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Hampton Beach was already in full swing, with traffic and tourists aplenty, on Wednesday afternoon. (APRIL GUILMET)

Holiday weekend expected to be a busy one for locals, tourists

With 2.1 million New Englanders expected to travel during Fourth of July weekend, most will be doing so by car.

Pat Moody, spokesman for AAA Northern New England, said 1.8 million of the region’s travelers will celebrate the season with a road trip of some sort.

New Hampshire’s recent increase in gas prices apparently hasn’t had much influence on peoples’ vacation plans.

“This is pretty typical,” Moody said this week. “Most people aren’t willing to compromise by changing their holiday travel plans. Instead they might try and save money in other areas: maybe they’ll go out to eat less during their stay or they’ll buy fewer souvenirs on the way.”

Regional statistics hint at a 2.5 percent increase in holiday travel this weekend compared to 2013.

“The region appears to be weathering the economic storm more than other parts of the country have,” Moody said, noting that the national increase for holiday travel was estimated at 1.9 percent.

With plenty of travelers on the state’s major highways, additional State Police cruisers will be on the roads as well this weekend.

State Police Director Colonel Robert Quinn said a similar “Life Saver Weekend” took place over the Memorial Day holiday, where officers made over 4000 vehicle stops (and 904 speeding citations) that weekend.

“There will be extra patrols focusing on all hazardous driving this weekend, including impaired driving, distracted driving and speeding,” State Police Lt. Matthew Shapiro said on Wednesday. “Troopers will be patrolling using radar, laser and aircraft as it is our sincere hope that all residents and visitors have an enjoyable holiday weekend while traveling safely to their destinations and back.”

James Brown, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said the weekend’s forecast is calling for sunny skies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, though the temperatures are expected to be about ten degrees cooler than it was on Tuesday, when thermometers rose to the mid-90s.

Brown said some showers on Thursday were expected to pass in time for the holiday festivities.

“We’re looking at a fairly decent weekend, weather-wise,” he said.

B.J. “Doc” Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the coming holiday weekend may prove the biggest one yet for the state’s coastal region.

He said the recent improvements made to the Hampton Beach pavilion, including new bathhouses by the Marine Memorial statue and at Haverhill Street, have made for an overall increase in visitors so far this season, while many of the nearby restaurants and businesses continue making upgrades.

“Obviously, at the beach everything depends on the weather,” Noel said. “But this year, with the actual holiday being on a Friday, that means a long weekend for a lot of people.”

Jayne O’Connor, president of the White Mountain Attractions Association, said she’s expecting a record-setting weekend over the Fourth.

“We’ve had a lot great weather-weekends so far and the forecast looks great for the holiday,” O’Connor said on Tuesday. “So far the summer is already looking better than last year and the state is expecting a huge increase in travel this year.”

She said she expects the bulk of travelers to descend on the region sometime on Thursday so they can be settled into vacation mode by Friday’s holiday.

Local tourist spots like Story Land, Lost River Gorge and Santa’s Village have all introduced new attractions this season, including Roar-A-Saurus, the new wooden roller coaster at Story Land.

“It’s gotten a lot of attention because wooden coasters offer a different type of thrill and this one is so compact,” O’Connor said of the Glen amusement park’s latest ride. “I myself have already ridden it six times!”

Dracut, Mass. resident Liz Foster, who owns several rental beach cottages in Hampton with her husband, Bill, said her properties are fully booked for the rest of the summer: a definite improvement over the previous summer season.

Rental rates remain steady with last years, she noted, and the only week the cottages weren’t fully booked was during the week of June 21, when she suspects the late-ending school year may have interfered with families’ vacation plans.

“I think people were ready for summer after the long winter we had,” said Foster. “By early May, we were already filling up. So we’re definitely seeing higher demands for vacation rentals this year.”


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