If only every day could be Christmas – sounds like a Hallmark Channel movie, doesn’t it? Of course for a kid it would be great – the gifts, decorations, treats and other associated hullabaloo that makes the season so special. Grown-ups, though, can’t help but consider the work involved in bringing together a big holiday extravaganza: the cooking, the cleaning, the secret Santa scheming and, of course, the budget.
But what if there was a place where someone else put on Christmas so everyone could act like a kid again?
Look no further than Santa’s Village (528 Presidential Highway, Jefferson, N.H.; 603-586-4445; santasvillage.com), New Hampshire’s premier destination for celebrating the jolly guy in red almost year round. With rides like The Skyway Sleigh (a monorail that travels 30 feet above the park), The Chimney Drop (exactly what it sounds like and not for the faint of heart) and Little Elf Flying School (perfect for the littles), families are immersed in the spirit of the holiday season even during summer months.
Santa’s Village even features the Ho Ho H20 Water Park and trust us when we say you’ve never experienced a splash zone like this before with water slides big and small, but watch out! Every 10 minutes a ginormous bucket of water nails visitors (so you’ll really want to bring a swimsuit and a change of clothes). The JOY Ride Slides are fast, fun and tall, so kids must be at least 36 inches tall to ride.
Get an early crack at your holiday cards by snapping a family photo with Santa in his “home” or hit up Elf University (preferably upon entering the Village) so you can scoop up an Elfabet card that will send you on a hunt to find all 26 elves located around the park. Complete and submit your card at the end of the day, get a prize … and an Elf University diploma!
Looking for a super unique souvenir from your visit? Drop in on the Reindeer Shoe Shop where “Good Luck Rings” are customized to fit the finger of your choosing. These little baubles are included with the admission price so you’ll definitely want to pick one up.
After all of this merriment your tootsies are probably tired, so parents will want to coerce kids to kick back at one of the park’s holiday-themed shows, like the 3-D A Tinkerdoodle Christmas or The Jingle Jamboree.
North Conway and Beyond
Just an hour away from Santa’s Village lies the splendid area of North Conway. Santa doesn’t lend out sleighs, so you’ll have to pile in the car, but the ride is totally worth it.
Picture it: acres upon acres of White Mountain National Forest featuring Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast. Surrounded by that breathtaking scenery, North Conway boasts outdoor activities that will both exhilarate and entertain families.
Conway Scenic Railroad (38 Norcross Circle, North Conway; 800-232-5251; conwayscenic.com) will transport you back in time as vintage trains leave from a Victorian station dating back to 1874. Choose between the Valley Train, which offers either an 11-mile excursion to Conway or a 21-mile trip to Bartlett, or Notch Train, which ends in Fabyan with a layover in Crawford before returning passengers to North Conway.
If you’re a family of foodies, you might want to sweeten this activity by booking tickets for the dining car, where you’ll feast on a meal prepared by the culinary team from nearby Attitash Mountain Resort.
Active families will love the charm of Farm by the River Bed and Breakfast (2555 West Side Road, North Conway; 603-356-2694; farmbytheriver.com), a quaint inn located on the Saco River offering horseback riding as well as carriage, wagon and pony rides. Kids will love eating breakfast on the B&B’s patio while watching the 18 resident horses being wrangled. Farm by the River is also in close proximity to more than 250 hiking trails like Diana’s Bath, Black Cap and Echo Lake State Park.
Purity Spring Resort (121 Eaton Road, Rt. 153, Madison; 800-373-3754; purityspring.com), located 15 minutes south of North Conway, boasts some of the best family programs around. Take a canoe trip, mountain bike, waterski, participate in a kids’ talent show, explore the area through nature hikes or try your hand at tie-dying T-shirts (and that’s only a handful of the offerings). Meanwhile, animal lovers and eco-minded folk will want to experience the NH Audubon Hoyt Wildlife Sanctuary, which was once a summer camp for girls, and is located on the property. Perfect for the brood who has diverse interests or just likes to try a little bit of everything, it seems like there’s little you won’t find at Purity Spring.
Everything and anything you could want to do outdoors you’ll find at Great Glen Trails (1 Mount Washington Auto Road, Gorham; 603-466-2333; greatglentrails.com). From hiking trails to guided paddling trips, there’s so much to do and so much to see. Take a leisurely bike ride along a carriage road or go for the gusto up a mountain trail. There’s even a Trail Tracks Scavenger Hunt to keep kiddos entertained while you explore the area; just stop into Great Glen Outfitters to pick up a tracker. Runners should check Great Glen Trails’ events calendar as there are several summertime events geared toward them.
No matter whether you’re looking to find Christmas in July or an outdoor adventure any time of the year, you’re sure to find it in New Hampshire.
Kelly Bryant is associate editor of Boston Parents Paper.
Where to Stay
• North Conway Comfort Inn & Suites – 2001 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, N.H.; 866-647-8483; northconwaycomfortinn.com. The make-your-own-waffles at their complimentary continental breakfast had us at hello.
• North Conway Hampton Inn & Suites – 1788 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, N.H.; 603-356-7736; hamptoninn.com. Your kids will go nuts for this location’s indoor water park complete with slides, wading areas and pools.
• Cranmore Mountain Lodge – 859 Kearsarge Road, North Conway, N.H.; 603-356-2044; cranmoremountainlodge.com. This B&B offers free trail passes to Great Glen Trails in their rates!
• Barron Brook Inn Whitefield – 759 Lancaster Road, Whitefield, N.H.; 603-837-8900; barronbrookinn.com. Cozy yet elegant, this inn is a stone’s throw from Santa’s Village.
Worth a Stop
There’s more to New Hampshire than hiking. Check out one of these tourist favorites.
• Chutters: World’s Longest Candy Counter – 43 Main Street, Littleton, N.H.; 603-444-5787; chutters.com. Whether you’re a chocolate fiend or have a penchant for sour gummies, this is the best place for satisfying your sweet tooth.
• Whale’s Tale Water Park – 481 Daniel Webster Highway, Lincoln, N.H.; 603-745-8810; whalestalewaterpark.net. Perfect for cooling off on a hot day, it’s the only water park in the White Mountains with a wave pool.
• Clark’s Trading Post – 110 Daniel Webster Highway, Lincoln, N.H.; 603-745-8913; clarkstradingpost.com. This theme park boasts one heck of a Black Bear Show. You have to see it to believe it.
• Storyland – 850 NH Route 16, Glen, N.H.; 603-383-4186; storylandnh.com. From thrill rides to fairy tale fun, this theme park has something for the entire family.