Boothbay Harbor is bustling during the summer with day trips around town, lighthouse boat tours and whale watching, hiking and biking, and festivals. When autumn rolls in, crowds flock to the area for a glimpse at stunning fall foliage. When the temperature drops in late November through February or March, there are still several winter things to do in Boothbay Harbor. Here’s a look at the best winter activities, shops, restaurants, and more in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
Best Museums in Boothbay Harbor and the Surrounding Area
When it comes to history, Boothbay Harbor and its neighboring towns are full of opportunities to remember and re-experience the past. The many local museums in Boothbay Harbor and the surrounding areas give you the chance to experience the coastal community’s history and its treasures. Along the way, you can stop by a lighthouse or two to capture photos of this region’s long-standing and ongoing history along the Atlantic Ocean’s coastline.
Boothbay Region Historical Society
Open all year long, the Boothbay Region Historical Society has six rooms of memorabilia, artifacts, maps, and photographs related to the town’s history. It holds the town records and collections of family histories, local newspapers, and more.
Every December, the museum hosts the Harbor Lights Open House. It exhibits a festive display of antique decorations, vintage greeting cards, historical photos, and traditional greens. Hot beverages and delicious treats are available too.
Admission is free, and there is even a local historian on-site during certain times each week. The hours of operation are Thursday through Saturday, 10 am-2 pm.
Boothbay Railway Village
As a historic museum and organization, Boothbay Railway Village transports you into the mid-19th century. The historic replica village features old buildings, many of which contain vehicles that are powered by gas and steam. You can ride a real steam train through the village, and a lot of special events are held here, such as craft fairs, ballgames, and auto shows.
During the winter holidays, the Village offers a North Pole Express experience on Saturdays and Sundays.
Maine Maritime Museum
Located in Bath, the Maine Maritime Museum is dedicated to educating visitors about the maritime culture and heritage of the state. Established in 1962, it features exhibits and hands-on activities, including an immersive, one-of-a-kind lighthouse experience.
You can walk through the only surviving shipyard in the country where large wooden vessels were built and many original buildings still stand. The museum offers daily cruises of iconic lighthouses and Navy vessels as well.
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum
In Brunswick, you’ll find the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum on the Bowdoin College campus. It’s named after two graduates, Donald B. MacMillan and Robert E. Peary, who were Arctic explorers.
Bowdoin College faculty and students started visiting the Arctic in 1860 to study its environments and cultures. The museum began as an educational and research effort.
Best Boothbay Harbor Winter Activities and Festivals
With fewer crowds in Boothbay Harbor during the colder months, some local businesses close during the winter. However, there’s still an abundance of winter activities and festivals to enjoy, especially during the holidays.
As a major attraction, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens features 295 acres of gardens and a truly spectacular experience. In New England, it’s the largest botanical garden. From mid-November through December, it hosts the Gardens Aglow event.
This amazing display of over 650,000 Christmas lights occurs in the central garden and is the brightest in the region. Learn everything that you need to know about Gardens Aglow.
Harbor Lights Festival
For more than 30 years, Boothbay Harbor has held the Harbor Lights Festival with a nautical theme. It gets everyone into the holiday spirit by welcoming Santa and Mrs. Claus into town via the harbor. On the boat with them are elves, lobsters, moose, and other characters. The event also features a tree lighting ceremony, horse-drawn carriage rides, caroling and more.
Festival of Trees
As part of the Harbor Lights Festival, Boothbay Region Garden Club presents the Festival of Trees at the Pythian Opera House. The club decorates the interior of the opera house with holiday shops that offer baked goods, homemade candies and more. There’s also a silent auction, and the proceeds go toward supporting civic developments, such as scholarships and gardening projects.
In mid-December, the Pythian Opera House hosts the annual Gingerbread Spectacular. The display features small and large gingerbread houses. Professional bakers and student builders also make cabins, lighthouses, castles, and other structures in a competition for prizes. Onlookers can enjoy cocoa, entertainment, and a bake sale.
North Pole Express
At Boothbay Railway Village, everyone gets the chance to ride the North Pole Express. Running eight times a day, the train is available every December weekend until Christmas. It travels through the village and stops at the North Pole where Santa waits. The rest of the village is decorated in a festive holiday display, and food and beverages are available at Harrington House Barn.
Every New Year’s Day, you can watch or participate in the Penguin Plunge at the Murray Hill Boat Launch in East Boothbay. Hosted by the Boothbay Region YMCA, this winter activity involves jumping into the harbor. By signing up or donating, you help fund the aquatics department, which teaches second-graders how to swim for free.
Best Shopping Spots in Boothbay Harbor
While Boothbay Harbor is widely known for outdoor fun, it’s a wonderful place for shopping too. With one-of-a-kind clothing, knickknacks, and everything in between, the downtown shops have something for everyone.
At Eventide Specialties, you’ll find premium extra-virgin olive oils from around the world. The shop also sells a variety of balsamic vinegar, artisanal bread, cheeses, and wines. It’s a charming place to shop for tasty gifts.
Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops
With six locations in Coastal Maine communities, Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops feature great reads. The first store in Bar Harbor started as a printing press in 1886 and began to spread after the focus switched to books and stationery. Now, there are Sherman’s book shops in Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Damariscotta, Portland, and Freeport as well.
Sweet Bay and The Footbridge Shop
In the heart of the town, Sweet Bay carries unique items and gifts, such as bags made from ship sails. There’s even a sister store, The Footbridge Shop, which has unique items of its own. You can personalize the gifts that you want, and the store will ship them for you.
Boothbay Harbor Mart & Country Store
If you need a convenience store, the Boothbay Harbor Mart & Country Store is the place to stop. It carries toiletries, pharmaceutical items, gourmet snacks, and hot and cold drinks. You can even get beer, mixers, spirits, and wine.
Best Boothbay Harbor and Area Theaters for Entertainment
There are several things to do in Boothbay Harbor for entertainment throughout the year. However, only a couple of options are available in Boothbay Harbor and the surrounding areas during the winter months.
If you’re looking for a movie theater, Harbor Theater continues to run showings throughout the winter. Founded in 2007, it’s the only nonprofit, independent theater on the peninsula. Depending on when you go, you could see a first-run release, independent film, classic revival or festival winner.
The Theater Project
Located in downtown Brunswick, The Theater Project is a nonprofit professional theater. It’s dedicated to encouraging audiences and participants to laugh, cry, think and feel with stimulating performances. It holds evening shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and matinees on Sundays.
Best Place to Stay for Winter Things to Do in Boothbay Harbor
Flagship Inn & Suites is the best hotel in Boothbay Harbor for affordable, family-friendly accommodations. We’re in an ideal location for walking to downtown shops, restaurants, and other attractions. Also, we’re the closest hotel to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and Gardens Aglow. We even offer special deals when you book direct!