Bethel in 48 Hours
Known best for its proximity to Sunday River, the historic and charming town of Bethel is filled with activities for an idyllic wintertime weekend.
Igloos and ice skates
Start your weekend with dinner at the Last Run Room, located on the first floor of the Grand Summit Hotel. At the slope-side restaurant of chef Harding Lee Smith of the Rooms in Portland, you’ll enjoy impressive views of Sunday River’s eight peaks while tasting your way through the many unexpected small plates. Standouts include squid-ink salted Maine cod and a raclette of gooey cheese and lemon-braised root vegetables. Last year the restaurant introduced a cluster of outdoor, see-through “igloos” heated with electric space heaters and lit by candlelight. With the ski lifts swinging softly in the breeze above and a view of the moon through the clear canopy, this may be one of the more unique dining experiences on the mountain and beyond. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
First opened in 1913, the turn-of-the-century Bethel Inn Resort on Broad Street in down-town Bethel is just 15 minutes from Sunday River but avoids the on-mountain hubbub typically associated with ski area lodging. The peaceful mountain town is lined with cozy accommodations, and with 150 guest rooms this one is the largest. The inn also boasts winter-time amenities like an outdoor pool (heated to a steaming 90 degrees) and an extensive cross-country ski and snowshoe network. If it’s not too late, pull on your ice skates and take a few loops around the lighted outdoor rink before heading downstairs to The Millbrook Tavern and Grille for a nightcap.
Skiing the peaks
Wake up early, stoke your in-room fireplace, and roll out those hamstrings: it’s time to hit the mountain. The inn offers a complimentary ski shuttle to Sunday River Resort so you can avoid congested parking, but if you choose to drive make a stopover at the Good Food Store. Specializing in gourmet organic foods with vegetarian and vegan options, here you’ll find fresh cups of strong coffee and tea along with homemade treats like pumpkin whoopie pies and lemon poppyseed muffins. Do yourself a favor and avoid the crowds (and prices) of a resort lunch: stock up on sandwiches, cheeses, sodas, and other snacks from the to-go fridges for a satisfyingly wholesome picnic between runs.
Been a minute since a recent snowstorm? Sunday River, which is generally open from Thanksgiving to Easter, is renowned for its snowmaking capabilities. Flash your prepurchased lift tickets, click into your bindings, and head straight up one of the resort’s 18 lifts to find stunning views of the Mahoosuc Range, Mount Washington, and the rest of the Presidentials. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a total newbie, Sunday River’s trails offer a variety of steeps, glades, and gliders. Don’t be shy of lessons, as the instructors here are both seasoned and mellow—a winning combination for anyone nervous about being strapped to a piece of wood or two. Once you’ve challenged gravity enough, head over to the roaring bonfire in front of Foggy Goggle or grab a pint at Shipyard Brew Haus for a bit of après-ski socializing. Skiers have also been known to set up tailgate-type parties, so consider coming prepared with a cooler, chairs, and a top-notch four-pack.
Either you’ve made dinner reservations at Camp, another of Sunday River’s elevated dining options, or you’ll follow the crowd to the Matterhorn Ski Bar. There may be a line at the Matterhorn, but such is the case with nonreservation mountain dining, so put your name in, grab a drink from the bar laden with vintage skis, posters, and other alpine paraphernalia, and enjoy the people watching. This Neapolitan-style pizza joint is a fixture among locals and tourists alike. After your satisfyingly chewy pizza, head back to the inn to unwind your muscles in the heated pool, or, if a band happens to be setting up, stay right where you are and enjoy the set.
Trails and trucks
After breakfast in the main dining room, head out the back door for some first-class cross-country skiing on the Bethel Village Trails, a project of Inland Woods and Trails. There are plenty of rentals available to set you up Nordic-style, and the corduroy groom is a balm to the eyes of anyone who usually spends the winter slogging through slush. Take the Mill Brook Trail to the I-95 Trail for a beautiful, wide path through the pines. The long and rolling ride with some nice downhill slopes is both acceptable for the beginner and a favorite among seasoned locals. Grover’s Grind is not for the faint of heart, with a big uphill start and a few steep drops. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views.
Hang up your skis and walk into downtown Bethel for lunch at Le Mu Eats, a Southeast Asian–Southern fusion food truck parked at Steam Mill Brewing. Order a flight from the brewery, or go straight for the Alder River Red, a malty red ale with a robust ABV that pairs well with the truck’s panko-crusted pork loin sandwich.
After lunch, hit the shops of Main Street. Brooks Bros. (the local hardware store, not the haberdashery) carries everything from sporting goods to gardening supplies, and Maine Line Products stocks your usual lobster stuffies and maple syrup, along with tasty chunks of “Sunday River Fudge” made with brown butter and Heath bars. Finish up your trip with a visit to the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum. Featuring 17 interactive exhibits and a laboratory, the museum celebrates Maine’s mining legacy. It also has a renowned meteorite collection, including the world’s largest known piece of the moon and, as of this fall, the largest intact Mars rock on Earth, weighing in at 32 pounds. Snap a selfie with the Martian material and add it to your mementos from Bethel.
Read More 48 Hours Itineraries:
- Bethel in 48 Hours
- Insider Tips for Visiting Waterville
- Rangeley Lakes in 48 Hours
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