NORTH CONWAY, N.H. — Sure, it’s gorgeous here in fall, fun-filled in summer, and a magnet for skiers and boarders when winter arrives. But now, in true shoulder season, North Conway is also an enjoyable, kid-pleasing destination. Economical, too: lodging prices can be up to 50 percent of the high-season rates. Here are five top family-friendly things to do in this mountain town before the snow flies.
GET WEATHER WISE
Want to know what it’s like to be on top of Mount Washington in the winter? Step inside the re-created summit hut at the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center (2779 White Mountain Highway, 603-356-2137, www.mountwashington.org/education/center, donations accepted), and the wind will begin to whip and howl and the building shudder and shake. It’s not quite as extreme as the real thing, but the kids love it. Then, take a seat in the small auditorium for a teleconference with meteorologists and researchers at the summit; the live videocasts are held twice a day and children are encouraged to ask questions.
Don’t put those bathing suits away yet. The Kahuna Laguna indoor water park (at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, Route 16, 603-356-5411, www.redjacketresorts.com/mountain-view-resort.php; $40, spectators $10, under 3 free) is 40,000 square feet of wet and wild fun, with water cannons, shoots, tubes, sprays, fountains, falls, wave pools, and a 25-person hot tub.
RIDE THE RAILS
The leaf-peeping hordes are gone but the trains are still running. Take a photo of the kids with the conductor at the 1874 train station in the center of town, and then climb aboard the Conway Scenic Railway (800-232-5251, www.conwayscenic.com). The 55-minute excursion, perfect for younger children, travels 11 miles south (adults
$15, ages 4-12 $10.50) crossing the Saco and Swift rivers; while the longer, 1¾-hour ride travels northwest 21 miles, crossing three rivers before reaching the town of Bartlett (adults $24.50, ages 4-12 $17.50).
Children as young as 7 can take the hour or so trail ride at the Farm by the River (2555 West Side Road, 603-356-2694, www.farmbytheriver.com, $50). The farm has been in the same family for seven generations, since 1771, and sprawls across 70 acres, in the shadow of the White Mountains. There’s a guide, but the horses know the way, down a country path, and across apple and maple sugar orchards. There are also carriage rides and pony rides.
TAKE A HIKE
In a month or so you may need snowshoes and crampons to hike the forests and mountain trails under a ton of cold-weather attire. It’s easier to do it now, especially with kids in tow.
We love visiting Diana’s Baths (3405 West River Road, www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whitemountain/recreation/recarea/?recid=74963&actid=64), a series of cascades tumbling down 75 feet from Big Attitash Mountain. The short, less than 1½-mile round-trip trail is flat and easy. For something a little more challenging, consider the Mount Kearsage North trail. Pick up sandwiches packed to go from Chef’s Market (2724 Main St., 603-356-4747, www.chefsmarketnorthconway.com) before you hit the 6.2-mile round-trip trail. There are a few huff-and-puff scrambles, but the rewards are worth it, including panoramic views from the summit. The trailhead is located on Hurricane Mountain Road, off Route 302.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.