I can’t tell you how often I recommend folks to Portland, Maine. I get excited when someone asks me what I recommend there, and I get wistful remembering the times I’ve spent there.

I visited a few times when I was growing up with family, and then returned as a grown up with various suitors. Although the suitors didn’t last, the memories did, and our times in Portland always stand out among the highlights of each of those relationships. Portland has just that kind of magic.

I honeymooned there, started 2011 there, and have been nowhere else on earth as yet that brings me such peace and joy after just a few hours of walking around (and maybe a whiskey or two.) Seriously, go to Portland. And while you’re there:

Visit the International Cryptozoology Museum. If you have to ask why, we’re not friends.

Check out some great live music.

soakology portland maine

photo from portlandmainevacation.com/

Soak it up. If you aren’t weird about people touching your feet, go to Soakology and wonder aloud why there isn’t one closer to you. Yes, I’ve already mentioned this in a blog post prior but it’s so good I’m telling you again. Tack on some tea and a neck massage for half the price of whatever spa you dream about going to.

See some art at the Museum of Art, of course, but also at the amazing galleries around town.

Take the ferry to Peaks Island.

Eat at the best restaurants. Look, I’m telling you that Portland has one of the very best food and booze scenes in America today. There are plenty of food and booze media that agree with me, but don’t take our word for it. Here’s where I recommend with enough enthusiasm to maybe make you a little scared:

our honeymoon at fore street

Honeymoon dinner at Fore Street

Fore Street – so much hype. For a reason. It’s not avant garde, it’s not edgy, it’s just really good food in a cozy place with the friendliest waitstaff you’ll ever meet.

Duckfat – my favorite meal is the late afternoon nosh, the 4pm charcuterie-and-fries-and-wine meal that lets you stave off dinner until a more civilized hour. Duckfat is the perfect place for this.

Bard Coffee – oh, this is just a coffee shop, you say. I mean, yeah, but it’s really good coffee served by lovely people. Just go.

otto mashed potato pizza

photo from maineproject.com

Otto Pizza – Mashed potato, bacon, and scallion pizza. I know, I had you at “mashed potato.”

3 Dollar Dewey’s – You know from the name it isn’t fancy, and you won’t at all be shocked to find they have a variety of cheap beers. But the beers are good, the popcorn is free, and I’m completely addicted to their chili.

And don’t miss this long list of places I haven’t been but still feel comfortable recommending:

Central Provisions

Novare Res

Eventide Oyster Co.

Everything on this list.

Portland Hunt and Alpine Club

Any place this guy recommends.

Here’s the thing about Portland. It is super walkable, locals are friendly and will always give you great recommendations, and there are very few places where you can go wrong just by wandering in and grabbing a seat at the bar. Ok, those are many things, but still. Plan your trip in the fall for peak leaf peeping without all the tourists.

And take me with you?