Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
We’re cruising through spectacular Franconia Notch this month to explore rugged mountain summits, breathtaking views and trails leading to lakes, gorges and hidden waterfalls. When we’re done getting back to nature, it’s time to splash, ride and play at two popular White Mountains’ amusement parks.
Leaving from Lincoln and heading north along Interstate 93, you know you’re in Franconia Notch when the pines become even denser and towering mountains suddenly soar up along the highway.
An exciting first stop in this winding mountain pass is the Flume Gorge, located at the base of Mount Liberty at the southern tip of Franconia Notch State Park; follow well-marked road signs to the parking area. Carved by Ice Age glaciers over 10,000 years ago, visitors to this natural marvel get an up close look at the Flume’s rushing waters, cascading waterfalls and 75-foot tall granite walls. Very small children might be better off sticking to a series of boardwalks and covered bridges that line the gorge; adventurous kids can negotiate a set of steep canyon steps all the way down the bottom.
Continuing north on I-93 brings you to another can’t-miss Franconia Notch attraction, the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain (www.cannontram.com). Here, take an enclosed cable car on a breathtaking ride to Cannon’s soaring summit. Once at the top, follow the summit trails to a 360° observation platform and enjoy panoramic views of distant valleys and stunning Franconia Ridge. And don’t forget to look for the rock formation that gives the mountain its name! Back at the Tramway base station, check out the Old Man in the Mountain Museum to teach your kids (or help them remember) the Great Stone Face that once protruded from Cannon Mountain.
Also close by is Echo Lake, a 28-acre lake offering recreational swimming and canoe and kayak rentals. Up for some backwoods adventure? Easy-to-follow (and some not-so-easy) hiking trails criss-cross the entire area here and families have the chance to hike on parts of the famous Appalachian Trail. If you brought your bikes, you can pick up the Franconia Notch Bike Path from the parking lot at Echo Lake and follow the path north-south through the pass for more than 10 miles. Staying for a night or two? Find ample tent camping accommodations at state park-run Lafayette Campground (head back south on I-93 to reach the entrance).
Another reason to head to the Notch this June? Throughout the month, the nearby mountain villages of Franconia and Sugar Hill come together to celebrate the blooming of the Lupine, the colorful, spiky flower that carpets the region at this time of year. Planned events for the 2012 Fields of Lupine Festival (www.harmanscheese.com/lupine) include concerts, crafts shows and horse-drawn wagon rides through the fields of pink, purple and blue. The village of Franconia is located at the northern gateway to the notch; Sugar Hill is just a few miles away on Route 117.
Finally, we’re going to beat the tourist rush of July and August and head to two of the White Mountains’ most popular stops for kids: Santa’s Village (www.santasvillage.com) and the Old West-themed Six Gun City and Fort Splash (www.sixguncity.com). Follow Route 3 north from Franconia to Routes 112 and 2 north into Jefferson. Both theme parks offer a roller coaster of a good time -- and who doesn’t want to meet Santa or Billy the Kid?
Now that’s how you get summer off to a great start.
Jaqueline Tourville is a freelance writer from Nashua.
Last updated by Parenting NH Administrator Jun 7, 2012.