DON’T LOOK NOW but it’s almost summer.

Forget that it was almost winter six weeks ago. We’re so over that.

Summer in Maine (and nearby N.H.) means lawns to mow, mosquitoes to swat, tourists to how-do-ya-do, and it means high adventure with kids, grandkids, visiting college roommates’ kids, children who randomly claim you on the playground and anyone else you’re snagging a juice box for.

There’s a whole lot of fun to be had.

There’s also a lot to know before you go, like, when does your kid’s favorite water park open?

Where can you find a shark to pet? (Not just any shark. A nice one.)


And what does Santa wear when it’s 95 degrees out in the middle of July?

Pressing questions, all.

We’ve got your answers and then some.

Funtown USA/Splashtown USA, Saco

Part amusement park, part water park, it’s a Maine summer icon. You’ll find the state’s only wooden coaster, New England’s tallest log flume and for the little guys, rides like Cactus Canyon. Last month, Funtown USA/Splashtown USA made’s “America’s 13 Best Amusement Parks That Aren’t Six Flags.”

Open? Funtown USA opened May 9 for weekends, plus Memorial Day, and opens daily starting June 4. Splashtown USA opens June 13 for the weekend, then daily starting June 20.


Hours/rates? Best to consult its website for hours; they vary a lot by the day. Rates start at $27 for a combo ticket for kids under 48 inches tall.

New this year: Prospector Pete’s Adventure Mining Company, a chance to “pan for gems and jewels and all kinds of fun stuff,” according to marketing manager Ed Hodgdon.

Fun fact: The Astrosphere ride — think lights out, think laser show, think dunnnaaannnaaa! — is turning 40 this year.

“It has been the same for all 40 seasons and it still plays the same song it did when we opened it up in 1976,” said Hodgdon. That’s “Fire on High” by the Electric Light Orchestra.

“It is a classic,” he said. “I think we would have a revolt of our guests if we ever changed that music.”

Maine Wildlife Park, Gray


Catch Maine’s native wildlife and a few creatures from away at the sprawling park with stroller-friendly walkways, lots of signage and regular weekend events, like, on May 30: Archery! Kids, arrows, good times.

Open? Indeed! Since April 17. It’s an attraction early bird with, well, birds. Lots of ’em.

Hours/rates? Daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (That’s when the entrance closes; guests can stay in the park until 6 p.m.) Ages 4-12 and 60+ $5.50, adults $7.50

New this year? It’s hard to miss the interactive mural/photo op being built inside a 17-foot-high Inland Fisheries & Wildlife logo near the park entrance.

“You can fit a whole family in there,” said Park Superintendent Curt Johnson. “They can put their arm around the (cutout, painted) deer or whatever they want to do, that’s what makes it fun. We’re even considering the idea of having props in there as well.”

It should be finished later this summer.


Also hard to miss are a pair of wild toms new to the park. Johnson said the turkeys were originally from southern Maine and had grown too fond of a homeowner, hanging out in the backyard and acting like pets, despite his not encouraging it. They weren’t going to make it in the wild too long with that attitude. The toms now live in the fenced enclosure with the peacocks and hang out near the food machine, eager to mingle and snack.

“They’re just so full of themselves,” said Johnson. “They’re always fanned out, they’re always gobbling and making all kinds of noises. People can’t get enough of them.”

Also newish: Two young Canadian lynx that arrived late last season and a 1-year-old moose calf that arrived last year as an orphan, bringing the park’s moose count up to four.

“That’s really what defines us, the moose is our flagship species,” said Johnson. “I couldn’t tell you what percentage of people come in here looking for a moose but it’s a high number, especially during the summer months. Now we can deliver on that promise better than ever before.”

(Deer brought in as orphans are typically released to the wild and do fine, he said. Moose brought in as orphans get too comfortable around people.)

Fun fact: The young mountain lion, also new last year, is quite the character.


“She’ll kind of run up to the glass, she can put her front paws up on the glass,” Johnson said. “She kind of sprints back and forth and plays hide and seek in a way when staff are bringing food. She’s just very, very playful and has a lot of spunk and a lot of personality.”

Maine State Aquarium, West Boothbay Harbor

Tucked off of an are-you-sure-it’s-here? side road, it has a  20-foot intertidal touch tank teeming with life, a tank with pet-able sharks and child-height exhibits with lobsters, sea horses and all manner of sea life.

Open? Opened May 23 (yesterday) for the season and this weekend it’s also celebrating Maine Days with discounted rates for Maine residents.

Hours/rates? Daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ages 3-12 $3, age 65+ $5, ages 13-65 $7

New this year? In a way, everything, every year.


Natural Science Educator Aimee Hayden-Roderiques said the entire aquarium is emptied out each fall, the water is shut off and everything goes elsewhere to winter.

“Then we have to set it all back up again in the spring,” she said. “It’s different in that way from other aquariums because we’re only seasonal. Everything that we do here is completely natural. We haul in all the seaweed, all the rocks, all the sediment every spring.”

So, each year, it really never looks the same way twice.

Fish and other creatures live temporarily in other touch tanks or in places like the University of Maine.

“They all come back up and then we fill in all the gaps,” Hayden-Roderiques said. “Our director has been on boats, she’s been out on scallop boats; she went out smelting the other day.”

Fun fact: At the start of the season, you’ll find aquarium-bred catsharks in the pet-able shark tank. Later in the season, they’ll be joined by slightly larger, wild-caught smoothhound sharks.


Catsharks have pointy teeth, but are overall really small, “no bigger than 22 inches,” and having been raised in captivity, are pretty tolerant of people, Hayden-Roderiques said. 

“The other ones can get up to 5 feet but we generally keep them closer to 2 feet,” she said. “They have flat teeth. They’re going to be eating shrimp. They could eat muscles, squid, things that don’t require tearing.”

Still, pet responsibly.

Santa’s Village, Jefferson, N.H.

Feed Santa’s reindeer, ride the Chimney Drop, attend the Little Elf Flying School and meet the Big Guy, who wears a lightweight red suit with white trim in the summer months.

Open? As of May 23, for weekends only, then daily starting June 20. (Those dates include the HoHoH20 water park, too. It runs any day that temps hit at least 65 degrees.)


Hours/rates? 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in May and June, 9:30 to 6 p.m. in July and August. Ages 4-61 $30, ages 62+ $28. Arrive during the last three hours of the day and get a free, daylong pass to use later in the season.

New this year? A streamlined ticketing and entrance building and a ride called You Tubing.

“We’re billing that as a summertime version of the wintertime classic,” said Santa’s helper Jim Miller. (That’s his actual title; I wouldn’t make that up.) “It’s basically downhill sliding (using) inner tubes and a saucer on bristled mats. We have two lanes of that and there is a conveyor lift to make the uphill side of the bargain pretty easy.”

Fun fact: After the male and female reindeer grow and shed their antlers each year, the park hangs onto them. Because, you never know.

“If you see Rudy’s Rapid Transit roller coaster, the lead car is a reindeer with a red nose and real reindeer antlers,” said Miller. Near the Elfs Lodge, “out front of there we have a statue of a reindeer and that also has some real antlers on it from our reindeer.”

Story Land, Glen, N.H.


Ride the swan boats and visit Mother Goose for a step back in time or go modern with a ride on the Roar-o-Saurus, a roller coaster added last year that CNN named one of the top 10 new roller coasters of 2014.

Open? As of May 23 for weekends plus Memorial Day, slowly open more days, then daily starting June 12.

Hours/rates? 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in May and June, 9:30 to 6 p.m. in July and August. Ages 3+ $26.99 to $31.99, depending on the day and whether you buy online. Arrive during the last three hours of the day and get a free, daylong pass to use later in the season.

New this year? Expanded character dinners and more daily teas with Cinderella (from two teas a day to three), a make-your-own sundae shop, train-theme gift shop and Dunkin’ Donuts, “for those parents who need an extra cup of coffee when they get here,” said Jack Mahany, assistant general manager.

Fun fact: The iconic Cinderella’s pumpkin coach is on its third incarnation.

“A lot of people might not know it was originally pulled by horses,” Mahany said. “Then it was powered by a Volkswagen engine. Now it’s electric.”


York’s Wild Kingdom, York

Part animal attraction with Bengal tigers, two-toed sloths and red kangaroos. Part amusement park with a bounce house, Ferris wheel and go karts. All fun.

Open? The zoo is open daily as of May 23. Rides are open weekends only now, then daily starting June 20.

Hours/rates? Best to consult the website for hours; they vary a lot by the day. Zoo only: Ages 0-3 $1, ages 4-12 $9 and ages 13+ $14.75. For the zoo and rides: Ages 0-3 $5.25, ages 4-12 $17.25 and 13+ $22.25

New this year? Bumper cars are back! Eventually. The bumper car building collapsed under snow weight in February 2014, General Manager Amy Wheeler said. It’s under construction now and will open later in the season.

Slugger the Sea Dog will pay visits for the first time this summer. The park also changed its website, from to As part of that update, it’s added a Paw Club for news and special offers.


Fun fact: In its Butterfly Kingdom, you’ll find 13 different kinds of butterflies, including the Small Postman, Doris Longwing, Giant Owl and Julia, according to Wheeler. They nosh on a diet of ripened banana, mango, papaya, pineapple and clear Powerade. 

Bonus fun fact: Even with all those exotic animals, people still really, really dig York’s goats.

They hang out in a roadside enclosure by the park entrance on Route 1.

“The goats are a fan favorite,” said Wheeler. They’re visited by travelers who “don’t want to come down into the park but they want to get out and stretch their legs. It gives them a chance to hop out with the kids. We get phone calls, ‘When are the goats going to be back out? When are the goats going to be back out?'”

Aquaboggan, Saco

Hit the popular 750,000-gallon wave pool, swoosh down a few wet thrill rides, then dry out on go karts and mini-golf.


Open? Not until June 27. Your swimsuit needs to stay on ice just a little longer.

Hours/rates? Once open, daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Toddlers $5, juniors $16, adults $20 and seniors (60+) $10

New this year? It’s too soon to say, but the park has two things it’s looking into, said General Manager Dawn Emerson. She hopes to have details soon.

Fun fact: Aquaboggan’s 30-year-old Aquasaucer is the only one like in the country.

“The kids call it The Bubble,” said Emerson. “It’s like two stories tall and you climb up it with these rubber ropes. It’s a waterfall on the top and you bounce on it like a trampoline and then you slide down into a moat.

“There were a couple of ones in different places in the country,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to them, why they decided to take them out, but my understanding is it’s the only one left.”


DEW Haven, Mt. Vernon

The only place in the Maine woods to run into a camel, a lion, yak, monkeys and lemurs, it was featured last fall on Animal Planet’s series “Yankee Jungle.” It’s very rustic; DEW describes itself as part working farm, part sanctuary.

Open? As of May 9, for weekends only, then six days a week starting June 16 (closed Mondays).

Hours/rates? 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Founder Bob Miner gives tours at approximately 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Ages 4-12 $10, ages 13-64 $15, ages 65-99 $10.

New this year? Unfortunately, we can’t say. DEW’s answering machine is full and the park didn’t respond to emails.

Fun Fact: Staff changed the name this year to DEW Haven from DEW Animal Kingdom, according to a Facebook post.


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This week: Summer fun on the beaten path

Updates and info on some of Maine’s most popular attractions.

Next week: Off-the-beaten-path enjoyment

Lesser-known sure-fire fun places and things to do in Maine.

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