High above the Israel River on the slopes of the White Mountains, the small resort town of Jefferson (pop. 1,107) is a good base for exploring the surrounding peaks and is home to two big tourist draws, both ideal for the truly masochistic parent. About a mile west of Jefferson is Santa’s Village (28 Presidential Hwy, 603/586-4445, daily in summer, weekends in the fall, $29), with candy canes looming threateningly at the entrance, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, the Yule log flume, and, of course, Santa himself. Just east of town is Six Gun City and Fort Splash (603/586-4592, daily in summer, $23.95), an ersatz Wild West town featuring cowboy skits (“Come on out, you varmints!”), frontier shows, a carriage museum, a roller coaster, and a water park.
Outside the town, along US-2 on a crest between Jefferson and Gorham, the Grand View Lodge (89 US-2, 603/466-5715, $58 and up) has nice rooms and truly grand views. Two other accommodations in Jefferson deserve mention, starting with the historic Jefferson Inn (6 Renaissance Rd., 800/729-7908, $85-195), which has panoramic views and a swimming pond, right on US-2. A half mile south of Jefferson along Route 115A, the friendly Applebrook B&B (110 Meadows Rd., 800/545-6504, $100 and up) sits on 35 acres and offers full Victorian splendor gilded with summer raspberries and a hot tub under the stars.
East of Jefferson the road ascends, the valley narrows, and the scenery becomes more spectacular with every mile, as the Presidential Range looms larger and larger to the south.