Old Orchard Beach — affectionately OOB — is about as Maine as tasty Maine lobster. The town is known for many things, but not necessarily its orchards. So where'd the name come from?
The area was settled in 1657 by Thomas Rogers. He called it "the garden by the sea" and it actually took its name from the apple orchards he planted up on the hill (at the top of Old Orchard Street). He left the area after an Indian attack destroyed his home, but his orchards survived for about another century and a half. So it became Old Orchard Beach.
In the early 1800s enterprising men saw the possibilities and opened up an inn, then the trains came through, which helped bring people in from out of state. It was soon a popular resort town.
The amusement park we know as Palace Playland was developed in 1902. Maine had the first carousel in the United States. Now that's a distinction!
The first park ride at Palace Playland was known as Noah's Ark, and it burned in the big fire. So did another great ride (which this writer actually went on when very young) called the Jack and Jill ride. It was a 50-foot-tall tower supporting a slide, and you sat on a burlap mat and slid down the steep slide. It was a great thrill for a kid. It was my favorite.
The original pier was more than 1,700 feet long, but was damaged first by storms and then fire and is now only 500 feet long. It used to have a casino at the end of it, and during the big-band era a lot of top bands and singers performed there, including Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman. There were car races on the beach and planes even used the beach as a landing strip. For more about OOB's long and rich history visit this link: http://www.oldorchardbeachmaine.com/History.htm
If you haven't been there yet, or at least not for a while, summer's the time to make the trip to OOB. Go for a day, lay on the beach, eat some pier fries, take a ride on the carousel or Ferris wheel. And if you go on Thursday and stay until evening, you can enjoy the fireworks display.
1 Old Orchard St.
New England's only beachfront amusement park, it offers 28 rides for a variety of ages and has a style all its own.
70 First St.
If you like miniature golf done up big, this themed course that's located away from the noise and action of the pier is for you.
Old Orchard Beach Pier
2 Old Orchard St.
What more can you say about this – its the pier! Make sure you go for some original pier fries, you'll be glad you did.
38 Old Orchard St.
Loaded with everything you never knew you needed . . . but you know you do! A great boutique gift shop.
Board Silly Puzzles & Games
44 Old Orchard St.
Looking for a board game to keep you and the kids busy for a rainy day or — heaven forbid — next winter? Look no further, this place has them all.
Dickinson's Candy Factory
42 Old Orchard St.
They have a huge selection of candies, including all your old favorites and a lot of new ones. Or just get some of their special fudge, popcorn or some cotton candy.
Eastern Trail Greenway
Runs from Kittery to South Portland
Yes, there's more to OOB than the beach, the pier and Palace Playland! If you like to walk or bike this is for you. This four-season trail is open to the public and currently runs between Kittery and South Portland. It's part of a greenway that will ultimately stretch down the entire eastern seaboard from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Fla. Go to the website for maps.