Jessie: Looking longingly at the beach-goers trundling past my porch
As a part of our series on places in Maine I was thrilled to put up my hand for Old Orchard Beach. I started spending summers here six years ago and have loved every minute of them. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy this iconic beach town:
With seven miles of sugar fine sand, Old Orchard has a spot for everyone. But I suggest heading out early in the morning during high season to spread out your beach blanket right above the high water mark. The views are best with no one else in front of you and you won’t end up scrambling to drag your belongings back from the rising tide.
Toss a small box kite in a bag and some bocce balls into your beach cart. Low tide provides a lot of room to get up and play. Nothing beats a game with friends as the sun drops low and the temperatures start to cool.
Bring some shade. This beach is known for its retro vibe. Why not protect your skin and stay cool too by carrying a parasol? If you’d rather use a beach umbrella I’d advise bringing along a way to weigh it down. Several times each season someone’s unanchored umbrella pinwheels down the beach laying waste to unsuspecting sunbathers.
The Pier and Amusement Park:
The Pier has changed many times over the years but has remained a must-do for visitors. There are eateries selling everything from lobster rolls to deep-fried oreos. Souvenir shops sell marshmallow guns, shark tooth necklaces and OOB t-shirts. There’s even a place that will write your name on a grain of rice should you need such a thing. A dance club stands at the end now just as a ballroom did when the Pier first opened in 1898.
Palace Playland is the last remaining ocean-front amusement park in New England. It has a decidedly retro feel and is close enough to the beach that it’s easy to spend the day moving from the beach to the park effortlessly as the spirit moves you. They have rides for little kids and for the older ones too. Games of skill and chance as well as an arcade round out the offerings. It’s the sort of place that fills you with nostalgia just by walking through it. Every Thursday night at 9:45 they put on a fireworks display.
Old Orchard Street:
Old Orchard Street leads from the crest of the hill along Saco Avenue straight down to the Pier and the beach. Every summer crowds amble along people watching and enjoying the breeze. There’s a fountain in the center of the square at the end of the street with a built in bench encircling it, providing a great view from any spot.
There are stores carrying sweatshirts and bathing suits and boogie boards. Others, like Beachology and Happy Nest sell beach house decor. There’s a place to get a henna tatoo and another where you can purchase baseball cards. You can even stop in at the local fortune teller. My favorite spot is the used book store. Not only do they have a wide variety of reading material, they have the best prices on bottled drinks in town.
Dickinson’s is the place to stop for handmade fudge. They give out samples, making it almost impossible not to buy some to take home. Lisa’s Pizza always has a line down the sidewalk with people eager to purchase a slice or to order poutine, a dish made of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. And speaking of fries, if there is one thing to eat in Old Orchard it’s a serving of Pier Fries. They’ve been selling ntheir crinkle cut wonders for over eighty years so you know they’ve got a bit of potato magic in every box.
I hope you will make the trip to Old Orchard one day this summer and that you will enjoy it as much as I do!
Readers, have you ever been to Old Orchard? Do you have a favorite memory there?
When I was a reporter at the Biddeford Journal-Tribune 1983-84, my roomates (reporter, photographer) and I and others on the staff used to spend a lot of time at Old Orchard, going to the Beachcomber (Monday night mug night meant 50 cent beers), riding the Jumbo Jet and playing Whack-A-Mole. One of the best years or two of my life. Lots of fond memories.
Old Orchard is made of fond memories, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing some of yours!
I’ll be right down!
I’d love to see you while you’re here!
I love Old Orchard Beach! It’s a beautiful place to spend the summer!
I have never been there, but the pictures are gorgeous and I adore pizza, too. I have a real yearning to head North!
I haven’t been to Old Orchard since I was quite young, but I seem to remember a draw bridge? Or am I thinking of somewhere else? I’m hoping to get back to OOB with my kids someday!
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