From 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, tax-free shopping, and historic art museums.
No matter the time of year, New Hampshire makes for an unforgettable vacation.
Take the Kids to an Amusement Park
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.
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 band shell 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visiting New Hampshire in the winter? You can still see a castle... an ice castle. Each winter, artist Brent Christensen builds a frosty palace in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for visitors to explore.
Ride the Rails
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).
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.
Go Tax-Free Shopping
Thanks to the lack of a sales tax, shopping in New Hampshire is a bargain—especially at one of the state's outlet shopping centers.
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.
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.
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.
For those that want to explore the great outdoors, but find spending the night in a tent a bit too close to nature, the vacation cabins at Lopstick in Pittsburg, New Hampshire are the rustic answer. Built back in 1928, the cabins all have a bedroom, bathroom, and modern kitchen, but more importantly, are close to outside activities like fly fishing, ATV rides, hiking, snowmobiling, and more.
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 an classes on woodworking, letterpress printing, spinning, basket weaving, broom making and more.
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.
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.
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 from 3 to 7pm and 1 to 7pm on the weekends. No reservations are required.
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.
Who needs a yoga studio when you can seek out inner peace than amid the lush forest of Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves. The summertime program run over six weeks and any participants are encouraged to buy a spot ahead of time as the classes can only accommodate 20 people.
Set in New Hampshire’s Kinsman Notch, the site also offers a ton of activities for all age, including lantern tours, cave exploration, hikes, and panning for gemstones.
If getting your hands dirty is appealing while on vacation then swing by downtown Hanover and pick up a skill or two at the Hanover Fine Craft Gallery. The studio space offers a multitude of hands-on classes teaching students how to create art utilizing supplies like clay, metal, and wood to build jewelry, sculptures, pottery, and more.
The shop also sells handcrafted art, home furnishings, and wearable creations from local designers across the state.
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, chicken, 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.