The heat of summer has not yet arrived but most of the attractions of New Hampshire’s White Mountains are already opening their doors for weekends, with full opening to follow in mid-June. These attractions make perfect family getaways. Here are a few ideas for attractions on the eastern side of the White Mountains for things to do in the Mount Washington Valley. After enjoying these great places try out the options in the western White Mountains.
Storyland, fantasy for all ages
Storyland is a place that kids love to return to year after year because of the wide range of storybook-related activities. Its slanty, off-kilter entrance buildings are the first clue that this is a different sort of amusement park. The amazing thing is that it seems to enchant everyone from toddlers to adults. Toddlers and even older kids love the gigantic pumpkin, Mother Hubbard’s Shoe House and a visit to Snow White’s Castle – complete with a ride in a Pumpkin Coach. The whole family can ride in twirling tea cups, on the merry-go-round, the hot air balloon Ferris wheel and even drive antique cars on a track. New for this year, Storyland is offering a wooden roller-coaster, the Roar-O-Saurus, with Rory the dinosaur leading the cars over a 1,242-foot-long track with heights of up to 40 feet and through a gathering of animatronic dinosaurs. There is lot more to Storyland, and you’ll find it on Route 16 in Glen. Storyland opens May 24-26, May 30-June 1 and June 6-8, opening all week starting June 13.
Attitash Mountain Resort, for active outdoor experience
Not far from Storyland, Attitash has a wide range of active outdoor things to do. New this year, although a start date has not been announced, is an expanded Zipline that will be the longest in North America. It will run from the top of Bear Peak, connecting with another to the base of Attitash. The Bear Peak line will be 5,000 feet and reach heights of up to 400 feet. But Attitash has a full range of other options, including mountain biking (with rentals), the Alpine Slide and four waterslides, one especially for kids. For adventure, try Euro Bungy Jumping, jumping into an air bag from the height of a four story building or, perhaps a stint on the climbing wall. Attitash is in Bartlett on Route 302. From May 24-June 8 Attitash is open weekends only, opening fully for the season on June 14.
Cranmore Mountain Resort for families
Cranmore first reached fame as one of the first ski resort in the early 1930s, but since then it has become a major year-round attraction. In summer it blossoms with activities for active people. Its Aerial Adventure Park is a challenging forest ropes course and the Mountain Coaster operates in summer, as well as winter. Surprisingly, so does the tubing hill, and has proven as popular as winter tubing. The Soaring Eagle Zipline is an exciting 70- foot ride down the mountain that at the bottom links up with the Giant Swing for a unique experience. Segway rides on specially arranged trails are also very popular, as are the Spider Mountain climb and chair lift rides up and down the mountain for views and lunch at the Meister Hut. Cranmore is off Route 16 in North Conway and opens weekends from May 25 through June 16 and full time starting June 22.
A pair of railroads for mountain scenery
North Conway is also home of the Conway Scenic Railroad, which offers real railroad rides on original equipment. Beginning from the beautiful 1874 North Conway railroad station, daily trips at 11:30 and 1:30 are now operating between North Conway and Conway Village or Bartlett. Starting June 6 they will add the option of fine dining in the dining car and on June 7 Conway Scenic Railway will begin operating the Notch Train on tracks that cling to the side of Crawford Notch. It will open with a new table car, the Mount Webster. The rail station is on Route 16 in downtown North Conway.
Another train option is the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway, the “railway to the moon”. Since 1868 it has been taking visitors up Mount Washington. All originally using coal burning steam engines, five of its engines now burn bio-diesel, but the early morning run still uses a coal burning engine. It is the oldest rack train in the world and the second steepest. The Cog is off Route 302 at Bretton Woods, just beyond the Mount Washington Hotel. It is now operating weekends and opens full time May 24; check their site for trip times.
Take I-95 north and at Portsmouth NH follow Route 16 (the Spaulding Turnpike) north through Conway Village and on to North Conway. Stay on Route 16 to get to Storyland (a few miles out of town in Glen) and for Attitash and the Cog stay straight ahead on Route 302 when Route 16 turns to the right at Glen.