While Maine is known for its natural beauty, winter can often make it hard to enjoy. It can be difficult to find ways to get outdoors that don’t involve trekking through the snow or going on a hike.
About two hours south of the University of Maine are The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. While most known for the in-season foliage and butterfly house, the Boothbay garden has an event for those wanting a casual winter outing.
The annual Gardens Aglow event runs from Nov. 19 to Dec. 31. It is open in the evenings on Thursdays through Sundays, save for holidays. Tickets for the event are $18 for adults and must be purchased ahead of time online. There are also discounts for children or seniors, as well as a family package. You can book tickets for any of the four arrival times at 4 p.m, 5:30 p.m, 6:30 p.m and 7:30 p.m. The gardens are a wonderful trip to take with family.
The event gives visitors a way to enjoy the gardens in the cold season, with the grounds being completely lit with more than half a million lights. Trees and fence posts are lined with color, giving the gardens an otherworldly appearance.
Sections feature different colors, with one section being lit as a blue winter wonderland that stretches out in the evening sky. Others are littered with purples and teals that run overhead. The garden’s pond is also not left out of the spectacle, with lights going around the water and being on platforms in the pond itself.
There are also less natural, but still fun, displays with the lights. Glowing moose and nests of branches with fairy-like lights mixed within are just some of the past spectacles they have had.
Also located throughout the grounds are a collection of large wooden troll statues, hanging out among the trees. They are recent additions to the sights of the gardens, having been added in 2021. The Gardens Aglow event took a two year hiatus due to the pandemic, and this will be the first year that the trolls are included in the winter wonderland.
The botanical gardens have a small market that sells refreshments, as well as a sitting area. The enclosed area can be a nice place to get out of the cold air while enjoying a sandwich or baked goods.
While the gardens are a wonderful trip on their own, nearby is Boothbay Harbor. Mostly a summer destination, the town has a number of shops and restaurants that are open year round. Shops range from the usual suspects to Maine-based chains, like Sherman’s bookstore, and unique stores selling crafty or handmade items.
For food, the harbor features a number of seafood restaurants, which is no surprise, with the town being on the Maine coast. In the summer months, Shannon’s Unshelled is a family favorite for fulfilling the lobster roll craving. Her location is seasonal, however, meaning it isn’t open at the time.
Mine Oyster is a popular dock-side seafood restaurant. Their hours vary, opening at 11:30 a.m. every day and closing at 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, or 9 p.m. most other days. For a to-go lunch, Red Cup Coffeehouse is a small eatery in downtown Boothbay Harbor. They are a good choice to grab something different and take your food to go.
If you want to continue to see Maine’s beauty, visit Ocean Point, a small stretch of rocky beach. Parking places line the side of the road and then it is a straight shot down to the water. It is usually not crowded and can be a relaxing pit-stop for the journey.