While Vermont has no shortage of picturesque communities, New Hampshire has a few as well, and perhaps none are as pretty as Jackson.
Tucked away in a valley near Mount Washington, this little village may not have the name recognition of North Conway to the south, nor is it a day trip-friendly place for skiers and hikers like Waterville Valley or Lincoln/North Woodstock. But Jackson is a special place, in part because rather than having the star power of the major resorts of the White Mountains, it is simply a quiet and walkable hamlet that looks like something right out of a New England calendar while also being minutes away from various outdoor winter activities.
And because Jackson is a ski town of sorts, the dining and drinking spots here not only remain open all year long, but tend to flourish as the winter sports fan start to trickle into the area.
If you’re staying in town, several restaurants and bars are within walking distance of the tiny “downtown” area of Jackson, including a couple right in the little commercial strip along Route 16A. Yesterday's (located on 100 Main Street) is a near-legendary local fave for breakfast and lunch and is the type of eatery that every town should have.
Whether you sit at the old-fashioned counter or one of the several tables in the dining area, expect great takes on hearty breakfast items, including a meaty corned beef hash that rivals the best found anywhere in the region.
Just south on the same side of the street is the Wildcat Inn & Tavern (94 Main Street), a rustic spot with a bar area that looks like a ski lodge, and which actually includes tables made from chairlifts. Expect a mix of pub grub and American classics here along with local beers, and live entertainment is offered as well.
On the outskirts of Jackson Village — but within walking distance — are more options for food and drink, including the Shannon Door Pub (9 Spancil Hill Road), a bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Boston.
Set on a hill above the village, the Shannon Door isn’t easy to find, which helps make it more of a local hangout (though skiers know all about it), and being a Boston-style pub, the place offers pizza with bar pie influences, while pints of Guinness are a solid option.
Heading up another hill just north of the center is the Christmas Farm Inn (3 Blitzen Way) which is not only a terrific place to stay but also a great place for food and drink. Its dining area almost has the feel of a farmhouse and has a menu of regional items such as crab bisque, seared duck breast, and lobster risotto. And here’s a secret—if you go through the door to the right of the inn’s check-in area, you will enter the Mistletoe Pub, a tiny watering hole that includes four seats at the bar and a few tables in front of it, making it seem more like a room in someone’s house than a pub.
Route 16, which bypasses Jackson Village, is a busy road, so walking to the Red Fox Bar & Grille (49 NH Route 16) may not be the best idea, but it is only a one-minute drive from the center of town so is easily reachable. And while it looks touristy (the building has the look of a visitor center), the several dining areas are rather warm and attractive.
Families and those who don’t want to spend a lot can get a very good all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet here for only $10, while dinners are decent and reasonable as well.
For a real thrill, head north on Route 16 for about 15 minutes to see some mind-boggling scenery on either side of Pinkham Notch, and just past the notch where the Mount Washington Auto Road goes up to the summit is a new hotel called The Glen House (979 NH Route 16, Gorham). It includes an upscale restaurant called the Notch Grille and an adjacent bar with views of the mountains that have to be seen to be believed. Ordering food and/or drink is a must at the bar, not just for the views but for the fireplace and the cabin-like ambiance.
Jackson is one of New England’s great places and one that sometimes gets overlooked in part because it’s just a bit further away from Boston than other parts of the White Mountains and also because the village itself is accessed via a one-lane covered bridge. If you like peaceful resort towns and love mountain scenery, this area is a must—and the dining and drinking scene certainly has a little something for everyone.