Dancing bears, topsy-turvy houses, hidden caves, flying horses, and Santa Claus and his reindeer. We are ready, so ready, for some good old-fashioned, low-tech, slightly kitschy, charming summertime fun. For just a little while, can we be carefree again? Yep, the beloved, longstanding White Mountains attractions are opening up, with new social distancing, safety, and cleaning rules in effect. (You can find guidelines here, at covidguidance.nh.gov.) While your visits won’t be the same as in the past, they can still be a joyful diversion for you and the kids. Visit the White Mountain Visitors Center for more information (www.visitwhitemountains.com).
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
Mother Nature is amazing and fierce. Some 300 million years ago, retreating Ice Age glaciers formed this boulder-clogged gorge in Kinsman Notch, where the Lost River retreats underground, tumbling through caves and tunnels. Take a 1-mile self-guided loop tour along an extensive boardwalk with ladders, stairs, and bridges, climbing more than 1,000 stairs and descending 300 feet into the damp, lush gorge. Along the way, you can explore up to 11 caves, including Judgment Hall of Pluto with a waterfall inside, and the Sun Altar with a hole that allows the light to come in.
Open Friday-Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance online registration is required for a specific arrival time and date. Guests will have two hours to complete the trail, and are required to social distance, and wear masks inside the Main Building. $20. www.lostrivergorge.com
Wash your paws and cover your muzzle, say the kind folks at this perennially popular family attraction that’s been around since 1928. The Clark family is eager to welcome you back this summer, and have been preparing to meet protocols. Hooray, the delightful bear show will be back; the well-cared-for native black bears return to perform for the audience (audiences will be kept small to allow social distancing). Cool down on the water blaster boats, visit the upside-down, all-around Merlin’s Mansion, and take a train ride (just watch out for the Wolfman). Other attractions included in the ticket price are Clark’s Summer Circus with the Yandong Acrobats, the Anaconda Escape raft ride, the Climbing Tower, Segway Park, and five museum buildings.
The park, located in Lincoln, is scheduled to open June 29, daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with limited, 25 percent capacity per state guidelines. Tickets must be purchased in advance, online. The photo parlor, maple cabin, and Pullman’s lunch will be closed. Guests will be asked COVID-19 screening questions before entry and are requested, though not required, to wear masks. $21-$24. www.clarksbears.com
This summer, you can still visit Santa, from a distance, and feed the reindeer, in small groups and wearing a mask, at this cheerful Christmas-themed amusement park, which has been owned by the same family for three generations. There are some 20 kid-loving rides, such as the reindeer carousel, bumper cars, flying sleighs, and the Yule Log splash, and the Santa Express train will be running trips through the village.
The park, located in Jefferson, plans to open July 1, with limited capacity, daily 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance, online, and guests will be required to participate in a COVID-19 health screening prior to entering the park. Some areas will require guests to wear masks. There will be no live entertainment this season. $32-$36. www.santasvillage.com
Is there a hot, humid summer day in the forecast? That would be the perfect time to visit this nature-made attraction, family owned and operated since 1922. Giant boulders were deposited some 50,000 years ago, forming a maze of potholes, grottos, and narrow passageways at the base of Hawk’s Cliff. Follow a one-way trail over boardwalks and up and down stairs linking a network of nine caves. The caves are a cool, welcome respite on hot days, as most remain about 55 degrees. There’s one hole where ice remains until August.
The park, located in Rumney, is open weekends 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance, online, for 2-hour slots. Face masks are required. The Maple Lodge, Mining Sluice, and Boulder Maze will be closed until further notice. $14.25-$18.50. www.polarcaves.com
Mount Washington Auto Road
Take the ultimate road trip, climbing the winding, steep route to the highest summit in the Northeast. The 7.6-mile ascent up the narrow mountain road — with twists and turns and an average 12 percent grade, takes about 30 minutes. You’ll have sweeping views of craggy mountain peaks and forested valleys as you travel above treeline to the 6,288-foot summit. Great Glen Trails Outdoors Center, set at the base of the auto road, is open for walking or biking on a dedicated trail system, and half-day guided kayaking excursions on the Androscoggin River are also available.
The road, located in Pinkham Notch, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for self-drives. Guided auto road tours are currently unavailable, and the Sherman Adams State Park Summit Building is closed. Cost is $7-$35. www.mt-washington.com
It’s the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world, and one of New England’s most unique attractions. It’s an exciting trip, as it takes one hour to go 3 miles, through three climate zones, and across Jacob’s Ladder, the second highest and steepest railroad trestle in the world. Great views — fun trip! Currently, trains are stopping at Waumbek Station, at about 3,900-foot elevation, for a one-hour round-trip excursion. Summit trips will resume when the summit state park facilities reopen.
Open daily, departing 10:30 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. Seating will be staggered to accommodate social distancing and face masks are required. $29 for kids and $41 for adults. www.thecog.com
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com