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6 picturesque Northern New England villages to visit this winter

Wiscasset, Maine, located on the Sheepscot River, is famously crowded in the summer but an under-the-radar destination during the winter. Photo by Leon Vanella/Alamy Stock Photo

Winter just may be the most beautiful season in Northern New England. With covered bridges, clapboard houses, and old red barns frosted in snow, the tranquil countryside beckons. Give in to your wanderlust and find a new favorite place.

These 6 small communities are a little under the radar as winter destinations, making their rich history and charm even more inviting. Plan to stroll, explore, and slow down. Bring your skis or snowshoes to enjoy the wintry outdoors, too. Check websites before you go, as many businesses reduce their hours in winter.

Jump to winter destinations in: Maine | New Hampshire | Vermont


1. Paris Hill

Snow covering the grounds outside The Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum

The birthplace of Hannibal Hamlin, who served as a U.S. senator and as Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, stands just beyond the town common and the First Baptist Church of Paris. Photo by Mimi Steadman

In Maine’s western hills, this tiny, 19th-century village within the town of Paris could be a set for a PBS period drama. Walk crescent-shaped Hannibal Hamlin Drive—named for the town’s most famous resident.

Imagine elegant ladies stepping daintily through the snow to visit neighbors at teatime as you pass Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate homes. Hamlin, who served as Maine’s governor and Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, was born in 1809 in what is now this National Historic District’s grandest mansion.

With a majestic backdrop of the White Mountains, the village also encompasses a church, courthouse, and jail (now the Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum).

Nearby: Five miles away, Norway’s Main Street is strung with shops, eateries, and a craft brewery. The town’s weeklong Winter Carnival every February features snowshoe races, sledding, and skating. Throughout the winter, the Roberts Farm Preserve welcomes cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

You may also like: Where to go snowshoeing in New England

2. Wiscasset

Across the Sheepscot River from Wiscasset, Maine, Fort Edgecomb was built to protect its busy port.

Across the Sheepscot River from Wiscasset, Maine, Fort Edgecomb was built to protect its busy port. Photo by Ark. Neyman - NV Media/Alamy Stock Photo

There’s a lot more to Wiscasset than infamous summer traffic. Winter is an ideal time to get off US Route 1 and discover this village and its many antique houses, ranging from imposing mansions to tiny cottages. Most date from the late 1700s to mid-1800s, when this deep-water harbor on the Sheepscot River boomed with fortunes made in shipbuilding and shipping. Stop to read the Museum in the Streets signs to learn more about the community’s history.

Come for the annual Holiday Marketfest in early December. Sign up for a class in broom making or other old-fashioned skills offered throughout the winter at Village Handcraft. You’ll find several shops, a couple of fine restaurants, and a handful of casual eateries here, too.

Nearby: Fort Edgecomb stands just across the river. This octagonal blockhouse was completed in 1809 to protect Wiscasset’s busy port. Hike, cross-country ski, or snowshoe at Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson or Dodge Point Preserve in Newcastle.

You may also like: 7 cross-country skiing spots in Northern New England

New Hampshire

3. Harrisville

The textile mill complex at Harrisville, New Hampshire, survives to recall the town’s history as a milling village.

The textile mill complex at Harrisville, New Hampshire, survives to recall the town’s history as a milling village. Photo courtesy Historic Harrisville Inc.

With its original textile mill complex, boardinghouse, workers’ cottages, owners’ houses, and other buildings from the 1800s, Harrisville is the last, largely intact example of a 19th-century New England milling village. Today, it’s a flourishing small community that has worked hard to preserve icons of its past.

Before arriving, download Historic Harrisville’s free audio walking tour and explore this Monadnock Highlands hamlet, admiring the stalwart redbrick facades set against a snowy background. Stop at the Harrisville General Store for breakfast, lunch, or fresh cider donuts. Pop into the retail shop at Harrisville Designs, which spins virgin wool yarns on century-old machinery from the mill.

Nearby: Go cross-country skiing at the Dublin School Nordic Center, just 4 minutes away. Family-focused Granite Gorge Mountain Park in Roxbury offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. You’ll find shops, restaurants, dining, theater, and lodging in Peterborough.

You may also like: Warm up to these 10 fun outdoor winter activities

4. Tamworth

Behind the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm in Tamworth, New Hampshire, which offers insights into early rural living.

Behind the Remick Country Doctor Museum & farm in Tamworth, New Hampshire, which offers insights into early rural living. Photo courtesy Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm

Located between Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains, Tamworth has been a summer resort since the late 1800s. Such luminaries as writers Henry James and E. E. Cummings found inspiration here. The 257-year-old town set before Mount Chocorua’s distinctive profile is now an appealing winter destination, too, with annual celebrations including Winter Fest and Sled Dog Fun Day.

Visit the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm to learn about rural medicine in days gone by. The New Hampshire Mushroom Company offers free tours on Sundays. Tasting rooms at Whippletree Winery and Tamworth Distilling are open to weekend visitors. (Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.) Just outside town, there’s waterside cross-country skiing at White Lake State Park.

Nearby: With more than 60 well-maintained wooden structures dating from the early 1800s, the village of Center Sandwich is a treasure. For family-friendly skiing, boarding, tubing, and snowshoeing, head to King Pine Ski Area.

You may also like: 10 stunning lakes in Northern New England


5. Grafton

The Grafton Inn has extended its hospitality to visitors for more than 200 years.

The Grafton Inn has extended its hospitality to visitors for more than 200 years. Photo by Jumping Rocks Photography

Come to this 19th-century charmer for the beauty. Stay for the cheese—and more. At Grafton Village Cheese Company, watch a variety of cheddars being made, then buy your favorites around the corner at MKT: Grafton. This reinvigorated, 200-year-old general store is a great lunch spot, too.

Visit the old Small Town Forge to see the blacksmith at work and purchase his wares (weekdays and most weekends). The small Nature Museum makes learning about local flora, fauna, and geology fun. The Turner Hill Interpretive Center tells the compelling story of a family who settled here after being freed from slavery.

For dining and lodging, the top choice is the 1801 Grafton Inn. The village is also home to shops, galleries, and a sugarhouse.

Nearby: Go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, or fat biking at Grafton Trails & Outdoor Center. Book a sleigh ride at Friesians of Majesty (reservations required) in Townshend or go downhill skiing at Magic Mountain Ski Area in Londonderry.

You may also like: Where to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride in New England

6. Brandon

Take a snowy morning amble up Park Street, said to be the state’s prettiest avenue. Admire the many Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian mansions dating from the 1800s. This handsome town boasts nearly 250 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the venerable Brandon Inn, which stands across from the gazebo-graced town green.

Nicknamed “the art and soul of Vermont,” the community is a magnet for artists. Check out the Brandon Artists Guild Gallery to see and purchase the work of more than 30 of the best. Shops, restaurants, cafés, bakeries, and a couple of craft breweries are also in the heart of town.

Tucked in the foothills of the Green Mountains, Brandon has multiple locations for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, including the Moosalamoo National Recreational Area.

Nearby: Some of Vermont’s premier alpine ski areas—Killington, Pico, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen—are less than an hour away.

Mimi Bigelow Steadman writes about New England regularly for AAA’s publications.

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