We had the opportunity to visit York, Maine last August. For the most part, we were stoked because we have friends and family who visit quite frequently and they always talk about how beautiful it is there. However, I was a little nervous because we were in the middle of a pandemic. Coupled with recently adopting a puppy (Kylo), no doubt our trip was going to take careful planning. Nevertheless, I was determined to find things to do that the entire family would enjoy.
Ordinarily, a family vacation would be exciting and fun. Yet, times were very different at that moment. In preparation, I spent countless hours researching things to do, dog-friendly restaurants and current covid restrictions. Above all, Matt and I wanted to be certain that we’d actually be able to explore most of what York, Maine had to offer. Otherwise, what was the point in packing up two boys and a puppy if we were going to be extremely limited on what we could do.
Fortunately for us, our house was a 2 minute walk to Long Sands beach. Everyone with kids knows how important proximity is when vacationing near the ocean. Who in their right mind enjoys hauling ‘beach toys’ and the endless amounts of snacks to and from the beach each time!? No thank you! Truth be told, our boys would have been ecstatic if we had only gone to the beach and no where else on this trip.
Thankfully, we were able to pry them away from the ocean to enjoy some other family activities. Below, I’ll share with you our favorite things to do in York, Maine with kids (…and a puppy!)
1. Crab Hunt on Long Sands Beach – An all-time favorite activity with our boys. They spent hours on the beach searching for crabs. We had loads and loads of buckets filled with crabs !!! But, don’t worry! We made sure the boys returned them all. Sadly, dogs are not permitted on the beach during certain hours. However, if you go early enough, you can bring your dog to run around and play in the water. One of my favorite memories from this trip was taking Kylo for an early morning walk on the beach.
2. Grab the Skimboards – On a whim, Matt picked up a couple of skimboards while in Maine. The boys couldn’t wait to try this! Despite the ocean being unbearably cold, this was a HUGE hit! I’m certain they would have spent more time in the water but the water in Maine is FREEZING!!!
3. Visit Goldenrod – As a kid, my family would always visit Ft. Myers Florida for vacation. Specifically, I remember looking forward to bringing back Salt Water Taffy! Hence, this makes the top of the list. Goldenrod is a candy store, homemade ice cream shop and restaurant, located in the heart of Short Sands Beach. We’ve all heard the saying ‘a kid in a candy store’… there is simply no other way to describe it. Without a doubt, that’s exactly how I felt. The unique part about Goldenrod was that you could actually watch them make their Goldenrod Kisses (salt water taffy).
4. Visit Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse – What a spectacular view! This lighthouse could make the most amazing backdrop for any photo. It is one of the most visited lighthouses on the coast of Maine and is one of America’s most photographed lighthouses.
5. Eat Outside at Fox’s Lobster House – After you visit the Nubble Lighthouse be sure to stop here. We found ourselves at Fox’s quite a few times. It’s a beautiful oceanfront view and they offered outdoor seating. It was a very casual setting but we also loved that they were dog-friendly.
6. Grab Ice Cream at Dunne’s – after you’ve filled up on lobster head over to Dunne’s Ice Cream. In our family, no meal is complete until you’ve had dessert! You will have a very hard time choosing between their abundance of flavors. In my opinion, the Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker ice cream was hands down some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Many people also raved about the Wild Maine Blueberry and Maine Whoopie Pie.
7. Window Shop in Downtown York – Anytime I go to touristy places, I like to get the full experience and visit some of the local, quaint boutique shops. Especially because you just never know what you’ll find. And of course, who doesn’t love bringing home souvenirs?
8. Eat at Cape Neddick Lobster Pound – this was another dog-friendly restaurant with outdoor seating. They were located a little off the beaten path but overlooked the Cape Neddick Harbor and Tidal River. Indeed, an awesome restaurant. I highly recommend the Rum Punch & buffalo wings. My husband still talks about how amazing their wings were!
Local Legend has it that in the 50’s and 60’s The Lobster Pound would voluntarily close for the week of fourth of July so the Historic York Militia could use the building as an armory. In 1969 most of the original structure was destroyed in an overzealous re-enactment of the Battle of Yorktown. This unfortunate event left only the cozy two winged structures in which we’re standing in front of.
9. Take a Lobster Tour – this activity isn’t exactly in York but it was too fun not to put on this list. It was a short 20 minute drive to Ogunquit, but totally worth it! The whole tour lasted just under and hour. Not only do you get to view the stunning scenery but you get first hand lobstering experience. The guides were super knowledgeable and they even let the kids steer the boat. This is great for all ages ! Dogs are welcome too !
10. Have a Game Night – Fun-O-Rama is one of the most beloved historic arcades in New England. Head on over to Short Sands Beach to play a quick game of mini golf, bowling or hit the arcade for some fun.
There were so many more things on our to-do list but we simply didn’t get to them all. Vacationing during a pandemic was not ideal because a lot of places had restricted hours or weren’t open at all. Next time we visit, we’ll be sure to do the following:
- York’s Wild Kingdom Amusement Park & Zoo – We walked by the zoo a couple of times and we initially thought they were closed. We had intended on going back but the timing just never worked out. I’m adding this to the list because I know the boys would have LOVED this place. Plus, every site I read before our trip recommended this park if you had young kids. There’s always next time…
- York Harbor Cliff Walk – I love any kind of scenic walk! However, this was a little bit of a hike from us. We would have had to drive closer and then walk along the path. I was also bummed to see that dogs were not permitted on the trail.
- Take a stroll through the Wiggly Bridge and Steedman Woods – NEW as of July 2020 – Old York now offers a Story Walk in Steedman Woods, featuring the tale, I Am Birch, written and illustrated by Maine artist, Scott Kelley. The story, posted on placards along the path, can be found on the north loop. The walk makes a loop through the woods, and brings you back near the entrance sign to Steedman Woods, where you can continue on the main trail to the Wiggly Bridge.
- Ride the Trolley – this would have been another fun way to get around town. However, the trolley was not currently running when we had visited York.
- Kayak through the coastal waters of Maine – I really wanted to take the boys kayaking off the coast of Maine. But again, time got away from us and we didn’t get to this.
If after reading this post, you’re still looking for more things to do in York, be sure to check out The Crazy Tourist. No doubt, you’ll find some awesome ideas listed there.
What are some things you and your family enjoy doing in York, Maine?
Will your next family vacation be to Disney World? If so, hop on over to my post: Best Walt Disney World Tips + Tricks for Beginners