Top 10 things to do in New Hampshire
While it may be small in size, this state that shares a border with Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, as well as a having a slice of Atlantic Coastline and Canada to its north, packs a punch when it comes to things to see and do. From a rich history to explore, jaw-dropping scenic beauty that includes New England’s highest peak to outstanding shopping and dining, spectator sports and an abundance of wildlife, New Hampshire truly offers it all. With so much to choose from, this list can help you make the most of your time in the Granite State.
Indulge your sweet tooth at Kellerhaus
Where: 259 Endicott Street N, Laconia
What: The oldest candy shop in New Hampshire, Kellerhaus has been making candy since 1906. In the 1920's, it began serving homemade ice cream, and today, it still turns out some incredibly delicious truffles, fudge, filled chocolates and maple products, as well as that delectable frozen dessert.
Highlights: If you have a serious sweet tooth, indulge it by taking advantage of the make-your-own sundae ice cream buffet, piling on any and all of the mouth-watering toppings for a unique customised treat, and be sure to pick up some ribbon candy while you’re there. It makes an ideal souvenir to take back home, as this is one of the few spots left in the world that still makes it by hand. Kellerhaus also hosts a gift shop where you can stock up on all sorts of other goodies as well.
Shop ‘til you drop at the outlets
Where: Tanger Outlet Center, 120 Laconia Road, Tilton
What: Tilton is renowned as the home of the Tanger Outlet Center, an open-air outlet mall that offers some of the best bargains in a state that’s already famous for its tax-free shopping experience, allowing shoppers to save even more. You’ll find premium clothing at an outstanding price, including name brands and designer stores, with everything from the basics to specialty gift items.
Highlights: The highlights that make Tanger a superb shopping experience are home furnishing and beauty gems like Kitchen Collection, Yankee Candle and Bath & Body Works, as well as favourite designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Jones New York, Coach and Van Heusen. If you’re looking for even better deals, be sure to download the Tanger Outlets App for special offers. By visiting the Tanger Outlets Tilton coupon page here, you can view sales and get coupons for individual stores.
Enjoy fun in the sun in Hampton Beach
Where: Hampton Beach
What: While the state only has 18 miles of coastline, it certainly makes the most of it, especially at Hampton Beach, the largest and most popular stretch of sand in New Hampshire. On any given day during the peak of summer, that sand all but disappears and becomes a kaleidoscope of colourful umbrellas and beach blankets, while kites and Frisbees soar through the air and the scent of suntan lotion and salty air wafts on the sea breeze.
Highlights: Enjoy soaking up the sun, building sand castles and taking dips in the clear blue waters, and if you plan your trip around one of the many summer events held here, starting with the Sand Sculpting Competition in June and culminating with September’s Seafood Festival, you’ll find even more fun things to do. Concerts are hosted nearly every night, and on Wednesday, a magnificent fireworks display can be seen in the skies after dark. While the village of Hampton Beach itself is best known for its beach, along the main street is a boardwalk lined with shops, eateries and the historic Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, which hosts national music acts throughout the summer season.
Step back in time at the Strawbery Banke Museum
Where: 14 Hancock Street, Portsmouth
What: Located on the site of the original seaport, this indoor/outdoor living history museum traces Portsmouth’s earliest history, which dates back to 1623 as one of America’s oldest cities. It provides the chance to step back in time for a glimpse into centuries past, illustrating the lives of historic New Englanders through restored homes from four different centuries as well as working artisans and various displays.
Highlights: The site features eight gardens and over 30 buildings from the late 17th to mid-20th centuries, each showcasing a slice of life from a bygone era, along with costumed characters and traditional craft demonstrations. The Nutter House, the childhood home of author and editor Thomas Bailey Aldrich, is not-to-be-missed, as is the 1815 Chase House, the 1919 Shapiro House, the 1777 William Pitt Tavern and the 1780 Wheelright House, all impeccably restored and furnished in the various periods to reveal the changes in architectural style over 350 years. Both guided and self-guided tours are available.
Drive the scenic Kancamagus Highway
Where: White Mountain National Forest, Northern New Hampshire
What: Over a million people drive this 34.5-mile stretch of American Scenic Byway that runs through the White Mountain National Forest every year. Autumn is the ultimate time for this road trip, allowing travellers to enjoy the birch, beech and maple trees that burst into colour around mid-September at the higher elevations, and peaking along the rest of the route from early to mid-October. Spring and summer are a fabulous time to drive it too, with lots of scenic overlooks, swimming holes, wildlife viewing opportunities, glorious waterfalls and nearly endless miles of hiking trails.
Highlights: Enjoy a picnic at the Albany Covered Bridge, which was originally built in 1858 and crosses the Swift River, and then head to the Lower Falls of the river where there are rocks for sunbathing, as well as the chance to cool off in the water, with the falls feeding into a large pool with a sandy bottom. Be sure to check out the Russell-Colbath House, a 19th-century farmhouse with period furnishings that serves as a historic museum, and stop at the Sugar Hill Scenic Overlook, which boasts panoramic views of Sugar Hill and the surrounding valley. The Wangan Grounds Scenic Overlook, offers more breathtaking views from the highest point along the roadway at 2,855 feet in elevation.
Take a cruise on Squam Lake, a.k.a. ‘On Golden Pond’
Where: Lakes Region, in Grafton, Carroll and Belknap counties
What: Squam Lake is best-known for having served as the setting for the popular film “On Golden Pond,” which is framed by lovely views of the White Mountain foothills. It’s a nesting site for common loons, and a wonderful place to view them in breeding plumage during the summer, as well as being an ideal spot for a picnic or to fish for rainbow and lake trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth and largemouth bass and more.
Highlights: Visit the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center for close encounters with local wildlife, with the Gephart Trail showcasing various creatures in trailside enclosures, including mountain lions, bobcats, fishers and a bald eagle. The Center also offers what are arguably the best boat tours on the lake, with pontoon-boat cruises taking visitors to see sights from “On Golden Pond,” observe eagles and loons, or watch the sun go down over the water.
Explore a castle
Where: 455 Old Mountain Rd, Moultonborough
What: While you won’t find many castles in America, there are a handful of impressive offerings, including Castle in the Clouds, officially known as the Lucknow Estate. The 1914 Arts and Crafts-style mansion sits high in New Hampshire’s Ossipee Mountain Range, offering awe-inspiring panoramic views of Lake Winnipesaukee from “the clouds.”
Highlights: Begin your experience by travelling via trolley on the very same road the original owner traversed often in the early 1900's. Learn about his tragic riches-to-rags tale, tour the mansion and then explore the sprawling 5,200+ acre estate on one of over 45 miles of hiking trails. A short trek leads to a waterfall, while an interpretive trail features interactive displays focused on the geology, ecology and history of the property. There’s also a popular pond where visitors can feed huge trout. Afterward, enjoy lunch at the bistro-style Carriage House Café, which provides more picturesque lake views and a range of eclectic original recipes as well as classic dishes.
Experience the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon
What: NASCAR is one of the top sports in the U.S. and the New Hampshire International Speedway hosts the two largest spectator sporting events in New England. Held only twice each year, if you happen to visit during either the ISM Connect 300 (typically around the first weekend of autumn) or the Overton’s 301 (mid-July), be sure to make time on your itinerary to experience it.
Highlights: Even if you don’t care much, if anything, about NASCAR racing, the overall excitement is bound to catch on. Take in the sights and sounds, like you’ve never heard before; it’s impossible to get bored when these cars rocket by at speeds nearing 200 mph. The nonstop races feature some of the top drivers in the world, and are nationally televised in addition to offering some of the best people watching around, with everyone from the average Joe to big-name celebrities in attendance.
Go underground at Polar Caves
Where: Polar Caves Park, Rumney
What: Polar Caves is a unique geological spot in the White Mountains region of the state that was created by massive granite boulders some 50,000 years ago. It provides a fascinating educational experience into the wonders of the area’s unique geology, allowing visitors to explore the incredible series of caves and passageways on self-guided tours, as well as enjoy a number of other experiences.
Highlights: The self-guided cave tour will allow you to experience the nine granite caves and other attractions at your own pace. Walk the nature trails through the pine forest to reach the caves, which are a series of large boulders that appear to have plunged hundreds of feet from the adjacent cliff. You’ll also have the chance to try your hand at gold panning, get an introduction to rock climbing and indulge in a sweet treat at the Maple Sugar Lodge.
Ride the rails to the top of New England’s highest peak
Where: Bretton Woods
What: “The Cog,” as Mount Washington Cog Railway is more often referred to, runs both steam and biodiesel powered locomotives that climb the 3,500 feet or so up to the highest summit in New England at 6,288 feet. The onboard, guided tour provides an entertaining narrative on the three-hour adventure, which includes an hour at the summit. One of the most popular attractions in the state, passengers enjoy vistas that span the valleys and mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Canada and the Atlantic.
Highlights: In addition to getting an old-fashioned, unforgettable ride on the rails and taking in the views from the summit, the experience includes free admission to the Observatory Museum which hosts exhibits on the unique history, geology and weather on Mount Washington. It includes the opportunity to explore the science of climate and weather through fun, interactive exhibits like an air cannon, flow tank and wind room. There is also an onsite restaurant and a gift shop.