North Conway is a census-designated place (CDP) in eastern Carroll County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 2,349 at the 2010 census. A year-round resort area, North Conway is the largest village within the town of Conway, which is bounded on the east by the Maine state line. The White Mountain National Forest is to the west and north. Conway is home to Cathedral Ledge (popular with climbers), Echo Lake State Park, and Mount Cranmore. North Conway is known for its large number of outlet shops.
Chartered in 1765 by Colonial Governor Benning Wentworth, the town is named for Henry Seymour Conway, ambitious son of a prominent English family, who was elected to the House of Commons at age twenty, fought at Culloden, and became Secretary of State. Early settlers called the area Pequawket (known colloquially as Pigwacket), adopting the name of the Abenaki Indian village which stretched down the Saco River to its stockaded center at Fryeburg, Maine.
North Conway is located in the White Mountains, with Mount Washington located to the northwest. The rugged terrain became popular in the 19th century with artists. Their paintings were known collectively as White Mountain art, which in turn attracted tourists to the area, particularly after the Portsmouth, Great Falls & Conway Railroad extended service in 1872 to North Conway. In 1874, the line built a Second Empire depot, designed by Nathaniel J. Bradlee. In 1932, "snow trains" began carrying enthusiasts to "the birthplace of American skiing," as North Conway is known.
Increasing automobile travel brought the decline of trains. The railroad, then part of the Boston & Maine, abandoned passenger service to the area in 1961, and freight service in 1972. Subsequently, the Conway Scenic Railroad was established. Today, the line offers visitors a tour of the region, including Crawford Notch. The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the late 1980s, the White Mountain Airport closed and was redeveloped as a large outlet mall called Settlers' Green Outlet Village. Continued growth through the 1990s and 2000s in North Conway and the villages nearby made Conway the most populous community in Carroll County. Traffic congestion led to an overhaul of the road system, including widening Route 16 through North Conway village and constructing a road parallel to Route 16 to allow traffic to move between Redstone and Intervale uninterrupted. A bypass of the area is being developed.
North Conway remains a popular destination due to its shopping, recreation, and attractions.