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Maine Cities Feature Arts, Entertainment, Outdoor Activities

Attractions and distinctive destinations in Maine's major population centers contribute to the state's high quality of life.

By John Fuller on December 10, 2014

A mix of new developments and existing amenities contribute to Maine’s high quality of life, making it easy to understand why the state continues to appeal to young professionals, families and retirees.

Bangor Experiences an Evolution

After two decades of renovations and revitalization efforts, the Bangor waterfront has emerged as a top spot for recreation and entertainment. The area, formerly filled with neglected warehouses, now features trails, open spaces, concerts and events.

Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, an open-air amphitheater on the banks of the Penobscot River, hosts concerts from big-name artists during the summer months. The Bangor Waterfront is also home to the American Folk Festival, an annual event that takes place at the end of August. Drawing more than 80,000 visitors each year, the three-day festival features musicians and dancers from around the world, arts and crafts, and food vendors.

In nearby Bass Park, the $65 million Cross Insurance Center opened in 2013 and replaced the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center. The venue includes an 8,000-seat arena that has hosted top acts including James Taylor, Bill Cosby and John Fogerty, and its convention center can accommodate as many as 2,000 guests and 260 exhibit booths.

“We have become an entertainment destination unlike many others,” says Jason Bird, community and economic development officer for the City of Bangor. “The quality of arts and entertainment sets Bangor apart from other cities in Maine and across the country.”

With a mission to connect young area professionals and newcomers, FUSION:Bangor is also contributing to the city’s changing landscape. The networking group, a Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce program, introduced Fusion Sports in 2013, which consists of a kickball league in the fall and a dodgeball league in the spring. According to FUSION:Bangor Chair Jaclyn Fish, more than 300 people have participated each season.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” says Fish, who also serves as an AVP/consumer banking administration officer at Bangor Savings Bank. “It’s a way to connect residents of all ages, and it’s not a typical after-hours event.”

As it has evolved, Bangor has also become a desirable retirement destination. The city made Forbes’ list of The 25 Best Places to Retire in 2013 due to factors like low crime rate and reasonable cost of living.

“There’s a reason why Bangor keeps getting listed as a great place to retire,” Bird says. “Retirees have access to great health care and enjoy a great quality of life.”

Culture and Recreation Across the State

In addition to Bangor, communities throughout Maine are rolling out revitalized attractions and continue to offer distinctive destinations.

In 2014, Portland made Time magazine’s list of nine cities that are “getting it right,” and it’s not hard to see why. The city includes a growing downtown arts district that features popular attractions like the Portland Museum of Art and Merrill Auditorium, as well as new loft-style condominiums. In addition, Portland’s Old Port warehouse district has recently been revitalized to offer shops, restaurants and nightlife destinations. Nearby, South Portland is known for its beaches and lighthouses, as well as water activities like fishing and boating.

Located in the center of the state, the Augusta-Waterville region is home to the Maine State Museum, Colby Museum of Art and the Waterville Opera House, where a $4.5 million renovation was recently completed. The area also lays claim to a sizable portion of the $4 million, 40-mile Kennebec Messalonskee Trails network, including the Colby College Campus Trails and the Waterville Connector Trail.

Lewiston and Auburn, known as the “twin cities,” make up the second-largest community in Maine. The area hosts the Great Falls Balloon Festival – one of New England’s largest balloon festivals – as well as the Dempsey Challenge, a fundraiser for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, located in the celebrity’s hometown of Lewiston.

The coastal city of Rockland has hundreds of inlets and harbors, making it ideal for sailing and boating. Rockland also features the Maine Lighthouse Museum and Farnsworth Art Museum, which showcases works created by many of America’s most popular artists.

Find the best places for water recreation in Maine.

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