Nestled between Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, New Hampshire is a popular year-round getaway destination. The state is renowned for its historic homes and heritage museums to explore, charming small towns, lakes, beaches, bustling culture-filled cities, and wide open spaces waiting to be explored. Here are the best places to visit in New Hampshire.
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Concord is the capital of New Hampshire and offers visitors a variety of interesting, fun, and educational attractions. You can start your visit in the revitalized downtown, which forms the hub of the city and serves as the starting point for a tour of the impressive New Hampshire State House.
Concord has a thriving arts scene you can uncover at the Millbrook Gallery and Sculpture Garden, McGowan Fine Art, or the Capitol Center for the Arts. Families can have some educational fun at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. You can spend time outdoors along some of the 30 hiking trails or go kayaking with Quickwater Canoe and Kayak.
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Portsmouth was settled in 1623, making it the third-oldest town in the USA. Consequently, history buffs will find plenty of interesting museums and historic sites to explore, starting with the Strawbery Banke Historic District.
Here you can visit a few historic homesteads that date back to around 1760 and then move on to tour some museums, including the American Independence Museum and the Discover Portsmouth Center. For a break from history you can visit Hampton Beach, go on a whale watching boat tour or an Adventure Lobster Tour, hit the Lighthouse trail, or visit a few local breweries. Families should make time to visit the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, York Wild Kingdom, Water Country, and the Seacoast Science Center. Things to Do in Portsmouth
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Nashua is New Hampshire’s second largest city and has a good mix of historic, cultural, and outdoor activities on offer. There is a well-preserved collection of historic buildings that you can tour on foot in the Nashville Historic District just north of Downtown. Be sure to include a visit to the Abbott-Spalding Building (one of the oldest dating back to 1804 that now operates as a museum).
While you are in the area you can take a detour to Greeley Park, which is a large green space offering ball-fields, gardens, hiking trails, and a boat ramp. For more hiking choices, you should head to Mine Falls Park, which is also good for cycling, picnics, and kayaking on the river. Art lovers should visit in October to enjoy the annual Art Walk Weekend.
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Manchester is known as New Hampshire’s business capital, but there are also many fun activities for visitors here. You can choose from two Historic Walking Tours, both of which showcase historic architecture and include interesting museums and landmarks.
The arts are very much alive and well in Manchester, and you can feast your eyes on the great collection at the Currier Museum of Art or catch a live performance at the Majestic Theatre or Palace Theater. The city has a large selection of parks and recreation areas where you can go hiking and biking, and in winter the McIntyre Ski Area beckons skiers and snowboarders. The interactive SEE Science Center is a must-do attraction for families. Things to Do in Manchester
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Hanover ticks all the boxes for a great New-England style holiday along the scenic Connecticut River. There are excellent indoor and outdoor attractions for all ages and seasons, and you will never have a dull moment. You could start your visit at the hands-on Montshire Museum of Science, or learn about history at Old Constitution House and the Enfield Shaker Museum.
Outdoor enthusiasts can try canoeing with the Ledyard Canoe Company, hike along a portion of the Appalachian Trail, or head to the Dartmouth Skiway and Suicide Six Ski Areas for winter fun. To admire the stunning fall colors you can hop aboard the Fall Foliage Train Ride. Foodies head to the Sugarbush Cheese and Maple Farm for local produce.
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The City of Keene exudes small-town charm and offers visitors an interesting and relaxing getaway destination. Absorb the atmosphere as you stroll through the picturesque downtown, which contains a mix of historic and modern buildings housing restaurants and shops and a colorful Central Square.
You can introduce the children to a real working farm at Stonewall Farm, go on a scenic drive to find Covered Bridges, or go hiking in Mount Monadnock area. You can learn about the town’s history at the Wyman Tavern Museum and the Horatio Colony Museum, which is housed in a historic building dating back to 1806. Round off your day with a great New Hampshire dinner and then catch a show at the Colonial Theatre or the Peterborough Community Theatre.
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Salem is situated at the southern gateway to New Hampshire and offers easy access to Boston, which makes this little rural town an ideal base for exploring the area. For a day of family fun you can head to Canobie Lake Park to enjoy over 40 rides, including some specially suited to children; if you visit in summer you may catch an open-air concert.
Astronomy enthusiasts will enjoy America’s Stonehenge where you will learn about the mysterious astronomic rock calendar. The kids can enjoy the petting zoo, and you can hike some of the trails. You can also go hiking in Salem Town Forests where the trails are particularly scenic in fall. The Mall at Rockingham Park beckons shoppers with over 150 stores and more than ten eateries.
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Originally settled in 1623, Dover is New Hampshire’s oldest town, and wherever you look there are historic buildings and sites to delight history buffs. You can take a walking tour along the streets around downtown where you can see the old restored cotton mills, now home to interesting modern shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is a must-visit attraction for families, and those wanting to see a really unusual and whacky museum should not miss the Woodman Institute Museum. Outdoor enthusiasts can follow the Riverwalk from Downtown to the Cocheco River where canoeing and kayaking are popular summer activities. There are also many hiking trails to explore and several annual festivals and events to attend.
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Rochester is nestled in the picturesque Lakes Region of New Hampshire and offers visitors a blend of small-town charm combined with city attractions. Lovers of the arts will be delighted to visit one of the revolving venues of the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts or attend the opera at the Rochester Opera House.
You can learn about local history at the Historical Society’s Museum on Hanson Street or get outdoors and be active in the Mount Isinglass Recreational Area or at Pickering Ponds, where there are a choice of hiking trails. You can also go hiking, camping, and boating at Baxter Lake and Sunrise Lake or take a scenic drive in the surrounding countryside to see the fall foliage.
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The town of Plymouth is perfectly positioned between the White Mountains and the Lakes region of New Hampshire, offering visitors a great choice of outdoor activities. Starting close to town, you can go hiking, biking, or cross-country skiing in Langdon Park, which also has a children’s playground and a small river beach.
A little farther out you will find Tenney Mountain, where you can go rock climbing, kayaking, biking, and fishing in summer and skiing in winter – guides and lessons are available. Adventure seekers will particularly enjoy Adventure Gorge, which combines a chairlift ride with a thrilling 3,000-foot zip-line descent. Back in town you can enjoy a great New Hampshire dinner and catch a show at the Silver Center for the Arts.
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The town of Derry is situated in Rockingham County in New Hampshire around 45 miles from Boston. There are good outdoor recreational activities for visitors, and the town’s close proximity to Boston, Manchester, Nashua, and Lawrence make Derry a good base for exploring the region.
You can take a guided tour of the Robert Frost Farm State Historic Site to learn all about the New Hampshire’s most note-worthy poet, or spend a day in the Taylor Mill State Historic Site in Ballard Forest, where besides touring the old mill you can also go hiking, kayaking, fishing, and picnicking. Back in town you can visit several local breweries, play a round of golf, or enjoy a hot-air balloon adventure with High 5 Ballooning.
12.New Hampshire Attractions: Franconia Notch State Park
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The Franconia Notch State Park is located right in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest and beckons visitors with gorgeous scenery and great outdoor recreational activities.
You can drive the very scenic Franconia Notch mountain pass for wonderful views and stop at the Flume Gorge Visitor’s Center to walk through the dramatic 70 to 90-foot deep gorge.
You can take a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and visit the New England Ski Museum at the base station. Other activities to enjoy in the park include camping (both tents and RV’s are catered for), fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, cycling and hiking in summer, and a full range of snow-sports in winter.
13.Echo Lake/Cathedral Ledge State Park
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Situated in Bartlett, New Hampshire, the Echo Lake State Park provides an excellent outdoor playground for both families and adventure seekers. At the heart of the park lies Echo Lake, watched over by the towering 700-foot Cathedral Ledge.
You can start your visit by taking a short one-mile drive to the top of Cathedral Ledge for sweeping views all the way to the White Mountains, or if you are feeling more energetic you can hike up to the viewpoint via various trails. Echo Lake is perfect for swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing and both Cathedral Ledge and the near-by White Horse Ledge provide adventure seekers with excellent rock and ice-climbing walls.
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Walking though Flume Gorge is definitely one of the highlights of any visit to the Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountain National Forest. Before you walk through the Gorge you can drop by the Visitor’s Center to watch a 20-min movie that showcases the beautiful Park. Flume Gorge is quite dramatic – the sheer walls of the gorge are up to 90 feet high in places and are just 12 to 20 feet apart.
You can walk along the floor of the gorge along a boardwalk to see some impressive waterfalls and glacial boulders. If you like, you can extend your walk to include Liberty Gorge where a lovely cascading stream flows through the narrow valley.
15.New Hampshire Attractions: Hampton Beach State Park
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If you are looking for an ideal seaside family holiday destination, chances are that Hampton Beach State Park will suit you perfectly. Campers will be delighted to know that they can bring their tent or RV to the campsite situated directly on the beach at the mouth of the Hampton River.
From here you will have fantastic Atlantic Ocean views and access to miles and miles of clean sandy beaches perfect for swimming and fishing. If you are a day visitor, you can enjoy the picnic facilities and the children’s playground. Near-by area attractions include whale-watching tours and fishing charters, Para-sailing, surfing, and stand-up paddling.
16.Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves
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The fascinating Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in the White Mountains were carved out of the earth by wind, water, and massive receding glaciers during the Ice Age. Today you can explore this beautiful gorge on foot along a boardwalk, or you can be more daring and venture into some of the many caves.
Joining one of the regular sun-set guided Lantern Light Tours is a highlight of any visit to Boulder Caves. In addition to the boardwalk path, you can also hike the Kinsman Notch Ecology Trail and the Nature Garden Walk, and experienced fit hikers can take on the Dilly Cliff Trail. Children can pan for gemstones or join the Junior Gorge Guide program. The Gorge is open from May to October.
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Prescott Park is a large public green space alongside the Piscataqua River on what was once a derelict piece of ground in the Portsmouth waterfront. Josie and Sarah Prescott donated the park to the citizens of Portsmouth, and it has become a popular site for summer festivals. You can enjoy strolling through the lovely gardens, which feature formal gardens, lawns, fountains, and experimental flower beds.
There are three boardwalk piers and a public docking area, so you can bring your boat and explore neighboring Four Tree Island, which has picnic tables and barbecue grills. There are also a few historic buildings to admire including the 200-year old Shaw’s Warehouse, which features the original all-wood construction and Sheaf’s Warehouse, which dates back to 1705.
18.Mine Falls Park
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Mine Falls Park covers 325 acres of sprawling green space in the heart of Nashua City where locals and visitors will find a shady oasis perfect for recreational activities. You can visit the park to play some baseball or soccer or simply take a walk in the green verdant surroundings.
Both walkers and hikers can enjoy six miles of trails that wind along the banks of the hand-dug canal, which dates back to the 1880s and was used to bring in water to power local mills. You can cycle the paved area of the trail or bring a mountain bike to tackle the graveled parts. Many people come to the park to fish or enjoy boating on the Nashua River, and in winter you can bring snow shoes or cross-country skis.
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19.New Hampshire Attractions: Sabbaday Falls
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A short and easy hike along the Sabbaday Brook Trail, which you can find just off Route 112/Kancamagus Highway, will bring you to one of New Hampshire’s most beautiful waterfalls in less than half a mile. The Sabbaday Falls are the most striking feature of a deep rocky gorge thought to have been formed when Ice Age Glaciers carved deep fissures into the earth’s surface.
You can follow the paved path, walking bridges, and steps to see all three sections of the waterfall, which drops a dramatic 35 feet in a series of cascades, ending in a beautiful natural rock pool at the base. (Unfortunately, no swimming is allowed).
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20.West Rattlesnake Mountain
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If you enjoy hiking, wide open spaces, and rare plants then visiting West Rattlesnake Mountain near Holderness, New Hampshire is a must-do activity to add to your itinerary. You can reach the summit of the mountain along Old Bridle Path and Ridge Trail in about ninety minutes (or less, depending on your fitness levels and how much time you spend admiring the scenery), and the hike is considered to be easy/moderate.
At the summit you will be rewarded for you efforts by sweeping views of Squam Lake and its many islands. The trail is suitable for dogs (on leads), and you could bring a picnic to enjoy under a shady tree.
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21.Isles of Shoals
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The Isles of Shoals are a group of nine small islands located off the east coast of New Hampshire and Maine near Portsmouth. Most of the islands are privately owned and off limits to visitors, but you can visit Star Island and stay overnight in the old Oceanic Hotel, which first opened in 1873, or in one of a few Victorian era guesthouses.
The only way to reach Star Island is to hop aboard an Isles of Shoals Steamship Company Cruise during the summer months. The scenic cruises are narrated, and you can go on a guided walking tour of the island when you arrive. Several other companies offer cruises around the Isles of Shoals, but none of them have docking privileges.
22.New Hampshire Points of Interest: Odiorne Point State Park
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Odiorne Point State Park occupies a rugged sea-front piece of land in Rye, near Portsmouth, and it is the site of the first European occupation in New Hampshire. Odiorne Point is a day-use park, and there is a long list of activities for all ages including boating, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, as well as miles of trails for mountain biking and walking, many of which are handicap accessible.
Children can enjoy exploring the rock pool and having fun in the playground, and everyone will love the hands-on activities at the Seacoast Science Center. You can bring along a picnic and enjoy a great family day out.
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23.White Mountains National Park
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The fabulous White Mountains National Park is an ideal destination for all nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities for all abilities. If you enjoy hiking, you will love this park – there are over 1200 miles of trails from easy family strolls to strenuous high-altitude hikes.
You can also go back-country hiking and enjoy some primitive camping. Other activities include boating on Elbow Pond, fishing, picnicking, rock climbing, and wildlife watching. Children will enjoy gold panning and rock hounding or enrolling in a Junior Ranger program. In winter there is a full menu of winter sports to enjoy, including skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tubing and snowmobiling. Camping enthusiasts have over twenty-three campgrounds to choose from.
24.New Hampshire Points of Interest: Madame Sherri Forest
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The Madame Sherri Forest near Chesterfield in New Hampshire is named after the eccentric and rather infamous Madame Antoinette Sherri, who once lived in an extravagant “castle” on the site of the forest. The forest is the starting point of one of the region’s most popular hiking trails, the Ann Stokes Loop Trail, which winds through two miles of beautiful New Hampshire landscape and covers several different terrains.
Along the way you will be able to see all that remains of the Madame Sherri “castle” after it was destroyed by a fire in 1962. Remnants of the chimney, foundations, and a grand staircase will give you an idea of the grand scale of the former building. Hikers can also explore several other scenic trails in the forest.
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Peirce Island juts into the Piscataqua River just south of Portsmouth and provides locals and visitors with a 27-acre recreational area. Here you can come and explore an unexpected variety of interesting features that include tidal pools, meadows, salt marshes, and rocky cliffs, all surrounded by the Piscataqua River, which offers good boating opportunities.
You can go kayaking or canoeing on the protected waters of Little Harbor or sail off to Great Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. You can enjoy swimming in an enormous 100-meter outdoor swimming pool or set off to walk along several walking trails that will lead you to picnic areas and very scenic lookout points. The island is a popular jump off site for scuba diving with good marine life to be observed.
25 Best Places to Visit in New Hampshire
- Concord, Photo: Courtesy of jiawangkun - Fotolia.com
- Portsmouth, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Nashua, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Manchester, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Hanover, Photo: Courtesy of spirit of america - Fotolia.com
- Keene, Photo: Courtesy of duke2015 - Fotolia.com
- Salem, Photo: Courtesy of nd700- Fotolia.com
- Dover, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Rochester, Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 - Fotolia.com
- Plymouth, Photo: Courtesy of duke2015 - Fotolia.com
- Derry, Photo: Courtesy of clements photo - Fotolia.com
- New Hampshire Attractions: Franconia Notch State Park, Photo: Courtesy of catuncia - Fotolia.com
- Echo Lake/Cathedral Ledge State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Ritu Jethani - Fotolia.com
- Flume Gorge, Photo: Courtesy of littleny - Fotolia.com
- New Hampshire Attractions: Hampton Beach State Park, Photo: Courtesy of jon bilous - Fotolia.com
- Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, Photo: Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves
- Prescott Park, Photo: Courtesy of jon bilous - Fotolia.com
- Mine Falls Park, Photo: Courtesy of Dave - Fotolia.com
- New Hampshire Attractions: Sabbaday Falls, Photo: Courtesy of elrepho - Fotolia.com
- West Rattlesnake Mountain, Photo: Courtesy of khlongwangchao - Fotolia.com
- Isles of Shoals, Photo: Courtesy of Paul Lemke - Fotolia.com
- New Hampshire Points of Interest: Odiorne Point State Park, Photo: Courtesy of eye emudo - Fotolia.com
- White Mountains National Park, Photo: Courtesy of lowphoto - Fotolia.com
- New Hampshire Points of Interest: Madame Sherri Forest, Photo: Courtesy of duke 2015 - Fotolia.com
- Peirce Island, Photo: Courtesy of viktor 2013 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com