What to See and Do in the Lakes Region
Winnipesaukee is a Native American term that means “smile of the Great Spirit.” Spend a few days near the shores of this natural attraction, and you'll soon understand its heavenly appeal. There are myriad ways to occupy your days, and yet, you'll also experience a sense of calm and restfulness that is likely missing from your everyday life.
Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee is a summertime family favorite, and the kids will hardly know in which direction to pull you first. While the region's family amusements are concentrated in this area, don't miss some of the other nearby attractions, including New Hampshire's own NASCAR track.
New Hampshire International Speedway
Route 106, Loudon
If motor sports get your heart pumping, the speedway has your ticket to a day of exhilarating racing action. Each year, more than 500,000 fans descend on New England's largest sports facility, which hosts not only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races but also a variety of professional and amateur motor sports competitions, motorcycle racing, and driving and racing schools from late spring through early fall. Call for a schedule of racing events or to order reserved seats. Tickets may also be purchased online.
Surf Coaster USA
1085 White Oaks Road, Weirs Beach
Pay one admission price for day-long or afternoon access to all of the wet and wild slides and rides at this waterpark.
Weirs Boulevard/Route 3, Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee is the epicenter of family fun in the Lakes Region. Although the beach is rather small, there are a variety of nearby amusements to enjoy after a refreshing swim. Along the wooden boardwalk, you'll find arcades, bumper cars, mechanical fortunetellers, shops, restaurants, miniature golf, bowling, and bingo. You can always simply lie on the beach, or, if you're feeling more adventurous, rent a boat or Jet Ski. Lifeguards are on duty in season, and facilities at the beach include a bathhouse with restrooms and a playground.
Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater
Route 3, Weirs Beach
At night, a blast from the past awaits at the Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater, New Hampshire's oldest drive-in with four screens and room for 800 cars.
Drive-in movie theaters are a rarity these days, so kids will get a kick out of enjoying a feature film under the stars. Movies begin at dusk; arrive early and play free video games in the snack bar before the show.
Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad
Clamber aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which departs from stations in Weirs Beach and Meredith, for scenic shoreline rides. The train operates weekends from late May through late June and during fall foliage season, and daily from late June through Labor Day.
Museums and Historic Sites
You won't have to disrupt your “play time” to slot in a visit to a museum or historic site. The Lakes Region's educational attractions offer memorable experiences in truly remarkable settings.
Castle in the Clouds
Route 171, Moultonborough
Castle in the Clouds is by far the most enthralling place you can tour while in the Lakes Region. The architecturally extravagant and eccentric home of industrialist Thomas Plant is situated on a 5,500 acre estate high in the Ossipee Mountains. After paying your admission at the entrance gate, you'll be in for scenic treats including views of Lake Winnipesaukee as you follow the winding road up the mountain. Take the time to hike the 200 yards from the first parking area to Falls of Song, a 50-foot natural waterfall. Guided tours of the castle are available, and forty-five miles of hiking trails allow visitors to further explore the property.
What's that haunting cry you hear in the night? It's the call of the common loon, a water bird common to the lakes of New Hampshire. The Chippewas believed the loon's cry was an omen of death. Other Native tribes believed loons held magical powers. New Hampshire's Loon Preservation Committee operates the Loon Center (Lee's Mills Road, Moultonborough, 603-476-5666,
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
23 Science Center Road, Holderness
Exhibits and trails at this multifaceted science center give visitors of all ages an appreciation for New Hampshire's ecology and wildlife. Children will especially enjoy observing the live animals that are on display from May through October.
77 Center Street, Wolfeboro
Exhibits and special events at this museum transport visitors to World War II era on the American home front. The museum is open daily from May through October.
There are many ways to enjoy the outdoors in the Lakes Region, whether you want to get out on the water or climb high above it.
Route 113, Holderness
Challenge older children by planning a hike up Rattlesnake Mountain for breathtaking views of New Hampshire's lakes. From the trailhead on Route 113, it's just under a mile to the summit.
Mount Washington Cruises
603-366-5531 or 888-843-6686
Sit back and relax aboard the 230-foot
North Main Street/Route 106, Laconia
If you're looking for a quiet family beach with free admission, head to this city park on Opechee Lake. Lifeguards are stationed here in season, and facilities include two playgrounds, two changing rooms with restrooms, and a concession stand.
If you appreciate handcrafted things, you'll be tickled pink by the selection of shops in the Lakes Region. Deal seekers will find an outlet center to explore, too.
Annalee Outlet Store & Doll Museum
50 Reservoir Road, Meredith
If you collect Annalee dolls, you'll definitely want to see where these whimsical creations came to life and shop for hard-to-find items on your wish list. The Annalee Outlet Store and Doll Museum are located in the town where Annalee Thorndike transformed her hobby into a tremendously successful venture.
Country Braid House
462 Main Street, Tilton
Shop for traditional New England braided wool rugs made on the premises, or buy a kit and teach yourself this Old-World craft.
43 Mill Street, Wolfeboro
At Hampshire Pewter, free tours are offered weekdays in the summer and fall, giving you the opportunity to watch craftsmen transform pewter into beautiful objects. Shop for pewter items Monday through Saturday in the summer and fall at the workshop gift shop.
Route 25B, Center Harbor
Whether you're a beginning quilter or an expert, you'll lose yourself inside this enormous quilt shop — one of the largest in the country. Even if you have no interest in picking up a needle and thread, browse the selection of hundreds of American-made quilts for sale.
Pepi Herrmann Crystal
3 Waterford Place, Gilford
Watch artisans craft bowls, glasses, jewelry, vases, and other sparkling pieces on a free tour of Pepi Herrmann Crystal, where the art of crystal cutting is kept alive.
Tanger Outlet Center
120 Laconia Road, Tilton
Savvy shoppers won't want to miss the Tanger Outlet Center, home to more than fifty outlets including J. Crew, Eddie Bauer, Carter's, OshKosh, and Tommy Hilfiger.
RAINY DAY FUN
For a yesteryear shopping experience, visit the Old Country Store and Museum (1011 Whittier Highway, Moultonborough, 603-476-5750,