Old Time Soda Fountain & Ice Cream Parlor at Morton’s Moo
248 State St. Ellsworth, ME 04605
Well we don’t go to Knowlton Park in the winter. In fact, for a family that is mostly native Mainers, our favorite winter activity is Florida. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do around town that doesn’t involve the outdoors. I love the drive to Ellsworth from Bangor, we go at least twice per month. You can keep the kids entertained here, have a good lunch or breakfast, and browse some shops as well that are unique. All with minimal exposure to the elements.
for a family that is mostly native Mainers, our favorite winter activity is Florida.
I Mention Sylvia’s Cafe a lot, it’s a no fuss menu. The ladies that work the tables have been there as long as I’ve been going, the food is good and prices are very reasonable as well. A tip for locals; they are on Half Off Dining every couple of months, so we usually pick up two coupons when they go on sale. That helps with the budget, especially if you have a bigger family like us. Sylvia’s is mostly a breakfast place, keep that in mind, because they close at 2:00 PM.
Depending how late we arrive usually dictates what the kids are eating. If it’s late they might get the hotdog plate, but usually they are all in for pancakes. This is also one of the only places around that serves waffles. As someone who lived in Florida a couple years and visits every winter, I love a good waffle, and Sylvia’s delivers.
If you show up late in the day to Ellsworth and have kids with you, you can try a new Pizza Place in the Mill Mall, and it even has a secret entrance. If you pass by the Mill Mall you’ll notice quickly that Dragon Fire Pizza’s main entrance is on the front of the building. In fact it appears to not be connected to the main hallway. You can have a little fun with your kids (if they are younger) by taking them into the Mill Mall main entrance and asking them to find the secret door.
248 State St, Ellsworth, ME 04605
Dragon Fire hung up small inconspicuous signs, so they are expecting you to do it. Bring some quarters too, because there are gum-ball machines in the main hall of the Mill Mall and also some classic arcade machines in Dragon Fire Pizza. This restaurant really needs a full review, but everyone liked the food and especially the atmosphere. Who doesn’t fall in love with a Pizza place that still has a pinball machine? They also frequent Half Off Dining as well.
Rooster Brother (It’s not plural)
29 Main St, Ellsworth, ME 04605
So after eating, you could of course go get desert somewhere, because that’s one of Maine’s great winter past times. Instead I’m going to suggest you delay a little bit and bring whichever one of you is the cooking enthusiast to Rooster Brother. This is just a few miles away from the Mill Mall along the Union River. It’s a fantastic cooking store, think Williams Sonoma Meets a Down East Maine coffee shop. George Elias along with his wife run this small shop, and they really showcase what small retail business looks like in Maine. From high end cutlery, to a vast selection of imported chocolates, it’s a throwback to old Maine architecture and lifestyle with modern kitchen wares.
My favorite thing to do here is grab a coffee, and peruse the kitchen gadgetry that they have so much of. Once you’ve had enough wrangling the children and telling them not to touch things, (tell George I told you to bring the kids BTW) head out and over to the Union River Toy Store.
Union River Book & Toy
100 Main St, Ellsworth, ME 04605
This is a classic toy and book shop, with curated finds from the owner. It’s a great place to find arts and crafts, Melissa and Doug brand toys and unique items that aren’t giant piece of plastic-ware that you normally find at Walmart or Target. The kids love going here because there’s always some little experience to have that they wouldn’t get at Walmart. Riding a 3 kid rocking horse, playing in a puppet show or pushing around a tiny shopping cart merrily throwing things into it while you take them back out, are just some of the fun things that can happen here.
My rule for this store is the kids each get to pick out one item at $5 or less and it can’t be candy. Then I spend the rest of the time negotiating up a dollar or two, because kids negotiate for toys like it’s a hostage situation.
9 School St, Ellsworth, ME 04605
By this time, we haven’t eaten in hour, so we usually head to Morton’s Moo Ice Cream Shop. Morton’s is a homemade ice cream parlor in 50’s decor. Here you can get everything from cow inspired flavors like “Nutty Bovine” to more classic flavors like the Extra chocolate hard serve “Fudgeon Curmudgeon” (my wife’s favorite flavor).
There are toys for the kids to keep entertained, markers and paper to draw and hang up your creations, a chess set for the older kids and even a train that goes round and round above the counter. It’s not all hat no cattle, this is quite possibly the best ice cream you will ever eat. It’s unbelievable, the recipes they make in small batches outshine any ice cream near and far. I’ll forewarn you that this is not cheap, but it’s worth every penny.
By now the kids should be ready to play Kindle for a half hour as you head back home. There is more to do here in the summer for sure, but Ellsworth is fun, even during the wintertime.