The Monadnock Region in the southwest corner of New Hampshire is a great place for families. I would know—I travel there with my family almost every fall. The four of us pile in the car each October and drive right up to Keene
, which we use as the homebase for our trip. It’s at the center of the region and offers a wide variety of family-friendly lodging options and lots to do.
We always plan our trip to coincide with the Keene Pumpkin Festival
and each year the town tries to beat its own record for the most lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place at one time. In addition to the jack-o-lanterns, this great harvest festival is complete with a costume parade, face-painting, pumpkin seed spitting contest (which the kids love!) and pumpkin pie. Keene is great for children, which is probably why the location scouts for Jumanji
chose it as the setting for the film. My kids always try to pick out locations from scenes in the movie as we walk around the town square.
Roads lead outward from Keene in all sorts of enticing directions. Stonewall Farm
, located one mile west of Keene on Route 9, is a non-profit, educational working dairy with cows, Belgian draft horses and assorted other critters to visit and pet. The kids love interacting with the animals, and we always go for a wagon ride, run through the corn maze and get an ice cream treat before leaving.
We usually try to fit in a trip to go apple picking
(head north on Route 12) and a nice hike in Pisgah State Park
, the largest in the New Hampshire State Park system (south on Route 10 and west on Route 110). The wildlife viewing opportunities are fantastic here, and the kids like to have a contest to see who can spot the most animals.
If your children love the outdoors and wildlife as much as mine do, plan a day on the second most climbed mountain in the world, Mount Monadnock
in Jaffrey. There are gentle paths for younger ones and more challenging routes for older kids. The stunning views from the top of the mountain can’t be beat, especially in the fall. On a clear day, you can see 100 miles to the Boston skyline. It’s enough to amaze even the most cynical teenager.
Leaving Jaffrey, follow Route 202 north to Peterborough
, home to the Mariposa Museum
and its exhibits and performance events celebrating the world's cultures. Peterborough offers free WiFi service downtown plus a selection of family-friendly restaurants and shops in the Marketplace. Thornton Wilder used Peterborough as the inspiration for his play Our Town while staying at The MacDowell Colony, a haven for artists. You can enjoy the season's harvest every Wednesday through the end of October at the Peterborough farmers market in Depot Square Park, where we usually pick up some fresh produce, baked goods and crafts for the trip home. There's no better place than New Hampshire to enjoy the New England fall season.