Bethlehem and the White Mountains
"The White Mountains"
Growing up in Maine, just across the New Hampshire border, the White Mountains were a very common family vacation destination. Now that I'm getting to introduce Gareth to the area, both revisting favorite old haunts and discovering new things, I've only come to enjoy the area more.
By many standards, the White Mountains are not especially tall - Mt Washington is the tallest at 6,288 foot. But, that doesn't mean that the area isn't spectacular with its rocky peaks and beatiful, endless forests!
And, perhaps most importantly, between hiking, skiing, and the many other outdoor opportunities, there is more than enough to keep us busy. Or not, if we are in the mood for relaxation!
Nearly four years ago, my parents bought a small vacation home just outside of downtown Bethlehem. Before that, we weren't that familiar with the area - it's never seemed like much of a destination in and of itself. But the more we visit, the more we are realizing that it is a perfect home base for exploring the White Mountain region. There are several ski areas and hiking trailheads within a fifteen minute drive, and many more are only slightly further afield. After a hard day of play, there's also a handful of restaurants that you can reached on foot in downtown Bethlehem, with more options only a short drive away.
Bethlehem itself has an interesting history: a century ago, it was a society haunt, enjoying a summer "season" when the wealthy would take the mountain air. The Mount Washington Hotel has some interesting photos of the Bethlehem boardwalk, featuring elegant ladies and gentlemen in their finery as they walk through the town.
Those high-society days are in the past now, though you can find plenty of traces of large old houses - spectacular stone walls and gateposts, for instance - and Bethlehem is a place that appeals to a much wider range of budgets. However, the town has done a good job of resisting the strip mall development that is a less attractive feature of other White Mountains towns like Lincoln, and the downtown is still a very pleasant place for an evening stroll, with some nice businesses and very attractive landscaping (including the golf and country clubs).