In the spirit of Valentine's Day, Travel and Leisure has calculated America's most romantic towns, and two New England spots made the top 10.
The list was decided upon a number of factors, including brunch spots, farmer's markets, wine scenes, picnic-friendly parks, and gay friendliness. Burlington, Vt. came in at No. 6, while Portsmouth, N.H. was No. 9.
Here's what the publication had to say about each:
Burlington - Rudyard Kipling supposedly once said that Lake Champlain -- the centerpiece of America's best college town -- was the sweetest place in the world to watch a sunset. Readers, meanwhile, loved Burlington for other romantically oriented times of day, such as cocktail hour (it ranked in the top 10 for cool bars), brunch, and the all-important dessert. One sip of Lake Champlain Chocolates' decadent hot cocoas is all it takes to see why the town also scored highly for caf￩s and ranks among the top 10 for winter wonderland holiday-season visits.
Portsmouth - Even if winters get chilly here, readers didn't care, giving it high marks for snuggle-ready weather. A great indoor date spot: The Music Hall, a refurbished 1878 theater that presents classic movies and live, unplugged music. Good wine was a major indicator of romance in the readers' survey, but this historic waterfront town woos lovers who love craft beer. The town was once the biggest beer producer in America and is now home to charming breweries such as Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose.
It's the Granite State, not the Grape State, but New Hampshire, from Jan. 27-Feb. 2, the 9th Annual New Hampshire Wine Week gets underway, sponsored by the state's liquor commission, with intimate wine dinners, exclusive panel discussions and tastings, and the largest wine even in northern New England, dubbed the “Winter Wine Spectacular.” The N.H. Liquor Commission created wine week in 2005 after two years of the “Spectacular,” the largest wine event north of Boston. The event gives customers the chance to sample some of the 7,000 wines available at the state's 77 liquor and wine outlets, and meet with nationally and internationally acclaimed winemakers at dozens of events throughout the state.
“With more than $272 million in wine sales last fiscal year, which marks a 7.3-percent increase from the last year, New Hampshire is a significant player in the wine world,” said Joseph W. Mollica, commission chairman, in a press release. “The wine world has taken notice: New Hampshire is wine country.”
The week's events include celebrity bottle signings at select outlet locations, celebrity wine dinners and three signature events. It ends with the 11th Easter Seals Winter Wine Spectacular at the Radisson Hotel Manchester Jan. 30, with nearly 1,800 wines, food, silent auction and raffle, and raises money for Easter Seals New Hampshire. Tickets for the grand tasting are $65 each, and tickets for access to that and Bellman's Cellar Select are $125.
For a full list of participants and more information, visit www.nhwineweek.com
By Paul E. Kandarian, Globe Correspondent
Summer seems a long way off, but if you plan ahead, and like your travel on the adventurous side,ELC Rafting of Berlin, N.H., is combining a floatplane ride with a whitewater rafting trip this summer, which has just been named a certified “Grand Adventure” by New Hampshire Grand, the official visitor information source for the Great North Woods and northern White Mountains. ELC’s “Get Your Feet Off the Ground” Rapid River package leaves from Lake Umbagog in Errol, where patrons hitch a ride on a floatplane to Lakewood Camps on the shores of Lower Richardson Lake in Maine. There, they will leave on a rafting journey that includes Rapid River rapids designated from class two to four as they make their way back to Lake Umbagog. The trips start July 19. For information, visit www.nhrafting.com
New Hampshire Grand also recently named several “Best Of” businesses, including Moose Muck Coffee House in Colebrook; Orvis Outfitters at the Cabins at Lopstick in
Pittsburg; and Porky Gulch Bike Shop and Gateway Gallery and Gifts, both in
For information on all Grand Adventure offerings in the Granite State, visit www.nhgrand.com
Looking for something new for New Year's Eve? Here are some ideas a bit outside the usual box.
The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H., welcomes families from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for “Noon Year's Eve.” On the docket are a magic show, child-friendly food, live music, a scavenger hunt, and ice-carving demos. The grand finale features bubble wrap “fireworks” on the Winter Garden Café floor and a drop of hundreds of balloons (above). Discounted advance purchase tickets are available at www.currier.org. For complete details, see www.currier.org/calendar/noon-years-eve-2013/.
If the approaching New Year puts you in a Cape Cod frame of mind (personally, we can't wait to get back to the beach), join a National Park Service ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore to explore the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, a rare and enchanting sphagnum moss-accentuated swamp (right). Meet at the trailhead in the Marconi Station Site parking area in Wellfleet for a 2 p.m. departure. Call the Salt Pond Visitor Center if inclement weather is threatening at 508-255-3421 to find out about potential cancellations or alternate programs.
Farther north, Maine Huts & Trails (www.mainehuts.org) will be serving champagne to overnight guests on New Year's Eve at all its huts. It gets even better at Flagstaff Hut and Stratton Brook Hut, which both feature a four-course meal of organic, locally sourced ingredients, along with wine and beer for sale, starting at 6 p.m. Stratton Brook has great views of the Bigelows and Sugarloaf — including the 9 p.m. Sugarloaf fireworks. Flagstaff overlooks the Bigelows and Flagstaff Lake. For information or booking call 207-265-2400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Balloon photo courtesy of Currier Museum of Art, winter trail courtesy of Cape Cod National Seashore.
The Wildcat Inn and Tavern’s “$50 and free” promotion is back for a third straight year, and it has to be one of the best dine-and-stay packages we’ve seen in all of New England.
Here’s the deal: Spend $50 or more in the tavern or dining room at the Jackson, N.H. inn, and you’ll receive a free room for two for the night. Other than calling in advance - at least 24 hours - and making your reservation, it really is that easy, and it’s also available on weekends.
Even better, should you only spend $30-40 on food and drinks, your room for the evening will be only $10-20 depending on how far you get to $50. The deal is good through Dec. 15, and reservations can be made for more than one night.
For more information, visit wildcattavern.com/50andfree.html, and to book, call 603-356-8700 or 603-383-4245.
The Wild Rover Pub in Manchester, N.H., said to be that city's original Irish pub, has a new menu and general manager. Tom Puskarich, a 20-year veteran of the trade, and most recently the chef/owner of Z Food & Drink in the city, has updated the pub's menu and expanded the bourbon, whiskey and beer offerings. The new menu and hours is the first phase of an overall redo of the space. The chef has added things like Asian nachos, macadamia-nut chicken fries and gouda-stuffed tater tots, while adhering to the Irish flavor of the pub with chicken and sausage pot pie with Irish black pudding.
The pub was voted "Best Irish Pub in New England" in 2010 by a New England Cable News viewers' poll and one of New England's "10 Best Irish Pubs" by the Boston Globe and boston.com in 2009. Check it out at www.wildroverpub.com
Packing the kids up for a long foliage ride can be fun – and/or daunting. Families visiting New Hampshire this fall have some options to keep the kids from getting bored, which can be found through www.visitnh.gov
Toddlerfest runs Sept. 14-29 at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, with special programming, including music and movement, science, art and storytelling. All programs are free, with museum admission. For info, check out www.childrens-museum.org
At Mt. Kearsage Indian Museum in Warner, a Harvest Moon Festival runs Sept. 21, with arts, crafts, games for kids, food, demonstrations on Native American ways of life and more. Family passes are $26 and general admission is $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for kids six to 12. Check it out at www.indianmuseum.org
Up at Waterville Valley Resort from Oct. 12-14 they’re holding a fall foliage festival, with kids games, pumpkin painting, and a pie-eating contest, as well as tent sales, ski swap, road race, free concerts and a brew fest. Special room rates start at $157 a night. For more info, visit www.visitwatervillevalley.com
If you’re a fan of fat pumpkins, and really, who isn’t, check out the “Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Regatta Oct. 19-20 on Main Street in Goffstown, where all-things pumpkin include painting, tossing, golfing, bowling and the pumpkin drop. Check it out at www.goffstownmainstreet.org
A “River Fire and Horror Fest” runs Oct. 19 in Berlin, a day that includes a duck race, costume parade, hayrides and bounce houses on the town’s river walk, following by a lighted pumpkin display on the town’s walking bridge after dusk. See www.northernforestheritage.org/river_fire.htm for details.Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth has its “Ghosts on the Banke” Oct. 25-26, a Halloween celebration of tales about long-dead sea captains, 17th-century shopkeepers and pirates haunting the city streets. Outdoor movie viewing of a spooky film will be shown as well. Check out www.strawberybanke.org The annual Octoberfest runs Nov. 3 at Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker Nov. 3, with pumpkin painting, spin art, sing-a-longs, balloon-animal making and more family stuff on a day that also includes a German food fest, Harpoon German Beer Garden, cowboy mounted shooting demonstration and a ski and snowboard sale. For all events, visit www.patspeak.com
The new itinerary “provides a multitude of ideas on how to enjoy a day outdoors” in the area, said Pam Sullivan, marketing coordinatorfor New Hampshire Grand, the official visitor info source for northern New Hampshire. Check it all out at www.nhgrand.com
By Matt Juul/Boston.com Correspondent
The Mount Washington Observatory will offer guided tours Sept. 13 and 20 exploring the northeast’s tallest peak after traveling America’s steepest railroad tracks on the historic Cog Railway.
The tour will also include a behind-the-scenes look at the observatory’s famed mountaintop weather station, informal educational sessions, as well as plenty of photo opportunities.FULL ENTRY
Judging by the traffic heading to North Conway last weekend, plenty of locals know where New Hampshire is located.
Someone may want to tell NBC.
In zooming in on a map showing the location of the train explosion in Canada Monday night on the Nightly News with Brian Williams, the Granite State wasn't to be found, taken over by Vermont and Maine. Live free or...well, disappear.
Williams and NBC apologized for the gaffe in the above video.
Nothing against Hampton Beach, N.H., a fine beach by many standards and one that the Granite State has spent millions on in refurbishments. But the best beach in New England?
That may be a stretch, even for a state that boasts only 18 miles of coastline, but that's how 1.5 million Weather Channel Facebook users voted in selecting the top beach for the region. The top vote-getter for the Northeast region was Ocean City, Md.
This is the first time in the four years of producing this content that a New Hampshire beach made the list of favorite beaches. New Hampshire has a small, but lively, beach scene. Hampton Beach is the most popular beach destination in the state.
Sure, but up against heavy-hitters like Horseneck, Crane, and Newport beaches, is it really the best in New England? What do you think?
Laconia Harley-Davidson and New Hampshire Motor Speedway are going for two goals on June 15: Raise more than $76,036 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of New Hampshire, and set a new Guinness world record. They’re inviting the public to play a key role in both.Laconia Motorcycle Week attendees can help by buying tickets for a community appreciation parade at the speedway June 15. Participants will have the unique opportunity to ride around the track on their bikes, continue on a police-escorted, scenic 32-mile ride around the Lakes Region and set a new Guinness record for “most money raised for a charity in 24 hours by a motorcycle parade,” the current record for which is $76,036. There is no better way to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Laconia Motorcycle Week than attempting a philanthropic act of historic proportion,” said Anne Deli, owner of Laconia Harley-Davidson. “Motorcycle riders from across the globe and those here in New Hampshire can take part in a once-in-a-lifetime riding opportunity, but more importantly, make a difference by supporting this remarkable organization.” Riders can pre-register online at www.newhampshire.speedwaycharities.org, in-person at the Laconia Harley-Davidson dealership at 239 Daniel Webster Highway in Meredith, or sign up the day of the event on June 15th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Home cooks take note: The 5th Annual Inn to Inn Spring Herb Tour runs June 8-9, when 11 White Mountain inns in New Hampshire present an in-depth look at a popular culinary herb. Tour-takers will take home herb trivia, historical facts and ideas for growing your own, getting seedlings from each inn. In the past, people have grazed from inn to inn sampling tomato basil soup, carrot chervil dip, sage biscuits, tarragon egg salad and rosemary chocolate cookies. This year’s offerings feature a new menu of herb-inspired tastings, organizers said.Six northern inns (Jackson to North Conway) take part June 8 and five southern ones (Conway to Chocura) on June 9. Northern inns, and the herbs they’ll highlight are: Inn at Ellis River, mint; Glen Oaks Inn, lemongrass; 1785 Inn, parsley; Eastman Inn, thyme; Old Red Inn & Cottages, anise; and Admiral Peary House, sage. Southern inns are: Darby Field Inn, basil; Snowvillage, lavender; Inn at Crystal Lake, rosemary; Riverbend Inn, chives; and Brass Heart Inn, oregano. The spring herb tour is held primarily for those booking a two-night package at one of the inns, but those not staying can get tickets from May 11-25 for $25 per person by calling 603-356-9025. Lodging packages start at $178 per couple, which includes two nights, herb-themed breakfasts each morning and two tour tickets. Prices vary from inn to inn and depend on room choice; some packages include special five-course, herb-themed dinners. One-night packages start at $99 per couple for the room, breakfast for two and a pair of tour tickets. For information on all, visit www.CountryInnsintheWhiteMountains.com or call 603-356-9025.
If you’re the charitable sort and like motorcycles, this may pique your interest: Laconia Harley-Davidson commemorates the 90th anniversary of Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire by trying to raise $30,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, donating a one-of-a-kind, customized 2013 Harley-Davidson Street Glide motorcycle, to be raffled off. Tickets are $10 each, with 3,000 available at www.laconiaharley.com. Over the past four years, Laconia Harley-Davidson has raised $125,000 for N.H. nonprofits.The bike will have customized artwork by pinstripe artist, and resident of Candia, N.H., Russ Mowry, a guy well known in the bike biz, earning a lifetime achievement award by Willie G. Davidson, son of former Harley-Davidson president William H. Davidson. Mowry said he will use a 1,000-year-old technique of hand-spun gold leaf for the “Laconia Motorcycle Week 90 Years Strong” design on the front of the Street Glide. The iconic Boys & Girls Club logo will be hand-painted on one side saddle and the Laconia Harley-Davidson logo will adorn the other. Second- and third-place winners will receive a $500 and $100 gift card respectively, good at Laconia Harley-Davidson or White Mountain Harley-Davidson. Tickets will also be sold throughout Laconia Motorcycle Week from June 8-16.
More than 100 maple sugar producers are opening their doors this weekend throughout the New England, as both Vermont and New Hampshire host open houses, giving visitors the chance to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the process of making maple syrup.
Open houses will be held in both states March 23-24, featuring free samples of the goods, and in some cases, horse-drawn rides, snowshoeing, and pancake breakfasts. Here’s a complete list of participants and activities in Vermont, as well as a list of who’s who in New Hampshire.
If you can’t make it this weekend and are still interested in the process, here’s what you need to know.
While Boston is in the midst of its own restaurant week, this week and next, they’re gearing up in Portsmouth, N.H., for the Portsmouth & The Seacoast Spring Restaurant Week, taking place April 4-13 with more than 45 area restaurants participating on the seacoast of New Hampshire, including many featuring gluten-free and vegetarian menus.
Visitors can choose from one of two options: A three-course prix-fixe lunch for only $16.95, or a three-course dinner for $29.95. Some of the participating restaurants include Black Trumpet Bistro, The Common Man, Grill 28, and The Portsmouth Brewery.
Visit www.portsmouthchamber.org/restaurantweek.cfm for menus, as well as lodging specials should you choose to make a weekend out of it.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire’s largest ski area and four-season recreational facility, was named a Certified Grand Adventure, joining 15 other Grand Adventures of northern N.H., based on guidelines of New Hampshire Grand, the official visitor information source for the state’s northern environs. The destination is known mainly for its skiing, and was named among the top five in the east by SKI Magazine in 2012. The resort has also added a snowmobile park for kids ages four to 13. For more information on the resort, and all Grand Adventure options, check out www.nhgrand.com
By Necee Regis, Globe Correspondent
Celebrate love all winter long with the Valentine Special package at the Farm by the River B & B and Stables (through March 20). Stay in an 18th-century farmhouse on 40 acres with panoramic views of the White Mountains. The two-night package includes a 45-minute private Victorian horse-drawn sleigh ride, box of chocolates, bottle of champagne or sparkling cider, fireside breakfast, afternoon refreshments, and complimentary snowshoeing. Located in the heart of the Mount Washington Valley, two miles from downtown North Conway. From $375. Weekends in February, holidays, and holiday weeks add $20. 888-414-8353, farmbytheriver.com
The Rocks Estate, best known for its Christmas tree farm, and spring maple tours, has been added to New Hampshire Grand as a certified grand adventure. The 1,400-acre estate in Bethlehem is also the North Country Conservation & Education Center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The property is open to visitors year round for structured and self-guided tours and programs. Originally the summer home of the affluent Glessner family, The Rocks Estate includes several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A maintained trails system is for visitors year-round, leading them on short, easy strolls or longer hikes, past scenic views of the Presidential Range and preserved wildlife habitat.
During the winter, The Rocks offers dog sled rides in partnership with Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, another certified New Hampshire Grand adventure. Coming up this spring is its popular maple experience, taking guests on tours to learn the history of maple sugaring, helping to tap a tree, take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the property and then get a taste of syrup made onsite. During summer and fall, visitors can check out the New Hampshire Maple Experience museum, which contains exhibits of maple-sugaring tools and artifacts from the collection of Charlie Stewart, who sugared for decades in nearby Sugar Hill.
For information on the Rocks, visit www.therocks.org. For information on the nonprofit New Hampshire Grand, official visitor information source for the Great North Woods and the Northern White Mountains, visit www.nhgrand.org
By Kari Bodnarchuk, Globe Correspondent
Explore Waterville Valley by moonlight or headlamp during twilight dogsled rides through March. Valley Snow Dogz runs excursions Friday and Saturday nights, led by owner and -year mushing veteran Lidia Dale-Mesaros. Choose the 20-minute Valley Taster, when you will get to experience mushing on an open golf course near Town Square, or the new 40-minute Mountain Taster, which heads for a campground and then finishes after a good downhill stretch. On both trips, you get to meet the guides, ask questions, and get your photo taken with the dogs. Rates: $35 Valley Taster, $65 Mountain Taster. Participants must be 7 and older. 603-236-8175, www.valleysnowdogz.com
Check out the latest outdoor gear and put it to the test for free at the Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, at the base of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. The lodge, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, just opened an outdoor gear demo center for lodge guests, enabling them to try out Lowa boots, Leki hiking poles, Osprey backpacks, and Hillsound traction devices, which fit over boots and help keep you upright on slick trails. Equipment is available in all adult sizes, and in children’s sizes for boots and poles. Find something you like and you can get a discount to purchase the same or similar items at the AMC’s Pinkham Notch visitors center. Demo gear is available on a first-come, first-served basis. 603-466-2727, www.outdoors.org/pinkham
Forty-nine restaurants are participating in this year’s Restaurant Week in Portsmouth, NH, offering special menus and deals. Three-course lunches will be $16.95, and three-course dinners will be $29.95. Some of the restaurants participating into The Common Man, The Green Monkey, The Portsmouth Brewery, and Wentworth by the Sea.
Want to make a weekend of it and eat your way through Portsmouth? Some area hotels are offering discount packages for the event. Check here for rates and availability.
Portsmouth’s Restaurant Week runs through Nov. 17.
Hit the trails and pop a wheelie at the Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, N.H., where a ski lift takes you and your bike from the base lodge to the mountaintop. Trails for intermediate, advanced, and expert riders keep adventure levels high for a variety of skill levels. Ride over natural and manmade paths dotted with ramps and drops sure to send you skyward. A new 9,100-square-foot indoor training center includes a massive foam pit with a trick lip and drop, resi ramp and resi drop, and other features where you can practice before heading out to tackle the mountain ($14). Open Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 17, day pass $38, ages 10 and under $15.75 Ski Hill Drive, 603-286-7677, www.highlandmountain.com. - NECEE REGIS