The coast of Maine and Vermont get a lot of attention, and for good reason, but this region, nestled in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is a drivable hidden gem that’s a must for so many reasons.
See nature at its most extreme on the top of Mount Washington, where the observatory has the world record for surface wind speeds of 231 miles per hour. Advanced hikers can climb the mountain (7.6 miles of difficult elevation), but there’s also a drivable auto road and cog railroad that will take you to the Northeast’s tallest peak. The weather can vary wildly, with average summit temps of 26.5 degrees so bring a sweatshirt even if it is shorts and t-shirt weather at the bottom.
Nearby Jefferson is home to Santa’s Village, an amusement park dedicated to Christmas, with the Ho Ho H2O water park, reindeer feeding, Santa visits and rides like the Great Humbug Adventure. Story Land in Bartlett is a theme park full of fantasy and fairy tale characters, with a wooden roller coaster, log flume and rides and shows for the kids. Thrill seekers can try zip lines at Wildcat Mountain or Attitash’s long alpine slide for a fun trip down a mountain. Lost River Gorge and Flume Gorge both get you up close and personal with cascading waterfalls and the Polar Caves Park allows you to squeeze through glacially formed caves.
Stay in North Conway, which is filled with outlet shopping and is easily accessible to nearby towns. Try the North Conway Grand Hotel for a resort-style vacation, or opt for a little New England B&B charm at the Cranmore Inn. The stately White Mountain Hotel opens Memorial Day, and is home to Ledges restaurant with panoramic mountain views.