After Portland  and Lewiston , Bangor is the third-largest city in Maine . Taken together with the suburb of Orono, it’s also home to the state’s largest public university, the University of Maine, which enrolls some 10,000 students. The young energy infuses some life into the city, making it a bit less dreary than its shuttered downtown might first suggest. But the city’s heyday as a lumbering capital is far behind it.
Founded by explorers looking for Norumbega, the lost city of gold, Bangor was the world’s center of lumber production by the 1830s, when you could walk across the Penobscot River on logs floated down from its sawmills to the shipbuilding centers of the Midcoast .
In the 20th century, the downtown was gutted by misguided urban renewal, and remains an uninviting place. In the shuttered storefronts and wind whistling beneath the bridges, you can almost imagine yourself in a novel by Stephen King, the city’s favored son.
The city comes alive every August for the American Folk Festival (207/992-2630, www.americanfolkfestival.com ), which brings 150,000 spectators to the Bangor waterfront to see the top names in folk and to tie up traffic for miles.
The cramped Betts Bookstore (584 Hammond St., 207/947-7052, www.bettsbooks.com , 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri.; 9:15 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat.) is a Stephen King fan’s dream, with autographed first editions and photos, as well as T-shirts and other King memorabilia.
If you are in the market for a canoe, go to the source—Old Town Canoe Factory Outlet (125 Gilman Falls Ave., Old Town, 207/827-1530, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat.; closed Sun. and Mon.), headquarters for the world’s most popular brand. The factory sells “seconds”—canoes with only slight flaws—at a steep discount, and cuts prices even more at annual spring and fall sales.