The Granite State’s ethos is “Live Free or Die” and that tells you something about America’s ninth state. Divided into three distinct regions – the forested White Mountains in the north, the hills and lake region of the central and southern expanses, and the coastal lowlands bordering the Atlantic Ocean – New Hampshire packs a punch for such a petite state in New England. It’s no wonder Seth Myers, Adam Sandler, Mandy Moore, Sarah Silverman, Robert Frost, and J.D. Salinger have all lived here. Keep reading to learn about 5 wonderful things to do here this summer.
Explore the Small Town of Meredith
Situated in the lakes region, Meredith is a cozy resort town nestled on Meredith Bay between Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Waukewan. Shop and dine at Mill Falls Marketplace (yes, there’s a Ben & Jerrys as well as a cute bookstore), follow the Meredith Sculpture Walk, experience award-winning wines made from locally grown and foraged fruit and raw honey at Hermit Woods Winery, and be sure to carve out a few hours for beer tasting inside of an 1850s barn at Twin Barns Brewing Co. (the Lake Cruiser IPA and Sandbar Blonde are popular choices).
With fewer people, access to nature, and old-fashioned charm, this is a destination that travel-starved vacationers have been pining for. As the kids say these days, “it’s aesthetic”.
Hike at Crawford Notch State Park
Popular scenic trails at Crawford Notch State Park, a 5,775-acre wonderland situated in the White Mountains, include The Saco River Trail, Ripley Falls, Arethusa Falls, and Frankenstein Cliff Trail. You’ll find that the trailheads are easily accessible from the parking areas and the paths are well marked. Wear sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes or boots and consider bringing trekking poles for the rocky, often muddy, and root-y terrain.
The drive from one end of the state park to the other, where you’ll see sugar maples, white oaks, blue spruces, black walnuts and Eastern white pines, is also quite lovely – likely you’ll want to roll down your windows and let that fresh New Hampshire mountain air fill up your nostrils. Pull over at multiple spots along the way to photograph wildflowers – you’ll see purple aster, buttercups, and lady’s slipper.
Where to Sleep: White Mountains
For rugged accommodations in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, stay at Huttopia White Mountains, where you’ll find a lake for swimming and kayaking, an outdoor pool, an Airstream food truck, fire pits, and activities like volleyball, ping pong, and basketball. Huttopia is like a sleepaway camp for friends, couples, and families.
Another fantastic option, perfect for travelers who desire more upscale accommodations, is the newly renovated The White Mountain Hotel and Resort, located in North Conway. You’ll enjoy the year-round heated hot tub and swimming pool, outdoor fire pit, spa services, on-site dining, golf, and stunning mountain views.
You’ll be near picturesque North Conway Village, where you can nosh on signature pizzas at FIRE by Wicked Fresh and explore the shops of North Conway – the Penguin Gallery and Zeb’s General Store are worth a visit.
New Hampshire’s capital city, Concord, has recently experienced a $14 million dollar makeover of its historic Main Street. Pop in Gibson’s Bookstore, an independent shop since 1898; Pitchfork Records, open since 1973; Viking House, a European gift shop; and Granite State Candy Shop, established in 1927.
You’ll find much to do, see and eat in the cultural heart of the state, which includes the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, and the flashy New Hampshire State House.
No trip to Concord, or New Hampshire for that matter, is complete without a meal at the Common Man, a local staple for over 50 years. Owner, Alex Ray, has opened more than 15 restaurants, two Common Man inns, a spa, a company store, the Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, and the Common Man Roadside, with multiple locations. If there was ever a king of New Hampshire, Ray would earn the title hands down.
Paddle the Contoocook River
Beyond Concord’s downtown, just 15 minutes, make your way to Contoocook River Canoe Company for some paddle time on the water. Flanked by forests and beaches, you’ll notice plenty of wildlife like osprey, ducks, blue herons, king fishers, and beavers. If time and weather allow, kayak two easy miles upriver where you’ll reach Daisy Beach, a picture-perfect spot for eating al fresco and swimming.
With a population of nearly 113 thousand residents, Manchester, located along the Merrimack River, is the state’s largest city with easy access to Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia. You’ll find that there’s plenty to explore here: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House via the Currier Museum of Art, Millyard Museum and Bedrock Gardens (30 minutes west of the city).
Eat your way through the city where there’s no shortage of fun foodstuffs like maple donuts and spiced cider. Fan favorites include: Thirsty Moose Taphouse; Red Arrow Diner, a hot spot for presidential candidates on the campaign trail and famous stars like Kevin Costner, Adam Sandler, and Martha Stewart; The Hop Knot; The Birch on Elm; North End Bistro; 900 Degrees; and Firefly American Bistro & Bar, a lively eatery featuring house-infused raspberry mules.
Where to Sleep: Manchester
To get the inside scoop on the best local restaurants, attractions, and off-the-beaten-path experiences, book your accommodations at the lovely Ash Street Inn Boutique Bed and Breakfast, a Victorian home built in 1885. With only five guest rooms, you’ll be the top priority for innkeepers, Rob and Margit Wezwick. Expect a full hearty breakfast and round-the-clock snacks and drinks as well as unique rooms with all of the comforts of home.
This beautiful inn will be your home base for adventures beyond. One of the best beaches in the state, Hampton Beach, for example, is just 40 minutes east of the inn.
For another in-town option, stay in a themed Airbnb rental at The Factory, Manchester’s newest mixed-use haven for artists and creatives.