We did it. An 8 hour car trip. In a rented mini van. And, that was one of the highlights (for me, at least.) Which just goes to show where the bar was set for our recent trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. We had BIG expectations, I'll say that from the get go. Everyone raves about Bar Harbor as one of their favorite places ever, so I went in assuming it was going to be all easy hiking trails, cool breezes and lobsters falling from the sky. And while it is a really cool town to visit, for us, it was a little tough. Here is why...
1- My mom was renting a house nearby. (Sorry, mom!) My mom is amazing to us- and our girls ADORE her- but family trips with little kid are stressful enough, and add trying to make a grandparent happy into the mix, and the stress level skyrockets. We felt like we should be with her every day, but also felt like we wanted to go at our own (judgement-free) pace too. So, there was that.
2- The weather was unusually HOT. Like, the hottest days they can recall having in Bar Harbor, ever. We were melting- physically first, then mentally- as it tends to go.
3- We are not, by nature, an outdoorsy adventuresome crew. Goldie's legs are like 5 inches long, and Alexa's patience for hot weather and any activity that doesn't involve slime is slim to none. So hiking just wasn't happening. Nor was exploring the beaches. Nor was walking more than 4 blocks.
4- Our hotel left MUCH to be desired. We stayed at the Harborside Hotel, which is located in the best spot- right along the water, steps from the sand bar (which is why they call it Bar Harbor, now it all makes sense) that pops up to walk and play on in low tide each day. However, aside from the location, it doesn't have much going for it. Our room was dusty and gross (there was a piece of old lettuce shriveled on the floor when we arrived), the pull out couch had springs popping out everywhere, and the staff was surly at best. I could go on, but, well, in the interest of glass half full- location, location, location. BUT- when you don't feel comfy in a hotel (especially when traveling with kids), it does affect the trip.
Despite the little hiccups as outlined above, we did have moments of laughter, joy and lots of delicious lobster. So, let me give equal time to our favorite Bar Harbor highlights so you can bookmark the good alongside the the "eh":
1- First, the food. We LOVED Stewman's Lobster Pound and ate there twice. At first we were skeptical because it was located right in the center of tourist trap zone, almost too conveniently located to be good. But when I realized it was one of the Bar Harbor picks that Eva Martino shared on her blog (which is one of my daily reads) Happily Eva After I instantly felt okay about it. Her taste is impeccable on all things- and she has been going to Bar Harbor with her family for years and years. For breakfast, 2 Cats is cozy and delicious- the strawberry butter alone is worth the walk. And Jordan's Diner- a famous local spot for blueberry pancakes- is the quintessential timeless greasy spoon- and I love me a greasy spoon. One night we went to Isleford Dock Restaurant- which is a 30 minute water taxi from Northeast Harbor- and the food was insanely good. The service was insanely rude (maybe they were having an off-night, not sure) but the grilled caesar salad, Asian ribs and lemon cake were delicious. And the kids were restless by this point (it was the last night of our trip) so the fact that there was a little boardwalk they could run around on was helpful too.
2- Diver Ed's Dive In Theater is A MUST. And I am rarely entertained by kid's "shows". Ed and his wife take you out on this rickety dive boat from which he jumps into the water with a camera attached to him, and we see in real time what he sees via a big screen tv hooked up in the front of the boat. He is silly and sarcastic and smart- a winning combo for parents and kids alike.
3- Timber Tina's Great Maine Lumberjack Show - like Ed, Tina is engaging and funny and makes the show somehow educational while still being really entertaining. But- don't forget your bug spray. You will need it! This is a great evening activity- eat at Smokey's first en route. It is about 5 minutes from the show venue, you can play cornhole while you wait for your food, and they play great motown and southern rock music over the outdoor speakers.
4- Pit Stops. On the way up, we stopped for lunch in Pittsfield, Maine at a place called Vittles. We sort of went as a joke- the name made us giggle and we were a little loopy from the ride and thought it would be fun to go super local. The food, you guys... SO GOOD. The chef is legit- read the details on their site- and every single thing is made from scratch. Random, yes- but an essential stop along the way should you ever be passing through. On the way home, we did an overnight pit stop in Portland, Maine and it was amazing- I wanted to stay longer. Brian saw it was called Bon Appetit's Restaurant City of the Year, which inspired the spontaneous sleepover. Our hotel there- The Portland Harbor Hotel- was perfect- clean, modern, with a super friendly staff and a pull-out sofa you could actually (gasp!) sleep on. We had the best dinner at Fore Street- and could have walked the cute cobblestone streets for block and blocks (the ultimate compliment from my crew.).
Feel free to leave links to any favorite Bar Harbor spots in the comments- we will surely be back for many summers to come (determined, to quote "Clueless", to "make fetch happen", especially since my mom loves it there and plans to go again next summer for 3 months), and always looking to up the experience...