JACKSON, N.H. - Coming from the south, the first taste you get of Mount Washington Valley is busy North Conway, dominated by the outlet stores, restaurants, hotels, motels, water slide parks, and miniature golf areas that crowd Route 16. Sometimes you’re in the mood for that; other times it just feels like sensory overload. When you’re looking for a truly peaceful family getaway, head 10 minutes farther north to low-key, pretty Jackson, where you’ll still find plenty of things to do minus the crowds and the kitsch.
Just crossing the Jackson Covered Bridge (built in 1876) spanning the Ellis River feels like a step back to a simpler time. Get a taste of an old-fashioned grand resort at Eagle Mountain House
(179 Carter Notch Road, 603-383-9111, www.eaglemt.com
, $69-$239), which was established in 1879. The rooms are comfortable, not grand, but you might find yourself with a hot toddy out on the verandah while the kids play in the game room or look for the ghost said to roam the third-floor hallway. At Whitney’s Inn
(357 Black Mountain Road, 603-383-8916, www.whitneysinn.com
, $109-$249) you’ll find newly refurbished rooms, suites, and cottages with Adirondack-style furnishings. If you’re in the mood for something rustic, drive 15 minutes north to Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
(Route 16, Gorham, www.outdoors.org/lodging
, 603-466-2721, $55-$96 per adult, $34-$52 per child 12 and under) at the base of Mount Washington. Run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, you’ll find bunkrooms, shared baths, and common rooms with fireplaces. Geared to hikers, lodging includes hearty breakfasts and dinners served buffet style.
One of the best places for breakfast in all of Mount Washington Valley is Yesterdays
(100 Main St., 603-383-4457, www.sarahsyesterdays.com
, $2-$10), an unpretentious little diner in the heart of Jackson Village. Blueberry pancakes and the homemade granola are hearty and delicious. The food is standard pub fare at Red Fox Bar & Grille
(Route 16, 603-383-4949, www.redfoxpub.com
, $8-$28) but it knows how to win families over: Besides burgers and wood-fired pizzas, it boasts a movie room for children and a playroom for restless toddlers. If you’re looking for something more upscale, reserve a table at the Thompson House Eatery
(193 Main St., 603-383-9341, www.thompsonhouseeatery.com
, $17-$31). Try the barbecue-spiced pork tenderloin or grilled lamb chops. The warm chocolate espresso pudding alone is worth the trip.
During the day
Grab a picnic lunch from J-Town Deli & Country Store
(174 Main St., 603-383-8064, www.j-towndeli.com
) and head to Jackson Falls on the Wildcat River (Carter Notch Road, near the village center). Take in the mountain view and explore the cascade’s numerous nooks and crannies. Then it’s time to shop. Find penny candy, souvenirs, jewelry, and cutesy country decor at Flossie’s General Store and Gift Emporium
(21 Main St., 603-383-6565, www.flossiesgeneralstore.com
). For local artwork and high-end crafts, walk over to the funky Ravenwood Curio Shoppe
(60 Main St., 603-383-8026). Follow a mosaic-lined path out back to a garden overflowing with ironwork trellises, fountains, and statues of gargoyles, mermaids, and Buddhas. Get your blood pumping with a hike up the Black Mountain Ski Trail
(off Carter Notch Road). It’ll take about 45 minutes (1.4 miles) up a moderate grade to reach Black Mountain Cabin, which was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. On a clear day, the view of Mount Washington from the cabin is worth the effort.
Things get hopping on weekends at the Shannon Door
(Route 16, 603-383-4211, www.shannondoor.com
), a comfortably dingy pub with an easygoing atmosphere, decent bar food, a kids’ menu, and Guinness on tap. Thursday to Sunday there’s family-friendly acoustic Irish music to get your feet tapping. The scene is a little louder at Wildcat Tavern
(94 Main St., 603-383-4245, www.thewildcatinn.com
). Tuesday is Hoot Nite, where local musicians show off their talent in front of an open mike. Shovel Handle Pub
next to Whitney’s Inn (357 Black Mountain Road, 603-383-8916, www.whitneysinn.com
) is nestled inside a warmly lighted three-story post-and-beam barn and has live music on most weekends. The pub is sometimes rented for wedding rehearsal dinners and receptions; call ahead to make sure it’s open.
Christine Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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