This idyllic, Christmassy-spirited get-away itinerary takes you on a uniquely beautiful (and relaxing) holiday shopping tour to a quiet corner of New England. Go whenever you need an old-fashioned escape from the bustle and haste of a too-busy season. And this year, on December 7-8, you can also enjoy a tour of holiday homes (in New London, NH), all fabulously decked-out to incite your sweet holiday mood. Or, on December 14, you can join the charming festivities of Main Street Holiday Tradition (in Warner, NH). You’ll find arts, crafts, music, food, a Festival of Trees, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Warner and New London are located off of I89, just northwest of Concord, New Hampshire.
Day 1: (Friday, December 6th or December 13)
- Enjoy lunch at the Foothills Restaurant in Main Street in Warner (603-456-2140). If you look in any encyclopedia under “Quintessentially Cute New England Breakfast/Lunch Place,” you’ll likely find a picture of The Foothills. They’ve been serving up delicious, inexpensive breakfasts and lunches to tourists and residents practically forever. I like the Keararge Sandwich (turkey, fresh spinach, bacon, tomato and boursin cheese on pumpernickel), grilled, with potato salad. Ken often gets the Barnhouse Reuben (grilled corned beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, & Swiss cheese) on marble rye with french fries. Sweets-lovers simply must order their amazing, enormous hot, sticky cinnamon bun.
- Cross the street to Main Street Book Ends (603-456-2700). I have whiled away many contented hours right here. Never met a bookstore I didn’t like, but this will always be my favorite bookstore in all of New England. Browse for gifts among the books and toys and check out their MainStreet MarketPlace & Gallery, featuring paintings, ceramics, prints, pottery, jewelry, quilts, furniture and other assorted hand-crafted items, as well as homespun wool. You’ll be sure to find the perfect present for many on your list. And don’t forget to pick up something for yourself, to read while relaxing at your inn. Because this trip is not a shop-til-you drop tour; it’s an enjoyable journey into slower, more tranquil place, while you deliberately enjoy getting ready for the upcoming gift-exchange.
- And pick up a copy of the impressive, locally-made documentary “This Morning Broke Clear” to watch at your inn tonight (bring your laptop, the inn doesn’t have televisions in the room). The historically-rich video will enhance your New England experience and serves as a wonderful memento of your visit to historic Warner.
- On your way out of town (take Route 103 toward Bradford), stop at Market Basket to pick up your evening meal. You’ll want: deli cold cuts and salad; bread from the bakery (perhaps a dessert?); a block of cheese from the dairy; some fresh fruit; a little bit of olive oil or butter; and wine, of course. Yes, you can get it at the supermarket in New Hampshire. Isn’t this convenient?
From Warner, your inn is a short 15 minutes drive.
- The charming Candlelite Inn (603-938-5571) was built in 1897 by Charles Gillis as a guest home in Bradford, New Hampshire (conveniently located between the shops of Warner and New London). It has entertained generations of New Hampshire visitors. Lovingly and beautifully restored by its current owner/innkeeper, Marilyn Gordon, its exterior could grace a Currier and Ives print, and its interior is antique-y. It’s one of the best accommodation values in New Hampshire, with rates (including a multi-course, candlelit breakfast) for 2 people ranging from $130 – $198 (depending on room size and season).
- There are dining tables and a wood stove in the spacious sunroom/breakfast room, and Marilyn will happily provide glasses, wine opener, napkins, knifes, plates–everything you need–with which to deck your table to enjoy your supper.
- This evening, unwind with your good book, watch “This Morning Broke Clear” on your laptop, and mingle with other guest in the warmly-inviting common rooms. You can make new acquaintances, and perhaps, like quite a few of Marilyn’s former guests, you’ll form lasting friendships with the people you meet here. People do not come here to hole up in their rooms and watch television .
Day 2: (Saturday)
- On December 7th partake of the Christmas House Tour, New London. Save $5 per ticket and buy online before December 6th (or phone 603-763-4789 x 3). Inspiring archtecture and holiday decor with music and lights, in stules ranging from antique to contemporary. To begin your tour, stop at The New London Historical Society’s Meeting House, Little Sunapee Road, New London after 9:30 am to pick up your tour map and guide (and visit the holiday gift boutique). Tickets are $25 each on the day of the tour, $20 in advance. Proceeds benefit the Fells Historic Estate and Gardens.
- Take your time touring and shopping–you have all day today and tomorrow, too, so dawdle and enjoy yourself. Isn’t this pleasant?
- Lunch at MacKenna’s (New London Shopping Center on Newport Road, 603-526-9511). We eat where the locals go for reliably tasty food, consistently well-prepared American food (they don’t need a website; they’re always busy). I order homemade soup or salad with homemade bread (yum!); Ken often chooses a burger.
Shops with terrific gift ideas, in New London:
- Lisann’s 420 Main Street (603-526-9414) This boutique women’s shop has been a favorite of ours for years (quite of few of my favorite presents came in Lisann’s packages). You’ll find classy, high-quality lingerie, women’s clothing and gorgeous scarves, as well as vases, purses, jewelry & gloves.
- Hubert’s Family Outfitters 219 County Road (603-526-4032) I love this vestige of the old mom & pop department store, started by the Hubert family in 1972. Get best-brand clothing, footwear, outerwear and first-class customer service at competitively-low prices. Voted the best children’s clothing store in New Hampshire! Stuff your stockings with Darn Tough Socks, made in Vermont (with a lifetime guarantee) from super-comfy, non-itchy Merino wool to keep everyone’s tootsies warm and dry all winter. And what says “I love you” more thoughtfully than a gift of the most comfortable shoes around? Hubert’s carries a find selection of Dansko footwear. For those who spend any part of the winter in northern New England or deep-snowy climes, Kamik winter boots, made in Littleton, New Hampshire, are a must-have for keeping feet warm and dry while enjoying the beautiful white world. You’ll also find a full selection of durable, value-priced Carhartt clothing. And Northface’s newest technology in yummy-warm outerwear, Thermoball jackets, are available in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes. You can’t go wrong when you select practical and fashionable gifts!
- Tatewell Gallery 255 Newport Road (603-526-2910) In addition to fine art for the connoisseurs on your list, there are low-priced gift options here, including notecards of Lake Sunapee and local wildlife by area photographers, and Christmas ornaments based on the Downton Abbey series (isn’t this a noble idea?) This gallery is terrifically well-curated. You’ll want to hang out and enjoy the art, and you might well find the perfect, unique gift for a very special someone. Many excellent local and regional artists are represented.
- Gourmet Garden 195 Main Street (603-848-1567) this unique gift shop features products made by New England artisans and craftsmen. Stunning 3D Ameriscape ornaments of local villages are designed by shop owner Sarah Cave, and all profits go to support local charities. Shop here for the best chocolates, caramels, and gift baskets of New Hampshire products, and you’ll likely find something to commemorate your Currier-and-Ives-getaway, too.
If you’re ending your Saturday shopping in New London,
- stop for dinner at the Flying Goose Brew Pub (603-526-6889). It’s casual, good pub fare, reasonably priced, and their delicious house-brewed signature and seasonal beers are fresh, on tap.
If you’re ending your shopping in Warner (and on December 14th, that’s definitely where you want to be!)
- grab a delicious pizza, calzone or salad at Charlie Mac’s before heading back to Main Street Bookends for an awesome concert.
- See the swing and folk group, Sweet, Hot & Sassy. At only $10/ticket, this is the best high-quality entertainment bargain you’ll find in New England. We have 2 of their C.D.’s– bought 9 years ago, and they still remain among our most-frequently played–this trio is simply delightful to listen to. See a video of Sweet, Hot & Sassy here, and be sure to reserve your tickets for their Holiday Concert in advance, call the Main Street Bookends: 603-456-2700.
- Spend the remainder of the evening, reading, relaxing and mingling at your cozy inn.
Day 3: (Sunday, December 8th or December 15th)–
- Leisurely complete the Christmas House Tour and/or finish your shopping.
- Have lunch at Peter Christian’s Tavern in New London (603-456-4042). The cozy New England atmosphere is reason enough to dine here! My favorite lunch is the Hummus and Pita board (includes fresh broccoli, carrot & celery sticks) with a cup of French Onion Soup.
Now that you’ve had 36 leisurely, Currier-and-Ives-Chrissmassy hours, don’t you pity the people who spent all their time at nerve-jangling malls, jostling, rushing, searching in vain for a unique gift that isn’t mass-produced in a far-away factory? Aren’t you grateful you found a quiet haven with oodles of low-key shopping opportunities in which to enjoy your holiday spree?
I know you want to book this get-away! What else are you going to do, to insure your season is old-fashioned-joyful, instead of meltdown-inducing-stressful?