When most Seacoast people think of embracing winter in New Hampshire, they think of winter surfing and nature walks or eating and drinking their ways around the coastline, but I’m here to tell you that Merrimack Country has a lot to offer too. From the hiking alongside the babbling brooks and the whistling mountains to river view luncheons and cozy dinners, the people of Merrimack county have fun while keeping warm during these cold months. Read on to find out the top 10 winter tourism destinations in Merrimack County!
I recently moved to Merrimack County from the Seacoast, and over the past few months, I’ve done some exploring. I’ve compiled a list of some diamonds in the rough, and locals-only secret spots of ways to make the most out of the winter in Merrimack County that maybe you haven’t tried yet.
Top 10 Winter Tourism Destinations in Merrimack County
1.Breakfast at the Allenstown Country Diner in Suncook
Don’t blink, or you may drive past it. Don’t let the outside of this little place fool you. There’s a reason their parking lot is always packed. The food is good, and the coffee is hot and refilled before you can think to ask. The Allenstown Country Diner is the perfect place to have breakfast with your best pal or your partner. Even though it’s busy and bustling, it’s quiet. You can have a conversation and hear each other talk without the noisy clatter of plates banging or music blaring, and if you are new to the area like my best gal pal and me, the waitresses will immediately make you feel at home.
2. Explore the Trails at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown
The physical fitness course at Bear Brook State Park is a fun way to challenge yourself and your friends while walking in the woods. Why pay for a gym membership, when you can buy a state park plate and play outside? When testing your agility and fitness, you can make your way to Catamount Pond for free public ice-skating, which can be magical, like something out of a Disney movie, depending on the day.
3. Lunch at The Roots Cafe in Hooksett
Beets, carrots, and parsnips come to mind when you hear the word, ‘roots,’ but fear not the menu at The Roots Café at Robie’s General Store feature much more than your winter CSA offerings. You will have to wait in line for a table almost any day you visit, or at least so far, myself and my partner and our friends have had a short wait. While waiting, many museum-like pieces are covering the walls, as well as photos that it has a real, local vibe to it. The owners have done well preserving Robie’s General Store as a well known historical landmark. The Roots Café provides farm to table dining and quality food and service. Seated in the secret back annex on a busy day, I enjoyed a veggie signature omelet and a view of the Merrimack River. How much more quaint could it get?!
4. Skiing and Snowboarding at Pat’s Peak in Henniker
If you have always wanted to learn how to ski or snowboard but don’t want to fork over $78-$100 for a lift ticket plus an additional $49 for boots, helmet, and skis and poles or snowboard then here’s your chance for one third of what you’d pay at other mountains to learn. Check out “Under the Lights on Saturday Nights at Pat’s Peak”, you pay one price to ski, snowboard, or snow tube with all lesson tips, equipment rentals, and entertainment included for $52 per person. Ski or Ride on a Saturday Night from 3 pm to 10 pm for only $52. Saturday Night POP runs from Dec. 28, 2019 to End of Season 2020. Lesson Tips from 4 pm to 6 pm in the Beginners Area. Snowtubing is from 5 pm to 10 pm.
5. Try a Vegan meal at Willows Plant Based Eatery in Concord
If you like Susty’s in Northwood, then you will love Willows! Willows is owned and operated by Susty’s daugther. And both are a real treat. I never liked tofu until I had a Susty’s fried tofu sandwich with veganise, and then I was hooked. Willows has tofu sandwiches, but her Hearty Bowls are my favorite, in particular, the Wicked Simple Hearty Bowl. The décor is funky but inviting in a crisp, clean casual way.
6. Go climb the walls at EVO rock + fitness in Concord
Are you going stir crazy? Too cold for your regular outdoor workouts, but you cringe at the thought of joining a regular gym? Dying to pretend you are at least doing something fun yet physically active? Give EVO rock + fitness a shot and see what you think. A day pass for adults is $28 plus, you can rent a harness, shoes, belay device, and chalk bag for an additional $10.
7. See a movie at Cinemagic in Hooksett
Sometimes the best way to enjoy winter is to stay inside and relax. My partner loves to see films and enjoys the IMAX experience. I never used to be a fan of going to the movie theatre. I have long legs, and I like to stretch them out when I watch a movie. Cinemagic & IMAX has recliner seating, which means I don’t feel like a pretzel when I come here, and I can enjoy my film-watching experience.
8. Take Equestrian Lessons at Red Oak Stables in Allenstown
Allenstown’s Bear Brook State Park is a hidden gem of fun-filled family activities. The park’s amenities include campsites, a picnic area, over 40 miles of hiking trails, swimming, and fishing ponds, archery range, camp store, a ball field, playground, bathhouse, shelters, picnic tables, canoe, and rowboat rentals, and a physical fitness course. And if that’s not impressive enough, it also has a beautiful small family-owned and operated equine center nestled in the heart of it. Red Oak Stables resides at the former Bear Brook Stables. The Red Oak Stables is bustling with private lessons, equestrians exercising their horses, and equine training programs. The cost to board your horse is $600 a month, for the cost of private lessons or training programs message them on Facebook for their rates.
9. Meet friends for Dinner & Drinks at The Pizzaman in Hooksett
Looking for a low-key place to meet your friends for dinner and drinks that have parking and won’t break the bank, this is it. The portion at The Pizzaman are large, like two people can split the entry and not be hungry after large. Also, they sell homemade chocolate chip cookies the size of your face that is delicious. My favorite things aside from the chocolate chip cookies here are that they offer a cauliflower crust for their pizza, and they serve diet and regular Mountain Dew. What? Oh yes. Do the Dew.
10. Pay a visit to Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord
I love the smell of new books. I also love uncracked book spines and pages that have not been dog-eared. If you aren’t sure what you are in the mood for, the friendly staff at Gibson’s is more than happy to make recommendations, and they are so spot on that I’d already read what they recommended for me. The bookstore hosts over 100 author events a year, so that’s about two per week. You know what’s fantastic, seeing an author you admire read, then going with a group of people with the author out for drinks after.
We may not have the luxury of jumping in the ocean every day with our surfboard or skateboarding at rye airfield every evening. Still, Merrimack County does have some pretty cool things going on in the winter. I’m willing to bet you haven’t tried at least one of these. Grab your significant other, or your family members, or your friends and learn to enjoy winter, because there’s 8 more weeks until Spring, compadres. Let the countdown begin.