Columbus Day Weekend is one of the busiest weekends for tourism in New Hampshire. In fact, it is traditionally the third busiest weekend of the year, after the Fourth of July and Labor Day. State officials don’t expect that to be any different this year, despite the federal government shutdown, as most parks and attractions are either privately owned or run by the state—not the federal government.
“I can’t say how many people have asked, ‘Aren’t the parks getting shut down?’ No, they’re state parks, not federal parks,” says Tai Freligh, communications manager for the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism.
Officials expect all of New Hampshire’s parks and campgrounds to be full this weekend as people seek alternatives to closed federal campgrounds. The fall foliage is also a big draw, and the state anticipates 625,000 visitors who will spend an estimated $91 million, up 4 percent from last year.
Although all the federal campgrounds, ranger stations, and restrooms in the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest are closed, the most popular attractions in or around the White Mountains will be open, including the Cog Railway, the Mount Washington Observatory and Auto Road, the Flume Gorge, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, the Conway Scenic Railroad, the Polar Caves, and Franconia Notch.
According to Troop E of the New Hampshire State Police, most roads in the White Mountain National Forest will remain open, including the Kancamagus Highway, as well as those that are gated and closed off by the federal government in the winter, such as Tripoli Road. “You’ll still be able to drive the Kanc, pull off, walk to Diana’s baths, still do all that,” says Tai, referring to the scenic drive and waterfalls near Conway.
To all people who plan on visiting the area this weekend: there may be even more traffic than on past Columbus Day weekends, as there’s actually a chance that the Granite State might benefit from the federal shutdown. Tai explains, “I got a message on Facebook from someone who was going to do a big trip to Arizona [and] Utah. Because [the national parks] are closed, they’re coming to New Hampshire.”
The Mill Falls Blogging Team
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image courtesy of www.fhwa.dot.gov