The largest city in Aroostook County, Maine, is Presque Isle, which is also its commercial hub.
Despite its small population, it is home to several busy establishments, like the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Aroostook Centre Mall.
Presque Isle is also the official headquarters of the federally recognized Aroostook Band of Micmac.
In 1819, British settlers arrived in the area hoping to grab land for lumber.
The US government rebuffed its attempts to get an official title due to tensions between the two countries.
Nine years later, the American Dennis Fairbanks got the land under the laws of Massachusetts and the newly formed state of Maine.
After the Aroostook War, the community of Presque Isle formed out of Plantations F, G, and H. Presque Isle became a city in 1940.
Today, the city has become the primary retail hub for both Americans and Canadians.
It has also become a favorite snowmobiling stop during the winter.
Do you want to know more about Presque Isle, ME?
Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:
Revisit Aviation History at the Double Eagle II Balloon Site
In 1978, the Double Eagle II became the first piloted hot-air balloon to finish a Trans-Atlantic crossing, an important milestone in aviation history.
You can find the Double Eagle II memorial park in Presque Isle, west of the turnoff to Echo Lake.
This unassuming one-acre park sits on the exact spot from which pilots Larry Newman, Maxie Anderson, and Ben Abruzzo launched their balloon.
They landed in Miseray, France.
Today, the Double Eagle flight has become an important and popular exhibit in the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute.
During your visit to this park, you’ll find a small replica of the famous balloon, a few benches, greenery, and a flagpole.
Explore the Outdoors at Aroostook State Park
In 1938, the Maine government established the Aroostook State Park, Maine’s first state park.
The citizens of Presque Isle generously donated 100 acres of land to the state government to create a park.
Over the years, more people donated land to the park, which helped it expand to nearly 800 acres.
Today, the park covers the twin peaks of Quoggy Jo Mountain to the shoreline of Echo Lake.
During your visit, you can swim in the lake or catch fish from the dock.
You can also go boating from the launch area.
Likewise, you can also pitch tents at the park’s campground, which has thirty wooded sites for tents and camping trailers.
Join Winter Activities at the Nordic Heritage Center
The best-kept secret of Presque Isle is the Nordic Heritage Center, an outdoor recreation facility offering top-notch activity options to residents and visitors.
Visit in the winter and enroll your children in the center’s free ski lessons every Saturday.
You can also join the Nordic Trail Festival, comprising three days of cycling, running, delicious food, and great music.
Likewise, the center offers other outdoor activities, no matter the season.
Besides snowshoeing, you can do geocaching, hiking, or birdwatching.
Otherwise, you can simply play around in the snow.
Learn Local History at the 1875 Vera Estey House Museum
Historians believe that the Vera Estey house first stood in 1875, becoming a fine example of the typical Victorian design of an upper-middle-class American family.
Today, the house still stands on the land grant that formalized the creation of the Presque Isle community.
Likewise, the house has changed precious little since its completion.
The only changes were the removal of the barn and the addition of a skylight in the upstairs bathroom.
You can visit the Vera Estey House Museum from April to September for $5 a person.
If you’re a large group, you might need to schedule an appointment with the Presque Isle Historical Society.
Otherwise, you can join a Skype tour, which employs a live Docent for a guide.
Go Skiing at the Quoggy Jo Ski Center
You might not expect it, but historic ski areas also exist.
One of them is the Quoggy Jo Ski Center, a ski area in Presque Isle with roots in the 1930s.
Back then, the Quoggy Jo ski club began skiing at the area where the Aroostook State Park stands today.
Development at the ski park continued into the 1950s, with a rope tow getting installed there in 1949.
In 1957, the Quoggy Jo Ski Club got registered as a Maine non-profit.
They moved to the Quoggy Jo Ski Center area off Fort Road, where they also installed a rope tow.
Today, the ski center offers winter recreation activities, such as lifts and free ski lessons, for the whole family.
They also have a full-service snack bar, a ski rental station, and rental packages.
Learn Natural History at the Northern Maine Museum of Science
In the early 1970s, the University of Maine at Presque Isle received generous donations of extensive collections of natural history artifacts.
These collections would become the foundations of the Northern Maine Museum of Science.
During your visit, you’ll see collections from Leroy Norton, the renowned naturalist from Aroostook County.
His collections feature seashells, forest specimens, and plants for the herbarium.
You can also see artifacts like a whale jawbone, as well as dinosaur models.
Bring your kids here for an educational afternoon.
Spend the Day at Mantle Lake Park
This 46-acre park stands on the original location of Presque Isle’s public water supply, the shores of Mantle Lake.
In 1952, the Presque Isle Lions Club established the park, taking advantage of its popularity as a picnic spot and meeting place for groups.
The area’s popularity dates back to the turn of the century, too.
Today, you can play tennis at Mantle Lake Park or let your kids hop around the playground. Likewise, you can bring your toddlers to the two-acre grass play area.
Then, you can prepare your lunch at the picnic tables or picnic shelters.
After draining and refilling, Mantle Lake has also resumed its place as the main attraction of its namesake park.
Admire the Cosmos at the Maine Solar System Model
If you want to know what our solar system looks like, you can visit the Maine Solar System Model that starts from Presque Isle and ends at Topsfield, Maine.
During your visit, you’ll find that the model has added seven moons and three newly discovered dwarf planets.
The last dwarf planet sits at Topsfield.
Since the solar system model is vast, crossing several towns and cities, you’ll also get the chance to try each of the restaurants that catch your eye along the way.
You can also admire the marvelous architecture in downtown Houlton.
Each of these celestial bodies follows the distance of their actual counterparts in space, calculated along with the astronomical unit (AU).
They had to compute the average distance of the body to the sun, which dictates their distances on the model.
Shop ‘til You Drop at the Aroostook Centre Mall
In 1993, the Aroostook Centre Mall opened to the public and has now become the commercial center for Americans and Canadians.
Its opening also coincided with the closing of the region’s largest job creator, the Loring Air Force Base.
Likewise, the Aroostook Centre Mall is the third-largest indoor shopping mall in Maine.
It spans 525,000 square feet, meaning you can easily get lost in the stores here.
If you want to spend a lazy weekend afternoon inside a spacious mall, you won’t go wrong in visiting the Aroostook Centre Mall.
Revisit Local History at the Maysville Grange
The townspeople established the communities of Fairbanks Mills and Maysville at the same time in 1828.
Decades later, in 1883, Fairbanks Mills would become Presque Isle, and annex Maysville.
What’s now called Maysville Grange was a historically important site on the corner of US Route 1 and Brewer Road.
Why is this site significant?
This site was once the home of the Town Hall, the Maysville Grange, and the Maysville School.
In 1949, the Maysville Centre School shut down permanently; the Maysville Grange would do the same in the late 1980s, citing lack of membership.
The original building on the site first stood in 1865, although it burned down in 1916.
A new building replaced it, but this structure also burned down in 1939.
They replaced it with the smaller single-story building you’ll find today.
Likewise, Maysville Grange has become a Presque Isle historical landmark and museum.
You can visit the place on a seasonal basis, from June to October.
Bring Your Family to the Sargent Family Community Center
This all-around recreation center in Presque Isle should satisfy your family bonding needs.
Even your senior family members can enjoy themselves at the community center.
Throughout the year, the Sargent Family Community Center provides programs and activities that people of all ages can join.
During your visit, you can play several sports at the William “Bill” Haskell Memorial Gymnasium, named after Presque Isle’s first full-time director of recreation.
You can bring your older family members to the Senior Center for some board games and billiards.
For the teens in your family, the teen center should help them relax with video games, ping pong, and dome hockey.
It also has free Wi-Fi.
You can rent the venue for birthday parties, too.
Exercise along the Bike Path
Whether you go there in the daytime or at night, the Presque Isle Bike Path is open for your exercise needs.
It’s a lighted four-mile recreation bike path that should help engage active people on a getaway.
Likewise, the paved path is open for bikers, runners, joggers, and leisure walkers.
In 1981, the city of Presque Isle decided to transform the old Canadian Pacific Railway that cut through the oldest section of Presque Isle.
Continued support from the city and landowners extended the bike path on both ends, letting people from the north and south ends of Presque Isle enjoy the outdoors.
Step Back in Time at The James School
From 1917 to 1948, the one-room schoolhouse called The James School has educated children of families in Presque Isle.
Located at Niles Road, The James School accepted students from Chapman Road and Spragueville Road.
The community has also expended considerable effort to preserve the thirty-year-old building as a historical landmark.
Today, The James School has become a “hands-on” museum where the members of the board themselves encourage children to interact with the facility.
Your kids can sit at the original wooden desks; they can even read the textbooks and write stuff on the blackboard.
Likewise, the school grounds also contain a replica of an outhouse, and former pump students would have used to get water from the nearby well.
Catch the Latest Blockbuster at the Historic Braden Theater
In 1950, the Braden Theater opened on Presque Isle’s Main Street.
The 900-seat theater got its name from the popular harness horse John R. Braden, which the Mooseleuk Club owned.
When James Reginald and Richard Bernard bought the theater in 1970, they added two more screens.
The movie theater sustained its success for 43 years until it closed down in 1994 because of fierce competition from the Aroostook Centre Mall’s new eight-screen multiplex.
In 2009, father and son Arlen and Chris Dow bought the theater and reopened it in March of that year.
The theater retained its original three screens, and it continues to play the latest blockbusters.
If you fancy a night at the movies, get some history while you’re at it at the Braden theater.
Go Camping at the Scopan Public Reserved Land
If you want to go for lakeside camping, look no further than the Scopan Public Reserved Land, a forested space next to the gorgeous Scopan Lake.
You can find this 16,700-acre reserve between Presque Isle and Ashland, and it contains some of the most challenging terrains in the Maine area.
Besides hiking, you can simply paddle along the lake, fish on a boat, or try to spot some birds.
During the winter, you can also ride your snowmobile on the snaking trails crossing the thick woods.
The 1,400-foot Scopan Mountain also stands inside the preserve, along with brooks, wetlands, a small pond, and a few low hills.
Scopan Lake also has roughly 9.5 miles of shoreline, giving you the camping space you need.
Presque Isle might be a small city, but it is not without its charms.
The historic town should satisfy curious visitors and challenge those who want to stay active.
You’ll never run out of things to do at Presque Isle, so book your trip today!