15 Best Things to Do in Augusta (Maine)

Written by Trishia Bourgoin
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

Augusta, the capital of Maine, holds a significant place in the state’s history. Originally established as an 18th-century trading post on the Kennebec River, this charming city is home to a population of just under 20,000 residents who deeply value their state’s heritage.

As you explore Augusta, you’ll encounter various landmarks that highlight the importance of Maine’s history. The State House, the museum, and the Old Western Fort are just a few examples of the historical sites that provide fascinating insights into both the state’s past and the capital’s unique story.

Maine itself, situated on the northeastern seaboard of the USA, boasts a captivating blend of maritime history and breathtaking natural landscapes. With its dense population and small size, it offers visitors a remarkable experience. Augusta often serves as the starting point for many people embarking on their journey through Maine.

To help you make the most of your time in Augusta, I’ve compiled a list of the 15 best things to do in the city.

1. Maine State Museum

Maine State Museum, AugustaSource: Stilfehler / Wikimedia
Maine State Museum

The Maine State Museum has a fascinating history, and I’m excited to share it with you. The museum, which is currently open, first opened its doors in 1836, showcasing geological and biological exhibits. However, it experienced a turbulent past with six closures over the years. Thankfully, since its reopening in 1971, the museum has been supported by state funding, ensuring its continued operation for visitors like us.

As we explore the museum, we’ll encounter a diverse range of exhibits that offer a glimpse into Maine’s rich heritage. From a fully-functional mill and a locomotive to meticulously recreated former stores, a blacksmith’s shop, and a sewing room, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

One of the highlights of the museum is its portrayal of the struggles between Native Indians, the French, and the British. These historical conflicts are brought to life through engaging displays and exhibits. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to see original scientific exhibits dating back to the museum’s inception in 1836, providing a unique perspective on the development of scientific knowledge over the years.

2. Fort Western

Fort WesternSource: David E. Heath / shutterstock
Fort Western

Fort Western, a remarkable National Historical Monument located on the banks of the Kennebec River in Augusta. This wooden fortress was constructed in 1754, during the tumultuous period of the French and Indian War.

Fort Western, belonging to the city of Augusta, stands as a testament to the rich heritage of the region, spanning over 260 years. Stepping inside its walls feels like entering a living museum, where the past comes alive. The fort offers guided tours that provide captivating insights into the daily lives of people in the latter half of the 18th century.

What makes Fort Western truly special is the commitment to preserving its authenticity. Any necessary repairs or maintenance work undertaken throughout the years have been meticulously carried out with utmost care, ensuring that the fort’s original character and historical integrity remain intact.

During the guided tours, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the fort’s various sections and learn about the challenges and triumphs of the people who lived within its walls. From the barracks to the trading post, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the fort’s significance as a hub for trade, defense, and community in the 18th century.

The knowledgeable guides will transport you back in time, sharing stories, anecdotes, and historical facts that paint a vivid picture of life during this pivotal period. You’ll discover the hardships faced by soldiers, the bustling activity of the trading post, and the interactions between settlers, Native Americans, and European powers.

3. Viles Arboretum

Viles ArboretumSource: Rebecca Falcone / shutterstock
Viles Arboretum

Step into the serene beauty of Viles Arboretum, a sprawling 220-acre site that invites you to wander through its enchanting forests and gardens. Whether you have limited time or a leisurely day ahead, the arboretum offers numerous trails to explore, allowing you to immerse yourself in the captivating world of over 300 tree species, shrubs, and plants.

As you traverse the trails, you’ll encounter a variety of terrains, from simple forest floors to crushed gravel and dirt paths. Keep in mind that during wet weather, some sections may become muddy, so appropriate footwear is recommended. With approximately six miles of diverse routes to choose from, you can find a trail that suits your preferences, all of which are accessible and not overly strenuous.

If you’re an avid birdwatcher, Viles Arboretum is a haven for avian enthusiasts. The diverse habitats attract a rich array of bird species, rewarding patient observers with sightings of winged wonders in their natural habitat.

4. The Governor Hill Mansion

The Governor Hill MansionSource: Ken Morris / shutterstock
The Governor Hill Mansion

The Governor Hill Mansion, which now serves as an event facility, has a rich history dating back to 1902 when it was constructed as the residence for the State Governor. John Freemont Hill, the Governor at the time, enlisted the expertise of a renowned architect to create a mansion befitting his prestigious position. Crafted from local granite, this magnificent three-story structure stands as a testament to the grandeur of its era.

Originally, the mansion belonged to the Hill family rather than the state itself. However, following World War II, ownership transferred to the state. Despite the passage of time, the mansion has been meticulously preserved, offering visitors the opportunity to explore its beautifully appointed rooms through daily tours. It’s worth noting that certain sections of the mansion have been leased out as offices, adding to its vibrant atmosphere.

5. State House

State HouseSource: Real Window Creative / shutterstock
State House

In 1832, shortly after Augusta became the capital of Maine, the State House was completed. It stands as a symbol of our state’s rich history and legislative significance. The design of this iconic building draws inspiration from the Capitol building in Massachusetts, and its construction showcases the beauty of local granite.

If you’re interested in exploring the State House, guided tours are available from Monday to Friday. You can easily arrange these tours at the State Museum. During your visit, you’ll discover fascinating insights into the inner workings of our government and have the chance to witness representatives in action as they carry out their daily legislative duties.

As a delightful bonus, the State House features an upstairs balcony that offers breathtaking views. So, while you observe government operations, take a moment to admire the stunning vistas from this vantage point. It’s a wonderful way to experience both the historical and natural splendor that Maine has to offer.

6. Capitol Park

Capitol ParkSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Capitol Park

Capitol Park, with its rich history spanning nearly 200 years, holds a special place as one of the earliest examples of meticulously designed gardens. Covering a vast 34-acre expanse near the picturesque Kennebec River, this land was generously donated by local citizens with the purpose of constructing the State House, which came to fruition five years later.

To create an ideal ambiance, the decision was made to adorn the park with majestic elm trees. Over time, the park evolved with the addition of impressive gravel paths, transforming it into a beloved gathering spot and a platform for public speeches. Today, Capitol Park’s historical significance has earned it a well-deserved spot on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places.

Regrettably, the iconic elm trees that once graced the park have fallen victim to the devastating Dutch Elm Disease. However, efforts have been made to replace them with other magnificent deciduous trees. While you won’t witness the original elms, their successors continue to enhance the park’s allure and provide a serene atmosphere for visitors to enjoy.

7. Augusta Civic Center

Augusta Civic CenterSource: Augusta Civic Center / facebook
Augusta Civic Center

As I stepped inside the expansive Augusta Civic Center, I was immediately struck by its impressive size, covering nearly 50,000 square feet. The largest room, spanning 32,000 square feet, stands as a grand testament to the center’s versatility. Alongside this remarkable space, two elegant ballrooms grace the premises, while the remaining rooms offer adaptability for a myriad of functions.

The Augusta Civic Center holds a noble purpose: to bolster community revenue by hosting a diverse range of events. From captivating exhibitions to thrilling sporting competitions and dynamic corporate gatherings, this venue accommodates events of all sizes, both large and small. It has become a popular destination for basketball tournaments, drawing in avid fans and passionate players alike. The stage has also been graced by legendary performers throughout its history, including the incomparable Bruce Springsteen and, in the bygone years, the iconic Elvis Presley.

8. Brook Bond Recreation Area

Brook Bond Recreation AreaSource: Augusta Trails / facebook
Brook Bond Recreation Area

I highly recommend exploring the magnificent Brook Bond Recreation Area, a sprawling 270-acre site located within the city limits. This picturesque sanctuary offers an array of outdoor activities, including walking, biking, and Nordic skiing during the winter months, with over five miles of enchanting trails to discover.

While there are ample trails to explore in the summer, it is important to note that the specially prepared “Nordic” trails are reserved for winter activities and should not be accessed during this season. However, fear not, as there are nearly 20 designated trails available for walking or biking, ensuring a delightful outdoor experience for visitors of all skill levels.

For those who wish to bring their furry companions along, well-behaved dogs on a lead are more than welcome to join in on the adventure.

Conveniently, the Brook Bond Recreation Area provides ample parking facilities, making it easily accessible for all visitors.

9. Kennebec River Rail Trail

Kennebec River Rail TrailSource: Jill Pelton / shutterstock
Kennebec River Rail Trail

If you’re looking for a picturesque trail adventure, I strongly suggest exploring the Kennebec River Rail Trail. Stretching for 6.5 miles, this enchanting pathway begins in Augusta and winds its way south to Gardiner, offering a delightful route for walkers, bikers, runners, and even skateboarders.

Maintained with great care by the dedicated group known as the “Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail,” this paved trail follows the path of an old railroad line, meandering alongside the tranquil river. The scenic beauty that surrounds you is simply breathtaking, providing numerous spots along the way where you can pause, relax, and immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance of your surroundings.

For those seeking a bit more adventure, the Kennebec River Rail Trail serves as the host venue for an annual half marathon. This exciting event takes participants on a route that extends down and back, showcasing the trail’s incredible scenery while offering a challenging and invigorating experience.

10. Sonny’s Museum & Rock Shop

Sonny's Museum & Rock ShopSource: Sonny's Museum & Rock Shop / facebook
Sonny’s Museum & Rock Shop

If you enjoy shopping and want something a little different, Sonny’s Museum & Rock Shop is the place for you. There are many colorful handmade items using rocks and gems that are certain to look nice in your home.

Rocks and gems have been gathered from different parts of the world; they are not all for sale but many of the things you see most certainly are available to buy.

The place is an education for all the family; at no stage is there any pressure to actually spend money.

11. Children’s Discovery Museum

Children's Discovery MuseumSource: Children's Discovery Museum / facebook
Children’s Discovery Museum

Sonny’s Museum & Rock Shop is a must visit if you happen to be in the beautiful town of Augusta. This one-of-a-kind establishment offers a captivating array of colorful, handmade items crafted from rocks and gems, guaranteed to add a touch of natural beauty to your home.

The collection at Sonny’s Museum & Rock Shop showcases a diverse selection of rocks and gems sourced from various parts of the world. While not all of the specimens are available for purchase, you’ll find that many of the stunning creations on display can be yours to own.

What sets this place apart is not only its extensive selection of beautiful items but also its commitment to education. Sonny’s Museum & Rock Shop offers a valuable learning experience for the entire family. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of rocks and gems, gaining insights into their geological origins and the unique properties that make them so mesmerizing. What’s even better is that throughout your visit, there is absolutely no pressure to make a purchase. You can simply enjoy the wealth of knowledge and the breathtaking displays without feeling obligated to spend money.

12. Old Post Office

Old Post OfficeSource: Ken Morris / shutterstock
Old Post Office

As I spend more time exploring the vibrant streets of downtown Augusta, one architectural gem stands out among the rest—the Old Post Office and Court House. Its prestigious status as a National Historic Place, earned in 1974, attests to its rich heritage and significance. This magnificent structure, built in the late 1880s, proudly showcases the Romanesque Revival style, making it a true gem in the heart of Maine and an impressive landmark within the city.

Standing tall with its two and a half floors, the Old Post Office and Court House captivates the attention of all who behold it. Its design features a central tower flanked by two lateral towers, creating a visually striking presence in the cityscape. Constructed using locally sourced granite, the building not only exudes elegance but also pays homage to the region’s natural resources.

For many decades, this distinguished building served as a hub for postal services and housed a bustling courthouse. Its grand halls witnessed numerous legal proceedings and the comings and goings of postal operations. However, as the 1960s approached, the functions of the Old Post Office and Court House evolved, leading to its eventual sale into private ownership. While its purpose may have shifted, its historic and architectural value remains intact, captivating the imaginations of all who encounter it.

13. Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine

Holocaust Human Rights Center Of MaineSource: Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine - HHRC / facebook
Holocaust Human Rights Center Of Maine

Being someone who values human rights and wishes to deepen my understanding of the importance of preserving them, the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine is an essential destination within the University of Maine. This facility, with its striking and modern 21st-century design, serves as a powerful reminder of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust and other genocides throughout history.

One cannot help but be captivated by the architectural beauty of the center, which earned the architect a prestigious international design award. Although it may not be a large establishment, its visual appeal is undeniable and adds to the overall impact of the exhibits and programs offered within.

While the Holocaust remains a central focus, the center also sheds light on other instances of genocide. By broadening its scope, the center aims to raise awareness about the importance of human rights and serve as a catalyst for preventing future acts of genocide. This dedication to promoting understanding and preventing atrocities demonstrates the center’s commitment to fostering a more inclusive and compassionate world.

The Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine operates primarily through the dedication of volunteers who generously offer their time and expertise. To support the center’s mission, there is an entry fee, although donations are greatly appreciated and contribute to sustaining its valuable work.

Inside the center, visitors will find a combination of permanent and temporary exhibits that provide a comprehensive and thought-provoking exploration of genocide and human rights. Additionally, the center hosts a variety of regular programs and presentations that further enhance visitors’ understanding and engagement with these crucial topics.

14. Samantha Smith

Samantha SmithSource: qnr / Flickr
Samantha Smith

In the heart of Manchester, Maine, there is a remarkable story that unfolded many years ago, capturing the world’s attention. It is the story of Samantha Smith, a young schoolgirl who became an inspiring peace activist during the tense years of the Cold War. Though her life was tragically cut short, her spirit continues to inspire generations to strive for better relations and peace between nations.

Samantha Smith, a bright and compassionate soul, gained worldwide recognition for her heartfelt letters to the President of the USSR, expressing her earnest plea for improved relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Her courageous act touched the hearts of many, transcending borders and ideologies, as she fervently advocated for a world filled with understanding, empathy, and lasting peace.

Sadly, Samantha’s journey was abruptly interrupted in 1985, when she and her father were tragically killed in a plane accident. The world mourned the loss of this promising young soul, whose potential as an actress was about to unfold. However, her memory and her impact live on, serving as a reminder of the power of a young voice in shaping our shared future.

To honor Samantha’s remarkable spirit and her commitment to peace, a statue and plaque have been erected outside the State Museum. As I stand before this memorial, I am reminded of the profound impact one individual can have, regardless of their age. Samantha Smith’s legacy continues to inspire us to work towards a world free from conflict and division, where understanding and harmony prevail.

15. Colburn House State Historic Site

Colburn House State Historic SiteSource: en.wikipedia.org
Colburn House State Historic Site

I am captivated by the rich history that surrounds me, particularly the story of Major Reuben Colburn and his extraordinary family home. This remarkable residence, constructed in 1765, stands as a testament to the legacy of a man who was not only a skilled shipbuilder but also an unwavering patriot.

The Colburn family home, nestled in this scenic landscape, witnessed the bustling activity of a brickyard, boatyard, and mill nearby. These establishments played a pivotal role in the growth and development of the area, and Major Reuben Colburn himself was at the forefront of this progress. With unwavering dedication and fierce passion, he actively contributed to the flourishing community and the fight for independence during a transformative era.

Recognizing its historical significance, the site was rightfully added to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It served as the cherished family home for an entire century, bearing witness to the trials and triumphs that the Major and his family endured. Despite the financial pressures that Major Reuben Colburn encountered at various points in his life, this resilient abode remained a steadfast symbol of their resilience and determination.

15 Best Things to Do in Augusta (Maine):

  • Maine State Museum
  • Fort Western
  • Viles Arboretum
  • The Governor Hill Mansion
  • State House
  • Capitol Park
  • Augusta Civic Center
  • Brook Bond Recreation Area
  • Kennebec River Rail Trail
  • Sonny's Museum & Rock Shop
  • Children's Discovery Museum
  • Old Post Office
  • Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine
  • Samantha Smith
  • Colburn House State Historic Site