In summer, pilots flying to the White Mountains have two airports to choose from: Mount Washington Regional, a 4,000-foot paved runway, and Franconia, a 2,300-foot grass runway. See caption below right for MOA info. Mount Washington Regional has fuel and a new agreement with North Country Ford to provide rental cars any day of the week if reservations are made ahead of time Monday through Friday. Enterprise can bring a car to Franconia.
You don’t have to camp, of course; the area has fabulous accommodations, including the Adair Country Inn, with its wonderful restaurant serving gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner—plus an elegant afternoon tea for hotel guests. Summer meals are sweet out on the deck, and summer packages can include golf at the Bethlehem Country Club or a summertime rolling dog sled adventure. The lavish Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa, less than five miles from the airport, has its own golf course and provides stellar dining, including in the amply stocked wine cellar.
Nearby small towns offer charm and fun breweries, including the brand-new Copper Pig in Lancaster, where you can enjoy your beer by the Israel River. Pick up fresh bread and pastries at the also-new Polish Princess Bakery (closes at 2 p.m.). In Littleton, Schilling Beer Co. is the place for Belgian- and Scandinavian-inspired strong ales and wood-fired pizzas. Sit beside the Ammonoosuc River and then walk across the covered bridge to the Renaissance Mill, built in 1797, before exploring the friendly village where the classic children’s novel Pollyanna was written. In Bethlehem, the award-winning Rek'•lis Brewing Company offers artisan brews and burgers across from the historic Colonial Theatre’s movies and live entertainment.
Littleton and Bethlehem are close to Franconia, where you can land on the grass airstrip, open mid-May to mid-October. There’s no fuel; note the right pattern for Runway 36, and remember that gliders have the right-of-way. The Franconia Soaring Association offers scenic rides, flight instruction, and glider rentals and towing. The lovely, colonial-style Franconia Inn is right across from the airstrip and provides complimentary bikes for guests. Ride into town to visit the home (now a museum) of poet Robert Frost. Or, play on the inn’s 107 acres: Activities include swimming, tennis, badminton, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding. The on-site restaurant serves breakfast and dinner and can pack you a lunch, too. Rent a car from Enterprise in Littleton to explore further.
Take the Franconia Notch Parkway to exit 34A, where you can stop at the Franconia Notch State Park visitor center for info and then take the two-mile loop to Flume Gorge. For great views, exit the parkway at 34B and ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram to the 4,080-foot summit. Near the tram’s base, you can walk or bike the Franconia Notch Recreation Path or visit the Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site and Museum. Exit 34C takes you to Echo Lake, where you can rent a pedal boat, kayak, or canoe; swim; fish for trout; or hike to Artists Bluff. Keep an eye out for deer, moose, and black bears.
If you brought Fido and want to hike with him off-leash, visit Dog Mountain, outside St. Johnsbury on the New Hampshire/Vermont border, 30 miles west of Mount Washington Regional (and northwest of Franconia). They even have a Dog Chapel and free concerts Sunday nights all summer—dogs welcome, of course! Don’t leave St. Johnsbury without visiting Maple Grove Farms to see how they’ve collected and processed maple since 1915. Sample some maple candies and pick up a few to take home—here’s betting you’ll soon be back for more!
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