1. Where to Stay
Ice fishing and dog sledding are the lakes region’s most invigorating winter attractions, so you’ll need to recuperate in nearby accommodations that peddle rest and relaxation—not to mention toe-thawing fireplaces. Book early at the lakefront Church Landing at Mill Falls (from $229), one of the few luxury accommodations in the Lake Winnipesaukee area. The upscale Adirondack-style lodge has a full-service spa and a fireplace in every room. For seclusion, reserve the Tree House Suite, which is set off from the main building and boasts an indoor birch tree.
For privacy and prime lake views, request the Winnisquam Room at Ferry Point House (from $110). The Victorian B&B, perched on the banks of Winnipesaukee’s neighboring Lake Winnisquam, is meticulously kept. Hosts Eric and Andrea Damato strike a perfect balance between helpfulness and leaving you be—ask them to kick-start your winter adventures by booking a snowmobile or cross-country-ski tour.
The eight-room Squam Lake Inn (from $150), located near the idyllic site where On Golden Pond was filmed, is best known for owner Rae Andrews’s eccentric take on country cooking (try her ice-cream sandwiches and maple bacon). For privacy and an in-room fireplace, book the Squam Suite.
2. Where to Eat
Start your day with a plate of Eggs Winnipesaukee, Donna Jean’s Diner’s (1208 Weirs Blvd., Weirs Beach; 603-366-5996) take on eggs Benedict made with homemade hollandaise sauce. The casual eatery overlooks a channel near public boat docks and is open for breakfast and lunch.
Warm up with lobster mac ‘n’ cheese ($12) or the Center Harbor Burger ($10) topped with bacon, mushrooms, Cheddar, fried onions, and chipotle mayo at the cozy Canoe restaurant. This popular dining spot has a separate room for families, so take the kids (or avoid them).
For an upscale, romantic dinner, make reservations at the Woodshed, a converted nineteenth-century farmhouse serving hearty, gourmet beef (the prime rib is a big hit) and seafood entrées. Have a cocktail there before sunset to ogle the mountain views.
Swiss-born chef Peter Bossert and his daughter Renee run the kitchen at West Alton’s William Tell Inn, where arched doorways, wood ceilings, and a stained-glass window create a genuine old-world flair. For Continental Europe authenticity, order the Gruyère-based cheese fondue for two ($27) and the Wiener schnitzel ($20), pounded thin and breaded.
3. What to Do
Ice fishing at Lake Winnipesaukee hits its stride the second weekend in February, when hundreds of anglers set up ice shanties to compete in the annual Great Rotary Fishing Derby. Take a free class from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (603-271-3212; firstname.lastname@example.org). Then pick up a fishing license ($15) and equipment from Alan at Aj’s Bait & Tackle. Continue the offbeat winter thrills at the nearby Gunstock Mountain Resort, where you can slide down four different 1,000-foot runs on an inflatable sled ($15 for two hours). An hour west, go dog sledding at Seal Cove Kennel: Sit back, rock that furry trapper hat you haven’t had a chance to wear, and let professional racer Christine Richardson take the reins.
4. Insider’s Tip
Looking for a trophy-size lake trout? Cast your line at Lake Winnisquam, a smaller body of water just southwest of Winnipesaukee, known for producing the largest lakers—at ten pounds and up. Bring a GMRS or FRS two-way radio and tune into Channel 7 with the code on “0” to chat with other anglers.
5. Oddball Day
Thaw out in the area’s local artisan shops. Start at the Old Print Barn, a Civil War–era barn turned art gallery showcasing more than 2,000 New Hampshire–inspired paintings, photographs, etchings, and other original works. Down the road, watch craftsmen pour liquid metal into molds at Hampshire Pewter, a workshop and store that handcrafts candlesticks, goblets, and other home accessories. End the adventure with a nibble of old-timey candy at Kellerhaus, a confectioner and ice-cream shop that sells pecan bark and classic ribbon candy made with a candy crimper from 1886.
Investigate the basics—maps, local events calendars, and photos of popular attractions—at Lakesregion.org.
Follow threads for restaurant recommendations and the best snowmobile trails, all from Winnipesaukee residents, at the Winnipesaukee Forum.
Check up on lake traffic or watch the sunrise at WeirsOnline.com, a page of “live cams” capturing popular spots in the lakes region.
Learn ice-fishing rules (no lead weights allowed) and local fish species at the site of the Meredith Rotary Club, the group that organizes the annual ice-fishing derby.