On the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith, New Hampshire, has come into its own.
It used to be that the tiny lakefront town of Meredith, New Hampshire, nestled along Lake Winnipesaukee’s winding Route 3, was little more than a bathroom break en route to the White Mountains. But developments in the last decade have transformed the run-down mill buildings and closed factories of Meredith’s yesteryear into a vibrant vacation destination.Â Though most popular in the summer, when the population swells from 6,000 to 20,000, the new Meredith offers year-round fun in the form of creative restaurants, upscale places to stay, and plenty of outdoor adventure that lasts long into the fall, when the seasonal crowds have dissipated but the winter’s chill is yet weeks away.
Part of the Mills Falls collection of inns, the Adirondack-style Church Landing-aptly named for being on the site of a former church-offers 57 rooms with Winnipesaukee views, private balconies, and fireplaces for keeping autumn at bay. The in-house Cascade Spa encourages the vacation vibe with an indoor-outdoor pool and appealingly named services like the Tranquility Massage. 312 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, 800-622-6455. Or make your vacation more permanent with one of the upscale, custom-built homes in the sprawling Meredith Bay, a gated community with resort amenities like full lake access, tennis courts, and miles of secluded hiking trails. 50 Lighthouse Cliffs, Laconia, 603-524-4141.
The Rachel Ray-endorsed Camp offers gourmet comfort food in a stylized rustic setting that includes pine tables and screen doors. (And yes, that’s a real moose head on the wall.) Please the entire crew with apple fried chicken, lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, deconstructed s’mores, and a house brew served on tap for a very comfortable $4 a pint. 300 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, 603-279-3003. Pregame Thanksgiving at the longtime family-run Hart’s Turkey Farm, which serves the bird in dozens of ways-meatloaf, tempura, pie, and soup, to name a few-alongside plenty of other offerings for those who cry foul for fowl. 233 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, 603-279-6212.
Meredith’s biggest draw, of course, is sprawling Lake Winnipesaukee. Do some early-season leaf peeping by the water with a rental at Meredith Marina, which rents boats, water skis, and tubes through October. 2 Bayshore Drive, Meredith, 603-279-7921. For foliage and views of the lake from land, hike Mount Major, a moderate trail that’s part of the Belknap Mountain Range, just south of Meredith. NH-11 W/ Mount Major Highway, Alton. Back in town, reminisce over the virtually unchanged Weirs Beach boardwalk before heading to local favorite FunSpot-60 years old this year-where the largest arcade in the world includes dozens of standup classics, as well as mini golf and ziplining. 579 Endicott Street North, Laconia, 603-366-4377. If the kids still aren’t totally exhausted, bring them aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which travels along the lake on a line built in 1849; chances are good they’ll be more impressed with the ice cream parlor car, though, than with the history lesson. 154 Main Street, Meredith, 603-279-5253. -Alyssa Giacobbe