Of moose and Maine: 6 sweet stops in the Pine Tree State

Snapshots from our most recent visit to Vacationland.
A record player
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As of this summer, I’ve lived half of my life in Pennsylvania. But I’ll always be a Mainer.

It’s where I grew up and visit at least once every year. Each trip is an act of discovery and rediscovery, of places and tastes that reaffirm my desire to spend more time there as I grow older.

One fun stop is the Len Libby candy shop on Route 1 in Scarborough. Shown above is the store’s mascot, Lenny, who is described as the world’s only life-size chocolate moose. This is my go-to place for a Maine delicacy, Needhams. Need ’em? I gotta have ’em!

I want to share with you some of the other highlights from my most recent pilgrimage to Maine (as I did in this post from a year ago).

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One of our vacation rules is to avoid national chain restaurants. We prefer local flavors, all the better when they are served in a classic American diner.

The Miss Portland Diner has occupied multiple locations in Portland since its inception in 1949; it has been on Marginal Way since 2007. It had a cameo in the 2004 Mel Gibson movie “Man Without a Face.”

Bottom photo, Maine-made L.L. Bean boots apparently work in any season, as evidenced by this customer’s summer ensemble.

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The Palace Diner in Biddeford has come a long way despite never having left the city since its arrival in 1927.

We first ate here more than 15 years ago when eggs came with burnt toast (no extra charge). Now run by two young chefs, the Palace gets written up in the likes of Bon Appetit.

Open seven days for breakfast and lunch and Thursday through Saturday evenings for dinner, the diner offers the Deluxe Sandwich shown above: bacon, egg, jalapeno and cheddar on an English muffin, served with Palais potatoes.

And, of course, ladies are invited.

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The last time we stopped at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth we didn’t stay as there wasn’t any place to park. So this time we arrived at mid-afternoon and had no trouble finding a lacquered wooden table inside (remembering the aggressive seagull who stole an elderly couple’s French fries the last time we ate outside).

The food alone is worth the trip, but then there are the views. In one direction (top photo) is Two Lights State Park with its active light station; in the other direction, the Atlantic Ocean.

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The Portland Observatory has been a conspicuous presence in the city’s Munjoy Hill area since 1807, so it’s inexplicable that I hadn’t climbed its seven stories until this visit.

Captain Lemuel Moody inspired its construction so that ships could be spotted hours before they arrived in Portland’s harbor, allowing workers on the city’s wharfs to prepare for docking. In the bottom photo, if you squint hard enough, you can see Portland Head Light as the white object on the skyline.

The octagonal (to reduce wind pressure on each side) observatory was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

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Goodall Park opened in Sanford in 1915. In 1919, it played host to an exhibition game between the Sanford Professionals and the Boston Red Sox. Babe Ruth hit a three-run homer (of course he did) in what proved to be his final game for the Red Sox; he was sold to the New York Yankees on Dec. 26, 1919.

Since 2002, Goodall has been home to the Sanford Mainers of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. The wood-bat league is a notch below the famous Cape Cod League but serves the same purpose: giving top college players an opportunity to gain more experience.

Six former Mainers have played in the Major Leagues, but what I love about attending games here is its innate small-town feel. Ask the woman at the concession stand whether debit cards are accepted and she says, “Not usually.” The players play but, as evidenced by the middle photo, aren’t above going through the crowd selling raffle tickets.

Still, Goodall has the trappings of a minor-league baseball game, including merchandise sales, on-field promotions, and a mascot (arriving in the bottom photo).

His name is Broose. He is a moose. He is not made of chocolate.

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