Laconia is the Hub for activities in the Lakes Region. With Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Opechee Lakes at its door steps you can reach out to the rest of the area by car or better by boat to enjoy what Laconia and the Lakes Region has to offer. Read below what a Globe Reporter has to say.
This city in the Lakes Region grabs the spotlight (and often headlines) when it hosts Laconia Motorcycle Week, drawing hundreds of thousands of bikers to the annual nine-day event. It's one of the largest bike rallies in the United States, and is the world's oldest. But when the riders finally leave, and the summer season has officially begun, laid-back, lakeside Laconia is the perfect base for a family vacation. It's bordered by four lakes " Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Opechee, Paugus Bay, and Lake Winnisquam " and home to summer cottages and condos, motels, beaches, marinas, and a bucket-load of old-fashioned fun (think: arcades, mini-golf, fishing, boat cruises, and train rides). Pack your flip-flops and bathing suits; there's still plenty of summer left to enjoy this come-as-you-are, easygoing vacation spot, less than a two-hour drive from Boston.
If you're looking for quiet, away-from-the-action lodging, consider Lake Opechee Inn and Spa (62 Doris Ray Court, 603-524-0111, www.opecheeinn.com, rates starting at $149), a tranquil, lakeside property, with resort-style amenities. There's a spacious, lodge-style sitting room, billiards room, indoor pool, and full-service spa, as well as a convivial, comfy bar, and the onsite O'Steaks and Seafood restaurant is one of the finest dining spots in the region. Rooms are all individually decorated with country decor, lush linens, and gas fireplaces, and some have whirlpool tubs and private decks or terraces overlooking Lake Opechee. The family-owned Naswa Resort in the Paugus Bay area of Lake Winnipesaukee (1086 Weirs Blvd., 603-366-4341, www.naswa.com, rates starting at $89) is a perennial favorite, with accommodations to suit every style and budget, including lakeside cottages, suites, efficiencies, and motel-style rooms. The longstanding resort " it's been open since 1935 " has more than 1,000 feet of sandy beach, and plenty of dock space if you'd like to bring a boat. Guests also have access to complimentary kayaks and paddleboats, and the friendly staff is always on hand to arrange tickets to local attractions (often at a discount), boat tours, and motorboat and jet ski rentals. For simple digs, fair prices, and a lakeside location, check out the Margate Resort (76 Lake St., 603-524-5210, www.themargate.com, rates starting at $89). The three-building complex (one is across the street and off the lake) has an indoor and outdoor pool, a private sandy beach, and a lively beach bar.
Tavern 27 (2075 Parade Road, 603-528-3057, www.tavern27.com, $5-$26) is a delightful surprise, and would be just as at home in Midtown Manhattan as it is in lovely Laconia. The unpretentious eatery serves American-style tapas (bigger portions, familiar ingredients), smartly prepared with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Small plates are large enough for at least two to share and value-priced, considering the sophisticated preparation. The made-from-scratch daily pizza, open-faced bocadillos, like the mushroom and garlic or the spicy house-roasted pork served with candied onion jam, duck confit rolls with Asian ginger sauce, spicy cucumber rolls, crab cakes and haddock bites are favorites, but you can't go wrong. Blue Bistro (at the Naswa Resort, see above, $15-$31) has an extensive menu of classic fare, from tender grilled steaks and fresh seafood to house specialties like the lobster ravioli and chicken Parmesan. We especially liked the seared scallop sliders served with crispy onions and Asian slaw and the seafood-stuffed haddock. But save room for the delicious house-made desserts. There's also a smart and fairly-priced wine list. Live piano music sets the mood at Fratello's Italian Grille (799 Union Ave., 603-582-2022, www.fratellos.com, $8.99-$21.99), located in a former brick bank building. Expect traditional Italian fare, like seafood fra diavolo, Italian pie, and chicken carbonara, along with steaks, sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas.
DURING THE DAY
First thing you need to do is get on the water. The M/S Mount Washington (211 Lakeside Ave., 603-366-5531, www.cruiseNH.com adults $19-$30, children ages 5-12 $13-$15) offers 1- to 2½-hour cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee, departing from Weirs Beach. There are also several themed cruises, including Sunday champagne brunch, dinner, and dancing, and sunset cruises. Hop aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad (211 Lakeside Ave., 603-745-2135, www.hoborr.com, adults $16-$18, ages 3-11 $12-$14) for a 1- or 2-hour ride along the shoreline. Lively Weirs Beach is where all the action is; grab towel space on the small swath of crescent-shaped sand, and then stroll the boardwalk, lined with souvenir shops, takeout joints, and arcades. The aptly-named Funspot (579 Endicott St., 603-366-4377, www.funspotnh.com, dubbed the largest arcade in the world, features more than 500 games ($20 for 100 tokens), a bowling center ($4), and outdoor and indoor mini-golf ($3-$5). Monkey Trunks Adventure Course (579 Endicott St., 603-367-4427,www.monkeytrunks.com, $29-$49) has 48 challenges including swinging beams, tightropes, rolling logs, hanging tires, cargo nets, and four ziplines. Skip the boardwalk candy and ice cream shops and instead visit award-winning Kellerhaus (259 Endicott St. North, 603-366-4466, www.kellerhaus.com, the oldest candy and ice cream maker in New Hampshire, where you'll find some of the best house-made chocolates and ice cream in New England, made from original family recipes. They also offer a popular make-your-own-sundae bar, and on weekends, a waffle bar breakfast buffet. Downtown is worth a peek; browse the cluster of antiques and furnishing shops; visit Belknap Mill (25 Beacon Street East, 603-524-8813, www.belknapmill.org, free), the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States, with museum and art exhibits and a concert hall, and stop in the Downtown Deli (601 Main St., 603-528-1098, www.facebook.com/TheDowntownDeli?rf=115766011786519), a flea market-antiques store with an old-fashioned ice cream and deli counter.
Don't miss the NazBar (at Naswa Resort, see above), a flip-flop friendly, sand-in-your-sandals beach bar with live music and a fun, be-happy vibe. The funky, throwback Weirs Drive-in Theater (76 Endicott St., 603-366-4723, www.weirsdrivein.com, $25 minimum price per car) is a hoot for kids and nostalgia-craving adults.Pitman's Freight Room (96 New Salem St., 603-527-0043, www.pitmansfreightroom.com, located downtown in a historical former freight depot, has live music, dancing, and comedy shows.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright
| GLOBE CORRESPONDENTS AUGUST 05, 2014
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