Downtown | Guide to North Conway, NHPhoto Credit : Cathryn McCann
There’s something for everyone in North Conway, NH, a town whose broad appeal has made it a standout White Mountains destination. From antiques hunting to outlet browsing, it’s a shopper’s haven with a great mountain view. It’s also a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, who can enjoy some White Mountains skiing at nearby Cranmore Mountain Resort or hike up to Cathedral Ledge for its sweeping views of Echo Lake State Park. And with plenty of fine dining and pub hangouts to choose from, foodies have ample reason to pay a visit here too. Read on for some of our favorite things to do, places to eat, and places to stay in North Conway.
This mountain is, in a word, fun. Known for expert snowmaking and a range of trails, Cranmore also has thrilling off-slope activities such as mountain coaster rides, giant swing rides, and the Soaring Eagle zipline — all just a few miles from downtown North Conway.
Located in North Conway Village (aka the downtown area), the Conway Scenic Railroad offers delightfully old-fashioned train rides. Two family-friendly “valley” routes head north to either Conway (11 miles) or Bartlett (21 miles), while the longer “notch” route heads to the mountains and Crawford Notch.
With 60-plus stores in which to bargain-hunt, Settlers Green is a shopaholic’s dream. Just a few minutes’ drive from North Conway Village, this retail hub also has more than a dozen restaurants that offer fuel for shopping the day away.
There’s no shortage of hiking trails in the White Mountains, and a number of them are readily accessible from North Conway. For an easy, picturesque stroll along a lake, head to Echo Lake State Park. This is also the spot for those looking to hike to Cathedral Ledge, a moderately difficult 2.8 mile out-and-back trail that leads to terrific views of North Conway and the White Mountains. For a longer, more challenging trek, make your way to Moat Mountain Trail, a nearly-10-mile traverse of the South, Middle, and North Moat mountains. On a hot summer day, a short walk through the woods in Bartlett will bring you to Diana’s Baths, a popular family destination that features many swimming holes and waterfalls.
It’s not a visit to North Conway without a stop at Zeb’s General Store, where you can maneuver your way around antique fixtures, indulge at the candy counter, and browse a sprawling collection of New England–made specialty foods. Nearby, the Toy Chest beckons kids with dolls, games, wooden railroad sets, and more. Adults, meanwhile, will appreciate the artistic offerings at the League of N.H. Craftsmen gallery, filled with locally made pottery, glassware, prints, textiles, furniture, and jewelry. White Birch Books is the local independent bookstore: It looks like a bright little dollhouse from the outside, and is lined with both quirky titles and best-sellers on the inside. The Handcrafters Barn is just that, a converted 18th-century barn packed with home decor, paintings, fiber art, and other distinctive wares made by more than 150 artisans.
There are several antique shops right in North Conway, including Richard M. Plusch Antiques, which showcases fine art and antiques with a particular emphasis on the White Mountains. Valley Vintage & Antique Finds has everything from old-fashioned skis to antique stoves, while Vintage Frameworks is the spot for rare maps and framed vintage postcards.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or groceries – it’s all at the Local Grocer, which encompasses a full-service market, bakery, café, deli, and smoothie bar. Next door is the restaurant Table + Tonic, which employs local, organic ingredients from its own farm. Be sure to try one of the cocktails, which are concocted with house-made syrups and herb-, fruit-, and nut-infused shrubs.
At this chill downtown café, you can gaze out at the Moat Mountains while munching on a tasty bagel or breakfast sandwich and enjoying an impeccably brewed coffee or espresso drink. Frontside craft-roasts its own coffee, ensuring top-notch flavor.
If you work up an appetite while shopping at Settlers Green, look to Barley & Salt for a fortifying meal and 30 ever-changing craft beers on tap. On the menu: small-plate street food, tacos, salads, wings, and an array of entrées, including seafood.
At this family-style eatery with a wilderness theme, you can choose from such categories as “Trail-Stomping Sandwiches,” “Mountain Burgers,” “The Wilderness Grill,” and “Trail-Blazing Pastas.” There’s a robust menu for kids, while grownups will appreciate the full selection of beer, wine, and specialty drinks.
Located in one of North Conway’s most historic buildings, this 174-seat brewpub and restaurant is a go-to for locals and tourists alike. Moat Mountain’s beers can be found all over North Conway, but the Smoke House is hands down the best spot for enjoying one alongside classic American food such as nachos, sandwiches, pizza, and burgers, as well as meat and seafood entrées.
It’s nearly impossible to drive past May Kelly’s Cottage, whose bright yellow exterior, glowing string lights, and creative seasonal decor will most certainly catch your eye. Inside, you’ll find an old-world Irish bar and restaurant that dishes up country cooking by way of the Emerald Isle. Bonus: In nice weather, there’s also the option for outdoor dining with a mountain view.
Conveniently situated next to Settlers Green and boasting mountain views, the North Conway Grand Hotel has 200 rooms and suites outfitted with New England–inspired decor, custom furniture, and marble baths. Amenities include heated indoor and outdoor pools, a sun deck, a spa, a fitness center, and the Mountainside Restaurant and Tavern.
All kinds of lodging options can be had at the Cranmore Inn, from king and queen guest rooms to deluxe rooms and suites, and even apartments with kitchens. Located a short walk from North Conway Village, the inn features a large backyard, play area, patio, fire pit, hot tub, and pool, as well as a spacious parlor with fireplace.
Right on the main drag in North Conway Village, this 40-acre resort lets guests select from more than 250 rooms, suites, and townhouses, a number of which come with gas fireplaces and in-room spa tubs. Other perks of this property include an indoor heated pool, hot tubs, tennis courts, a fitness center, a playground, and walking trails.
With on-site dining, spa services, a heated pool, a fitness center, and pet-friendly accommodations, this family-friendly hotel aims to accommodate all its guests’ needs. There are 80 standard, deluxe, and superior rooms and spacious suites, many with great views of the mountains.
Have you ever been to North Conway, New Hampshire?
This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated.