Spend an hour or two poking around the restored Bates Mill Complex (Canal St., Lewiston, 208/782-5355, www.ci.lewiston.me.us ) and you’ll get a smorgasbord of experiences—a little education (touring the old mill itself), a little shopping (in the retail stores), and a little aesthetic rejuvenation (in the art studios).
The highlight is Museum L-A (35 Canal St., 207/333-3881, www.museumla.org , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat.,$3 adults, $2 students and seniors), a combination history/art museum that tells the story of the industrial revolution and Lewiston-Auburn’s place in it. Unlike many history museums, this one focuses not on the lives of great generals or industrialists, but on the community made up of ordinary people, including immigrants who came from all over the world to work in the mills. Those exhibits are supplemented by more modern art exhibits, including student work from Bates College.
Another legacy from the same family that left the mill buildings behind, Bates College (2 Andrews Rd., Lewiston, 207/786-6255, www.bates.edu ), is young by New England college standards—founded only in 1855. In the time since, however, it has come to be regarded as one of the top liberal arts schools in the country. The college holds regular lectures and concerts that are open to the public in the Olin Arts Center (75 Russell St., 207/786-6135).
It may be the state capital, but nearby Augusta is a quiet city. Its impressive Maine State Museum (83 State House Station, 230 State St., Augusta, 207/287-2304, www.mainestatemuseum.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tue.–Fri.; 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sat., $2 adults, $1 seniors and children 6–18, free children under 6, family maximum $6), however, is well worth a detour. Check out the collections on the lumber, fishing, and shipbuilding industries—all designed to illustrate the state’s history.