Since September 11, American family travel patterns appear to be changing. Family vacations are often simpler, less expensive, and travel destinations tend to be closer to home. Parents and grandparents are in search of a destination that will guarantee a meaningful family experience with memories to last a lifetime. Bethel, Maine, is an ideal travel destination for families who wish to focus on family values and making memories.
Families can take easy day hikes in the White Mountain National Forest or climb up Step Falls Nature Preserve to swim in the natural granite pools or frolic in the waterfalls. Fancy design swimming pools give way to the local swimming holes at Frenchman's, the S Turn or Covered Bridge on the Sunday River. A canoe trip on the Androscoggin River is a great way to see wildlife from osprey to moose. Trade in the video games for a pick and bucket to mine for gems in the many abandoned quarries of western Maine. The area is famous for its quartz, mica and precious tourmalines. There's bicycle touring backcountry roads and horseback riding at local farms. A trip to Bethel isn't complete without a visit to Pooh Corner Farm to meet Roo (a wallaby), Piglet and Eeyore.
If it rains, kids will enjoy a tour through the early 19th century Moses Mason House to see how families of yesteryear lived or a visit to the Crystal Cave to find that special sparkly rock. Bethel has a four screen movie theater, an adventure center with indoor laser tag, climbing wall (outdoor waterslide and unique miniature golf course too), a toy store and two video stores.
Bethel has a variety of lodging from primitive campsites in the White Mountain National Forest to luxury suites at the Bethel Inn and Country Club. There are B&B's, inns, motels, mountain or lakeside cabins and cottages and modern condominiums. Many accommodations are family pet friendly. Best of all, because Bethel is a major winter destination, summer is the "off-season" and rates are very reasonable. At most locations kids 5 and under stay free.
With seven pizza places, this small town caters to a family's palette and pocketbook. Even the fine dining establishments have children's menus and are just as happy to serve chocolate milk or soda as a bottle of wine. Families can opt to cook in at the condominiums, suites and cottages or over the campfire at the campgrounds. There's always a grange hall supper, church dinner or berry festival going on.
Bethel has been welcoming summer guests since the early 1800's. They came to enjoy the clean, clear mountain air and to eat the home cooked, locally grown food. A lot has changed in the last 200 years but families still search for the goodness of nature that Bethel exemplifies. Bethel is located at the intersection of Route 2 and Route 26 in western Maine, just 12 miles from the New Hampshire border and 70 miles northwest of Portland. For information and reservations in the area, contact the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce at 800-442-5826 or on-line at www.bethelmaine.com