Lincoln, NH: P-and-P Ranking 4.5 out of 5
Full Disclosure: F.Y.I. My family owns a vacation property here in Lincoln, NH. The purpose of this post is to illustrate how great the area is and NOT to benefit the property. I will not divulge where the property is located and will give my 100% honest opinion of the Lincoln area and any places, service or product mentioned in this post.
Living in the Boston area allows us to easily visit New Hampshire several times a year. Our destination of choice is Lincoln, NH. Theres a lot to like about this small town: It is centrally located to many attractions, offers year round activities, is reasonably affordable, and has entertainment for all ages. We started visiting this area long before we had children to ski and get away from the city. It is 20 years later, and ‘Mrs. P and P’ and I are still coming here every year with our children (ages 11 & 13). It is hard to even remember a time when we weren’t visiting this part of New England. There’s so much to see and do here it will be difficult to outline all of it here, but I will try.
Any location in New England is readily accessible from Boston and Lincoln is no exception. It is only a 2.5 hour drive from Boston. The ride is stunning, winding through mountains and changing elevations dramatically in some places. Lincoln is located within the White Mountain Region of NewHampshire.
It is in the Northern half of the state and is right along Route 93, the major Highway through the state running North to South. Coming from Boston, we can drive Route 93 the entire way, without having to get off or change to different roads. It is a straight shot. Anyone flying here would fly into Manchester Int’l airport and be right on Route 93 as well. You would get off the plan, get on 93, and go North until exit 32 (Lincoln). The ride for us is short enough to do weekends here. There are times when weather or traffic is bad and it takes longer but it is manageable.
Lincoln is a very small town. It is mostly comprised of a town center, which is a one street stretch of small stores and restaurants.
The town has just about everything you could want. There is a bank, a movie theater, a grocery store, a hardware store, some small clothing stores, ski shops, and even fast food giants, McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. As soon as you leave the main road however, you won’t find much. It is very rural and sparsely populated. As of the writing of this post, the town had 1662 people. Right next to Lincoln is Woodstock, NH. It is so close that it seems as if it is part of Lincoln but it is an adjacent town with a few more stores and restaurants. To the north of Lincoln, about a 5 minute drive, is Franconia Notch. This is part of the White Mountain National Forest and it has some unique attractions only found here. Further north is Mount Washington. According to wikipedia, it is the highest peak in the NorthEastern United States at 6,288 feet. The summit of Mount Washington can be reached by automobile, cog railway, or by foot and is a very popular attraction. Heading south of Lincoln brings you to an area known as the Lakes region. This is where Lake Winnipesaukee is located. It is a mecca for boating activities and water sports. East of Lincoln is the famous town of North Conway. This is known throughout New England for Outlet shopping and the grandiose Mount Washington Hotel. As you can see, Lincoln is centrally located to many of the areas best attractions. We will look at those activities in detail next.
What to Do
One of the great things about this region of New Hampshire is the large number of activities that span every season. Let’s look at each season separately:
The winter in lincoln is dominated by skiing. Lincoln is home to Loon Mountain, one of the biggest ski mountains in New Hampshire. If you are a skier, Loon mountain is a great option. It has multiple peaks, high speed quads, and a 4 person gondola. There is also a free bus that picks people up and brings them to the mountain. It services all of the condos, hotels and motels in Lincoln. There is a rack on the exterior of the bus to put skis and snowboards and makes transportation to base lodge super easy. A great perk for skiers. There are also many other ski areas within 30-40 minutes drive from the town center:
- Cannon mountain- 10 minute drive from Lincoln, great mountain with very challenging terrain. *Tip: Excellent beginner area (Tuckerbrook) that is isolated from the main mountain. It has a few trails and multiple lifts exclusive to the area. I taught my children here and it is the best learning area in NH. I highly recommend this for teaching children to ski. It is my top choice.
- Attitash mountain – 30-40 minutes drive, medium sized mountain, great apres ski.
- Bretton Woods – 30-35 minutes drive, best family mountain in NH bar none. not steep but tons of terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers. My second choice for teaching children to ski. My first choice for family skiing with easy to moderate terrain.
….. plus a few more smaller ski areas such as Black mountain, Waterville valley, Wildcat mountain, and Cranmore. If you are looking for a particular ski experience, there is an excellent chance you will find it amongst the many areas in the White Mountains region.
Skiing is not the only winter option in New Hampshire. There are places to rent snowmobiles, snowshoes, snow tubing, and ice skating. The options are many and are what you would expect from a town that is located adjacent to a ski mountain.
New to the area is the Ice Castles exhibit. I have not been here but it looks interesting. This is right in downtown Lincoln. Another option for families to enjoy.
Spring is “mud” season in the White mountains. The snow is starting to melt off the mountains and the rivers are much more active. This is the quietest season in Lincoln.
- White water rafting: North of Lincoln there are several places to go white water rafting. RaftNH is located 45 minutes North of Lincoln and is an option. Spring is the best time to enjoy this activity due to winter thaw.
- Waterfall viewing: You can explore Hiking trails and find hidden waterfalls. There is no guide for this but they are out there, you just have to look.
- fishing: There are rivers and streams everywhere. I am not a fisherman but I know others who have to gone to Echo Lake in Franconia Notch to catch trout.
- Mountain Biking: Head over to Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch. There are bikes available to rent and there is a nice bike trail along Route 93. This is a paved trail that goes through the flume and the basin attractions. You can bike and see some of the sights at the same time.
Summer in the White Mountains is absolutely fantastic. There is so much to do here that it will be impossible to list everything. People associate the Northeast mostly with skiing but there is far more to do when the weather turns better. Lets examine some of the things you expect to do when the weather warms up:
- Loon Mountain Adventure Park (Loon Mountain Adventure Center):
- Ropes Course Elevated high in the trees, strap in, grab a helmet and climb the obstacles in the canopy. Loon Mountain has a very good area for this and there are other companies that also do this. Serious fun!
- Adventure Center: At the base of the main mountain is an area that has a rock climbing wall, bungie trampoline jumps (for younger kids), and a pretty big Zip Line over the Pemigewasset river.
- Zip Lines: head over to Alpine Adventures (main street) and experience the zip lines deep in the mountains. I haven’t personally done this yet but I want to when the kids are a bit older. There are some areas that are very high up in the canopy.
- Thrillsville: Alpine Adventures also has a small area behind their store where you can do a ropes course and use the giant slide. This is all ages and is super fun. I have done this and recommend it.
- Gondola rides: Loon and Cannon Mountain have gondola rides to the top. Very scenic and relaxing fun for the family. Sometimes at Cannon, you may see a black bear playing on the ski slopes in the grass.
- Glider plane flights: The Franconia Soaring Association offers people Demo Flights in Glider planes. I can’t think of a better place to try this than Franconia Notch with its stunning scenery.
- swimming: Whales Tale Water Park is located in North Lincoln, about a 5 minute ride from main street. It is a great water park with lots of slides, a wave pool and places to grab food. Additionally, the Pemigewasset River runs through Lincoln and there are some good places to swim. The water is cold but it is clean and lots of fun.
- Clark’s Trading Post (Clark’s): Fun place for younger kids. They have bear shows, bumper boats, train rides and food.
- Theme parks: Story Land and Santa’s Village are each about 45 minutes away by car. Fun and family oriented theme parks geared towards families with young children. We spent 4 or 5 summers visiting here until the kids finally outgrew it.*Tip: go here at 3pm for a few hours until close and you can come back here for free the next day. You end up getting a full day and 2 or 3 hours the previous day for the same price. This also applies to Whales Tale water park.
- hiking: There are hiking trails everywhere, ask anyone and they will give you directions to multiple locations
- White Mountain National Forest:
- Flume Gorge
- A natural wonder. Rock outcropping with waterfalls and natural beauty.
- The Basin
- See how water has carved rock into a basin over thousands of years.
- Lafayette Mountain
- 4000 foot peak, great for hiking and has a campground at the base.
- Flume Gorge
- Camping: There are tons of campgrounds throughout the White Mountains, some right outside of Lincoln. There are places on the Kancamagus in Franconia Notch and everywhere in between. Make sure you understand the rules and follow the advice given as there is a lot of wildlife in the National forest. Bears, fox, and coyotes are not uncommon and you should make sure you know how to prepare for camping in the wilderness.
- Drive the Kancamagus: A magnificent road that go up one side of a mountain and down the other side. Incredibly beautiful with spots to take pictures and observe streams, mountains and raw nature. Check your autos brakes before attempting this ride, it is steep in some places.
- Golf: There are a few courses within a 3 minute ride from downtown Lincoln. This is not a golf mecca but there are 1 or 2 excellent courses. Check out The Owls Nest south of Lincoln for a great track with varying elevation and very good conditions. It has recently become semi-private but I believe visitors can still play here.
- Off Road Tours: head back over to Alpine adventures. They will put you on an all terrain vehicle and take you on an off road tour of the White mountains.
I am not covering everything here but this is just an example of the endless amounts of activities available to visitors in the summer months.
This is the most iconic season in Lincoln, NH. Picturesque New England foliage is all around you and traditional Autumn activities are everywhere. My family and I have been going to Windy Ridge Orchard in North Haverhill, NH for the last 12 years. It is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Lincoln. We started taking my 1 year old daughter here back then and we have come back almost every year since. They have several types of animals, apple picking, a berry patch, cider donuts, and homemade jellies and jams. It is a quintessential New England experience.
Foliage is also a big draw in Lincoln and the surrounding White Mountains. Surprisingly enough, autumn may be the busiest time of year as busloads of people arrive to look at foliage and experience fall in New England.
Most of the local lodging will book well in advance for late September and October, so book early if you plan on taking a trip in those months.
In preparation for ski season, many of the local shops are having sales of ski equipment and it is a good time to browse and see if you can score a bargain. I like the Rodgers tent sale running August through September. I have always found bargains during this event and it is fun to stock up and prepare for the coming season.
There are also many activities that span multiple seasons.
- The Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train available spring through Fall (closed for the winter). Hop on this train and have a nice upscale dinner while slowly meandering through the mountains. It is a nice experience and the food was excellent.
- Loon Gondola ( all seasons ): Winter it is for sking, but other seasons will allow people to go explore the peak of the mountain. At the top they have a restaurant, and caves you can explore
- Lincoln Cinema 4 (all seasons ): small theater showing first run movies. There are four cinemas in this facility. Great for a rainy day with the kids.
- Jean’s Playhouse : This is a live theater with surprisingly good performances for a small rural theater. Another great option for adults or when there is bad weather.
- Brewery Tour: The adjacent town of Woodstock is home to the Woodstock Inn and Brewery . This place has an Inn, a large restaurant and a fully functioning brewery. The beer is very tasty and they sell it to go as well as serve it in the restaurant. They have brewery tours for $9.00 every Saturday and it is a lot of fun.
- Day spa/ salons: The Mountain Club at Loon Mountain features the Villagio Day Spa and Wellness center. This is a full service salon and the wellness center includes indoor/outdoor swimming and lap pools, basketball courts, tennis, fitness, yoga, and other classes. There are several membership options that range from single day individual to family passes for the month or year.
- Miniature Golf: Hobo Golf is a nice mini golf course and is right in downtown Lincoln.
- Hobo Railroad: Train ride through the surrounding areas on a real locomotive.
There are so many places to stay here in Lincoln it would be hard to list them all. You have choices of staying on Loon Mountain in one of their properties , right near the mountain in a condo, or in downtown Lincoln. They have motels along rte 3A in North Lincoln or stay at the few places in Woodstock. You will have no trouble finding a place to suit your needs. If you have children, try to get a place that has pool access in case the weather turns bad.
Expect to drop a few dollars on this vacation. For those who are within driving distance you can shop around and really save money. Call multiple places and negotiate. You can also wait until the last minute and see if the occupancy is low and then you will get the best price. You will however risk not getting a place or pay higher if it is a popular week. Planning is advance is your best option here. Expect to pay between $125 – $300 per night depending on your needs and time of year. Because we have a place here, I will not list individual lodging. This is not a sales pitch.
Loon ski tickets are at $85 at the time of this writing. You can save some money if are going to ski 3 or more days. * Tip: get a frequent skier card for $105.00. This gets you 1 day of skiing and a discount of $25.00 mon-fri and $15 on weekends on subsequent days skiing. Three times skiing in a season and you are in the black. It is a risk though if you can’t ski because of weather etc.
Casual dining is the most prevalent type of food here. Other than the dinner train, there is no upscale dining that I am aware of. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist but my family never goes that route when we are there.
- The Woodstock Inn: If you like pubs, head over to the Woodstock Inn & Brewery. They just did a huge remodel and it is fantastic. The food is very good and the beer is made on premises. On weekends they have live bands as well. A great place for apres ski or for a good meal. They also have a restaurant side and an upstairs bar area around a stone fireplace.
- Truants Tavern: Younger crowd at night but the food is pretty good. Pool tables and karaoke upstairs , restaurant and bar downstairs.
- The Black Mountain Burger Company: I love this place. It is a gourmet burger restaurant and pub. The food was excellent. There are some unique ways to present a burger. The portions are huge. Be prepared to wait though as it gets crowded.
- Pub 32: Small pub in the same strip mall as Black Mountain Burger. Had pizza here one as takeout and it was good. The place was completely packed and I haven’t been there since but it is popular and worth a look.
- Woodstock: see Pubs above
- Gordi’s Fish and Steakhouse : Traditional steakhouse. Food is very good, a little pricier than the pub as you would expect. Come here if you want a steak or seafood dinners. Casual atmosphere and also has a bar area with TV’s etc.
- The Common Man: A little more upscale than a casual dining restaurant, but not considered fine dining. Food is excellent. Great bar area as well. They have a large stone fireplace and casual seating. Food can be ordered here in the bar. I recommend this also be in your eating rotation for the week.
- Chieng Gardens: Standard Chinese restaurant. Food is good and staff friendly. Sometimes you just have a craving for Chinese food and this will fill the void.
- Pizza (not a specialty in Lincoln):
- Enzo’s Pizzaria: Standard italian style large pie. Pretty good.
- G&H Pizza: Standard Greek style pizza, also pretty good.
- The Sunny Day Diner: My favorite breakfast place ever. I can’t leave town without a stop here. Great menu, friendly service, and the food is terrific. Don’t visit if you are in a hurry though as it is a small place and seating is limited. 1 or 2 waitstaff for the entire place. It is worth the wait though.
- Peg’s Diner: food is good and priced as expected.
- Texas Toast Eatery: I haven’t been here but hear good things from a family member. Located in downtown Lincoln.
- Half Baked and Fully Brewed: Gourmet coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and prepared meals to take home. Excellent!
- White Mountain Bagel Company: Bagels, pastries, coffee. Very good and excellent service.
As you can see, there is no shortage of activities, food, or topics to discuss when looking at Lincoln. It is a pretty great place to go for vacation. I would have to say honestly, it is not a destination to fly into from other parts of the US or other countries. It is a regional vacation spot that is worthy of a long drive. New Englanders, NewYork, New Jersey, and eastern Canada is probably the only areas that will target this as a vacation destination. The area is still building up so it is gaining in popularity.
The great thing about the White Mountains area is the amount of different activities for every season. It dawned on me while writing this that, although we have been going here for 20 years, we still haven’t tried everything. We expect to visit the area for at least another decade or until the kids leave for college. As the kids get older the activities are changing. We are getting more adventurous and leaving the Story Land theme park behind. Thats what is great though, there are things for teens to do and we can continue to visit without outgrowing the area.
I am giving the Lincoln, NH area a 4.5 / 5.0 P and P ranking. I would love to hear what you think about the review if you have been here or are planning to visit. Thanks for Reading !!