Located in Franklin County, Maine, Farmington is a town of slightly less than 8,000 that’s mainly known for its annual fair and its University of Maine extension campus.
The town and surrounding area were home to quite a few Native American tribes for generations before the arrival of European settlers, and much of this history is discoverable at the variety of museums in the region.
Like many of New England’s towns, the main economic drivers were once timber, furs, and farming, though now tourism is a significant segment of the economy.
The town was founded in the late 18th century and is a great place to stay while experiencing all the things the area has to offer.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Farmington.
1. The Nordica Homestead Museum
Whether you’re an opera fan or not, the Nordica Homestead Museum in Farmington is one of those local icons that shouldn’t be passed up.
The museum was once the home of Lillian Nordica, who in her day was a star rivaling any pop stars of today.
The only way to tour the museum is by guided tour, but you’ll be glad you did when you’ve learned about her fascinating past and the era in which she lived.
It’s also interesting to note that Ms. Nordica was one of the first celebrity spokespersons for Coca-Cola, which explains the soft drink memorabilia that seems oddly out of place.
2. UMF Art Gallery
Considered a real gem by locals and visitors, who’re often blown away by the quality of the exhibits and facilities at the University of Maine Art Gallery, it’s a must-see for art lovers and aspiring artists in need of a little motivation and inspiration.
The museum doesn’t have permanent exhibits, but instead relies on temporary ones from other institutions, so no matter when you visit, you’ll likely see something different from the time before.
Located on Main Street in Farmington, much of the art that’s featured was created by local, regional and young, undiscovered artists.
3. Farmington Fair
Held annually in September, the Farmington Fair is one of the town’s most iconic events and includes a variety of activities that you’d expect to find at a small town fair.
Held at the Farmington Fairgrounds, it includes elements of rodeo, arts and crafts fair, and carnival.
It’s the perfect family-friendly way to spend a day, especially for those travelers who miss the small town charm that’s becoming rare these days.
The fair is particularly known for its tasty food and live entertainment and considering all that it offers, the cost of admission is pretty darn cheap.
4. Farmington Underground
Located on Church Street in Farmington, Farmington Underground escape rooms is the perfect way to spend a few hours for those looking for suspense, camaraderie, and the chance to use their minds to save their cohorts from the zombie apocalypse.
The idea is to collaborate with your teammates to answer questions and solve puzzles and riddles which will hopefully lead to escape before impending doom.
For those who’ve never experienced an escape room, they’re a lot of fun.
They’re relatively inexpensive and can be done year-round in any weather, making them unique and convenient, unlike many other forms of recreation.
5. The University of Maine at Farmington
Founded in the 1860s as primarily a teacher’s college, the Western State Normal College didn’t become part of the University of Maine system until the late 1960s.
Like most college and university campuses, it sports a scenic campus that’s an excellent place for a morning or afternoon stroll, and there is often a variety of activities going on, from sports to theater.
Colleges and universities also host educational and instructional courses that are open to the public; they’re often very inexpensive or even free.
The best way to keep up to date with what’s going on is to check the calendar of events on their website.
6. Wilson Lake
New England is a region of the United States that’s dotted with ponds, lakes, and bogs of nearly every shape and size; this makes it relatively easy to find one that’s not totally overrun with visitors.
Wilson Lake is located near the quaint town of Wilton and is the perfect place to spend a day enjoying the great outdoors.
Swimming, walking, and fishing are popular activities, and you’ll likely feel like you’re farther away from civilization than you really are.
The lake’s entrance is on Lake Road, and it’s an easy drive from Farmington.
For a morning or afternoon treat, consider stopping at the locally famous Collins Bakery from some fresh baked goods.
7. Maine State Museum
Located in the state’s capital of Augusta, the Maine State Museum offers an interesting blend of exhibits on history, culture, science, and art, and is considered one of the state’s most impressive museums.
One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is dedicated to the Native American people who lived in the area for thousands of years before it was settled by Europeans.
They’ve also got a popular exhibit on Maine’s economy and all the products for which it’s famous. There’s an aquarium full of local fish that’s a big hit with children too.
The museum is open year-round and is inexpensive to visit.
8. Fort Western
Fort Western historic site is home to the oldest garrison and fort structure built entirely from wood, and construction was completed in 1754.
Now, the old fort is a history museum that documents New England’s history from the 17th to 19th centuries.
It’s hard to imagine that much of the fort is original, and though some of the items on display are replicas and reproductions, many are original and give visitors a fascinating insight into the harsh realities of life in centuries past.
Guided tours are the preferred method of getting the most bang for your buck, and are relatively inexpensive.
9. State Capitol
Located in the state’s capital city of Augusta, The Maine Statehouse building is a classically-designed government building that’s majestic in its proportions and simplicity.
If you find that it’s reminiscent of the Capitol dome in Washington, that’s probably because it was designed by the same architect.
The Hall of Flags is one of the site’s main attractions. There are plenty of staff around to answer questions and point you in the right direction if you’re looking for something in particular.
There’s ample and inexpensive parking nearby, and the downtown area is a great place for a morning or afternoon stroll.
10. Winslow Homer’s Studio
Though it’s pretty pricy, touring the home and studio of famous artist Winslow Homer is a worthwhile activity. But due to its length and cost, it’s probably not a good option for those traveling with kids.
Tours typically last 2 ½ hours and are always led by a guide. In addition to the home and studio, guests will also visit some of the vantage points where Homer painted some of his most memorable seascapes.
It’s a great idea for amateur artists and art lovers, and you’ll likely learn much more about the artist’s life and work than you expected.
The museum is in nearby Prouts Neck.
11. Fort Halifax State Historic Site
Built in the mid-18th century, Fort Halifax State Historic Site in Winslow is one of the original and most intact blockhouses in the country.
“Blockhouses” is a term used to describe the structure’s square design, which was relatively easy to defend, even against enemies attacking from all sides.
The site is full of historical exhibits and plaques that give guests interesting insights into the eras before and during the Revolutionary War.
The site lies on the banks of the Kennebec River, and there are covered picnic areas and even a small amphitheater that hosts performing arts during the warm summer months.
12. Sonny’s Museum
Part museum, part gift shop, and part rock and gem shop, Sonny’s Museum is one of those places that’s hard to define, but it’s a great place to check out for one of a kind items that you won’t find elsewhere.
Their specialties are rocks, gems, and handcrafted jewelry, each of which is unique.
Sonny’s is located on Water Street in Augusta, and most of their business comes referrals and repeat customers, which means they must be doing something right.
Consider swinging by Sonny’s on a day filled with many of the state capital’s sights.
13. Bigelow Brewing Company
Featuring a wide variety of microbrews and some of the best pizza in the area, Bigelow brewing company has a comfortable atmosphere, good service, and even hosts live entertainment during the warm summer months.
They’re located on Bigelow Hill Road in Skowhegan and offer an ever-changing selection of beers, so no matter when you go, you’ll have many different tastes and styles to choose from.
If you’re not a beer aficionado, consider ordering a sampler, which lets you taste small portions of different styles before deciding which you prefer.
In addition to pizza, they offer a full menu of tasty fare.
14. Skowhegan Riverwalk
Skowhegan is the kind of place you could easily spend a day at. In addition to the brewery, it’s also home of the Skowhegan Riverwalk, which might just be the perfect place to stretch your legs and watch the sunset before an evening of pizza, beer, and music.
They’ve often got local art on display, and there are a variety of interesting shops too.
The trail is paved and features plenty of seating and built-in outdoor exercise equipment that’s fun to try out.
It’s an excellent place for a picnic lunch or to spend an afternoon with a good book.
15. Skowhegan Indian Monument
Not far from downtown Skowhegan and the Riverwalk, the Skowhegan Indian Monument is one of those quirky things to do that’s convenient, free, and won’t take very much time.
As the name implies, it’s a rather large statue of an Indian created by a local artist, and it’s one of the town’s most photographed and visited attractions.
The area around Farmington and Skowhegan was once home to a variety of Native American groups, most of which are sadly gone.
It’s on Madison Avenue, and once you get close, you’ll likely see it, as it’s pretty tall. If you get lost, ask a local for directions.