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Where to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride in New England

Gentle Giants Sleigh & Carriage Rides There’s something quintessentially New England about taking a winter sleigh ride. | Photo by Jesse Schloff Photography

When winter comes to Northern New England, the opportunities to get out and enjoy the pristine covering of fluffy snow are limitless. For a relaxing, cozy experience, bundle up in a warm wool blanket and embark on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the region’s scenic landscape.

The sleighs glide across fields, some with corn stubble still poking through the drifts, and along wooded trails lined with snow-coated branches—a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell print. As the noble steeds pull you along, settle into the rhythm of the sleigh bells, the huffing of the horses, and the shush of the sleigh through new-fallen snow.

Sleigh rides are indeed an ideal way to enjoy an old-fashioned winter outing with family, friends, or that special someone.

Gentle Giants Sleigh & Carriage Rides

Stowe, Vermont

Gentle Giants

Photo by Jesse Schloff Photography

Visitors to Stowe will no doubt recognize the horses of Gentle Giants. The mix of draft horses—a Percheron, Belgians, and Brabants—pull guests by cart or sleigh in a variety of wooded locations.

Gentle Giants runs 25-minute winter sleigh rides at the mountaintop Trapp Family Lodge resort on trails that traverse beneath evergreen trees and through meadows, away from the Nordic ski paths. Top off the ride with a stop at the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall to sample some of the European-style beers made on the property.

Info: Sleigh rides run on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3:30 p.m. by appointment for $40 per adult and $20 per child; children under 5 are free with 2 adults. Cash only. 3985 Mountain Road. (802) 253-2216.

You may also like: Best places to snowshoe in New England

The Kingdom’s Horse Drawn Wagon and Sleigh Rides

Brownington Center, Vermont

In the heart of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Jeff Simpson’s horses pull guests in a 10-passenger sleigh made by Simpson himself. Passengers take in seasonal views along trails that wrap around the perimeter of Simpson’s fields and through forests filled with snow-laden pine boughs. The Kingdom’s Horse Drawn Wagon and Sleigh Rides offers daytime and evening rides, which allow you to choose between a sunny, sparkly landscape or a cozy winter scene complete with a sunset over snow-blanketed fields.

Info: The 40-minute ride is by appointment only and costs $15 for adults and $7.50 for children under 12. Private rides are available for $125. 470 Chase Road. (802) 673-8802.

You may also like: Winter festivals in Northern New England

Wild Iris Farm

Bar Harbor, Maine

About 4 miles from bustling downtown Bar Harbor, Wild Iris Farm is home to a special breed of horse, the Shire. These British draft horses with distinctive white feathering on their legs are intimidating, standing 17 hands (68 inches) to 20 hands (80 inches) tall. But don’t worry—they’re known to be quite docile. Initially bred to haul ale carts and farm wagons, Wild Iris Farm’s Shire horses now pull passengers on tours of the farm and surrounding land. On the 45-minute winter rides—which use wheeled carriages because the snowfall in Bar Harbor usually isn’t deep enough to support sleighs—guests can sip hot chocolate while taking in the silence of the snowy fields and the jingle of the carriage bells.

Info: Rides in the 10-person carriage are $30 for adults and $20 for children under 12. 2 Lakewood Farm Road. (207) 288-5234.

You may also like: Picturesque Northern New England villages to visit this winter

Winterberry Farms

Belgrade, Maine

Winterberry Farm stand

Photo courtesy Winterberry Farm

When snow falls on this horse- and oxen-powered farm 10 miles north of Augusta, Nestor and Ginger, a pair of chestnut Haflinger horses, pull passengers through Winterberry Farms’ fields to take in the winter scenery. Enjoy the swish and squeak of the snow under the sleigh’s runners as the horses’ flaxen manes bounce in the brisk air. Visitors who seek a more hands-on experience are welcome to help harness the team to the 1870s-built sleighs before the rides begin.

Info: Excursions range from a 15-minute “Taste of Maine” ride for $25 per person to the 2-hour “Maine’s Ultimate Comfort” ride, featuring a farm tour, a campfire with marshmallows for roasting, tea and hot cocoa, and a bottomless bowl of house-made soup cooked with the farm’s certified organic vegetables for $275 for up to 4 people. The “Will You Marry Me” engagement ride costs $75 and includes champagne, of course. 538 Augusta Road. (207) 649-3331.

You may also like: How to celebrate the holidays outdoors with family

Coppal House Farm

Lee, New Hampshire

Coppal House Farm

Photo by Perfect Photos/Jeff Criss

The draft horses at Coppal House Farm in southeast New Hampshire work the fields during the farming season—hence the farm’s name, Coppal (capall is Gaelic for horse).

Guests can explore the beauty of the property’s 78 snow-covered acres by sleigh ride while the driver regales them with stories about the farm and farm life. Groomed trails weave through scenic fields and wooded lots, so keep an eye out for fresh deer tracks or flocks of turkeys gathered by the forest’s edge. You’ll cross bridges over ice-covered streams and pass barns, where you might get a glimpse of the farm’s livestock. After the ride, guests are dropped off at a bonfire where they can warm up or roast snacks that they brought along. Cold-weather s’mores, anyone?

Info: The 30-minute rides are currently for private groups only. A 1-horse sleigh for 2 to 6 people is $125; a 2-horse sleigh for up to 12 people is $200. Public sleigh rides will return at a future date. 118 N. River Road. (603) 659-3572.

Franconia Notch Stables

Franconia, New Hampshire

Franconia Notch Stables, located in the shadow of the White Mountains, offers 1-horse sleigh rides that begin across from the Franconia Inn. Horses named Pi, Tuckerman, Trigger, or Timber stand ready to help create a lasting memory for families, couples, or groups of friends. Wrap yourself in a cozy Pendleton blanket and enjoy the snow-muffled hoofbeats.

Info: The 30-minute rides run daily by reservation, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Group rides (4–6 people) are $25 per person; children under 2 ride free. For a more intimate experience, you can book a private sleigh ride for 2 or 3 people for $85. The stable also offers specialty rides for occasions such as engagements or anniversaries for $125 per couple. 1172 Easton Road. (603) 823-5058.

Pamela Hunt is a writer in Burlington, Vermont, who enjoys using her Nordic skis throughout the winter.

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