48 Hours In…Freeport
by Kristen Andresen Lainsbury | Photography by Amanda Kowalski | Illustration by Karen Gelardi
More than big Indians, big boots, and big-name outlets
As legend has it, Freeport, Maine, got its name from Sir Andrew Freeport, a fictional merchant of great eminence and defatigable industry who first appeared in Londons The Spectator. Not bad for a town that earned its reputation and livelihood first from the sea and later from shopping.
Freeport seceded from North Yarmouth in 1789 and established itself as a seaport and shipbuilding center. Industry gave way to leisurea grand hotel and amusement park were built near Casco Bay at the turn of the century. From Winslow Park, you can still see the hotels remainsa stone castle tower peeking above the treeline.
In 1912, around the time Leon Leonwood Bean started sewing leather and rubber boots, leisure gave way to retail. Today, leisure and retail coexist.
The town is a haven for bargain-seekers from around the world. And while nobody can deny the allure of high-end labels at discount prices, theres more to Freeport than outletslike galleries, a phenomenal wine and cheese shop, great restaurants, independently owned boutiques, and an organic farm overlooking the ocean. Its a perfect holiday shopping destination. But its so much more than that.
Skip out of work earlyor skip work entirelyand when you arrive in town, head straight to Jacquelines Tea Room. Youll feel like youre in a dollhouse as you eat a leisurely four-course lunch prepared by Jacqueline Soley. Choose from 72 varieties of loose-leaf tea, served with scones and Devon cream, finger sandwiches, and decadent desserts. Be sure to call ahead to reserve a table.
This is the perfect opportunity to explore the blocks north of L.L. Bean, which get a little less foot traffic than the heart of the village. Discover elegant furniture at Thos. Moser, take in a bit of fine art at The Wonderful Gallery, peruse unique, artisanmade jewelry at Earrings & Co., or tour the workshop of Brown Goldsmiths.
Where to stay? Depends on what youre looking for. As Freeport has grown in popularity as a more-than-shopping destination, so have the lodging options. The town is home to charming B&Bs, hotel chains, and traditional motor inns. At the gracious Harraseeket Inn, you can stay in stylewith an in-room fireplacewithin walking distance of town. Though its
elegant year-round, the Harraseeket really sparkles during the holidays. Dog lovers and those who prefer Pottery Barn to potpourri and Ralph Lauren linens to antique doilies should check into the pet-friendly Applewood Inn. Across the street is the family-friendly James Place Inn.
For dinner, head to Azure Café, where chef Christopher Bassett uses Maines best ingredients to prepare flavorful, creative Italian cuisine. Try the mussels al fresco, which taste like summer special. The cocktails here are to die for, but Azure Café also has received Wine Spectators Award of Excellence for four straight years. So sip awayno matter how late you stay, L.L. Bean will still be open, and its truly a special place in the wee hours.
Regardless of where you stay in Freeport, chances are breakfast is included, so eat up, because shopping requires serious energy. If you didnt hit L.L. Bean last night, its a
musteven more so when Alex Carletons signature line debuts in spring 2010and so is Beans home store, which opened in September. Freeport Village Station, an open-air outlet mall, opened in the spring, and its home to the L.L. Bean Factory Store and The Maine Dog, a veterinarian-owned shop that caters to the canine set.
Wander down to Mexicali Blues, a funky import shop, for chunky silver and gemstone jewelry. Looking for something made a little closer to home? Dont miss the new Sea Bags boutique, home to Maine-made totes crafted from recycled sails. Check out the raincoat canvas bags and slickers at Maines own Accessories Unlimited. Browse textiles, jewelry, and rocksyes rocksat Maine Artisans & Minerals.
For one-of-a-kind gifts, you cant miss at Abacus Gallery, or if youre feeling crafty, stock up on jewelry supplies at Beadin Path, arguably Maines best bead store. Head next door for drastically discounted boutique and designer clothing for womenhalfprice Anthropologie, anyone?at Co/Op. Designer labels abound at Suite 9B, a tiny shop that specializes in high-end denim, T-shirts, and hoodies.
By now, youve worked up an appetite, and while you may generally shy away from buffets, the luncheon spread at Harraseeket Inns Broad Arrow Tavern is an exception. The selection of salads, seafood, meats, cheeses, and nibbles changes daily, but one thing is constant: the food, much of which is grown or raised on local farms, is fantastic.
After lunch, hop into your car and follow Route 1 south for another delicious adventure. In town, check out artisan loaves at When Pigs Fly Bakery, a York-based bakery chain, and Wicked Whoopies, run by Gardiner-based Isamax Snacks.
Wilburs of Maine Chocolate Confections is a sweet tooths paradise. You can buy a chocolate L.L. Bean Boot here and watch it or some other sweet treatbeing made in the adjacent factory. Simply Divine Brownies recently opened an emporium inside Wilburs, and across the parking lot, youll find the small but well-stocked Freeport Cheese & Wine. Its clear from the selection that owner Eric Fullagar is passionate about what he does, and youll be able to stock up on gifts for the foodies on your list. Nearby, find dining room inspiration at Chilton Furniture, or upgrade your cutlery at Freeport Knife Co.
Keep heading south, just a hair past the turnoff for I-95, and youll find Freeport Wine Outlet, which sells closeout wines at discount prices. Its like a little slice of New Hampshire in Maine. To truly get into the holiday spirit, or spirits, as the case may be, take a tour of Cold River Vodkas distillery, where the award-winning potato vodka is made. Thatand a tastingare just what you need to keep shopping, and theres plenty of that on the south side of Freeport.
Ornithologists and amateurs flock to Wild Bird Supply for seed, feeders, and free bird-watching tours. Bookworms will love the Freeport Book Shoppeflip through a leather-bound collection of the complete works of the Brontë sisters, every Stephen King title, and many local histories, along with contemporary paperbacks and popular fiction. Annies Book Stop is
another favorite for new and used books. The friendly, knowledgeable staff at Grace Robinson & Co. will have you in stitches this luxurious little yarn shop is a haven for knitters and needlepointers. And speaking of luxury, Cuddledown of Maine is the only place Ive seen a down comforter for $13,000on sale. Prices at the factory store, however, are a bit less jaw-dropping. Either way, super-posh bed linens, pajamas, and down comforters are all available for far less than retail.
After all this shopping, you and your wallet are probably wiped out. Recharge with a full-bodied shiraz, crab cakes, or a martini at Conundrum Wine Bistro, where owner Vincent Migliaccio pairs a creative menu with a mind-boggling selection of wines. Or, if youre craving dinner Southern-style, fill up on ribs, pulled pork, slaw, and great cornbread at Bucks Naked BBQ.
If you wake up and your feet are killing you, you need better shoes. If you wake up and your feet arent killing you, you still need better shoes. And after all this shopping, why not not treat yourself to a pair at Cole Haans newly renovated shoetique. The company does call Maine home, and the California Modernist store design is as stunning as the footwear. If you didnt manage to cross everyone off your list, theres still time to shop. But at lunchtime, take a break with a goat cheese panini and a glass of sangria at Petrillos, a tiny bistro run by chef-owner Dom Petrillo. He trained in France, but hisroots are Italian, and you may find tongue and Gorgonzola panini on the specials board along with pizzas and salads.
Afterward, head down Bow Street toward Wolfes Neck Farm, a 632-acre farm open every day of the year. Nuzzle a goat kid, feed the sheep, and feel free to take home
any free-range eggs you happen to find. The chickens here go where they please, and the whole experience is enough to make you go all Green Acres. Though its officially closed this time of year, Wolfes Neck Woods State Park is nearby, and its a quiet, out-of-the-way place for a stroll or an easy snowshoe where Casco Bay meets the Harraseeket River.
Its only a 10-minute drive from downtown, but it feels worlds away. And by the time youre finished wandering around Wolfes Neck, youll may just forget all that shopping. Until the credit card bill arrives.
Holiday events in Freeport
Visit freeportusa.com for a full list of events
Nov. 1315, lodging specials, a fashion show, outdoor recreation, and classes tailored to women.
Starting at midnight Nov. 27, shopping discounts and a celebration.
Dec. 46, parade, lighting contest, art exhibits, and sales.
Freeport has many pet-friendly retailers and cafes. For overnight stays, check in to the Applewood Inn.
8 Holbrok St. | applewoodusa.com
Sea Bags is just one of many local retailers with Maine-made wares in the village center.
6 Bow St. | seabags.com
For the foodie on the list, stop at Cold River Vodka, Simply Divine Brownies, and Wilburs of Maine Chocolate Confections
174 Lower Main St. | wilburs.com
Freeport and farming, really? In addition to Wolfes Neck, Mitchell Ledge, and Laughing Stock farms, theres excellent farmstead cheeses at Freeport Cheese & Wine.
178 Lower Main St. | freeportwine.net
Headed south on Route 1? Browse the quirky book sections, like Exaggerations, and dont miss the extensive postcard collection at the Freeport Book Shoppe.
176 Rte. 1 | freeportbookshoppe.com
Or, for more immediate gratification, grab a barstool and a cocktail at Conundrum.
117 Route 1 | 207.865.0303
At Tripping Gnome Farm, the Munros raise over 70 huacaya alpacas a couple miles outsidethe village center.
64 Lupine Ln. | Freeport | trippinggnomefarm.com