Sitting beside Route 3 in northern New Hampshire, Clark’s Trading Post is a modest theme park preserving the eccentric and wonderful tradition of the New England roadside attraction.
The majority of the park’s campus is a recreation of turn-of-the-twentieth century “main street” America, complete with a fire house, car garage, and ice cream parlor. The majority of these buildings actually house museums, which are informal in arrangement, and yet boast impressive collections of “old time Americana,” including electrical, mechanical, automotive, musical, and entertainment artifacts. There’s even an exhibit dedicated solely to Moxie, a soft drink beloved to many New Englanders. And visitors should bring plenty of nickels and dimes to drop into the impressive collection of fully functional coin-operated player pianos and mutoscopes scattered throughout the park.
But Clark’s Trading Post is best known not for its museums, but the Bear Show and steam-powered train rides that run at timed intervals throughout the day. Since 1949, the park has featured trained black bears that perform tricks such as swinging, dunking basketballs, rolling on barrels, and riding scooters – all performed at the incentive of ice cream licks. Nearly as notorious is the scenic locomotive ride into the woods, where visitors are delighted (and perhaps perplexed) to meet the Wolfman – a scruffy bearded “backwoods recluse” who chases after the train in a ramshackle tractor. Classic New England fun!
Clark’s Trading Post has been around since 1928, opening first as a roadside attraction featuring sled dogs (now absent, though there’s now a sled dog museum). Beyond black bears and Wolfman, the park features Segway tours, mind-trick attractions, and other unique amusements and shops.
Update April 2018: Sadly, the Wolfman has passed away.