White Mountains Attractions Fam Tour 2021
By: GSA Vicki Hentschel, MtSunapeeLodging.com Class of 2011
We met our bus at the White Mountains Attractions Center at 7:30 am Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Larry Hartle, who owns Pemi Valley Moose Tours, would be transporting our group of 13 Granite State Ambassadors, as well as several other Hospitality representatives. We each received a big White Mountains Attractions (WMA) bag stuffed with information, snacks, and other little surprises. Charyl Reardon, President of WMA, greeted us and before long, we were heading North on I-93 with our tour leader, Colleen Eliason, WMA Communications and Sales Coordinator. Ciara Ferland of WMA assisted.
Though the weather was dreary, by 9 am we were at our first stop, the Mt Washington Cog Railway. Rob Arey discussed the challenges of the past 1 ½ years due to first, the ever-changing COVID restrictions, and more recently to staffing issues. He offered us all a complimentary trip on the Cog to be used at our convenience. We were soon ready to depart for our next stop, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. We arrived right on schedule and were treated to a ride to the top on “Ketchup,” the red-colored tram car. We had a few minutes to tour the summit, and even though it was quite overcast, we “relished” the views. It was soon time to board the “Mustard” tram car for the 7 minute trip to the base. Next stop in the Notch was Flume Gorge. We viewed the center and met with Lacey Niles.
We continued our trip through Franconia Notch on our way to Whale’s Tale Water Park. Britt Brennan met us at Whale’s Tale and showed us around the grounds. So many ways to get wet and have fun at Whale’s Tale. They have a very short season, only 77 days – but also are available for many private functions.
Arriving at Clark’s Bears, we were greeted by Anne Clark Englert and escorted to the Train where we picked up our courtesy lunches – those cheeseburgers really hit the spot. The train whistle blew and we were off to cross the covered bridge into Wolfman’s territory. He discovered us quickly and chased us up and down the tracks in his vehicle, firing warning shots, and demanding we get off his property. We made it back to the Station safely and were quickly directed to the show ring for a Bear Show! We got to see two new cubs that have just begun their training. We accomplished all of this in one hour!
Lost River Gorge was our next stop. We were greeted by Kate Wetherell and given an overview. By now it was raining more heavily, but we all enjoyed the talk and time in their very nice gift shop. Some did venture into the rain for a brief walk. Back on the bus, we resumed our trip east to Lincoln.
We were greeted by Andrew Noyes at Loon Mountain Resort and taken to the Octagon Lodge where we boarded the gondolas for a trip to the summit. We rode with GSAs Muriel and Bob and discovered that they (as do we) also volunteer at the NHScot Highland Games Event each year. Andrew showed us around the Summit Cafe and walked us to the amphitheater where they hold outdoor summer church services every Sunday. Back at the base, Andrew explained some of the current projects happening at Loon. Since our home overlooks the Flag Bridge at the entrance, Paul and I are quite familiar with all the action at Loon!
We left Loon Mtn Resort and continued West through Lincoln to the Hobo Railroad. Paul Giblin filled us in on the long history of the Hobo facility. He also shared with us the different types of seasonal train rides they offer from several different locations. They have a lot to offer, and it is always one of my “rainy day” suggestions to visitors.
The last stop of the day was at Alpine Adventures (who is a partner company of Whale’s Tale). Jeb Boyd told us about all the adventures at this attraction, which includes 300 acres at Exit 31. The “Thrillsville” section is right downtown in Lincoln. He offered to let us all try out the Big Airbag Stunt Zone! We did have 3 adventurers in the group step up to the challenge. One of them, our very own GSA Margaret!
By now it was a little after 5 pm, and Larry dropped us all off at the WMA center. Several of the group were staying at Woodstock Inn or Indian Head, but Paul and I stayed at home. 9833 steps today.
June 23, 2021 was a bright, sunny, beautiful day! We met the bus at WMA at 7:30 am and were on our way by 7:45 am heading east on the Kancamagus Highway. The views along the way were spectacular. Colleen pointed out several of the most popular stops and overlooks. We took the Bear Notch (9 mile shortcut) to Bartlett.
We were at Attitash Mountain Resort by 9 am. After being greeted by Mel and Greg, we crossed the road via a tunnel under the road to access the railroad where, by magic, a train was waiting to pick us up! We hopped the Conway Scenic Railroad train and were seated in the Hattie Evans car and treated to a light breakfast treat. As we enjoyed this first class treatment, we traveled to the Conway Scenic Railroad Station and learned about the history of the train from Brian Solomon. We enjoyed chatting with GSAs Liz and Ed.
The next stop was nearby at Cranmore Mountain Resort. We were greeted by Becca Deschenes. Paul and I had not been to Cranmore before and were happy to hear about what they have to offer. Their summer programs included a scenic chairlift, downhill mountain biking, and an adventure park.
Still on schedule, we were on our way to Story Land next. Though Story Land had not opened for the season yet, it was open for us! We rode the train around the site, stopping at several locations. We managed to coax GSA Emily into a couple of pumpkin photo ops before they sent us off with a box of fudge.
We could see Mt Washington in the distance. We arrived at the Mt Washington Auto Road and were greeted by Lisa McCoy who also shared with us details about the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. After touring the Auto Museum in the Barn, Gracie Page from The Glen House provided us with a nice boxed lunch which we all enjoyed outdoors in the picnic area. They gave us each a certificate for a 2 night stay at the new Glen House Hotel located at the entrance to the Auto Rd. Very generous! Can’t wait to make our reservation!
Back on the bus, we traveled to Santa’s Village. We were greeted by Christian, who is a grandson of the original owners. We had time to take a couple of rides. Paul & I opted for Santa’s Sleigh Ride and a new ride called The Great Humbug Adventure. We all found our way to the bus where Gingerbread men awaited us. We had purchased our souvenir Sleigh Ride picture at the photo shop and, sadly, I managed to leave it behind, hanging from the back of a bathroom stall 🙁
When we arrived at WMA, we said goodbye to Larry. We plan on seeing him soon on an amazing Moose Tour! The group was to travel on their own to the final stop at Polar Caves in Rumney. My knee was complaining aggressively so Paul and I missed out on this last stop of the tour. 9838 steps today
The rest of the group enjoyed the Polar Caves Park. We were greeted by Alex Templar, as well as Bob and Danny. We received corn to feed the deer, which was very endearing. We also meandered through the Rock Garden, before gathering to view the entrance of the Polar Caves. As the park was closed at the time we arrived, we weren’t able to walk through, but the park generously gave us a ticket to return.
Common discussion at each attraction mentioned the struggle to find employees, now that COVID restrictions have stabilized. Many good operational ideas were observed during the pandemic and will undoubtedly be incorporated into future planning. Most attractions are promoting/encouraging online ticket sales and are also reducing the number of tickets sold each day. There have also been some adjustments to operation hours/days in hopes that these changes will provide a safer and more enjoyable experience for patrons as well as employees.
Thank you Colleen, Ciara, and Larry for coordinating this amazing whirlwind learning opportunity!