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11 Ideas for Summer Fun in the Lakes Region

May 21, 2024

New England winters are no joke. Now that we’ve braved the snowstorms and survived the final frost, we can breathe a  collective sigh of relief because summer is finally here.

New Hampshire becomes a vibrant, lively oasis in the summertime – flowers bloom, lakes sparkle, and the clouds clear out for the sun. Outdoor activities take priority this time of year, and thankfully, there are plenty in the Lakes Region. From scenic hikes to days spent on the lake, there’s no shortage of ways to make the most of the warm-weather season. Here are 11 ideas for summer fun in the Lakes Region.

1. The Mount Washington Cog Railway

A ride on the world’s first mountain-climbing railway takes you through a memorable expedition up to the summit of Mount Washington, New England’s highest peak. As you approach the top, about 45 minutes and 6288 feet later, get ready for stunning scenic views of this iconic mountain. An hour layover at the summit gives you time to roam around the mountain and enjoy the fresh air. After making the trek back down to the base, take a peek around the dedicated museum or commemorate the trip with a souvenir at the gift shop before heading home. Visit the railway’s website for schedule details and purchase tickets.

2. Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad

Another notable attraction worth adding to your summer bucket list is the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. Located at the northern side of Lake Winnipesaukee, the railroad offers old-fashioned one-and two-hour train rides that weave along the lake’s western side from Meredith to Weirs Beach to Lakeport and back. Mid-trip, stop at Weirs Beach for a sweet treat, a stroll along the boardwalk, or a round of arcade games. All rides are round trip and operate daily in the summer months, rain or shine. Solidify your summer plans and purchase tickets in advance online here.

3. Gunstock Mountain’s Adventure Park

Calling all thrill seekers! Gunstock Mountain provides endless entertainment year-round, but things really heat up in the summer. The mountain’s popular zipline tour consists of five ziplines allowing you to travel with another party member – for moral support or simply to race. The one-and-a-half-hour experience guides you across 1.6 miles taking you to speeds up to 70 mph. For another thrilling activity, check out the Aerial Treetop Adventure, which comprises 90 different challenges suspended within the trees featuring eight high ropes courses, including two demos and the kid-friendly Explorer Course. Steady yourself as you embark on a series of log ladders, bridges, swings, seesaws, footbridges, and, of course, plenty of ziplines. Ready to soar? Book your tickets on their website

4. M/S Mount Washington Cruise

Your summer plans aren’t complete without an excursion on the water. Take your pick from a plethora of scenic cruises, including Sunday Brunches, sunset dinner cruises, and special event cruises — a three-hour celebration that kicks off the summer season. The whole family will appreciate a two-and-a-half–hour ride on a Narrated Scenic Tour, where you’ll learn all about the history of the Lakes region and local tales while immersed in the most beautiful scenery in New England. Want to make a day of it? Hop on the first cruise of the day, and you’ll have a chance to “Stay and Play” at another port before getting picked up in the afternoon. New to 2023, The Spirit is now offering weekly “Haunted Winnipesaukee” and “Perfect Pairing” cruises. Browse available cruises and book your excursion online.

5. Yoga at Castle in the Clouds

Elevate your summer sunsets with yoga on the Lawns of Lucknow at Castle in the Clouds. Led by a local instructor, this rejuvenating beginner-friendly flow is set against a majestic mountain backdrop and ends with a well-deserved savasana at sunset. Plan to arrive to check in at 5:45 p.m. in front of the Carriage House, and follow your group on the  footpath up to the historic Lucknow Mansion. All you need for an evening of quietude is your mat and a water bottle. Preregister for yoga online.

6. White Water Rafting in Franklin

The waves of Winnipesaukee are roaring, rapid, and ready for you to conquer on a two-and-a-half–hour guided rafting adventure. No experience is necessary for these Class III and IV rapids that will get your adrenaline pumping as you tackle its ebbs and flows. All you need to bring is a positive attitude and a change of clothes for later – helmets and paddles are provided for all participants. Book your trip online, and prepare for an exciting day ahead!

7. Tiki Hut Boats

Another impressive cruise option that guarantees a memorable experience on the water can be found at Tiki Hut Boats on the pier at Lake Winnipesaukee. Whether you’re looking to relax with friends or celebrate a special occasion, you’ll find an enjoyable way to explore the picturesque lakes of New Hampshire with Tiki Hut Boats. These one-of-a-kind vessels have comfortable seating, a thatched roof, and a built-in bar, creating a tropical ambiance as you cruise along the sparkling waters. With different packages to choose from, you can customize your cruise to fit your preferences, whether that’s a leisurely sightseeing tour, a sunset cocktail cruise, or even a private party with music and dancing. Plan your perfect summer cruise online before they sell out! 

8. Friday Night Market at Hobbs Tap Room

Every Friday until Labor Day weekend from 5 to 8 p.m., Hobbs Tap Room hosts a Friday Night Market featuring local farmers, artisans, rotating food trucks, live music, and its own brews. Stay connected to Hobbs Tap Room on social media to receive updates and weekly vendor announcements. This evening event is a low-key way to kick off the weekend with friends and family while supporting local vendors and connecting with the community. Learn more about this and upcoming events here

9. Hit the Trails

Nature in the Lakes Region is exceptional, especially this time of year. There are endless, easily accessible outdoor activities and trails primed for hiking, biking, and exploring, many of which boast serene water views. Belknap Mountain in Gilford offers a few trail options – the blue, green, and red trail – all starting from the trailhead on Carriage Road, south of Gilford. Climb 1,466 feet up this moderately challenging route to the summit for expansive views of the region’s lakes and rolling hills. Another popular spot is Mt. Major – just 5 miles north of Alton Bay near Ellacoya State Beach. There are three trails to the summit, starting at the trailhead parking lot, leading to breathtaking views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding mountains. Check out more hikes in the Lakes Region on our website

10. Visit a State Park

During the summer, Ellacoya State Park offers a wide range of recreational outdoor activities for visitors of all ages. The park boasts a beautiful sandy beach on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, where visitors can swim, sunbathe, and relax. Water enthusiasts can enjoy various lake sports like kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing. The park also features picnic areas with grills, perfect for enjoying outdoor meals with family and friends. Hiking trails provide opportunities for exploring the park’s natural beauty, and there are volleyball courts and a playground for additional entertainment.

11. NASWA Themed weekends

The NASWA Resort has an exciting summer lineup ahead, including its themed weekends and endless events happening all season long. Celebrate Independence Day on July 3 and 4 at the resort with a Sam Adams sponsored event featuring giveaways, games, contests, and, of course, plenty of brews! Plan your stay around one of the resorts themed weekends like: Mardi Gras, Parrothead, 80’s, Reggae, and many more. Check out all the events on their website and book your stay!

The Lakes Region is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts during the summer months, offering a wide array of activities to enjoy amidst its stunning natural beauty. Whether basking in the sun, immersing yourself in nature, or enjoying the vibrant local scene, New Hampshire offers an abundance of outdoor activities to satisfy every adventurer’s desires. Discover more of the Lakes Region this season, browse our itineraries and events pages to see what’s in store.

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