Between the 250 distinct lakes and ponds and surrounding mountains hugged by verdant forests, the Lakes Region may be best known as a playground for those seeking diverse outdoor active pursuits. Still, sometimes, an afternoon of indoor retail therapy is in order – especially as the world-class retailers and shopping centers lining all edges of Lake Winnipesaukee boast goods without the hassle of a sales tax. In fact, New Hampshire is only one of four states free of a sales tax, making it that much easier to buy gifts, pick up a little something for yourself, or stock up on souvenirs to remember your Lakes Region getaway by. You can find gifts made by local craftsman, beautiful artwork, handmade chocolates, and everything from name brand shops to unique boutiques, the choices are endless. Hosting New Year’s Eve? Plan your menu with the help of all the great specialty food stores, and purchase fireworks for your own display. To see all that the Lakes Region has to offer visit www.lakesregion.org/wheretoshop. So where to start? Here’s a few of our favorite retail meccas flanking the 72-square-mile Lake Winnipesaukee and beyond.
Mill Falls Marketplace
Desperate for a page-turner to entertain you during a lakeside lounge? What about some sweet treats from a shop that will bring memories of quaint penny candy stores flooding back to you? Whether you’re in the market for both of the above – or handcrafted American-made jewelry, pottery, woodenware, and home décor – the Mill Falls Marketplace has what you’re looking for. This Meredith shopping destination houses nine independent shops and three restaurants in a four-story old brick and barn-board mill building centered around a 40-foot waterfall.
Laconia Antique Center
If you can’t resist running your hand over an old vinyl album, with its unique scratches and pops, or the worn edges of a well-loved antique piece of furniture, the Laconia Antique Center is the stuff of your treasure-hunting dreams. As the largest antique store in New Hampshire at 22,000 square feet, it’s chock-full of goods – everything from vintage toys and trains, silver collectibles, and cuckoo clocks – from 150 different independent antique dealers. Just don’t forget to stop at the on-site preserved 1950s soda fountain. Serving grilled cheese and root beer floats to patrons stooped over the lunch counter on classic chrome barstools, it’s a leftover relic from when the building was an old five and dime store.
Everyone likes outlet store savings, but when you combine them with tax-free shopping, deals are easy to come by and even harder to resist. Located off I-93 in Tilton, this shopping mecca offers the best of both worlds with more than 40 of your favorite brands to choose from, including Gap and Nike — plus some local gems like The Lakes Region Art Association Gallery.
Farm to Table Market
If you’ve been out all day deal hunting, you might need to take a moment to also shop for some sustenance. West Ossipee’s Farm to Table Market is the place for a prepared snack or all the locally-sourced ingredients you need to make a feast at home. Housed in what looks to be just another roadside farmhouse off Route 16, the grocer partners with over 20 local farms and producers to provide a wide selection of vegetables, meats, milk and cheeses, and items like coffee, honey, and jams. Prepared dishes can be found being churned out of their on-site bakery and kitchen, including soups, salads, and their popular homemade cornbread (best served with local maple butter) and avocado chocolate pudding.
The League of NH Craftsmen – Meredith Fine Craft Gallery
For more than 60 years, a quaint weather-worn, wood-paneled house on Route 3 in Meredith has been home to The League of NH Craftsmen and Meredith Fine Craft Gallery. The group of vetted craftspeople who display their work at the gallery run the gamut of artistic mediums: jewelry, metalwork, hand-turned wooden goods, garden sculptures, stained glass, prints, and more. See visions of a new piece of art on your office walls or kitchen, or find the perfect gift for a friend at this Lakes Region landmark.