Meredith's Town Docks provide a great view along with a great meal for boaters


MEREDITH — There are many restaurants around the lake that allow boaters to dock and dine, but there are only a few that give the true shoreline seating experience. The Town Docks in Meredith, however, allows boaters to feel the wind in their hair and white sand between their feet, as they take in the views of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Town Docks, located in the heart of Meredith, provides boaters with the ultimate dining experience, according to Kory Brunell, General Manager of the restaurant. With personal docks located directly off the restaurant and two public docks next door, lake goers have plenty of options to arrive and dine by boat.

Once docked, restaurant goers are encouraged to try some of the popular drinks the beach bar has to offer. Two of the most popular drinks include the Watermelon Bowl and the Pina Colada. The Watermelon Bowl is served in a half watermelon, which contains strawberries, pina colada mix and spiced rum. The Pina Colada is served in half of a pineapple and blended with coconut rum.

“Having fruit as a vessel for our drinks is a signature of the restaurant,” said Brunell. “Often times people come here to get a Watermelon Bowl to officially kick off their summer season.”

This year, Town Docks has started a new build-your-own-mojito section of the drink menu, which allows customers to create their own unique drinks. Pricing for all drinks can be found on their wine and drink menu at

Like the drink menu, the dining menu features some classic summer favorites, as well as some new recipes. The new ahi tuna nacho bites are priced at $11.99 and contain marinated ahi tuna, tortilla chips, guacamole, spicy chili sauce and pickled vegetables.

The summer salad priced at $8.99 and the maji maji fish tacos priced at $13.99 are also making it big this season, according to Sean Brown, director of operations for Town Docks. The full menu, including the children's menu, can be found online.

“We try and focus on creating an experience, not just a meal,” said Brunell. He said many of the people who come to the restaurant are families with young kids. To cater to the younger crowd, the restaurant features an outdoor kids area with toys to play with in the sand and a corn hole game.

In addition to the extensive drink, dining and seating options, Town Docks also provides a wide variety of music throughout the summer months. Each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday night from 5 to 8 p.m. live performers come to the main beach area to perform beach themed tunes. The full show list of summer musicians can be found on the Town Docks Facebook Page.

Town Docks will also be holding a Beach Party on Wednesday, June 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. This event is held leading up to the 12th annual Winnipesaukee Wine Festival, which will be held at Church Landing on Thursday, June 29. This year the local charity supported is Girls at Work and a portion of all proceeds from the evening will go toward the organization.

Town Docks is located at 289 Daniel Webster Highway in Meredith. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information call 279-3445 or visit the website online.

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Pineapple and watermelon: Pina Colada in a pineapple can be purchased for just $10. The Watermelon Bowl serves two and is available for $14. (Courtesy photo)



Town Docks 1 Town Docks entry: Located directly on Lake Winnipesaukee customers are invited to take the M/S Mount Washington to Meredith and dine at the restaurant. (Courtesy photo)

  • Written by Alana Persson
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Rail and Sail

Copy of Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad 2014 Maiden Cove



The Hobo Railroad train was once connected with Boston, Maine and Montreal. Those aboard can experience a view of the lake and a learn about the railroads history.


MEREDITH — Entering into its fourth summer, the M/S Mount Washington and the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad have partnered together to provide lake enthusiasts with the ultimate land and lake experience. The Rail and Sail package is available beginning on Saturday, June 24, at 10:30 a.m. out of the Meredith Station located at 154 Main St.

The Rail and Sail package aims to provide lake goers with an all-day tour of Lake Winnipesaukee. Beginning on shore, guests can get aboard the historical Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad for a lakeshore tour. Travelling just along the edge of the water, guests receive an unobstructed view of the lake, mountains and surrounding nature that cannot be achieved by car.

The train tour commences along the boardwalk of the Weirs Beach, where passengers can visit the many shops, gift stores, and attractions the pier has to offer. Following the short break in the Weirs, passengers are then invited to get aboard the famous M/S Mount Washington for a two-and-a-half-hour scenic cruise of the lake.

“It’s turned out to be a very good product, and has become one of the best ways to see the lake,” said Paul Giblin, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroads. “It’s really great to partner on something like that. Some refer to it as the ultimate tour of Lake Win.”

The Rail and Sail combo package may be new to this generation of tourists, but the idea for the product stemmed from historical roots back in the 1800s. Giblin said that originally the the railroad line used to be linked with Boston and Maine, and the company owning this railroad also owned the M/S Mount Washington. This initial partnership drew people in from all over the country to view the lake by both railroad and boat, as they initially came as a package deal.

The resurrection of the Rail and Sail package has surpassed all expectations, according to Giblin. Relying mainly on social media promotions and word of mouth, the package has already attracted people from all of the country and is expected to reach a wider audience with each season.

“The fact that over 100 years later with the boat and the train working together again is a neat return of what it used to be,” said Giblin.

Tickets are $44.95 for adults and $34.95 for children. Lunch is not included, but can be purchased on either the train or boat.

Reservations for the Rail and Sail package can be made by calling 603-745-2135 or by visiting Those who want to purchase a ticket on the day of the trip are encouraged to come to the Meredith Station office at 10 a.m., as to ensure a seat on the 10:30 a.m. train ride.


2014 MS Mount Washington Cruise Boat

The M/S Mount Washington provides an on-board restaurant and bar, which is open during the duration of the ride. Sail & Rail passengers can purchase lunch on the boat during the excursion. (Courtesy photo)


  • Written by Alana Persson
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'Gruff' love – Sandwich Aquatic School splashes back into action

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Al Switzer, who opened the Sandwich Aquatic School 50 years ago, is preparing for another summer of lessons in the pool at his home. Graduates of the school include Jane Fonda and a member of a helicopter rescue squad. The 2018 session starts on June 26. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)


The Sandwich Aquatic School has taught many thousands of people – children and adults – how to swim. Al Switzer, who founded the business 50 years ago as a summer break from his coaching career, has a particular style, and not every child responds to it in a positive manner. He stands by his teaching philosophy, though, and he has story after story that assure him that he’s got a good thing going.
One story in particular, though, stands out for Switzer. He taught all nine children from one family how to swim over a period of several years, and one of the boys in that family, “Chuckie,” disliked the lessons so strongly that he would often climb out of the pool and sprint across the yard – only to be corraled by staff members and returned to the water. He finally submitted himself to the lessons, but only after he was convinced that there would be no escape.
Many summers later, Chuckie returned to watch his younger sister’s lesson. Afterward, he approached Switzer with a gift: a badge he had earned after training to be a helicopter rescue swimmer – someone who is lowered into the arctic surf to rescue fishermen who get washed overboard.
“This is not play time,” Switzer said of his lessons, which are offered to students as young as 3 and a half. “This is the first organized class they’re going to have. And, by the end of the two weeks here, they all go off the side of the diving board and motor their way over to the side (of the pool).”
Switzer’s style is something from an earlier era. He doesn’t coddle his students, instead, he lets them know his expectations for them. He is confident in his program, and he makes it known to his students that he is confident in them. Chuck Thorndike of Meredith is well familiar with the Switzer style. His experience with the Sandwich Aquatic School began decades ago, when he and his wife took adult swimming lessons there. Since then, their children, and their grandchildren, have also been in and out of Switzer’s pool.
Thorndike said, “We’ve got a couple or three generations – both Karen and I took lessons from him. That’s when I really learned how to swim. Then we had our kids, two kids went. Their children went ... We brought a lot of other people to Switzer’s as a result of the success we had.”
Switzer can sometimes be interpreted as “gruff,” said Thorndike, but he’s really communicating his expectations to his students in an efficient manner.
“I think he’s developed a way that gets through to children from a younger age. Those younger years are difficult to coach. He’s understood the psychology that gets children beyond a fear level, that they’re able to take in the coaching that he provides. He exudes a level of confidence ... He’s just got a nice easy manner with them. He might sound gruff, but his manner with them in the water, moving their hands and wrists and feet, building that muscle memory and building good swimming technique.
“He has a firm style, but he has a way of reinforcing what he’s done. He says to his kids, ‘You’re doing a good job.’ It might sound gruff, but the words are there. A high five here and there, and a squirt of water tops it off.”
He tells his students when they need to improve something, and he lets them know when they’ve improved, said Thorndike.
“Once the kids get a comfort range in the water, a lot melts away in terms of what people might see as gruffness or fear of the water.” Thorndike said his favorite part of Switzer’s lessons is the last day of the beginner session, when the young children line up, shivering with anticipation, as they cap off their learning by leaping into the deep end. “They look forward to jumping off the diving board for the very first time. Doesn’t get any better than that.”
Switzer, 87, had to take last year off as he recovered from open-heart surgery. But he’s feeling good this summer, and he’s looking forward to doing what he loves. He runs the program with help from his wife, Betsy, and seven instructors.
“I love doing this. I love seeing the program. I like to teach, I like to coach,” he said.
Switzer was born in New Rochelle, New York, and grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts. He learned to swim in a pond, but was more interested in team sports when he was younger. When he was a student at Harvard, he played first base and outfield on the baseball team. He served as an artilleryman in the Army from 1952 to ’54, and then began his career as a teacher turned coach. He worked at private schools in Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, teaching mathematics and coaching football, baseball and basketball, as well as swimming and diving.
“As I went along, I became extremely interested in the coaching of swimming. I knew enough about swimming. I saw what a person was willing to do to become really good. The energy and commitment willing to be spent in the pursuit of perfection was something that I liked,” he said.
In 1965, while he was working for the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Switzer and his wife purchased a home at 199 Squam Lake Road in Sandwich, just down the road from the town beach on Squam Lake, and put in a swimming pool. The lessons began in 1967.
“At the time, people in the area thought we were out of our minds. Why would you put a swimming pool in the middle of the Lakes Region?” His business has thrived ever since, growing only by reputation and word-of-mouth referrals. Like the Thorndikes, there are many families that have sent multiple generations to the Sandwich Aquatic School. Registrations this year are a little lower than usual, and Switzer thinks that’s because the school was closed last year. Most years, though, he has around 450 individual students over the course of his six-week season, and has had as many as 510.
The total number of students Switzer has taught likely exceeds 20,000. Many of those stick out in his memory, including Jane Fonda, who enlisted his services to teach her how to somersault into the water for a scene in “On Golden Pond,” and a 90-year-old woman who came to his school because she decided it finally time for her to learn to swim.
Switzer, who coached at the University of Maine for 19 years, and was inducted into that school’s athletic hall of fame, said he instructs his students in Sandwich to have a technique that could be used as a foundation for either competitive swimming or casual recreation.
“The thing that we emphasize in this school is learning how to swim in a very confident, relaxed and enjoyable way,” he said. In the meantime, students also learn about themselves and that they can expand their own capabilities.
Switzer said, “I expected a lot of myself when I played sports. I expected a lot of my students when I taught math.” Similarly, he sets ambitious expectations for the athletes he coaches – and rewards them for achievement, not participation. At Sandwich Aquatic School, new students must attend for at least two consecutive weeks, he said. “By the end of the first week, we have gained the trust of all of those kids. We can then go a long way.”

06 22 Al Switzer

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Whiskey Barrel books 14 acts to lure Motorcycle Week crowds

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The Houston Bernard Band on stage at the Whiskey Barrel in Laconia Tuesday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — In his other line of work, making custom motorcycle seats, Matt Menengas got to know Laconia Motorcycle Week from the perspective of a vendor at Weirs Beach. Now, as a co-owner and operator of the Whiskey Barrel, a bar and music hall, he’s trying to bring the Motorcycle Week crowd downtown. To entice them, he offers pool and darts in an air-conditioned club, a mechanical bull operated outdoors all week, and a schedule featuring two country-rock bands playing every day through Saturday. Most of the acts are local to New England, while tonight, nationally touring act Moonshine Bandits will take the stage at 8 p.m.
This is the first Motorcycle Week for the Whiskey Barrel, which was opened in February by Menengas and Bernie Goulet, a concert promoter. Goulet also owns a bar with the same name in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he found that country-rock bands consistently draw large crowds. The two brought the concept to Laconia, where the space, much larger than the bar in Haverhill, can accomodate more than 500 people. The Whiskey Barrel has hit that capacity several times this year already, said Menengas.
“It’s been good. I didn’t know what to expect,” he said, adding that he is “happy” with how the business has performed so far. Through data collected through online sales, and anecdotally through his experience checking IDs at the door, he reported that the club is drawing a mix of local patrons looking for something to do in the evening, as well as fans from througout New England who travel to Laconia to see a particular performer. Colt Ford, who performed at the Whiskey Barrel in April, has generated the biggest response, said Menengas, while he’s excited to host the Gin Blossoms, pop-rock band known for 1990s hits such as “Hey, Jealousy” and “Found Out About You,” on Aug. 8.

So far this Motorcycle Week, Menengas has had a challenge drawing crowds during the mid-week shows. However, he said, “The weekend was crazy.” How has the experience matched up to expectations? There weren’t any expectations, he said.
“We had never done it before, we didn’t know what to expect. We just wanted to get as many people down here as we could.”
The Motorcycle Week schedule is a dramatic increase in activity for the music club, which is usually only open from Thursday through Sunday, with a DJ and three bands performing each week. By booking 14 acts, the Whiskey Barrel is trying to make an impression with the motorcycling crowd, and to give them an option for musical entertainment outside of Weirs Beach.
“I would love to try to grow Bike Week back to downtown,” he said. “We wanted to try to grow Bike Week more.”

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Emily Richter works behind the bar at the Whiskey Barrel in downtown Laconia.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


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The Whiskey Barrel in downtown Laconia offers a full line up of bands throughout Motorcycle Week.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)



  • Written by Adam Drapcho
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