Kids are still going to school, even if it’s online most of the time, and they’re doing it amid all the added pressures of the pandemic.
So maybe this year, more than ever, they need that week off from school between Christmas and the New Year to have fun and recharge a little. And let’s be honest, those of us who left school decades ago could probably use it too.
While the activities available during school vacation week in Maine will look different this year, there is still plenty to do, both virtually and outside. Here are a few ideas for how to fill up the free time when school is out for the holidays. For the in-person activities, check their websites for COVID-19 restrictions.
SMOOTH AS ICE
This year has been anything but smooth. So imagine what it would be like to just glide along through a year, without any impediments, like you’re skating. Heck, don’t imagine, go out and do it. One big public place to get your glide on is the Rink at Thompson’s Point on the Fore River in Portland. The 10,000-square-foot rink is covered by an old railroad shed roof but exposed on both sides and will be hosting a maximum of 50 skaters. For $8, you can skate all you want on the perfectly groomed ice surface and rent skates for $3. There are also restrooms, concessions and a bar on site. Wearing face masks is required. For more information and hours of operation from day to day, go to TheRinkatThompsonspoint.com.
TAKE A HIKE AND MORE
Maine state parks are open in winter and are great places for socially-distanced hikes and strolls, as well as more vigorous activities. Some staff members at the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands sent us a list of their favorite parks for winter excursions. In the southern half of the state, they list Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, Camden Hills State Park in Camden, Sebago Lake State Park in Casco, Vaughan Woods State Park in South Berwick and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport as great places for hikes, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. They listed favorite spots for winter beach walks too, including Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Ferry Beach State Park in Saco, Fort Popham State Historic Site in Phippsburg and Scarborough Beach State Park in Scarborough. For more information on specific parks, including admission prices, go to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands website. If you are hiking in the woods, be safe and remember it’s good to bring a paper map, a compass and hand-held GPS, in case you stray too far to get a cell signal.
A LITTLE MORE MAGIC
This year, many people would like to seize the joy and magic of Christmas and hold on as long as possible. Well, you can do that by taking a drive through the Gardens Aglow holiday lights display at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which stays open through Jan. 2. It’s basically a driving tour of the property, past trees, rocks and ledge covered with lights of all colors. There are many free-standing light displays too, including brilliant replicas of moose, deer, dragonflies, loons and frogs. There’s also a drive-through tunnel of lights. The half-hour tour is $40 per vehicle, and individual arrival times are booked in advance. For more information and tickets, go to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens website.
CHECK OUT THE LIBRARY
Maine’s libraries offer lots of things online, including story times or pre-recorded lessons and craft workshop. So it’s a good idea to check out what local libraries are offering. The Maine State Library is continuing its Science Online Series through school vacation week, at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Each program on the library’s Facebook page lasts 15- 30 minutes and features Maine State Library STEM librarian Christina Dorman leading kids through a project. This month’s theme is gifts, so on Dec. 23 the project is to make a “mug cake” and on Dec. 30 it’s party poppers. For more information on the series and a list of materials need for upcoming creations, go to the Maine State Library’s Facebook page.
Pineland Farms in New Gloucester can help you discover a new winter sport – snowy disc golf. Pineland has its two disc golf courses open all year round, even in snow. You can play a round for $5 and rent a disc for $1. One course is more than 7,100 feet long, while the other is more than 4,100 feet long. Pineland is also open for two-hour farm visits school vacation week. These include a map and self-guided tour that allows people to visit all the barnyard animals, including chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and fowl. The price is $5 a person and free for kids 2 and under.
There is also a free ice skating rink on the property, near the tennis courts on Morse Road, and Pineland asks that skaters social distance and follow CDC safety guidelines. Weather permitting, Pineland offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking on its trails. Full-day passes for adults are $10 for bikes, $12 for snowshoes and $20 for skiing, but there are different prices for shorter time periods. For more information on all Pineland offers in winter, including prices, go to pinelandfarms.org.
The Maine-based music duo of Amanda “Panda” and Rob Duquette will offer their “KindKids Music Winter Vacation Concert” on Facebook from Dec. 28 through Jan. 1. People pay $4.99 to access the concert and watch it any time. The 20-minute performance includes original family-friendly songs of kindness, gratitude, nature, health and silliness. There will also be puppet friends, including Patience the peaceful panda. To purchase access to the concert, go to the event KindKids Music Winter Vacation Concert on Facebook; for more information on KindKids Music, go to Musicandmagic.org.