As you drive throughout Maine’s Kennebec Valley you will pass through towns and villages that embody the classic small town charm of times gone by. Some proudly boast town greens that host regular summer band concerts. Others are marked only by a Post Office and general store set at a rural crossroads. Each is a hidden gem with a character all its own welcoming you to slow down and maybe stop awhile.
Madison, Anson, Norridgewock, and Lakewood
Madison offers wide, tree-lined streets that just ask you to stick around for a while. Go for a hike or paddle. The river here offers a nice challenge for kayakers as the river works its way toward Skowhegan. Bring your rod because just below the dam and off the Historic Pines trail anglers will find excellent trout. Oh, and ask a local where to get a Dynamite Sandwich.
A little way up Route 201 from Skowhegan is a different kind of place, Lakewood Village. Since 1901 the area has celebrated the nostalgia of summer, where the woes of city living could be left behind in exchange for days of bliss on the lake and on the greens. Days are followed by evenings of dining and theater performed by stars of stage and screen. Seasonally the Lakewood Theater, Lakewood Inn Restaurant, and magnificent 18 hole par 72 golf course still welcome visitors to partake in that grand tradition of summering in Maine.
Readfield, Fayette, Mount Vernon, and Vienna
These quaint central Maine towns sit amongst the region’s numerous lakes and ponds. Their setting has made them a popular location for outdoor recreation and classic summer sleep-away camps. Readfield is home to Kent’s Hill, one of the oldest continuously operating coeducational college preparatory schools in the country. Mount Vernon (named after George Washington’s home) and Fayette (named for the Marquis de Lafayette) were established soon after the American Revolution as part of land grants offered for a soldier’s service. The quiet village of Vienna covers just around 25 square miles and was the birthplace of Milton Bradley, father of the modern board game.
Canaan, Hartland, and Pittsfield
If guided hunting or sport-shooting is your style, try pheasant-hunting on a local preserve in Canaan. Summer or winter visitors can access an excellent trail system, on the north side of town, that connects to the many other regional and statewide trails. That includes the Interconnected Trail System (ITS), which provides an entry point to limitless destinations throughout Maine.
Pittsfield offers something different. This is the kind of place you’ll want to spend a little more time. Enjoy events like the farmers’ market in Hathorn Park and the Central Maine Egg Festival each summer.
The residents here know that the sunsets on Great Moose Pond in Hartland are dazzling. Come for a day of fishing in the well-stocked 3,500-acre lake, and stay for the haunting calls of the loons.
Fairfield and Hinckley
In 1889, Rev. George Walter Hinckley founded Good Will Farm, a home for boys on a farm owned by the Chase Family in Fairfield that later became known as Good Will-Hinckley Homes for Boys and Girls. Today, Good Will-Hinckley is home to the first charter school in Maine that focuses on agriculture, sustainability, forestry, and workforce skills training.
Visitors are always welcome on the Good Will-Hinckley campus, which is also home to the LC Bates Museum that offers impressive exhibits of local and national history, a Carnegie Library, MOFGA certified organic farm, arboretum, and 5 miles of nature trails dotted by stone monuments, including Stetson’s stone throne constructed in 1921 to honor President Theodore Roosevelt.