Over the past few weeks, I’ve done my best to guide you to some of the best outdoor activities on Mount Desert Island. We’ve covered hiking, swimming, and camping, which will help pack any Acadia adventure with lots of fresh air. But what do you do if it rains? What is there to do on a rainy day in Bar Harbor and the other surrounding towns?
Sure, you can go shopping, but I don’t know many kids who are particularly interested in more than 30 minutes of that. You can go eat, but how long can you stretch a meal before the waitstaff starts giving you side-eye?
The Abbe Museum, which has traditionally been focused on the archaeological remnants of Mount Desert Island’s first residents, underwent a major transformation recently and redid its core exhibit. Now with a focus on contemporary Native American life, the new exhibit has music, stories, and movies to compliment its traditional old and new basketry, birch bark canoes, and carvings.
We checked it out a few weeks ago and my kids had a marvelous time examining everything, reading traditional Wabanaki tales, listening to recordings of Native languages, and watching a short film about current Wabanaki people. If you have ever struggled to get your kids to understand that “Yes, Native Americans are still around. Yes, they are just like you,” the new Abbe museum exhibits should help.
There weren’t any educational programs going on the day we were there, but my kids spent 15 minutes or so playing with the animal puppets in the learning lab and making up their own tales.
After we finished up, we drove over to the second Abbe location by Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park. This beautiful old building maintains the traditional archaeology focus, complete with the miniature dioramas that have fallen out of favor, but still fascinate kids. There is also a traditional wigwam on the grounds for exploration. Your payment at one location will get you into the other
Time kill potential: One to two hours, three or more if you go to the second location or include a walk around the Sieur de Monts area or a visit the newly redone Sieur de Monts Nature Center.
Cost: Adults: $8; Children ages 11-17: $4; Children 10 and under: Free
George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History
Part of the College of the Atlantic, the Dorr Museum is fondly known in my house as the Dead Stuff Museum. Okay, fine, I’m the only one who calls it that, but it’s pretty accurate.
Small but mighty, the Dorr Museum contains a number of beautiful taxidermied dioramas created by COA students–everything from rodents to foxes to owls to seals. All of the creatures, and there are many, are beautifully preserved, placed in accurate and appropriate backgrounds, and seem frozen in a moment in time.
My kids love the chance to get up and close to examine the details of animals they usually can only catch glimpses of–if even that much. This is probably the most requested day trip in my house. I don’t always say yes because there’s only so much dead stuff I can look at, but my kids love it.
If you have particularly sensitive children, please note that these are realistic dioramas, which means they include scenes of prey being captured and eaten. There’s nothing gratuitous but, you know, nature.
In addition to the dioramas, there’s also a great touch tank with animals captured right offshore as well as a listening booth to explore recorded bird calls. My kids can spend a minimum of 20 minutes in the bird call booth alone.
They have an art area with animal coloring pages so your budding naturalists can recreate what they just saw. Or make the cormorants teal and purple if they want. That’s fine, too.
Time kill potential: 60-90 minutes, longer if your kids get really into the touch tank or bird calls.
Cost: by donation
For a relatively small island, Mount Desert Island has a lot of libraries. There are three main ones: the Jesup Library in Bar Harbor, The Northeast Harbor Library, and the Southwest Harbor Library. But that doesn’t include the smaller libraries (with more sporadic hours): Somesville, Bass Harbor, and Seal Harbor.
I haven’t been in all of them, but I’ve been in most and they are friendly, inviting places that would welcome your family to settle in to play some games and read some books while you wait for the weather to settle.
Time kill potential: 30 minutes to, well, all day, I suppose. Depends on your level of library love.
Cost: free! We love you, public libraries.
Reel Pizza and the 1932 Criterion Theatre
Bar Harbor is lucky enough to have not one, but two amazing and unique art and film venues.
The Criterion Theatre is a gorgeous art deco theatre with events happening regularly. Check out their calendar for the latest films, many of which are family friendly, or see if they are partnering with the Barn Arts Collective or The Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers for live theater options.
For evening entertainment, it’s hard to beat Reel Pizza. If your kids are only used to gigantic, impersonal megaplexes, the cozy couches and delicious food of Reel Pizza should be quite a treat. Check their website for current films; there’s usually a nice mix of second-run blockbusters and quirky independent or foreign films. (Be sure to check for suitability for kids!)
Time kill potential: one hour plus, depending on what you are seeing
Cost: Varies, but usually $6 per person and up.
In celebration of Acadia’s Centennial, I’m running a series of posts about making sure your trip to Acadia is the best yet. This is part five.