With an Atlantic Ocean coastline, abundance of wilderness and long history as one of America’s first states, New Hampshire beckons outdoor lovers and history enthusiasts alike.
As the tallest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington is the face of New Hampshire, which also features other natural wonders — ranging from gorges and caves to simple fall foliage and miles of pristine forest. The towns and cities in between preserve a uniquely New England way of life.
Family attractions, museums and discovery centers are scattered throughout the state, meaning there is plenty to do whether you’re staying a while or just passing through. In the winter, the state is alive with skiers from all over the country, while warm weather invites hikers, climbers, lake loungers and beach lovers looking for an escape to remember.
Here are 25 things to do in New Hampshire that we know you’re going to love.
MOUNT WASHINGTON & THE COG RAILWAY
As you’ll quickly find out on your visit to New Hampshire, the state’s highest peak is full of surprises. With an elevation of nearly 6,300 feet, Mount Washington is known throughout the Northeast for its panoramic views, rugged beauty, and wild weather; the mountain was the site of the fastest wind gust ever recorded on planet earth.
Mount Washington was one of America’s earliest tourist destinations, and you can still experience its 19th century grandeur thanks to the Mount Washington Cog Railway and the Mount Washington Auto Road. Opened in 1869, the railway was the first of its kind in the world, ferrying guests to and from the top of the mountain via steam- powered locomotives. Today, a ticket will still grant you a scenic train ride to the summit, safely aboard the second steepest railway in the world.
Mount Washington remains one of the most popular destinations in the Northeast thanks to alpine adventures, winter fun and historic sites. For a luxury stay in the heart of the nearby Bretton Woods ski area, consider Omni Mount Washington Resort as your headquarters for exploring the region. With gourmet dining, spa and wellness centers and the great outdoors at your fingertips, you’ll be able to focus on the moment in one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the country.
A visit here is one of the best things to do in New Hampshire!
Details: 3168 Base Station Road, Mount Washington, NH 03589 | Website
Covering 34.5 miles of Northern New Hampshire’s woodlands, the Kancamagus HIghway is your introduction to the White Mountain National Forest. A designated Scenic Byway, the route is known for its autumn colors, and fall is one of the best times of year to make the drive.
Free from restaurants, stores and other distractions, the highway immerses you in the natural beauty of the region. You’ll catch a glimpse of the White Mountains, pass gurgling streams and brooks, and hear nothing but birdsong, all under a canopy of towering pines.
Services will be available again at either end of the highway, but the tranquility of the byway is sure to make you want to experience White Mountain National Forest on a deeper level, whether that means organizing a stay at one of the area’s campgrounds or embarking on a long hike. The Kancamagus Highway runs along State Route 112 and connects the towns of Lincoln and North Conway.
Details: 200 NH-112, North Woodstock, NH 03262 | Website
STRAWBERY BANKE MUSEUM
Located in coastal Portsmouth, Strawbery Banke Museum is a local museum covering over three centuries of the port city’s story. Ten acres of exhibits, historical structures and activities invite families to learn about and participate in everything from traditional crafts to native plant history and indigenous culture.
Original buildings join walkable gardens, and the museum’s rotating schedule of events always offers something new. Costumed characters and demonstrations invite you to step into colonial New England, while seasonal programs like the Candlelight Stroll add to the town’s holiday atmosphere.
Bringing New England’s past, present and future into focus, the Strawbery Banke campus is open daily; keep in mind that the museum’s Historic House is only open from May to October.
Taking place annually in the winter, Ice Castles brings wintry delight to children and families across five American destinations, including Lincoln, New Hampshire. The attraction started out as a father’s project for his children, and has snowballed into a multi- state wonderland.
Each “Ice Castle” is created entirely from ice, becoming an ephemeral masterwork that can only survive in winter temperatures. Ice artists expertly craft the structure to be both stunning and engaging to visitors of any age. Colorful sculptures, fountains and thrones give the resulting space a regal feel, while tunnels and slides turn it into a surprising playground.
New Hampshire’s Ice Castle experience also offers sleigh rides, snow tubing, a light walk and even the opportunity to book one of the castle’s hidden alcoves for a special moment. Lincoln’s Ice Castles open each winter and are located just west of the center of town.
Details: 24 Clark Farm Rd, North Woodstock, NH 03262 | Website
POLAR CAVES PARK
Located outside of the town of Plymouth, New Hampshire, Polar Caves Park allows you to step into the state’s fascinating geological history. The caves were created after the fall of granite from a southward-moving glacier during the Ice Age, and are open to visitors via tunnels and passageways.
Exploring the caves is a self- guided experience, and includes nine granite caves, an animal park, nature trails, and a gift shop. There are plenty of seating areas to take a breather or enjoy a packed lunch.
Be sure to book your tickets in advance; keep in mind that ticket refunds are only available up to 48 hours before your visit. The Polar Caves are located a thirty minute drive south of Lincoln.
Details: 705 Rumney Rte 25, Rumney, NH 03266 | Website
CANTERBURY SHAKER VILLAGE
Established in 1969 with the goal of celebrating and protecting the history of New Hampshire’s early Shaker Community, the Shaker Village in Canterbury takes you back to simpler times. The Shaker community’s spiritual values, methods of worship and communal way of life was unique in early American society; Canterbury was one of a handful of established Shaker villages throughout the eastern United States.
Today, visitors can tour twenty-five original buildings, along with four reconstructed structures and acres of nature trails and gardens. The village reopens to the public in May, but private indoor and outdoor tours are available until then.
You’ll learn about the Canterbury’s Shaker villagers’ contributions to agriculture, technological advancements and architecture while spending a day in an idyllic pocket of New England. The town is located between Concord and Laconia, about an hour west of Portsmouth.
Details: 288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury, NH 03224 | Website
Located only a few minutes away from Lake Winnipesaukee’s Meredith Bay, Funspot Arcade is Guinness- certified as the world’s largest arcade. This means visitors have access to over 600 games, twenty bowling lanes, a bingo room and indoor mini- golf area. This is one New Hampshire attraction you just can’t miss!
Arcade lovers will be delighted to find classic favorites alongside surprising games, all in the unassuming small town of Laconia. The on-site D.A Long Tavern and Braggin’ Dragon Restaurant make sure you don’t have to skip a beat, while a free of charge party room is available for all your celebration needs.
Established back in 1952, Funspot has a long history of making memories, both for Laconia residents, and eventually, visitors from all over the country. Don’t miss the chance to make your next round of pinball historic. The arcade is open daily, excluding holidays, and is located right off of Route 3.
Details: 579 Endicott St N, Laconia, NH 03246 | Website
CURRIER MUSEUM OF ART
Located in the heart of Manchester, the Currier Museum of Art originated as the vision of former New Hampshire governor Moody Currier and his wife, Hannah Slade. Over the course of the twentieth century, the museum acquired a full collection of American and global works, including the Zimmerman House and Kalil House, both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The homes can be viewed by guided tour only, and offer an intimate glimpse into two of the architect’s residential designs.
Today, the entire Currier collection holds over 15,000 pieces, brought to the public in the form of rotating exhibits and programming.
Exhibition tours and art classes join more casual happenings, like Sunday Brunch at the Winter Garden Cafe, to keep conversation flowing within the Manchester community. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday; if you can, stop by on a Thursday evening to participate in the museum’s weekly Art After Work event .
Details: 150 Ash St, Manchester, NH 03104 | Website
SEVEN BIRCHES WINERY
With two locations in the Lincoln area, Seven Birches Winery is a must-stop, especially if you’re planning to spend a few days in town. The winery’s main outposts are at Loon Mountain and the Lincoln Village Shops; Seven Birches beverages are also available at the Rhythm Studio.
All wines are produced within the Loon Mountain Resort, meaning your glass will be packed with local flavor. The resort houses the actual production facilities, along with a tasting room and wine shop featuring the company’s best selling bottles.
Book a tour of the winery to learn about the winemaking process, or take part in the winery’s Tasting Room Experience, which includes five samples. Hours for the Seven Birches’ different venues may vary, so be sure to plan ahead.
Details: 22 S Mountain Dr., Lincoln, NH 03251 | Website
THE LAKES REGION
As the largest bodies of water within the state’s Lakes Region, Squam Lake, Newfound Lake and Lake Winnipesaukee define this part of central New Hampshire. Along with swimming and beach days, the lakes offer a variety of guided water activities and equipment rentals.
Wolfeboro, Laconia and Moultonborough are just some of the area’s lakeside towns, all of which have their own unique histories, small businesses and local flair to bring to the table. After the height of summer, the Lakes Region lights up in autumn colors, drawing fall hikers. In the winter, the snow- blanketed area is popular with skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoe hikers.
Whether you plan to spend a week or more exploring central New Hampshire’s small towns, nooks and crannies, or are just in the area for a beach day, the Lake Region won’t disappoint. Be sure to stop by sites like the New Hampshire Boat Museum, the Castle in the Clouds and the Swallow Boathouse to make your visit unforgettable.
SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
The Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park is located in Cornish, NH, and is the former vacation home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of America’s greatest sculptors.
Saint-Gaudens lived here seasonally beginning in 1885, and then lived here year-round starting in 1900 until his death in 1907. Here you’ll find some of his bronze sculptures, and awesome hiking trails and nature to enjoy.
Run by the National Park Service, you can tour the grounds, enter the historic home on the property, view artwork by Saint-Gaudens, enjoy amazing views of Mt. Ascutney from the formal gardens, meet the current sculptor-in-residence, or take a self-guided cell phone tour of the grounds.
Details: 139 Saint Gaudens Road, Cornish, NH 03745 | Website
PORTSMOUTH’S MARKET SQUARE
Portsmouth’s Market Square is a necessary stop on any tour of the city’s seaside Downtown district. Historically, the Square has been one of Portsmouth’s most active public areas since the 18th century, and the first to be paved.
Today, the square boasts historic buildings, eateries and gift shops, all steps away from the waterfront. Portsmouth’s annual Market Square Day, happening in June, celebrates Downtown with vendors, activities and live music.
Start your day with breakfast and coffee at Market Square, walk to Downtown Portsmouth’s museums and shops, and be back in time for dinner or drinks at the Portsmouth Brewery.
Details: Market Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801 | Website
FRANCONIA NOTCH STATE PARK
Located in between two mountain ranges, Franconia Notch State Park links New Hampshire’s Flume Gorge to Echo Lake. The park is within White Mountain National Forest, making it a must-stop on any Mount Washington itinerary. Stop by Echo Lake’s beach, set at a 1,931 foot elevation, bike the Recreational Trail and take on a few of the park’s scenic hikes.
At Cannon Mountain, celebrate the site of the continent’s first aerial passenger tram by taking your own cable car ride to the summit. Along with the Kancamagus Byway, the “Notch,” or the road running through Franconia Notch is one of New Hampshire’s most spectacular drives.
Details: Flume Gorge, Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251 | Website
Once in Franconia Notch, Flume Gorge is an obvious first stop. This natural phenomenon begins at the base of Mount Liberty and features the 2 mile long Flume Trail.
From the trail, you’ll see the Flume’s granite walls, which tower at heights up to 90 feet tall and stand up to 20 feet apart. The trail begins and ends at the Flume Building, and can take up to two hours.
Details: 852 Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251 | Website
CATHEDRAL LEDGE SUMMIT
Cathedral Ledge State Park in Bartlett, New Hampshire is home to a 700-foot summit with a panorama stretching to the White Mountains. You can drive to the granite ledge via a mile- long road or hike to the summit from nearby Echo Lake State Park.
The ledge is highly accessible and memorable, especially on clear days; it’s also a popular rock and ice climbing destination. Echo Lake and Cathedral Ledge State Parks are located between the towns of North Conway and Bartlett.
Details: 579 Cathedral Ledge Road Bartlett, NH 03812 | Website
OLD COUNTRY STORE AND MUSEUM
When visiting the Lakes Region, be sure to stop by Moultonborough’s Old Country Store and Museum. Said to date back to 1781, this small town store is one of the country’s most historic businesses, and may even be the oldest general store in the country.
Now owned and operated by the Holden family, the store continues to be the beating heart of Moultonborough. You’ll find candy, local treats and daily necessities, along with an upstairs museum celebrating the history of country stores.
Stop by the Old Country Story to walk through generations of New England’s history, all under one charming roof. The store is open daily.
Details: 1011 Whittier Hwy, Moultonborough, NH 03254 | Website
Located just north of the town of Jaffrey, Mount Monadnock State Park offers hiking, climbing and scenic views close to the Massachusetts border. The park is home to nearly forty miles of hiking trails, including some leading directly to Mount Monadnock’s summit.
Take the White Dot Trail from the park’s headquarters for the shortest climb; the trail can be demanding but rewards hikers with unparalleled views of Boston, Connecticut and the White Mountains in the distance.
The Old Toll Road Trail is another option that gets you to the summit in about two hours; you’ll be passing the site of the former Mountain House/ Old halfway House hotel, which was lost in a fire in the 1950’s.
There are a number of additional trails to choose from based on how much time you have and where you would like to start. If you’re thinking of getting to know Mount Monadnock even better, sleep under the stars at Gilson Pond Campground, located within the state park. The campground is also home to the Birchtoft/Red Spot Trailhead, meaning you can hit the trails right after breakfast.
Details: 169 Poole Rd., Jaffrey, NH 03452 | Website
SEACOAST SCIENCE CENTER
Located in Odiorne Point State Park, just south of Portsmouth, Seacoast Science Center is a family destination bent on introducing visitors to the power of conservation one interactive experience at a time. Situated right on the Atlantic Coast, the Science Center has a unique perspective on a diverse coastal habitat, shared through exhibits, workshops and hands-on activities.
The center’s exhibits are expertly focused on the nearby Gulf of Maine and the organisms that call it home. Explore natural tide pools outside or discover New England’s marine residents at the Indoor Tide Pool Touch Tank.
Keep an eye on the center’s workshops and events schedule for more special ways to get involved. The Seacoast Science Center is open Wednesdays through Sundays; keep in mind that admission does not include the Odiorne State Park fee.
Details: 570 Ocean Blvd, Rye, NH 03870 | Website
Portsmouth’s USS Albacore Museum brings a real life submersible vessel to the public in a celebration of the port city’s naval tradition. Built in town, the Albacore was a test platform until 1972, setting an underwater speed record in the meantime. In 1985, the Albacore was brought home from Philadelphia and settled permanently in Albacore Park.
Learn about the inner workings of the submarine on a self- guided tour and enjoy the outdoor Memorial Garden after imagining what its like to be enclosed underwater. Don’t miss the visitor’s center on your way out, where you can pick USS Albacore souvenirs. The museum is open daily, though hours may vary based on weather.
Details: 600 Market St, Portsmouth, NH 03801 | Website
CONWAY SCENIC RAILWAY
If you’ve always wondered what it was like to travel the country by locomotive when there was simply no other way, Conway Scenic Railway is ready to take you back in time. Headquartered in North Conway, the scenic railroad’s excursions embark from a 19th century train station that sets the mood right away.
Featured trips include the Sawyer River, Conway Valley and Mountaineer Excursions, as well as a special ride with stops for photo opportunities. The restored locomotives include dining cars and offer various ride experiences such as coach, first, and premier class travel.
After booking your tickets online on the Conway Scenic Railroad’s website, all you’ll have to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery. Ride in autumn to watch stunning fall foliage changing colors outside your train car window.
Details: 38 Norcross Cir, North Conway, NH 03860 | Website
Known as a New England summer vacation hub, Hampton Beach has everything you’re looking for in a summer getaway. Live music, comedy acts, the Hampton Beach Casino and town boardwalk will have you staying out late any night of the week.
Hampton Beach State Park, located on the southern tip of the island is a swimming destination with an adjacent campground. As your beach day, visit one of the island’s eateries for fresh seafood prepared New England- style before heading to the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom to catch the latest act.
Only a twenty minute drive from Portsmouth, Hampton Beach can be a destination of its own or a fun day trip to soak in the sun. Don’t miss the island’s whale watching- excursions, water sports equipment rentals or photogenic sunsets on your next visit.
New Hampshire’s legendary winters make this small state a snow sports capital. If skiing is going to be a big part of your next trip to New England, staying at a mountain resorts puts you in the midst of all the action.
Bretton Woods’ Omni Mountain Resort is the largest in the state, while Loon Mountain Resort boasts a long ski season lasting from Mid- November to Mid- April. Or, stay at Cannon Mountain and discover the slopes that skiing celebrity Bode Miller grew up on in between jaunts to nearby Franconia Notch State Park.
As one of the country’s oldest ski towns, North Conway is your gateway to the wintry majesty of the White Mountains. Located at the edge of White Mountain National Forest, the town is home to a variety of hotels and resorts hosting adventure seekers year round.
The White Mountain Hotel & Resort, the North Conway Grand Hotel, Cranmore Mountain Resort and others welcome guests at the height of ski season.
If you’re looking for a way to kick back and let loose during your visit to New Hampshire, drop by one of the state’s family- friendly amusement parks and make the best of a sunny day.
Whether you’re in the area for a winter ski trip or warm weather hiking getaway, stop by Santa’s Village to get in the holiday spirit any time of year. The park features a June FEASTival, summertime attractions, Trick or Treat Weekends and Christmastime fun.
If you find yourself in Southern New Hampshire, book a ticket to Canobie Lake Park to enjoy over 85 attractions, including water, family and kid-friendly rides. Highlights include the Canobie Express, Antique Cars and the Twist & Shout Ride.
When it’s time to take a break from rugged hikes and summits, spend the day at Story Land, located on the eastern edge of White Mountain National Forest. This fairytale- inspired amusement park is open all year to re-introduce you to your favorite castles and characters. On the other side of the forest, you’ll find Clark’s Bears, where specialty shops, museums, rides and the Black Bear Show await. Family run since 1928, this Lincoln park never gets old.
If the summer heat is getting to you, visit Whale’s Tale Water Park to cool off among mountain views. Located in between Lincoln and Franconia Notch State Park, Whale’s Tale offers thrills like the Eye of the Storm, Harpoon Express, and Shipwreck Island- the names say it all.
Located in Salem, New Hampshire, America’ Stonehenge is a rock formation and archeological area with a much- debated history. The area, which holds a number of formations and structures, is open to the public.
There are various hypotheses as to the structures’ creators, including that it was left behind by Native Americans, Pre-Columbian visitors who had sailed to the Americas from Europe, or 19th century farmers.
Though its origin is unclear, America’s Stonehenge is still a worthwhile stop for anyone who is passing through Southern New Hampshire. Shrouded by trees, the site offers an uncanny woodland tranquility highlighted by its mysterious story.
Details: 105 Haverhill Rd, Salem, NH 03079 | Website
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