Although Bangor is not located on the coast, it acts as a gateway from Southern Maine to Northern and Downeast Maine. Bangor is the 3rd largest city in Maine, after Portland and Lewiston, with around 33,000 people.
While most people just drive through to get to Mount Desert Island, Bangor itself is definitely worth making a stop along the way!
Take a tour of notable landmarks of the famous horror author Stephen King, visit the second oldest garden cemetery in the US, or just take a nice hike. No matter what you choose to do, read this list of 22 Fun Things To Do in Bangor, Maine before you decide!
1. See A Show
The Penobscot Theatre Company is the northeastern-most, year-round, professional theatre company in the country. They own and perform in the historic Bangor Opera House located in downtown Bangor. Catch different musicals and plays such as Miracle on 34th Street or Matilda: The Musical.
The Collins Center For The Arts, located on the University of Maine campus in Orono, features a large concert hall and a small recital venue. It is home to the Bangor Symphony Orchestra in addition to other musicians, national touring productions, and local concerts.
2. The University of Maine
The University of Maine is the flagship public university in the state and is located just 15 minutes north of Bangor in Orono. It is a beautiful campus to stroll through, featuring many historic brick buildings, including the 150-year old Raymond H. Fogler Library.
Some notable points of interest on campus include:
The Hudson Museum: The Hudson Museum celebrates cultural diversity and inclusion through its exhibitions, events, and programs. Visit the museum to see some exhibits featuring Persian calligraphy, Mesoamerican artifacts, and the Maine Indian Gallery.
The Page Farm and Home Museum: The Page Farm & Home Museum collects, preserves, and interprets knowledge of Maine history relating to farms and farming communities between 1865 and 1940. It includes the Chute Schoolhouse, and 1955 one-room schoolhouse, The Wintson E. Pullen Carriage House, and the Blacksmith Shop. A ¼ acre Heritage Garden rounds out the Museum. Heirloom varieties of herbs, flowers, and vegetables that were grown from 1865 to 1940 are cultivated here.
The Versant Power Astronomy Center and Planetarium: The planetarium is the perfect spot for school field trips, space-based parties, or any other special occasion. They also offer community events and programs several times a month!
D1 UMaine Hockey Team: The UMaine hockey team is definitely the most popular sport on campus, and they definitely have some exciting games. See a game between October and March.
3. See the Stephen King House
We all know and love the acclaimed horror author Stephen King. Did you know he’s a Maine native? He was born in Portland, attended the University of Maine, and lived in Bangor for 37 years.
The King home was built in 1858, is surrounded by a black iron fence with gargoyles, and remains a mecca for his die-hard fans. On any given day, you can see them posing for photos in front of the gate and hoping to get a glimpse of the King of Horror.
King bought the Bangor house in 1980 for $135,000 but has since moved out.
If you’re a really hardcore fan, you might want to take a Stephen King tour around Bangor! The tour costs $55 and will take you around to see 20-30 places in the Bangor area that were featured or inspired Stephen King’s works.
If you’d rather drive around yourself, here’s a list of some spots worth seeing.
4. Brewery Hop
Although Bangor can’t live up to the craft brewery destination that is Portland, it still has a few great breweries.
Actually, my favorite brewery in Maine, Black Bear Brewing, has a location in downtown Bangor in addition to its taproom in Orono. They serve up BBQ food to snack on with their beer and feature live music on the weekends.
My favorite Black Bear Brewing beers are: Dead Sled Scottish Ale, Gearhead Amber Ale, and their Cream Ale. Once, they made a juicy, delicious Apricot Ale that was my favorite beer I’ve ever had, but they, unfortunately, haven’t made it since! (that was a few years ago).
Orono Brewing Company also has two locations – one downtown, and one in Orono. The Orono location serves some delicious food alongside their extensive tap list, while the Bangor location only serves beer.
Mason’s Brewing Company has some of my favorite food in the Bangor area – they have awesome pizza and sandwiches, with many vegetarian and vegan substitutions available. Check out their huge outdoor patio that sits right on the Penobscot River!
5. Go For A Hike
There are several areas to go for a nice hike in the Bangor area. Most hiking trails wander through the woods and are easy to moderate in difficulty.
Fair warning – these are not big mountains like you’ll find in Acadia National Park or the Western Mountains. Bangor and the surrounding areas are relatively flat, so there aren’t really any mountains at all.
Check out our list of 9 Easy Hikes Near Bangor, Maine to find a nice place to take an afternoon hike. My favorites are The Bangor City Forest and Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden.
6. Bangor Public Library
The BPL resides in a stunning historical building that has 3 floors and a large copper dome roof over its magazine section. Even if you’re just visiting Bangor and are unable to check out any materials, I still recommend stopping by.
In addition to its collection of over 500,000 items, there are many places to sit and read, use the free wifi, or catch a coffee at the cafe on the ground floor. Don’t forget to check out their events page to see upcoming workshops, author meet-and-greets, and children’s programs.
7. Cole Land Transportation Museum
The mission of the Cole Land Transportation Museum is to collect, preserve, and display (before they disappear forever) a cross-section of Maine’s land transportation equipment from which this and future generations will gain knowledge of the past.
This is evident as soon as you enter the museum where you will see all kinds of old trucks, cars, trains, snowplows, sleds, and even bicycles. The signs and placards are well written and give you interesting facts and tidbits tying every vehicle to the state of Maine somehow.
If you’re taking the kids, they can look forward to exploring the inside of several old trains and trucks. It’s a great stop for the whole family!
The museum is open seasonally from May – November. Visit their website for more information.
8. Maine Discovery Museum (Children’s Museum)
The Maine Discovery Museum is located right downtown in Bangor and is the perfect place to bring the kids on a rainy or wintery day.
Their interactive exhibits invite you to explore the worlds of science, nature, geography, children’s literature, music, art, and anatomy. The exhibits include Dino Dig, Booktown, Body Journey, Amazing Animals, and much more!
The museum is currently closed to COVID-19, but I wanted to include it on this list because it’s a great place to know of when it reopens.
9. Catch a Concert
Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion
You can catch some bigger names coming through at the Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor during the summer months.
This is a popular venue for country artists, such as Thomas Rhett and Brad Paisley, but has also seen Blink 182, Lil Wayne, and Goo Goo Dolls come through.
This venue is located outdoors directly on the Penobscot River, making it a beautiful place to see a show on a summer evening. Visit their website here.
Cross Insurance Center
This large arena hosts a variety of different events, including concerts and festivals. This is the alternative to Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion for concerts during the winter months.
Bangor Arts Exchange
It opened its doors in September of 2017 and hosts New England local bands playing indie/folk/singer-songwriter music.
10. Hollywood Casino
There are only two casinos in Maine, so if you like to gamble, this is your chance!
The Hollywood Casino has a hotel, dining options, a traditional Vegas-style casino, and a horse racing track. They have over 800 slot machines, a poker room, and all the classic table games you can imagine.
It is located directly off of the interstate, and only a couple of blocks from downtown.
Visit their website here.
11. Paul Bunyan Statue
Towering over Main Street since 1959, a 31-foot-high Paul Bunyan stands in Bass Park in Bangor, Maine, claiming the city as his supposed birthplace, while establishing a bit of celebrity all its own.
This uniquely handsome Paul Bunyan statue was given to the city of Bangor by a New York group of builders in 1959 on their 125th anniversary.
The giant statue is built from a metal frame covered in colorful fiberglass and is built to withstand hurricane-force winds.
12. Zillman Art Museum
As Maine’s only collecting institution devoted solely to exhibiting and collecting contemporary art, visitors will see a diversity of media and styles presented in Zillman’s five galleries.
The Museum is located in the heart of downtown Bangor in close proximity to diverse restaurants, popular craft beer establishments, eclectic retail shops and performing arts venues.
Thanks to a generous corporate partner, admission is free to all! You have no excuse not to stop by.
13. Take A Day Trip to Belfast
Belfast is a beautiful, charming coastal town only 45 minutes away from downtown Bangor. It’s a great place to shop, eat, and take in the beautiful sites of the Atlantic Ocean.
Belfast is one of my absolute favorite towns in the state of Maine. I compiled a list of 14 Fun Things To Do in Belfast that will give you some great suggestions for a day trip to the coast from Bangor.
14. Mount Hope Cemetery
Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, Maine, is the second oldest garden cemetery in the United States.
It was designed by architect Charles G. Bryant in 1834 and built by the Bangor Horticultural Society soon after, the same year that Bangor was incorporated as a city. The movie Pet Sematary was filmed in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Learn little-known facts about some of Bangor’s famous—and infamous– residents during the guided tour offered by the Bangor Historical Society. Hear about the importance of symbolism in the gravestones and get a chance to take in some of the city’s beautiful vistas.
15. Bangor Farmer’s Market
The Bangor Farmer’s Market is one of the smaller markets I’ve been to in Maine but it’s definitely the place to go if you want fresh, local produce in the area. You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, organic meats, eggs, and dairy, freshly-baked bread, desserts, and more.
It takes place every Sunday from 11:00-1:30, across from Bangor Public Library (corner of Franklin & Harlow Streets), May-Thanksgiving.
Visit their website here.
16. Fort Knox/Penobscot Narrows Bridge
The Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory is the crown jewel of coastal Maine. Standing at 420 feet tall, it offers spectacular 360-degree views of the Penobscot River and Bay, the Maine countryside, and the distant western mountains.
Interpretive panels at the top and the base of the observatory give visitors a sense of the importance and richness of this site from a historical, transportation and natural history perspective.
Adjacent to the bridge stands Fort Knox, one of the best-preserved military fortifications on the New England seacoast. The fort has many unique architectural features, as well as a rich history behind its walls.
During the country’s infancy, Maine was repeatedly involved in northeast border disputes with British Canada. In fact, the area between Castine and the rich lumber city of Bangor was invaded and occupied by the British during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Fort Knox was established in 1844 to protect the Penobscot River Valley against a possible future British naval incursion.
Visit the website for both Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge for more information about tours, hours, and pricing.
17. Bangor Historical Society
The Bangor Historical Society is the most recognized authority on Bangor’s history and heritage through the stewardship of artifacts, documents, and sites. It is located in the Thomas A. Hill House, a Greek Revival-style home that was built in 1836.
As mentioned above, they offer tours of Mt Hope Cemetery, but they also offer several other walking tours as well.
Visit their website for more information.
18. New Hermon Mountain
New Hermon Mountain Inc. is a small, family-oriented ski area in Hermon, Maine. They offer family-friendly skiing, snowboarding, and tubing throughout the winter months.
This is certainly a small, hometown ski hill that is more suited for beginners and those just looking to have some outdoor winter fun. It’s located just 15 minutes from Bangor, making for a quick, convenient trip after work, or for fun on the weekends.
Visit their website for more inforatmion.
19. Bangor Drive-In Theater
The Bangor Drive-In initially opened on June 7, 1950, and closed in 1985 after a thirty-five-year run. They re-opened in July 2015 and have been showing all kinds of movies since!
Currently, they have two shows every Saturday evening. It costs $22 per carload of 3+ people and $10 per person for singles or couples.
Visit their Facebook page for more information.
20. Cascade Park
Cascade Park is located just north Eastern Maine Medical Center on State Street. During the summer months this park is a very popular picnicking spot, with many lovely nooks to enjoy the sun or the shade.
The park even has a couple of easy to moderate trails, if you want to take a stroll during your picnic. There is a lovely man-made waterfall, fountain and gazebo.
21. Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream & Mini Golf
Fielder’s Choice is a local ice cream chain with locations throughout Maine, but their location in Bangor also has mini-golf!
Unfortunately, there is not much information about the mini-golf course on their website, so I would suggest calling if you plan to visit – or check out their Facebook page.
Visit their website here.
22. Bangor FunPlex
This is the one-stop shop for all things fun in the Bangor area!
The Bangor FunPlex is host to a movie theater, arcade, gellyball (basically non-paint, kid-friendly paintball), and inflatable bounce houses. Take the whole family here on a cold, wintery day or when it’s raining in the summertime.
Visit their website here.