For me New Hampshire is less of a standard tourist trip and more about visiting family. Most of New Hampshire is geared towards outdoor sports, but there are still things you can do and see.
My first time coming to NH after being sick I planned to rent a wheelchair van via Wheelers in Boston and drive up to New Hampshire. Well, when I called to confirm the day before we left (always call to confirm!), the guy who had the van at the moment was keeping it longer because his van was in the shop longer than expected and there was no other van to be had via Wheelers or other Boston wheelchair van rental companies on short notice. Thankfully I had a back-up manual wheelchair. That said, I absolutely hate it. I don’t have the strength to wheel myself and it is frustrating and dehumanizing to have others push me. I just ordered a replacement backup that is a folding power chair. I will use this when I go there because the dirt road on a steep hill where my family lives might not be the easiest for a wheelchair van, especially in winter. I think if we stayed somewhere else I’d try the van rental again because my regular (large power) chair might be more able to go on some of the accessible nature trails.
If you don’t rent a wheelchair van, rent something with 4 wheel drive. In summer there are dirt roads that will need it. In winter there is heavy snow and hills. Also something with space for a folding wheelchair like an SUV. You’ll thank me. If your chair allows you to get an SUV instead of a wheelchair van you’ll be able to see more without risk of getting stuck.
Scenic Drives Everywhere in the Lakes and Mountain regions of NH is pretty scenic, but here are some ideas.
Wheelchair Accessible Trails are mapped in Traillink. These are for warm months only. Depending on rainfall (mud, washouts, etc.) they may be more or less easy to navigate and you will need a chair that can handle dirt and some bumpiness. Pick a dry day after other dry days if you can. Once I get my new foldable power chair I will try some out with that and post more detail.
Accessible skiing at Waterville Valley. They have a whole “adaptive snow sports” program and they are amazing. It didn’t cost much more than regular skiing! ($70-100 a day). They strap you into the reclining chair on skis and then tow you to the lift by a snowmobile. The seat hooks into the lift (which is really freaky but actually stable). They ride up with you and keep you steady. On the way down you are towed by an expert skier. They strap you in very securely and give you a helmet, but it is very bumpy on the head! They can put foam underneath your head, which helps. Ask before you get on the slope! If I did it again I would bring duct tape and tape the foam to the seat headrest before starting. I might even have strapped my head down to prevent the bouncing. It took a lot out of me because my condition has sensory issues and the jostling was a lot to take, but it made it possible to get on the slopes to watch my daughter ski, which was priceless. It was one of the things I was most sad about missing since getting sick. This was so important to me.
Just call them to make a reservation and they will figure out how to make it work for you! They have various adaptations for different situations. Be aware that they only do this in good conditions on groomed trails, so it will depend on the day as to what trails they can take you on and they might have to reschedule. Dress very warmly. When you aren’t doing the work of skiing your body doesn’t warm up and the wind chill bites harder.
The adaptive ski program is a registered non-profit and accepts donations to cover the extra accommodations they provide.
The Cog railway at Mt. Washington is one way to climb a mountian in a wheelchair! Open during the warm months only. This is the old fashioned railroad that goes to the top of Mt. Washington. One train is still coal powered (very dirty experience) and the others are all clean energy. Large power chairs cannot board, but they have (they say- call and check) their own wheelchairs they will lend you that you can transfer to. You then transfer to the seat in the railroad while riding (it is steep, no strap ins). There is no neck support to the seats, but I managed by leaning on may husband’s shoulder. At the top there is plenty of flat, accessible paved area where you can get a good view, but there are also definitely rough spots with gravel or broken pavement that may require some assistance to get around if you are in a chair that doesn’t handle terrain well. There is a weather station up there with hot cocoa and a bathroom and historical and scientific information about the mountain. I did not use the bathroom so I don’t know how accessible it is (though it should be per ADA laws).
It is wise to book tickets ahead.
You can also drive up Mount Washington. It is steep (average grade of 12%) and there are no guardrails. You may have to stop to cool your brakes on the way down. Not for the faint of heart or sub-par vehicles. Not sure I would try it in a wheelchair van, but if you have a folding chair and take a 4-wheel drive rental you should be ok.
Mt. Washington Hotel (now the Omni Mount Washington Resort) is a grand old Victorian hotel of the sort that people spent the whole summer or winter holiday in the Victorian era. It’s lovely and has a high tea and several restaurants (get reservations ahead for tea or dinner in the main dining room). It’s a lovely place to tour around and has a unique history which is showcased. If you are visiting Mount Washington it’s a great place to stop for lunch and explore. They also have carriage or sled rides depending on the season if you are able to transfer out of your chair. I haven’t done those since I got sick, so I don’t know the mechanics of it with the chair, so you should ask ahead. The hotel itself is perfectly accessible. I have not stayed there since being sick so I can’t speak to in-room accommodations.
Scenic Drives are pretty much everywhere you go in the Lakes and Mountains Regions.
Random things I like
Thrillsville If your companions are adventurous and you want to be able to watch them climb things, check out Alpine Adventures/Thrillsville in Lincoln. There is nothing accessible about it, but you can watch your loved ones at play from below in Thrillsville, unlike at many such places. For me it was great to cheer my daughter on through the obstacle course and climbing wall.
Gypsy Cafe in Lincoln. If you happen to be in that area and want lunch it’s the best place. Yes the name is… problematic, but it was named at a time when people were less aware of that. The cafe itself is charming and original, full of crazy mosaics and art everywhere. The menu is eclectic from all over the world. Decent cocktails, and very accommodating accessibility wise.
The Common Man Inn is a classic new Hampshire experience I recommend. There are several locations.
I will return to this post and add to it after I try out my new foldable power chair and see what else I can do there with it. One place I want to try is the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. I went there pre-sick and think it might be doable.