Usually when people talk about the city of Portland, they instantly think of the West Coast, located in that state below Washington. Well, ladies, pack your bags and head across the country to the other Portland located in the land of lobsters, rocky sea lines and a bustling population of lesbians.
As the biggest city in Maine with 64,000 people, Portland boasts approximately four million tourists each year, who enjoy easy access to the ocean, mountains and woods, along with a distinctive downtown art and music scene on a working waterfront.
Just a short six hour drive from New York City or an hour and a half from Boston, Portland is a place where you can shop locally to snag a great deal, eat well on the cheap and walk around the streets holding hands with your girl without worry.
Yes, being a vacationland is this state’s claim to fame and Portland exemplifies how many want life to be: quiet, cultured with a laid-back, but striving vibe. A visit in the summer will get you snapshots of picturesque fields of lupins and a variety of festivals, not to mention the local island communities.
Upon arrival in Portland, drop off your things at the Eastland Park Hotel (from $149,157 High St, 207-775-5411, eastlandparkhotel.com) and head upstairs to the Top of the East Lounge for drinks and a panoramic peek at Portland.
For a view of Casco Bay, get a room at Portland’s new gem, the Hilton Garden Inn (from $229, 65 Commercial St, 207-780-0780, hiltongardeninn.hilton.com). If you’re hankering for an at-home feel, check into the Wild Iris Inn (from $115, 273 State St, 207-775-0224, wildirisinn.com).
Spend some quality daytime walking Congress and Commercial Streets, the two major drags of the city’s downtown. You’ll find most of the restaurants and shops around here. Nestled in-between is the Old Port, known for its boutiques, bars and restaurants, which complement an actual working waterfront.
Make sure you head over to Nomia, Portland’s first woman-owned and -operated adult boutique (24 Exchange St, 2nd fl, 207-773-4774, nomiaboutique.com) for some parting gifts. Didn’t have time to hit the salon before your trip? That’s all right; Shone and Sheila will take care of you at Epiphany (477 Congress St, 207-774-5400). Get an eyeful at the Portland Museum of Art (7 Congress Sq, 207-775-6148, portlandmuseum.org) where Friday night admission is free. To catch a foreign flick, hit the Movies on Exchange (10 Exchange St, 207-772-8041, moviesonexchange.com) or for feature films, walk a block to the Nickelodeon Theater (1 Temple St, 207-772-9751, patriotcinemas.com).
Are sports more your style? Sit in the stands at a Sea Dogs game, the double A-affiliate of the Boston Red Sox (271 Park Ave, 1-800-936-3647, portlandseadogs.com). Don’t forget to climb the 103-stair Observatory (138 Congress St, 774-5561, portlandlandmarks.org) to get a stellar view of the city, or walk the four-mile trail around the bay to stir your appetite.
Portland may be on the small side for a city, but it is known for its plethora of affordable restaurants, offering an ample buffet of ethnic cuisines for your longing taste buds. Need a place to shake that hangover or peruse through the morning newspaper? The folks at the Brooklyn-inspired Hot Suppa!, (703 Congress St, 207-871-5005) will make you a mean breakfast sandwich with a sweet smile. Craving sushi? Cruise on over to Restaurant Sapporo (230 Commercial St, 207-772-1233, meweb.net/Sapporo). Go after 10pm on the weekend and get your rolls at a discount while black lights beam and the house’s favorite music plays.
Another favorite of visitors, locals and organic lovers alike (and it’s not just for their deck overseeing the harbor or their comfy leather couches) is Flatbread Pizza (72 Commercial St, 207-772-8777, flatbreadcompany.com). If you’re feeling super romantic, splurge on a gourmet meal at Street & Co. (33 Wharf St, 207-775-0887) and enjoy a sampling of the world’s best seafood.
After dinner, dance it off at The White Heart Bar and Cocktail Lounge (551 Congress St, 207-828-1900, thewhiteheart.com), Portland’s hipster haven that blares the sounds of electro, hip hop and other assorted booty shaking, drink-spilling beats. If you’re lucky, you just may be able to catch live performances of well-loved lady rapper Sontiago. For girls looking for girls only (with the occasional gay boy) you can’t miss Styxx (3 Spring St, 207-828-0822, styxxportland.com) on a Thursday night with DJ Kate who spins a mix of old school and mainstream hip-hop that always heats the room. Since you’re practically next door, you may want to check out Spring Street (117 Spring St, 207-772-5101, mainestreetogunquit.com/springstreet), a gay bar with more than a sprinkle of ladies beforehand, for an early cocktail or two. If you hit it right you may be able to see the all-queer righteous folk quartet Vanessa Torres and Touching Ground waxing political. Want to visit an art gallery that doubles as a performance venue? Find out what’s happening at The Space Gallery (538 Congress St, 207-828-5600, space538.org). Lesbo comedians Stephanie Doyle, Christine O’Leary and Ian Harvie work the room and are ready to please at Portland’s own Comedy Connection, (Custom House Wharf , 207-774-5554, mainecomedy.com). And, if you and yours just feel like chillin’, browse the shelves at Casco Bay Books (151 Middle St, 207-541-3842, cascobaybooks.com) or pick up a DVD to watch in that portable from the local haunt downstairs, Videoport (151 Middle St, 207-773-1999).
Want to get out of town? The ferris wheel is calling in Old Orchard Beach, just a 20 minute drive away. Drink a beer on the Pier, get matching henna tattoos, eat fried dough and go for a stroll on one of the cleanest beaches in Maine. If you’re feeling a little bit more upper crust, zip over to Kennebunkport, home of the Bush presidential compound and Maine’s Ralph Lauren experience. Convertibles and old money circulate in this postcard-perfect town square, known for its quaint, but high-priced, shops with no corporate influence. A little further south is a favorite coastal spot among traveling gays, the town of Ogunquit. Pick your local flavor at Maine Street’s tea dances for the ladies (195 Main Street, 207-646-5101, mainestreetogunquit.com). For a day trip with no driving, jump onboard the Mailboat Run on Casco Bay Lines (56 Commerical St, 207-774-7871, cascobaylines.com). Deliver goods and letters the old fashioned way while getting a three-hour tour of the area’s surrounding islands.
Summer blooms beautifully in New England and Portland offers a lesbian travel experience that fits the budgets of the well-to-do and the working class. Maine’s best-kept secret keeps its ladies happy and coming back for more.
If you’re the type that wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes of your destination, check out the local dish at thebollard.com. Type in thephoenix.com for the latest in event listings before you hit the road.