From adventure parks to water playgrounds, the New England high country offers endless options for family fun.
Things are heating up at Santa’s Village, with the much-anticipated opening of Polar Paradise this summer. This interactive water play area will include spray zones and multiple small slides for children and families to enjoy together. Located across from Ho Ho H2o and next to the Elfs Lodge, Polar Paradise is being manufactured by Whitewater West and is fully customized to fit the Santa’s Village landscape. Check out santasvillage.com for construction updates.
The season kicks off on Saturday, May 25, with the Ho Ho H2o and Joy Ride Slides open through early October. Use of the water park is included in the price of admission to Santa’s Village, along with the roller coasters and other rides, live shows and visits with Santa and his reindeer.
Story Land, in Glen, N.H., started out as a concept where storybook characters could come to life. Opened in 1954 (even before Disneyland), this children’s theme park now includes rides, attractions, shows and family-friendly games. The Roar-o-Saurus, led by Rory the Dino, is a wooden roller coaster in the area’s dinosaur-themed section of the park. This 12-passenger train has a lift height of 40 feet with a drop almost that size and provides plenty of thrills for the kids along with some great views.
A drive from Story Land north through Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch, or south over the scenic Kancamagus Highway, brings you to Lincoln, N.H., home of Clark’s Trading Post. This family-run attraction started in 1928 as Ed Clark’s Eskimo Sled Dog Ranch with a “stand” or trading post selling souvenirs to area motorists and tourists. The Clarks began training black bears for show work in 1949, and today the fifth generation of Clarks still runs the business, which has grown to include not only a renowned bear show but also a host of other attractions including a train ride, circus act, climbing tower, Segway park and tours and fun on the water with blaster boats. The signature attraction here is the famous bear show. The black bears, native to New Hampshire, delight and thrill audiences of all ages with their antics and tricks.
Wondering what to do on a rainy day? Head over to Funspot in Laconia, N.H., the heart of the Lakes Region. Billed as the largest arcade in the world — with more than 600 games, including video, pinball and classic games, kiddie rides, bumper cars and prize games — kids of all ages will have fun, win prizes and be entertained for hours. Enjoy bowling? No matter which type you like, you’ll find it at Funspot. Ten candlepin and 10 tenpin bowling lanes are available during regular hours, with Sunday, weekday and Wednesday evening specials. And you can enjoy fresh pizza while you bowl. You don’t have to wait for a sunny day to play golf. The 18-hole, 5,000-square foot indoor mini-golf course is open no matter what the skies bring. The Braggin’ Dragon restaurant serves all kinds of kid-friendly food, from chicken fingers to hot dogs to potato wedges, french fries, slush puppies and more. And adults can get away from the hustle and bustle, relax, enjoy a drink, shoot some pool or play a round of darts in D. A. Long Tavern. The tavern also has a great craft beer selection to go with some premium pizzas.
Mountain resorts are going to great lengths to continually introduce a wide variety of activities and adventures that appeal to everyone in the family. Below is a sampling of some of the new and popular adventures you’ll find when you make the worthwhile trip into the mountains this summer.
The Woodward WreckTangle at Killington’s Adventure Center, an outdoor ninja obstacle challenge, features nine different sections of unique obstacles, including cargo nets, balance beams, rope swings and more. The WreckTangle is designed to test athleticism, agility and amusement in both kids and adults, appealing to youth lifestyle and action sports experiences like skateboarding, parkour, gymnastics, skiing and snowboarding.
At Wildcat, the Ziprider lets guests travel on four side-by-side cables suspended at heights up to 70 feet on a 12 percent grade and reach speeds up to 45 mph. The Ziprider descends 2,100 feet in total, whisking riders high above the resort’s trails, trees and the Peabody River to a landing platform located a short distance from the Main Base Lodge. And the view of the Mount Washington Valley is stunning.
Cranmore Mountain Resort has boosted its Mountain Adventure Park offerings with Knockerball, the inflatable bubble spheres that are worn backpack-style with inner handles and adjustable shoulder straps. Players each get their own bubbles for KnockerSoccer games, or simply to bounce around on their own or with friends. Players must be 48 inches or taller, and closed-toe shoes are required.
Cranmore also serves up the Mountain Coaster, a one- or two-passenger coaster ride that plunges down 2,400 feet of track, reaching speeds up to 25 mph. Along the way you’ll be twisting, turning and flying through the woods, rear passengers controlling speed with the hand-held brake for a leisurely ride or a screaming fast run to the end.
Other Cranmore attractions include the four-station Bungy Trampoline, C-More’s Mining Adventure, Soaring Eagle Zip Line, Giant Swing, tubing, a climbing wall and a ropes course.
If you weigh between 20 and 200 pounds and are reasonably fit, get yourself hooked into the four-station Bungee Trampoline at Sugarbush Resort. This small square tramp with ropes and pulleys hooked to a harness allows jumpers to reach heights of 25 feet in the air, where those skilled enough can perform high-flying tricks.
Put your balance and agility to the test in one of New England’s newest adventure courses, the Aerial Forest Adventure Park on the lower slopes of Loon. The park offers five separate courses of varying levels of difficulty with features including a trapeze bridge, oscillating walk, Tibetan bridge, chain loops, tightrope walk, log suspension bridge and hanging wooden blocks. It consists of 62 platforms in the trees that are connected via a network of cables, wood, rope and ziplines.
Make your way to the South Ridge Lodge to find Sunday River’s zipline adventure features, including its dual side-by-side 750-foot Twin Zips. Guides will fit participants with equipment (including two attachment points on each line) and review safety information prior to each zip. The ziplines are designed to use a gravity braking system complemented by an arrester system, giving riders a completely hands-free experience.
Waterville Valley, with its end-of-the-road cul-de-sac location in the White Mountains, is a charming ski village in winter, but no less appealing in summer. Independence Day, July 4, is a big deal here. The Fourth of July parade is fun for all. Kids can decorate their bikes or scooters to join in. There are cars and floats, firetrucks and bands. If you don’t participate, it’s a great spectator event. Music follows in the evening and things wrap up with a spectacular fireworks show over Corcoran’s Pond. For the chocoholics in the family, the Chocolate Fest on July 27 is a chance to indulge, tasting treats while listening to some great music and sampling craft beer. Aug. 3 brings the Ugotta Regatta with free canoe, kayak and paddleboat races, a boat building class where you build your craft with tape and cardboard then see if it will float in the Boat Oughtta Float contest, some classic water games and live music.
Smugglers’ Notch is a mecca for family fun in the summer, with offerings that include the Brewster Ridge 18-Hole Disc Golf Course and the FunZone 2.0 game center where families can enjoy ping-pong, mini-golf, the Bouncy House, inflated Pirate Ship, the Faith Platform Jump and the Warrior Course with trapeze bars, cargo nets, foam obstacles and more. The Mountainside Water Playground includes a rapid river ride. At Notchville Park, guests can enjoy activities at a three-acre water park, while at Rum Runner’s Hideaway, it’s a six-acre natural environment that will have you jumping from raft to raft and into water up to 12 feet deep.
In the Lakes Region, check out the Mountain Coaster at Gunstock. Riders board their carts at the terminal building next to Gunstock’s Adventure Park. After an 1,800-foot ride up the mountain — which stretches through the woods between 20 and 30 feet off the ground in some places — riders will begin their 2,660-foot plunge down the track, which makes two complete circles and features several sharp turns, crossing five bridges along the way.
The ride drops 221 vertical feet with speeds reaching 25 mph between the trees and featuring beautiful views of the Lakes Region. Riders use a brake to control their speed and there is an automatic anti-collision system built in which slows the carts automatically.
Sunapee, now under the Vail Resorts umbrella, serves up the Aerial Challenge Course. Adventurers will self-guide themselves through obstacles — 32 in total — that stretch from tree to tree along a beginner loop, two intermediate loops and an advanced loop of varying height and difficulty.
The Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster at Okemo offers a scenic and exhilarating ride through alpine forests and along the contours of the mountain at Okemo’s Jackson Gore. The roller-coaster ride features stainless-steel tubular rails for a smooth run down the mountain with sled-like cars that can be handled by one or two passengers, who control their own speed.
When the weather turns sideways, as it has been known to do around Mount Washington, there’s no need to suppress your quest for adventure. Just head over to Bretton Woods and check out the Slopeside Climbing Wall, a 624-square-foot indoor rock climbing wall, located on the Slopeside level of the base lodge.
This 30-foot climbing wall ascent includes a variety of routes on modular hand holds and artificial rock. For an alternative activity that keeps you a little closer to the ground, the 300-square-foot bouldering cave complements the climbing wall and makes for a fun afternoon, no matter what the weather is doing outside.
In Massachusetts, a new addition to Berkshire East’s summer lineup is the Children’s Tree House Trail. Ages 3 and up can go from platform to platform among the trees on a netted course with bridges, tunnels and a small zipline. The aerial adventure park, with elevated platforms and elements including swings, bridges, ziplines and other thrills, are challenging for the older kids and adults who move through it at their own pace.