November 25, 2014

A Winter Vacation in Maine – The Quiet Season

To the Maine tourism industry, November through March is “the quiet season.” Summer and fall visitors have gone home. Mainers continue life as usual, but there’s a little less hustle and bustle.

But a winter vacation in Maine is perfect way to experience the state’s beauty in a whole new way. Opportunities abound for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, hiking and even fishing during the winter. The ocean views in Midcoast Maine are just as stunning in winter as during any other season.

Yes, it’s cold, and yes, there’s plenty of snow. The average annual snowfall in Maine is 50 inches, but the coast rarely has more than 15 or 20 days a year with an inch of snowfall or more (aside from occasional Nor’easter, which can drop 10 inches or more). January is usually the snowiest month. Along the coast, the ocean moderates cold temperatures.

The Hidden Valley Nature Center, about 11 miles north of the Newcastle Inn, is beautiful place to explore during a winter vacation in Maine. More than 20 miles of ski trails weave through the center’s grounds. Some of the trails are lightly groomed during the winter to ensure the best cross-country skiing in Midcoast Maine. You can rent snowshoes at the center, and if you’ve got your hiking boots, the trails are open for walking, too.

The Camden Snow Bowl Ski Area is a community-owned recreation area near Camden, Maine, about 30 miles north and east of the inn.  From the 1,300-foot summit of Ragged Mountain, skiers can see the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to alpine skiing and snowboarding, visitors to the Snow Bowl can use the snow-tubing slope, ride the 400-foot toboggan chute and ice skate on Hosmer Pond.

The ski area is being renovated before the start of the 2014 season. The project includes improvements to ski trails and lifts and new snowmaking equipment. The ski trails are groomed daily.

The Snow Bowl is typically open for skiing Wednesday to Friday 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, holidays and local school vacation days until 4 p.m. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays (except for holidays and vacation weeks).

Another benefit to a winter vacation in Maine is lower, off-season rates at the Newcastle Inn. Room rates are at their lowest from Nov. 1 through March 31, and if you book two nights, you can save 10 percent off the posted rate each night. If you book three or more nights, the discount goes to 15 percent a night. Some dates are excluded from the special: Nov. 25-30; Dec. 23, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015, and Feb. 13-16, 2015. Check room availability and make reservations.

November 18, 2014

Enjoy New Year’s Eve Dinner at the Newcastle Inn

This year, we will celebrate our sixth New Year’s Eve dinner at Newcastle Inn, and our special entrée will be a first – roast crown of pork.

Photo by J.D. Thomas/Flickr
The unofficial first New Year’s Eve dinner took place in 2008, the year I purchased the inn. Some guests that I knew, from my previous job at a Vermont inn, decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Maine instead of Vermont.

That first year, Trey and Tricia showed up with two bags of groceries (they had discovered Whole Foods in Portland as they left the airport), and Trey cooked for us every night. He is a wonderful cook, and while not professionally trained, had worked for a number of years at an inn with a full service restaurant near their home in Latta, S.C. By day he is an interior designer.

I jokingly asked him if he would come back the next year and cook dinner for my inn guests and he said yes. The rest is history.  Currently there is a core group of three couples that comes every year for the dinner (they make their reservations for the following year when they check out) with others joining in. One of the couples has been with us since 2009, which is the first year it was a special event at the inn.

We’ve never served crown roast of pork, although I’ve been wanting to for several years. The rest of the menu is still being finalized at the moment. Even when we say the menu is complete we sometimes will make last minute changes once Trey arrives a few days before the dinner and we see what looks good in the grocery store. What I can tell you is that you won't be disappointed, and you won't leave the table hungry!

The dinner costs $60 a person and includes hors d’oeuvres starting at the 7 p.m. The four-course dinner will be served at 8. Alcohol and gratuity are not included in the price.

The New Year’s Eve dinner is a wonderful way to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. We hope you’ll join us. Visit our website to reserve a room at the Newcastle Inn

November 11, 2014

Visit Midcoast Maine During The Holiday Season

The holiday season in Midcoast Maine is much like many other places in the Northeast, except, well, it’s Maine, and there are a few holiday quirks.

Most notable is the lobster trap Christmas tree erected in nearby Rockland on Thanksgiving weekend. Volunteers assemble lobster traps specially made for the tree and pile them 35 feet high. Some 450 feet of lighted garland wraps around the “tree,” which is adorned with a glowing lobster on top.

Rockland's lobster trap Christmas tree
If you travel to Midcoast Maine during the holiday season, you’re just as likely to see Santa Claus arriving aboard boat as a fire truck or a sleigh.

If you’d like to spend a December vacation or long weekend in Midcoast Maine, here are some of the things we do to get into the holiday spirit.

Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1, the town of Rockland kicks off its Festival of Lights with the lighting of the previously mentioned lobster trap tree and Santa’s arrival aboard a U.S. Coast Guard boat. The weekend also features a holiday house of beautifully decorated private homes and inns. There’s a craft show, too, at the local Elks Lodge. During the Light Parade on Saturday night, you can vote for your favorite float with canned goods, which are then donated to needy families.

That same weekend, downtown Damariscotta, right next to Newcastle, welcomes Santa with a Main Street parade on Friday.

The holiday celebrations continue Dec. 5, 6 and 7 as the towns in Rockport, Camden and Lincolnville will feature a tree-lighting ceremony, a parade and browsing plenty of local shops. Oh, and Santa is expected to come to town, too, this time in a lobster boat. You can read more about “Christmas by the Sea” here.

On Dec. 6, Santa will visit the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, which is about 18 miles south of our inn. This time, Santa will arrive by helicopter. The 12:15 p.m. visit is part of a series of visits to lighthouses and  Coast Guard stations from Maine to New York. The visits are run by Friends of Flying Santa in Stoneham, Mass, and the visit to Pemaquid Point is sponsored by the Bristol Parks Commission and Bristol Fire and Rescue.
A little farther to the south, the folks in Freeport hold the annual Sparkle Celebration. This Dec. 6-7 weekend event features horse-drawn carriage rides, a parade, a musical holiday light show and Freeport’s Famous Talking Christmas Tree. On Saturday, you can also enjoy the Worldwide Tuba Concert. Did we mention Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean?

A little closer to home, Boothbay Harbor celebrates its Harbor Lights Festival on Saturday, Dec. 6., and Sunday, Dec. 7. Along with a holiday craft show, there’s a parade and a tree-lighting ceremony. And Santa arrives with Mrs. Claus … wait for it … by boat.

A little later in December, the Damariscotta area hosts two fun events. During the Wrap It Up Street Festival on Dec. 18, downtown merchants will be selling last-minute gifts with free gift-wrapping. You’ll encounter strolling musicians, and there will be lots of holiday treats. On Dec. 20, you can experience a Victorian Christmas at the Wiscasset, Waterville& Farmington Railway Museum. There will be train rides, horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides. Santa will be there, too.
So, if you need a extra shot of holiday spirit, travel to Midcoast Maine in December. Visit the Newcastle Inn online to reserve a room.

November 5, 2014

7 Reasons to Choose a Bed & Breakfast

When you plan your next vacation to Maine, or anywhere else for that matter, look for a bed and breakfast to use as vacation HQ instead of a hotel or motel. Once you have experienced a B&B, you may never want to stay anywhere else.

Here are 7 reasons to choose a bed and breakfast for your next Maine vacation:

Save Money: Nightly rates at many bed and breakfasts are comparable, if not less expensive, than good quality hotels and motels, and don’t forget to factor other savings. The Wi-Fi is free, and it can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 in a hotel. Plus, you get breakfast, which is going to cost about $15 a person somewhere else.

Breakfast: While we’re on the subject, let’s not forget the breakfast. It is part of the name, after all,  and most B&Bs don’t disappoint. Depending on the day or the chef’s mood, you’ll have eggs, crepes, fruit, juices and pastries to choose from. At the Newcastle Inn, we even have our own special blend of coffee.

Pets Allowed: This is going to vary from place to place, but Newcastle Inn has two rooms set aside to accommodate visitors who simply can’t leave their dogs behind.  And if you must leave your pet at home, you can make friends with Dolce, the K-9 greeter at Newcastle Inn.

It feels like home, only better: When you stay at a bed and breakfast, you’re not stuck living in a bedroom. You can enjoy common areas, like living rooms or libraries, with comfortable seating and fixtures that invite you to sit and relax a while. In warm weather, Newcastle Inn guests enjoy our screened porch or back deck, both with views of the Damariscotta River.

Variety: Every time you stay at a new B&B, you’ll experience something different – different furnishings, different color schemes, different food and the different personalities of the hosts or innkeepers.

The beds: It’s an unwritten rule that you can’t run a bed and breakfast without comfortable beds. You can expect to get a good night’s sleep on a comfy mattress and tucked into by high-quality sheets and blankets. And if you really can’t bring yourself to leave the bedroom, many of the Newcastle Inn’s rooms have flat-screen TVs and fireplaces.

The hosts: The people who run bed and breakfast inns love to entertain and make people comfortable. Why else would they do it? When you stay at a bed and breakfast, you’re likely to make a new friend for life. Not only that, you’ll get extra insights into the community where you’re staying and tips on places to visit.

There you have it. Seven reasons to choose a bed and breakfast. Maine has many, many wonderful B&Bs, and we hope you’ll have a chance to experience one of them on your next Maine vacation. Visit the Newcastle Inn accommodations page if you’d like to stay with us.

October 28, 2014

Travel to the Past: Owls Head Transportation Museum

A vacation in Midcoast Maine can be as relaxing or as busy as you like. If you’re a traveler who enjoys finding gems of knowledge and culture at museums, you’ll find some at the Owls Head Museum of Transportation.

The museum is dedicated to preserving examples of vehicles built and used before 1920. Exhibits include airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, motorcycles, carriages and a variety of engines.

The museum’s collection includes replicas of the first gliders as well as the Wright Brothers’ flyer that was the first heavier-than-air craft powered by an engine. There are several World War I fighter planes, including a German Fokker triplane.

Automobiles in the collection include early 20th century cars manufactured by Cadillac, Stanley and Ford. Luxury vehicles, roadsters and racing cars are on display. Special exhibitions  include “A Century Ago,” a look at transportation in Maine in when the Wrights made their first successful flight in 1903, and “Faster: The Quest for Speed,” which examine the human drive to compete and how competition speeds progress in transportation, technology and society.

The museum hosts regular events for fliers of antique airplanes and drivers of antique autos.

The museum was founded in 1974 by the late Thomas J. Watson Jr., former chairman and CEO of IBM; James S. Rockefeller Jr., a boat and airplane builder whose father was a nephew of industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller; and Steve Lang, whose family has since donated transportation-related books, art and photographs to the founding of the Lang Education Center and Library.

Both Watson and Rockefeller were aviation enthusiasts and had small airstrips near Camden. Rockefeller invited his friend Lang to help start the enterprise, originally conceived as a way to fly old airplanes. The museum now provides a variety of education programs for students in Maine.

The museum is next to the Knox County Airport and about 30 miles east of our Maine bed & breakfast. It’s open daily, year round, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and free for youth under 18.

A visit to the Owls Head Transportation Museum is an easy trip during your Midcoast Maine vacation at the Newcastle Inn. Make your reservation.

October 21, 2014

Enjoy Park and Museum at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

The iconic Pemaquid Point Lighthouse  draws more than 100,000 visitors a year to climb the light tower, visit the Fisherman’s Museum and explore the rocky, Maine shore.

The original lighthouse at Pemaquid Point, which juts into the Atlantic Ocean between Muscongus and Johns bays, was commissioned during the presidency of John Quincy Adams and began operating in 1827. The first version was poorly constructed, however, and was rebuilt in 1835. A new keepers house was added in 1857, and at the same time, the government added a new Fresnel lamp, which can be seen for 14 nautical miles.

The Town of Bristol bought the seven-acre park surrounding the lighthouse in 1940 and still operates the park today. The American Lighthouse Foundation operates the light tower. The first floor of the keepers house is the Fisherman’s Museum, which displays artifacts donated by the people of Bristol to chronicle the area’s maritime history.

There is a learning center at the park along with Pemaquid Gallery of Artists, which houses work by local artists.

The Park facilities are open to the public  from early May through the end of October, and there is a small entrance fee. At other times, the park property remains open to the public year-round for sightseeing.

The image of the lighthouse is well known to anyone who has ever looked at the Maine State Quarter, minted in 2003. With that coin, the lighthouse became the first to be featured on any U.S. currency.

A visit to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is just one of the many Maine places of interest that you can visit during a vacation at the Newcastle Inn. The lighthouse is just 15 miles south of the inn, and it can be enjoyed during any season, depending on the weather. The inn is centrally located in Midcoast Maine and is an ideal place to stay while exploring the area. Make your Newcastle Inn reservation soon.

October 14, 2014

Start Planning Now to Enjoy Thanksgiving in Maine

Ah, Thanksgiving. Even with all of the holiday’s positive attributes, it’s a time when it seems as though half of all Americans are clogging airports and highways on their way to visit the other half.

A little bit of planning can overcome travel-related stress on a Thanksgiving trip to Midcoast Maine. If you’re planning a holiday weekend at  Newcastle Inn, it’s likely you’re hoping to find serenity along with a Turkey dinner.

Highways and airports are busier during Thanksgiving weekend than any other time of year, so your first step is planning your travel dates. Travel industry experts suggest you avoid traveling the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following the holiday. Instead, they suggest leaving Monday or Tuesday, if possible, and scheduling your return Thursday evening or Friday.

Once you’ve decided on dates, check with the Newcastle Inn about reserving one of the comfortable suites in our Maine Bed and Breakfast. We’ll make sure that once you’re here, you’ll be able to relax.

If you’re traveling here by air, plan to pack light. Traveling with just carry-on luggage can save you time in lines and save money by avoiding baggage fees. If you absolutely need to have more than you can carry onto your flight, thinking about shipping your baggage to the inn ahead of time. At the very least, it will save time and headaches and the airport.

Whether you’re traveling by air or car, plan some extra time. Flight delays are not only common, but likely, on Thanksgiving weekend. If you can’t get a direct flight, make sure you leave plenty of time to catch connections in case of delays. Highway traffic will be heavier than normal, too, and late November weather in Maine can be unpredictable at best.

When you make your reservation, make sure to ask about local restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner. We will be happy to help you make your reservation.

Once you’re here, you’ll be able to relax in warm luxury and keep some good company with other holiday travelers.