Does your family have a vacation spot that you return to year after year? You get to know the area, and it feels like a second home. For my family, that place is Lincoln, New Hampshire. This little town in the White Mountains is big enough to have tons to do but not as tourist-saturated as some New Hampshire towns. The town feels like a family ski town, much like Breckenridge, Colorado, in the 1990s. It is neither fancy nor stuffy but has all the conveniences I desire. And it is convenient for much of New England, as it is only about 2 hours north of Boston. It is centrally located and the perfect jumping point for exploring the White Mountains and the Kankamagus Highway.
Things to do in Lincoln, NH in winter
Lincoln is a ski town built around Loon Mountain, so you can imagine it is quite busy in winter. It is an ideal family ski mountain with a wonderful ski school, plenty of black diamonds for the brave amongst us, and even a park for the snowboarders.
Pro Tip: I recently learned that renting skis in town at Lahouts at 127 Main Street is much cheaper than at the mountain.
They also have an adventure center with chances to cross-country ski or snow-shoe. We did the Loon Peak Snow Shoe Tour recently, and it took about three hours snow-shoeing around the top of the mountain to the bottom, stopping at an alpine pond.
If you are at Loon Mountain on Martin Luther King day weekend, be sure to join the staff in celebrating Independence Weekend. This is a different Independence Day than the Fourth of July, and the resort has been celebrating independence from the weather since the invention of snow-making machines. It is quite a unique site to see the nighttime parade of torchbearers on skis followed by a firework show over the slopes.
On frigidly cold days when we don’t want to spend a whole day out on the mountain, the snow tubing at Loon is my favorite that I have been to anywhere. There is a small slope at the foot of the mountain for the little ones, but the big slope at the top is where the real fun is. You get to experience the beauty of a ski lift to travel to the top of Little Sister, where you collect your inner tube, complete with breaks and a steering mechanism, and zoom on down the groomed tubing trail. Since they limit the number of users per hour, it is thrilling but not crazy-busy like many places that offer tubing around New England.
If you are in the mood for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, this park, only about 20 minutes north of Lincoln, is the place to go. This trailhead is the entrance to the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the largest in the northeast. It leads to many AT trails and waterfalls, so a good spot to hit in the summer too.
My favorite spot at this place is just magical in the winter. If you turn down the first path to the left, you will encounter an incredible suspension bridge crossing over the Pemigewasset River. This is a fabulous vantage point for watching the winter waters rush and the ice clinging to the shore.
You can bring your own snowshoes or rent them.
You have probably seen pictures of the ice castles. There are some in Lincoln! These crowded man-made icicle castles are touristy, but the way light passes through ice is pretty enough that I return every year. It reminds me of the ice castles in Quebec City at the Winter Carnival. The kids love to slide down the ice tubes, and it is the perfect setting for next year’s Christmas picture.
Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow in NH.
North Conway is about an hour away, but that is the perfect excuse to enjoy a Sunday brunch at the White Mountain Hotel overlooking the mountains before taking a sleigh ride around the grounds of Farm by the River.
Summer in New Hampshire’s White Mountains
Summer hiking in the White Mountains
My family’s favorite thing to do in the summer is to hike. The White Mountains have many fabulous spots to go, whether you are a day-trekker or want to find a waterfall just off the Kancamagus Highway. Here are five of my family’s favorite Lincoln hikes
Amusement Parks for Kids in the White Mountains
One big reason families flock to this area in the summer is to visit one of our amusement parks. They all remind me of going to a similar park in Big Bear, California growing up.
Based on fairy tales and located in Glen, NH Story Land is perfect for families with young kids (1-8). It is not open in the winter months.
Although it sounds like it would only be sufficient for young kids, Santa’s Village in Jefferson kept my kids happy even once they had outgrown Story Land because of the rides. It even has a decent water park. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, so revisiting it in the summer (Christmas in July) makes me pretty happy as well. Although it isn’t open all winter, it is open for the holidays- the perfect place to get your pictures taken with Santa.
My kids still enjoy this park in Lincoln as preteens. It started with a trained bear show and a railroad train but is now full of a larger eclectic mix of unique experiences such as Segwaying through the forest.
Things to Do in the White Mountains in Fall
Where to Stay in Lincoln, New Hampshire
The town is pretty small, so anything within the city limits will be close enough to the action. If you are skiing at Loon, finding a slope-side resort or one with a shuttle is extra convenient. We never have a problem utilizing Loon’s free parking.
Where to Eat in Lincoln, New Hampshire
The Common Man Restaurant
If you have traveled to New Hampshire with me on my Instagram Stories, you know I rarely visit the state without a visit to this kitschy restaurant set in restored barns. They don’t take reservations, but you can call ahead to save time.
This is actually a new find for me, but one we loved the second we walked in. It is more modern and eclectic than the normal rural or dated places in town. The staff in this colorfully crunchy cafe decorated by local artists are very friendly and accommodating. And the menu… our favorite things so far are the salmon burger and brie grilled cheese fondue. And this is very exciting… they take reservations… although you may want to book them well in advance.
Sunny Day Diner
If you try to get breakfast in season in Lincoln on the Kancamagus Highway, you are likely in for a long wait. There are two places where the food is fine and the lines are long.
But, if you go just a few miles away and right next door to Clark’s, you will find the delightful Sunny Day Diner. As you may guess, it is in an old-fashioned dinner car. And as my experience has gone in diner cars, the food is surprisingly good! But be sure to bring cash and don’t tell too many of your friends… I don’t want to wait the next time I am in town, because I am sure I will be back to this place.
Although you don’t need to dress up for most spots in NH, Gordi’s is the most upscale restaurant on this list. They take reservations and have a uniquely scrumptious filet smothered in blue cheese, walnuts, and lemon sauce. They also have a yummy portabello mushroom stuffed with spinach and feta.
I was confused why there is a black mountain burger in the White Mountains but learned that Black Mountain lies right behind Loon. They have an extensive beer and burger menu and allow you to call ahead.
Every time we visit my kids insist on going to the long candy counter at Chutter’s in Lincoln. I am a dentist, but who can say no to fill your own bags of almost every candy one could dream of? The candy counter at the shop in Littleton, only about half an hour north, is the longest in the world. We stopped by there on our drive from Boston to Montreal.
As you can see whatever time of year you decide to visit Lincoln you will stay busy.
Let me know if you have any other questions about Lincoln or any suggestions of your own, Enjoy your time in the White Mountains!