The state motto of New Hampshire is ‘Live Free or Die’. This may not sound quite as family-friendly as say the ‘Sunshine State’, but it is one of the best places for kids out there. The state’s relaxed atmosphere, friendly people and beautiful natural setting bring to mind a different era and, in fact, many of the most popular attractions have been around for decades. But it’s in no way boring; steam train trips and aerial rides to the peaks of the White Mountains are as timeless as ever.
Classic family attractions:
Franconia Notch State Park – Here the kids can enjoy the thrill of riding the Aerial Tramway to the summit of Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains. Wildlife spottings are common and once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of four states and Quebec. Also in the park is the Flume Gorge, with its towering glacially-sculpted rocks and cascading waterfalls. The two-mile boardwalk is easy enough for young hikers and the rushing water and dark crevices are thrilling enough for older kids. Keep in mind there are a few parts of the trail that a stroller won’t fit through.
Lost River Gorge – It’s a thrill to play hide-and-seek among the secret passageways and mysterious boulder caves at this White Mountain attraction. Thor’s Cauldron, Devil’s Kitchen and Cave of Odin are a few of the over 20 caves along a ¾-mile boardwalk. Some are quite easy to walk through, while others like the Lemon Squeezer – formerly called Fat Man’s Misery – require more agility. The most amazing cave is undoubtedly the Judgment Hall of Pluto. Climbing down a ladder, you’re greeted with a view of an underground waterfall, which cascades from a height of 20 feet.
Santa’s Village – Nostalgia is sure to hit when you visit this old-fashioned amusement park in the White Mountains that first opened its doors in 58 years ago. While you won’t find the high-adrenalin rides of the big theme parks (and that’s part of its charm), there is plenty to entertain younger kids. Rudy’s Rapid Transit, a reindeer roller-coaster, and the “Yule” log flume are popular rides that have just the right amount of thrill. Santa’s Skyway Sleigh is a fun train ride for the family and a good way to see the whole park. Of course, the highlight of any visit is the chance to seee St. Nick himself. Who says it can’t be Christmas year-round.
If your kids like this atraction, be sure to take them to StoryLand a fairy-tale themed park, also geared to younger kids.
Mount Washington Cog Railway – It’s true you can take your car up Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s highest peak (and pick up a ‘This Car Climbed Mt. Washington bumper sticker’), but a more stress-free way is to make the steep journey above the clouds on the world’s first mountain-climbing Cog Railway. Another popular train excursion is the North Conway Scenic Railway which operates two historic routes.
Strawberry Banke – Not all the great family attraction are in the mountains. This living history museum near Portsmouth is a 10-acre waterfront neighbourhood with more than 40 historical buildings and a fascinating 350-year history. Kids will enjoy the demonstrations and the many hands-on displays. ‘Please touch’ signs are everywhere and kids can actually climb into an antique bed to try out straw mattresses and handle the objects on display. Costumed guides in historical character interact with visitors. A favourite is Mrs. Tucker, a nosy neighbourhood lady who sits outside the Abott store and speaks her mind freely about current events (in this case WWII). She’ll ask you why you’re wearing rubber since the country needs it for the war effort.
The state has so many hidden gems — beaches along the sea coast that one visitor said reminded her of Cape Cod thirty years ago. Chuter General Store in Littleton has the world’s largest candy counter (and the certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records to prove it). You can marvel at the largest permanent LEGO display at the See Science Center in Manchester. As you explore the state, you’re sure to find your own treasures and meet some interesting character en route as well.
But you may have to explain to your kids why people don’t have to wear seatbelts or helmets – it is the live free or die state after all.
Accommodation range from all-inclusive resorts like the historic Balsam’s Resort Hotel, which has a comprehensive children’s programs and a wide range of recreational activities on its 8000-acre property to family-friendly camp-sites like the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in the Lake’s District, which also has lots to keep the kids busy.
For more information about these attractions and others, go to www.visitnh.gov
Get kids excited about your family’s travels at www.justkidstravel.com -A travel planning website for kids.