Travel like a teacher: Bethel, Maine

This is my third entry on traveling like a teacher. When teachers travel, we seek out reasonably priced activities with great value and we especially like the outdoors. I have been observing for years that when I talk to other hikers, bikers or tourists on my travels, many of the people I encounter are teachers. It must be that we seek out the same activities.

This post is about Bethel, Maine, one of my favorite places, and is about traveling with preteens and teens. I am going to highlight outdoor activities that are pandemic-safe and I am publishing this now hoping that my readers might be able to make the trip for Fall foliage season in September and October, though Bethel is also beautiful in the summer for swimming and in the winter for skiing.

Bethel is a small New England town in Western Maine that hosts skiers who ski Sunday River in nearby Newry, Maine. It is a spectacular spot for viewing the mountains and valleys and has beautiful light that makes the mountains look blue and purple as you look at them in the distance. In the Fall the trees show off the foliage colors and the palette of colors is further extended.

Consider staying at the Bethel Inn in a condo so that you will have a bit of independence and space. The Bethel Inn offers good amenities too. In the summer you can swim at their Lake House, a short drive away. In the winter there are show shoeing and fat mountain biking trails that depart from the Inn. And for a Fall trip you can take advantage of other activities like tennis, golf and mountain biking. The easiest place in town for an outdoor meal is at the Millbrook Tavern at the Inn, just make sure to reserve ahead. The view is stunning.

The mountain biking trails, the Bethel Village Trails, that leave from the resort are an activity that I want to highlight and they are available for all, whether or not you are staying at the Inn. I am not a particularly adventurous athlete and yet I found these trails very accessible as they are beginning mountain biking trails. You can rent bikes or get repairs and parts from Barker Mountain Bikes. For more advanced trail riding, there are other trails around town, so there is opportunity for all levels. In addition, at Mount Abraham, a short drive away, you can ride the lift up and bike the trails with berms and jumps. The two youngest members of our family love the thrill of downhill mountain biking. Fortunately, there are picnic tables for the older, tired out members of the family.

Equally fun as trail riding is hiking in the area and the reward is always a great view. For provisions, the Good Food Store will make sandwiches to order and they have trail mix and other snacks. In Bethel you have great options for a hike. One great one is Long Mountain Trail where you walk along a stream for part of it and have a nice view at the end. There is good shade on this path for a hot day. Another is Mount Will, which our family likes during foliage season. It is steep enough to interest my kids and yet has a moderate rating. In the evening you could return to the Good Food Store for their Smokin’ Good BBQ and the picnic tables where you can eat outside.

Bethel is on the Androscoggin River and so you can kayak or even float down the river. Sport Thoma, our favorite ski shop, will rent you kayaks and shuttle you up the river so that you can paddle back to town. Whether you trail ride, hike or kayak, consider going with a guide from Bethel Adventure Tours. We have worked with their guide Alex twice, once for a ride and another time for a hike. Alex talked about hiking safety, packing for a day trip and orienteering with our kids and led a great hike for us. After your adventure, you can have dinner from the LeMuEats Food Truck and eat outside under the tent at Steam Mill Brewing. And, there is an outdoor window for ice cream at the Bethel Sugar Shack.

If your kids need more than hiking, biking and kayaking, Bethel has some other options too. While the Bethel Pathway is only 1.7 milnes long, it is great for a stroll, young kids on training wheels or roller blades. From one of the two parking lots you are steps from the Davis Park Skatepark. My kids think it’s the best planned skatepark they know. From the other parking lot you are close to the basketball courts. While the paved path of the Bethel Pathway ends at North Road, you can keep walking on to Valentine Farm. Valentine Farm is a wooded path worth visiting on its own if you want to take young children for a walk. They may delight in the Pollinator Garden.

If you come for the weekend and the weather doesn’t cooperate, and if you are a person who feels safe inside during this pandemic, there are a few indoor activities. The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum will teach you about gems from this region and has interactive displays. Visit River Lanes for bowling and the arcade, a very family-friendly experience. And, The Gem is the local movie theater which has great popcorn and a couple movies at a time. Main Street has stores that you could pop into, such as Toys and Trendz and Elements Art Gallery, both located in the Philbrook Place. The not to be missed shopping opportunity is Middle Intervale Farm, either at the Saturday morning farmers’ market or at their self-serve farm stand.

Let me know if you think that you travel like a teacher.

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