Renewal and respect for history in these twin cities

Separated by the Saco River, Biddeford and Saco were bustling centers for industry, commerce, and the arts in the mid-nineteenth century. The last mill closed in 2009, but these twin cities are thriving today, thanks to the determination of both longtime residents and the newcomers who have opened businesses in the restored mill buildings.

In 2015, native Mainers Darren Case and Kristina Hansen returned to Maine from Brooklyn, New York, to launch Round Turn Distilling in the former Pepperell textile mill, now the Pepperell Center. “Having both grown up just south of Biddeford in the Kennebunks, we were excited to see the revitalization of the downtown area when we began looking for space to open our business,” says Hansen. “We often cap off the workday with a pint at the tap room of our next- door neighbors, Banded Brewing Company.”

Food and drink enterprises have played a prominent role in Biddeford–Saco’s rebirth. “Our go-to date-night spot is Elda and, in the off-season, Monday night trivia at Run of the Mill on Factory Island is a great night out with friends,” says Case. “We have brunch at Palace Diner every Saturday, and we also enjoy sipping afternoon cortados at the newly open Time and Tide Coffee or grabbing a chocolate croissant and chai latte at Elements: Books, Coffee, Beer.”

For exploring on foot, Case and Hansen head for the RiverWalk, which stretches from Mechanics Park to the Saco Mills and crosses the river right in front of the falls. “When we want to get out of downtown for a nature walk, we head to Fortune’s Rocks beach, the Saco Heath Preserve, or the Timber Point Trail, which is part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge,” says Hansen. Saco’s Ferry Beach State Park is a popular summertime destination, and the village of Biddeford Pool, named for its large tidal basin, boasts winding lanes with shingled cottages and one of the most beautiful beaches in the state. It’s a place where time seems to stand still. On a July afternoon, the scene at F.O. Goldthwaite’s market might feel much like it did in the 1970s, while just a few miles away lies one of the most forward-thinking and creative cities in Maine.

21,488 (Biddeford) 19,485 (Saco)

Did you know
Biddeford and Saco sprang from one of the oldest European settlements in the country. Four years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, English physician Richard Vines came ashore at what is now the summer community of Biddeford Pool, and in 1653, the area was first incorporated as the town of Saco.

Local icon
Tucked away on a side street in Biddeford, the 15-seat Palace Diner was named in 2018 as one of Eater’s “38 Essential Restaurants in America.” It was the only restaurant in New England to make the prestigious list. The iconic diner car, a local fixture since it was built in 1927, was purchased in 2014 by chefs Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell. Their straightforward breakfast and lunch menu includes a tuna melt that has garnered national accolades.