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The sweet aroma of fall in the White Mountains of New Hampshire: my kids call it the ‘New Hampshire smell.’ It is the standard to which every other leaf-peeping state gets measured in our household. The mountain air is crisp and clean. The scenery is amazing. The destination is only a 4 hour drive from our house, but while visiting New Hampshire we have met others who traveled across the globe to enjoy these same sites and smells! My husband and I have been traveling to the White Mountains during autumn nearly every year for the past 20 years, bringing our children along for the past 10. They look forward to this trip because it sets the tone for the remainder of their year.
Photo by: Flickr/vanguardist
The White Mountains cover about ¼ the state of New Hampshire and contain within its boundaries the fabled Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England at 6288ft. North Conway is the most developed town in the area with two Red Jacket Resorts in town. The Red Jacket Mountain View Resort and Red Red Jacket Fox Ridge Resort provide families a welcoming, child-friendly home while exploring the mountains. Don’t miss the exclusive deal! Trekaroo families get 20% Off at Red Jack Mountain View. See below.
The White Mountain area has its share of hiking, views, wildlife, kid-friendly attractions, and shopping. We always seem to find something new to discover.
Kid-Friendly Outdoor Fun
The North Conway area is the epicenter of the White Mountain area in New Hampshire.
Echo Lake State Park allows for a pretty drive and a magnificent view of the lake below after taking the auto road to Cathedral Ledge. In the summer, there is swimming at the lake and the nearby Diana’s Baths, a geological formation along the brook where waterfalls and deep water pools have been created on the mountainside. This beautiful hiking spot is an ideal place to view the foliage during the fall. Nearby, Wildcat Mountain offers a leisurely and scenic four person gondola ride up the mountain or exciting open air zip lining for older kids and adults (zip liners must be 52’ tall and weigh 75 pounds). Grab a lunch and head up the 4000ft Wildcat for spectacular foliage view hiking trails at the top. For an educational adventure up to New England’s highest peak take a stage tour with Americas oldest man made tourist attraction, the Mount Washington Autoroad. Since 1861 they have been providing this trip up the majestic mountain.
A bit farther from North Conway is Franconia Notch State Park. Here you can check out the Flume Gorge and the Basin. One October it was warm enough for my 3 kids to take off their shoes, roll up their pants, and wade into the chilly waters of the Basin. Not for me!!! Easy (and dry) hiking trails surround the Basin and the water eroded rock formation at the end is a great photo-op.
Cannon Mountain operates a gondola run from this area as well as other activities. The Gondolas, commonly referred to as ‘ketchup and mustard’ due to their red and yellow hues, hold about 80 people and drop you at the top of Cannon Mountain for even more spectacular foliage views. Hiking trails, an observation tower, and picnic tables make for an enjoyable stay. At the bottom, the Old Man Museum pays homage to the New Hampshire State symbol the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’ a rock face formation who crumbled from his precipice in 2003 and the New England Ski Museum where you can see how ski lift apparatus and equipment have changed over the years.
The Red Bench Hike is a favorite of our family. Located in Crawford Notch State Park this is a short, easy hike to a red bench. The kids get a thrill out of coming across this brightly painted red bench in the middle of the wilderness after crossing the train tracks. Crawford Notch also has AMC lodge accommodations and a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating in this beautiful spot. The Conway Scenic Railway line makes a stop here as well.
Photos by (clockwise from top left): Michelle Brennan, Flickr/kla4067, Flickr/dicktay2000, Flickr/kla4067
The most timid train enthusiasts should try the Hartmann Model Railroad and Toy Museum. All kinds of toy trains, including a Thomas model, are on display here and you can even hop on a small train that guides you around the premises. For a more adventurous ride, visit the Conway Scenic Railway. Several train tours depart daily, including a valley tour through the scenic Saco River valley or a longer and magnificent ride through the mountains to Crawford Notch. The most adventurous will enjoy the Mount Washington Cog Railway. This fantastic journey on a steam powered cog brings passengers up the back side of the impressive 6288 foot Mount Washington for breathtaking views of the foliage and valleys below. The stop at the top of Mount Washington is unforgettable and quite blustery as the mountain is known for its severe weather.
Amusement Park Fun
Photos by (clockwise from top left): Michelle Brennan (2), Flickr/kwbridge (2)
Once you have had enough of the outdoor pursuits try Storyland. This amusement park has been operating for the last 50 years and caters to families. It is clean, well-maintained, well-staffed, and most rides have been designed to allow kids as small as 36 inches to ride without being so tame that the bigger kids don’t get a thrill. Our favorite spot is Mother Goose’s play area which is presided over by Mother and her goose. Kids see the famous stories of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Pigs presented by live animals and dioramas. Another highlight is the Bamboo Chutes, a log flume that is surprisingly refreshing on a warm fall day.
Santa’s Village is about 1 hour away and is operated much like Storyland, but with distinctive holiday flair. With Christmas music, Christmas themes, and ginormous holiday decorations, you cannot leave without being put in the holiday spirit. Some highlights of the park include the child-friendly Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster and the Great Humbug Adventure. There are reindeer here and of course Santa is available for photo-ops.
Many thanks to Red Jacket Resorts for sponsoring this fall travel guide for families to North Conway.
Set upon a hill in North Conway, Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, has a perfect location for exploring the White Mountains. Families especially love their loft style rooms that are perfect for families. Kids can’t tear themselves away from the 40,000 square foot Kahuna Laguna indoor water park and enjoy the many kid programs offered all year round. It’s the kinda of place your kids may never want to leave!
Read Trekaroo’s full review of Red Jacket Resort Mountain View