Come for a visit
Right here in Van Buren
Although there are also some fine places to stay within easy reach, Van Buren offers a first-class motel right here in town: the Aroostook Hospitality Inn. There is no better place to watch a parade than on the Inn's front porch, and it's location on historic US Route 1 (Van Buren's Main Street) is convenient to everything around the county. Continental breakfast, refrigerator and microwave in every room, free phone service to US and Canada, WiFi, and a warm friendly atmosphere; what more could you ask for? Call 207-484-6200 for reservations.
When you get hungry
You'll enjoy any one of these:
1] Robin's Restaurant at 44 Main Street features a retro ambience you don't expect to find any more. The Gayety Theatre was here formerly, complete with a requisite piano player before 'talkies' -- the theater's now closed, but the restaurant still has fond memorabilia from the era on display along with a laid-back, small-town atmosphere. Pick from a full menu ranging from pizza to fish and prime rib plates.
2] Bechard's Bar and Grill, newly relocated to 66 Main Street, is the place to go for a hardy breakfast and daily specials to stuff your tummy without emptying your wallet. The piled-high Philly Steak sub platter is a local favorite, there's a salad bar, and you can treat yourself to Maine's own home-made whoopie pies. Open from 7-7 every day except Sunday with frequent evening activities and entertainment.
3] Tasty Food at 232 Main Street, a traditional drive-in operation that opens at 10 am every day in season, serves all kinds of burger baskets and ice cream (incl. soft-serve) treats. Indoor and outdoor tables plus a drive-through window, plentiful parking. Enjoy a game of chess with giant pieces on the parking lot gameboard, and set the kids loose safely in the playground.
4] Oulette's Trading Post at 200 Champlain Street is a whole lot more than just a fun place to eat, featuring lobster rolls and burgers cooked just the way you want them -- open from breakfast to dinner 7 days a week. But you'll be captured by the ambience, with an incredibly wide variety of fascinating stuff to browse through ranging from trail foods to taxidermy mounts, fishing licenses, and more. Whatever you want, it's probably here.
5] If you simply want to 'grab something,' stop in at Tulsa on lower Main Street for a catered meal-of-the-day' bargain packaged to go (there's even an inviting picnic table right across the street on the visitor center lot), pick up a fresh sandwich or grinder, salad and dessert from the cases at the rear of the SureFine grocery store next door, or check out the Gulf station a few blocks north, where you can order a freshly baked pizza better than you've ever had before.
6] AND (if you're lucky) with the right timing you just might be able to hit one of the dinners that are typical small-town fund raisers: maybe a BBQ, spaghetti, or the area's traditional favorite chicken stew and ployes. Watch for sign-boards along Main Street to be alerted to what's available while you're here.
On a regular basis, however, take advantage of the dinners at the American Legion Hall on Washington Street, just behind the town's Municipal Building. On the first Wednesday and third Thursday of each month at 5:30, you can get a full course dinner including beverage and dessert for only $6, eat-in or take out; menus varied from month to month, prepared by some of the best cooks north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Last but by no means least is the breakfast orgy served every Sunday morning at the Knights of Columbus Hall on upper Main Street; includes just about every breakfast food you can think of, all sumptuous fillers that will probably last you right through lunch!
Places you won't want to miss in town
The Split Cedar Trail
Experience the wonder of Maine flora and fauna on a well-maintained system of 4 trails covering more than 11 miles. You'll be right in town, but think you're out in the wilderness! Hike in the summer, snowshoe in the winter -- enjoy whatever the season, all at no charge. Check out goaroostookoutdoors.com for more information and trail maps. Directions: go south on State Street (route 1), turn right onto Castonguay Road; proceed about 2.1 miles, turn left onto St. Mary's Brook Road; proceed 2.2 miles, stay to the right where the road appears to split, proceed another 2.7 miles to the parking lot on your left.
Our 'International' Saint John River
. . . the US/Canadian border of northern Maine, has a boat-launching ramp and docks, a seaplane base for checking in with the DHS border authorities, and GREAT FISHING! Although it's remarkably clean, swimming is not recommended because of the strong current. With a peaceful, out-of-the-way park area extending along the riverside, it's a fine place for a relaxing picnic or some Frisbie exercise with your dog. The meandering feeder stream Violette Brook enters the river mid-town, and is a favorite for trout fishing.
The DHS Customs/Border Patrol Facility
Van Buren boasts one of the most modern customs facilities in the east, an impressively eco-friendly development that opened only a few years ago. Once served only by the Border Patrol for crossings, this new Customs facility provides state-of-the-art commercial entry for truckers that eases the way from Canada's major east-west artery to our own US-1. The park-like grounds are entered where that life-sized moose statue stands guard, welcoming you to town.
Officially, the statue is named 'The Grand State of Maine'. Locally, however, it's been affectionately nicknamed Marty the Moose (after Martin Van Buren, for whom the town was named). Marty is festooned with Maine icons, including the official ones such as state bird and motto; pick up a background brochure with a fun game of all the things to find at the et cetera shop, 68 Main Street.
For swimming, beach picnicing, kayaking, fishing, or just plain relaxing in a truly gorgeous setting, head for Long Lake, There are two options for getting there; one shorter but dusty, the other a bit longer but easier on your vehicle. The short way to Van Buren Cove is out Champlain street, right at Y to Lake Road; the road changes from paved to a gravel when it leaves the Van Buren town line. The Cove is unimproved, but a favorite for swimming in the summer and ice-fishing in the winter. The alternative is to head north on U.S.1 to Grand Isle (left turn, watch for the Long Lake Road sign; you'll see a chunky red brick church spire ahead of you), which will also lead to a causeway going out to an inhabited, interesting island where you might actually spot some eagle aeries high in the trees along the road. You'll be so refreshed you won't ever want to leave, but with occasonal 'For Sale' signs you might not have to!
CAMPING at Long Lake -- there are two fine campgrounds, both of which will accomodate RVs and fold-out tent campers.
Lakeview Camping Resort in Saint Agatha (open 5/20-10/1): go to www.lakeviewrestaurant.biz or call (207)543-6331.
Watersedge RV Resort in Sinclair (open 5/1-10/1): call (207)543-6061
The Acadian Village
An authentic recreation of what an actual Acadian village must have been back in the day, one of the largest such villages in the US with a collection of 17 original or meticulously researched reconstructions including homes, a chapel, gardens, and much more. Check acadianvillage.mainerec.com for more information, then step back in time with an easy stroll to explore grounds and buildings. Pick up a souvenir or two at the on-site store, attend one of the summer's events, and celebrate the area's strong Acadian heritage. (Admission charge) On parle Francais ici, aussi.
History, History, History
Van Buren doesn't flaunt its long history going back to the early 1700s, but it's here if you know where to look. For example:
1] The Farrel-Michaud House on the corner of Main and Poplar Streets, just north of downtown, was one of the earliest Acadian homes, now on the National Registry of Historic Places. One glance at its enchanting architecture will take your imagination back in time to another era. Private home; please do not disturb.
2] One of similar others around town, the home a bit farther out on the corner of Violette and Main Streets sits up on a slope looking like any old house -- but it's not. What you see is an expanded exterior which over the years totally encased an original log home; hidden outside walls are about 18 inches thick in some places. Private home; please do not disturb.
3] Believe it or not, there are not one but two 'little old red schoolhouses' still in use (for civic functions) on Hamlin Road and State Street. Some of the older generation of residents you'll run into in town may have actually attended one of those one-room schools, outhouse and wood stove, one-teacher-for-all-grades, and all; they didn't shut down until the early 1950's!!
4] Now here's the real clincher: an honest-to-goodness soda fountain with vinyl-topped stools where you can sip a float or dig into a sundae as if you were back in the 1940s! Stop in at Hebert Pharmacy at 74 Main Street for this treat in time.
Other interesting stuff
1] Check out the most recent issue of our little community newsletter, the GOPHER, by clicking on the menu link above. You'll find what's happening currently, as well as a schedule of recurring activity (fraternal meetings, church services, bingos, etc.); just about everything you'll need to know and a contact to reach out to for anything missing.
2] Before you set out on your visit, request a copy of the 'Van Buren Downtown Walking Tour' as detailed on our Home page. Then you can be amazed at what's hiding behind our misleading facade: a town's history of boom and bust, and now revitalizing. It's an easy stroll with rest benches along the way, totally wheelchair accessible, entertaining as well as enlightening.
3] If you're a geneology buff or have roots to this area, you won't want to miss a visit to: (a) the Morneault Library at 153 Main Street where you'll find a whole room housing an absolute treasure trove of local geneology beyond compare, and (b) the fascinating cemetery at 174 Main Street with graves dating back to Civil War veterans, through the influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, and Vietnam, plus an outdoor Stations of the Cross and a comforting park-like place to sit and ponder life in general.
Out of town but close enough
Musee Culturel du Mon-Carmel in Lille
This extraordinarilly beautiful church was built in 1909, featuring twin towers topped by hand-carved trumpeting angels. The building itself is reason enough to stop by for a look, but it now houses a museum with a large collection of Acadian artifacts, and frequently hosts presentations such as concerts, plays, and more. Entrance to the museum is free; some entertainment events have an admission charge. The distinctive building can't be missed on the west side of US 1 going north from Van Buren; it is open mid-June to mid-September from Sunday - Friday, 12 to 4. Check www.museeculturel.org for more info.
Mizpah in Grand Isle
If you have time in your visit for only one venture out of town, make it THIS one. Mizpah was founded by a cancer survivor (unfortunately, now deceased) who, in his own words, wanted "A place for cancer survivors and people in grief to come and reflect, meditate, console and be at peace with each other and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer." You're certain to agree that he succeeded in his goal. Whatever your circumstances or beliefs, you're bound to leave deeply affected by Mizpah's beauty and ambience -- and be very glad you didn't miss it.
Go to youtube for 3 different Mizpah 'walks' for a preview, or go to www.mizpah.us for more information, some photos, and driving directions.
Area events to keep in mind
Northern Aroostook County has an abundant variety of events in all seasons; we offer only a handful here as a sample to tempt you.
Crown of Maine Balloon Fest in Presque Isle fairgrounds. See balloonists from as far away as Florida and New Mexico 'paint the sky' over the last weekend in August. For schedules and a map, go to crownofmaineballoonfest.org
Fly-In & Air Show in Frenchville, mid-August; vintage and modern aircraft on display, demonstration and rides for hire, food, music, and entertainment. Go to www.aroostookaeroclub.org or facebook.com/aroostookaeroclub
Can-Am Crown International Dog Sled Races in Fort Kent, the first Saturday in March. There are actually 3 exciting races, ranging from 30 to 250 miles, attracting sled dog racers from all over the country. The major race is described as the most demanding and longest east of the Mississippi, and is a qualifier for the famed Iditarod in Alaska and the Yukon Quest.
More information on www.can-am-crown.net
Wesget Sipu Powwow in mid-July is a gathering of all nations, to share and celebrate common ties. Local tribes of MicMacs and Maliseets native to Aroostook County aided the Acadian refugees from Canada for early settlement, and are well-respected in the area for their contribution to the American Heritage. At the powwow, the public is invited into their circle to 'dance to the drum.'
See more about the powwow at www.wesgetsipu.com
Swedish Midsommers Festival in New Sweden and Stockholm for a whole weekend in mid-June: great ethnic food, dancing and fun for all.
Norse vikings settled in northern Maine centuries before Columbus wandered around the Carribean; their influence remains. Check out maineswedishcolony.info
HAVE WE CONVINCED YOU YET THAT THERE'S A LOT GOING ON around northern Maine at all times of the year? . . . this is just a small sampling.
COME ON UP and see for yourself why Maine claims "The way life should be"