Spotlight on Travel – Mike Cohen

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Ever since I was a kid friends always told me about their trips to Maine, particularly Old Orchard Beach (www.OldOrchardBeachMaine.com). So, when I began planning our family vacation I tried valiantly to find a hotel that fit our budget. In Old Orchard, this simply was not achieveable. Instead, I found wonderful spots to stay in Portland (the Embassy Suites) and Kennenbunkport (the Kennenbunkport Inn), both of which are not far drives and based myself in those two locations. Accommodations were top-notch and access to Old Orchard Beach was just dandy.

It’s almost impossible not to have fun at Old Orchard Beach. The low surf makes this a favorite spot for swimming, sunbathing, and making new friends. When the kids get hungry they can explore the boardwalk for pizza, french fries, hot dogs, cheeseburgers and even poutine, or you can choose from the many family style restaurants around town. Try your luck on the video games, jump on a ride, treat yourself to an ice cream or a cold soda. Thrills, chills and frills-take your pick or do it all.

Catering to tourists and families is a way of life in Old Orchard Beach.

The beach, the arcades and amusement rides, nightly entertainment, auto races and harness racing are favorite activities in the Old Orchard Beach area. Old Orchard’s Pier is the center of the recreational activities. Extending nearly 500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, it features shops, fast food, and games of skill. During the summer many special events are planned to entertain and mesmerize everyone in the family festivals, fairs, free concerts, street dances, and fireworks most Thursday nights. Besides the Pier, the beachfront businesses offer gift and souvenir shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and arcades.

Old Orchard Beach is easy to reach by the major highways in Maine. Exits 36 and 42 off the Maine Turnpike (I-95) take you quickly into our popular seaside resort, as does the access from U.S.. Route 1.

While Old Orchard’s seven-mile long stretch of wide sandy beach is understandably the major attraction, there is a full range of other things available to see and do in and around the area.

Palace Playland (www.PalacePlayland.com) is New England’s only beachfront amusement park.

It features a giant arcade, beautiful carousel, a kiddieland, a gondola ferris wheel and the galaxi coaster. It is open Memorial Day to Labor Day and features fireworks every Thursday night by the Pier.

I particularly enjoyed the view from the ferris wheel while the bumper cars were a lot of fun as well. What’s great about this place is that you do not have to pay for admission , just for the rides. This can be done by buying tickets or a wrist band for unlimited access. There is no particular entrance or exit, so you can take a break anytime you want and explore the Old Orchard beach strip of shops and restaurants or take a walk on the Pier.

There were Montrealers everywhere I stepped in Old Orchard Beach. They are made to feel very at home here, with French messages in tourism guides and hotel marquees. Why they even serve poutine at most of the snack bars, not to mention offering vinegar for French Fries, a rarity in any American state.

Funtown/Splashtown U.S.A. (www.FuntownSplashtownUSA.com) in Saco is a family amusement and waterpark and home to Excalibur, Maine’s only wooden roller coaster ranked one of the top ten in the world. The Aquaboggan Waterpark (www.AquabogganWaterpark.com) is also located in Saco and recently celebrated 30 years as Maine’s largest water park.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca.
Log on to his travel advice column at www.sandboxworld.com/travel