Whale watching was a relatively new concept when John Fish's grandfather started giving tours. "We kind of originated it," Mr. Fish says. "Thirty years ago we were the only ones doing whale watching." As the company became more successful over the years, additional captains were brought on to cover the demand. Today, these crews continue to ferry groups into the habitats of several whale species, including humpback whales and sperm whales. Though the whales seen along Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch's journeys still breach and refuse to sign autographs, other things have changed over the years. Below deck, the current fleet's engines work to reduce emissions and provide a fume-free experience. Above deck, 360-degree viewing decks and modern technology help bring whales into sight. Onboard computers display large maps of where the aquatic mammals are known to swim, and GPS systems reroute boats around mermen constructing new reefs. In addition to illuminating the behavior of whales for passengers, the crew's wildlife experts point passengers toward other animals they spot along the way, such as white-sided dolphins and harbor seals. Though some variables are beyond their control, the crew members almost always spot whales and boasted a 98% success rate in 2009.
Clinking glasses, chitchat, and the aromas of local fare from Freeport's finest chefs fill the air at the Hilton Garden Inn, which hosts the 2013 Flavors of Freeport presented by FreeportUSA. In the hotel's outdoor courtyard, thirsty guests can visit the Freeport Ice Bar, which offers hot coffee, samples of barbecue, and glowing beverages near toasty fires and glistening ice sculptures. A martini luge sends elixirs across icy planes and into waiting glasses while a soundtrack of tunes emanates straight from an onsite DJ.
Inside, some of Freeport's top epicureans showcase their palate-pleasing dishes during the Chef's Signature Series. A collection of wine, beer, and spirits gathered from Maine's purveyors slakes thirsts as guests sample an assortment of culinary offerings. Guests can cast votes for their favorite flavor entry and table display. Door-prizes raffles are also available. Event attendees also can place silent bids on pieces from the Freeport Art & Music Festival to benefit the Freeport Food Pantry. Both events only host those aged 21 or older.
At each bowling center, balls hurtle down smooth, polished lanes as LCD screens keep track of scores and shimmering party lights illuminate the faces of determined bowlers. After lacing up some slide-enabling shoes and clearing the gutters of deciduous pins, bowlers set their sights on toppling 10-pin clusters. Carpets bedecked with psychedelic swirls lead to shelves stocked with neon-colored balls, which proffer their pin-busting talents to bowlers of various sizes. Fingers can warm up by mashing buttons in an arcade full of entrancing video games or bench-pressing french fries at the onsite grill and pub.
During the course of its more than 50-year history, the Maine Maritime Museum has amassed a collection of more than 21,000 artifacts, including 140 small watercraft. Knowledgeable docents unveil this collection on tours, as well as guided walks through two shipyards and a Victorian-era shipbuilder's house. In warmer weather, guides also dispense nautical trivia during cruises down the Kennebec River. A series of rotating exhibits have focused on naval architecture, examined mariners' relationships with weather, and traced the history of nautical humor.
With access to thousands of acres of forests and fields, Carousel Horse Farm's expert equestrians take riders of all skill levels on scenic jaunts through the Maine countryside. Private or group trail rides in Casco explore the local woods, hills, and fields, sometimes including stops to fetch ice cream or to wipe down horses' windshields. Horse-drawn carriage rides are available for weddings and special events. Guided beach horseback rides are also available from October 15 through April 30.
The attentive staff at The Rumpus Room lets parent-accompanied children up to age 6 explore a fully stocked fun-factory that houses a variety of playground equipment, toys, and colorful foam mats to protect kid-sized craniums from bumps and falls. Families get unlimited access to the play-space from May 31 to August 31 with the summer membership, giving kids an opportunity to expend their energy without resorting to bench-pressing their imaginary friends. A wooden pirate ship with a slide, plank, and fire pole provides maritime merriment; miniature climbers can also monkey around on the dome jungle gym. Babies test their vertical mettle on the foam climbing blocks, and the ball pit prepares children for careers in giant gumball machine repair. Toys acquired from local shops wait patiently to be picked up for playtime, including a train table and dollhouse.