As the temperatures drop along the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee, the surrounding Lakes Region towns prepare to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. The slew of holiday festivities throughout the Lakes Region draw crowds of merrymakers each holiday season, so we’re breaking down the best ways to get in the holiday spirit.
Christmas at the Castle
For five select days across the last two weekends in November (11/23–24 and 11/29–12/1), Castle in the Clouds – Moultonborough’s famous 5,500-acre mountaintop estate – transforms its main house into a winter wonderland. But these aren’t just your typical run-of-the-mill holiday decorations. The iconic turn-of-the-century stone and wood mansion (known as Lucknow Mansion) is actually outfitted in themed decorations dreamt up and designed by dozens of guests decorators from area businesses. Past years have seen volunteer decorations from Kellerhaus, an iconic ice cream and candy shop in Laconia; Stark Creative, a print and digital design studio in Wolfeboro; and Moulton Farm, a beloved farm and market in Meredith – to name just a few. After perusing the 16 rooms of the mansion designed under 2019’s theme of “Christmas Memories,” stop into the Winnipesaukee Room to browse the Artisan Fair and say hello to Santa as he roams the property.
“It’s a Wonderful Life”: A Live Radio Play
The Winnipesaukee Playhouse is staging a unique rendition of the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” for the weekend of November 22 and 23. As a live radio play, the story is set to be told in homage to Lux Radio Theatre format – a radio series that adapted films and Broadway plays into an audio format back in the 1950s.
Holiday Craft Fairs
If looking to get a head start on your holiday shopping, several craft fairs around the Lakes Region are perfect for checking everyone off your list. The Lakes Region Holiday Craft Fair, held November 23 and 24 at the Belknap Mall in Belmont, features 70 vendors specializing in jewelry, quilts, glass art, and more; while the one-day Meredith Holiday Craft Fair (11/23) fills the halls of the Meredith Community Center with scarves, pottery, jewelry, and other homemade goods from 30 makers from the Lakes Region..
There are a few light displays that keep the holidays merry and bright in the Lakes Region, including Light Up Laconia, a day-long festival on December 1 in downtown Laconia. But the most Instagram-worthy event, undeniably, is the annual Gift of Lights (held evenings from November 28 through January 5) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Here, the 2.5-mile track is decorated in more than two million lights, in which cars – yes, you get to drive the same track used by NASCAR legends – are directed through to adore the 80 different scenes and 400 light displays. In the spirit of the season of giving, a portion of all admission proceeds (the entry fee is $25 per car) is donated to Speedway Children’s Charities New Hampshire Chapter.
The Santa Express
Starting the Friday after Thanksgiving and running until the last weekend before Christmas, cars chugging along the Hobo Railroad take on a new form as the Santa Express. Departing from Lincoln, the hour and twenty-minute train ride is filled with hot chocolate and holiday cookies, as it travels through the picturesque White Mountains, offering scenic views of the White Mountain National Forest and snow-capped mountains. Once at the “North Pole,” riders are greeted by Santa and his elves, who hand out a special gift for every child aboard, before returning home.
Have a meet and greet with Santa’s reindeer, graduate from Elf University, and even knock on Santa’s front door at this immersive holiday-themed landmark in Jefferson. If you get hungry between all the merriment, stop over to one of the theme park’s many dining options: The Polar Expresso is the place for a morning pick-me-up of coffee or cocoa, while Dasher’s Delights serves up quick snacks from a walk-up window. Offering 23 holiday-themed rides, like Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster and The Great Humbug Adventure, this amusement park boasts enough Christmas magic to get even the biggest Scrooge into the holiday spirit.