Tucked away from the hubbub, Belfast has splendid architecture, a booming arts scene, and a thing for wiener dogs.
You’d be forgiven for having previously bypassed Belfast. Thanks to a 1960s urban renewal project, Route 1 skirts the downtown, shielding it from the typical midcoast tourist circuit. Scotch-Irish families were the first settlers to discover the region, eventually transforming it into a prosperous seaport. Shipbuilders and merchants built elegant Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Queen Anne houses, 70 of which are landmarked and in a historic district. (See them on the Belfast Historical Society & Museum’s walking tour.)
The town also has arts appeal, including art walks, an art deco cinema, a community center with gallery shows and free classes, and a newly reopened, 36,000-square-foot venue for concerts and theater. A dozen protected “rangeways” (public routes) and the Belfast Rail Trail on the Passagassawakeag River, known as the Passy, keep the waterfront accessible. Ditto for the harborside parks that host concerts and annual events like New England’s largest wiener dog festival.
Friends run into each other at Chase’s Daily market, break bread at the annual town dinner — when white-cloaked tables span much of the 1,120-foot-long Armistice Footbridge. Yes, Belfast remains slightly off the beaten path, but with so much to see, do, and eat, it’s well worth the detour.
Catch an art film or Hollywood blockbuster at the 1912 Colonial Theatre, where Hawthorne the elephant trumpets from the roof. 163 High St. 207- 338-1930.
Portlander Hillary Irons’s Letterbox 1 is among the works on display at Waterfall Arts through July 19. 256 High St. 207-338-2222.
Stop for a bite and/or fresh produce, flowers, or piece of local art at renaissance shop Chase’s Daily. 96 Main St. 207-338-0555.
Find pottery, wreaths, and more at The Meadow of Belfast. 48 Main St. 207-338-3330.
Meg Reilly weaves rope décor at The Sail Locker. 65 Main St. 207-338-1729.
Easy-to-sew stuffies and Liberty of London fabrics are on hand at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply. 64 Main St. 207-338-8422.
Look for retired doctor David Thanhauser’s cherry burl bowls (signed “Dr. T”) at The Good Table. 68 Main St. 207-338-4880.
This 1864 Civil War quilt, signed by its 22 creators, is on view at the Belfast Historical Society & Museum. 10 Market St. 207-338-9229.
Lush plantings spilling from antique urns and pots give Brambles a secret garden feel. 2 Cross St. 207-338-3448.