Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, it should come as no surprise that a significant amount of my summer memories trace back to the Coney Island Boardwalk. Whether it was for a stroll and a hot dog (or two) at the original Nathan’s, or a night of fireworks and back-to-back rides at Luna Park, there was always something memorable about a day at the boardwalk.
It’s those memories that are the reason I’ve always had a fondness for coastal boardwalk towns. So naturally, when we began planning our extended weekend to Maine, we knew we couldn’t leave Old Orchard Beach off of the itinerary.
Old Orchard Beach has gone through various transitions throughout its long history, at one point being home to a racetrack, the area of which was purchased in 1952; and even spent five years as the home to an Animal Fair. But many parts of its historic past still remain: Pier Fries has been feeding visitors for almost a century, and the Old Orchard Beach Pier has been a hangout for beachgoers since 1898!
Despite all of the activities to currently available to enjoy in the area and our limited time, we managed to have a pretty jam-packed day.
Get Down to the Beach Bright and Early
I typically prepare for any trip including those shorter in length by researching all of the popular “where-to-go’s” and “what-to-see’s”; and remember virtually every “Must Visit Beaches in Maine” article having Old Orchard Beach pretty high in the rankings. Like most beaches, I’d suggest trying to arrive earlier in the morning to claim a spot and unwind before the noon crowds roll in.
What I enjoyed most about Old Orchard Beach is how it provides the best of both worlds: the liveliness and excitement you’d find at many popular pier-inclusive beaches, but also the relaxation and beauty of beaches like Myrtle Beach. And while there was a steady influx of visitors, we still never felt the beach was overcrowded or chaotic, making for a pretty relaxing morning.
Take a Walk Along Old Orchard Beach Pier
As expected, the pier was packed; but once you get passed the hoards of people Old Orchard Beach Pier is the ideal chill-out spot for people of all ages. Considering there is almost no way to avoid it, kids will definitely want to stop at Pier Pizza before heading down the Pier. Those looking for that summer kick-back atmosphere can head on over to Tequila Frogs for some Mexican Bulldog Margaritas. But if you’re just looking to get out of the sun for a minute and enjoy a relaxing meal, Hurricanes Raw Bar is definitely the spot.
While weekend beach vacations can be the ideal go-to for college students, I have always felt that these trips are perfect for families as they’re often affordable and generally don’t require too extensive of a drive if you’re living on the East Coast. Families can add Old Orchard onto their list of spring break ideaswithout fear of a bad time, becuse there truly is something for everyone.
Relive Your Childhood at Palace Playland
Palace Playland, which boasts being New England’s only beachside amusement park, is exactly what you look for when it comes to coastal amusement parks: a wide variety of nostalgic rides, complete with a slight grittiness. As we walked up, the first ride that caught our attention was the Pirate, which you’ll generally find a variation of at most amusement parks or block parties, making it the perfect first stop for our nostalgic trail through Playland.
Considering the inflated per-ride prices at many of the places I used to frequent as a kid, we were amazed to find out that a Day Pass got you unlimited access to every ride in the park. Needless to say, we ended up staying at Playland a bit longer than we had originally anticipated but it was entirely worth it.
Play a Relaxing Round of Schooner Mini Golf
Schooner Mini Golf is about a five minute drive from Old Orchard Beach Pier, and is your typical 18-hole mini golf course..if that course was complete with a large replica Schooner! On this day there were only about two other groups on the course, which was ideal as it gave us the chance to take our time but also saved us from the occasionally extensive wait. Per usual, I ended up coming in second last place, which I accepted with pride as I still managed to beat my usual score. Portland Schooner Mini Golf plays off its theme so well, and provides an array of holes that are actually pretty challenging, but the staff also add to the experience. There aren’t many places that have workers that leave you in a better mood after a quick two-minute conversation while purchasing tickets.
And don’t think you can leave Schooner Mini Golf without grabbing a Cookies’n’Cream shake for the road. I mean that literally, as you can’t exit without passing by their on-property ice cream window; but considering that it was around 92 degrees at the time, there wasn’t a better way to end of the evening.
Our day at Old Orchard Beach was packed with excitement and still, there are so many things we wish we had gotten the chance to do, like parasail passed the pier, enjoy the Thursday night downtown fireworks, or drop by the new Harmon Museum. But as always, it’s just an excuse to return.
But until then, we’re left with some great memories and a craving for some Pier fries.
But where should I stay when visiting Old Orchard Beach?! How about one of these spots?
*Quick Tip: Old Orchard Beach is a pretty popular spot, so parking was definitely a bit challenging. Come prepared to pay for parking and check out a list of local parking lots and their contact information here.
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What a delightful post! I’ve always wanted to go to Maine and this beach looks like a great leisurely place to relax and take it easy. Thanks for sharing! Will add this to the list when I finally do visit Maine!
I always love a good beach day- and Old Orchard Beach looks like it has a lot to offer. Is the water freezing up there?
There’s nothing quite like a day at the beach, and that looks a particularly fine one. I’m loving the balance of enough people for it to be buzzy without having to sit shoulder to shoulder with a crowd. Some of the attractions are very similar to the UK seaside: mini golf, piers, amusement rides. But ours are more fish and chips than pizzas.
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Overcrowded beaches take away from the experience for me, so it’s always great to find a spot that has a balance. Personally, I’d prefer the fish and chips over pizza any day. I’ve only been to London, but would love to go back and experience all that the UK really has to offer; i’ll rememeber to add some time at the seaside to that list.
Some good tips, I’m going to Old Orchard in two weeks time for a couple of nights. I will have to check out Tequila Frogs for some Mexican Bulldog Margaritas 🙂
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Have a great time! – though it shouldn’t be hard with Bulldog Margaritas 🙂
Great beach to highlight! How much does parking usually cost, do they have metered spots? What kind of food options do they have on the beach or in the area? 🙂
Our spot cost about $20. On our drive over it seemed most ranged from $15-30 which is a bit steep, but not too bad when you’re with a car full of people. We’re also super use to tbe unfortunately high pricing of New York parking. The benefit is how close most parking is to the beach though; about a blocks walk in from the beach itself.
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What an adorable little beach town! Is the water warm enough for a swim?
It was definitely warm enough for a swim, especially before during the day. After 4pm, it does get a bit cooler and breezier though.
so cute! as a west coaster I’m always so impressed by how cute and quaint east coast beach towns are!
I’ve never heard about this place! The Pier and the mini golf look both so lovely, I’d love to spend a day over there 🙂 Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience!
Id never heard of old orchard beach before so thanks for putting it on my radar! I grew up in a beach town myself and some of my fondest summer memories are going to the boardwalk at night and riding the rides or getting ice cream. I feel like going here would be like a trip down memory lane but with a New England twist!
Loved reading this post about a little beach town. It reminded me some of my beach memories back in India.
It looks like such a charming place with so much interesting history to it! I will keep this in mind in hopes that I make it out to this part of the country one day.
I am a total sucker for beaches wherever and whenever, but I have to admit I have not heard about this particular one. I guess I’ve learned something today and your pictures really make me want to visit someday, it sure looks like a great place to spend a sunny weekend at!
I’ve heard of Coney Island but for some reason I still can’t connect New York to a beach at all. Old Orchard definitely looks like a great place to spend a summers weekend and escape the bustling city. Loved your tips and I can’t wait to visit the next time I’m in New York!