20 Best Things to Do in Presque Isle, ME

Presque Isle, ME
Amjblondie27 / shutterstock.com

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

Monument of Double Eagle II Balloon
The original uploader was Rubyk at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Grab a Good Read at Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Public Library

Exterior view of Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Public Library
Paul Hamlin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Presque Isle is home to a public library honoring local philanthropists Mark and Emily Turner: the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library.

This library is not your run-of-the-mill collection of modern bestsellers; it features a sizable classical and Renaissance collection.

Any individual who uses the library will benefit from its mission to promote education and development.

It features soft chairs, ample lighting, and a cafe, so you can quickly while away a few hours with your nose in a book.

If you're interested in culture and the arts, you shouldn't miss their many exhibitions and activities.

Rent a Kayak at Perception of Aroostook

Those interested in kayaking or canoeing will find many options on the Aroostook River.

You may rely on the Perception of Aroostook to assist you with your needs.

You may buy or rent kayaks and canoes from them, as well as any additional gear you might need.

The team is exceptionally well-versed in the subject matter and can answer any questions.

You'll have a fantastic time, and there's a lot of stunning scenery to take in from your kayak or canoe.

Watch a Tournament at Bishop's Island Ballfield

The 9-acre Bishop's Island, next to Riverside Bicentennial Park, was renovated in 2016 to include a brand new, lit baseball/softball sports field.

The city's child and adult softball leagues use this beautiful field as their primary playing space.

Nathan Willett installed player dugouts as part of an Eagle Scout project, and there is a storage house for field upkeep and equipment.

The facility's parking lot is located across Kennedy Brook, reached by a pedestrian bridge and short walkway.

The park's border is bordered by the neighborhood Bike Path, which offers a pleasant stroll beside Kennedy Brook and the Presque Isle Stream.

Catch a Concert or a Hockey Game at The Forum

The Forum serves as a year-round venue for a wide variety of events.

The Forum, located on the Northern Maine Fairgrounds, hosts many events and shows for the local community throughout the year.

During the colder months, it transforms into an ice skating rink.

Hockey and skating groups welcome people of all ages for lessons and activities, being the home rink for the Presque Isle Wildcats ice hockey team.

Non-ice activities include the popular biannual Trash & Treasure Sale and trade exhibitions like McCluskey's RV & Trailer Show and the Anah Temple Shrine Circus.

You may rent the arena for both ice and non-ice activities.

Better yet, watch a hockey game or a concert!

Try Candlepin Bowling at Northern Lanes Bowling

Have you ever tried candlepin bowling?

If not, this is your chance!

There are 12 candlepin bowling lanes available to the public at Northern Lanes.

Participate in a league or organize a game with some new friends.

This bowling alley has been around for a long time, and it shows.

It also has an accommodating, helpful staff.

It's perfect for celebrating special occasions or just having fun with friends.

Stop by the snack bar inside for some refreshments.

Final Thoughts

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!

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