as well as tours of the sanctuary, decorated in icons written in Greece and shipped to Maine. But it’s pretty clear that what draws more than 6,000 people to this church fair annually is the delicious food. Bring cash and a hearty appetite, and don’t leave without a to-go box from the pastry ladies. The festival is Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (stdemetriosofmaine.com)
9. Biddeford-Saco Country Club
Since the early 1920s, the Biddeford-Saco Country Club (101 Old Orchard Road, Saco) has offered some of the area’s best golfing. The 18-hole course was designed by Donald Ross and features a clubhouse located in a refurbished farmhouse. In September, this club will host the 2019 New England Senior Amateur Championships. The club is open to the public. (207–282–5883 or biddefordsacocountryclub.com)
10. Maine Sunflower Festival
Stroll through acres of sunflowers, take a hayride to pick your own sunflowers, visit farm animals, play on a jumping pillow and enjoy live music at the first Maine Sunflower Festival, starting July 26 at Pumpkin Valley Farm (100 Union Falls Road) in Dayton, just east of Biddeford. $10 per person on weekdays ($8 for seniors and kids), $12 on weekends ($10 for seniors and kids). (mainesunflowerfestival.com)