A Lesbian Getaway in North Country
Located just a mile down the road from The Highlands Inn, the Cold Mountain Café is a popular gathering place with a reliable menu. We started with the crabmeat queso appetizer, a delicious creamy amalgam of cream cheese and lump crabmeat bubbling in its ample crock. Toothsome lamb chops followed, with the ravioli of the day for my partner.
For a bit nicer fare, head up Main Street to the more upscale Terra, a warm farmhouse-style eatery with exposed timbers, mossy green walls featuring local art.
A tasty, fig-flavored Old-Fashioned was followed by a slightly dry elk pâté (more a rillette) and a delicious roast duck breast with fingerling potatoes and escarole. My partner tried the wild sockeye salmon with spaetzle and braised leeks. A pumpkin cheesecake more akin to Crème Brulee, served with crème fraiche, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds, rounded out the meal nicely. Guests of the Highlands Inn need only to mention their accommodations to receive a 10 percent discount at local restaurants.
The main drag of Bethlehem is also home to The Colonial Theater, the oldest movie theater in continuous operation. The theater screens current hits, and draws the community together for a summer children’s series, music, and special events.
Seasonal activities included an "Open Doors" event, with shops in local towns like WREN, the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network, selling homemade treats such as jams and jellies, local aged cheddars, chocolates, and tiny handmade crockery.
On a recent fall visit to Highlands Inn, the chill in the air didn’t impede our enjoyment of nature. The area is a boon for birdwatchers, abounding in wild turkeys, blue jays, cardinals, turtledoves, and more. We also spotted chipmunks, deer, and elk - ironically, grazing directly across the street from the Littleton Elks Lodge on Rt. 302, the local route that links all of these tiny towns together.
Activities Outside of Bethlehem
Don’t be afraid to venture beyond Bethlehem. Drive up the long dirt road leading up to the inn (ignore the No Vacancy sign - it deters drop-in visitors) and take a left. In about 45 minutes of the most beautiful mountain vistas you’ve ever seen, you’ll run into North Conway’s Settler’s Green, New Hampshire’s premier tax-free outlet shopping destination.
On the way, stop to see the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the oldest man-made attraction in America, plus Franconia Notch State Park, the North Conway Scenic Railroad, and more.
Enjoy great deals from Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Old Navy, Aeropostale, Banana Republic, Van Heusen, Coach, Reebok, Nike, PacSun, American Eagle Outfitters, Eddie Bauer, Jockey, Talbots, Sunglass Hut, Tommy Hilfiger, and more.
Take a right out the driveway, and in about 10 minutes, you’ll encounter Littleton, another charming little town. The Littleton Diner, a popular hot-spot on the primary campaign trail, serves up lighter-than-air pancakes made from flour ground at the nearby Littleton Grist Mill, a red clapboard building fronting a rocky river. The town also hosts several antique shops, a nice bookstore, and three pizza joints.
Bailiwicks in the historic Thayers Inn hosts the local martini bar, and while the drinks are festive and generous, the cuisine was...well, not their bailiwick, so to speak. A wasabi and sesame-encrusted tuna was marred with so much wasabi it rendered it uneatable, and the accompanying edamame risotto was only par.
Special events include The Highlands Inn’s annual Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve festivities, including a full dinner, champagne, chocolate fountain, and DJ. The inn also hosts a Murder Mystery Weekend, plus special family, older women’s, and singles weekends.
At the end of our visit, Newman confided in us that as she neared the age of retirement with 28 years as an innkeeper under her belt, she had begun searching for another woman to take over the business.
"I am committed to maintain this as woman’s space," said Newman. "And I have several years until retirement. I believe the new owner will end up being one of the inn’s former guests."
For info or to make reservations, visit www.highlandsinn-nh.com or call 877-LES-B-INN.