With Memorial Day marking the unofficial opening of the summer season, Mt Washington Valley slowly and carefully begins to re-open with safety precautions in place
North Conway, NH – In any other year, the phones would be ringing with excited visitors seeking reservations, information and ideas for visiting Mt Washington Valley. Lodging properties would be filling, restaurant kitchens would be stocking up, and attractions would be gearing up to open. One thing that has not changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the phones are still ringing. With a great deal of interest in visiting Mt Washington Valley for Memorial Day weekend and the summer beyond, businesses throughout the community are anticipating seeing more visitors than they’ve seen for the past two months since the Stay at Home orders went into place throughout the country.
Memorial Day 2020 will look a little different in Mt Washington Valley as the community very slowly and carefully dips its toes into re-opening. As of Memorial Day weekend, a few businesses are allowed to re-open with limitations and restrictions that must be followed by business owners, employees and the customers who visit. Most notably, retailers and restaurants have been given the green-light to re-open in New Hampshire, with social distancing, outdoor dining, and safety and sanitization protocols in place. Some, although not all stores and restaurants are gearing up to re-open for Memorial Day weekend. While they may be allowed to re-open, it does not mean they all want to or are staffed or stocked to re-open. It’s possible that approximately fifty-percent of retailers and restaurants in Mt Washington Valley will re-open for Memorial Day weekend, with outdoor dining, limited space and limited personnel.
Per the Governor’s Stay at Home 2.0 Order, campgrounds in New Hampshire will continue to operate with new, modified guidance. At this time, they are only open to New Hampshire residents or out-of-state residents that are members of the campground. All lodging properties in Mt Washington Valley are closed until notice from the Governor’s office.
Golf courses have re-opened with restrictions allowing only members and residents nearby to access the courses. Thus, while golf courses are not open to visitors outside Mt Washington Valley, some mini-golf courses and driving ranges may be open by Memorial Day or shortly thereafter.
While the White Mountain National Forest surrounding Mt Washington Valley is open, several sites and locations remain closed as part of a tactical pause to assess operations, including staffing, equipment availability and to develop a phased approach to operate within CDC guidelines and prepare for the summer, according to a statement on their website. The statement continues, “As part of a phased opening approach in alignment with Maine and New Hampshire State Parks the White Mountain National Forest will be opening most trail heads on the forest.” Many visitors may “seek our peaks” during Memorial Day weekend but must observe social distance protocols both on the trails in the parking areas.
Visitor Etiquette for Mt Washington Valley’s visitors during the “new normal”
While it’s difficult to stay informed about what’s open and the limitations, the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with business owners in the region, want to provide a positive experience for all visitors. The success of re-opening will depend upon an ability for businesses to safely provide service and a positive experience for customers while observing limitations and safety precautions prescribed by the state. The chamber seeks visitor patience while everyone adapts to “the new normal”, and requests that general guidelines offered from the state and federal CDC be observed. Visitor etiquette should include:
- Observance of social distancing rules in all places. Everyone is asked to keep at least a six-foot distance from others indoors and outside. In some cases, larger distances may be prescribed and will be noted by staff or signage. All customers are asked to observe the social distance guidelines required from business to business.
- Get used to masks. Employees in many businesses will be required to wear them, and customers may be required to wear them in order to enter. Visitors should come prepared. Don’t leave home without a mask, and plan to wear one cheerfully if asked.
- Wash hands often. Customers will find hand sanitizer liberally distributed throughout businesses in Mt Washington Valley. Plan to use it when you enter a new business and/or wash hands prior to entering and leaving.
- If parking lots are full, find a different place to park. This will most likely happen at popular trail heads in the White Mountain National Forest. It may mean visitors have to choose new trails, but it will allow social distancing on the trails and help visitors avoid having cars ticketed or even towed.
- Be prepared to wait for a table at restaurants now offering outdoor dining. Remember, they want to accommodate customers more than ever, but limitations on tables to accommodate social distancing may mean you’ll have to wait. Make a reservation before dining, if the restaurant is taking them and arrive with plenty of patience.
Seven great ideas for social distancing recreation in Mt Washington Valley
- Grab a takeout meal and enjoy a picnic in Schouler Park or along the trails or enjoy outdoor seating at one of the re-opened restaurants.
- Bring a bike and explore some of the scenic bike routes in and around Mt Washington Valley.
- Bring your own or rent a kayak, canoe or tube and enjoy a floating trip down the Saco River.
- Visit one of the open retailers for some tax-free shopping, but please be willing to wait to enter if shopper limits have been met.
- Grab the fishing pole (and your license) and enjoy some time fishing on the lakes and streams.
- Take a hike with an outdoor guide, now able to offer limited, smaller or private trips.
- Choose the road less traveled – explore that lesser known hiking trail or scenic drive you’ve always wanted to explore.
As Mt Washington Valley slowly reopens, the experience is equally beautiful, but a new normal is in place to protect the community and visitors alike. For more information, visit www.MtWashingtonValley.org and please observe all limitations, safety, social distancing guidelines for businesses trying to re-open throughout the Valley.
For more information on visiting New Hampshire, go to www. VisitNH.gov.