The annual summer vacation is something my parents gifted to my sister and I growing up. Now that I have a family of my own, I am excited to share the joy of travel with my daughter Annika.
My little girl, 3 years old, has been on an airplane half a dozen times or so but for our family trip summer of 2019, I wanted to take a road trip with our toddler. North Conway with a toddler seemed like the perfect choice!
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Choosing a vacation spot is always fun but a bit stressful. I combed through websites and posts on places recommended for toddlers and while I had never heard of it, I overwhelmingly found people recommend North Conway in the White Mountains area of New Hampshire. Pencils were put down and then the planning began!
Getting to North Conway
North Conway is located just two and a half hours north of Boston, MA, two hours from Manchester, NH, and ninety minutes from Portland, ME. We got to New Hampshire via my husband’s pick-up truck we lovingly call “Taco” and on the way decided to stop by Portsmouth, NH for lunch and to stretch our legs. Having a car when visiting this area is a must!
Where to Stay in North Conway with a Toddler
Since having my daughter, I find having a hotel room with a balcony helpful as it gives my husband and I a place to go during naps or an early night in.
If your toddler isn’t ready for a big bed, consider one of these toddler travel beds or inflatable bed rails.
I found a lot of beautiful hotels and resorts in the North Conway area but only the White Mountain Hotel and Resort appeared to offer a room with a balcony. We booked one of their suites which was a decent size room with two Queen beds, living room area, and a balcony looking over the well-manicured property.
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What I really loved about this hotel was its central location; just a quick 10 minute drive from the town of North Conway and a short drive away from on the best places to visit near North Conway. I felt like there were a variety of restaurant options in the area plus I liked the cushion of there being a restaurant on site too. This is always a good option when traveling with a baby or toddler!
Other hotel amenities included free breakfast at their restaurant, pool, small game room, and selection of DVDs to borrow on rainy days.
Learn more on getting your baby to sleep on vacation!
Getting Around North Conway with a Toddler
Since we drove our own vehicle, we already had our daughter’s car seat and we were able to bring along our large all-terrain stroller. For our daily adventures, we drove to each place and kept our daughter’s BOB stroller on hand.
Depending on how old your child is, a baby or toddler carrier may be the easiest way to explore all the nature trails. If your kid is older, either let them walk or use a good jogging/all-terrain stroller.
Here our Baby Can Travel’s recommended baby and toddler carriers for travel.
What to do in North Conway with a Toddler
There are a lot of great things to do in North Conway, including driving up Mt. Washington via the Mt. Washington Auto Road, walking around downtown North Conway and taking the Conway Scenic Railway.
Here are our favorite North Conway attractions:
Story Land, North Conway
We actually drove by Story Land on our way to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and my daughter laser beamed on the theme park and repeatedly asked to go. This park has been around since 1954 and I now understand why it is still open and drawing crowds.
Story Land is the perfect size for a toddler as we were able to walk around without the stroller and enjoy majority of the Story Land rides (except the water rides– it was too cold!). There are roller-coaster type rides for older kids and then more “laid back” attractions like a pirate ship ride along a pond or a ride in Cinderella’s pumpkin coach.
They also have various theatre shows to watch (we saw Farm Follies) and a section with animals which we always enjoy. If your kid loves cars or pretending to drive, definitely come here as they have 2 rides where the kids themselves are “driving” either a tractor or antique car.
Months later our daughter still talks about our visit to Story Land – she fondly remembers the dinosaurs we saw while on the train ride that goes around the park.
In my research I learned there are two Echo Lakes in New Hampshire but the one we visited was a stone’s throw away from our hotel (White Mountains Hotel and Resort). We arrived later in the afternoon and while the parking lot was full, it didn’t feel crowded. There is an entrance fee to the Echo Lake state park and it offers a child friendly beach, lake to play in, and amenities (bathrooms/changing rooms).
My husband took one for the team and went into the water with our daughter while I sat on the beach and watched them. You have a direct view of Cathedral Ledge State Park, which we stopped at since it’s so close to Echo Lake.
There is also a walking path that goes entirely around Echo Lake. All 3 of us walked but take caution – there were roots on the path so I was a bit worried about my toddler tripping. You can also take a trail from here to the top of Cathedral Ledge. If you chose to go to Cathedral Ledge – note you are pretty high up and need to keep a close eye on your kids! You may even get lucky and see people rock climbing there.
If you decide to visit here, consider packing a picnic since there are tables and the scenery is beautiful! The picnic tables are well shaded by trees so if you want to stay out of the sun, you don’t have to go far.
Kancamagus Highway, aka “the Kanc”, is recognized as a National Scenic Byway. You don’t want to miss this 34.5 mile scenic drive along Route 112 between Conway, NH and Lincoln, NH. We dedicated an entire day to this drive since it’s been called one of New England’s most scenic drives.
You can enjoy the Kanc by leaving from Lincoln or Conway but since our home-base was in North Conway, our journey started by first stopping at the Saco Ranger Station, which is just west of Conway. (I’ve read there is another visitor center in Lincoln should you decide to drive the route in reverse). There we were able to get a Kancamagus scenic byway map so we could figure out which Kancamagus Highway attractions we wanted to stop at.
Note: there is a $5 day pass fee you can pay at the various parking areas/trailheads along the highway but if you only choose to drive through it, it’s free.
There are a ton of places to stop along the way and we chose to explore only a few but take our time. Our first stop, the Albany Covered Bridge, was a brief one to snap a couple pictures and enjoy the beauty of this old bridge.
We spent a decent amount of time at Rocky Gorge and Falls Pond. From the parking lot it is a short walk on a paved path to a bridge that brings you over the gorge and rapids. There were a lot of people who were sunbathing on the rocks and putting their feet in the water – no swimming is allowed here though.
We walked across the bridge and took the path to Falls Pond where there was a nice viewing platform. We attempted to take the loop around the pond, but I felt the path had too many obstacles (aka roots!) for our toddler to walk it safely so we eventually turned around. Bringing a hiking backpack carrier or a toddler carrier would be a better option for this walk with a toddler.
Our other stops along the highway were quick ‘drive-bys’ but honestly, just the drive itself is spectacular.
Our adventure eventually ended with us getting food in Lincoln, NH but if we were to visit the Kanc again, I’d pack food that can be enjoyed at one of the stops.
We also considered driving further towards Franconia Notch State Park but instead wandered and relied on our GPS to bring us back to our hotel.
Final note on North Conway with a Toddler
If you just need a playground to give your toddler more time to play, there is one located in North Conway Village by the Community Center and Conway Scenic Railroad called Schouler Park. There are bathroom facilities, a splash pad, and it offers lovely views in every direction.
Where to Eat in North Conway
Stairway Café: Located in downtown North Conway, this little restaurant serves breakfast and lunch. If I remember correctly, they don’t have a kids menu but the waitress was very accommodating for us.
Note you have to keep your stroller outside since space upstairs in the restaurant is small (we tucked our behind a small fence to the left of the entrance). Seating is available both inside and outside on a deck.
Thompson House Eatery: This beautiful farm to table restaurant is located in Jackson, NH (~15 minutes north of North Conway). This isn’t a typical restaurant where I’d suggest taking a toddler but we took a chance since our daughter is pretty well behaved.
They definitely didn’t have a kids menu but they made her a giant bowl of pasta with butter and cheese and she loved it! The owners also host a farmers market on the property on Tuesday afternoons (seasonal). On the drive here, check out some of NH’s famous “covered bridges”.
Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers: This place was very family friendly with their menu options plus offered both indoor and outdoor seating. Near Settlers Green Outlets if you want to do some shopping!
What to Pack for North Conway with a Toddler
- Hiking shoes for mom and dad
- These adorable toddler hiking boots
- Toddler Carrier or All-Terrain Stroller
- Backpack to carry toddler snacks and water
- Bathing suits and travel towels (seasonal)
- A cooler for picnics
- Free New Hampshire visitor’s guide
We didn’t have to bring a lot of toddler travel essentials for this trip.
- Most restaurants had high-chairs, we didn’t have any issues finding places to eat.
- We didn’t have any issues finding places to take our daughter to the bathroom; there were either facilities available or porta-pottys. See more tips on traveling with a potty training toddler.
- There are plenty of shopping options along Route 302, including the grocery store called Hannaford, for buying diapers, formula and baby food.
This guest post was written by Erica D.
Erica D. lives in Northern New Jersey, close to her childhood home. She tries her best to be mama to her daughter Annika while working as a pharmacist at a pharmaceutical company in New York. Her parents instilled the love for travel and exploration and she can’t wait to pass it on to her daughter.
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