CONCORD — Neither clouds, nor a federal government shutdown discouraged Columbus Day weekend visitors to New Hampshire. They came in droves.
Traffic through the tolls Friday through Monday was up nearly 4 percent over last year’s Columbus Day weekend, with almost 1.5 million vehicles passing through the turnpike booths over the four-day weekend.
Sunday traffic alone was up about 9 percent over last year.
The visitors didn’t just drive on the roads. They stopped to get information about where to go and what to see. More travelers visited state welcome and information centers in Colebrook, Littleton, Sanbornton and Sutton this year than last.
The northbound rest area just past the Hooksett tolls received 17,490 visits over the holiday weekend.
Lori Harnois, director of the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development, said: “We have heard from many of our New Hampshire tourism industry properties that the Columbus Day weekend was busy and successful.”
The director of the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, Phil Bryce, said: “Our state park campgrounds were open later this year, and we saw occupancy rates similar to the middle of summer in New Hampshire.” He said: “Attendance at mountain-based parks like Mount Kearsarge and Crawford Notch in the White Mountains was excellent. We had 6,000 visitors to Monadnock State Park alone. It was a big weekend for us.”
Private campground owners reported the same good business. Gregg Pitman, with the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association, said: “We surveyed our member campgrounds for availability over the Columbus weekend and found very limited availability, especially in the White Mountains. This was a big weekend for campers, from backpacking to RVs.”
In addition to the Columbus Day weekenders, the fall foliage group tours arriving in Wolfeboro were steady during the two weeks leading up to Columbus Day, according to Mary DeVries, with the Wolfeboro Chamber of Commerce. “Those buses, coupled with visitors traveling to the area on their own, led to a wonderful, never-ending stream of people ... over the holiday weekend,” said DeVries.
Visitors didn’t restrict themselves to the North Country. “We were packed for four days and the phone did not stop ringing asking about availability. Our guests went to hike Mount Kearsarge, drove to Bretton Woods, Canterbury Shaker Village and New London,” said Pecco Beaufays, innkeeper for the Highland Lake Inn in Andover.
And Bob Manley, owner of Hermit Woods Winery in Sanbornton, said: “We had our best Columbus Day Weekend ever.”