December Road Trip: A Holiday Excursion

December is a good month to mosey among New Hampshire's small towns, keeping a sharp eye out for church holiday fairs and bazaars, which often include home-cooked lunches and church suppers. Begin in Rochester, following Route 11 to Farmington. If the date is December 13, detour north on Route 16 to Milton instead, to join the New Hampshire Farm Museum in celebrating Christmas on the Farm. Go for a sleigh ride or hayride, make a gingerbread man and enjoy the decorations throughout the farmhouse. From Milton, Route 75 leads to Farmington, rejoining Route 11, which continues on to Alton at the southern tip of Lake Winnipesaukee. Follow the lake shore to West Alton, turning left onto Route 11A. The ski trails of Gunstock Mountain rise to the left; this is the time of year to take advantage of their season equipment lease for kids' skis and boots. Turn left into the Village of Gilford and left again on Belknap Mountain Road to find the Muehlke Family Tree Farm at #320. Choose a Christmas tree here on weekends. Backtrack on 11A to the intersection with 11B and follow it to the left through Weirs Beach, looking a lot different in the winter. But it's far from dead - the towns have joined together for Yuletide at the Lakes with events and special promotions at area lodgings. The Lake Winnipesaukee Museum at Weirs Beach has an exhibit about the famous steamboat, The Lady of the Lake (1849-1895), with a cutaway ship model. After11B joins Route 3, take a left onto Route 104, stopping at the Annalee Outlet Store on Reservoir Road. The entire line of Annalee Dolls is discounted. Route 104 continues on to Bristol, where you'll find The Mill Fudge Factory located in a 1767 grist mill. Pick up some great homemade fudge for gifts (pickups of online orders only). Their sister shop The Mill Ice Cream Café offers homemade ice cream, and light fare from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the winter. In Danbury, stop to see the traditional German Christmas decorations at the Inn at Danbury. Dinner guests are welcomed with steaming German Glühwein before enjoying traditional German dishes. Make a reservation ahead of time. Turn left onto Route 4 circling Ragged Mountain, a ski resort, before rejoining Route 11. Turn right and right again on Route 114 into the college town of New London. On December 7, the New London Historical Society has a Holiday Open House, with free admission to its houses. The museum incorporates an entire village of 19th century buildings, plus more than two dozen horse-drawn vehicles. The Open House will include hearthside cooking, crafts and period music. Also in New London is Vessels & Jewels, a gallery of contemporary American crafts and a bead boutique. Browse the gallery for pottery, jewelry, glassware, fiber arts and more. Next door is Jack's of New London a great stop for lunch. Or stop at Peter Christian's Tavern for chili and a a few jars of their mustard sauce, good for stocking stuffers and holiday hostess gifts. If you take Route 114 south it goes to the pretty village of Sutton, and to Bayberry Farm Christmas Shop, which is housed in a 150-year-old renovated barn. The shop feels Christmas-y all year-round, but is stocked to the brim during the holidays. Along with seasonal decorations, you'll find their line of specialty foods. I-89 crosses Route 11 at New London. Length of trip: About 90 miles
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