Broadway in the North Country of New Hampshire

High quality barn theater has a long tradition at our great summer mountain vacation destination here in the North Country. The historic Weathervane Theatre in quaint Whitefield, New Hampshire has been presenting professional plays and musicals since 1966. They are one of the few remaining alternating repertoire productions in the US, and are only ten minutes from the Bray Hill House vacation rental home.

Lively musicals, wry comedies and heartwarming dramas alternate a different show every night, Monday through Saturday. These shows will make you laugh, cry and delight. The talent of the company will leave you amazed by the acting, singing, dancing, costumes and set design. It’s a real treat the whole family will love.

The 2020 season starts in June and Ends in October. The company is expanding the calendar by over a month from previous years, so even autumn visitors to the Bray Hill House can enjoy the plays.

The new barn-style theatre was built in 2002 to modern standards of design, comfort and safety. The climate-controlled auditorium can accommodate 250 guests with unobstructed stadium style seating. We recommend seats 5,7,9, and 11 in rows H or J.

Reservations

Call (603) 837-9322 to reserve your tickets at the box office or order online at Ovation Tix. Special pricing is available online during the pre-season so check there if you are planning ahead for your vacation and would like to save some money. The theater address is 389 Lancaster Road in Whitefield, New Hampshire. Look for the big red barn–it is hard to miss.

Dinner and a Show!

Plan a special night out with dinner and a show, for just two or the whole family. Reserve a table at the Inn at Whitefield restaurant, directly adjacent to the theater. They offer New American Cuisine in a historic inn and serve dinner early enough to ensure you make curtain call. The bar is open after the show for socializing and libations until last call.

To learn about the theater programs, calendar, history, cast and more go to WeathervaneTheatre.org or follow them on one of their three social media sites listed below:

Children’s Theater

The theater company brings more to the North Country than just professional productions. They also bring children's performances into the local communities and a summer day camp held at the theater.

Patchwork Players

The troupe of theater members puts on daytime children performances on Wednesday and Friday. Check the Weathervane Theater website for productions, locations and dates. Family-friendly and kid-centric performances vary from hip-hop to classical!

Winsock Summer Camp

The camp is hosted at the theater in Whitefield and has one-week, two-week and three-week sessions, depending on age, starting in July and finishing in August. If your children might be interested check the Weathervane Theatre website for details.

So, if your family summer plans include getting away to the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire and your family loves theater, then the Bray Hill House in Jefferson, New Hampshire is definitely the best vacation rental for you! If you’re still not convinced, check out guest reviews on BrayHillHouse.com, and check out Weathervane Theatre audience reviews on TripAdvisor.


Masonry Heater

When you see our masonry heater, also known as a Russian Stove, you might think it is just a hulking mass of brick filling the center of the house. It’s certainly impressive with the Gothic arch chimney. It’s ornate but not elaborate, and it is made of hard brick. There is a reason it is the most prominent feature of the Bray Hill House,rising up two stories through the center of the house, and everything else revolves around it.

The reason is that the heater has magical powers. In Russian, folklore the heater is like Aladdin’s magic carpet. It can transport you anywhere your heart desires. It protects you and is the heart of the home. Firing the stove turns it into a warm soft blanket that fills the house all day long. It’s power is in capturing the heat from the burning wood and storing it in the brick masonry to be released into the room evenly and comfortably like the warm sun rays on your face.

Unlike an English wood-burning stove that requires constant feeding and immediately releases all its energy into the room roasting everything nearby while leaving the corners of the room feeling cold and drafty, the masonry heater radiates heat through the air so that it warms you directly. You build one fire in the morning and one fire in the evening, stacking the wood so it burns quickly and efficiently. After lighting, it’s like a small bonfire that can be enjoyed indoors. It will snap and crack and roar and fill the room with fire light. Combustion will be complete, and the magic carpet will be ready for a day or night.

Smaller and lighter masonry heaters are more responsive for quick temperature adjustments. Our heater is less responsive because it is so massive and releases heat over a longer period at a constant rate. This means that for guests, one fire a day might be fine to get enjoyment from the heater.

Even after the fire is out, everyone will gravitate to it. You will lean on it, sit on the bench, and soak up the warmth. Here you will be able to read, write, play games, and converse in the radiant glow of the brick Russian stove. The whole room will be comfortable, and there are many health benefits. Radiant heat is the same as infrared energy and is known to relieve muscle spasms, promote better circulation, ease joint pain, increase blood flow, and help with efficient respiration.

To the modern world, the masonry heater is the ultimate green heating appliance, and for this reason, it has been making a renaissance in North America. Wood is renewable and contributes to the local economy. It is also harvested nearby or on the property, keeping the total cost lower than hydrocarbons dug from the earth and transported thousands of miles. The heater is also efficient, capturing up to 90% of the energy released from the fire, and the fire is efficient since it is has a direct source of air so it can burn fast and hot. No electricity required!

You will get the most benefit from the masonry heater by operating it according to the directions we provide. We supply plenty of wood for a three night stay, but if you are staying longer, you might purchase another rack of wood to keep the radiant glow for your entire stay. 


Review by Kim L. of Massachusetts - Amazing Stay!

We had an amazing stay at the Bray Hill House. The property is gorgeous and has all the amenities you need to be comfortable and to thoroughly enjoy your stay. The kitchen is awesome and we made some delicious meals together. The views from the house are breathtaking. We loved sitting by the fire and watching the sun set each night. The amber glow across the mountains was fantastic. The bedrooms are spacious and the beds are super comfortable. We also enjoyed the sauna after days of skiing. Snow shoeing was a blast right on the property. There is a marked trail we enjoyed a few times with our Bernese Mountain dog, Oakley.


Best Breweries in the North Country of New Hampshire

You could be forgiven for not knowing that the North Country of New Hampshire has gained considerable expertise in brewing over the last several years. There are now four local breweries that make the area appealing to beer aficionados and diners alike. It started about seven years ago when the Schilling Beer Company formed on the banks of the Ammanousic River in Littleton. Since then, three more breweries have been established in nearby Bethlehem, Franconia, and Lancaster.

At the beginning of 2020, breweries in the North Country of New Hampshire include the following:

The size and scope of each brewery are different. Some are considered microbreweries with distribution networks, and others are considered craft breweries. All have the same noble goal of serving fresh brewed craft beer and tasty morsels to thirsty and hungry locals and travelers alike!

Schilling Beer Company

The largest of the four breweries, Schilling in Littleton’s river district includes a brew pub, a food truck, a store, and a tasting room all separate but adjacent to each other. The brew pub offers indoor and outdoor dining and specializes in Neapolitan pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. The food truck is perfect for those shopping and on the go in the district and has a made-from-scratch selection. The store and tasting room offers merchandise and an outdoor patio overlooking the river, a perfect place to relax with a flight of beer and a portable meal from the food truck. The beers from Schilling are authentic European styles including Czech, German, Belgium, and Baltic. However, they also have American style beers under a different label called Resilience.

Rek-Lis Brewing Company

Bethlehem, NH is an energetic and artsy mountain town. A few years ago, Rek-Lis joined the scene as restaurant and tap room pouring their own craft brews, and it has been continually expanding ever since. They’ve made room for more seating and now offer a regular schedule of live music on weekends and trivia on Thursday nights. They offer a regular menu, a Baha menu, and a Sunday brunch menu. There’s definitely a fresh flavor for anyone. The grilled shrimp soft tacos are my favorite! Indoor seating includes sections that are cozy and intimate and others that are more open and acoustic where the band plays. Seating expands seasonally onto the outdoor patio for dining and events. It’s a great place to relax after skiing, hiking, shopping, or mountain biking in the area.

Iron Furnace Brewery

Located in a large open renovated barn space with high gambrel roof in Franconia, NH, Iron Furnace Brewery had six beers on tap when I last checked and a pub food menu that includes soups sandwiches, pizza, salads, and bar fare. It is a perfect stop after skiing at Cannon Mountain or hiking in Franconia Notch. The large venue with plenty of seating also hosts public and private events as well as live music performers to help guests unwind and let their hair down.

Copper Pig Brewery

With eight beers on tap and four new ones on deck, Copper Pig Brewery located in a three-story renovated brick bank in Lancaster, NH is ready to start the new decade off right. Daily food specials include entrées, soups, appetizers, and desserts. Regular live music performances and seasonal outdoor seating by the river make it a great place to relax.

At these establishments, brewing fresh beer is a passion, and their passion makes the North Country communities they are in more welcoming and enjoyable to visitors. So, come to the North Country for natural beauty, fresh mountain air, outdoor activities, boutique shopping, and craft brewed beer!


Winter Paradise in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Winter on Bray Hill is spectacular–especially at the Bray Hill House vacation rental on the hilltop. It is remote and peaceful, and the view is unmatched. The enchanting scene is like a Thomas Kinkade picture with the warmth and glow from inside radiating outward, set in the frozen cosmos of forest, nature and snow. It is possible that you will need the all-wheel drive and your winter driving prowess to get here, but that is part of the adventure.

Outside, Adventure Awaits

Nature

Enjoy the moment of uitwaaien, a Dutch expression that means “Take a refreshing break outdoors to clear your head,” that is enhanced by the cold, clean crisp air. Your lungs will thank you. The cosmos of nature is what makes it so special. Explore together on a small adventure in the woods. What will you see? Maybe an owl on a branch hunting for food. On your adventure you may come across fresh tracks in the snow from animals that call this property their home; bear, deer, moose, songbirds, foxes, and grouse can all be found here. Whether you see any animals or not, you will have fun and you will be able to let go of everyday worries for a while!

Sledding & Snowshoeing

Pack your snow pants because we have sleds for the children and snowshoes for everyone. Sledding on the lawn or driveway, building a snowman, or snowshoeing on the trails will flush your cheeks, enliven your senses, and maybe tucker you out. The weather changes quickly. When you arrive, it might be calm, cold, and clear, and the snow might squeak as you snowshoe through the woods. The next day, old man winter might be bearing down, and a gusty storm might be blowing snow outside, creating tall pillow drift across the walkway.

Cross-Country Skiing

Bring your cross-country skis! The Nordic touring variety with good ankle support and wider stable base are best. The blazed trail through the woods will not be groomed so you will be breaking fresh tracks through the frozen landscape. There is some uphill and downhill on the .75-mile loop, enough to do some gliding and get your heart pounding, but if you stop you can experience the complete solitude. Once you get the lay of the land you can pretty much use the whole property as your playground as long as you like.

Super Snow Moon Snowshoeing

Each month brings a new full moon, and few things go better together than a fresh blanket of snow in the forest and a snow moon; unless it’s a super snow moon, when the moon is closest to earth in its orbit (like it was in February 2020). At the Bray Hill House, our snowshoes are just the thing you need to help you walk comfortably through the spellbinding night scene. The snow blanket on everything and the remoteness of the location means the experience will be yours to share with your company.

Looking out from the house, the full moon makes an amazing silhouette of the mountains–especially when everything is covered with snow. The scene can be dramatic when the moon is low on the horizon rising up from behind the mountains in the east, and then taking up the night sky.

Star Gazing

Without light pollution, clear, moonless, starry nights offer memorable beauty of the constellations in the eastern sky. Bundle up and sit out on the deck or walk around the yard stargazing. The view is directly east. Simple websites like Sky & Telescope allow you to put in the zip-code 03583 to identify constellations and to find out what celestial events are visible during your stay. Delightful smartphone Apps like SkiSafari use GPS in your phone to identify your location and show you the constellations that are visible.

Inside, Wind Down

Outside is exhilarating, but of course your chilling winter exploits would not be complete without hot chocolate, wine or sangria. Something to warm you from the inside!

Inside is where you want to relax with your friends and family. Build a fire in the Russian fireplace and let the warm radiant heat from the masonry blanket the house as you spend time socializing over wine and food, playing games, or doing puzzles. With a fine selection of both, you’ll certainly find something everyone will enjoy.

Perhaps games like Scattergories, Clue, Spot It, or Cards Against Humanity will entertain you. Or settle down with a puzzle for the evening with art by Normand Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade. Choose some relaxing tunes on the HiFi powered by Google assistant to help you find just what you want to hear from YouTube Music Premium. We hope all your nights are cozy, happy, and memorable when you stay at the Bray Hill House in the winter.


Review by Karen C. of Massachusetts - Peaceful Retreat

“Everything was beyond our expectations, from the exquisite details to the stunning views. The beds were comfortable, the kitchen was a dream and the sauna was an added bonus. The Bray Hill House has every amenity one could think of. We were able to do some hiking along the property and enjoy the tranquility when we arrived back after long days of skiing. The children enjoyed the house to its fullest by playing some of the supplied games, sleds, puzzles and PS3. Cleanliness and organization were top notch. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and are looking forward to staying again in the near future.”


Family Adventures in Jefferson, New Hampshire

What adventures can a sleepy mountain town like Jefferson offer to the modern family looking to escape and spend time together? Try these on for size...

Santa’s Village

Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves, and all ten of Santa’s reindeer await your young children in a spruce and fir wooded village nestled in a forest cove just 10 minutes away from Bray Hill. Ranking in the Top 25 amusement parks in the US according to TripAdvisor's 2014 Travelers’ Choice Awards, Santa’s Village is a child’s dream come true at a mom-and-pop-friendly scale. Dozens of rides from the village choo choo train to the Ferris wheel and log flume thrill and delight the whole family.

In the summer, it’s tucked in the shade canopy of evergreens and a haven from the heat with a kid’s waterpark as well. In the winter during the Christmas season, it is a snow-coated wonderland with warm village cabins and stores filled with activities. So, no matter what time of year you visit, you will love it.

Dog Sledding

If it is after the new year and still winter, Santa’s Village will be closed, but Muddy Paws Sled Dog Kennel will be open. Take your puppy love and love of adrenaline on a dog sled ride for the whole family. Children as young as two can enjoy the experience of bonding with the dogs and the thrill of gliding along the trail bundled in wool blankets together in the low slung sled.

Muddy Paws is an outstanding organization with over 250 five-star reviews on TripAdvisor. Families and couple alike love the experience, which takes place in the Pondicherry Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge with stunning views of the Presidential Range over Cherry Pond.

Wildlife Refuge

There are three ponds in the refuge with trails to access shoreline and viewing platforms: Cherry Pond, Little Cherry Pond, and Mud Pond. Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular in this dramatic, secluded setting. This special area is a habitat, breeding ground, and sanctuary to a variety of mammals and native and migratory birds. In the birding community, it is known for the multitude of species and for occasional sightings of rare species.

On the North side, the Mud Pond Trail off Route 116 in Jefferson provides plenty of parking with a handicapped accessible trail on a boardwalk through a boreal forest to Mud Pond with a viewing platform from the marshy edge. On the East side, the Trestle Trail provides an abandoned rail corridor through the preserve, which joins trails to other areas and ponds. Some of the trails here are part of the Cohos Trail from Crawford Notch to Canada.

Hiking

Looking up from the ponds on the valley floor are the peaks of the White Mountains. Are you a peak bagger missing the two Northernmost 4,000-footers in New Hampshire, Mt. Cabot and Mt. Waumbek? Or maybe you’d like to hike the Presidential Range from the less traveled northern slopes in Randolph? Or maybe you’d like to get a bird's eye view of the Great North Woods and White Mountains from the top of Mount Prospect fire tower in Weeks State Park? Perfect for the adventurous family, these mountains offer ascending hikes that range from introductory paved inclines for young children to heart-pounding, highly skilled climbing in the winter season.

Skiing

Speaking of winter season, the closest ski slope is the Mount Prospect ski tow in Weeks State Park open mainly on weekends when there is great fresh snow.

I expect you are looking for something a little more full service, so the best option is Bretton Woods. Ranked #12 Ski Resort in the world according to Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Poll, it features the most skiable terrain in New Hampshire and a brand new eight-person gondola. What more do I need to say? It offers terrain to keep the whole family happy and challenged.

Aside from relaxing and enjoying each other’s company these family adventures based near the Bray Hill House on the north side of the White Mountains will keep you coming back for more.



Dry Sauna at the Bray Hill House

Dry saunas generally operate at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and bathing duration at this temperature is usually around 15 minutes. There are many health benefits from a dry sauna, and they make you feel great!

Five Benefits of a Dry Sauna:

  1. Healing: Your blood vessels and arteries dilate and your heart rate increases. This moves more red and white blood cells through your body and promotes healing of damaged tissues, such as muscles after a long day of exercising in the outdoors. Circulating white blood cells boosts your immune system and helps you fight off a virus.
  2. It improves your mood: Taking a dry sauna raises your body temperature, and that releases endorphins, which in turn makes you feel good. Your extremities might tingle, and you feel lively and alert. And then, as you cool off and your body comes down from the endorphins, you become deeply relaxed and euphoric. If you take the sauna before bed, you will sleep better too.
  3. Less joint pain: If you are old like me, you may have injured yourself in the past, and these old injuries are stiff or maybe even have arthritis in the joints. The heat combined with gently moving or flexing the joint will release synovial fluid that will help lubricate the joint.
  4. Detoxifying your body: These temperatures make you sweat. Just like during exercising, your body sweats to cool off, and in the process, this naturally detoxifies your body because sweat contains contaminants dissolved in it.
  5. Stress reduction: Ending your day with a sauna might just be the moment of sensory deprivation that you need from sights and sounds and movement as you sit still and soak in the relaxing warmth in the quiet cedar closet away from everything. Remember to take deep breaths.

Children under 13 should not use the sauna at the Bray Hill House because children’s bodies have difficulty modulating their body temperature. But for adults seeking any of these benefits, this should be all the motivation necessary to wrap up in a Turkish towel and step into the sauna after a day of skiing, hiking, ice climbing, biking, or herding your children through Santa’s Village.

Tylö SuperSport Technicalities

The dry sauna heater at the Bray Hill House is a Tylö SuperSport heater and has a triple-mantled construction finished on the outside with an all-over covering of velvet soft Thermosafe. So, if you touch it on the side, you won’t get burned, but still use caution! It heats the air in the dry sauna to around 165 degrees in 30 minutes and then maintains that for the duration. The dry sauna heater has a one-hour running time and both automatic and manual switch-off options. The SuperSport has a front-mounted control panel at the top of the heater for easy visibility and immediate accessibility.


Review by Casey. M of Massachusetts - Immaculate Oasis

“The Bray Hill House is an immaculate oasis with breathtaking views of the Northern Presidentials. Between the amazing fireplace, awesome sauna, cutting-edge technologies and a FABULOUS kitchen…if this house doesn't have it, you don't need it! The host, Israel, has thought of everything. Additionally, he was super accommodating and very responsive. Our stay was great, and we hope to go back!”


Are we your cup of tea?

Our second full year as the Bray Hill House vacation rental was 2019, and we’ve completed about 75 bookings with over 320 visitors, over 60 of which were kids. This blog post is about your statistics and our statistics. We know a few things about you, like where you’re from, if you have a family in tow, and if you travel with your pooch or pooches. We also know a little about ourselves from what you tell us.

For the most part, you visit us in the White Mountains of New Hampshire from southern New England and greater Yankeedom for 75% of our bookings. But we get a smattering from everywhere in the US, including the Left Coast, the Far West, the Midlands, and Greater Appalachia. Finally, a big shout out to our guests from Canada, Norway, Scotland, and England for helping make us an international vacation rental with 6% of our bookings.

We might be your cup of tea if you drink tea, coffee, wine, water, and hot chocolate because we give these to all of our guests! We are most popular with three-generation families and are proud to host grandparents with their progeny. Families make up 66% of our bookings, and many visit Santa’s village only 5 miles away and Bretton Woods only 19 miles away.

Mature couples escaping for a getaway or special occasions make up 20% of our bookings. The remaining 14% are tight knit groups of friends. There are 7% of you who return for a second stay. We also might be your cup of tea if you travel with your pooch since 46% of you do, and we are pooch friendly.

A little about us

We are especially proud of our perfect, unbroken streak of 30 five-star reviews on Vrbo where we get more than half of our bookings. Airbnb is not too far behind with 25% of our bookings, and guests there like us too with an average 4.93-stars from 15 reviews. With several more five-star reviews on TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and here on our website, we have about 50 total reviews. That means two-thirds of you write reviews and think we are doing a pretty good job!

We are not resting on our laurels. We strive to be good stewards of the property and great hosts to you so that you have an amazing experience with your family. To improve your experience, we’ve added air conditioning in the whole house, a generator in case a Nor’easter knocks out the power, an electric car charger, and dozens of amenities big and small to help you relax and enjoy your stay.

So, if you’d like to stop in for some tea, we’d love to host you. Our tea selection includes six types of Bigelow herbal teas, Twinings black teas, Stash chai spice, and green teas.


A New Hampshire Family Thanksgiving

Our third Thanksgiving hosting guests at Bray Hill House was 2019. They came from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and the house was the perfect setting for a family with the grandparents, their children, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Our guests describe it as happy, cozy, and comfortable for everyone and such a great way to begin the holiday season with a day trip to Santa’s Village only five miles away.

There’s usually snow on the ground already this time of year, making the mountain and forest sparkle. The tree in front of the house is lit up in the evenings, and the scene is magical for young children. Hot chocolate and a bottle of wine, provided gratis by us, make playing games in front of the fireplace relaxing and memorable in the company of family and loved ones. Several seasonal and traditional movie favorites also make quality time with the kids easy, especially Polar Express, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving all in our DVD Library.

The chef’s kitchen with two ovens made it easy for them to prepare a personal feast of turkey with all the fixings, plus pies! YouTube music from the kitchen smart speaker makes changing the music no problem at all even while mashing potatoes. Just say, “Hey Google, play All Things Bright and Beautiful.” A highchair for the little ones makes space for everyone at the table. After dinner, there are plenty of recliners and couches where you can relax, talk, read, or watch the football game on YouTube TV.

And when the kids have too much energy, walking the wooded trails and sledding on the hill quickly tucker them out for the evening. While our guests this year were not skiers, Bretton Woods has been open by Thanksgiving every year for the last ten years, meaning getting in some turns before or after Turkey Day is also possible.

And on your way back South, it’s the perfect time to pick out a Christmas tree to decorate at home. White Mountain National Forest Christmas Tree Permits are available for $5. Don’t forget to bring your own ax or handsaw! Or go to a farm like The Rocks Estate where they have horse drawn sleigh rides and sustainably grown forests of Christmas trees to pick from. Either way, it will be the perfect seasonal souvenir of your trip to the Bray Hill House in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and a memorable start to winter and the Christmas season.

We hope you make it a Thanksgiving tradition.


Review by Lorraine P. of Rhode Island - Perfect Mountain Home for Thanksgiving!

"Israel’s home exceeded my expectations! The moment we walked through the door, we felt right at home. The complimentary bottle of wine, extensive DVD collection, kids’ books and toys, and chef’s kitchen were just a few of the amenities we enjoyed during our Thanksgiving stay. Instructions and a helpful handbook made navigating the house and its appliances very easy. Every time we turned around, we said, “Israel really thought of everything!” We enjoyed the breathtaking view of the mountains from the gorgeous windows next to the cozy fireplace. Absolutely the best home I have ever rented. We will be back next year!!!"


Apple Picking at the Bray Hill House

Labor Day has come and gone. The kids are back in school, and families are busy. This may not seem like the time to take a long weekend, but think again. It’s harvest season in the fruit orchards of New Hampshire. On Bray Hill, we offer something that few vacation rentals can match: a neighboring apple orchard!

North Country Orchard is a small family-run operation with 350 trees and over 20 varieties. They specialize in fresh apples, fresh cider, local honey, local maple syrup, and a variety of locally produced and unique products.

Apple pickers are welcome! Apple picking is a time-honored family tradition of harvesting and preparing for winter. It’s a chance for bonding with each other and developing an appreciation for nature’s abundance. The crisp, cool mountain air, filling your apple bag, lifting children on your shoulders to reach that perfect apple, and fresh mulled cider are memories to cherish and hand down to the next generation.

Early harvest usually starts by the second weekend in September. Early season apples include favorites like Ginger Gold, Paula Red, and Zestar. These are wonderful eating apples fresh off the tree. Others like the Kerry Pippen are used for cider.

As the season progresses, more eating varieties start ripening like Liberty, Cortland, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Jonamac, Macoun, and Sweet 16. Other varieties such as Michelin, Dabinett, Kingston Black, and numerous crab apples are used to make the best cider around.

The end of the season includes one of our favorite apples, Cox Orange Pippin. Developed in England in the 19th century, this little gem remains unsurpassed for its richness and complexity of flavor. The season usually finishes up between Columbus day and Halloween.

Even if you have not heard of an apple variety, try it. The flavors may surprise and delight you. Many are developed at universities like Cornell and University of Minnesota specifically for eating fresh but also to withstand Northern winters and to be resistant to pests and other maladies affecting apples specific to our region.


Easy Baked Apples

  • Preheat oven to 375 °F.
  • Scoop out the core of 4 large good baking apples, such as Cortland, Liberty, Honeycrisp, or Cox Orange and place on their bottoms in a baking dish.
  • Mix together 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 4 Tbsp softened butter and then fill each apple with the mixture.
  • Pour 3/4 cup boiling water into dish and bake for 1 hour.
  • Cool and serve with ice cream!

Electric Vehicle? No Problem!

Are electric cars ready for the mainstream? Will you be able to go on vacation and get your car battery recharged without a major hassle? At the Bray Hill House in Jefferson, New Hampshire, we have you covered. When you stay with us, our 40-amp JuiceBox car charger will fill your battery overnight. Free for the first 10 guests with battery electric cars!

We installed our charger back in the spring of 2019 because we believed that we could attract early adopters of electric cars visiting the White Mountains. So far, after 9 months, we have succeeded a total of once! But we are not deterred. A young couple with a Tesla Model 3 took the trip from Stamford, Connecticut. That first electric vehicle guest chose us because we had a charger and others did not. The young couple was able to tour the area in their Tesla, and we gave them about $12 in electricity, and it was well worth it. They actually did the drive up to the top of Mount Washington with their electric car!

After thinking about it a little, it was very generous of us to fuel their trip up 4618 feet of elevation gain on the Mount Washington Auto Road to reach the highest peak east of the Mississippi, but that wasn’t the point. They drove 320 miles up the Connecticut River Valley on Interstate 91 to reach us, propelled by battery-powered motors, and it worked great. They had better acceleration than probably every car they passed on the roadway. They also used one-fourth of the energy. It seemed like a step forward.

Now, we are excited to offer guests destination charging at the Bray Hill House. In the future, we will recoup the electrical costs using EV Match, a peer-to-peer network for sharing and renting private electric vehicle charging stations. Maybe after we have had ten guests with electric cars and have ironed out any kinks. So, get it free while it lasts!

Every indication points to falling costs and performance benefits that will soon convince most people that electric cars are not a flash in the pan. We are in the North Country of New Hampshire, and while we don’t expect the benefits will win people over as quickly around here as in urban areas where electric cars will be ideal as daily drivers, we do expect the number of vacationing guests with electric cars will increase. They will want to take them on vacations to accommodations, like the Bray Hill House, that have a charger for an overnight fill-up.

The signs are strong that electric vehicles are becoming more and more practical. They are not just ecological, but actually cheaper and better for many consumers than their gas-powered alternatives. New supporting infrastructure is growing quickly and charge times are decreasing, being inversely proportional to technological improvements. Chargers such as the Tesla Supercharger can add 75 miles of range to a battery in five minutes. Interstate 91 through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont will have ten superchargers by the end of 2020. Interstate 93 through Massachusetts and New Hampshire already has three. Plus, destination chargers are popping up in ski towns and at lodging everywhere.

As geeks, we follow the progress of electric vehicles, so the next few paragraphs are about what I expect in the next few years from this particular industry. Currently, the electric vehicles are competitive in terms of costs, and these are early days. Significant improvements in battery capacity, battery life, and battery costs are on the horizon. Consequently, the choice between petrol and battery power will soon be a no-brainer, and Battery Electric Vehicles will be the consumers' choice because BEVs will be superior in every way.

Until that time, adoption is being subsidized through rebates by most New England States and some electric companies in those states. All the major manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, and now even Toyota have committed to making large percentages of BEV per model lineup. For them, it is do-or-die. At the beginning of 2020, electric vehicle adoption is happening quicker than expected. Some projections show more than half of cars sold by the end of the decade will be a form of EV. In other words, diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles will be less than half the cars sold by 2030.

Today there are about 15 fully electric vehicle models for purchase in the US. Business Insider lists 40 electric car models that will be available by 2025. This is happening!


Maple Madness!

There’s something sweeter than spring skiing to make your family trip to the White Mountains in March and April an unforgettable experience. Think maple syrup!

After a long, cold winter, sugarmakers start collecting maple sap as soon as the days are warm enough for the sap to flow. Many sugar shacks like Bisson’s Sugar House in Berlin, NH are small family-run businesses that welcome visitors into the sugar house, and guests can experience the traditional syrup-making process. Larger operations like Fuller’s Sugarhouse are a sight to see with large evaporators and reverse osmosis equipment to process large volumes of sap quickly.

Traditionally, maple trees were individually tapped with metal spouts and pails that collected the sap on warm spring days. Men and women on snowshoes would then traverse the sugarbush, the forest of maple trees that are tapped, carrying the pails back to the sugar house or to the horse-drawn sleigh with tanks. The process involved a lot of physical labor to tap the trees, carry the sap, stoke the wood fires, and monitor the evaporation to get a quality product.

Now, miles of tube lines stretched throughout the sugarbush and vacuums draw the sap to the collection tanks. This eliminates a lot of manual labor.

However, some sugar houses still use traditional methods. The Rock Estate in Bethlehem, NH gives a traditional maple experience with horse-drawn sleigh rides during the season, perfect for young children.

Maple products include syrup, crystalized candy, taffy, maple butter, and maple donuts. Each sugar house specializes in maple products of their own.

Local businesses also feature this sweet treat year round, including the world famous Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH. Here you can enjoy breakfast with the family and then stop by the gift shop for maple treats and other locally-made gifts.

Sugar houses near Bray Hill that welcome guests:

Where to get a great pancake breakfast with locally made pure maple syrup:

  • Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill, NH
  • Grandma’s Kitchen, Whitefield, NH
  • The Waterwheel Breakfast & Gift House, Jefferson, NH

Gift shops with character:

  • Fuller’s Sugarhouse & Gift Shop, Lancaster, NH
  • The Waterwheel Breakfast & Gift House, Jefferson, NH
  • Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill, NH
  • Harman’s Cheese & Country Store, Sugar Hill, NH

New Hampshire Maple Producers Association provides resources to help you get the most out of the maple sugar season in the Great North Woods with all the latest information updated each season.

Autumn View From the Deck of The Bray Hill House

S’mores by the campfire

Are you ready to put the creature comforts of home behind you and rough it outside by the primal campfire under the starry night sky with the whole family? Get your whittling knife ready. Collect some thick green saplings and whittle some shavings off the smaller end to make a smooth tip. What’s missing? A guitar? Maybe… No, marshmallow, graham cracker and a chocolate bar. That's right it’s time to make s’mores. Every child must learn to roast a marshmallow on a stick and perfect the art of browning just to their individual liking. No family trip to the north country is complete without the experience of a campfire and s’mores. That's only part of the reason why the Bray Hill House is the perfect family vacation getaway.

*Guitar optional. Ingredients not provided by the Bray Hill House. ;-)


The 5 Best Listing Sites for Short-Term Vacation Rental Owners

I use all the major short-term vacation rental listing sites: Vrbo, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Booking.com. I also have my own website on Lodgify. You might think it’s a lot of work to manage all these sites, but it’s actually not. All the work is in the initial setup, and once that’s done, the sailing is pretty smooth. Each one has its own learning curve and pros and cons, and I’m going to break them down for you.

Your results may vary, so it’s important to compare apples to apples. When I talk about my short-term vacation rental, I’m talking about a house in the country for a family, couple, or small group of close friends for a getaway of three nights or more. I’m not talking about shared spaces like room listings, apartment listings, or even city listings. I’m not talking about one- or even two-night stays. Other listing platforms may excel in those niches because every platform has its niche.

Since Airbnb has become so popular in the English lexicon, it might seem like the obvious first choice for posting your short-term vacation rental, but I believe that Vrbo is the best place to list first and where you should perfect you listing, especially if your listing is a house in the country like mine.

My first choice is primarily based on my booking results since bookings are the most important measure of success for a listing platform. But my recommendation is also based on how much each booking is costing me to make, the type of guests that I’ve hosted from each platform, and the features that are most important to me as a host and manager.

In order of my preference, these are the best five listing sites for your short-term vacation rental house in the country. My listing on each is linked.

  1. Vrbo is, hands down, the best. I get 60% of my bookings from Vrbo. Guests who shop there are looking for a house. They are usually a family with children looking for a getaway, and best of all, they are usually responsible and respectful. I pay the $500 annual subscription fee for Vrbo, and it works out to cost about $26 per booking. Vrbo also supports my custom rental agreement. So, anyone who books with me there is bound by it, and that is important to me.
  2. Airbnb is a strong second place performer. I get 25% of my bookings from Airbnb. Guests who shop on Airbnb are more modern and represent a larger cross section of the population. They are younger, hipper, and more international. I have elected to include all costs in my listing price, so Airbnb charges me 14% of the subtotal, which includes the nightly rate, cleaning fees, and pet fees. The cost is about $185 per booking, but I think this simplifies pricing for guests, and I’ll stick with the old adage that simple is better. Airbnb does not support custom rental agreements. I see this as a drawback because every listing is unique, and a blanked agreement leaves a lot to be desired.
  3. Lodgify provides custom websites for short-term vacation rentals. I get 10% of my bookings through my Lodgify website. Guests who book there are often repeat, responsible guests, and they would rather put money in the host’s pocket than in the pocket of the big listing platforms. This is the most rewarding platform because I can provide a lot more custom information to help guests learn about the area and plan their stay. Lodgify costs $300 per year for the subscription. In my case, it works out to about $112 per booking, but the guest does not pay any additional fees. Lodgify does support my custom rental agreement, and I like that.
  4. TripAdvisor is a fringe platform in my opinion, and less than 5% of my guests book there. It is easy to setup and manage, so for that reason alone, I maintain my listing there. They also support my custom rental agreement, so kudos to them for that.
  5. Booking.com is setup for high-volume hotels and motels, and that is their bread and butter. The platform has tons of features and more functionality than most short-term vacation rental hosts need, want, or have time to learn. Initial setup is also a lot of work. While I have used this platform in the past, my listing there is currently paused.

Booking.com is probably evolving the fastest, advertises the most, and seems to be growing in the STR space. Keep an eye on this platform. They charge a 15% booking fee paid by the host. In my case, I’ve paid about $190 per booking there. When you are listed here, you show up next to hotels, motels, resorts, and everything in between, so it provides market exposure that you cannot get anywhere else.

After you have chosen your platforms and setup is complete, there are two important maintenance items to consider: the price and the calendar.

  • The simplest method I have found for managing pricing is to use the “Market Maker” in Vrbo to adjust pricing there, and then I make sure my Airbnb pricing is competitive. I use the “set it and forget it” method for the other three sites: TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Lodgify. Pricing does not have to be the same on all of your listings. In fact, it should not be because every platform charges you a different booking fee. I know many successful hosts who use dynamic pricing tools. However, my experiments tell me they are not fine-tuned enough to use for my property here in New Hampshire given my unique location.
  • Google calendar is your friend. It’s easy to setup, every platform can import your calendar from Google, and they synchronize on a regular schedule. This means you only have to maintain your Google Calendar. I have been using this method for over two years, and it has been reliable with one rare exception that I blame on a bug in the listing site, not the Google calendar.
  • Another option for managing price and calendar is a channel manager. There are many channel managers available, and most take 1% of all transactions. So far, all the ones I’ve looked into have shortcomings, so I do not use them. They are best if you are managing several listings, but for a single listing, I choose to do as I mentioned previously.

So, that’s it. Vrbo and Airbnb come out on top. If time permits, I recommend setting up a custom website as a long-term game plan for independence from the major listing platforms. Happy hosting!

Summer View From the Deck of The Bray Hill House


Bray Hill House Smart Home Features

What good are smart home features in a short-term vacation rental? The owner will value energy savings and security. The host will value being able to manage the guest experience and do less running around. Guests will value the delightful entertainment options and enhanced interior ambiance. Here is what happened after adding about two dozen smart home devices to the Bray Hill House over a three-year period.

The Foundation

Everyone wants connectivity everywhere they go, even on vacation, making WiFi the foundation of the smart home. We installed four nodes to make sure coverage was robust on all three floors, including the basement.

Security

The first smart home devices we added to the Bray Hill House were three outside cameras for security. We find the cameras useful to check to see if guests have arrived or departed and more generally to check activities of contractors and service professionals on property. It’s nice to know that the lawn has been mowed, the cleaners are finished, the road has been sanded, or oil has been delivered in time for arriving guests.

Energy Savings

The second smart feature we added to the Bray Hill House were three smart thermostats for energy savings. These little technological gems save the host aggravation of endless trips to the house to adjust the heat up or down before a guest arrives or after they depart. This function alone makes the thermostats invaluable from both the owner’s and the host’s perspective. On request, the host is also able to set the schedule for guests during their stay so that the temperatures are close to where they are most comfortable, and they are not making manual adjustments against the preset schedule. If the house gets too cold, the smart thermostats send email alerts. This notifies us of potential heating problems before they cause damage.

Entertainment

About a year ago, a lightning strike fried our TV and some other equipment, so the time was right to add smart entertainment devices with streaming music and streaming television channels. These improvements added to the guests enjoyment of the house. A streaming music subscription and a smart speaker now make the kitchen more fun for a family working to put together a meal. The same goes for streaming television channels. Smart speakers and smart television are must-haves for any vacation rental as most guests already have these at home and expect them on vacation too.

The house features a HiFi stereo with excellent HiFi speakers. We subscribed to YouTube music for the huge music library, and then by adding a Chromecast audio and a smart outlet, we were able to give the HiFi stereo a new life. Guests can now control it entirely with their voice and play almost any music they can think of.

Convenience

More recently as the technology has matured, I’ve started adding smart switches and smart outlets to the house. The devices can be controlled in a phone app or by voice. These are not necessities but can improve the guest experience. By placing some accent lights on schedules, guests can experience features like rope lighting or accent lamps that they would otherwise never notice. One smart switch enables the host to remotely turn on an outside light for guests arriving after dark. Another smart outlet controls delightful Christmas lights on a balsam fir in front of the house during winter evenings.

The Ecosystem

We have chosen Google’s smart ecosystem so that everything works together. Here is a list of smart home devices in the Bray Hill House: Google WiFi Routers, Nest Cam outdoor, Nest Thermostat E, Meross WiFi switches, Meross WiFi smart plugs, Google Nest Mini, Google Nest Hub, Chromecast audio, Chromecast TV, Google Home Max speaker, and streaming services by Google, including YouTube TV and YouTube Music Premium.

Privacy

Some guests are not interested in smart home features, and for this reason, I have only put the devices in common areas, not private areas. We would never put any type of camera inside the house. However, our system does include microphones in order to give voice commands to the smart assistant, but even these are only in common areas, never in bedrooms. Guests value their privacy, and we feel we have struck a good balance between giving them privacy and improving their experience with smart home features around our short-term vacation rental.

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