Portland, Maine

Salty Dog

Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Lighthouse     Photo: Corbis

POPULATION: 66,194
MEDIAN AGE:
36
MEDIAN ANNUAL SALARY: $37,438
MEDIAN HOME VALUE:
$249,700
TOTAL VOTES:
704 (3.2%)

In a centuries-old fishing town two hours north of ­Boston, gentrification was bound to happen. But on the way to the refurbished warehouses and arty ­boutiques, Portland managed to preserve its locavore ethos, which is rooted in a 243-year-old farmers’ market. Now the gastronome scene is as good as the saltwater access. Urban farmers set up shop in East Bayside, growing organic produce and fermenting mead year-round, and lobstermen and fishermen keep the harbor in the Old Port’s waterfront district bustling. But there’s more than just food here: there are paddle-friendly shores on Casco Bay and hurricane-induced surf on the Atlantic beaches, while two hours away lie the long trails of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Real ­estate is affordable, and there are jobs to be had: Portland is the state’s commerce capital, and L.L.Bean’s corporate headquarters are 20 minutes up the road.

Staying Power:
In 2006, ­Port­land launched a robust ­sustainability plan that included a 30-mile expansion of its water­front trails, a buy-local campaign that helped stabilize the economy, and a tax-funded program to expand and restore public art. Downtown there are half a dozen microbreweries, ­including Allagash and Shipyard, and 38 restaurants that keep the brick warehouses filled with energy.

Playgrounds:
There are nearly as many kayakers as lobstermen plying the waters of Casco Bay, and whitewater paddlers can journey north to the Class IV–V Penobscot and Kennebec rivers. Cape ­Elizabeth is only a 30-mile road ride from Portland, and in winter, two of the East Coast’s best ski resorts are within a three-hour drive—Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

The Voters Speak:
“One of the only places on earth where you can ski at 8 a.m., surf at 1 p.m., and eat a five-star dinner at 7 p.m.” “Small-­city charm—no ­traffic or ­trouble getting to the woods or the ocean—but with the culture of a big city.” ­“Lobster!”

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