20 Top Things to Do in New Hampshire

Attractions include scenic drives, the beach, and the Clydesdales

New Hampshire White Mountains
Claire Gentile / Getty Images

From the sandy shore to the summit of New England's highest peak, the "Live Free or Die" state's diverse landscape provides a stunning backdrop for a host of memorable things to do, season after season. ​For visitors who arrive during the warmer months, outdoor concerts by the sea, epic road trips with local wildlife as scenery, and thrill-inducing amusement parks await. Those traveling during the colder months can experience historic ruins, natural wonders, and historic art museums. 

No matter the time of year, New Hampshire makes for an unforgettable vacation. 

01 of 20

Ride a Chairlift to See Fall Foliage

Mountain Chairlifts and Autumn Foliage

Ken Canning / Getty Images

Cannon Mountain, Franconia, NH 03580, USA

When autumn arrives in New Hampshire, scenic drives through the state's fiery foliage are a given, but for an immersive canopy experience, you can take a chairlift ride. Many ski resorts start their chairlifts up again in September so leaf-peeping riders can enjoy the spectacle of deciduous trees' color-changing leaves.

Some of the best chairlift rides can be found in Franconia at Cannon Mountain, where you can also get views so expansive (on a clear day) that you'll be able to see Vermont, Maine, New York, and Canada! Wild Cat Mountain offers an option to take on the Ziprider, zooming through the colorful canopy on a 2100-foot zipline.

02 of 20

Get Into Snow Sports

Skiing at Mount Sunapee

Mount Sunapee

If fresh snow is falling in New Hampshire, it's time to hit the mountains. The state is home to many affordable ski resorts, like Dartmouth Skiway and King Pine, but there are also many good places to try a new winter sport like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in cities like Jackson which has 150 miles of trails or take part in the annual candlelight snowshoeing expedition to America's Stonehenge.

New Hampshire also has many beautiful trails that stay open through the winter season for dedicated hikers on Mount Moosilauke and West Rattlesnake Mountain. If you prefer a more low-energy winter activity, you can also visit an ice castle. Each winter, artist Brent Christensen builds a frosty palace in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for visitors to explore.

03 of 20

Visit the State Capital

The New Hampshire State House, Concord New Hampshire

Denis Tangney Jr / Getty Images

Concord, NH, USA

Much more than the center of government, Concord offers a lot in the way of shopping and restaurants and is worth checking out for an overnight visit or lunch on your way to the ski resort. Home to a space museum, many small breweries, and an independent bookstore that's over a century old, there's something for everyone.

New Hampshire is also well known for its antique shopping and you can find many galleries and small shops on Antique Alley, the oldest antique shopping district in the state. You may even be able to find some interesting pieces at the Concord Auction Center, which holds auctions every Thursday night.

04 of 20

Walk the Flume Gorge at Franconia Notch State Park

franconia notch state park, new hampshire, usa
Catuncia / Getty Images
Flume Gorge, Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251, USA
Phone +1 603-823-8800

Near the northern town of Lincoln, Franconia Notch State Park is home to two of New Hampshire's most beloved natural features: the Old Man in the Mountain and the Flume Gorge. While many tourists stop for a quick photo of the rocky natural profile, it's worth it to spend more time hiking in the great 800-foot crack in the rock that starts at the base of Mount Liberty.

Shaped by natural forces during the Jurassic period and the Ice Age, the flume gorge has a complex geological history. What's probably most incredible about the Flume Gorge is that its existence was uncovered by a 93-year-old woman on a fishing excursion in 1808, or so the story is told. Today, there is a wooden walkway that guides visitors through the chasm as waterfalls cascade on either side.

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05 of 20

Explore America's Stonehenge

America's Stonehenge - NH Attraction
Angela N / Flickr / CC 2.0
105 Haverhill Rd, Salem, NH 03079, USA
Phone +1 603-893-8300

There are no clear answers as to who constructed these cave-like stone dwellings and astronomically aligned rock formations in Salem, New Hampshire. As the site is more than 4,000 years old, you're guaranteed to be intrigued while exploring the ancient ruins.

During the winter, snowshoe rentals are available, so you can even set out to see the megaliths when the temperature drops.

06 of 20

Take the Kids to an Amusement Park

Santa's Village in New Hampshire

Santa's Village

850 NH-16, Glen, NH 03838, USA
Phone +1 603-383-4186

New Hampshire is home to the region's best theme parks for little tykes: Story Land and ​​Santa's Village. Most parents will tell you that age 3 or 4 is the perfect time to enjoy the simple magic of gliding in a swan boat, climbing aboard Cinderella's pumpkin coach, and feeding Santa's reindeer.

If you don't have preschoolers, you can still enjoy a New Hampshire theme park escape. At Canobie Lake Park, a New Hampshire fixture since 1902, you'll find antique rides alongside modern marvels like the Untamed steel coaster. New Hampshire is also home to one of New England's largest water parks: ​Water Country.

07 of 20

Sunbathe at Hampton Beach

People relaxing on sunny beach, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images
Hampton Beach, Hampton, NH 03842, USA

New Hampshire only has 18 miles of shoreline, but it makes the most of the diminutive length of the Atlantic Coast. Hampton Beach is the state's largest sandbox, and it's open to the public free—although parking costs a pretty penny.

On summer days, Hampton Beach is packed...and for good reason. The surf is invigorating but not intimidating. The boardwalk is lined with eateries, arcades, and myriad other amusements. There's always something happening, from free nightly concerts at the bandshell to headline performances at the historic Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. And for those staying through the week, there are Monday movies on the beach and Wednesday night fireworks. All these activities are in addition to major events like the annual Master Sand Sculpting Competition.

08 of 20

Road Trip Along Kancamagus Highway

Kancamagus Highway

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Kancamagus Hwy, Albany, NH, USA

In a region with a reputation for superb scenic driving, New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway (pronounced kanc'-ah-MAU'-gus, but save yourself the trouble and just call it "The Kanc") eclipses other contenders for the title of New England's best byway. This 34.5-mile route through the White Mountain National Forest is picturesque year-round, and if you're visiting New Hampshire in the fall, it's a must.

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09 of 20

Fly Like an Eagle

Skyventure New Hampshire

Skyventure New Hampshire

100 Adventure Way, Nashua, NH 03060, USA
Phone +1 603-897-0002

This attraction located in Nashua, New Hampshire, allows you to fly like Superman in a vertical wind tunnel. If you've always wanted to skydive, but have a healthy fear of falling out of a plane, this alternative allows you to experience the unforgettable sensation of flying. The activity is safe for almost anyone ages three and up.

10 of 20

Drink Beer at Anheuser-Busch Brewery

Budweiser Clydesdales in NH

Kim Knox Beckius

221 Daniel Webster Hwy, Merrimack, NH 03054, USA
Phone +1 603-595-1202

Free beer and gorgeous horses. Need we say more? A visit to Anheuser-Busch's brewing facility in Merrimack, New Hampshire, makes for an affordable outing. The free brewery tour includes the chance to sample several beers for participants 21 or over, but the highlight of the visit is viewing the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Try to time your trip for the first Saturday of any month, when Clydesdale Camera Day is held. Visitors can meet and take pictures with a Clydesdale free of charge from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

11 of 20

Visit a Castle in the Clouds

New Hampshire Castle in the Clouds
Fletcher / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0
455 Old Mountain Rd, Moultonborough, NH 03254, USA
Phone +1 603-476-5900

Yes, there is a castle in New Hampshire, and it overlooks the state's most spectacular body of water: Lake Winnipesaukee. You could easily spend a half-day or more touring Castle in the Clouds and learning of its owner's tragic riches-to-rags story. The rest of the time try hiking to a waterfall and other scenic spots within the 5,200-acre estate and lunching at the Carriage House Cafe, which offers light fare and incomparable lake views.

12 of 20

Ride the Rails

Mount Washington Cog Railway Picture

Kim Knox Beckius

3168 Base Station Rd, Mount Washington, NH 03589, USA
Phone +1 603-278-5404

Climbing aboard a train is an old-fashioned way to admire New Hampshire's natural wonders, and several memorable excursions await Granite State visitors. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is an engineering achievement that is as impressive now as when it debuted in 1869. From the base in Bretton Woods, the train climbs along the steepest track in America to the summit of Mount Washington, New England's highest peak (6,288 feet above sea level).

Train buffs will also want to check out trips offered by Conway Scenic Railroad or a picturesque and leisurely lakeshore trip aboard the Winnipesaukee Railroad.

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13 of 20

Go Moose Spotting

New Hampshire Moose
Cappi Thompson / Getty Images

New Hampshire's best place to spy moose is the stretch of Route 3 that runs north from Pittsburg to the Canadian border. Known as "Moose Alley," this scenic drive winds past covered bridges, wooded expanses, and a series of pristine lakes that form the Connecticut River's headwaters. Even if a gangly hulking creature doesn't cause you to hit the brakes while driving along the road, you're still in for a wild ride.

14 of 20

Admire Art at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Saint-Gaudens New Hampshire

National Park Service

139 St Gaudens Rd, Cornish, NH 03745, USA
Phone +1 603-675-2175

If you're an art lover, a stop at sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens' estate in Cornish is mandatory. Now a national park, the lack of crowds makes the historic home and its sculpture-dotted grounds even more enchanting.

You'll have the opportunity to view replicas of Saint-Gaudens' most intricate and important works cast from original molds, learn about the sculptor's life and process, and find inspiration here, as did the many Cornish Art Colony members who followed Saint-Gaudens to New Hampshire.

15 of 20

Experience Shaker Living

Canterbury Shaker Village Attraction Near Concord NH

Rebecca Gale / Flickr / CC 2.0

288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury, NH 03224-2728, USA
Phone +1 603-783-9511

For over 50 years, the members of the Shaker religion have lived and worked at the Canterbury Shaker Village site in Canterbury living. These residents live and work as their ancestors have for the past 200 years. 

Visitors will find restored buildings and the community selling crafts, food, and offering tours of the town. Additionally, there are demonstrations and classes on woodworking, letterpress printing, spinning, basket weaving, broom making, and more.

16 of 20

Buy a Quilt

Pickering Farm

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 

19 Fitzwilliam Rd, Richmond, NH 03470-4303, USA
Phone +1 603-239-7550

Crafts can be the perfect souvenir of an epic road trip (who needs another T-shirt?), so tourists driving near Richmond should make a stop at Pickering Farm for a stunning quilt that'll keep you warm—it's the perfect memory of New Hampshire.

The shop is located within a historic barn on the property and features antique reproduction fabrics from 1780 to the 1930s that will fit any decor. Makers will be especially happy walking around and exploring the hundreds of books and patterns, samples, and patterns. Classes are also offered.

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17 of 20

Pet a Goat

person in red sweatshirt pets goats out in green pasture

Treehugger / Dan Amos

716 Main St, Dublin, NH 03444, USA
Phone +1 603-563-8444

For folks with kids—or just fans of furry creatures—a stop by The Friendly Farm in Dublin is a fun day trip activity. The five-acre property opens in early summer through Labor Day weekend (and then weekends in the Fall) to welcome visitors as they wander the grounds and interact up-close-and-personal with pigs, chickens, cows, geese, ducks, and goats. The Friendly Farm is set along Route 101 in Dublin, New Hampshire, about 1.5 miles west of scenic Dublin Lake.

18 of 20

Take the Mount Washington Auto Road

Mt. Washington Auto Road
Cappi Thompson / Getty Images
Mt Washington Auto Rd, New Hampshire, USA

Gorham, New Hampshire, is home to America's oldest man-made attraction: the Mount Washington Auto Road. Although it's a bit of a harrowing drive due to the steepness of the climb, the highway to the tippy top of New England has been traveled since 1861, and it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime undertakings you should consider.

Many suggest that it's best to ascend the Mount Washington Auto Road on a guided van tour. That way, you'll remember the spectacular views rather than the white-knuckle driving experience.

19 of 20

Grab a Beer at Tuckerman Brewery

White Mountains

PraveenPN / Getty Images 

66 Hobbs St, Conway, NH 03818-1058, USA
Phone +1 603-447-5400

Locally owned and produced near the White Mountains, Tuckerman beer has been a New Hampshire favorite since 1998 producing around 8,000 barrels of beer annually. The tasting room is open daily and each Saturday the brewery hosts local performances from local musicians and invites listeners to toss back a few cold ones and enjoy the free tunes.

20 of 20

Catch a Show at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth

Hopkins Center for the Arts

Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 1.0 

4 E Wheelock St, Hanover, NH 03755-1549, USA
Phone +1 603-646-2422

Luckily one doesn't need to be enrolled as a student at Dartmouth to buy a ticket to one of the many fantastic performances at the Hopkins Center for the Arts aka The Hop. The artist space hosts ensembles performing everything from modern dance to gospel choirs, and classical music to jazz bands throughout most of the year. Before any of the shows head upstairs for a spectacular view and a cocktail at the Top of the Hop bar.

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20 Top Things to Do in New Hampshire