Augusta, ME, the capital city of the Pine Tree State, is the cultural cornerstone of the Kennebec Valley. It is here that you can explore the ages of history at the Maine State Museum. At the museum, you can visit a three-story, water-powered lumber mill, or you can learn about Maine’s vibrant Native American history through the museum’s many artifacts and exhibits.
In 1754, residents’ safety necessitated the creation of a blockhouse, which still stands today at Old Fort Western. This is a must-see for all visitors! The fort is famous as the meeting point for Benedict Arnold’s failed march up the Kennebec River to Quebec, Canada, during the American Revolution in 1775-76.
Waterville, ME, is another of Maine’s centers of history and culture.
Also known as Elm City, due to the many elm trees the populate the area, this is where you can view great American art at the Colby Museum of Art and visit the turn-of-the-century Waterville Opera House for theater productions, concerts, dance performances, comedy, and more.
Waterville also takes great pride in its downtown area, home to seven structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As well, for those with an ear for music, the city hosts the month-long Atlantic Music Festival every summer, devoted to classical music and featuring internationally known musicians.
The quiet, riverside towns of Gardiner, ME, and Hallowell, ME, provide a particular glimpse into Maine’s past. Both communities feature historic downtowns rich in architectural history, with many period homes and buildings still standing, including the Oaklands, Johnson Hall, and the Laura Richards House, all in Gardiner, ME.
Many of the main routes and scenic byways throughout the area take you on a cultural journey, too. The Kennebec-Chaudiere Corridor (Route 201), which runs into Quebec, Canada, was the primary trading route of the Abenaki Tribe and a much-traveled path of European settlers. There are many interpretive signs and maps at various locations along this route.
For another taste of the theater, visit the Shakespearean Theater of Maine in Monmouth, ME, a year-round professional repertory company.
Some other regional cultural events to check out:
Maine’s Kennebec Valley is a natural wonderland. With spectacular scenic views, plenty of wildlife, and magnificent tracts of open space — more than 5,000 square miles — surrounded by whispering pines, camping may be the best way to experience the region. Numerous campgrounds and sports facilities cater to every level of experience and comfort, from the novice family looking to just getaway to the experienced enthusiast seeking another adventure. Pack your bags, and get ready for some outdoor fun!
There are plenty of recreational activities and attractions in Maine’s Kennebec Valley. Families are especially drawn to this area because of many opportunities to boat, fish, canoe, hike, or bike. Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers love the opportunity to get wet and wild on the rapids of the Kennebec River. The valley is also full of history and culture, coming to life through the architecture, restaurants, and numerous museums.
One of the outstanding aspects of Maine’s Kennebec Valley region is the proliferation of breweries and pubs. In almost every community, you can find a locally owned bar that features Maine-brewed beers and ales. Visitors and residents alike can enjoy nut ales, Oktoberfest lagers, and seasonal brews. These establishments also serve snacks like roasted peanuts and popcorn and a variety of menu items, from mile-high sandwiches to soups, chowders, and more. The Kennebec Valley is also home to several excellent winemakers, turning Maine-grown apples, pears, and maple syrup into award-winning wines and distilled spirits.
Grab a delicious meal at a local diner, complete with fast, friendly service. Local favorites always include specialty pizzas topped with everything from barbecue chicken to fresh Maine seafood, sandwiches named for local celebrities, and desserts equal to what Grandma used to bake.
If you and your family prefer healthier options, Maine’s Kennebec Valley is home to many small family farms and orchards. While traveling through the area, always look for farm stands selling locally grown products or places where you can pick your own fruit and vegetables.
No matter where you travel in Maine’s Kennebec Valley, seafood is always on the menu. Visitors can dine on amazing dishes at higher-end establishments, created by award-winning chefs. Try oysters on the half shell or littleneck clams as an appetizer, followed by amazing seafood paella or lobster stew. Or you can skip the seafood and let your taste buds travel around the world with Italian, Thai, Mexican, and other international dishes.
Remember to sample some of the Kennebec Valley’s signature dishes, too. The “whoopie pie” is the official snack of Maine. “Red snappers” (frankfurters with a bright red, natural casing) are the most popular type of hot dog in Maine and are commonly found at roadside food stands, as well as many diners throughout the area. Smother them in cheddar cheese, chili, and other mouthwatering toppings.
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