The state of New Hampshire packs a lot of mountains and wilderness into its small frame. The state, which shares a border with Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts as well as a small Atlantic Ocean coastline and Canada to the north, offers visitors a chance to experience the very best that Mother Nature has to offer. The vast White Mountain National forest is home to the regions tallest peak, Mount Washington along with many other features sculpted by nature of many thousands of years.
Aside from the spectacular natural beauty of this state, New Hampshire has a history to be proud. It was one of the original 13 states that founded the United States of America and produced America’s thirteenth president, Franklin Pierce. Many of this history can be explored today in museums and along the scenic rail routes.
Visitors to New Hampshire will be mesmerized by its awe-inspiring natural beauty and entertained by its quirky man-made attractions. Here is our list of the top 25 things to do in the state of New Hampshire.
1. Mount Washington
Mount Washington in New Hampshire stands at a colossal 6,288 feet, making it the highest peak in northeastern USA.
The mountain offers a challenge for even the most seasoned hiker.
Recommended tour: White Mountain National Forest Hiking Trip
2. The Lost River Reservation
Also known as the Lost River Gorge, the Reservation is a series of caves located in the White Mountains, roughly 5 miles from North Woodstock. The Lost River gets its name from the brook in the southern part of the river, which disappears into a steep glacial gorge filled with immense chunks of granite. The river emerges again to join the Pemigewasset River after taking its subterranean shortcut. The river is a great location for hiking and has a series of purpose built walkways that allow easy access to the caves.
3. Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park is one of the many beautiful state parks in New Hampshire and is located in the epicenter of the White Mountain National Forest. The park is ideal for a great deal of outdoor pursuits such as cycling, fishing and hiking as well as being the home of the famous “Old Man of the Mountain”, the exciting Cannon Mountain Aerial tramway and Flume Gorge which extends for around 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The park is also home to many natural wonders such as a fifteen-foot deep pothole formed around 25,000 years ago and the Eastern Brook Trout that thrive in the cold, clear waters.
4. The Conway Railroad
New Hampshire is home to many scenic railroad routes and the Conway Railroad is arguably the best. The old-fashioned train rides allow visitors to experience the Golden Age of railroad travel and depart from North Conway Village. The trips can last from anywhere between one hour and five hours and allow passengers to admire some of the most beautiful landscapes on offer in New Hampshire. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the railway offers a Polar Express service that is guaranteed to delight young children. Early booking for this seasonal service is highly recommended.
5. Story Land
Adored by children and adults alike; Story Land in Glen is a unique attraction that brings fairy tales to life. Take a ride in Cinderella’s pumpkin coach, take an antique car for a spin or relax on the lake in a swan boat. Story Land has plenty of charm and continues to add new and unique attractions every year. This family run attraction makes for a great day out and is a must for travelers with young children.
6. Whales Tale Water Park
The Whales Tale Water Park boasts an impressive selection of water rides set in the White Mountains. The park offers plenty of slides and flumes for thrill seekers along with a kid’s activity area. The park also offers free parking and pizza or burgers for when hunger strikes. A top tip is to visit the water park on a cloudy or overcast day as when the sun is shining the park tends to get very busy.
7. Clark’s Trading Post
Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln has been established for over 50 years and has always provided entertainment for visitors. Here you will see bears playing basketball (yes you read that correctly) and acrobatic performances. As well as watching the live entertainment, visitors can ride a steam train, drive a Segway and visit the many museums and fun houses that line the Victorian Main Street.
8. Attitash Mountain Resort
This Mountain Resort, located in the White Mountains, offers much more than skiing and snowboarding. Boasting over 350 acres of skiable land, the resort also has a zip line ride from Bear Summit to the base of Attitash, which takes thrill seekers above the canopy of trees for some spectacular views and can reach speeds of 65mph. If that doesn’t whet your appetite then the resort can also offer a 2800 foot mountain coaster and an alpine slide to set your pulse rising.
9. Squam Lakes
Big and Little Squam are spring fed lakes connected to each other by a channel. Big Squam is six miles long and 98 feet deep. It is the second-largest lake that is located entirely in the state of New Hampshire. Visitors to the two lakes will find a selection of attractions to accompany the breath-taking surroundings, including the Natural Science Centre, home to live black bears and mountain lions and the 157-acre Chamberlain Reynolds Memorial Forest which is home to over 4 miles of hiking trails managed by the Squam Lakes Association.
10. Strawberry Banke Museum
This museum in Portsmouth is a great place to learn about the crafts, tools, architecture and heritage of the settlers in Portsmouth from the 17th century to the mid 20th century. It is an outdoor history museum that uses costumed actors to tell the story of Strawberry Banke, the name given to the area by British settlers for the fruit that grew there. The museum also offers over 40 colonial buildings, some of which have been restored to resemble various styles from their pasts.
11. Castle in the Clouds
The beautifully named Castle in the Clouds, is a 1918 mansion set on around 5,200 acres of land. Thomas Gustave Plant, who made his fortune in the shoe industry, had the mansion built after retiring as a millionaire at the age of 51. As well as staggering views of Moultonborough, the Castle in the Clouds also offers horse riding, a restaurant and live music events.
12. Prescott Park
Spanning about 10 acres, this waterfront park is packed with gorgeous flowerbeds and fantastic fountains. The Prescott sisters Josie and Mary, who were responsible for the creation of Prescott Park, were both public school teachers. They used a sizeable inheritance, left by their brother, to purchase areas of land along the waterfront, as they wanted it to be both beautiful and accessible by all. Prescott Park hosts many events throughout the year and is home to several buildings from Portsmouth’s industrious past including Shaw’s warehouse, a 200 year old wooden construction.
13. Currier Museum of Art
The Currier Museum hosts over 11,000 pieces of art and the collection is as varied as it is vast. Special attention is granted to local artists and particularly attendees of the White Mountain School of Art. Alongside the many sculptures, paintings and photographs, the museum also displays many examples of fine New Hampshire antiques. The Zimmerman home is also part of the Museum. It is the only house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in New England that is open to the public.
14. Canobie Lake Park
Another New Hampshire attraction that will appeal to travelers in all age groups is Canobie Lake Park. New Hampshire’s most popular amusement park, Canobie is located on the stunning Lake Salem and is over a century old. The park has over 100 rides varying from the intense Corkscrew Coaster for thrill seekers to the Mine of Lost Souls, an imaginative ride telling the tale of two boys from Salem and their spooky adventures in the mine. Plenty of food and drink can be found onsite and the park is open from May to October.
15. New Hampshire Cuisine
Like many states in the New England area, New Hampshire prides itself on its fresh and tasty seafood. Trout, Lobster and crab cakes are served all over New Hampshire and are some of the tastiest in the USA. Alternatively, you can try one of the many dishes inspired by New Hampshire’s history which fuse the culinary practices of England, France, Canada and of course the United States. Look out for maple sap, baked turkey and apple pie as examples of this historical fare.
16. Woodstock Inn, Brewery and Station
The former house, which dates back to the late 19th century, was deserted for 17 years before the current owners took residence. After being given a new lease of life, the inn was joined by a railway station from Lincoln, which was relocated and henceforth became Woodstock station. The Inn now offers beautiful colonial style rooms with great grub and famous beers, courtesy of the Woodstock brewery.
17. Santa’s Village
Santa’s Village is a Christmas themed amusement park, which can be visited even in the height of summer. The park has a wide selection of rides, most of which are themed around Christmas including The Chimney Drop and Reindeer Carousel. Even if you visit this park in July it is hard not to feel all merry and Christmassy inside.
18. Antique Hunting
Hunting down an antique bargain is as much fun as buying one, and New Hampshire is the perfect state for antique shopping. There are more than 500 dealers in the state selling everything from vintage jewellery and clothes to grand furniture. As well as the many eclectic shops in the state the flea markets in Salem and Hollis can also be great destinations for both amateur and veteran antique collectors.
19. Moose Spotting
New Hampshire is a great place to spot some of these elusive beasts. Many tours operate in the White Mountain area. The tours depart in the early evening and use floodlights to spot moose in their natural habitat. Most tours offer a high success rate and pretty much guarantee seeing a moose, the most spectacular sightings however involve males with huge antlers and usually occur in October.
20. Axe Throwing
This is certainly one of the more unusual activities available to partake in whilst visiting New Hampshire. Offered to residents of the Grand Resort in White Mountains, participants are provided with a double-sided axe and taught how to throw it overhead. After you have safely mastered the technique, huge targets are provided at a distance of around 20 feet for you to put your new skill to the test.
21. Penny Candy
Chutters in Littleton is a candy aficionado’s dream. This shop selling old-fashioned penny candy (sadly no longer one penny each) is the proud owner of the longest candy counter in the whole world. The counter itself runs for 112 feet, the entire length of the store. The shop features all types of candy past and present alongside homemade fudge and delicious chocolate truffles. Chutters is a truly memorable shopping experience for any traveler with a sweet tooth.
22. Polar Caves
The Polar Caves in Rumney were formed roughly 50,000 years ago as a continental glacier enveloped New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When it finally thawed the ice left behind a labyrinth of caves and tunnels which are available for travelers to explore using the nature trails within the park. The park is also home to animals such as fallow deer and pheasants.
23. Daniel Webster’s Home
Daniel Webster is one of the most respected statesmen and orators in the history of the United States. The building in Franklin is where Webster was born and where he lived during his early childhood years. The site is a great place to glimpse Daniel’s early years as well as an insight into farming in the early 18th century. Admission is available at weekends only between May and October.
24. Bird Watching in the Great North Woods
The Great North Woods in New Hampshire are a bird watcher’s paradise. The varied landscape of woodland, marshes, grassland and lakes provide equally varied birdlife including rare birds such as the Spruce Grouse and Canada Jay. Many experts offer guided tours although many prefer a relaxed walk through the beautiful woods whilst keeping one eye to the sky.
25. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail
Grab a paddle and head to the long-distance trail that connects 79 bodies of water and 45 communities. The route passes through hills, mountains, villages and farmland and can be undertaken by canoeists of any skill level. The route includes white-water paddling as well as flat. A short trip is possible and the full route isn’t necessary although it is certainly recommended.