From martini luges at ice bars and fireworks displays to charming parks and thrilling zip line tours, these Best of NH winners will get you outside and having fun in no time.
Readers' Poll Winners*Aquatic Appreciation Day: In a Merrimack River filled with sleek and popular fish like trout and salmon, let's face it, lampreys suck. But for 13 years, the Amoskeag Fishways in Manchester has set aside a day or appreciation for these eel-like toothsome creatures that only a mother lamprey could love. Presentations run every half hour and there's even a chance to hold a live, three-foot long sea lamprey. amoskeagfishways.org*Canopy Tour:If you're a nature lover - or a thrill-seeker - you'll love the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour. It descends 1,000 in elevation, taking you through a series of tree-top dual-cable zip lines. They're connected by high-flying suspension bridges and hiking trails. The experience ends with the Williwaw Racing Zip, a dual, side-by-side zip that sets you down in the base area - safe, sound and completely wowed. omnihotels.com *Drive: The FANtasy Drive at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon is a rare chance to know first-hand what it feels like to drive the "Magic Mile" just like Jeff Gordon and other NASCAR champs. And don't let the fact that you're revving up the family Subaru kill your buzz at this event, which opens the speedway track to anyone who bought a ticket to one of the real races that season. It's the first major event each spring at the speedway. nhms.com*Fireworks Spectacle:If you are a lover of fireworks, you don't want to miss the Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks in August (this year it's Aug. 20). It is put on by Atlas PyroVision Productions, a company that is known internationally for its fab fireworks displays. Though this display happens on a patch of land in rural Jaffrey, the quality is still world class. Set up your chairs under the night sky and get ready to be amazed. atlaspyro.com*Grand Hotel Farm:OK, maybe it's the only working farm at a grand hotel, so maybe the farm at Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa should get "best add-on at a grand hotel" instead. Combined with activities like bonfires with toasted marshmallows and evening magic shows while parents relax over dinner, the big red barn filled with animals - miniature donkeys, alpacas, highland cattle, dwarf goats, angora rabbits and rare sheep breeds - makes the Mountain View Grand one of the most kid-friendly places in the Whites. They can join in the daily hunt for eggs that are used in the hotel kitchen, too. mountainviewgrand.com
*Ice Bar:Chef Earl Anthony Morse loves to carve ice. This past winter he created an ice bar at the Bedford Village Inn complete with martini luge for all the Dr. Zhivago types who loved mingling outdoors with the sparkle of ice both in and out of a Riedel glass. bedfordvillageinn.com*Little Park:When trains ruled our transportation system, the spread-out town of Alton had 11 different stations. Now the B&M Railroad Park behind town hall combines that history with a very enjoyable family park. The old wooden "Loon" station was moved to the park several years ago. There's an old engine car and 1900s storage house with original windows. There's even a wetlands walkway, space to pay horseshoes and bocce ball and a "kiddies" park. alton.nh.gov*Re-enactor Heaven: After shutting its log doors for a few years, The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown has reopened to welcome buckskinned and uniformed hordes of avid historical re-enactors. They appreciate just what an amazing resource this 18th-century model fortress with its wooden tower and capacious grounds is not only for recreating the world and the great battles of bygone days, but also to bring the past to life for a new generations of students and historians. fortat4.org*Running Event:Ever wanted to run from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach? There's a race for that. Well, almost. The Reach the Beach Relay covers 200 miles in 24 hours, split up between teams of runners. The event, which is the longest distance running relay race in the U.S., consists of 12-person teams (maximum) that rotate through 36 transition areas, meaning each member runs three legs of varying lengths and difficulty. This year's race is Sept. 16-17. nh.rtbrelay.com
*Steamboat Meet:For four decades steamboat owners have had a meet-up in Moultonborough so they could, as organizer David Thompson puts it, "go boating, hang out and have fun." He thinks the Lee's Mills Steamboat Meet is the biggest steamboat rally in the world and says people from as far away as New Zealand and Hong Kong have come to it. They usually have 50 to 60 steamboats and as many as 200 steamboat aficionados at the event. And, of course, they draw tons of onlookers. This year's meet is from Sept. 9-18.*Summer Downhill Experience: Enjoy the slopes all summer long on the new Cranmore Mountain Coaster. Ride the car - like a 21st-century version of the old beloved skimobile - 1,315 feet up the side of the mountain, where it's released to follow the winding and dipping roller-coaster track 2390 feet down to the bottom. Riders can control their own speed,up to 25 mph, with foot brakes, but that sort of defeats the point, right? cranmore.com *Ultralight Fly-in:It's a little bit Wright Brothers, a little bit Gyro Gearloose and a whole lot of fun to witness the menagerie of contraptions that qualify for the annual Ultralight Fly-in at Sanderson's Field in Greenland. The event draws fixed-wing craft, mini-copters and home-built powered chutes and gliders - like so many colorful swallows returning to Capistrano. And if curiosity gets the best of you, there are usually a few pilots who will take you for a spin for a modest fee. yankeeultralights.com
Zip Line: Zoom from tree to tree like Tarzan with Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, with either the Tree Top or SkyRider Tour. Each adventure includes an off-road safari ride that brings you to the top of the course. alpinezipline.com
This article appears in the July 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine