Located in the southern-central part of Maine, the state's capital—just 55 mi/90 km northeast of Portland—was at various times a lumber center and a major supplier of ice (cut from the nearby Kennebec River) that was sent to places as far away as the Caribbean. The State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the architect of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Be sure to peek at the veranda on the upper floor, where you'll likely find legislators and lobbyists taking a break.

There are a good number of National Historic Register buildings in nearby Gardiner, 6 mi/9 km south. And in Monmouth (pronounced MON-muth, 13 mi/20 km west), is Cumston Hall, where performances of classic plays are staged in July and August. In November, Monmouth celebrates Great Maine Apple Day with such activities as a pie-eating contest, and participants sample new hybrids of apples grown in the area.

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