My family has long loved New Hampshire in the warmer months, whether we're exploring the rich history of the seacoast city of Portsmouth or a having a summer family getaway in the Mount Washington Valley. Although the Granite State is known for skiing, snowboarding, and other cold weather activities for thrill seekers, we had never visited in the wintertime. Then the State of New Hampshire invited us to experience Mount Washington’s outdoor winter offerings. We’re always up for an adventure and crave time outdoors (yes, even in the winter), so we bundled up and trekked two hours north of Boston to Lincoln, New Hampshire—home of Loon Mountain and loads of snowy fun.
Here are suggestions for your White Mountains outdoor adventure itinerary, including recommendations for where to eat and stay:
SNOW SPORTS AND OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
Loon Mountain Resort
60 Loon Mountain Rd, Lincoln, NH | 603-745-8111
Although Loon Mountain Resort has 2,100 vertical feet of skiing and riding over three peaks of terrain variety, rookies need not be intimidated. There are learn-to-ski or snowboard packages for all ages and skill levels, and the instructors we had were terrific. There's a magic carpet lift to the top of the novice hill, and New England Disabled Sports (NEDS) also makes its home at Loon Mountain with an adaptive ski program.
The place is big, but riding the train tram or bus from one area to another is part of the fun. Non-skiing thrill seekers can enjoy weekend night tubing or try the zipline in the Adventure Center, where you can also go ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing (equipment rental available for each activity).
Tip: Line up your lift tickets, rentals and classes ahead of time to get the action started faster when you arrive. All-inclusive learn-to-ski packages are available, and Loon Mountain participates in the money-saving Ski NH program for fourth and fifth graders.
41 Main Street, Lincoln NH 03251 | 603-745-9911
Off-roading in the Pinzgauer Swiss military vehicle is just the right mix of thrill and chill. After a van ride and an invigorating off-road "safari," your driver will drop you and your guide off on the land owned by Alpine Adventures for a snowshoeing tour. Snowshoeing might include spotting animal tracks (A mountain lion was here? Oh my!), getting some wilderness survival advice, and a pretty good workout. The tour ends with hot cocoa by a wood stove, which is nothing short of delightful. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and extraordinarily kind.
Alpine Adventures also offers 3 different Zip line Tours, including a tree top canopy tour that’s just right for families with young children, with spectacular views of the White Mountains. The Thrillsville Aerial Park offers challenges like bridges, cargo nets, rope ladders, ziplines, a cool treehouse, and the Climbing Tower. Your most adventurous family members might go for tubing down the stunt ramp and landing on a giant air bag. GoPro cameras are available to rent for those of us who want to be able to prove our adventurousness to doubters back home.
Ice Castles New Hampshire
64 Railroad St, Lincoln NH 03521 | 800-358-1147 | Open late December to March
When you need a break from the adrenaline rushes of skiing, ziplining, and off-roading, visit the mesmerizing Ice Castle, located just down the street from Alpine Adventures. The one-acre castle is hand crafted using only icicles and water and features slides, caves, and fountains. Ice Castle is the brainchild of one terrific dad who makes most of us parents look like slackers, and is pure bliss for young “Frozen” fans. Music, multi-color lights and fire dancers make visiting the castle a total entertainment experience at night, but we've been told it looks absolutely stunning in the natural light of day, too. Take a look at this photo gallery from our Ice Castles New Hampshire visit.
Tip: Buy tickets online in advance to breeze through the entrance, and pick the hour around sunset so you can see the castle both in the natural light and all jazzed up at night in one visit. You can also buy a ticket for early in the day and return later in the evening with your hand stamp.
Franconia Inn and Franconia Notch Stables
Franconia Inn (stables right next door) | 1172 Easton Road, Franconia, NH 03580 | 603-823-5542
If alpine skiing isn’t your thing, visit the bucolic Franconia Inn for cross-country skiing in the snow-covered airfield and woodsy area across the street (rentals available next door to the Inn). Or get your heart pumping with ice skating, tubing and snowshoeing. Kids who are horse-crazy and need to rest their tired legs might enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride with Franconia Notch Stables. Bring some hot chocolate and cozy up together under the blankets during a scenic ride around the field.
Woodstock Station Restaurant
Woodstock Inn, Station and Brewery | 135 Main Street, North Woodstock NH 03262 | 603-745-3951
Having a micro-brewery on site doesn’t make the Woodstock Station Restaurant any less kid-friendly. In addition to a kids' menu and a festive atmosphere, the restaurant offers a robust gluten free menu. Take a six-pack of beer home for the kids – Woodstock Brewery’s famous root beer, that is. Tip: Go on a weeknight and use the connector road instead of Route 112 if you’re coming from Lincoln.
The Common Man
10 Pollard Road, Lincoln NH 03251 | 603-745-3463
The hearth of the Common Man restaurant is the gathering spot of choice for locals and visitors alike after a day of outdoor adventures. Help yourself to cheese and crackers while you wait for your hearty meal (gluten free menu available), and try not to fill up on bread (it was banana bread the night we were there!). Even if you don’t save room for dessert, one of the superb wait staff will bring you white chocolate samples at the end of your meal. Tip: Get there early and be sure to spend some time by the fireplace.
Mountain Club on Loon
90 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, NH 03251 | 603-745-2244
The Mountain Club on Loon is the ideal choice for minimizing aggravation and maximizing fun, especially for skiers and snowboarders. Located at the base of mountain, The Mountain Club on Loon is easily accessed from I-93 and is the only ski in ski out accommodation on Loon Mountain. Garage parking and ski lockers are included, which are both huge bonuses.
Spacious two-room suites with a full kitchen are a parent’s dream, and if you can score a room with a view of the slopes, you’ll be amazed at how long watching the skiers from your window can entertain the kids. With restaurants on site, an arcade, and a spa complete with a sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor (!) hot tubs and a gorgeous pool area, you could seriously spend your entire vacation right on Loon Mountain.
All photos by the author.