New Hampshire's independent spirit, rooted in the Revolutionary War, permeates the seven tourist areas of the Granite State. There is the tranquility of hiking the North Woods, the thrill of skiing the White Mountains, or the allure of boating the Lakes Region. Visitors escape to the Lake Sunapee region to de-stress, commune with nature in the Monadnock region, and explore the state's culture in Merrimack Valley. Here are the best things to do in New Hampshire.
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1.Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
© Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, founded in 1966, is the only New England institution accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. It's dedicated to teaching visitors about ecology through exploring New Hampshire's natural world. They offer an informal public garden, lake cruises, live animal exhibits, and natural science education programs.
Guests can take self-guided or docent-led tours on the impressive grounds, into mature forests, across meadows, and along marsh boardwalks that connect to natural interactive exhibits. While walking or hiking the animal exhibit trail, visitors will have an opportunity to see native animals such as mountain lions, black bears, bobcats, and river otters.
23 Science Center Road, Holderness, NH, Phone: 603-968-7194
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2.McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
© McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center honors Alan Shepard and Sharon McAuliffe while simultaneously inspiring all generations to explore earth and space science, aviation, and astronomy through engaging educational activities. Visitors to the discovery center can explore their collection of over 15 inventive, hands-on exhibits in a fun, high-energy environment.
Two of the most popular exhibits are Living and Working in Space, equipped with simulators and a large-scale space shuttle model, and Sunstruck, where visitors can view the sun on a 3D screen. The center also offers programs and workshops, from Little Explorers to Educators, held in their high-tech observatory and the Planetarium Theater.
2 Institute Drive, Concord, NH, Phone: 603-271-7827
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3.Mount Washington Auto Road
© Mount Washington Auto Road
Mount Washington Auto Road is the oldest manmade attraction in the United States. Opened in 1861, it's the premier self-driving adventure in Eastern North America. Guests may embark on this one-of-a-kind excursion from May to October.
Drivers pass through four distinct climate zones and experience ever-changing weather and terrain on their climb to the highest peak in the Northeast. They're rewarded with dramatic cloud formations, diverse foliage, above-tree line landscapes, and spectacular panoramic mountaintop views. Those who don't want to take on the challenge alone can opt for a Snowcoach guided tour, where they'll breathe easy and enjoy the ride.
1 Mount Washington Auto Road, Gorham, NH, Phone: 603-466-3988
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© Santa's Village
Santa's Village in Jefferson is a year-round amusement-style park that features a variety of activities each season. Guests will have a ball on the wide range of Christmas-themed rides in the park and on slides, splashes, and climbs in the waterpark, aptly named Ho Ho H2O.
There are tons of fun activities like the Christmas Cookie Caper live puppet show, the Polar Theater's 3D animated movie A Tinkerdoodle Christmas, tours of Santa's House, and Christmas Carol-o-key singalongs. The park is open daily from Father's Day to Labor Day and weekends from Labor Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend. Day passes include unlimited park rides, attractions, and performances.
528 Presidential Highway, Jefferson, NH, Phone: 603-586-4445
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5.The Mount Washington Cog Railway
© The Mount Washington Cog Railway
The The Mount Washington Cog Railway provides a completely unique experience aboard a vintage coach steam-powered train or aboard a contemporary eco-friendly locomotive with a biodiesel-powered engine. Both climb Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England.
The 3-hour guided tours gently climb the mountainside while guides explain the rich local history and guests take in panoramic views of the valleys and mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean. At the top of the 6,200-foot mountain, guests can disembark and spend an hour touring the Weather Museum, Mount Washington Observatory, and Sherman Adams Visitor Center, among other attractions.
3168 Base Station Road, Mount Washington, NH, Phone: 603-278-5404
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6.New Hampshire Telephone Museum
© New Hampshire Telephone Museum
The New Hampshire Telephone Museum (NHTM) provides visitors with a fascinating look into the history of telecommunications in the United States. Guests can view over 1,000 artifacts that offer insights into the amazing evolution of the industry.
The NHTM houses collections from the Bartlett and Violette families, who worked in the trade for a combined 85 years, as well as a collection from Garry Mitchell, an original telephone worker from Connecticut, among others. Tours are led by entertaining and knowledgeable staff and cover the industry's highlights such as the invention of the dial system and the race to the patent office.
One Depot Street, Warner, NH, Phone: 603-456-2234
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7.Castle in the Clouds
© Castle in the Clouds
Castle in the Clouds offers guests a chance to explore the 1914 Lucknow mansion, a mountaintop estate built by architectural firm J. Williams Beal & Sons of Boston for Tom and Olive Plant. Open to the public since 1959, visitors have admired its Arts and Crafts architecture, which is an architectural philosophy of existing harmoniously with nature – a combination of handcraftsmanship and technological modernization.
The experience begins at the Carriage House, where guests explore the art gallery of ever-changing exhibits featuring both local artists and student works, followed by a trolley ride, brief orientation, and self-guided tour of the mansion.
RT 171, 455 Old Mountain Road, Moultonborough, NH, Phone: 603-476-5900
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8.Currier Museum of Art
© Currier Museum of Art
The Currier Museum of Art is a world-renowned art museum in Manchester, New Hampshire, featuring photographs, sculptures, decorative arts, and American and European paintings. Visitors will enjoy perusing classic works by LeWitt, Wyeth, Monet, O'Keeffe, and Picasso, to name a few, and will have the opportunity to tour the Zimmerman House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The extensive collections featured at the Currier Museum cover every era from the Renaissance to the present and showcase everything from furniture to glass-blown figures. In addition, guests can opt to partake in one of several programs and classes offered for all experience levels. Read more
150 Ash Street, Manchester, NH, Phone: 603-669-6144
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9.USS Albacore Museum
© USS Albacore Museum
The USS Albacore Museum started out as a research submarine for the US Navy to test features for use on the next generation of submarines. It is currently open to the public as a meticulously preserved vessel providing guests with an in-depth look at the first true underwater submarine.
Visitors begin their journey at the park's visitors center, which houses a museum of historical artifacts and photos of the Albacore as well as additional submarines. The self-guided tour progresses from the visitors center to the submarine and is narrated via audio files recorded by previous crew members and others expounding on the daily happenings aboard the USS Albacore during that time.
600 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH, Phone: 603-436-3680
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© Fuller Gardens
Fuller Gardens are North Hampton's premiere botanical garden facility, originally commissioned in the 1920s by Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller and designed by the firm of legendary landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The lovely gardens, which are housed on Fuller's former summer estate property, are known for their gorgeous Colonial Revival-style rose gardens, which showcase more than 1,700 rose bushes in over 125 varieties. Roses typically bloom between June and October, with grounds open to the public starting in mid-May each year. Other gardens showcased on site include a Japanese-style garden, a dahlia display garden, and English perennial plantings. A gift shop on site offers a variety of gifts and goods for gardeners, bird lovers, and nature enthusiasts.
10 Willow Ave, North Hampton, NH 03862, Phone: 603-964-5414
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11.Canobie Lake Park
© Canobie Lake Park
Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire, is a vintage amusement park with roots dating back to the late 1800s. Over the years, the park went through many transformations until three close friends purchased it together in 1958. They've continually renovated the park throughout the years, adding new rides, games, and concessions, ensuring they remain a New England family-fun leader nearly 100 years later.
Guests will discover a wide range of thrill rides, family and kid-friendly rides, and water rides. Other highlights include arcade and carnival-style games as well as delicious fair-style eats like cotton candy, funnel cakes, and fried ice cream. Read more
85 N Policy Street, Salem, NH, Phone: 603-893-3506
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12.The Woodman Institute Museum
© The Woodman Institute Museum
The Woodman Institute Museum is a science, history, and arts museum in Dover that was originally founded in 1915 by philanthropist Annie E. Woodman, intended to stimulate and supplement lifelong learning and arts appreciation for New Hampshire residents. Today, the museum is housed within four historic homes across an extensive campus, including the 1818 Woodman House, which is home to the museum's mineral, fossil, and taxidermy collection, and the 1675 Damm Garrison House, which preserves Dover's oldest historic house and showcases more than 800 colonial-era artifacts. In the 1813 John Parker Hale House, visitors can learn about the life and career of one of America's most prominent Abolitionists. The 1825 Keefe House also houses an extensive collection of Dover city records. On the museum's grounds, visitors can see Stafford County's oldest sycamore tree, along with several landscaped functional gardens and a preserved 17th-century garrison house.
182 Central Ave, Dover, NH 03820, Phone: 603-742-1038
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13.Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
© Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia is the highest lift access point in New Hampshire. Open seasonally from late spring to mid-fall, guests can ride this exciting 80-passenger cable car to the summit of Cannon Mountain at just under 4,100 feet in less than 10 minutes.
Along the way, visitors can indulge in panoramic mountainous views of Canada, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York. Atop the summit, guests will find a 360-degree observation deck, plus a café and bar. There are also a number of scenic walking, hiking, and biking paths to commune with nature more personally.
260 Tramway Drive, Franconia, NH, Phone: 603-823-8800
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© Bretton Woods
Bretton Woods is the ideal place to enjoy skiing and snowboarding on the East Coast, as well as an array of summer adventures. Winter sports enthusiasts will find 460 acres of alpine skiing on 62 trails and 35 ungroomed glades in three distinct terrain parks.
As New Hampshire's premier ski area, Bretton Woods also features ten lifts, four of which are high-speed quads. The ski resort has racing courses for aspiring junior racers, plus guided winter adventures like mountain skiing, backcountry skiing, and cross-country and snowshoeing tours. Night skiing is also available.
99 Ski Area Road, Bretton Woods, NH, Phone: 603-278-3320
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© Loon Mountain
Loon Mountain provides visitors with over 300 acres of outdoor entertainment. The resort has more than 28 miles of ski and snowboard trails and six terrain parks supported by 12 lifts. Depending on the time of year, guests to Loon Mountain can choose from a variety of activities, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing, ice skating, hiking, and biking.
A few adventure amenities are offered all year round, including zip-lines, sky-ride gondolas, and an indoor rock climbing wall. Guests can also take advantage of special events and activities like the annual Monster Mud Run, Summit Worship Services, or snowboard and ski camps and lessons.
60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, NH, Phone: 603-745-8111
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16.Polar Caves Park
© Polar Caves Park
Polar Caves Park in Rumney is a spelunker's paradise. This is where visitors come to get a first-hand look at why New Hampshire has been dubbed the Granite State. There are nine boulder granite caves – the result of a glacier – tucked away on a cliffside in the midst of a pine forest.
Guests move from cave to cave along a series of boardwalks that allow for easy exploration on self-guided or docent-led tours. At Polar Park Caves, fun activities abound such as picnicking among the tranquil pines, feeding corn to park ducks, guided climbing and rappelling, and sluicing, among others.
705 New Hampshire 25, Rumney, NH, Phone: 603-536-1888
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17.Gunstock Mountain Resort
© Courtesy of per444inka - Fotolia.com
Gunstock Mountain Resort is a year-round, family resort just 90 minutes outside of Boston in Gilford, New Hampshire. It offers a wide variety of seasonal activities, including mountain biking, hiking, alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing. Guests can ride fat tire bikes in the winter across 32 miles of cross-country trails while enjoying views of Lake Winnipesaukee.
The resort claims more than 220 acres of skiable land, accessible day or night, and the largest tubing run in the state. One of the resort's newest highlights is a 6-minute ride on the 4100-foot-long Mountain Coaster, which whizzes among the trees at up to 25 mph.
719 Cherry Valley Road, Gilford, NH, Phone: 603-293-4341
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© Alpine Adventures
From its humble beginnings in 1997, Alpine Adventures has evolved into a world-class outdoor adventure park. It sits on 300 acres in the White Mountains and invites guests to indulge in the biggest zip-line park in New Hampshire. There are three zip-line tours – a tame canopy tour that's perfect for the whole family, a mid-level zip-line tour, and an extreme zip-line adventure with nine lines, six suspension bridges, and a 30-foot vertical ladder climb.
Alpine Adventures' outdoor thrills continue with 90-minute off-road tours aboard custom Pinzgauers, guided backcountry snowshoe tours, and a challenging aerial course that includes a Powerfan free-fall drop and their BigAirBag Stuntzone.
41 Main Street, Lincoln, NH, Phone: 603-745-9911
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19.New Hampshire Motor Speedway
© New Hampshire Motor Speedway
When you have a need for speed, New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) is your New Hampshire destination. They've been providing thrills for racing enthusiasts since 1990. This multi-use complex sits on roughly 1,200 acres with a 1.058-mile oval speedway and 1.6-mile road course, making it the largest sports venue in the New England area.
NHMS can accommodate more than 80,000 visitors each year and hosts several top-notch speedway events and races, including the only NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Monster Energy NASCAR XFINITY Series events. Additionally, they host monthly race weekends and Amateur series events such as the Vintage Racer Group and the Sports Club of America.
1122 Route 106 N, Loudon, NH, Phone: 603-783-4931
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© Charmingfare Farm
Charmingfare Farm is a working farm in Candia, New Hampshire, that raises livestock, grows crops, and offers visitors a wide selection of seasonal activities to delight in. Guests can feed and pet farm animals, join in the CSA program to get their share of weekly vegetable harvests, and hit the trails on horseback when the seasons permit.
In winter months, guests will enjoy festive holiday activities such as sleigh rides – including one that features a cabaret dinner – holiday lights, and live music. Other events and activities that occur throughout the year are hayrides, magic shows, concerts, and pumpkin picking.
774 High Street, Candia, NH, Phone: 603-483-5623
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21.Moffatt - Ladd House & Garden
© Moffatt - Ladd House & Garden
The 1763 Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden has been a National Historic Landmark since 1912. A rarity, this Georgian mansion is one of America's finest reflections of 18th-century architecture. Over the years, it has been carefully renovated and restored to maintain its historical integrity.
It was once the home of William Whipple, New Hampshire representative of the Continental Congress and signatory on the Declaration of Independence. Guests are welcome to take self-guided or docent-led tours of the house and gardens from June to October each year and the site is open to the public for educational, social, and musical events.
154 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH, Phone: 603-436-8221
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22.Children's Museum of New Hampshire
© Children's Museum of New Hampshire
The Children's Museum of New Hampshire is dedicated to inspiring the innovators of the future with hands-on museum experiences. Families will find more than 15 museum exhibits, including the Thinkering and STEAM innovation labs, Dino Detective, and Music Matrix & Sound Watch. Kids will have fun playing interactive games within the exhibits.
Mindball, in the Play it Cool exhibit, pits kids in head-to-head competitions using an electrode headband to see who can stay the most relaxed. This is a great space for keeping kids engaged and making learning fun. In addition, the museum hosts several annual events, including Earth Day Celebration and Books Alive!
6 Washington Street, Dover, NH, Phone: 603-742-2002
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23.Fun Things to Do in NH: SEE Science Center
© SEE Science Center
The SEE Science Center, dedicated in 1986, is an interactive learning center designed to engage the public and foster a better understanding of science, mathematics, technology, and engineering for all ages.
Guests to SEE will have the chance to experience a variety of activities including hands-on exhibits covering subjects like sound, electricity, light, simple machines, forces, and more. The center hosts several traveling exhibits throughout the year, daily demonstrations, educational programs, workshops and mini-courses, and a technology academy. Visitors will appreciate the science center's permanent displays, such as the LEGO Millyard Project, and relish exploring the science gift shop, among other activities.
200 Bedford Street, Manchester, NH, Phone: 603-669-0400
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24.Strawbery Banke Museum
© Strawbery Banke Museum
Strawbery Banke Museum is an outdoor history museum sprawling across 10 acres of downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The museum gives visitors a unique look at over 300 years of American history. Guests can explore more than 40 historic buildings, eight heritage gardens, annual exhibits, traditional crafts, hands-on activities, and local preservation programs.
Museum visitors immerse themselves in an experience of the past with costumed role-players telling tales that utilize a collection of over 30,000 artifacts. These displays allow visitors to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing re-enactments of what life was like in Portsmouth's Puddle Dock neighborhood in the 1700s.
14 Hancock Street, Portsmouth, NH, Phone: 603-433-1100
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25.Mount Washington Observatory
© Mount Washington Observatory
Mount Washington Observatory manages several facilities on Mount Washington's summit and in downtown North Conway, New Hampshire. Guests can choose from a variety of activities all year round, such as touring the weather observation station, where they get a behind-the-scenes look at working and living above 6,000 feet. Extreme Mount Washington offers access to the mountain's peak during winter, which is otherwise only accessible to expert-level ice climbers.
During summer, interactive exhibits feature high-tech simulations of winter conditions like piloting a snowcat, learning about rime ice formation, and exploring data collection under treacherous winter mountain conditions. A unique research library is also available.
2779 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, NH, Phone: 603-356-2137
25 Best Things to Do in New Hampshire
- Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, Photo: Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
- McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, Photo: McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
- Mount Washington Auto Road, Photo: Mount Washington Auto Road
- Santa's Village, Photo: Santa's Village
- The Mount Washington Cog Railway, Photo: The Mount Washington Cog Railway
- New Hampshire Telephone Museum, Photo: New Hampshire Telephone Museum
- Castle in the Clouds, Photo: Castle in the Clouds
- Currier Museum of Art, Photo: Currier Museum of Art
- USS Albacore Museum, Photo: USS Albacore Museum
- Fuller Gardens, Photo: Fuller Gardens
- Canobie Lake Park, Photo: Canobie Lake Park
- The Woodman Institute Museum, Photo: The Woodman Institute Museum
- Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, Photo: Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
- Bretton Woods, Photo: Bretton Woods
- Loon Mountain, Photo: Loon Mountain
- Polar Caves Park, Photo: Polar Caves Park
- Gunstock Mountain Resort, Photo: Courtesy of per444inka - Fotolia.com
- Alpine Adventures, Photo: Alpine Adventures
- New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Photo: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
- Charmingfare Farm, Photo: Charmingfare Farm
- Moffatt - Ladd House & Garden, Photo: Moffatt - Ladd House & Garden
- Children's Museum of New Hampshire, Photo: Children's Museum of New Hampshire
- Fun Things to Do in NH: SEE Science Center, Photo: SEE Science Center
- Strawbery Banke Museum, Photo: Strawbery Banke Museum
- Mount Washington Observatory, Photo: Mount Washington Observatory
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of rruntsch - Fotolia.com
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire, is the location of the studio, home, and gardens of one of America's finest sculptors, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Visitors to this site will have the chance to explore the impressive grounds featuring over 100 pieces of his artwork in both galleries and throughout the property.
Everything from gold coins and relief portraits to stately heroic monuments like The Shaw Memorial can be viewed within the Saint-Gaudens estate. In addition, guests can participate in a wide range of seasonal, educational, and artistic activities from summer concerts and nature hikes to snowshoe tours and sculpture classes.
139 Saint Gaudens Road, Cornish, NH, Phone: 603-675-2175
Wright Museum of WWII
The Wright Museum of WWII was founded by visionary David Wright and opened in 1994. This nationally recognized museum is dedicated to the WWII era, when all Americans, at home and abroad, came together behind a common cause. Guests can tour the 20,000-square-foot museum featuring over 14,000 items in their collections of battlefield and home-front memorabilia, including operational military vehicles.
The Wright Museum also hosts traveling exhibits such as the Anne Frank exhibit, D-Day photographs, and the WWII Home Front Challenge Quilts exhibit. The museum provides educational programs and tours for all ages in the interest of expanding their guardianship of this cultural period.
77 Center Street, Wolfeboro, NH, Phone: 603-569-1212