“It’s like Vermont meets Colorado,” my daughter said as we pulled into the great state of New Hampshire for a three-day winter weekend. I had to agree. I fell in love with New Hampshire while discovering that it is uncrowded, unspoiled, wide open and fragrant and that you can squeeze a whole lot of New England adventure into 36 New Hampshire hours. Here’s how.
Arrive Thursday evening and check in. While there are hundreds of inns and lodges in New Hampshire, here are two to consider.
Indian Head Resort is old-school, kitschy, family-friendly and reasonably priced. From the parking lot, you can see the Indian Head Rock Profile -- a local landmark -- and you'll find gorgeous views from the expansive windows in the back of the hotel. With December rates starting under $120/night, heated outdoor pool, game room and a location at the entrance to Franconia Notch State Park and central to many great family activities, Indian Head gets two thumbs up for a family weekend.
If you are looking for an elegant hotel with a rich and storied history, the Omni Mount Washington Hotel offers everything you’d expect from a grand four-star hotel. The covered veranda, formal dining room and elegant lobby can’t help but bring the Great Gatsby to mind. But rest assured, the place is family friendly -- apres ski finds the indoor pool and game room bustling with children and a long list of kids' activities can keep them going on non-ski days. For a little adult respite, visit the Cave, a 1930s speakeasy tucked away in the basement, or spend an afternoon at the Hotel’s full service spa. December rates start at about $400.
Given the chance, we will always opt to ski on a weekday (rather than a weekend), especially with the kids, so Friday is a ski day! With more than a dozen ski areas in New Hampshire and three within an hour of Indian Head, it can be hard to choose, but we loved our day exploring the 220+ skiable acres at family-owned Waterville Valley. The upper mountain had the wide open expanses that fuel my spirit and are not so easy to find on the East Coast. Skip the base lodge in favor of Schwendi Hutte at the summit for an early lunch and don't pass on the cinnamon rolls. Really. We had three.
Family ski days make the pack hungry, so dinner Friday had to be one that satisfies all and we were completely taken by our dinner at the Italian Farmhouse in Plymouth, which Eric dubbed “one of his favorite family restaurants ever.” Part of the Common Man group of restaurants, the Italian Farmhouse has something on the menu for everyone, and everything was delicious. Not to be missed: fried calamari, wood-oven pizza, Farmhouse Alfredo with grilled chicken and the peanut butter pie.
Saturday could certainly have been another ski day and I was seriously tempted by Bretton Woods, New Hampshire's largest ski area. The kids were begging to check out Chutters on the Mountain (perhaps the only on-mountain candy store in the country) and Bretton Woods’ 3-hour canopy tour sounded pretty exciting. But we couldn’t resist the "call of the wild" so after a wonderful lunch at Stickeny’s Restaurant at the Mount Washington Hotel, we headed across the property to Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel to meet Glacier, Ray Charles, Boots and a dozen other dogs rescued by the kennel's crew. After an introduction to the work done by this incredible rescue group, and the chance for doggy kisses, we were off. This experience is not to be missed.
It was not easy to pull ourselves away from Glacier and the pack, but more New Hampshire adventure awaited, so we piled into the car and headed to Loon Mountain for an afternoon of tubing. So many ski areas offer tubing these days and some I find too steep and too scary, while some are a bit too tame for my adventure-loving family. As Goldilocks would say, the tubing hill at Loon Mountain was just right -- really fun and just the right amount of scary.
By 5:00, we had explored the Mount Washington Hotel, had lunch and gone dog sledding and tubing. It was definitely time for dinner. So off we went to Gordi’s Fish & Steak House in Lincoln. Offering all manner of beef and seafood, the highlight is truly the extensive collection of ski memorabilia that adorns the walls. Photos, old skis, pennants and a rich Olympic history (two of the owners are former US Ski team members) make Gordi’s as much of a museum as a restaurant.
Rise and shine, it’s another beautiful winter day in New Hampshire, perfect for snowshoeing.
8:30 found us eating bagels and sipping coffee while waiting for Alpine Adventures to open -- we were so excited that we arrived almost an hour early.
When the doors opened and the Alpine Adventure team arrived, we were fitted with snowshoes before the short ride to the trail head where we loaded into a rugged, Swiss Military Pinzgauer for an exciting and bumpy off-road trek nearly to the top of Barron Mountain. A quick lesson in snowshoeing and we were off on a gorgeous mile-long tour that ended at a fire pit where steaming hot chocolate waited. It was the perfect final adventure for a perfect three-day New Hampshire weekend.
Food is important to a family adventure and every meal counts. So even though the car was packed and our minds had begun to wander to the trip home, one more good meal was in order. Burgers are a hit with my crew, so a stop at Black Mountain Burger company was in order.
And with those delicious burgers, the weekend was a wrap.
Lodging and most activities and meals were complimentary for the purpose of facilitating this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are the writer's own.