Will you surprise the most important person in your life (and we hope that isn’t you!) with a romantic getaway, a lovely massage, mouth-watering chocolates, the theater or a memorable dinner at one of Maine’s finest restaurants? What’s under your Christmas tree this year?
George — For her
Two years of traveling the state for this column have demonstrated that Maine offers a lot of amazing restaurants, inns, events and adventures. Christmas is a great time to surprise your most-loved one with a gift certificate for some very special treats.
Start with a massage, a pedicure, a day at the spa. The Senator Inn has a wonderful health club and spa with professional massage therapists. A friend just spent her entire 70th birthday here and came out glowing.
Linda loves dark chocolate, making Kennebec Chocolates in Augusta a regular stop for me for birthdays, Christmas and other special events (or to make up for my many mistakes).
Now, I’ve added a second stop on my chocolate trail, Hallowell’s new candy store, Scrummy Afters candy store, where Kim and Hilary Davis offer chocolates from our favorite place — Monica’s Chocolates in Lubec.
If she loves the outdoors, a weekend at a northern Maine destination would be a superb gift. My choices would be New England Outdoor Adventures just west of Millinocket — with top-of-the-line service, accommodations and restaurants — and AMC’s Gorman-Chairback Camps east of Greenville, where you’ll enjoy “wilderness pampering.”
If she loves music, there’s no better place to enjoy it than Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownville. Make it an overnight adventure by booking a room at Noble House Inn nearby in Bridgeton. We’re doing just that in February.
You’ll make her very happy with a weekend getaway in Rockland at the Berry Manor Inn, an elegant Victorian with very friendly hosts, amazing breakfasts and high-end accommodations at very reasonable prices.
Rockland features many fine restaurants including Primo, Café Miranda, Rustica and In Good Company, along with some really nice shops, from Fiore Oils to Lyn Swan’s art gallery.
And guys, let’s hope I don’t have to tell you that appliances, cleaning equipment and work-related stuff is not what she is hoping to receive from you for Christmas!
George — For him
This will not be a revelation ladies, but men love to eat. And many of us enjoy a Maine microbrew on occasion. You cover both bases at Mainely Brews in Waterville, surprisingly good food and great beer. The Sea Dog in Topsham and Bangor also combine great food and beer and Geaghan’s Pub inBangor and the Liberal Cup in Hallowell are two of my favorites.
If your man doesn’t come through with the Rockland getaway, you can do it for him as long as you book the weekend of Rockland’s famous pie festival scheduled for Jan. 31. I’d call this a his and hers gift.
If he likes to fish, book a trip to a Maine sporting camp. Bradford Camps and Libby’s Camps, both in the North Woods, are amazing experiences.
And speaking of books, when we travel I carry lot of reading material. Retired game warden John Ford’s book, “Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good,” and Paul Fournier’s “Tales from Misery Ridge” are really, really good. I also love a great mystery, and Paul Doiron’s three mystery novels featuring a Maine game warden would be at the top of my favorites list.
Linda — Him, her and the kids
Here is my list of indulgences that would make great Christmas gifts. Start with chocolates … always the perfect size and most everyone loves them. Monica’s are incredible, and now we can get them in Hallowell! My favorites are the blueberry and raspberry truffles made with Maine wine. You can also order these online.
At Kennebec Chocolates, George has it down now for every special occasion, picking a variety of favorites covered in superb dark chocolate. Mmmmm.
Spas are another thoughtful gift. Whether it’s a massage or a simple pedicure or manicure, who doesn’t like pampering once in a great while? George got me a gift certificate for a massage at the Senator one year. I chose their hot stone massage treatment mid-winter — it gave me hope for spring. I still remember that gift.
Cape Elizabeth’s Inn by the Sea has a spectacular spa — take advantage of the relaxation room before and after. It will put you in a peaceful place. Their experiential shower is not to be missed. This is a great place to get away for a night or two and enjoy a rejuvenating mini-vacation.
A gift certificate and reservation for what promises to be a spectacular wine dinner on Feb. 21 at the inn’s restaurant, the Sea Glass, would be a real Christmas surprise and hit. Their chef, a native of Argentina, will be presenting an Argentinean Wine-paired dinner that night. George and I have already reserved a spot for this one.
Of course, a fine dining experience at one of the many restaurants we have visited and written about in this column would be great gifts.
There are too many to list here!
There are other great getaway choices, too. At the Berry Manor Inn in Rockland, you will experience grandeur without being intimidated. This beautiful Victorian inn will take you back in time. Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell offers lovely rooms and an amazing breakfast.
The Inn at Peaks Island is so much fun. A 15-minute ferry ride from Portland will transport you to a much slower pace of life. Take short walks or hikes around the island, and enjoy your meals downstairs in their restaurant (and outside if you go in the summer).
The Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay offers a variety of accommodations to meet your needs and budget. They have great views of the ocean and you can dine at 88 Restaurant to enjoy both great food and spectacular sunsets.
Annual subscriptions to any one of Maine’s many wonderful theaters would be a great gift, too. Our favorite is the Public Theater in Lewiston where we’ve been subscribers for years. Professional actors deliver awesome performances at amazingly low ticket prices.
And of course, we can’t forget the kids. Many Maine institutions, from art galleries to children’s museums to summer camps, offer fabulous events and activities for kids, often during school vacation weeks. Many involve the outdoors, and all are fun and educational.
The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland offers programs for budding young artists. The Owl’s Head Transportation Museum has children’s science programs — including a couple in which the kids build and fly kites and airplanes.
Maine Audubon has wonderful experiences planned for kids during school vacation weeks, including a February vacation-week outdoor adventure.
A school vacation (or weekend) family getaway to the Samoset Resort with its indoor pool and tons of special activities for the kids would also be lots of fun.
You may have noticed that we agree on some of these gifts. More chances for his and hers Christmas gifts!
What we’re saying here is that travel experiences can and should be given as Christmas gifts. You can obtain gift certificates for everything we’ve mentioned.
These gifts deliver excitement on Christmas morning — and again when it’s time to experience Maine’s best inns, restaurants and events!
Visit George’s website: www.george
smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.