This Charming Small City in Maine Is the State's Best-kept Secret

Bangor, Maine, is home to a picturesque waterfront, delicious craft beer, and more.

Bangor Waterfront in Maine
Photo: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

There was a time not too long ago when the only association Bangor, Maine, had was with its famous hometown author Stephen King.

While it's easy to swing by King's West Broadway home (which will soon serve as a museum and writer's retreat) or book a proper SK Tour, the central Maine destination is also a place for travelers seeking good food, local beer, and a blossoming music and arts scene without the crowds.

Plus, because of its spot on the map, the small city lets visitors dip into the local culture, while also easily taking day trips to the coast or mountains.

"Bangor is the ultimate base camp for visitors who want to taste, smell, and feel all that Maine offers," says author and retired police lieutenant Tim Cotton.

So, if you're planning a trip to Maine, here's how to fill your time in Bangor.

Restaurants in Bangor, Maine

Where to eat in downtown Bangor, Maine
Courtesy of Visit Maine

Geaghan's: Locals love the wings with the Reserve sauce from this Irish spot, but it's also a brewery, known for its tasty craft beer.

Utopia: With a charming courtyard entrance that takes diners to another place, Utopia is an excellent pick for those whose tastebuds also want to be transported. This Mediterranean spot serves food with authentic flavors and locally sourced ingredients. The craft cocktail menu also matches the kitchen's creativity.

Frank's Bake Shop: A stop at Frank's Bake Shop — a mainstay in the local community for decades — will satisfy all sugar cravings. Even if dessert isn't your thing, Frank's has sandwiches served on their freshly baked bread. Gluten-free options are also available.

Where to Drink in Bangor, Maine

Where to drink in downtown Bangor, Maine
Courtesy of Visit Maine

Paddy Murphy's: In addition to offering live music and a sampling of the area's craft beer selection, Paddy's is the place to mingle with locals as it draws in quite a few regulars.

Nocturnem Draft Haus: Come for the carefully selected tap selections, stay for the jazz music, old-school vinyl night, or whatever entertainment is scheduled for the evening.

Happy Endings: While Bangor is big on craft beer, this martini and dessert bar goes beyond the pint. Speciality cocktails and bites accompany a sophisticated and cozy atmosphere.

Things to Do in Bangor, Maine

Arcade games at Queen City Cinema Club in Bangor, Maine
Courtesy of Queen City Cinema Club

Queen City Cinema Club: Dark and quirky, this place takes visitors back to a simpler time when film, board games, and arcade tickets were the ultimate way to spend a day. Rent a private theater and geek out to almost any title you can imagine. Plus, the food is tasty — don't expect your average pizza, popcorn, and pretzel theater menu. Instead, the venue offers fare like mushroom ceviche, fried green tomatoes, and unique hot sandwiches.

The Briar Patch: Support a local bookstore when you visit The Briar Patch, which houses both Maine authors and bestsellers. The store also partners with the Bangor Public Library to host author talks, so check out the schedule while in town.

The Rock and Art Shop: A something-for-everyone kind of place, this shop sells rocks and art like its name suggests, as well as unique toys, gifts, succulents, funny greeting cards, posters, and other fun items.

Maine Discovery Museum: Three floors of interactive, hands-on exhibits with daily visits from snakes and other creatures make this location ideal for families. Kids will also love the arts and crafts time, during which they can take home a souvenir of their own.

Om Land Yoga: This is a spacious studio with a peaceful vibe and kind teachers who help everyone feel comfortable with their practice. Mats are available to rent, and drop-in classes can be booked online.

Where to Stay Bangor, Maine

There are several chain hotels in Bangor, but for the best proximity to the downtown area, Airbnb may be the best the way to go. This particular rental has a rooftop deck and is within walking distance to plenty of restaurants and shops.

Where to Get Outside in Bangor, Maine

Downtown, aerial view of Bangor, Maine
DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

City Forest: On the outskirts of town, Bangor's City Forest is an easy break from all the eating, drinking, and doing that can come with exploring a new place. With several trail options, your walk through the trees can be as long or short as you like.

Bangor Waterfront: A paved walkway runs along the Penobscot River, passing food trucks and sculptures along the way. In the summer months, visitors might even hear music coming from the restaurant patios or a nearby concert at the Maine Savings Amphitheater.

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