New England residents are a hearty bunch who—depending on whom you ask–are either blessed or cursed to live in an area with four full-fledged seasons. While it’s possible to bear down and wait out the winter, a more noble and sensible goal is to learn how to not just survive the winter, but to thrive. Like the Danes who have a unique word (hygge) for conquering the winter (with coziness), most New England folk embrace a mindset or way of life that has created a winter culture; replete with festivals, winter drinks and a wide range of outdoor activities that fit with any range of budget. Thankfully, since New Hampshire is covered by rivers, mountains, dense forests and historic villages, it provides a picture perfect backdrop for whatever gets you outside on a cold, wintry day.
1. Ice Castles (Lincoln, NH)
The New Hampshire ice castle display is in Lincoln, New Hampshire. The ice castle display typically opens in January, but you should check the ice castle website to verify. The castles are made up of turrets, archways, tunnels, ice slides and fountains that are lit with colored LED lights frozen into the ice. While you’ll find a wide range of ages at the display, this destination is particularly fun for the very young. Case in point: Disney’s Elsa is available during certain hours for photo opportunities.
Recommended Lodging & Gear
- Here are a few vacation rentals we recommend in Woodstock, NH. Our first VRBO rental recommendation is a beautiful 4 bedroom/2 bath that accommodates up to 10 people. Our other recommendation is a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom condo that has a modern indoor pool with views of the lake.
- REI typically has some great sales and New England Gear Guide also offers helpful tips about winter outfitting.
Even though ziplining typically evokes summer-time memories, there are lots of options in New Hampshire to zipline during the winter. You will of course want to bring warm clothing and avoid windy days, but if you hit it right, you can add your zipline trip to some other outdoor activity like downhill, cross country skiing or showshoeing. After you purchase your tickets and lock into the line, you’ll be flying over rivers, snow banks and mountain backdrops.
Bretton Woods offers three-hour canopy tours at the Mount Washington Resort. The Bretton Woods zipline begins at the Bretton Woods base lodge.
Cranmore Mountain Resort
This ski mountain in North Conway features the zipline “anyone can ride”— the side-by-side seated, 700-foot Soaring Eagle zipline. Stay for some snow tubing and check out the mountain coaster and giant swing for some more wintry thrills.
Loon Mountain Resort
Like Cranmore, Loon Mountain has expanded its winter fun activities far beyond skiing and riding. In addition to ice skating, guided snowshoe or cross-county ski tours and more, they also have a winter zipline that soars more than 700 feet across the Pemigewasset River, and then back across to the Adventure Center.
3. Snow Tubing
You can find options to snow tube at many of the New Hampshire ski resorts. SkiNH has created a helpful directory of snow tubing options in NH. Of these options, we rank Gunstock, Cranmore and Loon Mountain as three of the more interesting options. Like ziplining, snow tubing can be a great “extra” activity that you tag on to a core activity like skiing or snowshoeing. The goal is to do your research and pick a resort that fits your tubing preferences (length, cost, speed, shape of course) with the main activity you have in mind (downhill skiing, etc.)
Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park
Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park has 10 snow tubing lanes . Kids less than 42 inches tall ride for free, but must ride with a paying adult. To get to the top of the hill, you’ll use a handle-tow lift or a magic carpet.
Gunstock Tubing Park
Gunstock’s Thrill Hill Tubing Park has the longest tubing runs in New Hampshire at 1,068 feet. The park is serviced by its own handle-tow lift and includes up to 6 unique chutes. The snow tubing season at Gunstock typically runs from just after Christmas through mid-March. The Thrill Hill is scheduled to be open from 4PM to closing on Tuesday through Friday and open from 10AM to close on Saturday and Sunday.
Loon Mountain Tubing
If you choose to tube at Loon Mountain, you’ll purchase a ticket and be assigned a specific session time at Loon Mountain. Like other tubing hills, you’ll need to use the tubes provided by the resort. Loon Mountain doesn’t offer the longest run and it typically isn’t well groomed. But, if you’re staying at or near Loon Mountain, it’s convenient and it’s pretty fast. The snow tubing office is located across from the Little Sister lift and next to the Slopeside Deli. Make sure you arrive at least a half hour early and give yourself sufficient time to park and fill out liability forms. The deli does offer some solid options for lunch if you’d rather not bring your lunch to the run. Note that if you don’t make reservations ahead of time for tubing, there may not be availability.
4. IndoorIce Skating
The Everett Arena (Concord)
The Everett Arena offers public skating, adult and youth stick practices as well as skating lessons. Public skating is Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. from September 19, 2016 until March 10, 2017. Admission is $5. Rentals are available for $5.
Conway Arena (Nashua)
The Conway Arena is a year-round, indoor facility. Public skate is offered four to six times a week through the summer months. Admission is $5 per skater with rental skates available for $4 a pair. The arena also offers learn-to-skate and hockey lessons for kids 3 years of age and older.
Purity Spring Resort in Madison
The Purity Spring Resort ice skating rink is just across from the King Pine base lodge, the arena is covered and Zamboni-groomed. Complete with music and a rink-side fire. Rentals are available.
The Rinks at Exeter
The Rinks at Exeter is a state-of-the-art twin ice rinks facility. It is open to families year-round. The Rinks offers public skating, youth hockey, adult hockey, learn to skate and learn to play hockey programs, private lessons, group rentals, birthday parties and more. Admission is $6 and skate rentals are $4. Please be advised that The Rinks cannot rent helmets, so bring your own. Click here for the current public skate schedule.
Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett
Tri-Town Ice Arena offers public skate for $6 and $4 for skate rentals. Need some extra help? Tri-Town accommodates by offering walkers for $4 with a $5 refundable security deposit. Click here for more rates and information.
Waterville Valley Ice Arena
5. Outdoor Ice Skating
Black Mountain has an outdoor rink at the base of the mountain next to the bar and restaurant.
Bretton Woods Mount Washington Resort
The Bretton Woods Mount Washington Resort outdoor rink offers gorgeous views of the Presidential Mountain Range and is free for guests. Rental skates are available for $12 per hour (expensive), or, you can sign a waiver form at the Stone Pillar Lodge (near the Nordic Center). The ice skating rink is open from late-November through mid-March (weather permitting) and is open to non guests of the Mountain Washington Resort.
Bow Town Pond
The Bow Town Pond is located next to the Bow Community Center. Skating on the pond is free and the rinks are plowed regularly.
Churchill Rink in Durham
Churchill Rink at Jackson’s Landing is an ice skating rink in Durham that is open to the public. The facility has a roof with open sides, bathrooms, a snack bar and locker rooms. Public skate is $7 for adults and and $5 for children under 18. Family pond hockey, stick and play, adult hockey and other programs are offered.
Concord Ice Skating
There are four skating areas in Concord: Merrill Park located at 27 Eastman St.; Beaver Meadow Golf Course at 1 Beaver Meadow Rd.; Rollins Park at 116 Broadway St. and White Park at 1 White St.
Dorrs Pond in Manchester
Adjacent to Livingston Park, Dorrs Pond has been a fixture in the north end of Manchester since 1934. The pond has a normal surface area of 25 acres.
Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa
This hotel has an outdoor rink where you can rent skates or bring your own.
Enjoy ice skating in one of the most picture-perfect backdrops on the planet. A trip to Nestlenook Farm fits well with other outdoor winter activity in Jackson, NH. The ice skating area is set on a well-maintained three-acre Victorian skating park. A covered warming center offers a roaring fire and hot chocolate for those looking to recharge. The current cost is $10 for adults (those over 13) and $7 for children 6 and older. Children under 3 are free. Rentals for all ages are $12 per hour or $15 for the day. Since these costs can add up, don’t forget to bring your own ice skates and pick the best time of the day (or night) to visit. Note that Nestlenook Farm is typically open until 8pm M-F, but they extend their hours until 9pm on Saturday and close at 5pm on Sunday night. Also, these hours can change depending on weather, so don’t forget to call before visiting.
Occom Pond in Hanover
Occom Pond is located near the Hanover Country Club’s golf course, on the northern edge of the Dartmouth College campus. Cross-country skis, snowshoes and ice skates are available for rent at the Dartmouth Cross-Country Ski Center on the lower level of the Dartmouth Outing Club building. Hot dogs, chili and hot chocolate are sold on weekends. Rental hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. You do not have to be a student to rent equipment at the Dartmouth Cross-Country Ski Center, although you’ll pay a bit more if you don’t have a Dartmouth student ID.
Puddle Dock Pond in Portsmouth
The Puddle Dock Pond rink is located next to the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth. The rink is placed in the open lawn area between the Visitor Center and the Cooper Shop. it is by far the most picturesque ice skating rink in New Hampshire. If you’re going to visit, it’s imperative that you check their online calendar since they have specific times dedicated to ice skating for the general public. If you’re looking for a lower-cost option, Puddle Dock Pond offers some free ice skating to the general public during some of the “shoulder” hours (e.g. 9am-10:15am). Each days schedule is unique.
Robin Hood Park Pond in Keene
Robin Hood Park Pond is home to a pond that’s groomed for skating in the winter. To get there, turn left at 366 Reservoir Street off of Roxbury Street. Parking is in the lot between the pond and the swimming pool.
Schouler Park in North Conway
Schoulder Park offers outdoor public skating in the heart of North Conway. The rink was renovated in 2012 with a remodeled warming hut and new low-wood boards to replace old chest-high hockey rink boards.
6. Snowshoeing & Cross Country Skiing
As soon as there’s enough snow to walk on, you’ll see outdoor enthusiasts traversing trails scattered throughout the state. It’s not surprising that snowshoeing and cross country skiing have become so popular since they are both low-cost activities that aren’t particularly difficult to learn; especially showshoeing. There’s usually no need for a lift ticket, specialized clothing or a drive to a far flung location. If you have your own snowshoes or cross country skis, below are some options for your next trip.
- Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown
- Old Bridle Path in Holderness
- Mount Monadnock Loop and Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey
- Franconia Notch State Park in Franconia
- Battery Point via the Massabesic Audubon Center in Auburn
- Lake Massabesic, in general, has some great trails to check out. We recommend the entrances via By-Pass 28 (parking areas near the Auburn traffic circle or the parking lot at the Audubon Center).
- Heald Pond Trail in Wilton
- Hamlin Recreation and Conservation Area Trail in Meredith
- Odiorne State Park in Rye
- Mine Falls in Nashua
- Group walks and snowshoe meet each Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m.
- Raymond Park in Pelham
If you’d like to rent snowshoes or cross country skis:
- Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Foundation in Intervale
- Trail rates range from $5-$15; rentals are $14
- Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford
- Trail rates range from $18-$28
- Waterville Valley Resort in Waterville Valley
- Trail rates range from $13-$21
- Pats Peak Ski Resort in Henniker
- Rentals are $19
- Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in Jackson
- A snowshoe trail pass is $10 per person; rentals are $12; 2-hour tours are $15 per person
- Great Glen Trails in Pinkham Notch
- Trail rate is $10-$20; rentals are $15-$20
- Trail rate is $10-$20; rentals are $15-$20
- Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center in Laconia
- Guided snowshoe adventures are $10 per person in advance and $12 at the door
- Eastman Cross Country Center in Grantham
- Eastman holds several cross country skiing and snowshoe events, including moonlight events
- Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods
- Trail rates range from $7-$21; rentals range from $12-$20
- Windblown Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in New Ipswich
- Trail rate is $12 for ages 8 and up; rentals range from $8-$12
- Loon Mountain Adventure Center in Lincoln
- Self guided trail rates range from $14; rentals range from $18-$23
- Granite Gorge Ski Area in Keene
- Trail pass and rental fee is $15
- Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center in Hanover
- Daily rentals are $7-$15 and $30-$60 for weekly rentals
- Trail rates range from $5-$14
- Dexter’s Inn in Sunapee
- Trails are open to inn guests and the public
- Trail rate is $12 (rate for inn guests is $8); rentals are $12
- Bear Notch Ski Touring in Bartlett
- Trail rates: free for kids, $20 for adults; seniors are $15
- Rentals are $15
7. Fat Biking
Fat biking is becoming more mainstream and if you’re unsure about its merits, you can always rent a fat bike and take it for a spring. The basics? Fat bikes have wide rims, and low-pressure, oversized tires to help improve traction on snow-covered trails. Fat bikes are actually pretty easy to ride and handle, so you won’t necessarily need lessons, although guided trail rides can be a nice option. There are fat bike rentals across New Hampshire, including at Great Glen Trails and Bretton Woods. You can also find some awesome trails in the Mount Washington Valley and at events like FattyFest in Waterville Valley. You really don’t need anything special to wear beyond your typical winter jacket and ski pants. NHMagazine offers some helpful information to help you prepare for your next fat bike trip.
8. Ice Fishing
Wipe those thoughts out of your mind of hunching over a small hole on a wintry day. Ice fishing in New England is both a sport and an art and if you’re looking for the right mix of each, New Hampshire is happy to accommodate your preferences.
If you’re looking for places to ice fish, the state of New Hampshire maintains a list of options. Below are some of the more popular locations:
To the north, you can try:
To the south you can try:
- Turtle (aka Turtletown) Pond in Concord
- Northwood Lake in Northwood
- Massabesic Lake in Manchester
- Robinson Pond in Hudson
The main cost for ice fishing if a NH fishing license. A New Hampshire freshwater fishing license can be purchased online at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department website. The licenses are inexpensive. If you’re new to ice fishing, you’ll want to review the NH Freshwater Fishing Guide.
If you have your license already, here are the other tools you will need to go ice fishing:
- A sled, toboggan or some other platform to haul your fishing gear
- An ice auger to drill a large enough hole in the ice
- A skimmer to scoop out chips of ice and slush at the top of the fishing hole; search online for more information
- A stool for you to sit on. Many people use a bucket or a small chair
- A jigging rod, lines, hooks, jigs, lures, gaff hook and any other fishing gear you may want
- A bait bucket. OutdoorLife provides a helpful overview about live ice fishing bait.
9. Ice Climbing
While it might not top our list, ice climbing offers another outdoor option if you’ve tapped out all of your other go-to activities. Although it may look intimidating, there are several organizations in New Hampshire that offer gear, training and support. If you’re in North Conway, check out the International Mountain Climbing School.
10. Downhill Skiing
No New England winter activity list would be complete without mention of the area’s excellent downhill skiing. Although our top downhill skiing recommendations are in Maine and Vermont, you’ll find numerous options in New Hampshire. We recommend Wildcat, Bretton Woods, Gunstock, Attitash. You can read more about each at NHMagazine.