Calling All Train and Car Freaks
Founded in 1939, the Seashore Trolley Museum (195 Log Cabin Rd., Kennebunkport; 207/967-2712; trolleymuseum.org) has the largest collection of electric-railway vehicles in the country—more than 250— and you can actually ride (and even drive) a few of them. With 1½ miles of working track winding across 350 acres, the STM is essentially a life-size model-train set.
At the Wells Auto Museum (Rte. 1, Wells; 207/646-9064), you can’t drive the 1904 Stanley Steamer, ’49 Dodge convertible, or exotic motorcycles, but you can play more than 30 antique nickelodeon machines.
Where to Lose the Crowds
Out past the Kittery headlands, on Gerrish Island, Fort Foster (Pocahontas Rd., Kittery Point; 207/439-3800) is an 88-acre town park—with a naval bunker as its centerpiece—that only townspeople seem to know about. Along the rocky shore you’ll find lively tide pools; there are also hillside picnic tables and barbecue grills, and kids can clamber around the remnants of the fort itself.
Continue exploring at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (Rte. 9, Wells; 207/646-9226; rachel carson.fws.gov), an epic expanse of salt marsh and pine forest. Follow the mile-long walk and be on the lookout for snowy egrets, Cooper’s hawks, and ring-necked pheasants.
As if one preserve weren’t enough for a single town, the Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm (342 Laudholm Farm Rd., Wells; 207/646-1555; wellsreserve.org) has an even more extensive network of trails, snaking through seven miles of woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. At its week day camp, junior researchers investigate the marsh from a floating lab.
The Place Your Kids Will Love Best
At York’s Short Sands Beach, the surf is secondary to the thrills beyond the parking lot: a riotous village filled with fake-tattoo parlors, a candlepin bowling lane, and seashell emporiums. (For better or worse, the gleefully tacky nightclubs, where I once tested my fake ID, are now closed)
If you have time or tolerance for only a couple of stops, begin at the Goldenrod (2 Railroad Ave., York Beach; 207/363-2621; lunch for four $25), which has been charming not just children since 1896. Why?Because there’s a (now antique) taffy machine, hypnotically twisting and churning in the front window; a marble soda fountain; and an A-to-Z collection of penny candy. For your finale, head straight to the old-time Fun-O-Rama arcade (7 Beach St., Short Sands Beach), on a rickety boardwalk beside the shore. You’ll find an encylopedic array of video games, Skee-Ball ramps, and fortune-teller machines that have been absorbing the soggy dollar bills of area kids for decades.