Traveling to the White Mountains region with kids? Here are the top 8 sites you can’t miss during your family trip to the Lincoln, New Hampshire area!
I love the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and I’ve visited the area more times than I can count.
The mountain region spans for miles and miles, and it’s impossible to see it all in three days (or even in three months!)
But one of my favorite places to stay when we visit the White Mountains is Lincoln, New Hampshire.
Lincoln is perfect because it offers a sampling of all of the best of the White Mountains: resorts and restaurants, incredible mountain hikes, cascading waterfalls, scenic vistas, fun family attractions nearby, and access to the stunning Kancamagus Highway.
So maybe you can’t see it all, but you can get a taste of all of the highlights in a weekend in Lincoln, New Hampshire.
Here’s our Ultimate Family Bucket List of the Top 8 Sites you can’t miss in the Lincoln, New Hampshire region of the White Mountains:
1.) Santa’s Village
I think it’s fair to say that Santa’s Village is the amusement park of every little kid’s dreams.
There are family friendly rides galore, mixed with a festive holiday theme throughout the park (including gingerbread houses, an elf workshop, and holiday music piped in through the speakers).
Santa’s Village is located in Jefferson, which is about 45 minutes from Lincoln.
But if you have kids, it’s worth the trip.
If I’m being completely honest with you, I usually dread the chintzy carnival atmosphere of amusement parks.
But Santa’s Village is probably the best family friendly amusement park I’ve visited in New England.
It’s definitely geared toward younger kids: the biggest thrill ride in the park was a small roller coaster that Trevor (age three) was tall enough to ride.
Santa’s Village is scenic: Tru and I loved taking in the sweeping, panoramic views of the White Mountains while we rode on the Ferris wheel.
The park is unique in that it’s really thoughtfully themed and beautifully landscaped and maintained.
There were huge, old shady trees all along the pathways, and the attractions were all housed in buildings that resembled a quaint little German town at Christmastime.
Tru’s favorites at Santa’s Village:
The Gingerbread House, where kids can choose from a wide selection of bakery items including gingerbread men that they can decorate.
(They also had Tru’s favorite: giant sugar cookies with rainbow sprinkles!)
He also loved driving his own antique car (with me sitting in the passenger seat pressing the gas pedal).
And he was thrilled with the log flume ride. There weren’t any lines on the day we visited, so Tru just kept cycling through the ride four times straight!
2.) Echo Lake Beach
Are you a person who loves the beach?
Or do you prefer the mountains?
If you’re feeling indecisive and don’t know how you could ever choose:
You’re in luck!
Echo Lake Beach, about 15 minutes from Lincoln, has the best of both worlds!
We all loved this beach, it’s the perfect relaxing spot for families.
The calm lake is ideal for swimming.
And Trevor loved playing in the soft white sand.
Chris and I loved just relaxing on the beach and taking in the view of the green peaks of the White Mountains rising above the peaceful waves.
There’s a large parking lot and a small admission charge for Echo Lake Beach.
Canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats are available to rent.
3.) Flume Gorge
One of the most breathtaking sites we saw in Lincoln was the Flume Gorge.
It’s a giant and powerful cascading waterfall that flows into the most pristine rocky river rapids.
As we walked along the dirt pathways surrounded by the towering moss-covered gorge, I had the feeling we’d found a mountain paradise.
Tru stopped along the river several times to throw pebbles into the crystal clear water.
I loved just sitting with my toes in the icy water, taking in the view.
The Flume Gorge trail is a fairly easy 2-mile loop.
There’s even a historic covered bridge along the trail.
It does include some uphill climbs and, as you near the falls, a wooden boardwalk with stairs.
It’s possible to take a shuttle to the Flume Gorge so you don’t have to do the full two-mile hike (we took the shuttle there and walked back, and it was doable for three-year-old Trevor).
There’s a large parking lot and an admission fee to visit the Flume Gorge.
The Flume Gorge is probably one of the most stunning sites in Lincoln and is therefore really popular. If you want a peaceful and crowd-free hike, definitely plan to arrive when the park first opens in the morning.
4.) The Basin
Just a five-minute drive from the Flume Gorge is another stunningly beautiful Lincoln site: The Basin.
The Basin is a giant granite “pool” of icy blue glacier water, complete with a gushing waterfall.
It’s like Mother Nature created the ultimate luxury dream bath.
The crystal waters seemed to call to us to just dive in.
Unfortunately, there’s a wooden fence and a large “no swimming” sign surrounding The Basin…
But it’s beautiful and the surrounding trails that wind past rocky river beds are very peaceful and scenic.
There’s plenty of parking at this site, and it’s also very popular with tourists.
It’s a simple five to ten-minute easy walk along flat trails to get to The Basin, but there are optional longer hikes from this spot.
5.) Kancamagus Overlooks
When you’re ready to take a break from the cascading waterfalls and check out some mountain views, Lincoln is the perfect spot to find those panoramic vistas.
One ideal way for families to take in lots of stunning mountain views is with a drive along the Kancamagus Scenic Highway.
The curvy Kancamagus begins in Lincoln and winds through the White Mountains National Forest.
The Lincoln side of the Kancamagus, in my opinion, offers some of the most spectacular overlooks.
The Kancamagus is great for families with young kids because the drive offers a spectacular scenic overview of the White Mountains region without requiring any long hikes that can be tough on little legs!
On the Lincoln side of the Kancamagus, there are several unmarked pull-offs with incredible panoramic views of the mountains.
The Kancamagus winds through nationally protected land, so there aren’t restaurants or gas stations along the way.
There also isn’t any cell phone reception.
You’re truly one with nature out here!
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6.) Sabbaday Falls
Aside from the mountain overlooks I mentioned above, Sabbaday Falls is one of my favorite spots along the Kancamagus.
The parking lot for Sabbaday is located at the mid-point of the Kancamagus highway, about 30 minutes from Lincoln.
Getting to the falls requires a quarter-mile hike that includes some hills and some stairs.
It was completely doable for three-year-old Tru.
The hike is spectacular, though, because it’s so unbelievably pristine and scenic.
The dirt trail winds along rocky river rapids surrounded by towering old growth trees.
You’ll hear the cascading falls before you see them, then suddenly: you’ll find yourself in a clearing surrounded by a massive river gorge and the most crystal clear waters.
Trevor loved this hike because he could toss pebbles into the crystal river rapids all along the way.
And the trail was easy so he could run and jump and skip at his own pace!
7.) Loon Mountain Resort Gondola Skyride
Here’s an attraction Tru was thrilled to ride:
A gondola to the summit of Loon Peak!
Loon Mountain Resort is a convenient site for families because it’s located right in Lincoln.
This ride was fun because the four-person gondola gave us plenty of close-knit family time to take in the surrounding mountain views.
The ride up is nearly a mile and a half to the top!
It was definitely a little nerve-wracking, as the little gondola swayed in the wind along that cable wire.
But the payoff:
Incredible, sweeping views of the green peaks and crystal blue rivers and lakes of the White Mountains region.
At the summit, there’s an observation tower and a cafe.
Plus a playground, glacial caves, and hiking trails to explore.
8.) Artist Bluff Trail
I wasn’t sure if I should include Artist Bluff Trail in an article geared toward families.
Here’s why: it’s a shorter hike (a 1.5-mile loop) but it’s more “moderate” than “easy” in terms of difficulty.
Certain areas involve steep climbing along very rocky pathways.
Three-year-old Trevor was able to complete this hike (and he was so proud that he did!), but he needed to be carried by Chris for a good portion.
So this hike is ideal if you feel fit and in shape and your kids are a bit older.
Here’s the reason why I did include Artist Bluff Trail in this family bucket list post:
The views from the bluff stretch over a crystal blue lake and the mountain peaks beyond.
It’s a really stunning spot.
This trail is understandably popular, but when we got to the bluff, we wandered over to an isolated spot and just sat down and took in the view (while Tru collected pebbles to throw over the ledge).
There’s a parking lot located at the base of the trail. But the hiking loop ends about a quarter of a mile from the parking area, so you have to walk along a busy road to make your way back to the lot.
Bonus Tip: Our Favorite Place To Stay In Lincoln, New Hampshire
We like staying at the RiverWalk Resort when we visit the White Mountains region.
The hotel feels fresh, clean, spacious, and modern.
It has a gorgeous pool area that’s surrounded by mountains.
Tru was nothing but smiles and giggles splashing around in the giant pool.
And I loved just taking in the serene mountain views.
The resort is nestled in a valley so the mountains surround the hotel in all directions.
RiverWalk also has a large indoor arcade for kids (including a pool table), plus bocce ball and cornhole set up on the grounds near the pool area.
I know all of this because Trevor tried (and loved) it all!
The rooms are spacious for a family, with a separate living room area including a pull-out couch.
The family suites also include a full kitchen.
The hotel also has a great Italian restaurant, La Vista, which is very convenient for grabbing dinner after a long and busy day of hiking and exploring.
We loved grabbing a pizza and eating out on the deck to watch the sunset over the mountains.
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