Located on the Kennebec River, this central Maine city boasts two higher education institutions, Colby College and Thomas College, and a historic downtown filled with a variety of restaurants, shops, and services.
5:00 p.m. @ The Pleasant Street Inn
The inn is located on a mostly residential street near downtown. My room, with nice bedding and a large bath, will be my home for the weekend.
5:45 p.m. @ 18
Below As I walk down the stairs, I realize why this restaurant is called 18 Below. Chef and owner Travis LaJoy’s mother, Donna, warmly welcomes me. At the bar, I order Taunton Bay oysters, jumbo shrimp, and a glass of white wine. Donna tells me how Travis uses local produce from the city’s farmers’ market in many of his dishes.
7:30 p.m. @ The Last Unicorn
Two doors down, the Last Unicorn is packed. The host seats me at the only open table, which gives me a view of the kitchen. The popular Silver Street restaurant first opened in 1978, and the current owners, Amy and Fred Ouellette, reopened the business in 2012. I order a cheeseburger, a side of Brussels sprouts, and the special vegetable of the night, mashed potatoes.
6:30 a.m. @ The Pleasant Street Inn
I awake to the smell of cinnamon toast and freshly brewed coffee.
I head down to the breakfast room and pour a cup of coffee and read the local newspaper in the common lounge area.
8:20 a.m. @ The Villager Family Restaurant
I grab a seat at the counter for breakfast and watch as my orange juice is squeezed with an old-school juicer. The soda fountain and the display case filled with desserts like Jell-O remind me of restaurants I visited with my dad when I was a child. At the Villager you can purchase fresh fruit baskets that are made to order, and I see one being assembled for pickup. There is a little penny candy area and a clock shop as well.
9:50 a.m. @ Colby College Museum of Art
This is my first time on the campus, and I am looking forward to seeing the museum, especially the Pablo Picasso Vollard Suite exhibit of etchings from the 1930s. I wander around the beautifully laid out galleries and find a whimsical and interesting exhibit of weather vanes and trade signs. In an exhibit on American folk art, I especially love the lines on a carved wooden lion by an unknown artist.
11:30 a.m. @ Loyal Biscuit Co. and Selah Tea Cafe
I stop into the Loyal Biscuit Company to get a little treat for my dog, Charlie Girl, before heading to Selah Tea Cafe. I meet Bobby McGee, who owns the cafe with this wife, Rachel. The cafe has been open for a few years and offers sandwiches, soups, breakfast, and—a welcome surprise— gluten-free baked goods made by Rachel’s grandmother. I order a house-made cranberry juice and a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie.
12:10 p.m. @ Common Street Arts
I stop into the gallery of this community arts organization and find a holiday pop-up sale with pottery, jewelry, and paintings by Maine and New England artists. It is the fifth year the gallery has hosted a holiday shop.
12:40 p.m. on Main Street
I continue along Main Street and stop into Paragon Shop, a cute gift store with some Christmas items on display. The Children’s Book Cellar is a must-stop on my list, as my daughter Sabrina is a big reader. I also visit Madlyn’s New and Used Consignment Shop, which has a great selection of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Continuing along Main Street, I stop into Day’s Jewelers—bright and cheery inside and busy with shoppers. I try on a peridot ring and another with Maine tourmaline. Next I look at the diamonds (I can dream!).
2:00 p.m. @ Bolley’s Famous
Franks I realize I haven’t yet had lunch, so I drive out of the downtown area for a quick bite to eat. Hot dogs are one of my favorites, and I order a plain dog, no bun, and get the sauerkraut and mustard on the side.
2:30 p.m. @ Hathaway Creative
Center The second annual Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees at this former mill space is benefiting Spectrum Generations’s Meals on Wheels program and Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area. All of the trees being raffled off are decorated and donated by local businesses, with gift cards, scratch tickets, and other gifts on or under the trees.
4:00 p.m. @ Heirloom Antiques and Vintage
Back downtown, I open the door at Heirloom Antiques and Vintage to find hat boxes, hats, gloves, shoes, dresses, bags, coats, and scarves. Owner Nicole Sulea and I bond over our love of vintage clothing, and realize we already follow each other on Instagram. Her store is beyond anything I was expecting, and I purchase a clutch, a swing coat, a kelly-green shirt, and a leisure coat made by a local Waterville woman. I wonder where these items were worn and how many fabulous parties they attended. Sulea calls her husband, Adrian, who owns Universal Bread Bakers next door, but sadly he is sold out of bread.
4:45 p.m. @ Modern Underground
Sulea recommends I check out Modern Underground, and she walks me across the street to the midcentury furniture and home goods store. She slides open a door and my heart stops. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston is playing, and I am staring at incredible midcentury modern furniture. Owners Lisa and Brian Kallgren keep the store open past closing time, chatting with me and letting me try the different furniture.
6:00 p.m. @ The Proper Pig
A newcomer in Waterville, the Proper Pig opened in 2016. There is plenty of meat on the menu and fun art on the walls. I order the pork shank and pork belly shooters, along with white wine. I meet co- owner Amy Ouellette, who also owns the Last Unicorn with her husband, Fred.
7:30 p.m. @ Buen Apetito
Located in the same building as Railroad Square Cinema, this Mexican restaurant is packed and has a line for tables. Luckily, I find one open bar seat and order a spicy margarita with chips and two salsas, a traditional and a verde.
8:50 p.m. @ The Pleasant Street Inn
Back at the inn, I’m exhausted from my day, so I make tea intheinn’skitchenandhead to my room.
7:00 a.m. @ Big G’s Deli
I check out of the inn and head across the bridge to Winslow. It seems like everyone recommended this place, including my father. Big G’s is known for its hefty sandwiches, and I grab an equally huge whoopie pie to bring home to Sabrina.
9:35 a.m. @ Jorgensen’s Cafe
I enter the downtown Waterville cafe and order a hot latte. I get it to go but decide to stay for a little bit.
10:15 a.m. @ The Vintage Manor
I hear about a holiday craft fair and head over to the Vintage Manor to check it out. There are so many crafts and items for the gift-giving season. I pickupajarofjamformy mom, who is holding down the fort for me while I am away.
11:00 a.m. @ Two Cent Bridge
Before my tour of Christopher Hastings Confections, I stop at the Two Cent Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that connects Waterville and Winslow over the Kennebec River.
11:30 a.m. @ Christopher Hastings
Confections I meet Nate Towne, who owns this small-batch confectionary with his husband, Mark Simpson, on the second floor of the commercial kitchen. I get a tour of the space and a chance to sample some of the amazing handcrafted chocolates. You can see the process of creation and purchase the chocolates and other candy.
12:[email protected] Waterville Opera House
As I prepare to depart Waterville, Towne asks me if I’ve been to the opera house. I say no, so we head across the street together. Performers and staff are getting ready for a rehearsal, so we don’t stay long. I’ll keep the historic performance hall in mind for my next visit to Waterville.