New Hampshire has plenty of fantastic day trips to offer, whether you're interested in history, nature, or art. Portsmouth is the cultural and commercial hub of the The Seacoast Region, offering plenty to see and do.
On your day trip, visit the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, the Canterbury Shaker Village, admire the artwork at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, or learn about the history of the American Revolution in the town of Exeter.
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Portsmouth is a lovely port town full of historic charm. The downtown Market Square is a wonderful spot to shop, while the ten-acre waterfront Prescott Park is the perfect place to go if you want to relax with a view of the water.
During the warmer season, there are several great beaches to choose from in the area. Year-round, you can visit The Warner House, Governor John Langdon House, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion and other historic attractions on your weekend getaway.
2. Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
A visit to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is a great idea for a family-friendly day trip in New Hampshire. Located on Route 113 in Holderness, the center is set around the beautiful Squam Lakes, which form the backdrop to your wildlife and nature adventure. There is a brilliant 2.5 hour Adventure Trail which takes you on a walk through a variety of habitats which are home to native animals like black bears, mountain lion, otters and more.
The center offers several special exhibits and educational programs including their Blue Heron School and Bald Eagle Adventure and you can also take a cruise on the lake to see some wonderful birds and other wildlife. Admission includes the live animal exhibit trail and all hiking trails. If you plan to visit a few times, consider becoming a member to receive free admission and support the non-profit nature center.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, 23 Science Center Rd, Holderness, NH 03245, Phone: 603 968 2229
3. Canterbury Shaker Village
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One of the best-preserved Shaker community sites in the country, the Canterbury Shaker Village was established in the late 18th-century and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The site features 29 buildings, 25 of which date back to when the community was built, and visitors are welcome to explore the property at their leisure. Guided tours are included in the price of admission, and visitors will get to watch live artisan demonstrations of traditional crafts like spinning an broom making. If you get hungry, there's also an on-site restaurant that specializes in traditional Quaker cuisine, although it's closed during the winter.
288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury, NH 03224, Phone: 603-783-9511
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First settled in 1638, Exeter is a charming river town with tree-lined streets and a wonderfully walkable downtown core. The historic 1709 Gilman Garrison House is sometimes open to the public for tours, while Gilman Park and the Swasey Parkway are the perfect place to go if you want to enjoy New Hampshire’s natural beauty. The town was also the state's capital during the Revolution, and visitors can learn about this important part of the country's history at the American Independence Museum, which hosts a historic festival with a battle re-enactment at the end of every July.
5. Franconia Notch State Park
Nestled in the spectacular White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Notch State Park is a nature lover's paradise. The best-known feature in the park is the majestic Flume Gorge, a natural chasm that stretches for 800 feet along the base of Mount Liberty, and it's well worth taking the 2-mile loop trail that runs through the chasm. After visiting the gorge, you can fish in Profile Lake, take the aerial tramway up Cannon Mountain, and relax on Echo Lake Beach. If you bring your bike, you can also cycle along the Franconia Notch Bike Path, which runs the entire length of the park.
Franconia Notch State Park, Flume Gorge, Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251, Phone: 603-823-8800
Gorham is a small town in the Mount Washington Valley, and although there's not much to do in the town itself, it's the perfect place to base yourself if you're interested in exploring the surrounding mountains. As the tallest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington is a challenging but rewarding hiking destination, although most day trip visitors choose to drive to the summit along the fame Auto Road rather than walk. Mount Adams and Mount Jefferson are two other popular hiking destinations nearby, and if you like to ski or snowboard, Wildcat Mountain is home to a wonderful ski resort.
7. Hampton Beach
Set on the Atlantic Coast, Hampton Beach is a busy beach resort town that has been a popular vacation destination since the 1840s. Hampton Beach State Park is the best place to fish and swim, but if you're looking for shops and restaurants, you'll want to head to Ocean Boulevard, which features a boardwalk and plenty of local businesses. There are also a number of special events held here, particularly during the summer, with highlights including the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival and the annual Sand Sculpting Competition.
Named in honor of John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, Hancock is a peaceful village that looks much the same as it did in the 19th century. Everything in the town is within walking distance, including the beach and the town square, and the downtown Main Street is lined with buildings listed on the Register of Historic Places. One of the town's most popular spots is Norway Pond, which can be used for swimming in the summer and skating in the winter. A few miles outside town is the Harris Center, a nature preserve with plenty of beautiful walking trails.
Best known as the home of Dartmouth College, Hanover is a small but inviting city located on the banks of the Connecticut River. It's worth visiting the Dartmouth campus to relax on the beautiful green, and if you like museums, three of the town's best are the Montshire Museum of Science, the Enfield Shaker Museum, and the Hood Museum of Art. Visitors can also hike along the portion of the Appalachian Trail that runs through town, and in the winter, you can downhill ski on Whaleback Mountain or cross-country ski at the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center.
The town of Harrisville sprung up during America’s Industrial Revolution, and today, it's a National Historic Landmark and the only preserved mill town in New England. Guided audio tours can be borrowed from the library by anyone who would like to conduct a self-guided walking tour of the town's most significant sites, with highlights including the Harrisville General Store, the town's two original textile mills, and a handful of historic homes. There are also nine ponds and lakes dotted throughout the town, some of which are excellent for fishing and swimming when the weather permits.
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Surrounded on three sides by the White Mountain National Forest, Jackson is a relaxing resort town with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation all throughout the year. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails for visitors to explore during the summer, but if you're not interested in hiking, you can cycle along the peaceful back roads, go fishing, or rent a kayak and paddle around one of the local lakes. During the winter, the area turns into a downhill skier's paradise, but other popular winter activities include snowshoeing, ice skating, and taking horse-drawn sleigh rides at Nestlenook Farm.
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The seat of Cheshire County, Keene is a small but picturesque town with a vibrant community. The most recognizable site in town is the white-steeple United Church of Christ in the Main Square, but the downtown core boasts an excellent selection of restaurants and shops for visitors to enjoy, including both modern shopping centers and quirky, locally owned boutique shops. If you want to get out of town for a bit, drive around the surrounding country roads and admire the covered bridges, spend some time hiking in Beech Hill Preserve, or go fishing in Surry Mountain Lake. More things to do in Keene
Set on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River, right next to the Vermont state line, the town of Littleton is known for its natural beauty and its funky downtown core. Shoppers will love the eclectic array of downtown shops, while sell everything from quirky toys to piles of colorful candy. If you're a nature lover, the riverwalk is a wonderful place to stretch your legs. Summer brings with it a host of street performers and exciting festivals, but some believe that an even better time to visit is in the fall, when the leaves burst into color.
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If you want the best of New Hampshire's lakes and mountains, the unpretentious little town of Meredith is a wonderful choice. Swimming and boating on Lake Winnepeusakee are two of the most popular activities in the summer, but the lake's appeal doesn't end when the summer is over; it's surrounded by a network of walking paths that provide access to some of the most beautiful nature in New Hampshire. Right across from the lake is the Mills Falls Marketplace, an eclectic shopping destination where visitors can find everything from local maple products to handcrafted wooden furniture.
15. North Conway
Tucked amidst the foothills of the White Mountains, North Conway is a four-season vacation paradise. The surrounding mountains are laced with excellent hiking trails and climbing routes, but if you'd rather take it easy, you can hop aboard the Conway Scenic Railroad for a picturesque ride to the nearby town of Fabyan. However, winter is the season when the town truly shines. The snow turns the mountains into a winter wonderland, and there are more than ten ski resorts within a half-hour drive of the town, providing ample of opportunities for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
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New Hampshire is the perfect state to visit if you have an interest in history, and the town of Northwood is certainly no exception. It's best known as part of the famed “Antique Alley” on Route 4, and there are treasures of all shapes and sizes to be found here, including the knick knacks at Parker French Antique Center. If you'd rather spend some time in nature than browse antique stores, you can also head to one of the many lakes in the area, many of which boast excellent fishing.
Filled with antique stores and sandwiched between the Contoocook River and the mountains of western New Hampshire, Peterborough is a truly charming town with something to offer everyone. The MacDowell Colony artists' residence has turned the town into an art hub, and if you'd like some art to take home, stop by the New England Art Exchange. Of course, you need to spend some time enjoying the lovely nature as well, so go for a swim in Edward MacDowell Lake, explore the trails in Temple Mountain Reservation, or hike or drive up to the top of Pack Monadnock.
18. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
The former home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the country's most accomplished and influential sculptors, the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is a wonderful testament to American art and culture. More than 100 pieces of original Saint-Gaudens art are displayed throughout the 190-acre property, and there are often also special exhibits that feature other great artists. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds on their own all throughout the year, and guided tours of the buildings are offered between the end of May and the end of October. During the summer, live music concerts take place every Sunday afternoon.
139 St Gaudens Rd, Cornish, NH 03745, Phone: 603-675-2175
19. Sculptured Rocks Natural Area
Encompassing just over 270 acres of land, the Sculptured Rocks Natural Area is a uniquely beautiful site along the Cockermouth River. Over thousands of years, the water has carved out a narrow canyon with incredibly smooth, curved walls, many of which form shapes that look like they were created intentionally by human hands. A short bridge leads across the canyon, providing stunning views of the rock formations below, and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore on the other side. During the summer, visitors also come here to swim in the river, but there tend to be fewer crowds during the colder months.
251 Sculptured Rocks Rd, Hebron, NH 03241, Phone: 603-227-8745
20. Sugar Hill
Hidden away in a peaceful corner of the White Mountains, Sugar Hill is a classic New England town with a white-steepled church and a handful of eclectic shops. It's a pleasant place to visit no matter what the time of year, but the best time to come in in June, when the town and the surrounding countryside come alive with pink and purple lupines. The town holds a wonderful festival with live music performances and local vendors, but the biggest attraction is the flowers, and you'll want to spend much of your time simply strolling around and admiring the blooms.
Set in the shadows of the towering Mount Chocorua, Tamworth is a delightful little village surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature in New England. The peaceful Chocorua Lake is a fantastic place to swim or canoe, and if you're up for a challenge, you can take one of the many trails that lead up to the summit of Mount Chocorua. If you want to sample some local beverages, do a tasting at the Whipple Tree Winery or visit the Tamworth Distilling & Mercantile, where the spirits are made entirely from local grains flavored with local fruits and botanicals.
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22. The Isles of Shoals
A series of nine small islands sitting in the Gulf of Maine approximately seven miles off the coast, the Isles of Shoals are one of the best summer destinations in New England. Of course, the islands can only be reached by boat, and there are several tour companies offering narrated sightseeing cruises that take passengers around all nine of the islands. If you want to set foot on land, you'll probably end up on Star Island, where you can fish off the pier, stroll past the tiny wooden cottages, and grab a drink or a snack at the Oceanic Hotel.
23. The Mount Washington Cog Railway
Sometimes referred to simply as "The Cog", the Mount Washington Cog Railway was the first railway of its kind in the world. It's an incredible example of 19th-century innovation, and although a few changes have been made since it was completed in 1866, it still transports visitors up and down Mount Washington just as it's been doing for more than 150 years. The scenic ride takes approximately one hour each way, and once at the top, visitors will be given an additional hour to explore the Visitor Center, mail a postcard from the post office, and admire the spectacular views.
3168 Base Station Rd, Bretton Woods, NH 03589, Phone: 603-278-5404
24. White Mountain National Forest
Sprawling across almost 800,000 acres in New Hampshire and Maine, the White Mountain National Forest offers endless opportunities for world-class outdoor recreation. The best-known feature in the park is Mount Washington, the highest summit in the northeast, but there are dozens of other mountains for visitors to explore as well. Hiking and biking are two of the most popular activities in the summer, and winter brings with it some truly excellent skiing. Visitors can also drive along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, take a cruise on the beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee, or take the aerial tramway up to the top of Cannon Mountain.
71 White Mountain Dr, Campton, NH 03223, Phone: 603-536-6100
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