The small mountainside town of Bethlehem, New Hampshire has been a tourist destination for centuries. When the railroad came to Bethlehem Junction in 1867, so did thousands of tourists from Boston, New York, and beyond. The fresh mountain air and the incredible panoramic views attracted wealthy city dwellers, which helped develop the small “highest town in New Hampshire” into a Gilded Age resort for the rich and famous. During the height of the Gilded Age, over 30 grand hotels lined the streets of Bethlehem. Seven trains arrived daily from various train stations, including New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Over the decades, Bethlehem hosted Presidents Grant, Hayes, Roosevelt, Taft, and Harding as well as poet Robert Frost. Artists came from near and far to paint the incredible views of the White Mountains and play croquet on the vast resort lawns.
Today, the mountainside town of 2,500 residents is quite different. The old grand hotels are now gone, but the small town still offers an abundance of things to do for visitors who now arrive by automobile. And, you can’t beat the stunning views of the White Mountains and beyond.
Like many small New England towns, Bethlehem has a plethora of quaint antique shops selling a variety of goods. From lanterns to old wooden skis to just about everything under the sun, you’ll find lots of treasures at the local shops, like Lonesome Woods Hundred Acre Wood Antiques, and WREN. For all your knitting needs, head over to Love.Yarn.Shop. Don’t know how to knit? No worries! Love.Yarn.Shop also offers workshops.
Continue your shopping journey down Main Street with a stop at Yaro Lighting. Artist Roland Shick creates custom and limited edition handmade lamps. Freshen your garden this spring with beautiful flowers from Yonder Mountain Nursery. The small nursey specializes in plants that you won’t find at the big box stores. Open to the public, 42 Maple Contemporary Art Center is home to several artists in a historic church built in 1877. Make sure you pick up some of the famous Bethlehem Soap!
Things to Do
For a small town, Bethlehem packs a big punch! There’s ton of fun activities to do for the whole family. Catch a play, musical performance, and more at the historic Colonial Theatre. The Colonial Theatre first opened its doors in 1915 during the era of Grand Hotels and thanks to generous donors and volunteers, the 300-seat theatre has continued to thrive through the decades.
Bethlehem is home to some of the most scenic golf courses in New England. Built in 1914, the Maplewood Golf Club 18-hole championship Donald Ross course is open to the public. Just down the street you’ll find another Donald Ross designed course at the Bethlehem Country Club. The 18-hole championship course has hosted many tournaments over the years.
Spend the morning exploring the 1,400-acre Rocks Estate, home to the North Country Conservation & Education Center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The Rocks offers a variety of educational programs, a Christmas Tree Farm, and maple syrup tours. Of course, being nestled in the White Mountains, there are tons of nearby walking and hiking trails to enjoy, especially during the colorful fall months.
Where to Eat
After a morning round of golf, enjoy a delicious lunch at the Cold Mountain Café. Serving a variety of dishes, including many gluten-free and vegan options, you’ll certainly find something that will fill your tummy. Open for lunch and dinner, the Cold Mountain Café menu uses a lot of produce from local farms in their extensive menu.
Spend the afternoon at nearby Rek’ lis Brewing. With both indoor and outdoor seating, enjoy a cold pint on the deck. Rek’ lis brews a variety of IPA, ales, and stouts, so make sure you check the beer menu as it’s always changing. For delicious vegetarian food in the White Mountains, head to Maia Papaya, named the best vegetarian restaurant in New Hampshire by Delish.com. Open for breakfast and lunch, it’s the perfect place to grab a coffee and a baked good before hitting up all the antique shops for the day.
While most of the grand hotels that once dotted Main Street in Bethlehem have now been lost over the decades, Bethlehem is still home to many historic inns and wonderful hotels. The Adair Country Inn has a rich history and has hosted many famous people over the years. Opened in 1992, the nine-room country inn is a beautiful place to rest your head at night. The newly built Arlington Hotel is a boutique hotel and spa experience that combines modern design and approaches with the familiar White Mountains hospitality.
For a rustic luxury, book a weekend at the Bear Mountain Lodge. Nestled on 26 wooded acres, the Bear Mountain Lodge is a charming bed and breakfast perfect for a romantic getaway. Located on the site of the former Baker Brook Cabins, a popular vacation spot in the 1950s, the Presidential Mountain Resort is home to luxury cabins on 250 acres. The resort has a private lake, a saltwater pool, and fully stocked trout pond so you don’t even have to leave the resort!
Book a Weekend in Historic Bethlehem
The small mountain town of Bethlehem might seem like a drive-through town on the way to larger resort towns in the White Mountains, but the historic town packs a big punch. Book a weekend in Bethlehem and discover why so many people flocked to the town in the 19th century. You won’t be disappointed!