If you’re overdue for a little retail therapy you might consider continuing south on Route 16 from the US-302 junction toward North Conway (pop. 2,349), one of the cornerstones of New England’s factory-outlet circuit. City dwellers be warned: in the shopping mall zone, where half-hour (or longer) crawls along a five-mile stretch of highway are not unheard-of, especially on holidays or weekends. If you can turn a blind eye to all the retail frenzy, North Conway’s central park offers one of the best views of Mt. Washington, and its baseball diamond hosts some pretty intense games.
Besides factory-outlet stores, North Conway is also home to New Hampshire’s most popular scenic railroad, running steam engines throughout summer and during the fall color season. Based out of Conway’s downtown depot, the Conway Scenic Railroad (603/356-5251, $16 and up depending on trip) runs historic trains south to Conway, through Bartlett, and all the way to Crawford Notch via the historic Frankenstein Trestle, with special excursions available in addition to these frequent trips.
Although all the tourists may well drive you away from North Conway, there are some good places to eat along Route 16, like Elvio’s Pizzeria and Restaurant (2888 White Mountain Hwy., 603/356-3208), where you can get slices or full pies, submarine sandwiches, and big salads, plus wine and beer. During the day, the place to eat home-style breakfasts or great burgers is family-friendly Peach’s Restaurant (2506 White Mountain Hwy., 603/356-5860).
There are lots of accommodations on and off Route 16, from old cabin courts to anodyne motels, but the most interesting place has to be the Cranmore Inn (80 Kearsarge Rd., 603/356-5502, $125 and up), a quick walk east of Route 16, which has been welcoming travelers since 1863.