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LL Bean, Freeport, Maine

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Do you have zero interest in hunting, fishing, or camping?  LL Bean’s superstore probably seems like the kind of place you could skip.  But it’s a funny thing — no matter what your outdoor interests, this retail store is nothing short of remarkable. You’ll probably want to experience it, even if you have no need for new boots or a canoe.

Location

LL Bean’s flagship store is located in the middle of Freeport, Maine — the town where the company originated in 1912.  Just get off Interstate 295 and drive through town.  You’ll find the LL Bean complex, along with dozens of other outlet stores.

My Visit

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You don’t even get through the front door before you realize that the Bean Boot is a pretty big deal.

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A towering replica of LL Bean’s famous waterproof boot greets visitors outside the main entrance to the main store, in the heart of Freeport, Maine.  Take a selfie while sitting on the toe, then head inside.

The “Bean Boot”, originally known as the Maine Hunting Shoe, is the reason the company exists today.  Leon Leonwood Bean developed the waterproof shoe in 1912.  He obtained the addresses of Maine hunting license holders, and marketed the boot to them by mail.  It was a huge hit, and he soon started shipping boots nationwide. 

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Inside, it feels like you’re walking around a lodge, rather than a store.

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There are racks of items for sale, of course, but there are also ponds, fountains, and displays that you can enjoy for free.

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Be sure to check out the huge fish tank that contains four species of trout, with plenty of room for them to swim.

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Walk down one hallway, and you’ll see hundreds of LL Bean catalog covers, spanning decades.

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A visit to LL Bean’s home furnishing store (a separate building from the main store) made me really wish I had a place to take a nap.  Doesn’t that bed look comfortable?  Well, it did to me.  You see, my plane wasn’t leaving Portland until 6 a.m. the following morning.  Something must have been happening in Portland, because most hotels were booked solid, and the handful of one-star accommodations remaining were going for $300 for the night.  I wasn’t about to pay that kind of money to only sleep for a few hours, then get up at 4 a.m.  As I looked at that bed, I realized I had a rough night ahead.  They are open 24 hours, would they mind if I just took a little nap here?

Once I had killed some time at LL Bean, I got in the car and finished the drive into Portland.

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The final mileage total for the trip? 2,482.  That’s quite a bit of driving, but hey, I did go all the way to the northern tip of Nova Scotia in ten days.

After returning the car, I walked over to the airport and found a moderately comfortable sofa chair in a brightly-lit corridor, and settled in for a few hours of low-quality sleep.  It was worth saving $300, but I sure did think a lot about that bed at LL Bean.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the end of Day 10’s drive, south from Bangor.  It got dark before I reached LL Bean.

You can see more of the area around LL Bean in this video from Day 1:

The Bottom Line

If you’ve come to Maine to go shopping, you’re in the right place.  LL Bean is a fascinating complex of stores that you’ll enjoy exploring, even if you aren’t particularly interested in buying anything.  The rest of Freeport has plenty of other outlet stores and restaurants to keep you busy.

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