'Tis the Season
Take a holly, jolly journey through the Lakes Region.December is the time to enjoy the holiday lights, decorations, parades, concerts and fairs that brighten the season, as New Hampshire towns of all sizes prepare for Christmas. The Lakes Region is especially rich in options.Begin in Rochester, where holiday festivities get under way on Sunday, December 5, with an afternoon parade of colorful floats and marching bands through downtown to the Rochester Commons. On December 10 and 11, the beautifully restored Rochester Opera House is the stage for The Nutcracker Suite. Head north on Route 11, bearing right onto Route 153 in Farmington and left in Middleton on the un-numbered King's Highway, through Middleton Corners and into South Wolfeboro. Route 28 leads north into Wolfeboro, where the League of NH Craftsmen Gallery is a good place to shop for gifts created by local craftspeople.Hampshire Pewter crafts nativity sets and Christmas tree ornaments in pewter and offers free weekday tours. Choose quality chocolate bars to fill Christmas stockings at Winnipesaukee Chocolates, a Best of NH winner. On the first two weekends of the month, the Wright Museum presents the Annual Festival of Trees and on December 11 All Saint's Episcopal Church hosts A Tuba Christmas, an annual event where tuba, sousaphone, euphonium and baritone horn players from across the country join for a Christmas carol concert and sing-along.If hunger has overtaken you by now, head for the new Wolf City Brick Oven Pizza, opened in October, to design your own pizza (those with wheat allergies will find gluten-free crusts on the menu). Or El Centenario on Union Street serves authentic and warming Mexican dishes.Leave Wolfeboro on Route 109A through Center Tuftonboro, continuing on Route 109 through Melvin Village. At the intersection of Route 25, Moultonborough's Old Country Store is brimming with old-fashioned goodies and gifts, and is a good place to stock up on aged cheddar for holiday entertaining. Just down Route 25 is the left turn marked to Marcus Wildlife Sanctuary, where the Loon Center has a shop with good gifts for children and for nature lovers. Gifts bought there give twice, since the profits support the center's work.Route 25 continues into Center Harbor and around the lake to Meredith, where Mill Falls Marketplace begins its holiday festivities on December 5 with an open house and tree lighting. Shoppers can enjoy strolling carolers, horse and wagon rides, refreshments and story-telling for children. Innisfree Bookshop, Oglethorpe Fine Arts & Crafts and Great Northern Trading Company are only a sampling of the places to look for tasteful and unusual gifts. On December 11 and12, the Lakes Region Symphony Orchestra presents a holiday concert at the Inter-Lakes Auditorium in Meredith. Lakehouse Grille, Lago and Camp, three restaurants in the locally owned Common Man group, are all close by.On the way to Weirs Beach on Route 3, stop for holiday collectibles and decorations at Christmas Loft, then follow it into Laconia to see the stunning collection of decorated Christmas trees and help judge the winners at Belknap Mill's annual Trees for the Holidays, December 6-31.Follow Route 11A into Gilford, a small town that knows how to celebrate Christmas. On December 3 and 4, Gilford Community Church hosts a Christmas Village Fair, an old-fashioned church bazaar with greens, jewelry, baked goods, books, toys, a luncheon, cookie walk, crafts and a silent auction. On December 4, the Gilford Craft Fair at the middle and high schools also features one-of-a-kind gifts. December 17 brings the Lakes Region Singers' Annual Christmas Concert at the Gilford Methodist Church on Route 11A, free and with complimentary refreshments. At 3 p.m. on the 19th, the Gilford Community Band performs a Christmas concert at the high school auditorium.Before heading down Route 11 to Alton and back to Rochester, stop to pick out a Christmas tree at Muehlke Family Tree Farm on Belknap Mountain Road.