Linda

Wondering what Christmas gifts to get for your loved ones? A gift certificate may be the answer. Maybe your grown children would love a dinner out alone with their spouses, a brief respite from a busy life. Or, perhaps you are thinking of a getaway for a night or two at a nice inn for yourselves.

George often came up with just such a gift for me when the kids were little. He loved the fact that he got to enjoy this gift, too. We went to the Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor one year, and it is still a great getaway today — one we visit for our travel columns. The view and grounds are incredible and the restaurant is top notch.

The Harraseeket Inn in Freeport is another wonderful spot we visited where Chip Gray and the attentive staff make your stay memorable. Shopping abounds, of course, as do a number of really nice eating places.

Other favorites of ours are Rockland’s Limerock Inn and Berry Manor Inn. These are special places where hospitable hosts make you feel so welcome. You’ll be treated to incredible breakfasts as well in these beautiful historic homes.

We’ve sent several friends to Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth for special getaways, and all have returned raving about this place that includes a great restaurant.

Maybe a winter getaway would be a good fit. If so, a trip to Twin Pines in Millinocket would be at the top of my list. The view of Katahdin under a blanket of snow is an incredible sight. Miles of groomed trails are maintained for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling. And their restaurant is great, too. A visit here will cure a case of cabin fever while creating wonderful memories.

And don’t miss this Christmas event: We recently enjoyed opening night of the spectacular Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. We’d seen amazing photos when our daughter Rebekah and her family visited last year, and vowed we would go this year.

Well, they have doubled the number of lights to 360,000 this year. That’s 32 miles of lights! From the moment we entered I was captivated. Bright LED lights outline trees and garden features creating beauty that made me feel happy and peaceful.

It took 35-40 volunteers and staff more than 2,000 hours to hang the lights. Because they are LED lights, the cost of electricity should be under $100. You walk and visit at your own pace, and food trucks provide a variety of meal and snack choices.

This not-to-be-missed event is open from 4-9 p.m., Thursday through Sunday until Dec. 31. Purchasing tickets online will save you time and money.

If there is one thing you do for yourself this holiday season, please make time to get to Gardens Aglow. Forget any worries about shopping and all the busyness of the holidays. Take time to enjoy the sheer beauty and magnificence.

George

Restaurant gift certificates also make great Christmas gifts. As regular readers know, Linda and I love Calzolaio in Wilton, and have sent many people there. And we can’t drive by Bangor without a meal at Geaghan’s Pub.

In Waterville, we especially like Buen Apetito (for Mexican food), Amici’s Cucina and 18 Below. And I’ve designated the corner table in the window of the Liberal Cup in Hallowell as my Augusta area office, enjoying many meals (and yes, beverages) there.

The Old Mill Pub in Skowhegan was added to our list of favorites after a recent trip, along with Kal Mat Cafe. Lunch or dinner at Vittles in Pittsfield would be another great gift. And the Dancing Elephant in Fairfield is a unique and special place right here in central Maine.

We spend a lot of time in Rockland and have enjoyed Cafe Miranda, Rustica and the Home Kitchen Cafe. Just up the road in Camden is our favorite Thai restaurant, Long Grain.

If your gift recipients are skiers, Coplin Dinner House in Stratton — for Sugarloaf skiers — and 22 Broad Street in Bethel — for Sunday River skiers — are wonderful restaurants.

If you would like to know more about these places or check out some others, go to my website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, select the Best of Maine section and the town or city, and you’ll get all of our columns about places there.

A special Christmas gift would be tickets to the spectacular 13th annual Pies on Parade event scheduled for Jan. 29. This event raises money for the AIO Food Pantry. Tickets can be reserved by calling 596-6611.

If you give this to someone as a gift, you’ll want to join them for this event featuring 40 sweet and savory pies at over 25 businesses, restaurants and inns throughout Rockland. It’s one of my favorite annual events: walk, eat, walk, eat. Yum! And there’s even a bus to take you from one place to the next, if you don’t or can’t walk.

Merry Christmas! And we can promise that these gifts will deliver a very happy new year!

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