How to have fun in southern Maine for under $10

Life is expensive, and inflation sure doesn’t help. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t have a whole lot of fun in Maine, even if you’re tightening your belt and trying to stretch every dollar that isn’t going into your gas tank.

To help guide your budget-minded desire to get out of the house without breaking the bank, we’ve assembled several ways to satisfy your need for entertainment, enrichment and excursions.

We’re capping the price at $10 a person, but at least a few of these are free, so even if you have a big family, there’s fun to be had on a budget.

A red bear that has been at the park for nearly 30 years cools off in its pond at the Maine Wildlife Park. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

TALK TO THE ANIMALS

You can’t really understand just how gigantic a moose is until you see one up close, and you don’t have to wait for a chance encounter if you go to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. The huge park is home to more than 30 native species of Maine wildlife and a few out-of-staters, including a pair of colorful peacocks. Owls, eagles, hawks and pheasants are among the feathered friends you’ll make, and you can also eye bobcats, fishers, foxes, cougars and two bears. There’s a gift shop and cafe, along with several places to sit in between marveling at the park’s residents, all of whom are there because they were injured or orphaned and are unable to return to their natural habitats.

Maine Wildlife Park, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm daily. 56 Game Farm Road, Gray, $10, $7.50 for seniors and ages 3-12, $5 veterans and military, free for 2 and under. maine.gov/ifw/wildlife-park/index.html

An Eastern Bluebird takes flight with an insect in its beak at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maine Audubon has several scenic spots to see wildlife, including the East Point sanctuary in Biddeford and Mast Landing in Freeport. Gilsland Farm in Falmouth has 2.5 miles of trails that will lead you through meadows, into the woods and along the Presumpscot River estuary. You may catch sight of any number of waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as frogs, muskrats, weasels, red fox, deer and several rodents, like the unique black woodchuck. Bring your phone or camera to snap a few shots as you take roam around the property that was gifted to Maine Audubon nearly 50 years ago.

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth, free. maineaudubon.org/visitgilsland-farm

A large-scale troll, created by Danish artist Thomas Dembo, sits on the forest floor at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

TAKE A PASS

Did you know that several local libraries offer free passes to some pretty epic spots? Most of them have to be reserved in advance, but you can get some sweet deals, including free admission or significant discounts.

Take Portland Public Library, for example. It has passes to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, state parks, the Maine State Museum, Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage, Southworth Planetarium and the Tate House Museum. Find details at portlandlibrary.com/using-the-library/request-museum-passes.

The South Portland library offers passes to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, state parks, the Farnsworth Art Museum, Portland Museum of Art, Maine Wildlife Park (reduced admission) and Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine (50% off). For details, go to southportlandlibrary.com/museum-and-attraction-passes.

Falmouth Memorial Library has state park passes as well as ones for Portland Museum of Art, Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine (50% off) and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Find info at falmouthmemoriallibrary.org/museum-and-park-passes.

Several other libraries offer similar programs, so hop onto their sites or give them a call, because this is a terrific way to keep your money in your pocket.

Nickelodeon in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

SILVER SCREEN STEALS

Longtime Portlanders remember when the line would stretch down the street for $2 night on Tuesdays at the Nickelodeon. While the glory days of the ’90s are long gone, there’s still a good deal to be had at The Nick, because every seat on Tuesdays, regardless of time, is $6. Evening shows are usually $11, and matinees are $9, so this is indeed a significant savings. While there’s no fancy stadium-style seating here, The Nick is conveniently situated on the edge of the Old Port (though parking is another matter entirely).

Nickelodeon Cinema, 1 Temple St., Portland, $6 on Tuesdays, all showings. patriotcinemas.com

Space has been screening independent, arthouse, foreign, documentary and otherwise interesting films for years. Tickets are $9, $7 for Space members. The Portland arts venue usually shows three or four films a month, and coming up is a documentary about author Patricia Highsmith. You can also enjoy an adult beverage with the movie.

Space, 538 Congress St., Portland, $9, $7 for members. space538.org

Cheese Louise menu offering. Photo courtesy of Cheese Louise

COME ON, GET HAPPY

Never forget the power of a righteous happy hour, a marvelous way to wind down your workday while getting an equally satisfying deal. Here are three spots to hit in Portland:

Enjoy $5 wines and $5 Mango Habanero IPA and Piggy Back IPA at Wilson County BBQ at 82 Hanover St., where happy hour is from 3-5 pm Monday through Friday. Pair your bevy with any number of dishes, including baby back ribs, fried chicken or a fried shrimp po’ boy. But whatever you do, don’t leave without trying one of their to-die-for biscuits.

Happy hour happens daily from 3-7 pm at Cheese Louise at 363 Fore St. The deals are $1 off all sandwiches, $2 off cans of beer, cider and hard seltzers, and $3 off all cocktails. As for those cocktails, options include a maple margarita and a magical potion called a pineapple tiki. And don’t get us started about the grilled cheese situation. The Baconator and the No Porkin’ Way are among the mouth-watering options.

Three Dollar Deweys at 241 Commercial St. is a Portland institution with a strong happy hour game. From 4-6 pm Monday through Friday, you can enjoy $5 well drinks and prosecco, $4 Narragansett and $3 Shipyard Discovery (available all the time). On the food front, nosh on $3 chips and salsa, $6 pretzel and beer cheese, and $7 hot dog and fries, among other tempting offerings.

Portland Stage Studio Theatre. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

NAME YOUR PRICE

Some local theaters recognize that not everyone can afford a full-price ticket to their productions. Some have pay-what-you-can pricing structures during certain shows.

Portland Stage’s pay-what-you-can tickets go for a suggested price of $10 each, but less is truly fine. There’s a two-ticket limit, and quantities are limited. You can purchase them starting at noon on the day of the performance you hope to attend, and you have to buy them in person at the box office at 25A Forest Ave. The current production, “Smoke on the Mountain,” closes on Saturday. “The Great Leap” opens on Sept. 14.

All tickets to shows at Mad Horse Theater Company, 24 Mosher St. in South Portland, cost whatever you think they’re worth, or can afford. You simply make a no-cost reservation, enjoy the show and then make a payment after the performance. “When We Were Young and Unafraid” opens on Sept. 29. “We want to remove the financial barrier of seeing theater, particularly new theater work, and open the doors to anyone interested in attending a show,” its website explains. To this we say, bravo!


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