by Michael Blanding
Many New England towns have sought to revitalize old linen mills into new 21st century purposes, but few have succeeded as well as the New Hampshire Lakes Region town of Meredith, which has undergone a total transformation in the last few decades to become the center of tourism in the area. At its heart is an old linen mill complex that, by the 1980’s, had fallen into blight and disuse. Piece by piece, the mill was refurbished, first into a marketplace full of attractive gift stores and clothing boutiques, then an inn. Other properties along the shorefront were added to the complex during the 1990’s and 2000’s, culminating the transformation of a beautiful parish church into Church Landing guest house.
Now, the complex tastefully flows for 1,000 feet around the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake, maintaining the feel of a 1950’s country village while incorporating a high level of finishes and amenities that pamper guests. The resort has been designed in an “Adirondack” style, bringing the outdoors inside at every turn, with exposed wooden beams and birch boughs. By far the greatest amenity is the lake itself, which stretches to the horizon, full of sightseeing boats and pleasure craft in the summer, and coloring the view from many of the resort’s rooms.
Mill Falls is actually four different properties — the Inn at Mill Falls, Bay Point, Chase House and Church Landing, along with a number of other annexes and cottages that have been added in recent years. The best accommodations for families are the Inn and Church Landing, though all four of the properties have a family-friendly vibe. All of the properties have been renovated in the past 10 years, with the latest addition of the Boathouse annex to Church Landing in 2012, and a total refurbishment of the Cascade Spa in 2014.
Our Editor Loves
- Three pools and water fun on Lake Winnipesaukee
- Rustic feel of beautifully decorated rooms and public spaces
- Excellent family-friendly restaurants onsite
- Water Sports
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Mill Falls at the lake isn't a huge resort, but it is spread out -- so unless you want to walk a lot or keep jumping in the car with the kids, it's best to choose one of the two accommodations that include family-friendly activities -- this is especially true for families with young children. The most luxurious option is Church Landing, the newest property at the resort, with the best rooms and location. Its 57 guestrooms feature stunning views over the lake, as well as pillowy mattresses, gas fireplaces, refrigerators, cable and Wi-Fi and coffee makers, all set in woodsy dÃ©cor that inspires relaxation and appreciation of nature. Among the most desirable rooms for families is the Birdhouse Suite, which has an extra bedroom, as well as a fireplace and balcony overlooking the lake. Church Landing also provides ready access to the lakeside activity center, the boat docks, indoor/outdoor pool and game room.
Across the street from the lake, the Inn at Mill Falls provides budget-friendly accommodations. The 54 rooms have less frills, but are still tastefully designed and comfortable, featuring refrigerators and small, flat-screen TV's. It's also connected via a corridor to the marketplace with shopping and dining options, and has an indoor pool on the lower floor. The two other accommodations are in-between the Inn and Church Landing in terms of amenities. Bay Point at Mill Falls sits at the end of the bay, with comfy beds and balconies in the rooms; it tends to be chosen by couples without children. Chase House at Mill Falls is on the same side of the lake as the Inn, next to the marketplace and across the street from the docks. Its 21 rooms all include fireplaces; most have balconies, as well.
In addition to the four main properties, the resort opened The Boathouse and Birches Lodges in 2014, annexes to Church Landing, which also features upscale accommodations more suited to couples or friends traveling together. For parents looking to escape for a few minutes, the pool there has an adults-only policy. Finally, Mill Falls has two cottages; The Perch is across the street from Church Landing, while the Lakeshore Cottage is on the shore between the two lodges. The Perch has three bedrooms, while the Lakeshore has one two-bedroom and one one-bedroom suite. They feature full kitchens and -- at the Lakeshore -- private outdoor hot tubs.
Children under 12 stay free in all rooms.
So we love this place, we really do. Things have changed a bit. It’s still really nice, but we have noticed some small things. They certainly seem short staffed, those here seem to care - there is just not enough of them. Housekeeping did a great job, just took quite a while, the bar at Lake House Grill, the same thing. Server was awesome, but she was serving almost everyone - creating quite a long lunch for us. The room was nice, but we notice some small things, like wallpaper starting to peel, there we no giant throw pillows on bed. Pool towels seemed in short supply.... Little things like that. The little gift shop - that we loved to visit after a couple cocktails and buy small NH type stuff has little to nothing in it. The boathouse bar is gone, or at least not open. They used to have a continental breakfast with fruit and pastries - but that is gone. We would usually grab a small bite there before heading to the waterfall cafe or sunshine and pa’s. No water stations set up.... just little things that we got used to. Little things that can help you look past any other small thing that may be a negative. This may deter some, and not bother others at all. This may affect some repeat folks that are on the fence of renting a house vs staying here... I know that we have done both, and as the little things we have come to love are drifting away - it makes choosing a house that much easier... hopefully church’s comes back around and the management/ ownership change that just recently occurred takes something great and makes it better, vs what we just recently encountered...
Friendly charming staff. Great ambience in a spectacular natural setting. Pet friendly.
The decor is Ralph Lauren inspired rustic elegance. There are multiple water related activities such as boating, swimming, kayaking.
The inn doesn't offer a formal children's program, though it does have a limited children's program during the evenings at Christmas and in February. That doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do the rest of the year. The resort offers three pools -- two of which are open to children. The indoor pool at the Inn at Mill Falls runs from 4- to 7-feet deep, and includes a hot tub. At Church Landing, the freeform indoor/outdoor pool runs from 3- to 5-feet deep, and includes a hot tub outside with a view of the lake. An adults-only indoor/outdoor pool is located at The Boathouse.
Of course, what good is the lakeside location if you can't enjoy it? Mill Falls offers plenty of opportunities for that. Church Landing has a sandy beach for swimming and the resort's EKAL activity center offers kayaks, pedal boats, canoes and stand-up paddleboard rentals. In addition, it partners with the Winnipesaukee Sailing Association for sailing lessons and charter sails. For a step back in time, the M/S Mount Washington, a 230-foot antique excursion ship, picks passengers up at the docks in front of the resort for scenic tours of Lake Winni.
The resort's marketplace includes a range of shops, including general gift shops and clothing stores with plenty of gear emblazoned with the Lake Winnipesaukee logo or mountains and loons. Farther afield, the Lakes Region is full of family-friendly attractions, from the honkytonk boardwalk and amusement center in Weirs Beach to the nature center on sedate Squam Lake. Popular hiking trails include the nearly Waukewan Highlands in Meredith and the Markus Wildlife Sanctuary at the Loon Center on the north side of the lake. In the winter, the resort also offers an outdoor skating rink on the lake.
The resort includes more than a half-dozen dining options, most of them run by the popular Common Man chain of restaurants that has single-handedly transformed the New Hampshire dining scene with family-friendly, affordable restaurants featuring fresh, high-quality ingredients and inventive cuisine.
At Mill Falls, the Waterfall CafÃ© is a bright and cheery spot with a view of the 40-foot manmade waterfall that used to power the mill. Breakfasts include chocolate chip pancakes and almond-and-pecan crusted French toast. Lunches feature specialty sandwiches, such as a steak and cheese wrap and turkey with bacon and boursin, with a limited kids menu of peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches.
Also in the Mill Falls Marketplace, Giuseppe's offers excellent Italian food including fresh thin-crust pizzas in a fun environment with live music nightly. Located in Chase House, CAMP is a family favorite. The restaurant has been designed to evoke a summer camp of yore, down to the pennants and deer heads on the walls, graffiti on the tables and counselor uniforms worn by waiters. Its menu, however, is about 1,000 steps above the camp mess hall. Specialties include lobster macaroni and cheese and spice-rubbed skirt steak. And of course, there are S'mores for dessert. Another restaurant great for families in the summer is the Town Docks, which sits literally on the dock of the bay and serves all the favorites of a New England clambake -- boiled lobster, steamed clams, and clam chowder -- along with burgers and hot dogs (and fun cocktails and buckets of beer for mom and dad.)
The other restaurants on the property are more suited to adults or families with older children -- though all the restaurants are welcoming to kids of all ages. Lago Costa Cucina serves upscale Italian food in a romantic setting at Bay Point at Mill Falls. Lakehouse offers creative takes on New England classics -- think braised lamb, grilled steaks and cider-brined pork chops. It really shines, however, for Sunday brunch, which features an eye-popping buffet complete with a carving station, omelet station and waffle station accompanied by live music in a beautiful setting overlooking the lake. Finally, the Boathouse Patio & Grille comes alive at happy hour with cocktails and light entrees served on a deck overlooking the lake.
All of the restaurants offer crayons and activity books for kids.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Lakehouse Lodge features a beautiful game room with picture windows overlooking the lake, a huge stone fireplace, an antique billiards table and tables for puzzle-making and chess.
Babysitting can be arranged through the resort; during the high season it's best to arrange a week ahead of time to ensure availability.
Fresh coffee is available in the lobby each morning.
The Art of Smart Timing
More than any other part of New Hampshire, the Lakes Region really comes alive in the summertime, when Winni is full of sailboats and speedboats and all of the restaurants and entertainment options are open along the lakeshore. It's also when you will get the most out of the water activities on the lake. If boating is your thing, be advised the New Hampshire summers aren't reliably warm until June, though the water can stay relatively warm through September.
Thanks to the indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, kids can enjoy water fun outdoors during the shoulder seasons of April, May and September -- an attractive option for families on a tighter budget. In late September and October, the hills come alive with foliage, as rates increase and leaf-peepers flood the area to ogle the colorful display.
The resort stays open all winter, as well, when the big fireplaces and cozy comforters can make it a warm getaway -- the lake is open for ice skating and several nearby ski resorts, such as Gunstock, offer downhill skiing and tubing, though the mountains in the area pale in comparison to the much larger ski resorts in the White Mountains another hour north.
Meredith is located in the middle of northern New England, close to several major airports. The main airport in the area, Logan International Airport, is located an hour and a half away in Boston, and is served by all major national and international carriers. The closest airport is Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, which is an hour away from the Lakes. It is served by Delta, Southwest, United and US Airways. It's also worth checking out rates to Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, which is served by the same carriers as Manchester, as well as JetBlue.
Shuttles and bus service are available from all three airports, but if you plan on getting away from the resort at all to explore the surrounding area, you'll want to rent a car.
For Mom and Dad
A soothing waterfall welcomes guests to the Cascade Spa, renovated in spring 2014 with a stunning new Art Deco dÃ©cor that brings a bit of citified luxury to the natural surroundings of the lake. Located at Church Landing, treatments take their inspiration from Asia, with bamboo massages and Tibetan sound therapy, among other offerings; recent upgrades include several couples' massage rooms and an in-house juice bar. It offers nail and hair services for teens; all other services are for adults 18 and older.
The resort also opened Sacred Waters Yoga in 2013, located right on the Church Landing property. In addition to hatha and vinyasa yoga, it offers "hot" yoga, Pilates and even paddleboard yoga.