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15 Best Museums in Maine To Experience Local Culture

If you’re looking to check out the top must-visit museums in Maine, you’ve come to the right place!

Hey there, fellow adventurers! If you’re planning a family getaway this summer, look no further than the stunning coastal gem, Maine! Surrounded by those mesmerizing blue seas, it’s an absolute paradise for vacationers. Picture yourself strolling along the rocky coastline for miles, while soaking in the charm of Maine’s prominent industries.

You can’t go wrong with the awesome museums dotted around the “Pine Tree State.” Oh yes, these gems offer incredible insights into the sea’s influence on the area and showcase the works of talented Maine artists, inspired by the breathtaking coastal beauty and the state’s rich maritime history. In fact, visiting museums is one of our favorite things to do in Maine to get a true feel for the history and culture.

Let’s talk art, shall we? Maine has been a hub for artists, attracting both homegrown talents and creative souls from all corners of the world. The art museums here boast some of the most impressive works you’ll ever lay eyes on. From local masterpieces to awe-inspiring creations by European artists, you’ll witness the deep-rooted relationship between Maine and the sea through art’s captivating lens.

And hey, art enthusiasts, don’t stop there! These amazing museums aren’t just limited to art; they cover everything from traditional industries like lumbering to cutting-edge science. With such a wide range of options, you’re bound to stumble upon a fantastic museum no matter where you find yourself in this wonderful state.

We’ve compiled a list of the 15 most fascinating museums in Maine that you just can’t miss. So buckle up and get ready for a day filled with discovery and wonder. Let’s dive into the best museums this coastal wonderland has to offer!

15. Museum L-A

35 Canal St, Lewiston, ME 

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Museum L-A

Museum L-A is a great place to learn about the economic, social, and technological history of Lewiston-Auburn and its people. 

You can find this museum within the Bates Mill Historic District. It concentrates on the collective memory of the Industrial Revolution in the Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine. And it shows the efforts and cultural heritage of the people who worked there.

Visitors can walk through a mock assembly line and look at displays about the industries in these cities along the Androscoggin River. Other exhibits show how the mill workers came from Canada, Russia, Ireland, and Greece, among other places, and the process of coming to Maine. 

The rich heritage of the Lewiston-Auburn, Maine area is found in gallery exhibits. It includes the incredible history of mill workers, shoemakers, and the brickyard industry.

Small children will love the machines and the fantastic collection of strange things from another time. On the other hand, adults can listen to the personal stories and histories of mill workers from the past that have been kept alive through oral history.

You can even witness how a loose pile of fluffy cotton tufts turns into thread, cloth, and finally, the famous Bates Bedspreads for which the town is known. This museum has a fantastic collection of things like pictures, relics from important events, equipment, designs, textiles, and more.

The experience is like taking the finest private course on history, economy, industrialization, textile manufacturing, and immigration all at once. 

Plus, there are plenty of great nearby restaurants; the Fish Bones Grill and the Veteran’s Park are just a few steps away.

14. Zillman Art Museum

40 Harlow St, Bangor, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Zillman Art Museum

If you are in downtown Bangor, Maine, the Zillman Art Museum (ZAM) is the place to see modern and contemporary art from Maine. This museum is a part of the University of Maine, which is nearby Orono, Maine.

This beautiful museum opened in 1946 under the direction of Vincent Hartgen.  Hartgen’s goal as the first member of the Department of Art’s faculty and curator of the art collection was to give Maine residents significant chances to learn and explore the fine arts and their many different histories and cultural meanings.

It now has over 3,800 works of art, primarily original prints and photographs. Here, works by world-famous artists and Maine-based artists like Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth are displayed.

But keep in mind that ZAM’s collection is via rotating displays. No single piece is guaranteed to be on display at any given time. You can check out its Current Exhibitions page to see whether your favorite works are on display.

The work of Anat Shiftan called “Life & Still” is a head-turner here. Over twenty feet long wall installation and new pieces on pedestals are in this big project. Shiftan used many methods to do the 41 works with more than 200 parts. These methods include wheel throwing, slip casting, hand building, and using industrial artifacts.

The “All This I Give to You” and “Shelf Life” exhibits are excellent. “All This I Give to You” shows 60 paintings by Andrew Baron, a painter from New Jersey. In “Shelf Life,” Sydney Licht, an artist from New York City, adds to the still life genre’s long history with bold but not cluttered paintings.

13. Maine Lighthouse Museum

1 Park Dr, Rockland, ME 

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Maine Lighthouse Museum

The Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland is another excellent museum in Maine focusing on lighthouses and ships.

This lighthouse museum is among the best in the area. It has beautiful lenses and heartwarming stories about keepers and their families. Also, it has the most extensive collection of lighthouse memorabilia and items.

All of the museum’s displays are in one big room, but there is a variety to see. You can observe many artifacts like lights and lenses, photos from the past, and some big models of Maine lighthouses. Most items have good explanations of how to use them, which helps visitors learn more.

There are restrooms near the entrance, and as you leave, there’s a lovely gift shop. There are several beautiful things in the Lighthouse Gift Shop. And the best part is that everything in the shop comes from local artists and businesses, like the custom shirts and the miniature lighthouses.

The Maine Lighthouse Museum is open daily, but only for a specific time depending on the day (it doesn’t have normal business hours). Adults pay $10 to get into the museum, and seniors pay $8. Children under 12 who are with an adult are free. All active and retired delegates of the US Coast Guard get in for free.

The museum only takes about an hour to check out, so once you’ve seen everything on display and checked out what the gift shop offers, check out the area around it!

It is near more than 20 diners and many museums, such as the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Owls Head Transportation Museum, so that you will have a lot of fun in the area!

12. Stanley Museum

40 School St, Kingfield, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Stanley Museum

If you want to visit one of the top Maine museums, you should put the Stanley Museum on your list.

The Stanley Museum is in the gorgeous Georgian-style Stanley School, built in 1903. The museum opened in 1981, and it remembers and keeps the genius of the Stanley family alive.

Francis Edgar Stanley invented the famous “Stanley Steamer” car with his twin brother, F.O. Stanley, who is often called the Stanley twins. Chansonetta’s photographs of life in rural America at the turn of the 20th century are just as important. The Stanley family’s history and artifacts are displayed here, like airbrush paintings, photographs, violins, and Stanley steam cars from 1905 to 1916.

As you walk in, you will first go to the room with the steam cars and a 20 hp Stanley vehicle, boiler, and burner that shows how the Stanley steam car’s power plant works. A chain-driven Mason Regulator engine, an engine utilized in the first Stanley cars, and what is said to be the original Whitney steam engine that initiated it all in the 1890s are also on display.

You can enter the “family” room, where you can learn about Stanley’s other achievements. Starting with an extensive exhibit on the history of black-and-white photography, the Stanley Dry Plate Co. displays photos, information panels, and a presentation of old camera equipment.

Even though it is smaller than the other Maine museums in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit. Each steam car is beautiful, and you will love the old photos if you are a photographer and an artist.

Plus, it only costs $4 to get in or $3 for people over 65. Well worth the money. If you’re in the area, you should stop by this Museum.

11. Monhegan Museum

1 Light House Hill Rd, Monhegan, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Monhegan Museum

The Monhegan Museum is one of the Maine museums hidden gems! It focuses on Monhegan Island and is among the less well-known museums in the state. 

You can locate this museum at the heritage Monhegan Light Station and the residence and studio in which Rockwell Kent built, and James Fitzgerald later lived.

The museum’s archive has 1300 works by artists coming to the archipelago for over 150 years. It has had artists from almost every style of American art.

The yearly art shows at the Monhegan Museum is one of the main events. Every year, the Museum puts on an art show in the latest Gallery Building that focuses on a specific artist or time in Monhegan’s art history. It does this by using pieces from its collection and participating friends. Past shows have included Cape Ann and Monhegan Island Vistas: Contrasted New England Art Colonies, Seeking Eden: James Fitzgerald in Monterey, and A Life Made in Art: Maud Briggs Knowlton.You can also see paintings by famous artists. Each one tells a story about the island. There are also precious items left behind by the Native Americans who lived on the island.

The prints and watercolors by Monhegan painters from the past 50 years show a range of styles and points of view of this beautiful island.

Tours are also available if you prefer to learn from a live guide.

What makes a visit here truly fascinating is the chance to see the entire island. If you’re lucky, the lighthouse will be open, and you can climb up, giving you the view of Monhegan in its full glory.

10. Bowdoin College Museum of Art

245 Maine St, Brunswick, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Bowdoin College Museum of Art

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Even though this art museum is small, it has some unique pieces and exciting artifacts.

There is a lot of art on the first floor, and a short film next to each. On the second floor, you can see Chinese, Indian, or Asian art, among other things.

The Bowdoin College Museum is one of the oldest university galleries in the country. It has over 20,000 paintings, sculptures, and artifacts on display.

Among these are portraits of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and other vital works from the Colonial period. There are also pieces by artists like Mary Cassatt, John Sloan, and Andrew Wyeth, as well as things from Winslow Homer’s studio. There are also sketches and drawings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, and Picasso. 

History fans will love it too. There are 1,800 pieces from Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, making this collection one of the largest at any college or university.

However, this is one of the museums in Maine that is only accessible during specific times of the day and week, which change daily. In rotating exhibitions, many of their pieces do change. They’ve shown works by local and historical artists in the past, so we recommend checking ahead to see if your favorites are there.

The museum also has a gift shop. It sells gifts, accessories, art books, posters, calendars, flashcards, and things for kids, among other things. It’s an excellent place to buy souvenirs before leaving.

This is one of the best museums in Maine to visit on a budget, because admission is free! Stop by and be amazed by tons of quality artwork!

9. Tate House Museum

1267 Westbrook St, Portland, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Tate House Museum

Tate House Museum is your place if you want to enjoy a journey back to 18th-century Maine! It is hard to miss if you go to the area since it is in a historic Georgian-style house from the 1700s.

The Tate House Museum is one of the handfuls of pre-Revolutionary War homes in Portland that is open to the public. In 1755, Captain George Tate, a high-ranking mast agent for British Royal Navy, built this well-kept Georgian-style home for himself.

The house is also one of the few colonial-era homes with an indented gambrel roof. It also has a large number of historical period interiors. During the summertime, visitors can take leisurely walks through the well-kept grounds with an extensive herb garden.

On “The Tate Family” house tour, you will discover the mast trade, Captain Tate’s duties, and the family’s way of life in 18th-century Maine, including the years before the Revolutionary War.

Tickets range from $7 to $16 for this tour. From June to October, tours are available every Wednesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. There are also inside/outside tours, garden tours, school tours, and architectural tours at this place apart from the museum tour.

This is certainly one of the best museums in Maine to visit if you’re a colonial history buff!

8. Maine Maritime Museum

243 Washington St, Bath, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Maine Maritime Museum

Many of Maine’s museums are about art, but there are also other kinds, such as the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. This museum is close to the Kennebec River, which is perfect for people who like boating.

From the Civil War until the beginning of the century, Bath was one of the country’s most crucial seaports and shipbuilding cities. The multiple rooms of exhibits here tell the story of not just Bath but all of Maine’s ship and boat-building history.

Plus, it now contains the Portland Harbor Museum, giving visitors in-depth knowledge about the area’s past. Also, it’s suitable that this museum is in Bath, which is home to the Bath Iron Works. This ironwork is famous for making strong destroyer ships for the US Navy.

A unique feature of this museum is that visitors can take a one-hour trolley tour behind the scenes of the famous Bath shipbuilding producer. It is an experience you cannot miss if you’re in the area!

Other highlights of the museum include a historic shipyard with five original 19th-century buildings still standing, a shipyard owner’s home from the 1800s, exhibits about Maine’s international commerce and lobstering, and the chance to watch master artisans build wooden ships.

If you have kids with you, the museum’s Pirate Play Ship will keep them entertained. They can play on a tugboat bridge with a whistle and horn. The museum’s size makes kids and adults spend a whole afternoon easily looking around and finding things that interest them.

And if that weren’t enough, the museum is near restaurants and other famous places. The Cabin and Fiona’s Restaurant are located just 0.7 miles from the museum. Alternately, the Doubling Point Lighthouse is just over a mile away.

This is overall one of the best museums in Maine for families, kids, and adults because there’s exhibits for everyone to stay involved. It’s one of our favorites!

7. Ogunquit Museum of American Art

543 Shore Rd, Ogunquit, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Ogunquit Museum of American Art

This art museum has a beautiful view of the water and several small galleries inside that only show and collect American art.

Open regularly from 10 am to 5 pm on May 1 through October 31, the Ogunquit Museum of American Art can give you a worthwhile visit. Adult tickets cost $12, seniors (60+) cost $10, and students (12+) pay $10 to enter. The museum’s artworks are free to see if you are a member, a child below 12 years old, or a member of a blue star museum family.

The museum boasts one of the most extensive exhibits of ceramic sculptures by Carl Walters, sculptures by Isabella Howland, oil art by Henry Strater, and watercolors by Eliot O’Hara.  Charles Burchfield, Marsden Hartley, Walt Kuhn, Gaston Lachaise, Reginald Marsh, Will Barnet, Marguerite, and William Zorach also have pieces on display.

The building of this museum is 7500 square feet big and has a big glass wall that faces the Atlantic Ocean. Both the inside and outside offer magnificent views.

Make sure to walk around the beautiful grounds while you’re here. You will find a beautiful sculpture garden, a lily pond mirroring pool, gardens by the sea, and some great views of nature.

With all this place offers, you can easily spend a whole day. But if you have time, you can head to other nearby locations. If you’re searching for a place to eat, we suggest the nearby Footbridge Lobster, which offers some incredible seafood. Alternatively, you can walk around Perkins Cove to see more beautiful views.

6. Seashore Trolley Museum

195 Log Cabin Rd, Kennebunkport, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Seashore Trolley Museum

Fun for all ages, the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, is another museum you cannot miss.

This museum is all about transportation; you guessed it-trolley cars get a lot of attention. Even though trolley cars (trams) are the collection’s primary focus, the museum also has Interurban cars, rapid transit trains, trolley buses, and motor buses. 

The museum launched in the 1930s and is currently the biggest museum of its kind.

You can ride on one of their trolleys all year long if you want to step (or ride) into the past. The trolley is from the 1900s, and if you purchase a ticket, you can ride it unlimited times! It’s a fun thing to do, especially for families who come to the area.

Aside from that, the entrance fee to the museum encompasses the buildings that hold the exhibits. This electric railway museum has a collection of more than 250 public vehicles, most of which are trolleys from across the United States, Canada, or other countries.

Want to see how these old vehicles get restored? You can go to a restoration shop that has an elevated observation gallery.

You can enjoy many themed events from May to December when the museum is open. There are shows like “Daniel Tiger Goes to the Beach,” “Pumpkin Patch Trolley,” “Free Children’s Story Time for Guests and the Community,” “Appreciation Days for Several Operating Fleet Trolleys,” and “Special Holiday Rides” in November and December.

Adults pay $8 to get in, seniors pay $6, and kids aged 6 to 16 pay $5.50. This museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm during its operating season.

5. The Coastal Children’s Museum

75 Mechanic St, Rockland, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: The Coastal Children's Museum

This list of the best museums in Maine would be incomplete without at least one children’s museum. The Coastal Children’s Museum is in Rockland. Its goal is to help children learn and grow through play and education.

The Coastal Children’s Museum is about giving kids ages 1 to 9 and their families a chance to learn about the natural world through play. It is also a great place to learn about the arts, sciences, and the many different things along the Maine coast.

Kids will love touring the museum’s General Store, indoor sailboat, and CedarWorks indoor climbers here. On the other hand, the “Under the Sea Room” and the Gulf of Maine tank will make sure that your visit to the museum is anything but boring.

Visitors will also have fun with the simple crafts at the art desk, Tubes and Tracks, the puppet theater, and the great puzzles and books all over the museum.

You can also have a private event or birthday party here. And in addition to being suitable for families, it’s also good for groups. During one of the group visits, you get to play in the whole museum by yourself.

This museum is open from 10 am to 4 pm, Wednesday through Saturday.

4. Portland Museum of Art

7 Congress Sq, Portland, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Portland Museum of Art

The Portland Museum of Art in Maine is a must-see for anyone interested in art or architecture. It is also the state’s oldest and most significant public art museum.

This museum has been housed in the McLellan House in downtown Portland since 1892. It has a world-class collection of more than 15,000 pieces displayed in three different buildings.

The Portland Museum of Art does everything, from displaying works by local artists to conserving and showing off art history. In the galleries, visitors will find works by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-August Renoir, as well as works by Homer and Frederic Edwin Church, two American artists.

This museum’s building is almost as attractive as its treasures. You’ll see how the lighting is different, how unique its windows are, and how there are hidden galleries. The museum building also has a large museum shop, a movie theater, and a gorgeous café.

A luxury van leaves here daily to take people to the shoreline Winslow Homer Studio, 12 miles south in Prout’s Neck. It will add to your experience, but you must make reservations ahead of time.

Expect to spend a few hours seeing everything this gem has to offer. An unparalleled art experience awaits!

The museum is accessible from 10 am to 5 pm on Tuesday through Sunday. Adults pay $10 to get in, seniors and students pay $8, and kids ages 6 to 17 pay $4.

3. Maine Mineral and Gem Museum

99 Main St, Bethel, ME 

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Maine Mineral and Gem Museum

If you want to see the biggest piece of Mars on Earth, you should go to this next spot. The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum rocks! It’s in Bethel and will attract you as soon as you drive by.

The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum shows the area’s geological history. It has some of the best mineral and rock collections in the world, offers both beginners and experts educational opportunities, and even does historical and geological investigations. 

This museum has the best collection of Maine ores and gems. It includes the iconic Perham Collection, shown to generations of people in a local mineral store that was open for ninety years.

It also has one of the best collections of rocks from other planets—meteorites from Mars, the Moon, and the Asteroid Belt—that teach about how the Solar System came to be.

The most intriguing thing here is the Arthur M. Hussey Memorial Rock Garden. It’s always open and has rocks from all over Maine, like basalt, quartzite, granite, and jasper.

The museum store has a wide range of goods for all ages. It excels in jewelry made with colorful gemstones mined in Maine. The pieces range from daily casual to personalize one-of-a-kind. So, if you want to improve your jewelry compendium, you’ve come to the right place!

2. Center For Maine Contemporary Art

21 Winter St, Rockland, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Center For Maine Contemporary Art

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art of Rockland is a great place to see modern art by artists who live in Maine or have lived there in the past.

The main draw of this institution, which opened in 1952, is its year-round program of evolving exhibitions of the work of Maine artists. 

It has a wide range of educational programs for people of all ages, such as gallery discussions, performances, film screenings, and workshops where people can learn.

The different arts and programs are in the museum’s 11,500-square-foot building, which has 5,500 square feet of the exhibition hall. It has three galleries, a souvenir shop, a conference hall, an ArtLab lecture hall, and a public courtyard.

It is also close to many restaurants and other Maine attractions. You can go to In Good Company for food. This restaurant serves the best food from all over the world. 

This is one of the smaller museums but is definitely worth a visit!

1. Farnsworth Art Museum

16 Museum St, Rockland, ME

The 15 Best Museums in Maine To Spend a Day At: Farnsworth Art Museum

The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland is all about the rugged beauty of Maine and the many ways artists who love Maine have shown it. It is only a few steps from the coast, which has been an inspiration for artists for hundreds of years.

The Farnsworth is an art lover’s must-see. It is in a vintage Maine coastal town with 25 separate art galleries. Also, it has a lot of well-known American and Maine art from all over the country.

With over 15,000 pieces in its collection and 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, the Farnsworth always has something new to show. And each collection is stellar!

View several of their collections, like Andrew Wyeth’s Early Temperas, which looks at paintings made with tempera. Or Leonard Baskin’s I Hold the Cracked Mirror up to Man, with historical pieces showing how things were in the past.  These are just some of the many rotating exhibits in the museum.

You can also find the Farnsworth library here. The museum is of three buildings: the Farnsworth Homestead, the Olson House, & Julia’s Gallery for Young Artists.

However, remember that if the museum doesn’t have enough staff, they sometimes have to close some exhibit rooms. If there’s an exhibit you want to attend, it’s a good idea to call ahead.

And that tops this list of the 15 best museums in Maine to spend a day at! Whether you are into arts, history, science, or anything in between, you’ll enjoy visiting any of the museums in Pine Tree State.

Next up: check out the best small towns in Maine!

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