Twenty Things to Do in the NH Lakes RegionLisa Martineau
NewHampshire.com October 31. 2017 7:40PM
Thinking about spending some time in the Lakes Region? This central portion of the state is known for its many lakes and the quaint lakeside towns that surround them. With the population increasing so much during the summer months, this area is chock full of major seasonal attractions. Slip off the beaten path though, and discover the "other" great things that the region has to offer. We've picked out Twenty Things to Do in the Lakes Region to get you started.
See Chocorua's Beauty
The 3,480-foot Mount Chocorua in Albany appears as you round a bend on Route 16. The picturesque mountain is steeped in legend, and happens to be one of the most heavily hiked mountains in the region. From the bare summit, you'll spot the Presidential Range and the majestic Mount Washington to the north, and the Sandwich Range to the west. The views are simply breathtaking all around.
Stand Beneath the Arch
Tilton's Arch, also known as the Memorial Arch, sits atop a hillside in Northfield. The arch, a replica of a Roman Arch, was built in the late 1800's as a memorial to the ancestors of Charles E. Tilton — who, as the town's wealthiest citizen, also donated several other statues throughout town. The arch, which is made of Concord Granite, stands 50 feet tall, and 40 feet wide. Take in the surrounding views from the arch, and marvel at its size.
Ride the Rails
From spring through fall, the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad takes visitors on excursions around Lake Winnipesaukee, leaving from Meredith Bay to Weirs Beach and onto Paugus Bay before making a return trip to Weirs and back to Meredith. The train offers one and two hour trips, carrying passengers on a 7-mile waterfront journey. In the fall, foliage trains offer visitors different routes, including a four-hour trip from Meredith to Livermore Falls and an all-day excursion to Lincoln. Jump on board for an exciting ride 'round the lake or all the way into the White Mountains.
Feed Your Sweet Tooth
Kellerhaus is the oldest candy shop in New Hampshire. Stop by and choose from their vast collection of chocolates, traditional candy shoppe favorites, fudge, nuts and maple products. Located at Weirs Beach, Kellerhaus also makes ribbon candy by hand, one of the few places in the world to still make it that way. During the summer months, the shop is well-known for their ice cream sundae buffet. Pile on the toppings and enjoy this one-of-a-kind treat.
If huge rocks leftover from the ice age impress you, take a trek to Madison Boulder Natural Area. The site is where the largest known erratic in New England rests. The granite boulder stands at 23' high, 83' long and 37' wide, and it weighs in at 5,000 tons. So, it's safe to say that it is among the largest rocks in the world. Yeah, it's just a rock; but we guarantee you'll be impressed by this natural landmark that was moved here during the last ice age, geologists believe, from a location anywhere from 4 to 12 miles away. Now that's impressive, wouldn't you say?
Newfound, Long Lost Lake
Newfound Lake has a hidden beauty all its own. Located in the town of Bristol, the lake is the more peaceful of its cousin to the east. Newfound has some distinctive features too, including a lighthouse that can be viewed from the roadway, adjacent to Paradise Lodge on Route 3A. During the summer, take a ride over to Profile Falls in Bristol, enjoy a dip in the pool and a waterfall shower.
Take a tour of Laconia's Belknap Mill, the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the nation. Built in 1823, the mill represents the height of the Industrial Revolution. It sits on the National Registor of Historic Places today and has been designated the "Official Meetinghouse of New Hampshire." A historically themed gift shop offers items like old-fashioned toys, folk art, jams and jellies, coffees and textile products. Many events and educational programs are offered at the mill throughout the year. The mill is part of Laconia's historic district, where a walking tour known as the Riverwalk, a one-mile stretch along the Winnipesaukee River that takes you past other historic sites like the Busiel Mill, the Laconia Public Library, the Masonic Temple and the Laconia Passenger Station.
Explore a Castle!
Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough sits high in the Ossipee Mountain Range and offers dramatic panoramic views from "the clouds." Built in 1914, the Arts and Crafts style mansion is a stunning architectural specimen, but the castle also offers 45 miles of hiking trails on 5,000 acres to explore. A short walk leads to a cascading waterfall. An interpretive trail features an interactive exploration of the ecology, history and geology of this special place. Another castle in the region, Kimball Castle in Gilford, is not yet open to the public, but there are plans for an inn and restaurant to be built on the premises of this land, which sits on a 24-acre tract known as Locke Hill. At the top there is a 300-degree vista of the lakes region and White Mountains on the horizon. Thankfully, there are plans to restore this unique landmark so that visitors will be able to appreciate the incredible panorama of the region.
Life's a Beach
Yes, it's the site of the annual Motorcycle Week rally, but Weirs Beach has a long history as a summer tourist destination. It offers prime views of Lake Winnipesaukee, a small beach and an old-fashioned boardwalk complete with arcades and ice cream, shops and pizza places. Try a round of mini golf or take in a movie at the local drive-in theatre, one of the last of its kind in the country. Another highlight: A beautiful cruise around the spectacular Lake Winnipesaukee on "The Mount", part of Mount Washington Cruises. The boat makes its home there during summer months. Weirs Beach has it all!
Go to Gunstock
Where else can you go mountain biking, hiking, fishing, tubing, ziplining, blueberry picking, snowboarding and skiing, all in one place? Gunstock Mountain Resort, located in Gilford, has it all. Watch the boarders at the skate park, take a scenic lift ride, rent a paddle boat, do a Segway tour, or enjoy New England's largest aerial obstacle course at their Mountain Adventure Park. Their many hiking trails will take you through the Belknap Range and lead you to stunning views of the surrounding Presidential and Sandwich Ranges, Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountain Range. You definitely can't squeeze it all into one day, so plan to spend some time on the mountain.
Barnstormers Summer Theatre, located in Tamworth, opened its first production in 1931 and was the oldest Equity Theatre in the country under the same direction, until Francis Cleveland's death in 1995. Francis was the youngest child of President Grover Cleveland. Its popularity came from the summer folk that invaded the Lakes Region every year. The troupe would travel (or barnstorm) from theatre to theatre to put on their shows. The small (282-seat) building still houses 8 shows each year during the summer season.
The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness is part zoo, part educational facility and ALL about the wild. With a focus on the nature that surrounds us, the center features animal exhibits and trails, lake cruises, gardens, a geology exhibit and even an underground exhibit (where you can travel down a human-size chipmunk burrow). Meet their resident mountain lion, black bears, a bobcat, owls and other raptors and many other species of animals while you learn about their habitats, food sources, and more. If you're spending some time in the lakes region with children, this is a perfect stop!
The Weirs Beach Drive In, one of only 3 still existing in New Hampshire today, is a popular Weirs Beach attraction during the summer. It's been in operation since 1949 during the heyday of Drive-In Theatres. Unfortunately the "fad" died off as people began to rent movies at home. But we say it's all about the experience - whatever that may be - to see a movie "under the stars" - don't you?
To the races!
See a NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. There are only two big races per year at the speedway so don't miss your chance to get in on all the fun. And we do mean fun. Even if you aren't into NASCAR the experience of going to a race, with all the sights, smells (gasoline, fair food, and rubber, oh my!), and sounds like you've never heard before, is second to none. As these cars buzz past at speeds near 200 MPH, you can't help but get caught up in the excitement of it all. With the Indy Races coming to New Hampshire now, it only gets better and offers a little variety for race fans and fans-to-be!
Endicott Rock, located at Weirs Beach in Laconia, was originally placed there to mark the headwaters of the Merrimack River. The rock itself, which was pulled from Lake Winnipesaukee, is inscribed with the number 1652 (marking the year) along with the initials of Edward Johnson and Simon Willard, Commissioners of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Sherman and Jonathan Ince, Surveyors and the name of John Endicott, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay. It may be the oldest public monument in New England, and its historical significance is the evidence that it marks the first visit of white men to the area. The men were sent by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to ascertain the northernmost boundary of its territory. They were led by Native Americans. The rock sits in an a perfect spot for watching boats come in and out of Lake Winnipesaukee via the Weirs Beach channel that connects to Paugus Bay to the larger part of Winnipesaukee.
Harvest ice - yes ice - at the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth during their late January or early February (depending on ice conditions) Winter Carnival. Each year, the farm harvests ice from their pond using saws and oxen - just like in the old days - to retrieve blocks of ice for their modern day ice house. Before refrigeration, this is how it was done. Iceboxes, made of wood with hollow walls that were lined with zinc and packed with insulating materials, were used to keep meat cool through the warmer months right up through the 1930s when the refrigerator came into play. The boxes were cooled with large blocks of ice harvested from ponds and lakes.
Get bit by the Rattlesnake It's a 2-mile hike with a fairly easy incline that leads to a flat-topped rocky outcropping with expansive and spectacular views of Squam Lake. It's that view that will bite you. Known as West Rattlesnake Mountain, the rocky outcrop is a great spot for a picnic but be aware that on a busy weekend day there will be many other hikers in tow. It's one of the shortest hikes in the state with a VIEW like that, so you'll want to return again and again. It's especially beautiful during foliage season. To get there: Off Route 113 up the Old Bridle Path in Holderness.
Hit the Outlets
Tanger Outlet Center in Tilton is a superb shopping experience - and it's sales-tax-free like the rest of the state! Find your favorite designer - from Jones New York to Tommy Hilfiger, or bathe yourself in the delights of Bath & Body Works or Yankee Candle. Visit the Coach factory or do some back-to-school shopping at the Gap Outlet or OshKosh B'gosh.
A spot of fun
Funspot, at Weirs Beach, is the largest arcade in the world. 'Nuff said. Ok, we'll elaborate a bit more. It has over 500 games for all ages, include skee-ball, pinball, bingo, and all of your favorite video games from the 80s. They are the site of an annual International Classic Video Game Tournament each year. It's the coolest "spot" on the list, if you're a kid, or simply remember being a kid!
Explore the caves
Polar Caves in Rumney is a unique geological spot. Formed by massive boulders nearly 50,000 years ago when the third continental glacier moved southward over New Hampshire's White Mountains, the Polar Caves features naturally-made caves, passages and trails. The nature trails are (sometimes) man-made, as you'll walk through a pine forest to get to the caves. There is a covered bridge, a maple sugar shack and museum, and even a sluice and mines where you can pan for gold, gems or fossils on the premises.