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Two full days of fun, outdoor activities during foliage season in New Hampshire, especially for families with kids.
Friday pm. We flew into Boston on Friday night and drove to the Comfort Inn and Suites in Lincoln, NH. We chose it based on tripadvisor reviews, we liked the central location (vs. Mount Washington Inn) in the White Mountains for all the things we wanted to see and do; the fact that we could get a one bedroom suite; and the cleanliness and a spaciousness of the rooms. We also like any place with a serve-yourself breakfast included, because it gets us up and out so fast in the morning.
Saturday am. We visited the flume and gorge at Franconia Notch State Park. We got there when it opened, there were other people, but no crowds, and it was just beautiful!!! The wooden walkway leads along a steep rock wall above a rushing river, and it was the perfect combination of natural beauty for the adults and thrill for the kids (ages 5-11). What a great experience.
Saturday late morning. It's a bit of a drive (45 minutes?) from the flume gorge at Franconia Notch, but it's worth it! You can get more info on Polly's at their website, but, briefly, this is a restaurant that has been around since the 1800's and still makes their own maple syrup and pancake flour onsite. Yum! There was a wait, but it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed the time spent anticipating a great brunch.
If you plan ahead/time it right, I think you can watching some of the milling of the grain on site...having an educational experience would be a whole new way to justify a huge pancake breakfast!
Saturday afternoon. Another bit of a drive (again, 45 minutes?) we got to the Cog Railway at Mount Washington. The ride to the top on the old railroad car was enjoyable (there are a few steep parts that made the ride a little exciting for the kids) and the conductors chat was interesting for us all.
There are other ways to the top (driving yourself is much faster, hiking the mountain appeared much, much slower!), but the railway was unique and had an historical authenticity...I would say it's the way to go. I think we spent only a short time at the top, less than an hour, viewing a couple of exhibits and taking photos with the "Top of Mount Washington" sign.
Saturday evening. We enjoyed our dinner at the Common Man. You can really get a feel for what to expect if you visit their website. There was a line, but there were some satisfying (free) appetizers available while you wait. The decor is charming and even a little witty (there were funny tape recordings running in both the men's and women's bathrooms). The clientele was a welcoming mix of locals and tourists. We felt right at home. Food was good, prices reasonable.
Then, back to the Comfort Inn.
Sunday morning. We checked out of the Comfort Inn and headed toward the Lake Winnipesaukee for our last night in NH on our way back to Boston.
The Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves was not a stop we planned in advance. I think we found a brochure for the caves at the hotel. Anyway, we weren't sure whether to go or not (maybe it would be the same as the flume gorge at franconia?)...but the kids voted to go, and it was GREAT! : )
This is another very pretty attraction, basically a beautiful walk through the woods...but along the way there are several named caves (seven different ones?) to crawl through. Some on hands and knees. The most memorable was the Lemon Squeezer. You need to squeeze between two posts before going in the cave to make sure you will fit! It is a tight squeeze, and it is dark (eek!), but the whole length of the cave is not more than 20 feet, so you're in and out fast and we loved it! We laughed a lot too, because of course it was pretty difficult for mom and dad and easy for the kids. This was a very memorable and fun stop for our family.
"The Oldest and Most Spectacular Mica, Feldspar,
Beryl, and Uranium Mine in the USA"
Sunday midday. After another drive (1.5 hours southwest of Lincoln? we were heading south to the Lakes Region, but this was still out of the way), we got to Ruggles Mine in Grafton, NH.
Here, you can try your hand at mining for mica (mostly) and another 150 minerals. If your kids are interested in rocks, it's worth the drive into what seemed to be a pretty remote (and non-touristy) area of New Hampshire.
There were just a couple of cars in the gravel lot. The main building has a small snack bar (pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, nuts and granola bars, drinks) where we ate something and called it lunch. In this building there is also a small gift shop and a display area showing various minerals that have been found in the mine.
We each rented goggles, a bucket and a pick. (For some reason, the owners suggested one set for the three kids to share...that would not have worked for us!) Then, we walked into the mine...which is just a descent into a huge area with very rocky walls. And then, we started hammering on the walls. That's it. And...the kids LOVED IT!
Our 8 year old son basically self-actualized at the Ruggles Mine. Scaling rock walls and pounding on them with a hammer turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of his life. We found a lot of mica, which was interesting for us all. We also came home with a rock collection that our son was able to show at school (it's also easy to get a good photo of the kids in the goggles, high on the rock walls, hammering away). Four of us got cold in the late afternoon, so eventually we had to leave...
Farmstand, Bakery, Corn Maze
Sunday late afternoon. An hour's drive or so put us in Meredith, NH (where we were staying) on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, but we kept going about 30 more minutes to a corn maze at Beans and Greens farmstand and bakery. We bought tickets to the maze and enjoyed shopping the fresh produce and delicious bakery items in this large, charming and busy country store.
Across the street from the store was the corn maze. We hadn't ever been to a corn maze or anything like it. I'm glad we tried it, but it wasn't as much fun for any of us as I had expected. For some reason, I thought we would be more involved in figuring our way out of the maze, but the walls of corn husks looked all the same to me. I got disoriented (not unpleasantly so) and just walked and walked and hoped to eventually find myself at the exit. The kids might have done a little better.
We liked the farmstand and got great pictures with the pumpkins, but this was the one stop on our trip that we felt wasn't really worth the drive (one hour round trip from our hotel). Maybe we were just getting tired.
Sunday evening. We drove back to Meredith, and had dinner at Camp, another restaurant owned by the Common Man. (Btw, we were pleasantly surprised that Camp is not only on the first floor of our hotel, the Inn at Mill Falls, but also it provides the room service food for the hotel!).
Camp has a super-fun theme, and we got a kick out of the camp decor and menu items like "bug juice" and s'mores. The waitstaff was appropriately young and energetic. Another satisfying meal. If you like what you see on the website, you'll like the restaurant.
Sunday night. Finally, we checked in at the Inn at Mill Falls. We chose the Inn based on reviews on tripadvisor (and the inn's beautiful website), and we were not disappointed!! We had a one bedroom with a gas fireplace and a balcony overlooking Meredith Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee. It was the perfect room in the perfect hotel for us that weekend.
There was a group staying at the hotel the night we were there that planned fireworks over the lake. The receptionist encouraged us to go to our balcony at the right time to see the fireworks, and we did. It was a magical way to end a great day.
In the morning, we opened the shades to the sight of a thick layer of mist on the surface of the lake and the incredible fall colors of the trees lining the bay. It was absolutely perfect.
The Inn is not really for kids, but our guys were so tired after two days of all the outdoor activity that they went to sleep shortly after check-in. Early the next morning, we took the kids to the pretty shopping center adjacent to the Inn, and it was still quite empty, and there was room for the kids to walk/run/jump there.
Independent bookshop with great kids section
Monday morning. There are a bunch of nice, local shops in this shopping center across the street from the hotel. The only one we had time for was this wonderful, independent bookshop! Great kids section.
We picked up a book for everyone, a couple of souveniers, and headed to Boston for our flight home.