White Mountains Rail Tour
Group Itinerary ~ Two Days
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First: Drive the Kancamagus Highway. The “Kanc” stretches 34.5 miles across the White Mountains from Lincoln to Conway. This scenic road climbs to nearly 3,000 feet as it traverses the flank of Mt. Kancamagus at the height of land in Lincoln, and offers outstanding opportunities for distant mountain views, and native flora and fauna. The Kancamagus Highway was dedicated as the first of the National Scenic Byways in the northeastern United States in 1996– for its recreational opportunities and aesthetic, cultural and historic values. The road is open year-round.
Motorcoach-friendly suggested stops include Pemigewasset Overlook, CL Graham Wangan Overlook, Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, and/or Albany Covered Bridge.
Next: Arrive in North Conway Village for local tax-free shopping. North Conway features a classic village green, known as Schouler Park, which is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch or do some people-watching against a mountain backdrop. Observe trains come and go from the beautifully restored 1874 Victorian station of the Conway Scenic Railroad. Explore local shops and art galleries including the Bavarian Chocolate Haus, Eastern Slope Branch of the New England Ski Museum (free admission), League of NH Craftsmen Fine Craft Gallery, North Conway Five & Ten, and Zeb’s General Store.
Then: Board Conway Scenic Railroad’s Mountaineer which offers a supremely scenic one-way 2.5-hour rail journey through the Mount Washington Valley and over rugged Crawford Notch. The train consists of 1950s-era streamlined passenger cars to recreate the experience of a post-World War II Transcontinental streamlined convoy. The Mountaineer was the historic name for the express passenger train that ran from Boston North Station to the White Mountains via Boston & Maine’s Conway Branch and Maine Central’s Mountain Division. Narration is provided and boxed lunches are available. The group will disembark at Crawford Station and board the coach to continue touring.
The Mount Washington Scenic Overlook in Bretton Woods is a motorcoach-friendly suggested stop en route to Franconia Notch State Park.
After That: Stop in Franconia Notch State Park at The Basin, a large pothole in the Pemigewasset River. This granite feature had its beginning some 25,000 years ago. As the Ice Age ended, water flowed from the melting glacier that filled Franconia Notch and eroded the solid bedrock. During the thousands of years that followed sand and stones were whirled around by the force of the river causing a boring action that left the sidewalls smooth. This stop includes about a 10-minute walk to and from the waterfall with a handicapped overlook available for those who are unable to complete the walk.
Prior to arriving at the Café Lafayette Dinner Train, stop to use the restrooms at the White Mountains Visitor Center. Take a few minutes to browse the Gift Shop and check out the White Mountain National Forest Information Desk and Interpretive Center located in the authentic post and beam barn. Learn about everything from area wildlife to building stone walls and the gilded era of Grand Hotels to the multi-uses of the Forest today.
Finally: Escape the ordinary and relieve the romance of dining on the rails while riding in beautifully restored vintage dining cars aboard the Café Lafayette Dinner Train. Enjoy five courses of fine food and spirits served in the Grand European manner. The two-hour, 20-mile roundtrip travels along a spur of the historic Boston and Maine Railroad. This unique dinner train offers spectacular views of the picturesque Pemigewasset River with its surrounding fields, forests, and mountains.
First: The Mount Washington Cog Railway is one of the world’s great rail adventures, and an exhilarating journey through history, technology, and nature. This first-in-the-world mountain climbing cog railway has been making its dramatic 3-hour round trip to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast (6288’) for over 150 years. Powered by custom-built biodiesel or vintage steam locomotives, clear weather provides spectacular panoramic views from Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to check out the interactive Cog Railway Museum and gift shop in the Marshfield Base Station. Boxed lunches are available.
Next: Take a self-guided tour of the historic Omni Mt. Washington Hotel & Resort. Discover all the fascinating stories and details of this National Historic Landmark, plus view the many historic photos, memorabilia, and displays located on both the Great Hall and Stickney Street Levels. Did you know that the Gold Room is where the final Articles of Agreement for the International Monetary Conference were signed in July 1944? It is this room that played an important role in the hotel becoming a part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Be sure to take in the incredible views of the Presidential Mountains from the 903-foot-long Veranda – the longest in New England – lined with wicker furniture, just as it was in the hotel’s early years.
After the tour, enjoy an elegant buffet lunch in the Main Dining Room. This area recently received renovations and re-envisioning, bringing a modern twist to a century-old classic. The Main Dining Room now offers a casual yet sophisticated dining experience with a New England inspired menu, featuring a custom made 18’ x 18’ square white marble bar enveloped by comfortable seating areas.
Then: Nestled along the banks of the mighty Ammonoosuc River, Littleton, is one of America’s Best Main Streets (ranked by Reader’s Digest as “One of the 10 nicest places in America” in 2021 and named a “Top Ten Dream Town” by Outside Magazine). This walkable, charming town features local eateries and breweries, beloved boutiques, several art galleries, and plenty of history.
The 100-year-old Opera House marks the true start of Main Street, a stretch packed with all kinds of independently owned businesses and tax-free shopping. Be sure to explore the River District, Littleton Bridge Walk including the 325-foot covered truss bridge, and the Pollyanna statue in front of the library. Shops not to be missed include Bella Funk Boutique, Chutters (home of the world’s longest candy counter), League of NH Craftsmen Fine Art Gallery, Little Village Toy & Book Shop, and Littleton Bike & Fitness. Schilling Beer Co., housed in a restored 18th-century mill on the river, offers European-inspired craft brews, wood fired pizza, a tasting room and store.
- Spend a day in the Lakes Region – start by experiencing the majesty of Lake Winnipesaukee during a narrated scenic tour aboard the historic M/S Mount Washington. Learn about the history of the region and local folklore, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in New England.
- Wolfeboro, America’s oldest summer resort town, offers plenty of local shops and restaurants plus a historical museum in the center of town.
- The Wright Museum of World War II contains over 14,000 items in its collection that are representative of both the home front and the battlefield. These irreplaceable items, together with fully operational military vehicles, introduce visitors to a seminal period in American history. Just as importantly, the Museum places the period into historical context by illustrating the enduring legacy of Americans known today as, “the greatest generation.”
- Enjoy a complete turkey dinner aboard the Winnipesaukee Railroad Turkey Dinner Train catered by Hart’s Turkey Farm. This round-trip 2-hour excursion departs Meredith Station and travels south along the western shore of Lake Winnipesaukee though Weirs Beach and Paugus Bay towards Lakeport and back along the very same route.