New Hampshire is a small state. But it has it all: ocean beaches, lakes, mountains, quaint cities and beautiful countryside. This diversity has made the Granite State a popular tourist destination all year long. As the weather starts to cool and leaves start to change colors, it's foliage season… and the best place to see that spectacular scenic beauty, and enjoy the state's outdoor activities and warm hospitality, is White Mountain Park.
A unique combination of climate and landscape this time of year turns the tree- covered White Mountains into a brilliant canvas of reds, oranges and yellows. Thousands of tourists of all ages come to enjoy the scenery.
"This is one of the highlights of my trip," one of the tourists says.
"It's relaxing and I'm just walking through the woods."
"Coming to the top of the mountain is just absolutely beautiful. I loved it," another says.
Visitors also enjoy the area's other attractions including the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, and the Flume.
"The Flume is a natural gorge carved out by glacier waters," trail specialist Amy Cyrs says. Tourists can walk the entire length of the 240-meter long chasm, where the walls tower 25 meters or more above them.
Ms. Cyrs says tourists have been visiting the Flume since the 1800s. "We have a wooden walk way that goes all the way up through it," she says, "so people can come and walk right up through and look at the whole thing basically from the bottom of it."
And for those who want to do more than look at waterfalls and walk through covered bridges, Park manager Bill O'Connor says there are special activities to make the walk more adventurous, especially for young visitors.
"We found a couple of caves," he says. "Last year, we opened up the Wolf's Den, and we built a wood walk into it and kids just love it. They can climb through and explore it. But the best thing is that their parents can't fit through and they can. So they're running around, getting through the cave, while their parents are watching them. They really enjoy that exploring, that little added adventure."
Many people in this area, and elsewhere in New Hampshire, depend on tourism for their living, according to Victoria Cimino of the state Travel and Tourism Office.
"Tourism is New Hampshire's second largest industry," she says. "It's a multi-million-dollar industry for the state. It's not only the attractions that benefit from tourism. It's all the support business that also benefit from this great asset that we have. These different companies have a variety of different functions that they need to fill. After all, they're running a business."
And whether they own a restaurant or hotel, or just work at a tourist attraction, people who live and work in this area seem relaxed and happy.
"I have a great job. I get to promote a wonderful state and tell people the great stories that exist in New Hampshire," Ms. Cimino says.
"I love it here. It's the best job in the world. Every day is different. I can't wait to get to work in the morning and I hate to leave." Park manager Bill O'Connor says.
The warm hospitality of people who are passionate about their work and their state is part of what attracts tourists to this area. And, as White Mountain Mikey, spokesman for the White Mountains Visitor's Center points out, most of the hotels and restaurants are family run. "It's Moms and Dads that clean the rooms," he says. "It's Moms and Dads that make the beds. It's a more personal touch. They know what it is to travel. They know what families are looking for. They look at it in a different way than a corporation would. I'm not saying that anything is wrong with corporations, but with a family-run bed and breakfast it's just a lot more homey kind of flavor."
New Hampshire tourism officials say the fall season has been successful… in spite of higher gas prices and the long dry summer that delayed the peak foliage colors. They say now, as the leaf-watching season at White Mountain Park draws to a close, it's time for everybody in the area to get ready for the next one: the skiing season.