We were perfectly happy to do nothing besides hike, bike, and eat lobster when we traveled to Acadia National Park before having children. But when we returned with kids, we branched out and explored a variety of other activities offered in the Bar Harbor area. Good choice on our part. There are so many great affordable family friendly activities that really celebrate the local culture of Maine. All of the following recommendations were tons of fun for the kids and very educational for the adults. Win / Win!
Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show
Let’s be honest…the boys had no idea what a lumberjack was before we went to this show. As we sat in the bleachers, they eyed the chainsaws and axes with more than a little suspicion. Then the show started and they were in awe from beginning to end. Timber Tina, a former contestant on Survivor, mixes interesting lumberjack history with good ole team competition.
The boys cheered loudly for the green team, and were pretty darn excited when they won. Timber Tina brings up all the kids and gives them a lesson in cross-cut sawing, then sends them home with a certificate signed by a real life lumberjack. Ask Max and Theo about this show and you will get quite an earful. You might also get a chopping demonstration performed with their souvenir axes.
The Mount Desert Oceanarium
This wonderful local gem, operated for four decades by Audrey and David Mills, is a fascinating hybrid of a museum, aquarium, and preserve. Your basic tour package includes three different interactive presentations: the touch tank, the lobster museum, and the lobster hatchery. You can also upgrade your ticket and take a guided tour through the salt marches on the premises. The touch tank presentation allowed the kids to handle sea stars, sea cucumbers, and horse shoe crabs.
During the lobster museum demonstration, Max actually got to band the claws of a lobster and place it in a trap on the boat. Pretty exciting stuff for a five year old! The oceanarium immerses visitors in the lobster culture of coastal Maine with hands on activities presented by a friendly, knowledgable staff. The playground outside the gift shop? That’s just a bonus.
Dive-In Theater with Diver Ed
There are many boat tour options near Acadia National Park, but if you’re traveling with kids, there is only one show in town. Join Diver Ed on the Starfish Enterprise for a two hour tour of Frenchman Bay that will surprise and delight the whole family. As the passengers sit comfortably on deck, Diver Ed will suit up in his scuba gear, then ask the kids to push him into the ocean so that he can search for lobsters, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and sea urchins. While Diver Ed collects these sea creatures you get to watch him and hear him on the ships’ big screen. But the best part is this—when he returns to the boat he brings all of his discoveries with him and places them in touch tanks for the kids to enjoy. While the sea creatures are colorful and amazing, the true star of the show is Diver Ed. His larger than life personality and kid-friendly humor will make this one of your all-time favorite family travel memories.
Ranger Park Programs, Acadia National Park
When you purchase your pass to Acadia National Park you will also receive a schedule of Ranger Programs. We strongly recommend that you take a good look at this schedule and pick at least one to attend. Most of them are free, and many of them are appropriate for families with children. We chose to attend a program called Animal Tales that introduced the boys to some of Acadia’s “fuzzy, furry, and funny creatures through stories and activities.” The ranger who led this activity used puppets and silly songs to teach the kids about moose, loons, peregrine falcons, and other native species. She was also energetic and engaging. Her moose imitation was so realistic that it made Stephanie feel a bit better about not actually seeing one on our trip.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and the rest of Mount Desert Island form a premiere location for a family vacation. There are excellent campgrounds, delicious options for seafood, exciting and affordable family activities, and one of our country’s most beautiful National Parks. if your family is looking for its next great adventure, then Acadia may just be the perfect place. It was for us.