During our ten days of hiking, swimming, and kayaking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire we found it surprisingly easy to avoid crowds. In fact, our family often found itself alone while exploring lakes, rivers, and trails. These places were not off the beaten path. Sometimes they were just off the interstate. So if your family wants to experience outdoor adventure without suffocating summer crowds, then this might be the place for you.
But the White Mountains are also filled with family-friendly attractions and amusement parks. Places that some outdoorsy types might arch an eyebrow at and call tourist traps. The holy trinity of these attractions are Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, Santa’s Village in Jefferson, and Storyland in Glen. But sometimes a heavily touristed location is crowded for good reason. When we travel we like to combine outdoor adventure with kid-friendly attractions. It keeps our boys happy. It keeps us happy. And it gives us a complete picture of what makes a place tick.
We spent a half day at Clark’s Trading Post and two half days at Santa’s Village–and we are so glad that we did. The boys loved Clark’s Trading Post and they loved Santa’s Village even more. Stephanie and I also had fun at both places. They were clean, well managed, affordably priced, and filled with dozens of options for family fun. Clark’s has a quirky sense of humor that keeps the adults and kids entertained. While Santa’s Village offers up a sweet magical scoop of Disneyesque charm for a fraction of the price. By not staying for a full day at either location we also avoided amusement park burnout. You know–when the kids start begging for ice cream after they’ve just had ice cream. That sort of thing.
Here is what we loved about Clark’s Trading Post and why you should go:
We started our day with a train ride on the White Mountain Central Railroad and it was quite relaxing, until we encountered the infamous Wolfman! Theo was nervous when the conductor told us we were approaching his so-called “Unobtanium mine.”
When we crossed paths with the Wolfman most of the kids on the train were frightened by his almost incoherent screaming and his wacky arsenal of cartoon explosives. But Theo was really scared.
At least at first. On our way back to the station, when we passed the Wolfman’s ramshackle lair once again, the conductor told the kids to scare him away by yelling “SCRAM YOU OLD GOAT” when he approached the train. It worked like a charm. The Wolfman became irritable and less threatening. This was incredibly empowering for the children who were trembling just five minutes before. It felt like we were living through a powerful allegory from a children’s book about conquering your fears. It was brilliant. After the train ride ended we raced over to the famous Trained Bear show. But we didn’t get good seats and ended up stuck in the hot sunlight. The boys became fidgety and sweaty after a few minutes so we decided to cut out and head towards the blaster boats. Good decision dad. The blaster boats rocked.
We all had an awesome time riding the boats, cooling off, and getting each other soaked. It was also fun to shoot the water rockets from the observation deck. The best part was that the attendants gave each person a long time on the boats and the lines were short for second and third rides. I feel bad saying it, but no one missed the bears.
But the fun didn’t end at the blaster boats. When we walked down to the far end of the park Stephanie took a turn on a tall rock climbing wall. She said that it was “really fun” and once again–no lines. Nice.
After that we both mastered the brief Segway training session and zipped around the course. I loved the Segways. They were amazing and I’m not afraid to say it. Clark’s offers a short ride around a small course as part of your general admission price, or a 45 minute guided Segway Safari tour for an extra 25 dollars per person. We were happy to take the free ride. Just like the blaster boats, the lines were short and you could have gone again and again if you wanted to. Interestingly enough, the Segways are built right in New Hampshire. Which, according to Clark’s website, makes for a “most appropriate in-state connection.”
We sampled several other rides and amusements that afternoon and we were impressed by all of them. We also headed back to the blaster boats for another round.
The Clark’s have been entertaining other families in the White Mountains since 1928. Tourist traps don’t stay in business for that long. Clark’s Trading Post is filled with options for family friendly adventure. Much like the mountains and rivers that surround it.