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We just returned from our family vacation in North Conway, New Hampshire. This location was chosen because it was convenient for family- my 97-year-old grandmother lives in the area and can no longer travel, plus other family members live in the area. However, we were pleasantly surprised at just how … pleasant this area is! North Conway is a perfect location for a vacation with toddlers and kids of all ages.
North Conway area is an outdoorsman’s paradise, for every season. It borders on the White National Forest, home to Cranmore Mountain Resort, Attitash, and Wildcat ski areas along with tons of great hiking. Additionally, Echo Lake State Park offers hiking and swimming opportunities, and the beautiful Saco River flows through town offering swimming, fishing, and rafting opportunities of all types. Plus, it’s a great little town filled with wonderful restaurants, one of a kind shops, and an outlet mall! Our week in Conway was truly a treat for the entire family!
These are our top 5 favorite activities in North Conway with toddlers.
1. Saco River
Summer in New Hampshire is hot and HUMID, for these Pacific Northwestern’s, so standing in water is a necessity. The Saco River is cool, clear, and BEAUTIFUL, and we were lucky enough to have a spot right on the water. The river has sections of rapids, and sections of calm water, so your impression of the river is going to vary widely depending on where you are in it. We had a great spot with sandy banks, and areas of calm waters (with plenty of movement for those who wanted to float or raft).
Our 3-year-old twins spent the week splashing around in the shallow water and digging in the sand with sand toys. The big kids invented an elaborate game of bartering using mud, rocks, sticks, etc. And the adults enjoyed relaxing the water while the kids more or less occupied themselves. Memories were made and fun was had by all. My littles even got to go on a couple of short float trips! There are tons of great floats along this river- you could easily spend your whole day floating and would have a blast!
2. Cranmore Mountain Resort
Cranmore Mountain Resort is best known for its excellent skiing in the winter. But the resort is truly an all-season result. In the summer, Cranmore opens up its summer park, featuring a ropes course, giant swing, zipline, summer tubing, and a mountain coaster, among others. Additionally, the mountain bike park is opened, and some hiking trails are available. You can even enjoy a lovely lunch with a view at the top of the mountain.
Since we were visiting with our 3-year-old twins, our options for the adventure park were somewhat limited. Though many of the attractions do allow younger children to participate, with a caregiver, most are really designed for older children or adults. They do have a bouncy house just for littles, but it’s not anything special. The zipline is AMAZING, but my kids and I will have to save that for another trip.
The Ropes Course!
However, one unique opportunity is the kid’s ropes course. It is designed for children 3-9, and parents can go too. The ropes course uses a harness that is hooked onto a series of wires overhead. The carabiners are set up such that you cannot be disconnected (you have two connections, and one must be connected before the other is disconnected), so it’s perfectly safe. Also, the kid’s version is really only a couple of feet of the ground. My kids got a kick out of getting all suited up in their harness.
The course itself was really amazing too. It had a variety of bridges, nets, and lines to cross between landing pads. It was challenging and scary at times for my 3-year-olds, but they REALLY enjoyed themselves and felt so proud of making it through the course. I was really glad that parents were allowed to go because they wouldn’t have been able to make it through along. Plus, it was just a ton of fun to watch them up close as they figured everything out.
The kid’s ropes course was a big highlight of our trip and a DO NOT miss activity in North Conway when visiting with toddlers. This experience is one we haven’t found anywhere else, at least not for kids that little. We’ll be dreaming of it for quite a while!
3. Wildcat Mountain Ski Area
Wildcat Mountain Ski Area is a beautiful and super low key area that also opens up in the summer for some great activities, including hiking (including a section of the Appalachian Trail), a crazy fast zipline, disc golf, and summer gondola rides. We didn’t get to do the zipline because we had our kiddos, but it looks amazing. It’s a four-person zipline, meaning four go at the same time, but still on separate lines, and really fast. And because the views at Wildcat are SO amazing, they are bound to be epic from up high.
We did take the gondola ride up to the top and did some hiking around and exploring. The gondola is the smaller, 4 person style gondolas, with plenty of windows to take in the view. When you get to the top, there are some great little trails, and or you can enjoy just wandering around. The view from the top is stunning, and the ride up on the gondola was a first for my kids, and well enjoyed. However, definitely bring your bug spray when exploring the top of the mountain- holy mosquitos!
Storyland Amusement Park is located just a short drive from Conway. It’s a fun little amusement park aimed at children aged 2-12. There are rides for thrill-seekers, for those who are a little more cautious, water rides, high in the sky rides, and even just sightseeing and exploration activities for those who don’t care for the rides at all. Plus, there are great 20 minute shows for kids. Kids over 36” can ride nearly everything in the resort, and many are suitable for infants in their parent’s arms. It was so lovely to be able to do anything we wanted with my little guys and they loved just running around and choosing fun rides.
My kiddos favorites were the Dutch Shoes, where they get to ride in a flying shoe and control the height, and the Great Balloon, which is a balloon themed Ferris wheel. My kids are going through a fearful phase but overall, they found the rides to be fun and not too scary! Also, they loved meeting Daniel Tiger at the new show! And I loved that lines weren’t horribly long, and the park, though large, was not overwhelming. Our advice would be to go early to beat the heat, and the crowds. Then spend your afternoon enjoying the water rides.
5. Restaurants and Shops
North Conway has a huge variety of amazing shops and restaurants that can be enjoyed even if you visit with small children. Our favorite restaurants were Delaney’s Hole in the Wall and Muddy Moose for lunch or dinner, and Frontside Coffee Roasters for a quick breakfast. And don’t forget dessert! Trail’s End Sundaes are delicious and ENORMOUS. And the kiddos can burn off their energy at the playground.
And speaking of parks, Schouler Park is a great park and spray area near the community center. Once you’ve worn the kids out, check out some of the fun shopping just down the stream. You’ll find antiques, a creat book shop, and more. And don’t forget to stop by the Christmas Loft for year-round Christmas magic!
Settler’s Green Outlet Village was a big hit for everyone in our group. They have a great layout, a huge variety of shops including tons of kid’s stores such as Carters, Oshkosh, Gap, Old Navy, Crocs and more. Plus even more shops for mom and dad. You can even grab a post-shopping lunch or cup of coffee. My kids aren’t really into shopping, but they did love checking out all the colorful prints at the Crocs outlet. In fact, I think every single person in my family ended up with at least one pair of Crocs by the end of the week!
North Conway has so much for toddlers to do and it was a wonderful vacation spot! Our trip was as relaxing as it can be when traveling with twin 3-year-olds and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us. As a family who really loves the outdoors, this vacation gave us everything we were craving and more. Plus, many of these great outdoor activities were perfect for older kids, and adults (playing in the river is an ALL AGES activity, and summer events at the ski resorts are MADE for big kids). My grandmother was glad to be able to relax and watch the little guys play in the sand, and enjoy some wonderful food. It goes to show that you don’t need to go to a mega-resort, or even big plans to have a truly memorable vacation.
Wanting more? Check out this post for more on our New England trip!