New England winters tend to get a bad rap. They’re cold, they’re snowy, they’re dark, and unless you’re in one of the major ski towns, people will tell you there’s not much to do except complain about shoveling your driveway. But lucky for you, the town of Kennebunkport, Maine is rebelling against this winter-hating stereotype by celebrating all the beauty, romance, and coziness the season has to offer.
One of the state’s most famous resort towns (the Bush family has long vacationed here), Kennebunkport sits about 40 minutes from the New Hampshire border, close to popular Maine beaches like Goose Rocks Beach and Gooch’s Beach. Summer sees scores of beachgoers come to town not only for these gorgeous beaches, but for the seafood-heavy restaurants, cute boutique shops, and charming hotels and B&Bs. And for the past four years, Kennebunkport has embraced all things winter and established itself as a destination for couples looking to find a getaway that has all the charm of the New England coast, but none of the crowds.
For a whole month (this year, January 27 through February 26), Kennebunkport participates in “Paint the Town Red,” an event that highlights the romance and excitement the town has to offer wintertime visitors. Things kick-off every year with the annual “Frosted! A Freezing Goodtime” celebration event, offering specialty cocktails, an Ice Bar and luge, live music, dancing, and delicious food provided by local restaurants (plus a very tasty S’mores bar). All of downtown’s Dock Square is decked out in red twinkly lights and Instagram-worthy hearts, while area stores offer discounts all month so you can find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, whether it’s handcrafted jewelry or prints from local artists.
You can also indulge in several special “Red Plate” dinners, from oyster-shucking to romantic, multi-course dinners at acclaimed area restaurants like The Burleigh. Weekends throughout February are also filled with various special events, like a wine-tasting/truffle making class with executive chef of the Cape Arundel Inn & Resort, Pierre Gignac, a three-course pasta making class, and a mixology class focusing on 50 decades worth of drinks.
Unlike other New England coastal towns, many of the big hotels here stay open year-round, including several from the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, like the trendy Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, the classic and cozy Kennebunkport Inn, and the regal Grand Hotel. Most of these offer romance packages when booking with deals that include everything from dinner, wine, and chocolate strawberries to a custom designed engagement ring.
But the real romance of Kennebunkport comes from the location itself. The historically quaint downtown buildings and docks are all the more charming with snow covering the streets, and the picturesque beaches are even more beautiful when you have them all to yourselves.