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A tank away

Family fun in the shadow of Mount Washington

Kids will surely enjoy staying at Adventure Suites in North Conway, complete with an indoor treehouse. Kids will surely enjoy staying at Adventure Suites in North Conway, complete with an indoor treehouse. (Adventure Suites)
By Eric Wilbur
Globe Staff / August 12, 2009

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NORTH CONWAY, N.H. - I’m sitting in a pub, the very same one I’ve frequented over my 2 1/2 decades of skiing the mountains of the Mount Washington Valley area.

But instead of bellied up at the bar, sharing tales of the day’s alpine adventure, I am in the family dining section on a humid New Hampshire summer day. My year-and-a-half-old son is seated across the table from me, alternating crayons between his mouth and the floor.

The beer is still cold, but that’s about all that remains the same in coming to this familiar haunt. Once the spot for late-night gatherings, the afternoon clock on this Saturday has yet to strike 5, when my wife and I find ourselves amidst tabletops of chicken fingers and sippy cups. We have come straight from the Conway Scenic Railroad station, where Thomas the Tank Engine, star of the PBS children’s show, made a very popular appearance, and the clientele is decidedly less rowdy than your typical après ski crowd.

Yet it is perhaps this present moment that best defines the North Conway area. For decades this region has been a popular destination for families looking to get away, not only with a number of attractions geared toward kids, but a relatively short drive (125 miles from Boston) that should limit the number of times you hear “Are we there yet?’’ from the back seat.

Stay
It’s like sleeping in a theme park at the Adventure Suites (3440 Main St., www.adventuresuites.com, 603-356-9744. Family suites start at $259 midweek, $329 on weekends, and can accommodate two adults and six children. Economy suites begin at $109 midweek, $139 weekend), featuring 16 different themes. Among them are a cave-like dwelling, a treehouse, and a movie room. Even better, while the kids are busy with the available PlayStation 3 and DVDs, Mom and Dad can relax in the room’s hot tub. While the atmosphere may not be as dramatic at the Storybook Inn (at the junction of Routes 16 and 302, Glen, www.storybookresort.com, 603-383-6800. Rooms from $89-$278), families have flocked here for years because of its comfortable surroundings and child-friendly atmosphere, which includes a playground. Being next door to Story Land doesn’t hurt either.

Dine
My son was fixated watching the pizza makers at the Flatbread Company (2760 White Mountain Highway, www.flatbreadcompany.com, 603-356-4470, pizzas $8.75-$18) work their craft, baking the organic pies in the centrally located clay oven. We were all just as impressed with the maple sausage pizza. But for him, it didn’t get any better than the french fries at Delaney’s Hole in the Wall (2966 White Mountain Highway, 603-356-7776, www.delaneys.com, $8.50-$20.99), which disappeared from his kid’s cheeseburger plate faster than I could manage to get through a few of the Buffalo wings on my own. A full sushi menu is also available.

During the day
The weather is a big deal here, thanks to the presence of Mount Washington, home to some of the fiercest winds in the Northeast. The new Weather Discovery Center (2779 Main St., 603-356-2137, www.mountwashington.org/education/center; free) aims to educate visitors about the atmosphere through interactive exhibits. It’s no secret that the kids are surely going to want to go to Story Land (850 NH Route 16, Glen, 603-383-4186, www.storylandnh.com, $25 adults, children under 3 free), the fairy-tale amusement park. What might be not as well known, however, is families that purchase tickets after 3 p.m. get to enjoy the park for the final three open hours then return the next day for no additional charge. But before you go, why not take the family on a hike in the nature that often goes overlooked in the bevy of shopping outlets and other attractions in the White Mountains? Diana’s Bath (www.nhstateparks.com/waterfalls.html) is an easy half-mile walk to some of most pleasant waterfalls in the area.

After dark
Those families looking for nighttime activities will find them at Banana Village (2129 White Mountain Highway, 603-356-2899, www.bananavillage.com), featuring a miniature golf course and water slide. It is open until 10 p.m. during the summer.