Take off for some of NH’s best summertime destinations for families
By Jacqueline Tourville May 1, 2009
Summer in New Hampshire means blue skies, warm days and no excuses to stay inside. Need the promise of adventure to get your kids out the door? From the White Mountains to the Seacoast, here are some easy (and economical) ideas for a fun-filled day away.
Heading to the White Mountains for the day? Then harness yourself in and get ready for the adrenaline rush of the summer. Kids and adults can soar high above Wildcat on the resort’s wildly popular ZipRider, a half-mile zip-line cable ride down the mountain. Traveling at speeds up to 45 mph, thrill seekers fly 60 feet in the air over treetops and ski trails for a true bird’s eye view of some of the area’s most breathtaking scenery.
Kids must weigh at least 75 pounds and be 52 inches or taller to ride ZipRider, but for smaller siblings along for the day, Wildcat still offers plenty to see and do. All ages can take a trip to Wildcat's scenic summit aboard the Wildcat Express Gondola, or stop by on Wednesdays in July and August for “The Way of the Wildcat,” a free nature program for families. Learn about the forest’s many inhabitants from a teacher/naturalist from the Tin Mountain Conservation during a 2-mile round-trip hike to Thompson Brook Falls.
Here’s a family adventure that lasts all summer long! The Great Park Pursuit, a New Hampshire State Parks program, is a multi-week game that takes kids and parents on an interactive tour of the state’s many parks and forests. Working together as a team, families decode clues and participate in fun activities and challenges.
The Pursuit kicks off June 6 at Bear Brook Park in Allenstown. Learn the rules of the game and enjoy a day filled with guided nature walks, crafts, snacks, and lots of outdoor fun. It’s free to participate (admission is waived at state parks for Great Park Pursuit teams) and prizes are awarded at the end of the summer to the state’s most adventurous families. Register on the Web site.
Moose Safari and Wildlife Tours 69 Main St. Gorham 03581 466-3103 www.gorhamnh.org/moosetours.html
Moose on the loose! Get an up-close view of these giants of the North Country during a three-hour long guided bus tour along the picturesque Androscoggin River. Because the majestic animals are most active in the early evening, tours leave from Gorham Town Common at 6:30 p.m. With a 95-percent moose sighting success rate, an average of eight moose are spotted on each wildlife adventure.
What to do before your tour? Visit the aptly named Moose Brook State Park in Gorham and enjoy a day filled with swimming, fishing and hiking. And who knows? Maybe your kids will spot a moose or two all on their own.
Pick-Your-Own Berries Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand Route 123/Elm Hill Road Peterborough 03458 www.rosalysgarden.com One of the prettiest spots around for PYO fun, Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand is the oldest – and second largest – certified organic farm in the state. Pick succulent strawberries starting in June and come back in July and August for ripe raspberries and fresh blueberries. Plants are separated by grassy paths making it easy for even very small kids to find and gather berries (the farm provides cardboard containers in pint and quart sizes).
After you’ve had your fill of fruit, don’t miss the scavenger hunt for whimsical animal statues hidden away in Rosaly’s magnificent herb garden. Ask for a scavenger hunt checklist at the farm stand. Outdoor Escapes 49 Butternut Lane Conway 03818 528-0136 www.outdoorescapesnewhampshire.com
Outdoor Escapes offers expertly guided nature hikes, canoe and kayak tours and lessons, survival skills instruction, sea kayaking in Great Bay, and mountain biking tours uniquely designed to match your family’s abilities. Guides meet you in the part of the state you want to explore and provide an itinerary guaranteed to boost skill levels and provide hours of excitement. Day, overnight or weeklong guided tours are available.
Take me out to the ballgame doesn’t just mean take me to Fenway. For a fun, affordable day at the ballpark, head to MerchantsAuto.com stadium, home of the Fisher Cats. This Double-A rated team really rolls out the welcome mat for family fans. In addition to some serious baseball action (the Fisher Cats are a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate), off the field, kids can spend part of those extra-long innings in a special children’s play area, with bouncy house, games and an obstacle course.
Squam Lake Science Center 23 Science Center Road Holderness 03245 968-7194 www.nhnature.org
Looking for a sneaky way to slip a little learning into your kids’ lives this summer? Head to Holderness for an exciting – and educational – day of hands-on nature exploration. Visitors to the center follow interpretive trails through meadows, marshes and forests to see up close some of the animals who call the area home (including a black bear and bobcat!). Ninety-minute lake cruises aboard a pontoon boats are teaching trips about aquatic life and environmental stewardship. And everyone will love the Gordon Children’s Activity Center where young and old are invited to crawl through an underground chipmunk’s burrow, scale a giant spider web, climb a two-story learning tree, and even invent their own plant or insect species.
You may have soaked up the hot sun at the beach all day, but spend the evening on a Seacoast Haunted Lighthouse tour and get ready for some spine-tingling chills! Perfect for ’tweens and teens, these hour-long tours take place at Newcastle’s Great Island Common where three lighthouses are visible: Whaleback, the Isles of Shoal, and Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. As the lonely lighthouse beacons beckon in the distance, listen to an expert guide weave together mysterious tales of lost love, suspicious disappearances, ghost ship sightings and other haunted happenings. Want more ghost stories? Haunted tours of Portsmouth and nearby York, Maine, are also available. Call to book a private group tour.
Forget the skis and snow, summer means alpine slide season at Attitash. Another White Moutains destination for thrill-seeking families, kids and adults will have pulse-pounding fun winding down the mountainside on North America's longest alpine slides.
Zoom along in your sled on this exciting mile-long journey or take it slow and enjoy the stunning views – you control the speed. Kids must be at least 48 inches tall to ride alone (younger children can ride with a parent). After sledding, check out the resort’s other summer offerings, including a climbing wall, deluxe splash pool, and bungee jump trampoline. Day passes allow unlimited use of slides and other resort amenities.
Spending the day at this White Mountains theme park is almost a childhood rite of passage for kids growing up in New England. Ride in a pumpkin coach to Cinderellas’ castle, spin through a giant cuckoo clock, tour a farm on a child-sized tractor and enjoy the ever-changing array of themed rides, lively shows, and unique playgrounds (the park is geared for kids ages 2-12). Looking for a deal? Enter Story Land during the last three hours of the day, purchase full admission, and receive a pass to come back the next day – or any other day in the current season – for free!
For all-ages entertainment, and some good old-fashioned fun, the venerable Clark’s Trading Post is a summertime can’t-miss. Watch Clark’s world famous trained bears play basketball and perform other tricks (2009 marks the show’s 60th anniversary). Then take a steam train ride through the wilderness and be on the lookout for the mysterious Wolfman. Also at the Trading Post, find a fun house, memorabilia museum, water blaster boats, and the “Old Man” climbing tower. Plus, visit Clark’s souvenir shop, billed as the largest in the White Mountains.
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves 1712 Lost River Road North Woodstock 03262 745-8031 www.findlostriver.com
Hey, where did that river go? Adventurous families will love playing hide and seek with Lost River as it appears and disappears through narrow gorges, underground caverns and deep granite crevasses. Lit by lanterns and guided by wooden walkways, visitors to Lost River navigate challenging crevasses with names like the “Lemon Squeeze,” pan for fossils and gemstones, and step inside a cave with an inside waterfall! A video presentation at the visitors’ center explains the glacial process that made this ¾-mile stretch of Moosilauke Brook possible. It’s earth science class come to life!
A truly unique sight to see for both young and old, Castle in the Clouds is a sumptuous 19th-century mansion perched high atop a mountain overlooking Lake Winnipesauke. Visit the castle for breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding peaks and learn more about Tom and Olive Plant, the couple who built this palatial home. The estate’s grounds are equally spectacular and visiting families are welcome to explore more than 45 miles of winding walking trails. Along the way, find a waterfall, ponds, and gardens in full bloom. Almost anywhere here is the picture-perfect spot for a picnic.
Something else your kids won’t want to miss? The annual Abenaki Pow Wow, held at the castle June 13-14. Visitors of all ages are invited to attend this authentic celebration presented by one the state’s most prominent tribes.