Weirs Beach: a glimpse of rapidly vanishing Americana
I grew up in a summer playground. New Hampshire’s Lakes Region is one of the oldest summer vacation spots in the US and remains a popular holiday spot. Tourists have summered at Weirs Beach, located in my hometown of Laconia, New Hampshire, for generations. Weirs Beach, reflect this in is faded glory, offering visitors a slice of Americana that has mostly vanished. You’ll find plenty of unique and fun things to do in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, and enjoy them in a natural setting that is nothing short of spectacular.
I’ve taken advantage of this month between leaving Boston and traveling to get reacquainted with my hometown, and I thought that I’d share fun things to do in Weirs Beach. You should totally come in the summer!
Fun things to do at Weirs Beach video
New Hampshire’s Lakes Region
If you look at a map of New Hampshire, in northern New England in the US, you’ll see a lot of blue right in the middle. That’s New Hampshire’s Lakes region, and it’s where I grew up. The Lakes Region has many lakes and ponds (Opechee and Winnisquam are within a short walking distance of my parents’ house), but the “Big Lake” is Lake Winnipesaukee.
A long indigenous history
Before colonists arrived at Lake Winnipesaukee in the seventeenth century (initial contact with white people was in the fifteenth), indigenous peoples from the Abenaki tribe called it home for thousands of years. The fishing weirs that Weirs Beach is named after date back at least 10,000 years. Disease wiped much of these people out after contact with white colonists, and surviving populations either left for Canada or intermarried with the colonists.
Tragically, very little remains of these people and their culture, other than place names. Winnipesaukee translates either to Smile of the Great Spirit or Beautiful Water in a High Place.
Lake Winnipesaukee boasts surface area of 72 square miles (186 square kilometers) and is about 200 feet deep (60.5 meters) at its deepest point. Every year, thousands of tourists and summer people flock to the Lakes Region, drawn by the beautiful lakes in the foothills of the White Mountains. Most of the lake’s 365 islands have camps owned increasingly by the wealthy. Hiking and boating are major activities, but one of the main places visitors head, at least for the day, is Weirs Beach for some good old-fashioned fun.
Weirs Beach is known for Bike Week
Chances are, if you’re not from around here and know about Weirs Beach, it’s because you have heard of Motorcycle Week (known as Bike Week around here). I’m not here to promote that wild time, held in late June every year. While it’s certainly calmed down from its heyday, I have never cared for it. People love Bike Week, and, if you are one of them, have all the fun. I’m here, though, to talk about Weirs Beach’s other charms.
7 fun things to do at Weirs Beach in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region!
Without further ado, I present 7 fun things to do at Weirs Beach that I’ve enjoyed since I’ve been back in town this summer. Weirs Beach has a little bit of everything, from gorgeous scenery to good old-fashioned fun and nostalgia. Just go with it. I’ve had a blast.
1. Set sail on a historic vessel: MS Mount Washington scenic cruises
You know how sometimes you don’t appreciate your hometown until you leave it? When I was a kid, the natural beauty of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region was lost on me. I mean, it was pretty, and I took going swimming every single day of every summer for granted, but what I really wanted was a proper mall. The mall in my hometown, alas, was not awesome.
Dear reader, I was an idiot. New Hampshire’s Lakes Region is stupid beautiful, and there’s almost no better way to get out and explore it than by taking a cruise around Lake Winnipesaukee on the historic MS Mount Washington. Last Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day, warm enough to go out on the water, but not hot, and I got a ticket.
Stunning scenery and a lovely boat
“Scenic” doesn’t really cover this cruise—the views from parts of the Mount Washington cruise on a sunny day will take your breath away. Aboard the historic Mount Washington, in its 150th year in 2022 (not the original boat—the ship was built in 1946 and expanded in 1982), you’ll take in the colors—the deep shining blue of the lake, the evergreen of the islands, purples and blues of the old mountains surrounding this glacial lake, and the sky. It’s truly something to behold.
And you’ll learn a little something
Daytime 2.5-hour narrated cruises share some interesting facts about the lake (365 islands!), the Mount Washington, and the surrounding area. Grab a drink and a snack or meal from one of the eateries on board and take it all in. With three levels, you can enjoy the cruise from decks (my favorite) or window seats dotting the interior (good for when it gets windy—bring a light sweater).
2. Ride the rails in a 1920s railroad car: Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad
Back in the day, you could travel to Montréal by train from my hometown. I am really rather ticked that this was not an option for me on my recent trip! However, you can ride a rail line laid in 1848 in a classic 1920s Pullman car for a charming trip along Lake Winnipesaukee and Paugus Bay when you hop aboard the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad.
A glimpse of yesteryear and a view of today’s Lakes Region
Departing three times a day from Weirs Beach, you can take an hour-long trip along the water from Weirs Beach to Lakeport and back, where you’ll get some lovely views (some of which I’d never seen before, and I grew up here), and also get a sense of the Lakes Region’s past with remaining old-time family cabins and present with the fancier places.
Weekday rides on sunny days might get you a better seat!
I happened to take a trip during a non-busy time (apparently, most people choose to ride on cloudier days, whereas I chose a sunny one) and thoroughly enjoyed the brief narration and my choice of seat! This is a great option for when you’re wanting a bit of rest. Sit back and take in the scenes!
3. Catch a double-feature at one of the last drive-ins: Weirs Drive-In Theater
Once upon a time, drive-in theatres dotted the US landscape, and today they’ve all but disappeared (I went to a delightfully creepy pop-up drive-in put on by Coolidge Corner Theatre a couple of years ago). One of the last remaining drive-in theatres happens to be in Weirs Beach, entertaining movie goers since 1948.
As a kid in the 1980s, we’d go once or twice a summer to the Weirs Drive-In. Back in the day, the soundtrack came from crackly old speakers, and my sister and I (OK, that was mostly me) would try to avoid getting caught swiveling around in the back seat to catch glimpses of the R-rated movies behind us. I went with friends in college and as a young adult, sitting in the back of a pick-up with a radio and getting into mischief.
Saved by nostalgia
The Weirs Drive-In closed briefly a few years ago, and the property sold. Nostalgia kicked in, however, and the new owners might not have rehabbed the place too much (the parking lot’s a journey), but that’s just fine with me.
Catching a double-feature
I had not been to the Weirs Drive-In for at least twenty years, until last night, when I took in a double feature of Thor: Love and Thunder (me) and Top Gun: Maverick (my dad). It was a late night (the second feature ended after midnight), but we had fun.
The drive-in theater has four screens, each showing a nightly double-feature that begins at dusk. The ticket clerk tells you which screen is yours, and you off-road to a decent spot. Then you go grab some snacks at the original concessions stand (when I was a kid, there was a playground in there). Back at your car, just as dusk settles in, you tune your radio to the station, sit back, and enjoy the show.
I did turn sneak a peek at the other movies. Alas, nothing naughty.
4. Play classic video games and Skee Ball the “world’s largest” arcade: Funspot
Did you know that the largest arcade in the world is in little old Laconia, New Hampshire? I had absolutely no idea, but my birthday parties growing up featured Funspot, just outside of Weirs Beach. It’s loud, and crowded, and totally fun, especially if you’re there with your nephew and nieces (until you need the Advil).
Home to a famous museum of classic video games
Now in its fiftieth year this year, Funspot not only is huge, but it also boasts a stellar collection of classic pinball and video games housed in the American Classic Arcade Museum.
Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q-bert, Frogger, Pong, you name it, and if it still exists on this mortal coil, chances are you can find and play it at Funspot. The museum sponsors a yearly competition with classic games, and if you saw 2007’s King of Kong, you saw Funspot.
First trip to Funspot in a gagillion years
I hadn’t been to Funspot in a gagillion years until I went with my sister and her kids a couple of weeks ago.
The younger kids went off on a quest to score tickets (more on those in a minute), and my nephew playing a couple of newer games, I tried my hand at some of the video games that bested me in my youth. We did not have Atari, and I really didn’t understand how they worked as a kid.
My video game skills have marginally improved
I’m pleased to say that I’m better at Pac Man and nearly understand how to play Donkey Kong. I got a decent score at Burger Time, which, for some reason, I could play. Alas, I still absolutely suck at Frogger and had shades of PTSD from Saturdays with my friend Suzy who would play for an hour, and then I’d play for thirty seconds.
Apparently, everyone wants to play Q-Bert, so I never to a re-match. I may need to go back.
Funspot also has a classic Skee Ball alley that I’ve tried my arm at for nearly as long as Funspot has been open. I caught up with my sister and youngest niece there (the latter has quite a Skee Ball arm) and my nephew decided to give it a whirl, too. It was fun, but I began to notice something.
How do I get more tickets?
I remarked to my nephew that people had boatloads of tickets, compared to my measly Skee-Ball haul. That’s when my nephew told me that the real way to win tickets was to play some of the newer games. I decided to join him.
TICKETS! (and then finding out what they were worth)
I hit multiple jackpots and wound up with what I thought was a ridiculous number of tickets. I cackled with power. You can exchange the tickets for prizes, and I thought I was about to walk away with the world’s largest stuffed animal. Alas, I got a plastic monkey mug, a Blow-Pop, and a doctor’s office lollipop. Still, a grand time had by all.
My sister and I felt the headache coming on at the same time, and she round up the kids so we could bolt out of there.
5. Have ice cream for dinner at the Kellerhaus
The other part of a perfect birthday party growing up in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region? Making your own heaping sundae at the Kellerhaus, also just outside of Weirs Beach. Kellerhaus features an old-time Christmas-themed giftshop and homemade candies (the turtles are particularly good), but the real draw is a homemade make-your-own-sundae bar that’s been going strong since 1966 (the original business started at the turn of the 20th century in downtown Laconia).
My formula for the perfect make-your-own sundae
My personal recommendation: Get the chocolate chocolate chip ice cream, and top with butterscotch, hot fudge, marshmallow, strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, and macaroon crunch. It’s a recipe I perfected in the 1980s, though I know execute with a smidge more restraint than I had back in the day.
A gift shop worth checking out
Make sure to allow for a little time to visit the Christmas-themed gift shop (the sleeping vintage Santa display, complete with working elves is worth a gander). If you happen to be around the area for the holidays, it’s a great place to pick up Christmas candy, and you might recognize the exterior if you read my post about fun things to do in your hometown for the holidays.
6. Walk the Weirs Beach Boardwalk
Weirs Beach features a boardwalk along a beautiful stretch of Lake Winnipesaukee that’s definitely worthy of a stroll after a cruise on the Mount Washington or a ride on the Winnipesaukee scenic railroad. The recently renovated boardwalk has lovely benches for you to take in the lake scenes.
More fun across the street
If you didn’t get your fill of arcades at Funspot, the Half-Moon arcade across the street is worthy of a spin. At the far end, heading away from the beach, be sure to check out the old grandmother fortune teller machine. She’s a creepy old lady! You can also grab an ice cream or pizza at one of the spots, or check out the biker bar (I did not).
7. Go for a swim at Weirs Beach
I learned something from the historical markers along the recently restored Weirs Beach boardwalk: the sandy beach itself has only existed since the 1930s. Before that, bathers would navigate the rocky shore (ouch!). Newish or not, that beach boasts an incredible view of Lake Winnipesaukee. On a hot day, a swim is exactly what the doctor ordered. You can change in the bathhouse, open during the day.
While you’re at the beach, you can walk over to Endicott rock (a seventeenth-century colonial marker that is among the oldest colonial monuments in the US). This memorial has a statue of an indigenous person to mark the land.
Plan your trip to Weirs Beach and Lake Winnipesaukee!
Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip to Weirs Beach and Lake Winnipesaukee. Have tips? Let us know in the comments!
Doable as daytrip from Boston, but more fun as an overnight or weekend
The Lakes Region is close enough for a day trip from Boston, though I’d definitely recommend spending an overnight or weekend in the area. Keep in mind that the area offers much more than Weirs Beach.
As my parents still live here, I’ve never stayed anywhere other than their house, but there are a range of options from lakeside cabins and little motels/B&Bs, as well as more luxurious accommodations. You also have plenty of camping options. Do note that prices can get quite steep in the summer.
Getting there and getting away (you need a car)
Tragically, gone are the days of train travel from Boston, and there is no public transport here. You need a car to enjoy this area.
From Boston, it’s an easy trip off of I-93, with a couple of options for exits. I’d consult Google Maps for your best route.
Metered parking on the main strip can get tight, as can parking for the beach. Weekdays are generally better than weekends, as with other locations. There are other parking options available for a fee.
When to go to Weirs Beach and Lake Winnipesaukee
Weirs Beach is a summer place, and much of the area closes down after Labor Day. Funspot and the Kellerhaus are open year-round. The Mount Washington still offers cruises on a limited schedule in autumn, and the Scenic Railroad operates on weekends (check for availability).
Weirs Beach is home to an annual motorcycle rally the second and third weekends in June. If you’re into that kind of thing, have at it, but I would recommend planning my trip for another time.
Solo female travel
I’ll level with you—I don’t think that I’d hang out at Weirs Beach by myself late night. While the clientele is generally fine, my memory of the bar scene there (it’s been a hot minute) is that it has an edge. For dinner and/or a drink, I’d head into nearby Meredith. You’ll have better food and a safer time.
Drive-ins are frankly a bit more fun (and cost-effective) with a friend, but I don’t think that you’d run into any issues there. It’s family friendly and most people keep to themselves.
During the day, Weirs Beach is a lot of fun. Enjoy it.
- Some of these activities would pose accessibility challenges, though the Mount Washington and Funspot are definitely accessible, and the boardwalk has wheelchair access
- Weirs Beach has parking at beach level, but, as an able-bodied person, I am not sure how accessible the beach itself is
- I do not believe that the Kellerhaus is wheelchair accessible, and I could not find any information on it
- Passengers in wheelchairs would need to board the Scenic Railroad from the Meredith station
- Individual websites may have additional information that I didn’t find
Click on map icons for more information, including prices, hours of operation, and directions.
What do you love to do at Weirs Beach?
Have you been to Weirs Beach? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. I’d also love to hear about how you’ve rediscovered your hometown!