The last hurrah of summer fades spectacularly into autumn with Columbus Day weekend in New Hampshire. The days are warm enough to enjoy outdoor pursuits, and the nights are cool enough for relaxing in front of the fireplace with a cup of cocoa in a cozy log cabin. There are plenty of incredible vacation rentals in New Hampshire to choose from. Admire colorful autumn leaves from a vintage train, board a cruise ship, go horseback-riding, or stroll along the sidewalks of quaint towns. Moreover, meet the Pumpkin People; have dinner with George, the ghost; or tailor an adventure to suit your fancy at any of these 11 best Columbus Day weekend getaway spot
s in New Hampshire.
Combine your love of autumn with your golfing aspirations at the Owl’s Nest in Thornton. As you play the course, revel in the surrounding kaleidoscope of brilliant red, gold, and brown vistas of the White Mountains. Your cabin vacation rental for the holiday weekend gives you access to five sets of tees, the clubhouse, and exercise equipment.
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Experience the warmth and charm of the Bavarian Alps without dusting off your passport by attending White Mountain Oktoberfest at Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln. The festival coincides with peak autumn foliage season, giving visitors the best views while enjoying beer and brats. An oompah band supplies background music for the stein-hoisting contest, keg toss, and similar attractions. Meanwhile, the Village Shops and Town Green on Main Street burst into the colors of fall with foliage encompassing the works of arts, crafts, and artisan foods from local exhibitors.
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3. North Conway
The Busker Festival in North Conway yields a whole town full of musicians and vendors lining the streets through Settlers Green and Settlers Crossing. Stroll along, enjoying the autumn weekend weather and the music while you shop, visit vendor displays, and snack on street-fair goodies. The weekend festivities continue on Monday with Dancing in the Streets, a week-long series at Settlers Green Streetside.
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October ushers in the season for fall colors and fall festivals in New Hampshire, and it’s also the proper season for ghost hunting. At Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, enjoy a meal with some drinks, and potentially meet some hangers-on from by-gone days when the building was a county jail. Local lore includes a story about George, the ghost who throws food and drinks beverages when nobody is looking. For the kiddies, Carter Hill Orchard makes a great destination to pick out pumpkins for carving. The store features fresh apple cider doughnuts and other goodies to take back to your vacation rental for snacks.
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Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses hosts an open house at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse on Columbus Day weekend. The tour takes visitors up 44 steps to the watch room and a seven-rung ladder to the lantern room to enjoy the 360-degree vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the dazzling fall foliage on the island and mainland. Afterward, stop at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market to score some take-home meals, ready-to-eat goodies, or to stock up on some locally sourced meats and veggies to grill when you get back to your vacation rental.
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Color your weekend fantastic in Laconia with the Colors of the Season foliage dinner cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee, aboard the MS Mount Washington. As the long days of summer dwindle, the lake provides a perfect backdrop for viewing the stunning fall palette. Join a cruise for a buffet dinner of lobster and live music amid a leisurely, enchanting tour around the lake. For the kids of all ages, Monkey Trunks zip line park combines high-flying adventure with breathtaking views of the surrounding foliage.
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Get up close and personal with autumn in Franconia Notch State Park. Look for the famous Old Man of the Mountain, spend some time in the Flume Gorge Visitor Center, walk through the gorge, and tour the New England Ski Museum while there to take in the area’s unique culture and physical geography. Or enjoy a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, an 80-passenger car that travels 4,100 feet to the top of Cannon Mountain. The ride treats visitors to the blazing fall colors of Canada, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York. At the summit, look for walking paths, check out the observation deck, or grab some refreshments at the cafe and bar.
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8. Center Sandwich
The Sandwich Fair, which occurs over the three-day Columbus Day Weekend, marks the end of summer and welcomes autumn. Whether you enjoy the animal competitions, exhibits, the midway games and rides, the entertainment, or the food, the sights and sounds of The Sandwich Fair celebrate harvest time and the changing of seasons. Check out the oxen pulls, the parades, and pumpkin carving demonstrations.
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9. Mount Washington
Some visitors enjoy the challenge to drive the narrow, winding road, sans guard rails, to the 6,288-foot-high summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. Others prefer the Mount Washington Cog Railway. The tour aboard a vintage train car takes you on a leisurely three-hour tour of the mountain, with gorgeous views of autumn foliage and spectacular photo opportunities. Your hour atop the mountain also includes time to visit the Weather Museum, the Mount Washington Observatory, and the Sherman Adams Visitor Center.
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With autumn comes harvest time at Appleview Orchard, a kid-friendly farm just a mile off Route 28. Pick some apples, join a hayride, and then settle down for a picnic lunch. Kids and adults also enjoy the petting zoo’s menagerie of goats, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, and ducks. The Country Shop features ice cream served in homemade waffle cones, hot beverages, apple cider, homemade cookies, and a delightful selection of gourmet foods and gifts.
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Hundreds of Pumpkin People, and pumpkin animals, emerge in Jackson at the beginning of October. Restaurants, stores, businesses, and private homes set out their entertaining creations for a creative competition. It’s a sweet time to revel in warm days and cool nights for leaf peeping and stargazing from the top of Jackson Falls. Consider joining a guided horseback tour from Black Mountain Stables for spectacular views of the foliage before retiring to your rustic log cabin rental to toast marshmallows over a campfire.
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