Guide to Extreme Summer Fun in New Hampshire
Because when you want to make the most of your precious days nothing succeeds like excess
There’s extreme boxing, extreme sports and extreme workouts, even extreme couponing, so why not extreme summer fun? Heaven knows, we deserve it after an endless winter and lackluster spring. So let’s go for it. Amp it up. With a little advance planning it isn’t difficult to give the summer a little oomph. Here are some suggestions:
Many of us have chased a golf ball around a golf course, but how many of us have chased a flying disc (a Frisbee-like object) down a mountain? Take a fling at the 18-hole disc golf course at Mount Sunapee in Newbury.
The game begins with the Clipper Ship Quad chairlift to the south peak. The course then follows a zigzag downhill path that shadows the Pinnacle Trail to the base of the mountain.
“The game is more demanding than you might think,” says Mark Crawford, base operations manager and one of the creators of the course at the resort. “It involves much more than just throwing a disc. Much like golf, there are different discs for different situations. There are putters and drivers, some that fade to the right and the left, and discs of different weights.”
You Are Where You Eat
The local-sourcing movement means that your food comes from someplace you could take a drive and visit, but you can’t get any closer to your food than at the on-site farm meals happening throughout the state. A good place to check it out is Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, which will be holding short-notice “pop up” dinners.
Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills
You can hope to be invited to breakfast at Tiffany’s or take matters into your own hands. Grab a donut, pick and hammer and visit Ruggles Mine in Grafton and seek out amethyst and garnets in the rough where prospectors first started working in 1803. Every year blasting is done to open up new areas for prospecting. While there, visit the museum and souvenir stand.
Anybody can wade into a river, but how about making it pay? Why not try panning for gold in the Wild Ammonoosuc River? Granted, you’re more apt to get sunburned than get rich, but the thrill is in the hunt and it’s a great way to cool off.
A minor New Hampshire gold rush began when the precious metal was discovered in Lyman in 1864. Several small mines soon opened in the Bath area. Prospectors began operating sluice boxes in the Wild Ammonoosuc, and they have been at it ever since with the payoff rising and falling with the price of gold. You may not find enough of the precious metal to build a mansion, but many have found enough to fashion a glass pendant filled with glittering gleanings to wear around the neck.
The Wild Ammonoosuc begins in Kinsman Notch and corkscrews 15 miles through Woodstock, Eaton and Landaff to Bath, where it dumps into the Ammonoosuc. Rte. 112 follows the river and there are a number of pools along the way with turnarounds where you can park your car or have a picnic. On a sunny weekend, amateur prospectors with plastic pans and semi-professionals with gas-powered sluices may be found at every bend in the river. Twin River Campground at the confluence of the rivers in Bath is headquarters for amateur prospectors, where you can buy pans, sluices and other equipment.
Paddleboard Yoga by Moonlight
Paddleboarding is becoming well known as a source of stress-reducing fitness and fun.
Full Moon Paddleboard on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro not only offers lessons in this hot new pastime but, if you’re good enough, you can paddleboard by moonlight. It won’t be hard to chill out. Yoga instructor Michelle Clarke leads the group.
Want to learn more? Read more about Full Moon Paddleboard here and then check out this Outsider that includes paddleboard yoga basics, gear suggestions, expert advice and helpful links.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
No one is saying a chairlift ride the top of Gunstock Mountain isn’t a hoot, but why stop there? When you come down, take a Segway ride, bungee jump, and take a zipline tour, all at the Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford.
Many of New Hampshire's ski resorts switch over to summer fun mode when the snow melts. Check out the various adventure parks (many including ziplines and impressive aerial tours via trams and gondolas) at mountains around the state including Mount Washington Bretton Woods, Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain, Attitash Mountain Resort and Wildcat Mountain. In addition, check out the thrills offered at Alpine Adventures in Lincoln and Monkey Trunks Extreme Aerial Adventure in Laconia and Chocoura. Click here for more information.
Take a Doggone Day Trip
You don’t have to get out the snuggies to take a sled dog ride.
Muddy Paws Kennel conducts roller sled dog rides in the summer. “It’s a paws-on experience you’ll never forget,’’ says Karen Tolin, musher and owner of the kennel for retired sled dogs in Jefferson.
Not just beasts of burden, the doggies are house-trained couch potatoes who are as friendly as they are strong. Daytrip mushers may help hitch the animals before they transport you on a one-to-three-mile ride with spectacular views of the Presidential Range. Consult dogslednh.com for details.
Anyone can go to a quaint bed and breakfast, but why not go full farmer and glean your own eggs at the Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, where you can milk a cow or goat, collect chicken eggs for breakfast, even bale hay and make cheese.
The inn in the shadow of Mount Monadnock has been receiving guests since the mid-1800s, when farmers from Massachusetts drove their cattle there to take advantage of the summer pasture.
A barn was constructed in the early 1900s and cottages were added after World War II when the 150-acre working farm began offering a hands-on agrarian experience for visitors.
You can also learn how to square and contra dance, or just go for a swim Tom Sawyer-style.
Get High on Huts
You can take a day hike up Mt. Adams to see the world at your feet. Good enough. But why rush the White Mountain high? Chill out and spend a night or two at an AMC hut, where you can eat family-style with fellow hikers and share your experiences. For 125 years the Appalachian Mountain Club has operated the tree-line huts that allow hikers to lug only sleep sacks and enjoy the view without wearing themselves out. If you’re particularly adventurous, you can hike door-to-door and visit the string of nine huts in the Presidentials.
May we suggest a 3.8 mile-hike to the Madison Spring Hut on Mt. Adams, which overlooks the Madison gulf and the Kilkenny and Pilot ranges? On a clear night you can see so many stars it feels like you could trek the Milky Way.
Want to plan an AMC hut adventure? Check out our guide here for information on all of the huts, plus learn more about the huts' long (126 years that is) history here in NH.
So you can’t afford a yacht? We got you covered. You can charter a sailboat like the 32-foot Persistence in Rye, and spend a luxe day on the water with Captain Rick Philbrick sailing around the Isles of Shoals, plunging off the deck for a swim, or you can really go big and charter the boat for an overnight. Hey, anyone can be a millionaire for a day. Want something a little more Hemingway-esque? Charter a deep-sea fishing boat at the Eastman Docks in Seabrook. Modern sailing is not your thing? Go out for a ride or charter the gundalow, Piscataqua, a replica and a sail-powered 19th-century workboat.
Nostalgia your thing? The Winnipesaukee Belle, a replica of fin-de-siècle paddleboat, is also available for charter for 120.
Escape to Your Special Island
It’s always fun to take a day trip to the Isles of Shoals, but why not live there for a week or a weekend. Stay in the grand old Oceanic Hotel on Star Island (starisland.org), where Nathaniel Hawthorne and other 19th-century luminaries once basked in the summer sun. The trip begins with a six-mile boat trip from Portsmouth. On the island you can just take in the panoramic ocean view from a rocking chair on the long, wooden porch or take it up a notch by indulging in one or several one-week island experiences, including a paranormal conference, photography workshop or writers’ week.
We all love a good swim, but who hasn’t had a Beach Blanket Bingo dream of their own? Hang five or 10 at the Summer Session Surf Lessons in Rye.
Ry and Ty McGill have owned and operated the Summer Sessions Surf shop in Rye since 2002. The duo offers private and group lessons at the shop overlooking Rye Beach. Consult newhampshiresurf.com for info.
Learn more about surfing, find helpful links, expert advice from Ty McGill, basic gear suggestions and more with Outsider.
Have a Roaring 2015 Party
Speaking of parties, go all-Gatsby this summer. Forget the clambake. Fête your friends at a private garden party at Castle in the Clouds, the former mountaintop estate of a shoe magnate that is now one of the state’s premier tourist attractions that just turned 101 this year. Have a cocktail party in the garden that overlooks the Lakes Region like an eagle’s aerie, or invite 200 of your best friends to a dinner in the Winnipesaukee Room and take advantage of the dance floor.
Too highbrow? Break out your best blues guitar and git to KC’s Rib Shack in Manchester and hire their trailer to provide authentic barbecue on the premises. The KC team will arrive with grills, ribs and all the fixin’s and you’ll soon be partying like a pro.
The Dude Ranch Abides
Any Roy Rogers or Dale Evans can mount a horse and ride a trail for an hour or two, but if you really want to cowboy up, take an overnight trail ride at Black Mountain Stables in Jackson. Your personal posse departs around 6 p.m. for a 45-minute trail ride to mountainside log cabin Cowpokes are free to hike farther up the mountain if they so desire, as the Black Mountain crew prepares a barbecue dinner followed by a s’more feast around the campfire. The next morning breakfast is served before the downhill run. City slickers relax; the cabins have electricity and running water. Check out blackmt.com for details.
And you can’t say “extreme” in the Granite State without invoking the Northeast’s highest summit and the home of the “world’s worst weather,” Mt. Washington.
Its celebrated summit museum (the most visited museum in the state, believe it or not), “Extreme Mount Washington,” features hands-on, high-tech exhibits that “deliver the brutal wonder of a winter on the mountain.” And if that doesn’t sound extremely fun, you must be from somewhere else.
Become a Dream Weaver
We’re all for going to the Annual League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair — August 1-9 this year in Newbury — but why not add total immersion in the handcrafted arts at Harrisville Designs, which offers classes in weaving on its awesome, hand-crafted looms.
You won’t be able to spin straw into gold like a latter-day Rumpelstiltskin, but you can make a memory that will last forever. Located in the former mill building in one of the state’s most picturesque villages, Harrisville Designs offers five-day courses in spinning and weaving. See harrisville.com for details.
Fly Like an Eagle
If you’re a latter-day Icarus, go for a wing-powered flight, sans the descending ending, on a hang-gliding and para-gliding trip at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown. You can even take a tandem flight with a licensed instructor.
Big Bang Theories
Why should pyrotechnics end on the Fourth of July? If you’re a fan of things that go bump, pow and swoosh in the night, the Atlas PyroVision fireworks show is back. The annual pyrotechnics show, the largest in the area, was canceled for two years because of a bomb threat. This year it returns at a new location at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey on Aug. 15.
Go Barnstorming in a Flying Machine
You can take a scenic airplane ride over Lake Winnipesaukee, but how about a ride in an open-cockpit biplane with the wind in your face? Watch out for Waldo Pepper as you streak through the sky over the state’s largest lake. Pilot Phil DiVirgilio says the barnstorming vibe can be quite romantic: “There have been four or five marriage proposals during my sunset flights and I’m betting 100 percent, all of them were accepted.”
The plane accommodates two passengers, and you don’t have to trust a rickety antique aircraft, the Waco biplane was built in 1991 to 1930s specifications.
DiViglio remembers the day two women wearing flight jackets and leather helmets went for a ride. “After the flight they explained that they were both Blackhawk pilots that served in Iraq. They had me take a photo of them in front of the plane holding a pair of boots. It was their salute to a fallen comrade.”
The biplanes depart from Laconia Regional Airport in Gilford.
Rise to the adventures of summer on a hot air balloon ride. High 5 Ballooning in Derry is at your disposal. Flights are scheduled seven days a week at sunset and sunrise when the winds are most calm.
The balloons are 70 to 90 feet tall, including one that is bright yellow with a smiley face that hovers above the landscape like a gigantic, happy ghost.
Your balloon will float through the sky with the greatest of ease but will be followed by a chase car and accompanied by the reassuring roar of the twin gas burners that provide the lift. Morning flights end with the pop of a champagne cork, a mimosa and a picnic. You will not only leave with a lofty memory, but a first-flight certificate suitable for framing.