Summer road trip itinerary: Concord to Littleton
Get ready for peak summer fun from Concord to Littleton
As one of New Hampshire’s main highways, Interstate 93 leads you to some of the state’s most popular destinations, including Franconia Notch. If you are ready for fun and excitement, all you need to do is point your compass north. From Concord to Littleton, here is an exit-by-exit guide to your grand adventure.
Start your trip with a visit to New Hampshire’s capital city. Take Exit 13 to reach Concord’s pedestrian-friendly downtown area. Kid-friendly destinations here include the Museum of New Hampshire History, tucked away in Eagle Square, right across Main Street from the capitol building. All ages are encouraged to explore the institution’s one-of-a-kind treasures, including a recreated Penacook wigwam. Speaking of the glittering gold-domed state capitol building, call 271-2154 for available tour times and dates.
Back on the highway, off Exit 15E in Concord, you will find the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, a planetarium and science learning center that offers star shows, outer space learning exhibits and special family programming that will inspire everyone to reach for the stars.
Pushing north, Exit 18 in Canterbury offers the off-the-beaten path destination of Canterbury Shaker Village, the National Historic Landmark Village dedicated to preserving the legacy and tradition of the religious group that once called this place home. Visitors can explore 25 restored original Shaker buildings, take part in crafts and kids’ games and go for a nature walk on trails leading through the museum’s 600 acres of forests, fields and gardens.
Further up I-93, off Exit 20 in Tilton, shop until you drop at more than 60 outlet stores just off the highway, including The Children’s Place, Gap Outlet, Gymboree, J. Crew, Bass and OshKosh B’gosh for kids. Spend time in Tilton and you will be the best dressed family wherever your travels take you.
For something completely different, follow Exit 24 to Ashland and visit the Glidden Toy Museum, a restored 19th-century home stocked top to bottom with more than 2,000 antique and vintage toys from the collection of Pauline Glidden, a longtime town resident. The “no touch” rule definitely applies here, but seeing the tin and cast iron toys, old porcelain dolls, games, books and childhood trinkets of days gone by is a great way to spark kids' interest in learning about the past.
Considered to be the Gateway to the White Mountains, Exit 25 takes you to Plymouth, where the great outdoors beckons. If you brought your bikes along (or not — daily bike rentals are available at Rhino Bike Works, 1 Foster St.) head over to Langdon Park. The natural area stretching along the Pemigewasset River consists of hiking and biking trails and an open area next to the river that provides access to shallow swimming water. It’s also a great place for a picnic lunch.
Elsewhere in Plymouth, visit Main Street with its college town vibe and eclectic assortment of shops, art galleries and restaurants, including popular summer hot spots Sweet Kathy’s Ice Cream and The Flying Monkey, an old Plymouth movie theater restored as part of the Common Man Family of Restaurants to offer live performances, silent movies and delicious food.
Next up, take Exit 28 to Route 49 to reach Waterville Valley. In summer, skis are replaced with hiking boots as visitors fan out across Waterville’s criss-crossing network of trails on their way to places like the summit of nearby Mount Osceola (a moderately difficult hike) and secret swimming holes, including one found at the end of an easy 40-minute trek along the Smarts Brook Trail. To access the trail, look for the trail parking lot on your right just before crossing the Mad River on the way into Waterville. For dining, shopping and events, visit Waterville’s Town Center complex.
Curious George fans should make a stop into the Margaret and H.A. Rey Center at the Curious George Cottage and read a book or two while enjoying curious crafts and weekly open houses.
Cruising north on 1-93, Exit 32 brings you to Lincoln and North Woodstock, where a cluster of some of New Hampshire’s favorite White Mountains summer attractions can be found, If splish-splashing in the sun is your family’s idea of summer fun, bring your bathing suits and head to Whale’s Tale Water Park in Lincoln. Looking for some thrills? The Loon Mountain Adventure Center offers mountain bike rentals, climbing walls, bungee trampoline and a zip line ride that spans the Pemigewasset River. For an afternoon of beautiful White Mountains views, climb aboard the Hobo Railroad. And nothing compares to bears! Lincoln is also home to the venerable Clark’s Trading Post and its always-popular trained bear shows.
In North Woodstock get your thrills exploring Lost River Gorge, a rock strewn canyon that often makes the river flowing through it seem to disappear. Follow the gorge along a wooden walkway with stops to explore the deep caves and waterfall. Kids can even pan for fossils and gemstones along the river — and keep what they find.
Heading north again on I-93 quickly brings you to one of the White Mountain region’s main attractions: Franconia Notch State Park, the spectacular mountain pass between the high peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia ranges. For an exciting first stop, take Exit 34A to reach the Flume, a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The Flume Visitor's Center provides access to the boardwalk and path along the gorge. For a bird’s eye view of the region, take Exit 34B to catch the tramway ride all the way to the summit of Cannon Mountain. Also off this exit is Echo Lake with opportunities to canoe, swim and simply soak up the natural beauty around you.
As I-93 leaves Franconia Notch, it passes through the sleepy village of Franconia. Take Exit 38 to learn about one of Franconia’s most famous former residents, poet Robert Frost. The Frost Place Museum gives visitors a glimpse into Frost’s life in the White Mountains and his many famous poems that were directly inspired by the region.
Continuing to head north, take Exit 40 for Bethlehem. This little White Mountains town brims with summer excitement, including weekly children's theater productions at the historic Colonial Theatre, free summer concerts at the Main Street gazebo and plenty of eclectic shops to browse, many of which are only open in summer.
From Bethlehem, reconnect with I-93 north to reach Exit 41 and Littleton, our final destination. The small-town charm is strong here too, with art galleries, clothing stores, a music shop, cute seasonal places to eat and the famous Pollyanna statue in honor of Pollyanna author Eleanor H. Porter, who lived in Littleton. The town is also home to Chutter's General Store, an old-time country store that holds the Guinness World Record for the longest candy counter in the entire world. Could there be a sweeter end to a trip?