Gardiner is a small city of around 5,800 people located in the Kennebec County of Maine. It is known for its culture and old architecture and is a popular tourist destination in the area.
Founded in 1754 by Dr. Silvester Gardiner, the town was initially named Gardinerstown Plantation. Dr. Gardiner made good money thanks to his three apothecary shops and owned a lot of land in this area.
He brought many workers here, gave them jobs, and built homes, mills, a church, and other facilities. Eventually, the doctor had to leave when the British army evacuated, but the settlement lived on and was incorporated as a town in 1803.
1. Take a stroll along the Kennebec River Rail Trail
Looking for a nice place to go for a walk, jog, a bicycle ride or to take your dog? Then opt for this beautiful trail that winds along the Kennebec River. Paved and well maintained, it stretches for about six miles.
It’s great for getting some fresh air and a light workout while on vacation. There is beautiful river scenery, bridges and the city views to admire on the way. It might get busy on warm days, so make sure to come early in the morning or late in the evening.
2. Have a picnic at the Gardiner Waterfront
Yet another great place for outdoor activities, this waterfront has a boardwalk, a picnic area, boat slips, a boat launch, and a fishing area. Even though it often gets crowded, it still has plenty of parking spots for everyone.
Enjoy a picnic with family and friends while admiring the river. On some Friday nights, there are concerts taking place here, so you can enjoy some beautiful background noise.
3. Admire the Monkitree Gallery
If you love arts and crafts, this is the perfect place to admire the works of not only local artists, but also talented people from all over the country.
The Monkitree is a beautiful gallery and craft store located in the center of the historic downtown. They have a wide selection of paintings, pottery, jewelry, gifts and much more.
The owner and her dog are very friendly, so you can stop by for a chat while admiring the works of art and learning more about each one.
4. Catch a show at the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center
Established in 1864, this is a nonprofit organization that brings a variety of shows to locals and tourists alike; they also host performance and art camps. The historic building has been renovated and now offers a good stage and 117 seats.
The center collaborates with other organizations to bring theater plays, musicals, concerts, magic acts, movies and other forms of art to the public.
If there’s a show taking place during your stay in Gardiner, make sure to stop by and support the local artists.
5. Hike along the Cobbossee Stream
If you’re looking for a beautiful hike (or even a boat ride) outside of the city into the wilderness, head to Cobbossee Stream. There are few signs of industry and technology here, and plenty of wildlife to admire.
There are many good places to stop by for a picnic or even to set up your tent and spend the night. Along the way, you might see eagles, loons, frogs, peepers, turtles, ducks, geese and more.
6. Have a drink at Chadwick’s Craft Spirits
Chadwick’s Craft Spirits is a cozy place where you can sit down and enjoy a drink crafted right on the spot. Their signature cocktail is the Raspberry Smash; both locals and tourists say that it’s delicious.
If you happen to catch the master distiller here, feel free to have a chat with him and find out more about how they make these awesome drinks and cocktails.
7. Experience a great meal at A1 Diner
This cute little place has been around for years and looks just like the classic diners you see in many Hollywood movies. There is a wide variety of meals to choose from, including noodles, poached eggs with asparagus, hamburgers, fries, sandwiches, salads, desserts, and more.
The food is delicious and it’s ready in no time at all, so you don’t need to wait too long. You will leave A1 Diner full and satisfied, and if you have the chance, you will definitely come back.
8. Shop at the historic downtown shopping district
When you are walking through the historic downtown of Gardiner, feel free to stop by the multitude of shops in the shopping district. Here you will find everything you might need, from clothes and pet supplies to hardware or groceries.
Most of the stores are locally owned, so if you buy here you are supporting the local economy. The buildings are old and have that historic feeling to them, while the interiors are shiny and modern.
There is also a nice boardwalk near the river where you can go for a wander.
9. Admire the Gardiner Common Fountain
Located pretty close to the river and city center, this is a beautiful place to visit on a warm, sunny day. You can admire the fountain, the sculptures, the nearby historic homes, and the old church.
There is a playground for the kids and a gazebo, so the entire family can spend some quality time relaxing here.
10. Have dinner at the Slates Restaurant & Bakery
While it looks quite standard on the outside, this restaurant has a lovely interior, but most importantly, it boasts delicious food. They have a wide variety of dishes to choose from to suit any taste and budget.
Steak, pizza, lobster, wraps…you can find it all here. The staff are friendly and the prices are reasonable. There is usually a live band too, so you can enjoy some upbeat vibes while you eat your meal.
12. Visit the Maine State Museum
Located in Augusta, five miles from Gardiner, this wonderful museum has world-class exhibits covering a range of topics – from the Ice Age to the present day. It is a well-stocked museum with plenty of artifacts to admire for a few hours.
The place is fun, entertaining, informative and educational. It spreads over multiple floors and will show you the entire history of the Maine area through various exhibits, pictures, full-size replicas, taxidermy and much more.
13. See Fort Western
Also in the nearby city of Augusta, this place contains the oldest wooden garrison building in the country. Built in 1754, it is a history museum with plenty of interesting things to see.
The guide is an experienced historian and storyteller and will explain the history of the region in a fun and entertaining way. He will tell you all about how people used to live centuries ago, how they dressed, how they fought and so on.
There are plenty of exhibits to admire; some of them are interactive, allowing you to witness and take place in certain activities. If you love history, you will adore Fort Western.
14. Visit the State Capitol in Augusta
This impressive building will remind you of the White House. Built with granite and marble from the resources of Maine, it’s quite different compared to others across the country.
You can take plenty of photos from outside, but you can also admire the interior on a guided tour. The guides are professional and knowledgeable and will gladly answer your questions.
15. Shop at the Hallowell Antique Mall
If you like to collect antique items, you will love shopping at this mall. It’s quite large and has an eclectic assortment of knick-knacks.
There are two buildings packed full of hidden treasures. You will find old letters, postcards, photos, bear skin rugs, antique toys, old jewelry and so much more.
The staff are friendly and well informed and will tell you everything about the history and value of each item. You can easily get lost in this place and spend a few hours and a few hundred dollars.