A Wicked Fun Winter
The ultimate guide to family fun in New Hampshire
If you’re like most families and looking for some old-fashioned fun this winter, we’ve got you covered. From dogsledding and hiking to scenic drives and indoor water parks, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the Granite State.
Explore the Ice Castles
If your kids have ever dreamed of being in the movie Frozen, this is an absolute can’t-miss. Built using dripping water, the Ice Castles in Lincoln is one of five handmade ice castles in North America. Kids and adults can explore the caves, tunnels, fountains, slides, thrones, and sculptures throughout the acre-plus space. Visit during the day to get a better look at the detail and stay a bit warmer, but come back in the evening to see it illuminated with thousands of colored LED lights that twinkle to music.
Take a Hike
If you’ve got younger kids, West Rattlesnake—a moderately steep and well-worn trail to an overlook at Squam Lake, the second largest in the state—is the ideal hike: just substantial enough that you feel like you accomplished something, but not so long that you risk epic meltdowns. A 1.7-mile out-and-back, the views at the top pair perfectly with a thermos of hot chocolate. Another great option is Artists Bluff, a 1.5-mile loop near the base of Cannon Mountain that leads you to a rocky outcropping overlooking Franconia Notch, the ski area, and Echo Lake. Pro tip: The trail is bit steeper in sections and can be slick, making microspikes and/or snowshoes and poles necessary in some conditions.
Ride a Fat Bike
If there’s one thing pretty much all mountain bikers can agree upon, it’s that riding in the winter is just as fun—or perhaps even more fun—than riding in warmer months. Don’t believe us? Head over to Great Glen Trails, rent yourself a fattie, and rip around on the area’s 28 miles of groomed trails at the base of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. If you’re feeling a little uncertain about the whole mountain-biking-through-the-snow concept, head over to Waterville Valley Resort. Twice a week, its staff leads introductory group rides on 10 miles of trails, making it the perfect way to go fat for the first time.
Book the Ultimate Basecamp
With the state’s largest indoor water park, movie nights, art classes, and a 25-game arcade room, the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort might as well have been designed by a pack of adventuresome 12-year-olds. Tip: Book the package that gives each guest a discounted lift ticket to nearby Cranmore Mountain, water park admission, and breakfast. Our other favorite spot to peg the family-fun meter is Adventure Suites, which is also located in the heart of North Conway, New England’s favorite mountain town. Recognized as a top-ten theme hotel in the world, each of the 16 rooms are different in both the architecture and interior decorations. Our favorites are the Tree House, Jungle, Wolf Den, or Cave rooms—just to name a few. Some rooms at the Adventure Suites are pet-friendly, which means this can be a getaway for every member of your family.
Connect with Some Canines
Dogsledding is one of those rare activities that seems incredibly awesome and thrilling on TV—and is even more impressive in person. In other words, if you’ve got gung-ho kids, head over to Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, which offers everything from introductory experiences to half-day excursions for the whole family. In true New Hampshire style, you don’t just jump on the sled and enjoy the ride. You’ll get to meet the dogs, help harness ‘em up, and even drive the sled. Starting this season, those 12 years or older can take a two-hour crash course in mushing. You’ll head out in a double driver sled (so the instructor can give you a hand) and learn everything from how to steer to how to command the dogs.
Drive the Kanc
The Kancamagus Highway, a.k.a the Kanc, runs through the heart of the White Mountain National Forest. One of New England’s most scenic drives, the 34-mile road winds you through the mountains, passing outlooks, hiking trails, and waterfalls along the way. Some of the things you won’t see? Gas stations, hotels, restaurants, or houses. The entire stretch is devoid of all modern development, which gives the road a timeless feel—it’s like you’re driving through another era. Note: While it’s extremely popular during leaf-peeping season, many of the pull-outs are often crowd-free in the winter—and the views are equally as stunning when covered in snow. Just be sure to check the weather—photo ops and driving conditions are best on clear, snow-free days.
Go to a Carnival
There are plenty of great family-friendly events in the state all winter long, but White Park Winter Carnival and Ice Harvest Winter Carnival are two of our favorites. On January 21, Concord, the state capitol, transforms into a winter wonderland for the White Park Winter Carnival. This free event is complete with a parade, bonfires, sledding, snowman-making contest, and an Ugly Sweater 5k. The Ice Harvest and Winter Carnival, held annually the first Saturday in February at a 200+-year-old village farmstead in Tamworth Village, is a more down-home affair. The focal point of the event is, as the name suggests, learning how ice was harvested the old-fashioned way: cutting massive blocks out of a pond. Live music, farm animals, and other family-friendly activities round out this old-school event.
Snowmobile Through the Woods
Whether you’re looking to rest everyone’s legs and take a day off from skiing or are simply looking for some high-speed fun, a snowmobile tour with the Northern Extremes Snowmobiling is the perfect way to shake things up. With two locations and family packages, Northern Extremes does it right: The staff is laid-back, their snow machines are in great shape, and the trail network they use is well marked. If you’re new to snowmobiling, we recommend the two-hour Family Adventure package, which includes a self-guided trip through the mountains, double snowmobiles, helmets, and a map.
Explore NH’s Highest Peak
To some, 6,288 feet might not sound like much. But Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, has winter conditions comparable to Everest and the polar regions. To get to the top in the winter, you’ve got to be a seasoned mountaineer or book a trip in a big snow machine. For the latter, you’ve got two options. Sign up for a day trip through the Mount Washington Observatory, which includes an exclusive tour of the peak’s weather station and homemade lunch in addition to the scenic ride. The other option is to reserve a spot on the Snowcoach, a nine-passenger van powered by four-track instead of tires, from Great Glen Trails. The hour-and-a-half tour doesn’t go all the way to the summit—it tops out at the tree line, about 2/3 of the way to the summit—but you still get five-star views of the Presidential mountain range, and it costs a fraction of the snowcat tour.
Whether your family is just getting into it or you’ve skied the best snow around the globe, New Hampshire offers something for everyone. Click here to see what we recommend.
Whether you’re looking to carve your way down fresh trails at one of our 19 ski resorts, ride thousands of miles of epic trails on a snowmobile, or take a winter hike through our picture-perfect White Mountains, New Hampshire has your winter covered. Plan your winter adventure today! Learn more at VisitNH.gov.