The Magic Hat

US Wealth Napolitano |

By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®

Like the sorting hat that was used at Hogwarts to determine which school house Harry Potter should be assigned to, for the second consecutive year we Fletchers performed a similar, though significantly less dramatic exercise to determine where we should go for my son's April vacation. Our hat didn't exactly talk to us or wiggle, but it did hold ral names written on small pieces of paper of destinations less than a two hour drive from Boston. This year's winner turned out to be Portland, Maine- which is approximately an hour and 40 minutes from our home. That's just about enough distance where one can feel like you’re getting away, but not such a long drive that everyone in the car begins to complain and get restless leg syndrome. Because it was still the offseason and our stay was during the work week, we were able to get very reasonable room rates at a pretty nice downtown hotel.

If you haven't been to Portland, or it's been a while since your last visit (like me), I'd suggest taking a trip.  The city has upgraded significantly since I used to pass through regularly during my college years. From what I can tell, the largest beneficiaries of the new vibe seem to be hotels, shopping, craft beer, and especially the food and restaurants. While there's still plenty of establishments on the water that serve the traditional Maine seafood, there's also a bunch of new places springing up all over the city that provide more adventurous fare. We visited several while we were there and as my scale at home can attest, the food was mighty good.

You can't visit Maine without enjoying the spectacular natural scenery. There's always plenty to do and see, such as visiting lighthouses and enjoying the rocky coastal areas. My wife, ever the adventurer, booked us a short 20 minute ferry ride from Portland over to Peaks Island, which is actually considered part of Portland. I'd never heard of the place before, but apparently early last century it was considered some sort of a Coney Island, with a plethora of amusement rides and theaters. There's no record of any hot dog eating contests however, but I'd suspect someone gobbled down a few extra lobstahs now and then just to win a bet. These days there doesn't seem to be evidence of much of anything on the island other than quaint summer homes dotting the landscape. To get a closer view of the island, we rented a golf cart and puttered around at top speed for couple of hours - which is about all it takes to see everything before the ferry departs. One really odd but interesting spot on the island were the remnants of a concrete World War II bunker that at one time housed two giant 16mm guns. The story goes that when the guns were first tested, they shattered windows on the other side of the island. Not only was the intact bunker itself a bit of a surprise, but it was also quite a vast structure; at least 100 yards in length of cold subterranean darkness. 

Lastly before heading home, we attended a AA baseball game featuring the Portland Sea Dogs and Hartford Yard Goats. Yard Goats can be dangerous animals if left unattended and unfortunately they got the best of the Sea Dogs that night. The ballpark however was a real gem which will give our family an excuse to return to city soon and enjoy another game.