Local Top 10: Things to do before you’re overrun by school


Well, it’s that time of the year again. The warm weeks filled with barbecues, beaches and fireworks are over, soon to be replaced with textbooks, professors and exams. Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of fun to be had outside of class. Portland, Maine hosts a variety of great locations and events for students and their families to enjoy. Portland offers a huge variety of restaurants and cafes to satisfy any foodie’s cravings. Add to that typical Maine pastimes and all the popular local events in areas of music, art and sports, and it will be nearly impossible to have anything else then an awesome weekend. Believe me, it doesn’t take long in the school year for all of your free time to mysteriously disappear. So make sure you have dedicated some time to for moments you can actually enjoy, before the homework starts piling up. To help you find the coolest things to do in and around Portland, here’s a list of 10 Things To Do Before USM Consumes Your Life.

  1. First Friday Art Walk

On the first Friday of every month, all the city’s artist’s studios, galleries and museums open up their doors for Portland. Expect to see anything and everything, from paintings and sculpture to drawing and live ballet when Portland’s thriving Arts District comes alive. This month the Art Walk features work and exhibitions from the Richard Boyd Art Gallery, Bridge Gallery, Dockfore, Holly Ready Studio and the Maine Jewish Museum and more. If you like to get creative or if you just have a big imagination, then there’s no better way to get inspired than by strolling the streets during Portland’s Art Walk. If you can only make it to one exhibition,be sure to save yourself for the biggest exhibition of them all at the State Theatre. At 5 p.m. the doors open to several floors and over 40 local artists showcasing a wide variety of imaginative interpretations of our world. It’s a must-see for any art enthusiast. Grab some friends for a memorable walk on First Friday. Who knows what paper is due next Friday, so don’t miss out!


  1. Grab a movie at the Videoport movie store.


Surprise – movie stores do still exist. Today renting movies can seem old-fashioned or silly when you can find anything online. However a visit to this little gem Videoport may change your mind. Hidden in plain site is a store that offers a variety you won’t find on  any internet service. Say goodbye to those frustrating nights where Netflix is your only entertainment option. Videoport has all your favorites as well as the ones you’ve never heard about. From obscure British mysteries to campy sci-fi, and even an “incredibly strange” section, Videoport has something for any movie lover.

But the great selection isn’t even what keeps customers coming back: it’s the staff. The people who work at this video store are the most fun, friendly and knowledgeable group of movie buffs you’ll ever meet. You can literally provide the vaguest description of a movie you’ve forgotten the title of and one of the staff will instantly find what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a great way to chill out in the dorm with some friends, throw in a DVD from the Videoport. Everybody loves a good movie. When you decide to plan a movie night, be sure to check out what some people call “hands down the best video store that ever existed.”

  1. The Gelato Fiasco.


Nothing says summer like sweet, refreshing gelato. Before fall comes around and icy treats are more easily replaced with pumpkin coffees, you’ve got to try the dessert experience that is The Gelato Fiasco. What really becomes a fiasco is your decision making when encountering all the delicious flavors. They have around 1,700 recipes in their book, and 30 different flavors daily! Seriously, you’re going to want to try and cram as many flavors as you can into one of their cups. Thankfully the staff there are happy to give out samples to customers to help narrow down which flavor combinations work the best. One of the best combos include the Caramel Sea Salt paired with the Toasted Coconut. You’re bound to have a good time, and your taste buds will thank you. The gelato is sweet, creamy and is made in-house daily with local dairy and real fruit. From the light fruit and ice flavors to the more rich and decadent, The Gelato Fiasco’s got the cure for your sweet tooth.

  1. Go see the Portland Sea Dogs

Summer and baseball go hand in hand. What better way to say goodbye to the summer season then to join the Portland Sea Dogs for their last game of the season? Even better, you can meet potential friends and future classmates while taking a USM bus there. The Gorham Student Life Office is providing busses to pick up students at Bailey Hall at 12 p.m., Sept. 2. It should be an exciting game as Red Sox prospect and 3rd baseman Michael Almanzar attempts to score some more home runs to add to his impressive count of 13 so far. Did I mention the Sea Dogs are taking on the Trenton Thunder? You gotta love a rival match.


  1. Space Gallery


SPACE is a non profit gallery downtown that dedicates its space to visual and performing arts with a distinct flair. Passersby are drawn into the gallery by its unique and eye catching street side exhibits. SPACE also hosts films, shows, artists talks and concerts in an intimate setting that lends itself to sense of community, and you’re bound to meet some interesting people and have great conversation. There is almost always something going on at SPACE – perfect for those Monday nights when you’ve got no plans. This month the events include Sign Painters: an exhibition dedicated to the lost art of hand painting banners and signs for advertising. The exhibition on sign painters includes a film showing, art demonstrations and then a Q+A with Faythe Levine the director and sign artist. If typography and sign art isn’t your thing, there’s a fascinating Historic Tour of Congress Square to watch, and an exhibit called “Pig Pile” you’ll have to see to believe. That exhibit will be open to the public from August 30th to October 5th.


  1. Blue


This music venue and haven for musicians and enthusiasts of the Jazz, Folk, Roots and Rock is a little small, but there is tasty food, great beer and wine and live music. This music venue is the perfect place for discovering your new favorite local band. Every Tuesday is an event called “Open Rounds” where 3 local singer/songwriters band together for a jam session while other musicians periodically sit in. Wednesdays are Irish music nights, and Saturdays are generally reserved for jazz groups. Some jazz students from USM are known to play here as well. So grab a Maine microbrew, and do your ears a favor.


  1. International Cryptozoology Museum.


Yeah, you read that right. Portland has a Cryptozoology museum with exhibits on the creatures of urban legends and myths. Described as bizarre, funny and gross,  the museum is anything but boring. This eccentric museum is small (only two rooms) but you can easily spend an hour there and not realize the time has gone by. For people that love a good creature mystery or grew up reading books about Bigfoot, mermaids and Nessie, this place will be fascinating. You’ll spend a lot of time reading interesting plaques and looking at Bigfoot footprints and hair, New Jersey Devil recordings, and replicas of the jackalope.  This place has a lot of character, and there’s not another place like it in Maine. Admission is seven dollars, and worth it. Why not go to a museum for fun before your visiting one for USM research.


  1. State Theatre


At the heart of Portland’s Art District stands the State Theatre, an expansive music venue with some of the best event listings in Northern New England. For instance, the Grammy award-winning rock band Halestorm will be playing Sept. 5. Keep an eye out for Hinder, Flux Pavilion and even Weird Al too. State Theatre books such variety weekly, there are plenty of opportunities to find a show meeting your musical needs.

Painless parking, 18 + events, great acoustics and spacious seating are other things you can expect from a night out at the State Theatre. Find all upcoming shows on their website, and see why the Maine Magazine describes the State Theatre as “beautiful, old and historic with great bones, great history and amazing character.”

  1. Otto’s Pizza


You’ve never had pizza quite like this. Otto’s serves speciality pizza and will revolutionize your pizza palette. Nobody does it like Otto’s when it comes to the quality and style of their pies. Each of the 20 specialty flavors can come in either a white or red sauce with their signature crust. Otto’s switches it up and puts their sauce over the toppings which surprisingly works. As far as the flavours are concerned Otto’s serves up the classics like margherita and pepperoni, but also tempts your taste buds with more creative combinations. These combinations include flavors like potato, scallion and bacon, or pulled pork and mango. They’ve got vegetarians covered as well with the highly popular butternut squash, ricotta and cranberry pizza. You can find Otto’s pizza in two locations in Portland. One is on 576 Congress St, and the other one is on 110 Cumberland Ave.


  1. Victorian Fair at the Victoria mansion


If you’re a history or architecture buff, stopping by the Victoria Mansion is a must. The building stands as a testament to mid-nineteenth century architecture. Everything is original and period appropriate so the mansion gives you remarkable insight into how wealthy families lived over 160 years ago. The building looks impressive from the outside, while the interior is filled with authentic and elaborate art, rugs and furnishings from the 19th century. Knowledgeable guides and hosts are available to explain some context of the artifacts on display. You can be immersed even further in the Portland’s history at the city’s first ever Victorian Fair. On Sept. 8 the managers of the Victoria mansion will host a 19th century fair. Director Tom Johnson is really looking forward to the community experiencing local history and interacting with Victorian culture in ways they couldn’t before. “The Mansion is internationally known for its collections, but as a house museum we rarely get to offer visitors the chance to handle the historic objects or experience them from a tactile point of view. That can sometimes be a challenge, especially with younger visitors, so we think this event will provide that chance to learn by playing with things children were familiar with in the 1800s,”  Johnson said to a reporter for the Portland Daily Sun. See the way the original Portlanders used to live with re-enactments, demonstrations, period music, and historic technologies. Theres a half price ticket discount for students!


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