Lancaster, NH: A small town not worth the visit?
Moving to Lancaster from a big city was a big deal for us. We had never lived in a small town like this, so we were both excited and scared at the thought of living a life totally unknown to us. We packed up our two children and drove to Lancaster, which is located in the Great north woods region only a couple hours away from Canada. It was the middle of fall, and the colors of the changing New England foliage were spectacular along the way.
When we arrived, the little town seemed charming, but the main street stretched over few miles with some shops still closed and others with very odd shopping hours. This would definitely be a challenge for us over the next 6 months. However, we kept an open mind and chose positive thoughts. We picked up our keys and settled down. It is always a thrilling feeling to discover a new place with new people, and Lancaster, NH, with its population of only 1500, was no exception to that rule.
Fall continued to be breathtakingly beautiful, and we delighted in its colors for 2 months. We drove an hour or so in each direction from our new home to enjoy the views and colors of the area, including mountain scenery such as Mt Washington, the Franconia notch region, etc. Breathtaking views and spectacular sceneries, all over. One thing we did often during the fall reason was to hike towards the Weeks state park, a beautiful trail of about 1 mile up. A small road leads up to the top where you can see the Weeks museum, and a small trail surrounds it. You could see the town from the view point.
Another autumn adventure was to take the Heritage trail (Lancaster portion) for few miles and back. The hike was great, with bright colors from the fall foliage and the cool weather. Other than the lush scenery, entertainment was scarce. One thing that saved our time with kids was the well maintained city park, complete with tennis courts, a large playground, a pool, and a basketball court. We took the kids to the park almost every day for our own sanity.
Doing these activities for several weeks actually became a bit boring after the first few visits. We were constantly looking for other activities. Some in the area might hunt or fish, but that wasn’t for us. The only thing that we wanted to kill was the time. We were already pulling our hair and thinking of the mistake we had made as we are headed into winter.
Winter came as expected: suddenly, it was freezing cold, and the cold never went away. Snow piled up and got dirty. Even the park was packed with snow. Neither my kids nor I wanted to go out in that bitter cold. When I say winter, I mean that this is the most cold we have ever experienced. Just to tell you how cold it gets: when we started the car, it cried, “please don’t turn me on; I can’t run in this weather!” We felt bad for the car since it had been living in the warmer weather for the last 5 years. We even had to replace the battery when it died with the first frost.
So we ended up with no activities, and two kids wanting to go out and do things, but unable to do so. We were frustrated. The park was closed with a big snow pile. Tennis nets were taken away along with the trash cans. We couldn’t take hikes anymore. The only entertainment we found interesting was the sledding with kids. They enjoyed it for an hour or so before they started to cry. It seemed like Lancaster was a snowmobile town, and you would see tons of snow mobiles running on the sidewalks. They are having such a great time destroying the sidewalks that they prevented pedestrians from walking on them. People there don’t really walk in the winter; they drive or snow mobile. We chose to walk anyway.
The town has a few restaurants, such as Irish pub, Moonbeam café, Scorpions, one pizza place, a McDonalds, a Dunkin Donuts, and a subway. There was one grocery store, “Shaws,” and a hardware store. There may have been a few other shops for shopping, a thrift store, and one movie theatre.
The one thing I still admire and praise is the library there (even though it had odd hours). The children’s section was one of the best: kids could go and play the way they wanted, and there were toys everywhere. The librarian was such a nice person and a great help with the kids.
In the winter, it gets dark around 3 pm, and we were definitely not used to it. We didn’t know what to do anymore. We eventually decided to leave and say goodbye to a town that wasn’t really friendly to us. People were not very nice to outsiders, and when you saw them, you got the impression of, “What are you doing here; you don’t belong here; get the f*** out of here; etc.” There was no culture at all. They disliked Mexicans, but allowed them to come and do the fruit picking when picking season starts. They are afraid of anything they don’t know. Another thing that annoyed was trash. The city was very picky of trash. Very few trash bins were available, and no trash bin was available at the grocery store. Looking for a place to put your coffee cup or a piece of paper was a struggle. They pay for trash bags, so they don’t want your trash in theirs. As a result, people would leave all sorts of trash in carts, on the ground, and along the buildings. They also had a very selective recycling system. If you didn’t sort it perfectly, they wouldn’t take it. They would even take the time to write a long note, saying, “You didn’t do your F**** job, so we won’t take it.” On top of that, they only come once a week (on Fridays), so if you want to go somewhere for the weekend, you are screwed. The trash station is located very far away from the town if you need to lug your trash there yourself (which we did few times).
We were always on the go there. We drove 20 – 50 miles from the city to get a small civilization feeling. We were tired of shopping at Walmart. Littleton, NH was the closest town (20 miles away). Berlin and Gorham were 20 miles away, and North Conway was 58 miles away to visit and see some sort of civilized people. We spent our time driving hours in the car on our time off, to see something other than the main street of Lancaster.
To conclude, I would think twice before heading there. You might like it if you are looking for isolation, but city dwellers like us won’t find it interesting at all.