A few years ago, my family and I did the Living Well Spending Zero challenge from Ruth Soukup. As part of the challenge, we spent minimal money for the entire month. No groceries, no entertainment, no take-out. We allowed ourselves a small amount of cash at the start of the month for minor necessities, and activities that had already been planned, but that was it. We ate through the food in our refrigerator and pantry, learned to ration our seltzer, and went to some free events like the Fork Food Lab grand opening.
Overall, we did a great job, or at least until the last day of the month when our cat came down with a UTI, and we had to do an emergency visit to the vet complete with x-rays, anesthesia, and multiple antibiotics, all of which negated most of our savings from our zero spend month. Still it was a fun, creative experiment and one we are about to embark on again.
Are you looking to save more money this year too? While you may not want to dive into a full month of zero spending, although I do recommend it, here are a few ideas for some free activities that you can do in Maine. I’ve broken the activities out by month, but some of them are available over multiple months.
Note, this information is based on my experiences from previous years. The activities offered and pricing may change so it’s always good to check the links to the various websites to see what they have scheduled for 2019.
Winter is here and it’s time to take advantage of the great outdoors. Embrace the cold, the snow, and the wind chill, and head out on a moonlight hike. While you do need equipment for snowshoeing, many local parks and recreation departments, as well as libraries, have them available to borrow. Need some help getting started? Here’s one from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust at the Hamilton Cove Preserve in Lubec.
Winter Festival | Auburn 2019. While not all the activities are free at this weekend long event, some of them are including a snow playground at the festival plaza, the Lake Auburn scenic trails, and Friday night’s torch-light parade at Lost Valley Ski Area. You’ll have to check the website for exact dates but in the past it’s been held towards the end of January. There are other great winter festivals throughout the state as well and all usually have a free activity or two.
Flavors of Freeport. There are some scheduled events in the evening that do require tickets, but during the days you can walk around to many of the retail locations for various free tastings. My husband and I went a few years ago and had a blast. You can get more details on the event from my previous post – #AtoZChallenge | F is for Flavors of Freeport
I am lucky enough to live on a lake and about once or twice a winter conditions align and we can go skating in our backyard. We’ve had those conditions for the last few weeks and it has been glorious. However, what to do when the lake is covered in snow and not really accessible? Head to one of the many skating venues located throughout Maine. While there are some paid rinks, there are also some free options out there too and Guide to New England Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks has a great list of outdoor skating venues in Maine and throughout New England.
The Star Theatre at the Kittery Community Center has a new free film series on Thursdays at 6:30 pm. They’re showing Dirty Dancing on February 7th. Nothing like re-watching a favorite film in a theater. The theater also has a free lecture series.
The Portland Museum of Art is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon and if you head over on a Friday night, admission is free from 4:00-8:00 pm. The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday during the winter.
The Nite Show with Danny Cashman is filmed before a live studio audience at The Gracie Theatre at Husson University in Bangor, Maine. There’s no cost to be an audience member, but you do need to get tickets in advance. Tapings begin at 6:00 pm although you need to arrive by 5:45 pm. Currently there are shows listed for February through April.
As baseball season gears up, why don’t you swing by Hadlock Field for a free tour. The Portland Sea Dogs offer free tours of Hadlock Field to groups. Tours are available on weekdays when the team is on the road.
Wolfe’s Neck Farm offers free camping and meals in exchange for volunteering to help with their spring clean-up weekend at Wolfe’s Neck Oceanfront Camping. The last weekend in April and the first weekend in May, you can camp for free while you and your family help clear leaves and debris from campsites. You can email email@example.com to sign up.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is an amazing destination. There are a variety of gardens throughout the space with beautifully maintained native plants and displays. They offer free admission to Maine residents during their Maine Days event which runs over Memorial Day weekend. See my previous blog post for more details An afternoon at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.
Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor offers free tours and tastings in season (from Memorial Day through mid October). What a great way to start your summer. We stopped in this summer and it was wonderful.
The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife offers Free Fishing Days during the year. For 2019, the free fishing days are February 16-17, 2019 and June 1-2, 2019. According to their site,
“On these days, any person (except those whose license has been suspended or revoked) may fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply on these days.”
Last year, many state parks also offered free admission on Father’s Day so keep an eye out for this freebie in 2019. My previous post Hiking Swan Island for Father’s Day highlights our visit to Swan Island a few year’s ago to take advantage of this free admission day.
With warmer weather comes the joy of outdoor movies. Portland Summer Films offers Free Movies in Congress Square Park every Sunday evening during the Summer. They haven’t announced the 2019 scheduled yet, but click the link to see the films that were shown this past summer.
Other towns have also offered free outdoor summer movies in the past. Below are a few links to some previous free outdoor movies:
Bug Light Park, South Portland
In addition to movies, summer is all about the music. Here are a few links to the 2018 free concerts offered last year. The 2019 schedules aren’t out yet, but will be worth checking out as summer gets closer.
During Maine Open Lighthouse Day many of Maine’s iconic lighthouses are open to the public. This annual event draws large crowds. While I didn’t make it out for last year’s open lighthouse day, we did get to tour the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse during the kite festival at Bug Light Park.
The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend is held a couple of times during the year in February and again in September. During the weekend, there are many free and introductory events held throughout the state.
October is not too late to take advantage of free admission to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. According to their website, “From June through October, the museum offers free admission to all on First Fridays from 5 – 8 p.m.” This one is still on my bucket list!
And, if you’re in the mood for more art, many of the University Art Museums in the state offer free admission as well.Click the links below for more details on each art museum.
I enjoyed attending a few of the Cellardoor at the Point Complimentary Wine Pairings this in the past, and blogged about the experience in my post Cellardoor at the Point and Black Dinah Chocolates Food and Wine Pairing. It’s a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to checking out more of their events in 2019, although they are no longer offering complimentary wine pairings. But, if you’d like to try some wine, Rosemont Market & Bakery regularly hosts free in-store tastings at their various locations. They have not published their full calendar for 2019, but you can check at their website on their event calendar as they add additional dates for their free tastings.
November into December is also a great time to take advantage of all the holiday tree lighting and other ceremonies leading up to Christmas. One on my list is the Nubble Lighthouse with their lobster trap Christmas Tree.
Allagash Brewery Tour and Tasting Allagash use to offer free tastings although now there is a small fee although it’s still an extremely good value. There’s no better way to end the year than a stop into their tasting room and you can still take a free tour. We actually started our zero spend month with a visit to Allagash. It was the perfect way to kick-off of a spend free month, and would also be a great way to end your year. Really, it’s perfect for any month.
This is certainly not a complete listing of all the free events happening in Maine, but it provides a small taste of some of the cost-effective ways to have fun in Maine this year. Do you know of any low-cost or free events happening in the state? I’d love to add more activities to my list!