Archive for May, 2009

May 17, 2009

10 Things to Do with Your Kids on a Rainy Day in Acadia National Park

“What if it rains?” is the question that haunts every mother planning a vacation that’s focused on biking, hiking, and the beach. 

Don’t worry.  Bar Harbor and the surrounding communities on Mount Desert Island offer lots of good options to combat cabin fever if it rains.  Here are a few ideas, courtesy of Bar Harbor locals.  

Your kids are sure to love them as long as you don’t say the word “educational.” 

  1. Learn about lobsters – Visit the lobster hatchery and museum at the Mount Desert Oceanarium .  There are touch tanks and other hands-on exhibits, including phones for listening to the songs of whales. 
  2. Take in a show Acadia Repertory Theatre  in picturesque Somesville does adaptations of children’s classics every year.  Last summer they performed “Snow White and Rose Red” every   Wednesday and Saturday morning…see what their 37th season holds!
  3. Play with LEGOS designed by MIT to see how DNA divides and mutates.  Plus, there are touch tanks and an aquarium at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, a renowned research institution, which welcomes children on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
  4. See a movie – Check out to see what’s playing at Reel Pizza  in Bar Harbor where, in addition to theatre seats, there are couches and recliners and, in addition to popcorn and soda, delicious fresh-dough gourmet pizza. 
  5. Enjoy a story – Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor has summertime story hours with special guests.  On the other side of the island, the Southwest Harbor Public Library also hosts story time for both toddlers and pre-schoolers, where older siblings are welcome.  Both get rave reviews from local parents.
  6. Visit the Bar Harbor Whale Museum – Unlike a lot of the other activities that are only open two days a week, this museum — dedicated to the whales and seals common to the Gulf of Maine — is open seven days a week.  Tell the kids they can walk underneath a real humpback whale skeleton.
  7. Take a family swim – MDI YMCA offers a family day pass for $16.  In addition to the pool, there’s a basketball court.  Check out the family swim times before you go.
  8. Go to college – Dorr Museum on the campus of College of the Atlantic has a touch-tank where kids can see starfish, sea cucumbers and various other sea life first hand.  There’s a gift shop, too, with a wonderful selection of books, gifts, toys and jewelry related to the natural sciences.
  9. Learn about Native Americans – Older children (6-15) with an interest in Native American heritage may enjoy visiting the Abbe Museum to learn about the Wabanaki Indians, Maine’s native people.  There are two locations, Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park and downtown Bar Harbor.
  10. Find a porch – With an old-fashioned board game and a few picture books, you can enjoy the sound of the rain.  This might just end up being the most relaxing point in your vacation. 

For more ideas of great things to do with your kids – both rain and shine! – visit OUR ACADIA.  You’ll also find tips for restaurants, guides for kayaking and family rock climbing trips, ideas for what to pack, and a lot more.


Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor

May 3, 2009

Soft vs. Hard Shell Lobster? The Final Word.

View from my favorite lobster pound

View from my favorite lobster pound

Every time I go to Acadia National Park to hike, bike, and kayak, my vacation itinerary includes a trip to a lobster pound.  OK, often two.  So here, after much research, is the point-of-view of this New Yorker on the soft vs. hard shell lobster debate.

Here are the two sides.  Fans of soft shell lobsters claim they are sweeter and easier to eat because they can be cracked by hand.  Lovers of hard shells point to more meat and a firmer consistency.

Let’s draw on a little science about Homarus americanus.  Lobsters shed their shells (or molt) throughout their lives.  After they grow a new shell inside the old one, they drink a lot of water which expands their body size and infuses the new shell, causing it to expand and break the old one.  The new shell is softer.  While it hardens, there’s a layer of seawater that helps insulate the lobster’s body.

And, to me, that’s the insight.  The seawater acts as kind of a secret marinating agent to make the meat of the soft shell lobster undeniably sweeter.  It’s more tender and delectable.

So, if taste is your priority, order a soft shell.  But keep in mind two other considerations.  First, eating a soft shell lobster is a messier process.  When you crack it open, be prepared for the torrent of “marinating liquid” to spew forth! The other negative is a soft shell will have relatively less meat for the same poundage. Lower prices will compensate for this, but you must remember to order a larger size.  Thurston’s Lobster Pound on Mount Desert Island recommends at least a quarter of a pound more.

You are not likely to get a soft shell lobster in a New York restaurant or delivered by mail because hard shells are more durable for shipping.  So, if you are on Mount Desert Island at the end of the summer, which is the molting season for that part of New England, the choice should be clear. A soft shell lobster is a special seasonal treat if you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

lobsterMount Desert Island in Maine is home not only to Acadia National Park, but to harborside  villages, charming inns, wonderful antiquing, and topnotch spas.  Activities, especially hiking, biking, kayaking, and sailing, abound.  And, since Maine is the state of both farmers and fishermen, the restaurants are great. To read about my favorites, including several lobster pounds, visit OUR ACADIA.



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