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New Hampshire Ice Castles
(Photo: New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism)

How to Do a Winter Weekend in New Hampshire

SmarterTravel

Embrace the snow this winter and get out of the house—New Hampshire has skiing, Ice Castles, and beer to motivate you.

Hotels for a Winter Weekend in New Hampshire: 

Named after the nearby rock formation, Indian Head Resort offers a full-service restaurant and lounge, private balcony rooms, and free shuttle service to local attractions. Situated on the edge of Lincoln and in the heart of the White Mountains region, Indian Head Resort is an excellent family-friendly option for those looking to get away for the weekend and is only a short drive from the majority of the area’s outdoor winter activities. 

The Woodstock Inn, Station & Brewery has everything you need for a romantic weekend away, with 40 different rooms, a lively restaurant and bar scene, and a brewery. Splurge on a room in the Cascade building, which has in-room fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs, perfect for warming up after a long day on the slopes.

Friday: 

Drive up to the Lincoln area–if you can avoid leaving during rush hour, it should only take you about two hours to get up here from Boston.

Check in to Indian Head Resort and explore the moose-and-maple-syrup wonderland that is their gift shop before heading out to the Common Man restaurant for dinner. Snag a seat by the massive fireplace and enjoy the complimentary cheese and crackers (but save room for the hearty portions, complimentary homemade bread, and free white chocolate after dinner). The Common Man’s comfort-style food is great for cold nights, and the diverse menu (which has everything from vegetarian “almost escargot” made from mushrooms to surf and turf) will appeal to everyone in your party.

After you’re fortified against the cold, visit the famous Ice Castles, located just next door in North Woodstock. This frozen attraction takes over 4,000 man-hours to make every year and consists of delicately placed icicles embedded with colorful LED lights, ice slides, tunnels, and frozen thrones to pose on. Timed tickets are sold in half-hour increments, plenty of time to explore the halls of ice, wander the courtyards of frozen fountains, and treat yourself to sleigh ride to end the evening. If you can wait until the last ticket time of the evening, the Ice Castles will be virtually crowd-free and even more magical. Fortunately for travelers who don’t live in the New England area but want to get a taste of this unique experience, Ice Castles has five additional locations across the United States and Canada.

Join SmarterTravel’s video editor Carol as she braves the cold and takes you along on a weekend trip to Ice Castles New Hampshire, a glittering wonderland that you can only see in winter. So embrace the snow and buckle in – road trips aren’t just for summer anymore. Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!

Saturday: 

Fuel up for a day of skiing with breakfast at Flapjack’s Pancake House in downtown Lincoln. This hot spot offers classic breakfast and brunch comfort foods, from mouth-watering omelets to loaded chocolate chip pancakes (or rather, chocolate chips held together by pancake batter). With gluten-free and vegetarian options, it’s the perfect kick start you need for an activity-filled day ahead.

Strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes at Loon Mountain, which has options for skiers of any skill level. Over 60 trails are spread out over three peaks, and 12 lifts help disperse the crowds, so you’ll never feel too cramped on the slopes and epic views of the White Mountains will reward you at the top of every run.

When you’re ready for a break, the Pemigewasset Base Camp will get you fed and back out there quickly, serving up made-to-order fresh sandwiches and paninis.

Head out just before last chair and over to the Woodstock Inn & Brewery, where you can check-in and drop off your stuff just in time to make the last brewery tour of the day at 4 p.m. This ultra-small “nano” brewery makes local beer that’s famous throughout the region, and the tour gives you the chance to sample five brews while learning about the production process.

Relax in your in-room Jacuzzi tub if you’ve booked a room with one, or simply warm up by one of the resort’s roaring fireplaces before enjoying dinner at the Woodstock Station Restaurant. (Be sure to make a reservation, as this is one of the area’s most popular dining spots.) This lively restaurant and bar uses local ingredients (including incorporating hops from the brewery into many items, like beer and cheese) and has a huge menu that will satisfy any craving you’ve worked up on the slopes. This lively spot really gets going after 9 p.m., when live bands strike up in the bar.

Sunday: 

Wake up in time for the first chair at Cannon Mountain, a state-owned ski resort in Franconia Notch State Park. But first, enjoy breakfast at Woodstock Inn—all entrees come with free homemade sticky buns, warm bread, juice, coffee, and home fries, so it would be financially irresponsible not to eat there.

Cannon is just a quick drive down the road, and there are 265 acres of trails for you to conquer, so it’s best to start early! Cannon has earned a reputation as a “skiers mountain” and it definitely lives up to it. When I visited, the snow guns were working overtime and providing great coverage; which combined with excellent grooming, made for perfect conditions. There are trails for every level, with lots of blues and greens for beginners/intermediates to black diamonds for those looking for a challenge.

Warm-up during lunchtime with a hearty meal at the Cannonball Pub. This restaurant’s wall of picture windows provides excellent views of the slope to entertain you while you eat. Go healthy with fresh salads, or indulge in Irish coffee and expertly seasoned waffle fries with garlic and rosemary if you want a treat after a morning of skiing.

Not one for skiing or hiking but still don’t want to miss out on those New Hampshire mountain views? Spend the afternoon taking a leisurely drive up the Kancamagus Highway, the scenic portion of Route 112 that starts in Lincoln and runs through the White Mountains National Forest. Affectionately known as “The Kanc”, travelers can stop at one of the many trailheads or designated lookout spots to enjoy sprawling vistas made even more stunning by their dusting of mountain snow. Take a picnic, or just your camera, and enjoy the view!

Stay long enough to snap a few pictures of the crystal clear winter sunset from Sugar Hill Lookout—there’s no reason to leave earlier, as you can be back in Boston in just 2 hours with plenty of time to rest and get ready for work the next day.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Caroline was hosted by the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development. Check out VisitNH.gov for help planning your New Hampshire trip! Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1.

Carol McPherson contributed to this story.

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