Things to See in Augusta, Maine

Things to See in Augusta, Maine

Nestled in the heart of Maine, along the banks of the mighty Kennebec River, lies the charming city of Augusta. As the state capital, Augusta boasts a rich history, vibrant arts scene, diverse cultural offerings, and a plethora of outdoor activities. From exploring the city’s historical landmarks and quirky museums to hiking the scenic riverside trails and indulging in the local culinary delights, Augusta is a destination that truly has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or an outdoor adventurer, Augusta is sure to captivate your heart and entice you to stay for a while. Let’s discover things to see in Augusta Maine.

Soak Up Some History and Culture

Soak Up Some History and Culture

As one of the oldest cities in New England, Augusta overflows with history at every turn. Like a quaint outdoor museum, the past comes alive through preserved architecture, antique artifacts, and stories etched in time.

The Maine State House

Sitting majestically on a hill overlooking downtown, the Maine State House resembles an old European castle. Completed in 1832, this iconic landmark exemplifies the National Historic Landmark District. Gazing up at the stately dome and ornate architectural accents transports you back to the early 19th century.

Meandering through the interior, you’ll find antique senate chairs crafted by Maine artisans in 1820, along with historic portraits and sculptures. Standing in the hallowed halls where influential debates and decisions occur connects you to the city’s rich heritage.

The Maine State Museum

Just across from the Capitol Building lies the equally impressive Maine State Museum. You’ll discover intriguing exhibits about Maine’s natural and cultural history in this modern facility.

See precious artifacts from the state’s tribes, homesteaders, and early industrial sites. Marvel at collections covering everything from native wildlife to factory equipment from the textile era. It’s like walking through the state’s entire history under one roof.

Historic Downtown District

Augusta’s downtown district transports you with impeccably preserved 19th-century architecture. Exquisite historic buildings house trendy cafes, unique boutiques, art studios, and restaurants, giving the area an eclectic vibe.

Strolling along Water Street, antique lamp posts light your way as you pass colorful storefronts and converted old brick warehouses. You’ll uncover a bevy of eye-catching murals, creative street art, and nostalgic neon signs down every alley and side street.

First Amendment Museum

Tucked along the ritzy Water Street thoroughfare lies the new First Amendment Museum—the first of its kind in the nation. This enlightening exhibit traces freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly from America’s formation to modern times using engaging multimedia displays.

See rare historical newspapers, watch video clips of monumental speeches, and listen to audio accounts from journalists, activists, and petitioners who sacrificed everything for the fundamental rights we enjoy today. It’s a poignant reminder of how hard-won yet fragile these freedoms remain.

Quirky Museums Galore

Beyond traditional history, Augusta’s vibrant arts scene shines through an array of quirky galleries and museums guaranteed to pique your curiosity. Eclectic collections showcasing everything from soap boxes to cigarette lighters reveal more to Maine than meets the eye.

L.C. Bates Museum

An eccentric collection traces Maine’s cultural heritage and natural wonders at the obscure L.C. Bates Museum on the UMA campus. Peruse cabinet displays of mounted butterflies and native wildflowers along with relics from the early sporting camps and Wabanaki tribes.

While diminutive, this charming museum provides excellent insight into the diversity of Maine’s people, wildlife, and landscape through the years. It may be a hidden gem, but the Bates Museum glitters with intrigue, making it a worthy detour.

Holocaust and Human Rights Center

Equally unassuming yet profoundly moving, the Holocaust and Human Rights Center documents Maine’s connection to the Holocaust and human rights issues worldwide. Located in the heart of the old Garbrecht House, the museum delivers powerful first-hand accounts through photos, videos, and intimate artifacts belonging to survivors and liberators.

While small in scope, the lessons gleaned shine an ever-important light on the fight against prejudice. The center promotes hope by honoring those who rose in moral courage against hatred. Their stories emphasize our duty to secure justice and compassion for our fellow humans.

The Curran Homestead Living History Farm Museum

The Curran Homestead Living History Farm Museum

Nestled on a rural 100-acre farm, the Curran Museum whisks you back to 18th-century rural life in Maine. Costumed guides demo everything from open-fire cooking to artisan crafts as heritage breed farm animals roam.

Kids delight in helping feed the animals, card wool, pump water, and try their hand at tin-punching. Living history has never been so lively and hands-on. Beyond the immersive experience, scenic walking trails weave through wildflower meadows beside the historic Curran farmhouse and barn. Talk about lovely.

Riverside Trails and Outdoor Fun

Augusta struts its stuff when it comes to the great outdoors. Over 16 miles of scenic riverside trails skirt the mighty Kennebec River, welcoming walkers, cyclists, and nature lovers of all ages. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the city’s first-rate recreational offerings, from trailhead parks to championship golf courses.

Kennebec River Rail Trail

Starting from downtown, this 6.5-mile paved pathway traces the picturesque shoreline north to Gardiner and south to Hallowell. Perfect for cycling, jogging, or meandering walks, the trail connects riverfront parks with gazebos, boat launches, and benches.

Keep your eyes peeled for eagles fishing and circling above, along with osprey, herons, and songbirds flitting through the silver maples. Come sunset, there’s no better place to soak up the evening light dancing across the rippling waters.

Bond Brook Recreation Area

Just west of downtown lies Augusta’s prized recreation hub, encompassing over 700 acres of forests, fields, and wetlands. You’ll find everything from disc golf, archery, and tennis courts to baseball diamonds, soccer pitches, and six miles of multi-use trails ripe for hiking and mountain biking.

Kids swarm the creative playgrounds while families picnic at the pavilions and enclosed shelter houses. Before leaving, pause at the fascinating fish ladder observatory to watch river herring migrate upstream to spawn each spring. Talk about teaming up with fun and natural wonders!

Family Friendly Festivals

Augusta celebrates the changing seasons with several family-friendly festivals. On Memorial Day weekend, revelers gather along the scenic riverfront for live music, amusement rides, craft vendors, food carts, and spectacular fireworks during the annual Riverfront Music Festival.

As the summer winds down, the Augusta Farmers Market takes center stage on Saturday mornings behind the Buker Community Center downtown. Here, you’ll find fresh farm produce, artisanal cheeses, crusty breads, local wines and ciders, live musicians, and kids’ activities—the perfect taste of Maine.

Where to Eat and Drink

From casual cafes to gastropubs to riverside dining, eating out in Augusta hits the spot morning, noon, and night. Trendy newcomers mix effortlessly with old neighborhood haunts and iconic institutions to prepare something for every palate.

Buck’s Naked BBQ

The finger-licking aroma of hickory smoked meats wafts from this tin-roofed roadhouse plunked along the riverside highway. You pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, and hot link sausages from St. Louis ribs to Carolina. Buck’s Barbecue beckons you to grab a picnic table and dig in.

While meats steal the spotlight, you’ll also find plenty of classic sides like mac n’ cheese, collard greens, baked beans, corn fritters, and jalapeno slaw to round out your tray. Wash it all down with an ice-cold local brew, and you’ve got a little taste of barbecue heaven in Maine.

Riverfront Barbeque & Grille

Riverfront Grill rolls out the red carpet for million-dollar views with your barbecue. Located beside the city boat launch along the Kennebec, the sprawling deck, tiki bar, and backyard Bocce court entice you to sit back awhile.

The menu touts all your grill and picnic favorites, from juicy burgers to baby back ribs, lobster rolls, fish tacos, wood-fired pizzas, and farm-fresh salads. It’s the best of all worlds served alongside some sensational scenery—a top choice for out-of-towners and locals alike when the weather cooperates.

The Liberal Cup

This comfy downtown pub dishes up inaugural fanfare, paying homage to Augusta’s political heritage. Inside the historic 1800s storefront, you’ll find antique campaign buttons bedecking the tin ceiling tiles while the chalkboard displays politically-themed specials like “Grand Old Pot Roast” and “Donkey Parm.”

Beyond the witty décor, this gastropub excels at artisan pizzas, Reuben sandwiches, burgers, and chef’s specials that keep the locals coming back. Complete your visit with a pint of specialty Maine craft beer or a unique wine pairing selected by Augusta’s first certified sommelier—cheers to that!

Where to Stay

Finding accommodations in Augusta is effortless, thanks to a great selection of name-brand hotels, cozy inns, and historic B&Bs scattered about. Convenient highway access makes day tripping a breeze, while downtown options put you steps from all the action.

Senator Inn & Spa

This elegantly restored historic hotel overlooking downtown captures Augusta’s storied past with a chic modern twist. Rich hardwood floors, chandeliers, and fireplaces complement the contemporary styling in the heritage guest rooms. Start mornings at the farm-to-table restaurant before strolling next door to the State House.

At day’s end, unwind at the spa, saltwater pool, or fireside lounge—the epitome of refinement steeped in tradition. As Augusta’s only full-service hotel, the Senator spoils you in sophistication.

Bellows House B&B

Easy walking distance from the city center, this charming Victorian mansion whisks you back to a more sophisticated era. Cast iron beds with fluffy duvets, clawfoot tubs, antique furnishings, and modern amenities promote restful stays.

Start your day with a fabulous farm-to-table breakfast on the wraparound porch before ambling downtown. At eventide, unwind by the cozy living room fire, sampling the evening wine and hors d’oeuvres. For old-world charm and hospitality, the Bellows House delivers.

Caldwell House B&B

Set along historic State Street, this lovely 1905 Colonial Revival home brims with landmark appeal. Refurbished guest quarters boast unique themes reflecting prominent women and political events from Maine’s illustrious past.

Relax on your room’s private balcony, watching horses graze at the State Police stable across the way. Then savor delicious morning fare featuring specialties from the owner’s family farm in the fireside breakfast room or enclosed garden patio. For an authentic local flavor, it’s tough to beat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Visiting Augusta

Q1: When is the best time of year to visit Augusta?

Late spring through autumn offers ideal weather and most festivals and events. Summer showcases long sunny days while fall dazzles with vibrant foliage. If you love winter sports, December-March also appeals to snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, and more.

Q2: What is there to do in Augusta with kids?

Augusta brims with family-friendly attractions. Take the kids to the Children’s Discovery Museum, Family Fun land amusement park, youth sporting events, YMCA indoor pool, disc golf course, multiple playgrounds, and seasonal festivals. Every season offers plenty to keep the little ones entertained.

Q3: Where are the best areas to go shopping in Augusta?

Downtown along Water Street and side avenues offer trendy boutiques, antique stores, specialty shops, artists galleries, and gift emporiums. Venture to the Marketplace at Augusta for big-name outlets and brands or Kozy’s Cyclery for outdoor gear. Don’t miss Renys off Civic Center Drive—a Maine institution known for unbelievable deals on name brands.

Q4: What outdoor recreation can I enjoy around Augusta?

The Kennebec River Rail Trails allow biking, hiking, walking, scenic shoreline views, and numerous riverside parks. Just west of downtown, Bond Brook Recreation Area has trails, fields, playgrounds, and leagues for most sports. Favorite pastimes include kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, river cruising, fishing charters, golf, disc golf, tennis, and more.

Q5: Where can I find good local restaurants and bars in Augusta?

Downtown offers a nice mix, from casual cafes to chef-driven bistros. Buck’s BBQ and Riverfront BBQ & Grille dish up Southern-influenced Maine BBQ. The Liberal Cup gastropub and the farm fresh breakfast and brunch scene draw raves—those craving fine dining flock to the historic Senator Inn’s farm-to-table restaurant. Lastly, don’t miss out on the Saturday downtown farmer’s market!

Final Thoughts

Augusta makes an ideal base to explore Central Maine and beyond. Beyond a bevy of historic and cultural attractions, the walkable downtown district brims with shops, cafes, and unique museums guaranteed to delight.

First-time flying tips for beginners are as essential as the thrill outdoors enthusiasts experience along riverside trails, parks, and sporting facilities, where families discover ample joy, from playgrounds to amusement rides, ensuring everyone grins with excitement. Artists, foodies, nature lovers—Augusta touches everyone’s passion with understated grace and nostalgic charm.

Indeed, Maine’s capital has mastered that tricky recipe of blending yesterday’s traditions with tomorrow’s promise into a delicious destination.

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