A Lesbian Getaway in North Country
Winter’s on its way, and now’s the time to schedule that ski trip you’ve been dreaming about all year. As the snow falls and the holidays draw near, turn your thoughts to New Hampshire’s North Country, and the famed lesbian B&B, The Highlands Inn. Nestled in the hills of tiny Bethlehem, this restored hunting lodge provides a women-centric environment close to shopping, skiing, and other winter sports.
Innkeeper Grace Newman is as good as her name, gracious and accommodating without being intrusive. She was more than happy to welcome our large Rottweiler and us in the adjacent farmhouse - ideal accommodations for a large group of friends.
"This is a great life; I meet a lot of really nice people," said Newman, who has operated the inn since 1983. "I also think it’s really important to have women’s spaces; we are losing more and more all the time. People think that young lesbians don’t appreciate it, but a lot of them have visited lately, and they tell me it is incredible to be here just with other women."
The inn is a rustic old hunting lodge with exposed timber beams, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, a 54-foot heated swimming pool, a cozy fireplace, a lesbian-centric video, DVD, and book lending library, free Wi-Fi, plus 15 miles of nature trails with names like Tomlin, Steinway, Middle Earth, and Stonewall.
The inn offers a total of 19 rooms, all with private baths. There are a wide variety of accommodations and price points, from a rustic cottage at $180 a night to rooms in the main inn, which range from $110 to $225, the higher-end rooms featuring a queen-sized bed, fireplaces, and two-person spa. Checkout is 11 a.m.; for a nominal fee, guests can extend their stay.
Newman said she gets many visitors from all over the country and Europe, especially England and Germany. She also gets many guests from Boston, about two hours away, and New York, a six-hour drive.
"Women come here for good, clean air, hiking, scenery, and for going to the top of things. Mount Washington’s Cobb railroad goes to the top; and there are lots of fun things to do outside," said Newman. "There are fall colors, wonderful skiing, and it is popular year-round."
Hikers that are more adventurous can investigate the countless trails in the area, including the Zealand State Park in White Mountain. Nearby skiing attractions include Attitash, Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley, Harmon’s Ridge, Bretton Woods and the zip lines and slopes near Cannon Mountain. Newman said guests also enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing right on the property.
Relax after a long hike on the row of rainbow-colored Adirondack chairs that offer a breathtaking view of the valleys and mountains surrounding the inn. The nearby covered trellis is a prime spot for many same-sex unions, legal in New Hampshire and nearby Vermont. Newman admitted that recent wedding parties have booked the entire inn, cottage, and farmhouse for the couple’s friends and family.
"Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Hampshire for a couple of years, and guests like to get married in the arbor in the summer or by the fireplace in the winter," said Newman. "The biggest wedding this year brought 100 people to the inn! We get a lot of these guests from Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio. New Hampshire is the only state to have had civil unions and same-sex marriage achieved through the legislature rather than the courts."
For the enjoyment of her guests, Newman also hosts a regular Women’s Concert Series, inviting musical guests to stage shows in the great room on weekends, free to guests. During our visit, lesbian folk singer Jamie Anderson performed a set on her acoustic guitar and mandolin. After the concert, Anderson and her partner, both living in Canada, reminisced with some visiting old friends (and new friends - us!) over a bottle of Jack Daniels.
"The series has attracted some pretty well-known people, from Tret Fure to Lucy Blue Tremblay," said Newman.
The inn serves up breakfast daily, featuring fresh Cabot cheeses, breads, quiche, French toast, fresh fruit, juices, coffee, and teas. They also put out snacks like popcorn, candy, and apple cider every afternoon. But guests will need to forage for their own lunch and dinner. In Bethlehem, dining options are somewhat limited, but what they offer is good.
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