WHY VISIT NEW HAMPSHIRE
Picturesque from top to toe, New Hampshire may be small but it punches well above its weight with spectacular scenery, cosmopolitan cities, and bountiful opportunities for outdoor adventure.
You can drive up the USA’s oldest manmade attraction, the Mt Washington Auto Road, pedal through covered bridges and white-clapboard villages, wear out your phone battery snapping autumn leaves, or gaze up at star-sprinkled skies.
New Hampshire’s thickly forested mountains, crystalline lakes, and sugary beaches are a magnet for outdoor adventurers. The long-distance Appalachian Trail snakes through the state, or you can choose from 1,900km (1,200 miles) of hiking paths in the White Mountains National Forest.
Find your Zen on the water with a stand-up paddleboarding yoga class on Lake Winnipesaukee or meet rapids head-on via kayak on the Magalloway River, home to ospreys, moose, and black bears. In winter, skiers and riders rip it up at Cannon Mountain or down the backcountry slopes of Tuckerman Ravine. If that’s not challenging enough pack an ice ax and claw your way up frozen rock faces.
While New Hampshire’s coast may be minute, what it lacks in size it makes up for in sandy shores and gently pounding surf. Hampton Beach dishes up old-school seaside entertainment with its sweeping sands, picturesque boardwalk, weekly fireworks, and summer concerts.
If you’re craving a little culture, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester shows work by the likes of Monet, Picasso, and O’Keefe, and runs tours of the fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House. Thirsty? You’re in luck. Nano-breweries are opening faster than you can pour your first pint, and New Hampshire makes a pretty mean honey wine too. Cheers to that.
WHAT TO SEE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
- Portsmouth: this insanely charming colonial town along New Hampshire’s southern coast is one of New England’s nicest seaside destinations. It’s a patchwork of historic neighborhoods each with a solid dose of ambiance. Step back into the 1600s at Strawbery Banke, a special compound with 42 historic protected buildings, or cruise the trendy main street with an espresso in hand. The waterfront is still a working environment as it has been for 400 years so it’s a great place to people watch and remember life as it was.
- Lake Winnipesaukee: Lake Winnipesaukee is easily the largest lake in New Hampshire with 180 miles of wriggly shoreline and 250 little islands poking out of the water. Start at a lakeside hamlet like Weirs Beach, Wolfeboro, or Meredith where you can find accommodation, boat rentals, and all the amenities for a lingering stay. These surrounding hills get bathed in color in the fall and a ride on the Mount Washington steamer ensures you won’t miss a beat.
- The White Mountains: Northern New England’s most popular wilderness area is located smack dab in the center of New Hampshire. The White Mountains are an ancient, windy, rugged span of peaks and valleys covering nearly one million acres. More than 1,000 miles of trail let you go as deep into the hills as you dare. Everything except cars is on offer here, including mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, and rock climbing. The state’s highest peak, Mount Washington, is flanked by the wind-blasted granite mountains of the Presidential Range. Plenty of towns like North Conway are located on its edge providing lodging and creature comforts.
- Hanover: this tiny university town epitomizes that classic New England vibe that visitors seek out in New Hampshire. Settled in 1765, it has the bucolic village green surrounded by historic brick buildings, churches with white steeples, and big leafy trees. The home of Dartmouth College, one of America’s top universities, provides a vibrant, electric environment for ideas and liberal thinking. It’s a refreshing mix of bohemian cafés, bookstores, and antique shops scattered around the colonial-era downtown.
- Monadnock Region: the southwest corner of New Hampshire is one of the most scenic and engaging parts of the state. This is stereotypical New England with gentle farms, covered bridges, and sleepy hamlets flanking the mighty Mount Monadnock. There aren’t any superstar attractions, but the vibe and atmosphere are what make it so nice. Quiet back roads beckon bikers and fall foliage cruisers, while affordable inns can be found in most of the historic villages. Monadnock offers an escape from everything with a solid dose of hiking around the mountains to keep the blood flowing.
- Waterville Valley: one of the most popular resorts in the White Mountains enjoys a privileged location in the state’s prettiest valley. It’s been a summer holiday destination and winter ski spot since 1829 when mountain tourism was just getting started in New England. While the historic charm has been replaced by condos and shopping plazas, Waterville is still an ideal vacation destination for families and couples who want their nature served up on a plate.
- The North Country: if the White Mountains feel too touristy and developed, then New Hampshire has an even more rugged area in the slender finger of North Country. You won’t find much in the way of civilization, just a few hamlets like Errol where you can stock up on supplies and perhaps find an inn or two for a warm bed. This is the place to commune with nature in uncrowded state parks like Dixville Notch and Umbagog Lake. There is an endless supply of lakes, rivers, deserted rural roads, and hiking trails through spruce forests to explore. If you’re keen on camping, you’ll find no better place as you’re more likely to run into a moose than another person.
WHEN TO GO TO NEW HAMPSHIRE
The best period to visit New Hampshire is from May to September.
Like most of New England, New Hampshire suffers from the mercurial temperament of the regional climate. Precipitation falls evenly throughout the year, without letting up outside of a period in the fall when the skies turn a brilliant blue and the leaves become a rainbow of color in celebration of the changing of the seasons. In winter this means buckets of snow, especially in the mountains, while summer brings frequent rain that keeps the weather on the humid side.
Summers aren’t bad though. Daytime highs rarely get much hotter than the low 80s°F between June and August, and the mountains are naturally much cooler than the lowlands. In general, the southeastern region around Portsmouth and Manchester is wetter and warmer than the North Country, which is drier and colder.
Winter is a mixed bag. January brings cold, windy daytime highs that only reach 32°F on the coast and 0°F in the interior mountains. Even if you love a white winter environment, New Hampshire’s version may be a tad harsh for you. When strong northeastern storms blow through they can dump up to four feet of snow at a time or create ice storms that drop trees and power lines like glass.
WHAT TO DO IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Ride the Mt. Washington Cog Railway
Venturing to the “worst weather in the world” doesn’t require a 12-day voyage to Antarctica. You need only to take a short trip on America’s first mountain-climbing cog railway, to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire’s the White Mountains. The summit isn’t usually -34 degrees, like the day it ranked as the second-coldest place on Earth. Nor does it typically see 231 mph wind gusts, as it did when scientists recorded the then-highest winds ever there. Most of the time, it offers a panoramic view out over the mountains, which gets better and better as this little two-car cog climbs upward for 45 minutes. The view is especially spectacular in the fall, as you chug through changing colors on the way to the top. The whole trip lasts three hours, leaving you 90 minutes at the peak.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations of New Hampshire.
- Prescott Park Arts Festival: Portsmouth celebrates its beautiful summer season with three months of special events devoted to the arts. Venues along the banks of the Piscataqua River showcase a rolling schedule of live music, dance, theatre, and other performances on many evenings and afternoons. They pride themselves on their free admission, and it is pretty cool to watch a ballet performance followed by a rock band.
- New Hampshire Music Festival: with over 60 years of experience, this music event is one of the state’s most popular annual festivals. It is held in the town of Plymouth and runs through most of July and August, bringing many great talents to the stage to perform everything from chamber music to classical and pop.
- Hillsborough Balloon Festival & Fair: each July, the beautiful country town of Hillsborough invites people down for four days of hot air balloon fun. Few sights are as stirring as dozens of colorful balloons floating above the green hills and lakes of New Hampshire. If you prefer, you can ride in the balloons during certain hours or just enjoy the spectacle. There are also parades, fireworks, and a family-style carnival with rides, games, and fair food.
- Cheshire Fair: one of New Hampshire’s finest classical American state fairs, at the height of summer in August the town of Cheshire opens up its large fairgrounds to an eclectic array of fun events that cater to everyone from families to monster truck fans. There are traditional livestock competitions along with concerts, horse shows, and yes, the ever-popular monster truck rally.
- Warner Fall Foliage Festival: you hardly need an excuse to come to New Hampshire and bask in the glorious fall colors, but the town of Warner certainly adds to the fun. Since 1947 this cool little central mountain town has been putting on an All-American show with barbecue, food, parades, live music, and carnival rides. Come down in early October for nine days of fall fun.
- New Hampshire Brewer’s Festival: as you’d expect, New Hampshire has a thriving craft brewing scene. Each November all the local breweries around the state converge in Manchester to share their latest creations. It’s a fine way to say goodbye to fall and prepare to hunker down for winter. Besides tastings, the event also features seminars on brewing techniques and other interesting topics related to consumption.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH NEW HAMPSHIRE
In this part of New England, there is often no transportation other than driving your own car. Most visitors find that a rental car provides an excellent return on the investment, allowing them to reach quiet rural villages, natural attractions, and recreation areas you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. The roads in New Hampshire are extremely scenic, which is just one more reason why driving is a good idea, just be careful of wildlife crossing in the rural areas. They are a real danger, especially after dark. Rental cars are readily available at the airports and in larger towns like Portsmouth, Manchester, and Concord. Be sure to book your vehicle early for a visit in the fall, as this is the prime season for driving through New Hampshire.
Taxis can be found in the tourist towns of Portsmouth, Hanover, and Exeter. They are useful for traveling short distances and use a meter to determine the fare.
There are very limited train services in New Hampshire, but it is possible to reach a handful of towns using the Amtrak network. The Vermonter line runs daily from Washington, DC to Vermont, stopping at the town of Claremont, while the Downeaster line between Boston and Portland, Maine several times a day with stops at Exeter, Durham, and Dover in New Hampshire. Amtrak trains are scenic but notoriously slow and prone to delays. The fares are more expensive than the bus but often cheaper than a flight.
The Greyhound bus is the most flexible and affordable way to get into New Hampshire but to move between towns it is better to take the Concord Coach or Vermont Transit Lines. Buses are cheap and more than comfortable for short journeys within New Hampshire.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON NEW HAMPSHIRE
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-5 (-4)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Typical food in New Hampshire
Souvenirs from New Hampshire