Located in Maine’s Penobscot County along the river of the same name, the town of Hampden was founded in 1794 and has about 7,000 residents.
It’s near enough to Bangor to allow visitors to take day trips into the city to see its artistic, cultural, and historical attractions without spending countless hours in the car.
The Penobscot River estuary basin in which the town sits is an important ecosystem that provides a host of recreation options to locals and visitors – like swimming, fishing, and sailing.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Hampden, Maine, USA.
1. Bangor Historical Society and Thomas A. Hill House Museum
Built in the Greek-revival style, the Thomas A. Hill House Museum now houses the Bangor Historical Society as well. For new visitors to the area, it’s a great place to visit first to get an interesting insight into the region’s history.
The home is full of historical items, including housewares, art, and furniture from eras that span more than two centuries. If your timing is right, you may get the informal tour from the museum’s director.
Even for history bugs, seeing all the house and museum have to offer shouldn’t take more than an hour. Though it’s free to visit, they do gladly accept donations, which will allow them to continue to provide their valuable community service.
2. Cole Land Transportation Museum
Located on Perry Road in Bangor, the Cole Land Transportation Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting a unique slice of history, and the economy that many of us take for granted.
The museum is open from May until November and was originally established in 1989.
It’s full of equipment like trucks and trains that have been the lifeblood of the state’s transportation sector for decades.
It’s especially true since the majority of the region’s products are bulky raw materials like timber.
The cost of admission is very inexpensive considering all you’ll have access to, and it’s conveniently located near downtown.
3. Stephen King’s House
For psychological thriller and horror fans, the name Stephen King stands at the apex of the literary heap. A quick drive-by of his home on West Broadway in Bangor is the perfect way to capture a unique photo op.
The home isn’t open to the public nor is it a museum, so there’s no cost associated with visiting.
It’s not widely known that Stephen King was born in Maine and that many of his most famous novels are set in New England.
Many of his most diehard fans consider a trip to his home a rite of passage and pilgrimage of sorts.
4. Penobscot River Walkway
For decades, the Penobscot River was the playground of many of New England’s most connected and wealthy families; the Penobscot River Walkway near the intersection of Front and Railroad Streets is a great way to take it all in.
The walkway follows the river and offers some of the area’s most scenic and unobstructed views, many of which include sailboats, beautiful blue skies, and a variety of birds that congregate by the water’s edge.
There are picnic tables and a few historic canons spread along the trail, so consider bringing a few sandwiches and drinks and having a picnic.
5. Paul Bunyan Statue
At more than 30 feet tall, Bangor’s Paul Bunyan Statue is one of those quirky and cool things to do in town that’s convenient, fun and free.
The statue is located in Bass Park on Main Street and is a fitting tribute to the legendary lumberman, who’s the symbol of the rugged men who harvested the state’s timber largely by hand in years past.
You won’t need to spend more than a few minutes at the site to get the full effect, but you may want to take a stroll around the park or explore the city’s historic downtown area.
6. Maine Discovery Museum
Also located on Main Street in Bangor, the Maine Discovery Museum is spread over multiple floors and is chockfull of interactive exhibits and displays relating to science, history, culture, and the natural world.
It’s appropriate for all ages, and many previous guests have noted that it far exceeded their expectations.
Much of what you’ll see was designed with kids in mind; they’ll be excited, engaged, and educated all at the same time.
In winter, Maine’s weather can be downright cold and icy. If that’s when you’ll be visiting, a few indoor hours at the Discovery Museum would be a great way to get out of the elements.
7. Geaghan Brothers Brewing Company
Craft and microbrews are gaining in popularity all over the country as consumers’ tastes move away from mass-produced beers to local ones. Geaghan Brothers Brewing Company on Abbott Street in Brewer is one of the area’s most popular.
They’ve got a dedicated tasting room, which is the perfect place to try a few samples before deciding which to buy. Since their beer offerings change seasonally, there’s always a wide selection available.
There’s also a full menu if you’d like to grab a bite; though the food isn’t cheap, they’re generous with the portion sizes and offer a selection – from burgers to soups and salads.
8. Bangor Waterfront Pavilion
Bangor’s Waterfront Pavilion is the city’s premier live entertainment venue, especially in the warm spring and summer months when the weather is perfect.
For popular concerts, the pavilion often draws crowds well into the thousands. The seating, lighting, and sound system are top notch, and there are plenty of restrooms and concession stands serving food and drinks as well.
Downtown parking can be an issue during peak times, so if you’re staying in town, consider walking or hiring an Uber to get there.
The Bangor Waterfront Pavilion is open seasonally and located on North 4th Street.
9. Kenduskeag Stream Heritage Trail
The Kenduskeag Stream Heritage Trail’s trailhead is located near downtown Bangor and follows the course of the stream after which it’s named.
Despite its proximity to the city, it winds its way through a few forested areas that’ll make you feel like you’re further away from civilization than you really area.
The trail is a particular favorite of bird watchers, and it’s not uncommon to see eagles and ospreys snagging fish from the nearby water.
Flat and relatively easy, the trail isn’t paved, so it’s not a great option for families with children in strollers, especially after rain.
10. Bangor City Forest
Bangor City Forest is crisscrossed by a variety of trails that are the perfect places to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and spend a little time with Mother Nature.
Most of the trails are flat and covered with crushed stone or planks, and along the way, there are plenty of shaded areas that are great places for a rest or to catch up on your reading.
The City Forest is near the Bangor Public Library and just a few blocks north of the river, which can be reached by Exchange Street.
The forest is free to visit and open from sunrise to sunset.
11. Bangor Farmers Market
Farmers Markets are great places to check out when visiting a new area.
Full of seasonal fruits and vegetables and lots of other great products, they are the perfect place to meet locals and ask them what to see and do while in the area.
Bangor Farmers Market is located near the intersection of Harlow and Franklin Streets. In addition to produce, they also offer a variety of arts and crafts, prepared food, and health and body products, nearly all of which are made by local farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs.
They’re known for their fresh baked goods too; buying a thing or two is a great way to support the local economy.
12. Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
For animal lovers, amateur photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts, a visit to the Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge would be a great way to spend a few hours.
Located near the town of Milford, it is home to a variety of animals, including, foxes, beavers, wading birds, waterfowl, and even majestic moose, which are often seen drinking from the bog in the early morning and late afternoon and evening hours.
The refuge is located about 15 miles north of Bangor and was established in 1988 to preserve the unique peat-bog wetland ecosystem supporting such a diverse array of wildlife.
13. Stanwood Homestead Museum and Bird Sanctuary
Comprised of more than 200 acres near the town of Ellsworth, Maine, the Stanwood Homestead Museum and Bird Sanctuary is an interesting mix of history, cultural heritage, and the natural world that’s a great bang for your hard-earned buck.
The museum is full of exciting exhibits on the lives of the people who formerly resided on the Stanwood Homestead. There is also a variety of exhibits on birds, especially birds of prey like owls, eagles and hawks, many which are native to the area.
There are a variety of outdoor trails to explore and picnic tables too.
Also located in the quaint town of Ellsworth, Woodlawn is a historic estate with grounds covering nearly 200 acres. It was once home to multiple generations of the Black family.
The estate home is full of authentic period furniture, art, and housewares that were extravagant by the standards of the day. Outside, there’s a beautifully cultivated garden that’s especially vibrant in spring and early summer.
It’s conveniently adjacent to a public park that’s full of hiking trails, so after your tour of the historic home, consider a leisurely stroll or a lazy picnic lunch.
15. The Telephone Museum
Telephones are things that most of us take for granted, and we often forget how much they’ve changed over the years.
The Telephone Museum in Ellsworth provides guests with a fascinating snapshot into the past, when the telephone system was full of switchboards, vacuum tubes, and other clunky equipment.
Many of the museum’s exhibits are interactive and give visitors an opportunity for some hands-on exercises.
It’s especially fun for the little ones, especially since they’ve probably never seen a telephone other than a cell phone.
You may be surprised to learn that some of the hopelessly outdated equipment was used well into the 1980s.