Best of NH 2020 Fun & Adventure

It's time to get out and explore the Granite State. Here are our suggestions and readers' picks for the best ways to have fun and maybe learn something new along the way.

Editor’s Picks

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Photo by Robert Kozlow

Best Little Hike With a Great Big View

by Ruth Doan MacDougall
Macdougall100x100One of the vast views in Crawford Notch can be reached in 15 minutes from Route 302 at the Webster-Jackson Trail trailhead beneath the cliff that creates a gigantic elephant profile. Start hiking, turn right onto the Elephant Head Spur, and soon you’re atop the head. The view curves from south to north, including Mounts Webster, Willard, Willey, Bemis, Nancy, and the Mount Washington Hotel and Cherry Mountain. Be careful, don’t let the view distract you from your footing. For more information, see the “AMC White Mountain Guide.”

Most Underrated NH Movie Location

Darren Garnick100x100

by Darren Garnick
Ask movie buffs a film shot in the Granite State and they’ll likely reflexively name “On Golden Pond,” the 1981 Oscar-winning film starring Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. Tourists do flock to Squam Lake, but how many want to recreate the angst of aging? This is not the case with the 2007 documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” in which video game rivals Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell compete to be the best Donkey Kong player in the world at Laconia’s Funspot arcade. You can pump tokens into the Donkey Kong cabinet on the same hallowed ground or choose to play one of the 250 other 1980s classic arcade games that make up Funspot’s “living museum.” If you can’t make it to Laconia right away, watching the movie trailer alone will make you pine for a pilgrimage. Making the Donkey Kong drama even more intriguing were revelations in 2018 that Billy Mitchell’s high scores were achieved using emulation software that helped him cheat. All of Mitchell’s video game records have since been invalidated. Might film crews eventually return to Laconia for a sequel?

Ideal Country Inn

by Barbara Radcliffe RogersBarbararogers100x100
Adair Country Inn and Restaurant
in Bethlehem is a country inn with a difference. Not quaint nor set in a venerable Colonial home, it is a sparkling example of a gracious country home where well-to-do city people escaped the summer heat in the early 1900s. The decorative refinements of the era combine with an air of luxe leisure; guests visibly relax as they step inside. Or as they stroll through gardens designed by the most illustrious family of American landscape architects, who were frequent guests at the neighboring Rocks Estate. Modern amenities blend seamlessly with antique furnishings, and the décor includes a couple of collections of the original owners, notably the artfully displayed vintage hats in the upstairs hallway. Conversion to an inn has been gentle, with the large, airy parlor intact (afternoon tea is served there), a paneled library now an intimate bar, and the family dining room a fine-dining restaurant. The recent arrival of Steve Learned (well remembered from The Balsams) as chef is the frosting on an already-elegant cake.

Family Campground

Ernesto100x100by Ernesto Burden
Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia Notch State Park is without a doubt my favorite place in the state to pitch a tent with the family. There’s something about being tucked into the shadows of the stark, beautiful mountains of the Notch that has always made me feel like I’ve traveled to a fantasy world. Especially early in the morning when the mist hangs on the peaks and dew bejewels tiny spiderwebs in the fecund green along a winding forest trail. There is an abundance of natural beauty in the Notch, and striking out from Lafayette provides access to that splendor in a variety of family-friendly ways, from paved bike paths to aerial trams to steep, technical hiking trails. The experience of the place grows with you as your family grows up. It’s a place that’s lived in my heart since I was a kid, and I felt blessed to share it with my own kids. One thing to note if you go: There’s plenty of wildlife, so make sure you practice good campsite hygiene and keep your food locked up in your vehicle at night. Oh, and remind me to tell you my Lafayette bear story someday.

Fire Tower Hunt

Dan Szczesny100x100by Dan Szczesny
Of the state’s 16 fire lookout towers, Pack Monadnock, Kearsarge and Cardigan get all the love from hikers and tourists, owing to their easy access and great views. But if you want a little adventure, not to mention scant crowds to go along with your views, no fire tower packs as satisfying a punch as the one located farthest north — Mount Magalloway. Finding it is most of the fun, given that to access the 3,383-foot mountain you must drive well north of Pittsburg’s town center, find the proper gravel road, and then drive another eight miles on logging roads to get to the parking area for the one-mile trail that leads to the top. But once there, on a clear day, views of three states and Canada can be yours. Plus, why not rent the ranger cabin up top for an overnight stay? After all, you came this far.

Most Anticipated Return

Erica100x100by Erica Thoits
One of our favorite annual events — The New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival — was canceled for 2020. Held at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, this massive festival, competition and celebration of Scottish heritage only seems to get bigger every year, which quite possibly means that its triumphant return in 2021 will be the best yet. For those who don’t keep up with the sports of caber toss or hammer throw, the New Hampshire Highland Games are part of an international series of Scottish heavy athletics, and our local event draws the best of the best from around the world. It is, much like the athletes themselves, a big (emphasis on big) deal. Among the world record holders who attend is Hafthor Bjornsson, who you might know better as the aptly named “Mountain” from “Game of Thrones.” As of this issue’s publication, there were some 470 days left until the games return on September 17-19, 2021. Here’s hoping they fly by.

Fly Fishing Spot

Ernesto100x100by Ernesto Burden
There are many amazing places to cast a fly in New Hampshire, but here in the southern part of the state, I love heading due west out of Manchester for the bucolic 30-minute drive to New Boston. Route 13 runs along the south branch of the Piscataquog River, and there winds itself so iconically prettily through the trees that you could pick a spot and stand in it all day without seeing a fish and still feel your soul had been fed. Oh, who am I kidding. You still want to land a fish. Luckily, this stretch of water provides, from the stony riffles beneath the forested stretches before and after you get to New Boston, to the beautiful little pools under the bridges right in town. Note that there are stretches that have catch-and-release, single, barbless hook, artificial lure/fly restrictions from October 16 to June 15. Check the NH Fish and Game website for details.

Bretton Woods Snowy Courtesy

Bretton Woods Skyway. Courtesy photo.

Soaring Good Fun

Martybasch100x100by Marty Basch
Think of it as a high-flying bubble with a commanding view of the iconic grand Omni Mount Washington Hotel and the northern Presidential Range, including Mount Washington, which are often capped with frosty crowns. The eight-person, year-round Bretton Woods Skyway gondola took its maiden voyage last year, and now it flies skiers, riders and scenic view seekers in under five minutes to a spot just below the Mount Rosebrook summit destined to hold a 16,000-square-foot dining, wedding and event venue. It’s been well worth the wait.

Don’t (or Do?) Look Down

Marshall Hudson 100x100by Marshall Hudson
For the daredevil in all of us, the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour is an exciting adventure that should be on your bucket list. This thrilling zip line canopy tour consists of a network of platforms high up in the trees connected to nine cable zip line relays, three rappels and two sky bridges suspended above the forest floor. Each zip line varies in length and height, with a maximum span of 830 feet and 165 feet above the ground. The Canopy Tour takes about three hours and is the ideal adventure for thrill-seekers. It also offers some terrific mountain scenery for those who can keep their eyes open.

Two-Wheeled Adventure

Martybasch100x100by Marty Basch
The 83-mile long Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail allows pack-toting bicycle travelers to explore wild northern New Hampshire at their own speed while keeping them close to essentials like satisfying food and all sorts of  lodging. From shore to shore — the Connecticut River in Woodsville to the Androscoggin River in Bethel, Maine — bikepackers use a series of multiuse unpaved rails trails and back roads to get a new perspective on stretches of the White Mountains they’ve only driven. Download everything you need from or send away for a cool map and other swag. The route’s good for all levels of cyclists carrying patience. Read my enticing feature story about it in the upcoming August issue.

Readers’ Poll Winners

Bear Rock 2 Kendal

Bear Rock Adventures. Photo by Kendal J. Bush

Wakeda Campground
Hampton Falls

Day Spa
Wingate Salon & Spa

Family-Friendly Resort
The Inn at East Hill Farm

NH Sports Team
New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Resort/Hotel Spa
Omni Mount Washington Resort
Bretton Woods

Summer Outdoor Attraction Overall
Story Land

Summer Outdoor Attraction Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region
Mount Sunapee

Summer Outdoor Attraction Lakes Region
Gunstock Mountain Resort

Summer Outdoor Attraction Merrimack Valley
Canobie Lake Park

Summer Outdoor Attraction Monadnock Region
The Inn at East Hill Farm

Summer Outdoor Attraction Seacoast Region
Hampton Beach

Summer Outdoor Attraction White Mountains Region
Santa’s Village

Summer Outdoor Attraction Great North Woods Region
Bear Rock Adventures

Bed and Breakfast
The Christmas Farm Inn & Spa

Ski Resort
Gunstock Mountain Resort


Categories: Best of NH Winners