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Flume Gorge
Photograph: Visit New Hampshire

New Hampshire for families

NH is one of the most family friendly states in the entire US of A – here's why

Written by Gerrish Lopez in association with Visit New Hampshire

New Hampshire is truly an ideal place for a family vacation. Filled with natural wonder and low- or no-cost family friendly activities (think beaches and scenic drives [link to each list]), the state is perfect for families looking to take a break from busy urban life. Whether you’re helping the little ones release some pent-up energy with a good old fashioned romp outside or you’re sneaking in a little learning at a museum, the Granite State is a fantastic destination for kids of all ages to discover. From the best cultural institutions and parks to one-of-a-kind, old-school attractions, New Hampshire is overflowing with child-friendly offerings that keep grownups just as occupied as the wee ones.

Discover more about New Hampshire

Santa's Village: part of the 'How I Live Free' series by Visit New Hampshire.

Typically open May through December, Santa’s Village lets families celebrate the holidays throughout the summer, fall and into Christmas. Christmas- and winter-themed rides and entertainment are geared towards kids under 13, but are fun for the whole family. Highlights include Elf University (a park-wide scavenger hunt), Reindeer Rendezvous (where you can feed real reindeer) and Santa’s Home (where you can meet the man himself). There’s a water park open during warmer months, animated movies, light shows and plenty of dining options.

Story Land has been making memories in Glen, near North Conway, since 1956. Fairy tales and storybook characters come to life as kids can visit the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella’s Castle, Baa Baa Black Sheep and more. There are games and rides galore—older kids can ride the Roar-a-Saurus roller coaster while smaller rides such as the spinning Cuckoo Clockenspiel are great for toddlers. Ride the swan boats or catch a Farm Follies show, then choose from one of the many dining options on site.

Mt. Washington Cog Railway
Photograph: Visit New Hampshire

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

You can hike or drive to the top of Mt. Washington, New England’s highest peak, but the most fun option for families is “The Cog”, the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway. Ride an authentic steam- or biodiesel-powered locomotive to the summit at more than 6,000 feet and enjoy stunning views on the way up. The whole trip takes about three hours, with time for exploring at the top. You can even ride the rails in winter for a snowy adventure up to 4,000 feet.

No one knows for sure who built these strange rock structures arranged in an astronomically accurate fashion in Salem. It’s been claimed they’re more than 4,000 years old, built by Native Americans, Irish monks, or just some 18th century farmers. Whatever the case, kids will love following the 1.5 mile trail  to explore the ruins and come up with their own stories. They can also visit the alpacas that call America’s Stonehenge home.

Each winter, in the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, you can visit caves, tunnels, fountains, slides, and sculptures made of icicles. The attraction is built as professional ice artists coax these unbelievably long icicles from the natural surroundings. The castles include LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, fountains, slides and much more for the whole family to explore.

Visit Big and Little Squam lakes and you’ll find breathtaking surroundings, miles of hiking trails and the Natural Science Center. The kid-friendly Center features a public garden, lake cruises, walks through forests, meadows and marshes and an animal exhibit trail with black bears, bobcats and otters. Kids will enjoy the natural surroundings while learning more about New Hampshire's flora and fauna.

This arcade on Lake Winnipesaukee’s Weirs Beach is officially the biggest in the world, certified by Guinness. With close to 600 classic arcade and pinball games (all pre-1989), it’s an old-school gamer’s heaven. Funspot is also an indoor entertainment Mecca with bowling, mini-golf, bingo and more spread over three floors and 75,000 square feet. Kids will be thoroughly entertained year-round.

The Lucknow Estate, known as Castle in the Clouds, is open seasonally. The mansion features sprawling gardens overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. The drive up the road to the property passes beautiful vistas, and a trolley ride leads to the house. Parents will enjoy the home’s period furnishings and an art gallery while kids will enjoy the trails that lead around the property and into the mountains. Check the calendar for family events like star gazing, holiday programs and Family Camp Out.

The Flume is an amazing natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mt. Liberty. Along the two mile path you'll see towering moss-covered granite walls, cascading waterfalls, historic covered bridges, glacial pools & boulders and much more. Explore the Visitor Center for information on the geology and history of the region.

Explore eight heritage gardens, historic buildings and traditional crafts at this waterfront neighborhood preserved as a museum dedicated to 300+ years of American history. There are plenty of interactive exhibits and activities including costumed interpreters sharing stories of the neighborhood’s past. The museum hosts family events throughout the year, and the seasonal ice skating rink is a classic New Hampshire activity in the winter.

Canobie Lake Park has been a regional family favorite for generations and recognized as a top amusement park in the country. With more than 85 rides, attractions and games, it’s fun for kids of all ages. From thrill rides like the Untamed roller coaster to water rides like the log flume and family activities like the Blue Heron Lake Cruise, there’s something for everyone. Arcade games, puzzle rooms and other carnival-style attractions will keep everyone busy all day. There are plenty of food options as well as family-friendly hotels nearby.

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