Go and shop in New Hempshire!
In New Hempshire, no taxes are to be paid on clothes until 176 usd, since it is considered "first necessity" item. Please note that, on North Conway main street, you can find a plenty of outlets, many of them similar to Freeport's and Kittery's ones. But you do not have to pay taxes in North Conway!
- Women's Travel
The Handcrafters' Barn: Lots of local crafts
There are many shops in and around North Conway that feature local craftsmen and artists' work. One of the most-well stocked would be the Handcrafters' Barn, just a bit south of North Conway village center. The barn is - in fact - one building with a basement, ground floor and 1/2 size upper floor PLUS another separate building which houses their "sister" store, the North Country Cottage. Sooooo, there is a lot to explore here.
The barn actually calls themselves a "year-round craft show" and that would be an accurate description. And speaking OF accurate, the main building itself is housed in a converted 18th century colonial barn.
The krewe of artisans contributing work for sale at the barn is in the neighborhood of 150+, and I can attest that many of them are quite talented. I'll be honest, there was one guy who was making "furniture" out of sticks and twigs, and I "didn't get it". (see the photo of that end table, down below) But overall, there are quality furnitures, paintings, clothing and glasswork for your viewing and buying pleasure. I am certain that you'll find something worth your visit.
What to buy: Quilts, crafts, jewelry, furniture, paintings and photography. All sorts of special items are on display and for sale. The prices are, for the most part, not outrageously high. But for the really nice stuff - furniture, paintings and such.... do realize that it's not cheap.
What to pay: I'd definitely advise that you look for the little hand-written "sale" item cards throughout the store. I found a wonderful deal on some nice pen and ink drawing of the Saco River covered bridge.
White Birch Books: A well-regarded (by the industry) indy bookstore
Primarily in my life, I've been a healthcare professional. However, my post-retirement occupations have tended more towards the publishing industry. For approximately one year, I was marketing director for an up and coming independent publishing house, Behler Publications. Part of my job at that time included getting book signings for our authors. On more than one occasion, I did business with a place called White Birch Books in North Conway, NH. This is an independent bookseller with a huge and positive reputation. And even though I'd set up a signing or two, and had maintained wonderful rapport with White Birch's Marketing Director, I'd never actually BEEN to the store. I was finally able to change that on our recent visit to North Conway.
Nothing negative against Borders or Barnes and Nobles, but White Birch Books IS what is so very right about independent, non-chain booksellers. They offer all of the usual bestsellers, but are particularly adept at coming up with "finds".... stuff that you'll not find in national chains. The chains are pretty much supplied by their usual suppliers, and that really does shut out anything new or fresh. You'll find "new and fresh" at White Birch.
You'll also find an incredibly dedicated and committed staff. This is, again, not a knock against the nice folks who work at Borders or Barnes and Noble, but... it's just a different sort of goose who works at an indy bookstore. And since indy stores are not following a printed corporate plan and mantra, they're free to explore whatever paths interest them. THE place you especially want to check out at a place like White Birch is the "staff picks". You may find your new favorite book on that table.
Website and phone numbers are down below. And for direct email contact and information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What to buy: Buy whatever sounds interesting, and especially whatever makes you say "gee, never heard of this author or book before, but it sounds great". And even more than buying, spend some time browsing this excellent shop and collection. True bookworms could never spend only 20 minutes in a bookstore.
What to pay: OK, in general.... prices at an indy may be a bit higher than a chain. Remember, chains buy in bulk, and that's part of the reason that they're running so many fine indies out of business. But, you may well find something that you'd never heard of or seen before - AND at a bargain price. White Birch is a perfect place to shop.
Where was that maple syrup produced?: Maple syrup? location, location, location
People in New England - as well as the Canadian Maritimes - seem VERY particular about their maple syrup. They will always insist that THEIR local product is THE very best available. And while there's nothing wrong with civic pride, it's almost amusing HOW MUCH BETTER they seem to believe the local stuff is when compared to the outside syrup. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it's a misdemeanor of some kind to even consider serving NON-VERMONT maple syrup in Vermont.
The folks in New Hampshire and Maine are probably not quite as rabid on "ours only" when it comes to syrup, but still.... there's always a heavy preference to the local product.
In the accompanying photo, I was surprised to actually find Vermont, NH and Maine syrups for sale and pretty much displayed equally in Conway. BUT, you will notice that they CAREFULLY mark which syrups are NH, Maine and Vermont. It's generally assumed that the buyer is going to care.
Location, location, location.
Oh, and this will probably come across as sheer blasphemy on a New England page, but THE best maple syrup I've ever had was that exquisitely light syrup produced by Craig McCormick and his brothers up near Springhill, Nova Scotia. We stayed at their B&B in 2009. (see separate page) But honestly, comparing fine maple syrups is kind of like trying to say which kitten in a litter is the cutest.
What to buy: Shop around and find yourself some maple syrup to take home. And, don't be afraid to go with the darker stuff, the grade B.... it actually has a much richer taste, and is excellent for cooking.
- Food and Dining
The Bavarian Chocolate Haus: Eines gutes Platz für Schokolade
Excellent homemade chocolate - the food of the Gods.
There's a nice little chocolate candies shop at the southern edge of North Conway. It's called the Bavarian Chocolate Haus, and from the moment you clear the door and hear the alpine music and smell the chocolates, you'll be feel as if you're in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. :)
If you're going to want to snack while you walk around North Conway - and of course you're going to want to snack when walking around North Conway - I suggest popping into the Bavarian Haus to get yourself a little bag of goodies. Like Bonnie and I, you'll have to ration yourself to avoid wolfing them all down before you get off the front sidewalk.
What to buy: Candies by the piece, by the box (varying sizes), and by the pound (for items like rich fudge) Can't remember the exact price, but it's not cheap - and shouldn't be... this is a quality, made on site product.
White chocolate, milk and dark chocolates.... nut centers, candy centers, dried fruits - there's a huge variety. They also sell specialty truffles, and if I remember correctly - they also have hot coffee or hot chocolate. That'd be nice for a cool afternoon.
What to pay: Seems like it was about $12-15 per pound, depending on the mix.
- Food and Dining
Zeb's General Store: "Moose Products" to Maple Syrup
Zeb's - much in the same way as the North Conway 5 and 10 cent store - is a blast from the past. In days gone by, small villages became small towns when they could boast a good "General Store" within their midst. A general store was a place that sold most of the essentials of day to day life - food, clothing, housewares, seed for planting, cleaning materials and such. And sometimes, they were a conduit to more special things from bigger cities....maybe someone needed to order a special part for their plow, and they'd get the local general storekeep to take care of it for them.
These days, everything is pretty much specialized. Electronics? You go to Best Buy or Circuit City. Need groceries? You go to Publix or Trader Joe's. Need tomato plants? You go to the garden center. So, the "day" of the general store has somewhat passed... but that sure doesn't eliminate the warm charm that these stores used to have. And all over New England, you can still find viable and sustaining General Stores - moreso really than anywhere else in America. It's probably another reason that I love New England so much.
Zeb's in North Conway is a great place to spend some time. And I GUARANTEE that you're going to find something that you want to buy, even if you truly believe you're just looking. And if you're an older guy like me, you're going to think about your grandparents, too... spent a lot of time at general stores with my Grandpa 40 years or so ago. I thought of him when I saw that bin of little chilled 6 oz coca-colas in glass bottles. FWIW, sodas STILL taste so much better in glass.
I also liked the area where they sold the regional soaps and potpourris.... such a great smell. This is a place that you can get simple, pleasing soaps at a real price, not some $15 for three bars 'boutique' sale. And, we are talking nice outdoorsy stuff, like gentle pine scented bath soap. They even had old fashioned "shampoo cakes". How many of you remember a time before people routinely used liquid shampoo for their hair?
Oh, be sure to check out the antique truck and gas pump out in front of Zeb's as well.
What to buy: Oh God, what NOT to buy? OK, let's list a few things..
Be sure to check out the regional food items - maple syrups, honey, jams and jellies. Seriously good stuff, especially the maple syrups. Zeb's actually has a wide variety of syrups grouped into state of origin (see my "location location" general tip).... Maine syrup, New Hampshire syrup and Vermont syrup. I think it really matters to locals WHERE the syrup was made. To me, they're all just damned good. There's also an interesting supply of barbecue and cooking sauces.
Zeb's has a "gift basket" corner where they will prepare a nice gift basket for the folks back home, and you can literally put whatever you want into it. Very nice.
They also advertise that they have a large selection of "moose products". This would include silly aprons or calenders featuring the ubiquitous northern moose. BTW, I've never had the pleasure of coming across a moose in the wild, either in New England or up in Alaska. I hear that they're one of the more dangerous animals around.
Zeb's also had a nice selection of books in the back. I bought one of those historical diaries from the last year of the civil war. I think I paid about $2 for it, and it was a great read for a history buff like me.
What to pay: Wide variety and scale. Generally, the prices at Zeb's are fair, and actually pretty good if you consider the "tourist nature" of the locale.
The North Conway 5 & 10 Cent Store: Shopping for Slinky in a time machine
Some of the younger VTers perhaps don't know what a "5 and 10" store is. We older Americans do remember the day of the general store "5 and 10". Basically, it was a place where darn near everything in the store cost between five and ten cents. And sadly, they're a thing of the past - since ten cents isn't really ANY money these days.
But, North Conway still has a historic 5 & 10 Cent store. (some call such stores a "five and dime") It's been in business in the same building for over 70 years, and they've only had three owners. There's a wall of photos in the corner of the store honoring a few long-time employees who literally spent their entire lives working at this little store.
Today, there aren't many things inside that only cost five or ten cents. But the basic feel of the store is the same that I remember from when I was a kid. You never really knew what you'd find at the five and dime, and it was always worth a visit.
What to buy: They have an incredible variety and array of goods, so enjoy the exploration. But, you might specifically look for local items of interest.... calenders, books, etc. There are also some "finds" on "classic toys" and the like. Example? Do you remember "Slinky"? It was a toy that we kids loved back in the 1960s and was basically a big metal spring that you could make "walk" down stairs and such. They still make Slinky, but it's a cheap, crummy plastic version that isn't anywhere near as much fun. I remember how disappointed I was when someone gave my kids a Slinky several years ago, and it was so "lame".... the plastic just doesn't cut it. Anyway, we found a metal Slinky (a new one) for sale at the five and dime in North Conway. We bought it for a couple of dollars and brought it back home - our cats love it. :)
Check out the store's website for more info on the varied merchandise they carry. Everything from refrigerator magnets to Russian nesting dolls. :)
What to pay: Not a lot. Although the days of "5 and 10 cents" are long gone, you'll still find some good bargains on books, candies and such. Just explore and get a chance to see what retail America used to be like.
There are many outlet stores in North Conway. You could make a day going from one shop to the next. They have the usual ones like Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Addidas, but they also have an LL Bean outlet-the first one that I ever saw. The best time to go is right at the beginning of summer in early May. They seem to have a lot of sales then and that's before the tourists start coming in.
The Luna Gallery has a little bit of everything for the aspiring druid, pagan, or Wiccan. Or for those of us who are none of the above, or think they MIGHT be one of the above but haven?t figured but which one yet. They have a nice selection of incense, oils, and clothing as well as other faerie and other-worldly inspired artifacts. I especially liked their greeting cards and posters. Lots of mermaids, fairies, and unicorns. There?s a psychic that shows up once a week as well as a ?paranormal investigator? on board. In October they do haunted ghost walks around town. A calendar, as well as their website, lists other doings in the neighborhood that might interest those of an alternative religion. (PS- I bought a bumper sticker in there the other day that reads: "Born Okay the First Time." I'll let you think about that one.)
If you?re not into any of this, then it might be good to know that the public restrooms are around the corner.
Gift Shops or Factory Outlet: All kinds of shopping in North Conway
Gifts, crafts or factory outlets stores all up and down Route 16 through North Conway and Conways Villages.
What to buy: The name of the game here is shopping. Longtime favorite stops are Yield House and Eastern Mountain Sports. Take your pick of outlets; most are located in Settlers' Green Outlet Village Plus over 50 stores, including The Gap Outlet, Nike Factory Store, Dockers & Levi's, Orvis Factory Store, and others or in the Tanger Outlet Centers, with Polo/Ralph Lauren, L.L. Bean Factory Store, and in the Red Barn Center, Socks Galore, the Paper Factory, and many, many more. (Both outlet areas are on Route 16.)
If you tire of name brands and long to see something handmade, stop at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
What to pay: Average to Very Good prices can be found.
several shops!!!!: North Conway shopping outlets
What to buy: Like all outlets, some are cheap, some are pricey. Although we went to American Eagle, which is a mall store with cool casual clothes, and it was unbelievable. shirts for $3 to $7, jeans for $10, and comfy sweats for like $5.