A wise man once said, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”
That’s kind of the whole philosophy of the Insider. While there’s always some big news out there – this candidate said this, the school board meeting went like this, this person was arrested for this or that – we prefer to stick to stuff people actually want to hear about, like riding mountain coasters, playing arcade games and watching live performances.
For this Field Trip issue, we have three basic categories of places we visited – For Fun, Food and Drink, and Shopping. We figured we’d come right at you with the For Fun stuff first, because fun is always good.
The first stop on our tour of For Fun destinations was the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith. This nonprofit, theater-specific venue blends the new with the old perfectly – the company has been around since 2004, but has only been in its current location at 33 Footlight Circle since 2013. Before that, the theater was housed in a small portion of a shopping center. The new location is actually an old piece of property – the compound used to be home to the Annalee Dolls facory, which is now just down the street.
The Playhouse, while one of the younger theater groups around, has quickly built a name and reputation as one of the premier theater destinations in New Hampshire.
“It’s a pretty ambitious program,” said Lyn Winter, consultant in arts management and marketing. “We’re one of the youngest professional theaters in New Hampshire, and one of the most awarded.”
The professional theater, which recruits talent from all over the country, has won awards from the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the Meredith Area Chamber of Commerce, the Lakes Region Tourism Association, the Belknap Economic Development Council and dozens of New Hampshire Theater Awards, not to mention special honors from New Hampshire Magazine and Yankee Magazine. Suffice it to say, people seem to like the place.
With 196 seats in a stadium configuration, including two side balconies, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The stage can be converted and arranged in many ways, allowing for a wide variety of shows. You can see everything from Chicago to Beauty and the Beast to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and everything in between. Whether you’re looking for a professional production with actors from New York or a community theater performance put on by locals, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the Playhouse.
For amenities, the Playhouse offers a snack bar with an actual bar for adult beverages, as well as an outdoor deck area where you can hang out and enjoy some refreshment before the show. Set back from the road in its own little compound, it makes for a very relaxing and peaceful setting to enjoy an afternoon or evening.
If you’re interested in catching a show, Neil Simon’s California Suite will be performed through Sept. 7. On Sept. 21, a special, one-off performance of Improv Olympics will take place. Then Deadly Murder will run Oct. 10-13.
For a complete schedule and more information about the theater, go to winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org.
Our next stop was Gunstock Mountain Resort. But wait – why would anyone go to a ski resort in August? Well, if that resort is Gunstock, the question is why wouldn’t anyone go?
While you’ve probably been skiing, snowboarding or tubing at Gunstock before, if you’ve never been there in the warmer months, you’ve been missing out. The mountain is full of life and activity even when there’s no snow on the ground. Gunstock Adventure Park features ziplines, off-road Segway tours, scenic lift rides, hiking, Aerial Treetop Adventures, kayaking, paddle boats, a mountain coaster, the Stunt Jump, a kids’ obstacle course and more.
The resort opened in 1937, but the summer operations didn’t begin until the first zipline was installed in 2012, said Rachel Templar, marketing manager. In 2015 the mountain coaster was added, and it’s been off to the races ever since.
Since there’s so much to do, there are several options for packages you can choose. For the full experience, where you can try everything the resort has to offer, you can go for the Premium Adventure. This package goes from $80 (midweek) to $88 (weekends and holidays) for ages 6 to 22 to $88 to $96 for adults over 22. Kids 5 and under get in free.
With the Discover Adventure package, for $40 to $56, you can do everything except the zipline and the Segway tours. There are also a la carte options as well.
Since this is a very experience-focused publication, I had to try out a few things while I was there. First up was a scenic lift ride to the top of the mountain – the lift goes half speed in the summer so you can savor the view. At the summit, pristine views of Lake Winnipesaukee are worth the price of admission alone. This is a perfect spot for a picnic or to just hang out and take it all in.
After this relaxing experience, it was time to get the adrenaline pumping a little with a ride on the mountain coaster. This is like a regular roller coaster, only the tracks run through the woods of the mountain, and each rider gets to control the speed of his or her car – unlike a traditional roller coaster, the cars here are not all connected, so each rider can go at their own pace.
The car is controlled by two levers that act as brakes – push forward to release the brakes and pull back to engage them. I had the misfortune of being behind someone who wanted to take it slow, but for the first 30 seconds or so I had enough space to let ‘er rip and bomb down the track at full speed. You can really feel the G-forces going to work as you whip around the corners, and you can build up a surprising amount of speed in a short amount of time.
After this thoroughly enjoyable ride, I got to try the Stump Jump, which is just a big staircase to nowhere that you can jump off of into big cushions. There’s one cushion beneath about the halfway point of the stairs – probably about 8 feet high. Two jumps off this lower platform are required before going all the way to the top. The rules are fairly strict – no flips or stunts (despite the attraction’s name) allowed for safety reasons. Something about the risk of breaking a neck or something. Other than that, you just want to put your arms out to the side and land on your back, not on your feet.
After I cleared the two training jumps successfully, it was time to go all the way. Let me tell you – that platform looks a lot higher and scarier once you’re up there. It’s probably about 15 feet off the ground, but when your socked toes are dangling over the edge, it feels like about 150 feet. After a few deep breaths – and a quick visualization of landing on my head – I threw caution to the wind and jumped, landing on my back. It felt like minutes, though it was probably only about a second, but what a thrill it was to free-fall like that.
If you’re interested in trying any of this for yourself, go to gunstock.com for more information and links to book your adventures ahead of time. Note that height restrictions are applicable for several of the attractions, and closed-toe footwear is required for most everything.
Last but not least, we had to check out the self-proclaimed “largest arcade in the world” up in Laconia (we don’t doubt this claim, but we couldn’t verify it).
Funspot is home to more than 600 games, including 300 classic arcade games, 20 lanes of bowling, an indoor mini golf course and small rides for little kids. There’s three floors of literally wall-to-wall entertainment where everyone in the family can find something to do.
I stopped in on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, and the place was an absolute zoo – the very large parking lot was nearly full and you couldn’t step anywhere inside without having to move around someone. Due to the wide variety of games, Funspot attracts folks of all ages – little kids playing games to win tickets, parents trying to beat their personal best on Paper Boy or Pac-Man.
One very attractive aspect of Funspot is the prices. For $5 you can get 25 tokens, and many of the games only cost one token. There are also change machines that will break a $20, $10 or even $100 for you. You can also use your debit card or an ATM right by the token machines if you didn’t bring any cash.
For more info, go to funspotnh.com.