1. Get stuck in the Bar Harbor space time continuum.
When I graduated from the University of Maine, I had no idea what I was going to do after May. “Come to Bar Harbor,” everyone was saying. So I went. Within a week after graduation I was sharing a room with my friend Daniela in a men’s halfway house. Through the wall, we could hear our 58-year-old roommate Chuck Skyping with a Filipino woman he had never met. Every day at 1:45 he ate a raw hamburger on plain wonder bread. One day I went downstairs to do laundry, and there was a Chinese family living in our basement under two tarps. There was a kid from Jacksonville living in a VW bus with two flat tires in our driveway. I was working for a woman who required me to grocery shop for her before coming into the restaurant every day.
Bar Harbor is full of oddballs. Most of those oddballs have spent ten, eleven, twelve seasons trying to get out of the wacky vortex that is Mount Desert Island, but they never do. It’s where anything goes, you can spend a night tripping on LSD in Acadia National Park, wake up on Sand Beach and roll into town just in time to work the sunrise breakfast shift at Two Cat’s. You can skinny dip at Lakewood on your lunch break and start the bar shift with a shot, made for you by your boss. It took me three years to leave that place, and every May, I still consider going back.
2. Get freaky at Chickenfest in a highly planned out, top secret location.
My mom went to Chickenfest. That’s how old this tradition is. “Oh you’ve gotta go to Chicken Fest,” she told me my freshman year. And yeah mom, I did. The first time I went, I thought I was going to a barbecue in a field. This is no barbecue, although there is an exorbitant amount of chicken.
All year long, there’s an underground community of party fairies thinking about Chickenfest. They’re pouring over the gazetteer and scouting every nook and cranny of the Stud Mill Road for possible locations.
It’s always somewhere different, and for that reason, it’s never been shut down. You often have to put up with at least three rounds of decoy locations and 30 miles of dirty, muddy roads before actually making it to the party. By midnight you’ll be tripping and sipping on a PBR, dancing to Frank and the Redhots and telling that girl from your sophomore Spanish class just how much you love her cardigan. Don’t be alarmed when the helicopters fly overhead, the cops always show up just a touch too late to the party.
3. Drive up Chick Hill to howl at the full moon.
Bonus points if your headlights completely die on the way down.
4. Do something, anything, in a gravel pit.
All Maine kids know that gravel pits are gems. If those sandy walls could talk they’d speak of virginities lost on questionable abandoned mattresses, bongs smoked only to be smashed by an off-duty cop, and bonfires raging on plastic and plastic alone.
If you can master a gravel pit on a sled like you’re the next lord of Dogtown, if you can run a full circle on your CRF, if you can scale a sliding dirt wall after five consecutive rounds of flip cup — then you’re doing your 20s in Maine right.
5. Spend an August sweating your ass off on the blueberry barrens for very low pay.
Some of us raked as kids, and there’s no way we’re going back out on those fields. But if you haven’t yet spent an entire August, raking 7 days a week for $2.25 a 23-pound box — learning how to swear in Spanish and taking your morning dumps in a porta-potty that’s located in the bed of a moving truck — then you can’t call yourself real Maine.
This is a tradition that goes right back to our roots — back-breaking, hot and hard work in rural Downeast Maine. Your knees will be permanently blue and you’ll start substituting Coors Lite for water. The pay might seem low, but you can strike it big if you channel your inner machine. Plus, the end-of-season parties are pretty much unbeatable. Two words: mud wrestling.
6. Brave the strip show in Carrabassett Valley.
Or don’t. But what else are you going to do on a Friday night in Western Maine? Enjoy your early bird dinner of fish and chips, then watch as a family-friendly restaurant transforms into a full-on nightclub with poles and cages on wheels. These girls mean business too, just so you’re aware.
7. Help sort compost at the Common Ground Fair.
The Common Ground Fair is not your typical fair — you’re not going to step in vomit while in line for The Zipper and no middle-school chick is going to flash you at the Kenny Chesney concert.
This is a straight-up, old school, county fair with sweet annie flower crowns and ketchup that really tastes like salsa. There’s people on stilts banging homemade tambourines and there’s children sliding down grass hills on pieces of cardboard — screaming in utter glee as if cardboard is something other than cardboard.
If you volunteer, MOFGA will give you a free shirt and you’ll get to see all this in action for three days in a row. Plus at night, you’ll get to sing Kumbaya with volunteers from all over the world as well as Maine’s most progressive and environmentally-conscious minds.
8. Bring your own gallon of milk to a VFW dance.
If there is one tell-all sign that you are at a true Maine shindig, it’s that everyone in attendance has brought their own gallon of milk. Milk: the only appropriate follow-up to a mouthful of Allan’s coffee brandy.
9. Dive into a dumpster for the sole purpose of getting free potato chips.
Holla at me Bangor-area kids. Am I alone here? You’re young, you’re broke, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these chips. They’re just expired, and all crunched up, and the 24-hour security they’ve recently installed outside of the potato chip factory says that you really aren’t supposed to have them.
10. Get lectured by “Captain Joint” at Harry Brown’s farm.
The first music festival that I ever went to was at Harry Brown’s farm in Starks. I was 16, and a man named “Fred in the big red truck” left a note on my car telling me I was cute and I should take my sunglasses off for him sometime.
Nine years later, this place has changed a lot. You can dance barefoot to a knockoff Dead band, you can slurp up a locally-grown, organic hemp soup, and you can trip somewhat in peace — making knots out of grass in front of the stage while a bare-chested ex-wrestler looking man in American flag shorts lectures you about the importance of marijuana legalization, and you nod at him and think “Duh.”
11. Have a religious experience at Empire’s Clash of the Titans in Portland.
Megadeth vs Metallica. Prince vs Michael Jackson. Stone Temple Pilots vs Pearl Jam. Mars Volta vs Primus. ABBA VS ACE OF MUTHERFUCKING BASE. Go. Go right now.
12. Take the ferry out to Peaks Island so you can drunkenly pretend you’re in Jamaica.
Reggae Sundays: where a massive entourage of bros in fake dreadlock hats remind us that we are still in Maine.
Alternate idea: Make sure you’re in Bar Harbor on August 6th, Jamaican Independence Day. Spend the night sweating it out at Carmen’s to DJ Rasta Rufus, along with the huge and vibrant Jamaican community that keeps Bar Harbor thriving year after year.
13. Tube down the Presumpscot River with a 12-pack floating behind you.
Watch out though — there’s a small area of rapids and you actually have to portage over a waterfall, but this is one of the best day drinking venues you’ll come across.
14. Launch into the Atlantic Ocean off the Bar Harbor pier on a longboard.
Bonus points if you do this at lunchtime in August, during the Fisherman’s Grill takeout window’s rush hour.
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