10 free things to do or see on Maui: No. 4 farmers markets


Note: I’m posting two of these freebies a week through Feb. 13, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Links to other posts at end.

Maui’s more than a dozen farmers markets means you can find fresh produce and homemade goods every day of the week somewhere on the island.

You’ll find farmers markets in tourist towns like Kihei and hamlets like Makawao, but they’re all open on different days with different hours. The Maui County Farm Bureau and so does the Hawaii Tourism Authority have lists of some of them, with their location and hours. Here are some standouts:

Farmers Market of Maui-Kihei, 61 South Kihei Road, Kihei: In addition to fresh papaya and pineapple all year, a commercial kitchen whips up fresh guacamole, pineapple salsa and papaya seed dressing.

Upcountry Farmers Market, Kula Malu Town Center, Pukalani: It offers homemade banana bread to fresh fish to passion fruit butter from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. You’ll also find flowers, honey, fruit preserves, bread, kombucha tea, prepared foods and live music.

Hana Fresh, between mile markers 34 and 35 on the Hana Highway, just north of Hana: This farmers market at the Hana Medical Center offers certified organic vegetables, fruits and herbs plus baked goods. There’s a picnic area and a café, which serves breakfast and lunch using fresh ingredients from a 7-acre farm. Hana Health operates the stand and farm as part of its prevent care program. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Kula Country Farms, 6240 Kula Highway at Kekaulike Avenue, Kula: This fourth-generation farm and stand is famous for its strawberries. You also can pick your own strawberries and pumpkins (seasonally). It’s open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.

Note: I snapped the featured photo.

Links to the first three posts about Maui freebies:

  1. Shows
  2. Beaches
  3. Lessons

10 free things to do or see on Maui: No. 3 lessons


Note: I’m posting two of these freebies a week through Feb. 13, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Links to other posts at end.

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the culture of another place, than taking classes about its culture, history, food and more. Much of that can be done on Maui for free.

Take ukulele lessons from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Lahaina Cannery Mall.

The Whalers Village shopping center in Ka’anapali offers a bunch of different classes — all for free:

  • Learn how to make a lei — the garland of flowers given as a tradition to guess arriving or departing — at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in the lower courtyard.
  • Watch a free movie with free popcorn on Tuesday and Thursday nights (shows start 15 minutes after sunset) at the lower level courtyard. Recent movies included “Aladdin” and “Goosebumps.” Check the weekly movie schedule online.
  • Learn how to weave with coconut fronds from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the front entrance of the Whale Pavilion.
  • Learn about the coconut and watch a husking demonstration from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesdays at the beach entrance.

If you stay at the Ka’anapali Hotel, you can participate in a dozen Hawaiian cultural activities — all free for guests. (It will cost non-hotel guests $20.) Activities include lei making, hula dancing, learning to cloth print and weave with plants, learning how to play the ukulele, learning about Hawaiian storytelling and learning some common Hawaiian words and phrases and a coconut hulking demonstration.

Note: I snapped the features photos and used BeFunky photo editor.

Links to my first two posts about Maui freebies:

  1. Shows
  2. Beaches

10 free things to do or see on Maui: No. 2 beaches

Maui Hawaii

Note: I’m posting two of these freebies a week through Feb. 13, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My first post two days ago was about free shows on Maui.

Maui has so many great beaches and hidden coves that it’s hard to make recommendations, but I’ll try.

One the west side of the island, Ka’anapali Beach is one of Maui’s longest (3 miles) and most popular beaches. Kapalua Beach is a nice crescent beach that attracts families and sea turtles. DT Fleming Beach Park (one of my favorite beaches) is great for body surfing and boogie boarding. On the southeastern part of Maui, check out Makena Beach.

Some good beginner surf spots are Lahaina’s Puamana Beach Park, the Lahiana Breakwall, Kihei Cove, Launiupoko Beach and Ka’anapali Beach.

I recently wrote about the top 5 snorkeling beaches on Maui.

Note: I took the featured photo of DT Fleming Beach Park.

10 free things to do or see on Maui: No. 1 shows


Note: I’ll post two of these freebies a week through Feb. 13, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A trip to Hawaii doesn’t have to break the bank.

If you’re a first-time visitor or just want the biggest bang for your buck, try Maui. The island has a little bit of everything – from a volcano to rainforests to beautiful beaches.

First, look for lower airfares and vacation packages during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Once on Maui, there are plenty of free things to do and see, letting you splurge on a traditional luau or a zip-line activity for the family.

Here is the first of 10 tips: free shows.

Sunset cliff dive: This breathtaking sight is a tribute to King Kahekili, Maui’s last independent king in the 18th century. Sunset cliff diving takes place every night at Puu Kekaa (Black Rock) at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa in Ka’anapili.

Hula shows: The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel offers a free hula and Hawaiian music show every day, except Mondays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Lahaina Cannery Mall offers free hula shows. Check the mall’s calendar for dates and times.

Hawaiian music: Listen to a musical performance from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel lobby.

The Hawaiian hula and music show at the Ka’anapali Beach hotel is free. (Sheryl Jean)

Note: The featured photo at top of a sunset cliff dive at Black Rock in Ka’anapali is by Andre Gaulin via Unsplash.

Hawaii Notebook 3: 5 best snorkeling beaches on Maui


Third in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Plenty of bays and lagoons, off-shore reefs, lava rocks and sea life make snorkeling on the Hawaiian island of Maui a real treat. Here’s a list of the five best beaches to snorkel:

1. Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach is one of Maui’s longest beaches (three miles) and most popular beaches. Located in West Maui,  it once was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.  There are many resorts along the beach, but you can easily find spots that aren’t crowded. On the north end of the beach is Black Rock, a renowned snorkeling destination. You also can check out smaller Kahekili Beach, an extension of Kaanapali Beach separated by lava rock and a hotel. Named for Maui’s last king, Kahekili Beach offers good snorkeling, but watch for strong currents.

2. Napili Bay

Napili Bay faces a resort area, it’s not as busy as the Kaanapali Beach area. Napili is good for snorkeling when n the surf isn’t rough. Sea turtles (honu) often visit reefs just off the bay shore.

The sheltered cove of Napili Bay on the northwestern part of Maui offers good snorkeling. (Thomas Baca from Pixabay)

3. Honoloa Bay

For those who don’t mind a bit of a drive and adventure, head to under-the-radar Honoloa Bay. Pros: Because Honoloa Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District that bars fishing, there always is plenty of sea life and coral if you swim out a bit from the beach. The left side of the beach is best for snorkeling. Cons: The shore is very rocky and narrow, so it’s not a place to lie and read a book. The shallow water is murky. Parking is farther away and can be difficult. There’s no sign for the beach; look for mile marker 32 off Honoapi’ilani Highway and cars parked along the side of the road at an S curve just after Slaughterhouse Beach. Walk along a marked path to the bay.

Honoloa Bay is a snorkeling only spot due to its narrow, rocky shore. (Rusty Gage from Pixabay)

4. Kapalua Bay Beach

Along a protected bay in northwestern Maui near the historic whaling port of Lahaina, Kapalua Beach (in the featured photo by me at top) is a great place for young kids to snorkel. The tide pools, lava rock and sea creatures and two offshore reefs make for some fun snorkeling. Two sea turtles played in the shallows when I visited. During the winter, you may see whales in deeper waters.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach. (Sheryl Jean)

5. Keawakapu Beach, Ulua Beach and Polo Beach

I’m cheating here by combining three beaches in Wailea in South Maui, but starting with Keawakapu and traveling south, each beach is less two miles from the previous one. They all have great snorkeling and bathrooms and showers (at the south end of Keawakapu Beach).

Go to the southern end of Keawakapu Beach, which is just under a mile long, to snorkel amid patches of reef. Quarter-mile Ulua Beach offers easy snorkeling at its rocky north end. Warning: Parking at Ulua can fill up early. Two sandy crescents make up Polo Beach, which faces the Polo Beach Club and the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel. When the waves are small, snorkel around the rocky point at the north end of the beach.

I also recently wrote about new tourist restrictions in Hawaii, including Maui, and Maui’s best snorkeling beaches.

Hawaii Notebook 2: 12 stops along Maui’s Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Second in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Visiting outdoorsy Maui, you might not think sitting in a car would be that much fun.

But driving the famous, heart-stopping Road to Hana is a different story. It’s one of the world’s most scenic drives.

Think “green” along the serpentine Road to Hana. This is the wettest part of of Maui because most of the road sits on the windward side of the Haleakala volcano. (abbs johnson via Upsplash)

With 620 curves and 59 bridges, most of which are one lane, the 64-mile Hana Highway is not for wimps. The reward is beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls, swimming holes and stunning vistas along Maui’s eastern coast. Everything is so green because this is the wettest part of Maui, sitting on the windward side of Maui’s volcano, Haleakala.

Many people start the drive on Maui’s northeastern coast in the town of Pa’ia and drive clockwise for 53 miles on Highways 36 and 360 to the town of Hana, but it’s worth continuing for 11 more miles to remote Kaupo. From there, you can continue on the Piilani Highway (Highways 31 and 37) for a loop through Maui’s interior. The paved road turns to dirt with potholes, but I’ve driven the entire loop and it’s not that bad.

You can drive the Road to Hana in one day, returning the same way, or you can stay overnight in Hana or another town to drive back the next day. You also can book a tour and let someone else drive.

I’ll note that there are many waterfalls on the Road to Hana and I only mention a couple below. Parking is tough at many of the falls, so you may have to settle for drive-by views. There are many other fun stops — from beaches to hikes to local fruit stands — and it’s a beautiful drive even if you never leave the car.

Map of Road to Hana

Starting in Pa’ia, many visitors drive clockwise to Hana and back the same route, but you can loop through Kaupo and back through eastern Maui’s interior. (Sheryl Jean with Google Maps)

Here are some of my favorite spots:

1. Ke’anae Aboretum: It’s worth a walk through this free small state-owned 6-acre park to see some of the 150 varieties of exotic flora, such as bananas, ginger and rainbow eucalyptus. Look for remnants of an historical lo’i, traditional terraces for planting taro.

2. Wailua Valley State Wayside: This little park offers views of the Ke’anae Valley, Ko’olau Gap and the Wailua village and the rim of Haleakala.

3. Hana Lava Tube and Kahanu Garden: After a volcanic eruption, the outer layers of molten lava flows cooled first and hardened into tunnels, forming Maui’s largest lava tube. To reach the lava tube, take a left on Ula’ino Road around mile marker 31 and drive about four miles. Don’t forget a flashlight. Farther down Ula’ino Road is Kahanu Garden, run by the nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Gardens. There, you can see Pi’ilanihale Heiau, a lava-rock temple that’s the largest in Hawaii. Both stops charge a fee.

Road to Hana
The black-sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park is a must-stop along the Road to Hana. (Sheryl Jean)

4. Waiʻānapanapa State Park: This is a must-stop around mile marker 32 before Hana town. It’s an easy walk to the park’s highlight: the dazzling Pailoa black-sand beach, a dark crescent framed by bright green naupaka shrubs and the azure ocean. The park has many other natural wonders, including Hawaii’s largest wild hala tree grove; freshwater caves with sapphire-blue water; seabird colonies; a lava tube; natural stone arches; and blow holes. Ke Ala Loa O Maui/Piilani Trail (3 miles round trip) starts beyond Pa’iloa and traverses lava-rock fields and hala trees to the cliff shoreline at Pailoa Bay, with spectacular views of the coast and Haleakala’s slopes. Along the way, you may see gravesites, low stone walls and a temple inland. Stop at the boulder beach and return the same way, or continue along to Hana Bay. Plan ahead to camp here.

5. Hana: This coastal town is where you’ll want eat, drink or stay overnight. Visit the Hana Cultural Center & Museum to learn about the history of Hana and East Maui. For more action, head for the shallow waters of black-sand Hana Bay for great snorkeling, especially for beginners.

6. Hamoa Beach: South of Hana just past mile marker 51, turn on Haneoo Road to find calm waters at this crescent-shaped beach consistently named one of best in the world. (Skip the first beach, Koki Beach, which has strong rip tides.)

7. Wailua Falls: Named Maui’s “most photographed waterfall,” it plunges 80 feet down a cliff into a green pool. You’ll also see fantastic views of Ke’anae Valley, Ko’olau Gap and the rim of Haleakala’s crater. The falls are inland, along a bridge about 5 miles after Hamoa Beach. Park after the bridge.

8. Kīpahulu: The remote Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park 12 miles past Hana is home to ‘Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), the Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls (hike two miles to the falls). When water levels are safe at ‘Ohe’o, you can swim in many of the pools. The area is rich in history, with many ruins and ancient sites. Check the National Park Service calendar for activities, such as guided walks and ranger talks. There’s a visitor center and camping.

If conditions allow, you can swim at one of the sacred pools at ‘Ohe’o Gulch along Hana Highway. (Sheryl Jean)

9. Palapala Ho’omau Church: This 1857 limestone coral church is better known as the burial site of aviator Charles Lindbergh. He moved to the Kīpahulu area in 1968.

10. Kaupo: Lush rainforests give way to drier and rockier landscapes when you reach this remote ranching area. Under the shadow of the Haleakala, you can take a challenging hike up (or down) the steep Kaupo Trail and Kaupo Gap to the crater with panoramic views of the Big Island. Stop at Kaupo General Store for a trip back in time and to stock up on supplies.

This view is near Kaupo Gap off Hana Highway. (Sheryl Jean)

11. Alii Kula Lavendar Farm: This 13-acre farm and store in Kula is home to about 55,000 lavender plants and 25 varieties. Entry is $3, or $12 for a 30-minute walking tour.

12. Maui Wine: Yes, even outback Maui has a winery. This winery on Ulupalakua Ranch makes pineapple wines, small-production estate wines and sparkling wines. Each day, it offers two free tours and tastings for $12 or $16 in the King’s Cottage tasting room, which was built in the 1870s for Hawaii’s King Kalākaua. It also offers a $40 reservation-only tasting in its historic “Old Jail,” the former office of Captain James Makee, one of Hawaii’s pioneer planters. Maui Wine offers a cheese and charcuterie boards or grab lunch at Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill across the street.

While driving, pledge the Road to Hana Code of Conduct to be a responsible visitor. Last month, I wrote about new tourist restrictions in Hawaii, including Maui. Next, look for my post on Maui’s best snorkeling beaches .

Note: The featured photo at top is by Monica Bourgeau via Upsplash.

In Europe, St. Nicholas comes before Santa Claus

Who is the man with a long white beard in December?

In many countries, there are two answers to that question.

Santa Claus delivers gifts at Christmas on Dec. 25.

Before that, people in many countries in Europe — from Belgium to Russia — celebrate St. Nicholas Day. It’s Dec. 6 in some western European countries, such as Belgium and Germany, and Dec. 19 in Eastern European countries, like Ukraine.

Many people in those countries celebrate both St. Nicholas Day and Christmas.

Unlike Santa, St. Nicholas was a real person born in the third century in what’s now Turkey. He was a bishop who became a Christian saint in the late 10th century.

In Germany, St. Nicholas Day isn’t a public holiday, but it’s celebrated widely with cheer. On the eve of St. Nicholas Day, or Nikolaustag, which is tonight (Dec. 5), children in Germany put out their boots or hang stockings outside their door. On the morning of Dec. 6, children (who have been good) wake to find their boots or stockings filled with chocolate, cookies, nuts or even small gifts like a scarf.

German shops sell candy like these of St. Nicholas chocolates in Berlin. (Sheryl Jean)

St. Nicholas Day has a dark side. A folkloric helper called Knecht Ruprecht in Germany or Krampus in some Central European countries often accompanies St. Nicholas to punish naughty children.

The half-goat, half-demon creature usually is portrayed as dark and hairy with horns, cloven hooves and a long, pointed tongue.  You can see why this pagan mythological figure inspired a yuletide horror movie called “Krampus” in 2015.

In comparison, St. Nicholas often is portrayed as an elderly, benevolent soul in Western Europe, with a long, white beard, wearing a bishop’s mitre (a tall headdress) and holding a hooked staff.

Statue of St. Nicholas
This statue of St. Nicholas is how he often is portrayed in Western Europe. (dassel via Pixabay)

Note: The featured photo at top is by Ben Kerckx via Pixabay.

5 tips to free up room in your luggage for holiday travel

It’s that time of year again, when we travel far distances to be with family and friends for the holidays.

Whether you’re flying or driving, space is at a premium. Packing light is a priority.

Here are five tips on what not to pack and how to better pack what’s necessary:

1. Leave your toiletries at home. Whether you’re in a hotel, AirBnB or a relative’s house, chances are they’ll provide shampoo. If you can do without your favorite brands for a few days, leave behind your soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and other common toiletries. You also can buy them at your destination. If you must have a certain brands, carry the travel sizes. That will not only save room in your checked bags but it meets TSA regulations for carry-on bags. Also pack smaller sizes of other items, such as a hairbrush.

If you must pack toiletries, bring the item on the left, which is smaller than 3.4 ounces. (Sheryl Jean)

2. Think like a European. Do you really need six complete changes of clothes and five pairs of shoes for a four-day trip? Recycle your clothing. That’s what Europeans do. Pack color coordinates items to mix and match pieces of clothing. Your relatives may not even notice you wore the same blues two days ago if it’s underneath a sweater.

3. Roll, don’t fold. You’ll save room your luggage by rolling your clothing instead of folding them flat. That method also reduces wrinkles and makes it easier to see what’s in your bag. I was rolling long before Marie Kondo recommended it.

This is how I roll my clothes before placing them in a bag. (Sheryl Jean)

4. Pack for the weather. Check the weather forecast for your destination before you pack. If there’s no chance of rain, don’t pack an umbrella and raincoat. If it’s supposed to snow, replace high heels with boots and wear them on the plane. Always wear your heaviest items when flying to free up more room in and reduce the weight of your luggage.

5. Don’t duplicate. If you have an e-reader, do you need to bring books? If you have a smartphone, do you need a travel alarm clock? Do you need both a tablet and a laptop? Pick technology or go Old School, but not both, and don’t duplicate your technology.

Note: The featured photo at top is from took a pic via Pixabay.

Warm up at these 7 Boise, Idaho, craft breweries

Boise brewery

Whether you’re planning to ski or visit family, winter provides an opportunity to warm up with some craft beer. And Idaho is the perfect place to do so.

Idaho’s brewery scene has seen heady growth over the last few years. Boise, the state capital and Idaho’s largest city, and the surrounding area are home to more than 20 breweries.

While Boise is known for Northwest IPAs made from hops grown in Oregon and Washington, local brewers like to experiment with new styles and flavors, so there promises to be something for everyone. On two recent visits, I found citrus-infused ales, chocolaty stouts and interesting flavor profiles using Hibiscus, Vanilla and tea.

Here are seven craft breweries I visited and liked, but there are many more to try:

Boise Brewing, 521 West Broad St., Boise

Founder Collin Rudeen sources ingredients sourced from local farmers. Its November beer list included 15 choices – from Golden Trout Pale Ale to Black Cliffs (Stout) to cider. Boise Brewing has received four medals from the Great American Beer Fest and Black Cliffs one a gold medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup.

Visitors will see large ceramic mugs lining the walls of the downtown Boise taproom. They belong to Idaho residents who are part owners of the brewery. I like that it’s one of a handful of community-owned breweries across the country.  In fact, 6-year-old Boise Brewery is in the midst of a third Idaho Public Offering to raise capital to make improvements to its downtown Boise taproom and possibly open a second taproom.

Boise Brewing collage
Boise Brewing manages to feel cozy even thought its inside a large warehouse. (Sheryl Jean and BeFunky)

Mad Swede Brewing Co., 2772 South Cole Road, #140, Boise

Owners Jerry and Susie Larson spent 30 years home-brewing and experimenting before deciding to open the brewery in 2016. Its early November tap list of 14 options includes Lollygagger Lager, Naked Sunbather Nut Brown Ale (winner of a 2018 silver medal from the North American Brewers Association) and Sunstone Hazy IPA (New England style). Located near the Boise Airport, the taproom has a laid-back vibe and features live music, trivia nights, games and Comedy Open Mic Nights on Mondays. You can order from a food truck.

Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 1114 West Front St., Boise

Is there a better combination than beer and pinball? That’s what you’ll find at Woodland Empire, which specializes in IPAs with its “Mixtape Series” and twists on classic styles like its current Thunder Chicken (smoked Porter) and Count Chocula (chocolate cereal milk Stout). Its Mixtape offering in November was Twined & Twisted (Kristall Haze IPA). Former Austin, Texas, musician and homebrewer Keely Landerman, her husband Rob, and Tom Dolan started making artisan beers in small batches in 2014. They started amassing medals in 2015: winning five medals through 2018. At the downtown Boise taproom, you can play on retro pinball machines order tasty food from Manfred’s Kitchen next door for delivery to your table.

Woodland Empire Craft Ale
Sip your beer while playing retro games at Woodland Empire Ale Craft. (Sheryl Jean)

Payette Brewing Co., 733 South Pioneer St., Boise

Founder Mike Francis left his Boeing engineering job to study brewing at Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology. He first worked at Seattle’s Schooner Exact Brewing before opening Payette Brewing in 2010. He named the brewery for French Canadian fur trader François Payette, whose moniker graces many Idaho landmarks. It offers many year-round and seasonal brews, such as Flyline Vienna Lager, Pistolero Porter and Sofa King Juicy Mango Hazy IPA. Its all-ages taproom allows well-behaved pets. Customers can order from rotating food trucks and take a free brewery tour on Saturdays.

Payette Brewing is located in an office/industrial area along the Boise River. (Sheryl Jean and BeFunky)

Barbarian Brewing, 5270 Chinden Boulevard, Garden City, and 1022 West Main St., Boise

Husband-and-wife team James Long and BreAnne Hovley started the brewery in the Boise suburb of Garden City with help from Kickstarter in 2015, Two years later, they opened a second taproom in downtown Boise, which draws a hip, youngish crowd. You won’t find its beers outside of the two taprooms, which adds to the allure. Using Old World-brewing styles, the brewery specializes in limited batch sours, Bourbon barrel stouts and barley wines, but it also makes traditional beers, Belgian ales and experimental styles such as Ice Cream Ales and a Candy Gose series. Boise customers can order food for delivery from Calle 75 Street Tacos. You won’t find this beer outside of its taprooms.


Barbarian Brewing has an extensive selection of brews. (Sheryl Jean and BeFunky)

10 Barrel Brewing, 830 West Bannock St., Boise

Technically, this is a brewpub opened in 2013 by the Bend, Ore.-based brewery, but Boise brewmaster Shawn Kelso (aka Big Daddy) does make beer on site. Its known for big IPAs – like Idahop and Freak Alley – but its menu of 22 beers on top in early November also includes Swill (American Radler), Apricot Crush (Sour), Cream Ale and the seasonal Pray for Snow (Winter Ale). The open, industrial-style brewpub is a popular spot to watch sports on big-screen televisions. 10 Barrel Brewing operates five other locations in California, Colorado and Oregon.

10 Barrel Brewing in downtown Boise is part brewpub and part sports bar. The bar is open to the sidewalk during nice weather. (Sheryl Jean)

Sockeye Brewing, 12542 West Fairview Ave., Boise, and 3019 North Cole Road, Boise.

Sockeye is Boise’s largest brewery. Founded in 1996, it now has two Boise locations with full-service restaurants. Along with its flagship Dagger Falls IPA, you’ll find Woolybugger Wheat, Angel’s Peach Amber and seasonal brews like Winterfest. This award-winning brewery doesn’t take itself too seriously with its motto “Drink like a fish!”

Portland, Maine, knows how to celebrate Christmas

The quintessential New England coastal town of Portland, Maine, really comes alive for the winter holidays.

Many special Christmas decorations and festivities dress up Portland’s historic buildings and cobblestone streets. It all creates a cozy atmosphere to warm up visitors on even the coldest days.

Many of Portland’s annual traditions include lights, such as the Monument Square tree lighting in the heart of downtown. It will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 29. It also features live music and Santa Claus.

Also from Monument Square, the city offers free horse-drawn carriage rides through downtown on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 29 through Dec. 22.

You can’t miss the Harbor Christmas Boat Parade of Lights in Portland Harbor on Dec. 14. You can watch the festivities from Fort Allen Park or elsewhere along the Portland waterfront as decorated boats sail by. You also can be amid the boats, with a specialty cruise with Casco Bay Lines for $12.50.

Portland Maine
Portland’s Longfellow Square, which is home to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Monument, is lit up with holiday lights all winter. (Sheryl Jean)

In addition, much of downtown is lit up all winter. Stroll along the bustling streets and vote for your favorite window display as part of the city’s Holiday Window Display Contest from Nov. 29 through Dec. 25.

On Shop for a Cause Day on Nov. 30 – the day after Black Friday — purchases made at participating outlets will benefit a local charity. On Dec. 5, stores participating in Merry Madness will remain open until 10 p.m. for holiday shopping.

Visitors who tour the Wadsworth Longfellow House this holiday season will learn about the friendship between poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol. Dickens reportedly performed a public reading of his holiday ghost story at Portland City Hall in 1868. The Maine Historical Society will offer tours of the house where Longfellow grew up on Dec. 16-23.

During Christmas at Victoria Mansion, its 19th-century interior is filled with decorations from local artists, designers and florists over six weeks from Dec. 22 to Jan. 5, 2020. Visitors can take a tour or attend one of several holiday programs and events. Built in the mid-1800s, the mansion boasted hot and cold running water, flush toilets, central heat, gas lights, wall-to-wall carpeting and a 25-foot long stained-glass skylight. Admission prices vary.

Holiday not required

There’s more to Portland than Christmas. Dating to 1632, the city was once Maine’s capital. Its compact size makes it easy to walk to museums, performing arts, quaint shops and plenty of good restaurants, cafes and craft breweries any time of year.

It’s easy to walk around Portland’s compact downtown, which is rich with historical buildings and colonial architecture. (Sheryl Jean)

Many of those sights are downtown or in the Old Port District, which also offers beautiful water views. The Arts District west of downtown is home to the Portland Museum of Art (designed by I.M. Pei, its collection includes works by Monet, Renoir and Winslow Homer) and the free downtown Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art. Here is where you’ll also find Portland Stage and the State Theatre.

Maine has more than 100 craft breweries, and more than a few call Portland home. There’s Allagash Brewing Co., Liquid Riot Bottling Co., Rising Tide Brewing Co. and Shipyard Brewing Co. to name a few. Don’t want to drink and drive? Hop on The Maine Brew Bus to tour some of the local watering holes.

Portland, Maine
Family owned Shipyard Brewing Co. offers 20 beers and soda at its Portland taproom and brewery. (Sheryl Jean)

Note: The featured photo at top is by Kristel Hayes on Unsplash.