In this particular little town of Bethlehem, nestled in the northern region of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, you are not likely to come across three kings or a baby born in a manger. But just as in the biblical town, Bethlehem boasts its own glowing beacon in winter with the dominating presence of Mount Washington reflecting sunlight from its snow-capped peak. The residents here consider their home the “Star of the White Mountains,” a sleepy town that takes pride in its artistic community and being a gateway to a number of outdoor recreation activities. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, Bethlehem becomes a kind of staging area for those preparing to embrace the Christmas spirit.
The warm and welcoming Bear Mountain Lodge (3249 Main St., 603-869-2189, www
$350) is a rustic-looking establishment with luxurious accommodations, sweeping views of the Presidential Range, and an eco-friendly philosophy. In winter, visitors can look forward to private sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, and dog sled mushing. The Gables Inn (2007 Main St., 888-488-0503, www.thegables
nh.com, $95-$135) is a quaint Victorian bed-and-breakfast with each room showcasing its own unique attributes. All guest rooms feature private baths; some boast views of Mount Washington. The Wayside Inn (3738 Main St., 603-869-3364, www.thewaysideinn.com, $128-
$268) is a classic New England country inn situated along the Ammonoosuc River. This month, the inn offers a special Christmas package ($381 per couple, $69 additional person) which includes two nights lodging, two three-course dinners, and you also get to cut your own Christmas tree at one of Bethlehem’s two tree farms.
For breakfast and lunch, including a variety of coffees, baked goods, panini, and wraps, try Maia Papaya (2161 Main St., 603-869-9900, www.facebook
$6.50). With its walls covered by rustic objects and original paintings on old wood, this downtown favorite, noted for its vegetarian and vegan options, reflects the town’s artful, funky vibe. The Riverview Restaurant ($15-$26) at the Wayside Inn serves dinner Tuesday-Sunday evenings with selections such as grilled duck breast with orange sauce, venison with pears, red cabbage, and chestnuts, and a list of Swiss specialties in a romantic environment. One of the most popular dining options in town is at Rosa Flamingo’s (2312 Main St., 603-869-3111, www.rosaflamingos.com, $15-
$21), where diners can tuck into pizza, calzone, sandwiches, and other app-style options in addition to main dishes featuring seafood and pasta, all in a casual, relaxed setting.
DURING THE DAY
Many families with youngsters will be delighted to discover that nearby Santa’s Village (528 Presidential Highway, 603-586-4445, www.santasvillage
.com) is open during the holiday season, with more than a dozen rides running at the amusement park (weather permitting), and of course, Santa himself in residence. Those looking to score the perfect Christmas tree won’t be disappointed with the regal Rocks Estate (4 Christmas Lane, 603-444-6228, www.therocks
.org), a private 1800s summer destination that now hosts one of the area’s best Christmas farms, a holiday-themed gift shop, and a number of hiking trails with spectacular views of the White Mountains. Just down the road, Finnegan’s Fine Firs (371 Cherry Valley Road, 603-444-6275, finnegansfinefirs.biz) also offers families a vast plantation on which to search for that perfect tree. In downtown Bethlehem, those on the hunt for unique holiday goods stand a good chance of bagging a real find. Local Works Marketplace at WREN — Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (2011 Main St, 603-869-9736, www
atwren.php) features locally produced foods, jewelry, and other gifts in addition to a showcase of rotating exhibits by area artists (www.wrencommunity
.org/gallery/about.php). A few doors down, Ragamuffins (2053 Main St., 603-869-3387, www
.flyingcarpetdesigns.com) is an eclectic stop for hand-knit rugs, hand-crafted gift cards, and well-priced antiques (we picked up a relatively worn, 1903 copy of the “Land of Oz” as a gift for $5 on our visit). If you’re itching to get outdoors and hit the slopes, both Bretton Woods (Route 302, Bretton Woods, 603-278-1000, brettonwoods
.com), and Cannon Mountain
(9 Franconia Notch State Park, 603-823-8800, www.cannonmt
.com) are less than 15 miles away. On Dec. 12, the former is also selling lift tickets for only $12 in order to celebrate the grand opening of its new lift at its Mount Stickney gladed area.
While Bethlehem is fairly sleepy at night, this is ski country, so après options do exist. If you happened to spend the day at Bretton Woods, treat yourself to a late-afternoon cocktail in The Cave, a prohibition-style speakeasy at the famed and historic Mount Washington Hotel (310 Mount Washington Hotel Road, 603-278-1000, www
ton.aspx) across Route 302. Or, indulge yourself with a spa treatment at the hotel’s relatively new establishment. During the day, The Spa features views of the Presidential Range; after dark (open until 7 p.m., 8 on Fridays and Saturdays), it just works the kinks out after a day on the slopes. In between Bethlehem and Bretton Woods, the Italian Oasis Restaurant and Brewery (106 Main St., Littleton, 603-444-6995, www
.php) is the first brewpub in northern New Hampshire and remains the smallest in the state, with a quartet of its own craft brews and other domestic and imported beer selections.