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The state of New Hampshire is one of America’s best-kept secrets. Since it doesn’t have a sprawling city of millions, it’s not always at the top of everyone’s must-see list. But it should be! New Hampshire has it all: the charm, quaintness, sites and activities, history, and gorgeous granite landscapes.
I was born and raised in NH, and just can’t seem to leave this beautiful corner of the country. What sets it apart for me is its amazing variety of sights, towns, and activities, that are all insanely accessible no matter what region you’re in. Since NH isn’t a large state, everything is at your fingertips. You can be in a city, on a mountain, then on the beach, all in the same day. Talk about bang for your buck.
If you’re not convinced yet, I’m going to share 50 of the best things to do in New Hampshire. Many of these are my personal favorites, mixed with some iconic NH experiences you just can’t miss out on. Come explore this great state!
Lounge by the ocean at Hampton Beach State Park.
The beach is a major favorite among New Hampshire locals. It’s such an integral part of our summers that I was surprised to learn we actually have the smallest ocean coastline (about 18 miles) of any state. But we definitely know how to make good use of our humble blessings!
Hampton Beach State Park is a wicked popular vacation spot between June and August. Read a book in the sand, grab a slice of pizza on Ocean Boulevard, or catch the sand sculpture competition in September.
Read Next: 10 Best Beaches in New Hampshire
Watch a movie the old-fashioned way at a drive-in.
Who doesn’t love a nostalgic drive-in theater experience? The Milford Drive-In Theater in Southern NH is an old-fashioned two screen theater, one of the only drive-ins left in the state. Snag a spot early (first come, first served parking), buy your theater snacks at the concession stand and get cozy for the show.
Take a dip in Diana’s Baths.
The White Mountains are riddled with breathtaking natural formations, and Diana’s Baths is definitely one of them. Made up of a series of small waterfalls and pools, this 1-mile out and back trail in Bartlett is a short, easy walk, but packed with serene nooks to explore.
Appreciate the beautiful waterfall views along your hike, wade in the clean mountain-water pools, or picnic on a summer day!
Take a scenic train ride in the mountains.
The Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway Village offers family-friendly train rides through the Mount Washington Valley. This is definitely one of the top New Hampshire attractions for visitors to the state.
Departing from a charming, sunny train station in North Conway, you can choose between two adventures: a heritage rail excursion to Conway and Bartlett, or a scenic roundtrip to Crawford Notch with plenty of vistas and rocky outcrops that’ll leave you in awe.
Drive, hike, or ride to the top of Mount Washington.
Introducing Mount Washington: the tallest peak in the Northeast (6288’), home to the fastest wind gust ever recorded on earth (231 mph), and the muse for every single ‘This Car Climbed Mt. Washington’ bumper sticker.
But really, this mountain is a glorious point of pride for New Hampshire. And there are several ways to experience its majesty. Experienced hikers can climb. Those who want to sit back and savor the scenery can ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first mountain-climbing cog, to the top.
Last but not least, you can drive the legendary Mount Washington Auto Road to the summit yourself, then proudly display your new ‘This Car Climbed Mt. Washington’ bumper sticker. You’ve earned it!
Read Next: 12 of the Best Hikes in New Hampshire
Bring your little ones to Story Land.
Nestled in the town of Glen, Story Land is a children’s amusement park that will spark your child’s imagination and have them buzzing from excitement.
With over 30 attractions, “the land where fantasy lives” was created to make kids smile, but adults might be equally amused by this living fairytale!
Walk across an epic boardwalk in a gorge.
I highly recommend Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park, which was created by the flow of Flume Brook and sits at the base of Mount Liberty. This is one of the most beautiful places to visit in NH.
The 1.5 mile Flume Gorge loop takes you along stairs and a boardwalk within the gorge, where you can observe the lush flora and fauna up close and take in its 90-foot granite walls. It’s an unforgettable experience.
I first visited Flume Gorge as a child, and it blew me away – I might as well have been in Terabithia. To this day, I’m still convinced it’s one of the most magical places in NH.
Enjoy the holidays year-round at Santa’s Village.
Santa’s Village in Jefferson is a magical place for kids, plain and simple. And it’s exactly what it sounds like – a theme park that transports you to the North Pole.
There’s food and shopping, a tiny train, holiday themed rides, elves, and meet-and-greets with Santa Claus himself!
Explore the oldest European settlement in the state.
Located in my favorite coastal city of Portsmouth, Strawbery Banke Museum is a 10-acre outdoor history museum imbued with over 300 years of U.S. history.
Dating back to the 1600s, this is the oldest neighborhood in NH to be settled by Europeans. Composed of 32 restored historic buildings, heritage gardens, and costumed role-players, the museum will immerse you in its rich history.
You can participate in hands-on traditional crafts, storytelling, and artifact viewing. If you’re a history buff, Strawbery Banke is a must.
Learn about ocean science at the Seacoast Science Center.
Located at Odiorne State Park, the Seacoast Science Center is a delightful, educational way to appreciate marine life and the ocean. As a bonus, it’s right on the beach in Rye!
The exhibits will teach you about marine mammals like whales and seals, beaches, and reefs. The best part is the touch tank, where you can pet a chain catshark or hold a sea star.
Have a serene stay at a luxurious mountain hotel.
Why not experience NH in style? Located in Bretton Woods, a hotspot for skiers and adventurers, the Omni Mount Washington Resort is a breathtaking hotel.
In the 20th century, The Mount Washington was one the most luxurious hotels of its time. And the present popularity of this historical hotel lies in its massive size, and the nature that surrounds it – a stay here comes with 360-degree views of the White Mountains. Book a stay here if you want a one-of-a-kind NH experience!
Get up close to nature at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.
Off the beaten path in Holderness, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is a great place to visit if you’re interested in natural science or seeing a variety of cool animals up close. There are so many programs and camps for kids, live animal exhibits, walking trails, and education programs. The center even offers cruises on Squam Lake.
Read More: 10 of the Best Lakes in New Hampshire
Overcome your claustrophobia inside the Polar Caves.
Formed during the last Ice Age, the Polar Caves were created when a glacier moved across the landscape and deposited massive granite boulders. I think gorgeous granite formations like the Polar Caves are what make NH’s landscape so amazing.
You can visit Polar Caves Park and meander along the stairs and boardwalks that will weave you in and out of the caves. Some portions consist of really narrow crevices though, so be prepared if you’re not a fan of small spaces!
Sit on a frozen throne at the Ice Castles.
The Ice Castles, a frozen attraction in North Woodstock, is an incredible feat of human engineering and art. Built using hundreds of thousands of icicles by various artists, these castles have tunnels, ice thrones, sculptures, fountains, and more.
It’s a magical, frozen kingdom that I really want to compare to a certain Disney movie… But maybe I should let it go.
Jam out to live music in an oceanside park.
There are some amazing memories to be made in downtown Portsmouth’s Prescott Park. A whole calendar of events happen here year-round. Not to mention, the location is fantastic! Right on the ocean, there are piers and beautiful gardens, and you’ll also be in spitting distance of Portsmouth’s best shops and restaurants.
One of the best ways to take advantage of Prescott Park is catching a live concert during their summer Concert Series. Lay out a blanket in the grass with loved ones and listen to your favorite band, with an ocean sunset and docking boats as the backdrop. This is where memories are made.
Play PAC-MAN at the largest arcade in the world.
Bet you didn’t know that Funspot arcade in Laconia is the largest arcade in the world – Guinness-certified! This place has over 600 games, 300 classic arcade games, a bowling alley, cash bingo, mini-golf, and even its own tavern. If you can walk in and out of here in under an hour, you deserve a Guinness World Record yourself.
Stay in a unique cabin in the White Mountains.
If you haven’t noticed yet, the White Mountains region covers so much of why NH is a great state to visit.
An awesome way to get up close and personal with these amazing mountain ranges is to find a unique Airbnb cabin stay. I’d recommend looking for one in towns like North Conway, Bretton Woods, or Franconia.
If you need some inspiration, check out our hand-picked list of 14 amazing cabins in the White Mountains.
Peruse the galleries of an art museum.
Yes, NH actually has a good arts scene! While there are plenty of nice options, two institutions really stand out: the Currier Museum of Art, and the Hood Museum of Art. Both of them are beautiful museums with world-class collections.
The Currier (which made our list of best things to do in Manchester) has a strong European and American collection.
The Hood Museum in Hanover is a Dartmouth College institution, and as such has really strong ties to Dartmouth’s history and community. But with a collection of over 65,000 pieces ranging from European, Indigenous Australian, Asian, and African art, the Hood Museum offers a powerful diversity of perspectives.
Having previously worked for this museum myself, I can proudly say it’s an impressive institution.
Tour the historic home of a famous American sculptor.
In the late 19th century, the great American sculpture Augustus Saint-Gaudens lived seasonally at a gorgeous estate in Cornish, NH.
The grounds have since been turned into the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park, where you can tour the home, walk the gardens, and view over 100 of Saint-Gaudens’ sculptures throughout the property.
Visit a British colonial village dating back to the 1700s.
The Fort at No. 4 Open-Air Museum is a historical site in Charlestown, established by European pioneers in the mid-1700s.
You’ll get to explore the old, restored buildings, watch live reenactments, and view artifacts displays. The Fort will give you a better understanding of the fascinating, messy history of European colonization in New England.
Have some fun in the sun at an amusement park.
Calling all roller coaster junkies: Canobie Lake Park in Salem is NH’s biggest amusement park.
Recently named in Time’s Money Magazine as one of America’s 10 best amusement parks, Canobie has over 85 games and rides and draws visitors from all over New England.
Canobie really is a blast, and a great way to spend a summer day. Take a spin on the Xtreme Frisbee, if you dare!
Walk through New England’s largest outdoor sculpture park.
Introducing the Andres Institute of Art, a lesser-known NH art institute but well worth the visit. The Institute is located along wooded trails in Brookline, and from dawn to dusk you are free to walk the paths and view over 60 sculptures created by various contemporary artists.
Take a scenic drive on the Kancamagus Highway.
The Kancamagus Highway, a 34-mile scenic drive in Northern NH, is an amazing USA road trip experience.
Officially designated an American Scenic Byway, this winding road cuts straight through the White Mountain National Forest and takes you over 2800-feet in elevation. Not only is it well worth the 2–3-hour drive, but you’ll have immediate access to the endless natural treasures of the White Mountains.
Go in the fall if you can – many people consider this highway the best location for leaf-peeping in the country!
Watch bears perform acrobatics.
This one’s a bit of a novelty, but who doesn’t love a quirky show every once in a while? At the family-friendly Clark’s Bears in Lincoln, you can watch trained black bears performing crazy tricks (who knew they were so nimble?), mine for gold, or take a train ride. And if you ever want to impress a NH local, tell them you survived being chased by the Wolfman. Works every time.
Shred the gnar at a mountain ski resort.
Vermont isn’t the only ski-lover’s haven in New England! NH has got some amazing peaks to shred too. And Loon Mountain Resort might just be one of the best places for it! Located in Lincoln, this resort covers three peaks and offers skiing and snowboarding lessons, rentals, and views for days.
Become a wine connoisseur at a local vineyard.
I love a nice wine tasting and was surprised to discover how many wineries and vineyards there are in NH.
LaBelle Winery in Amherst has great food, fruity wines, and a beautiful vineyard. Averill House Vineyard in Brookline is rustic and family-owned, located in a restored barn from the 1830s. There’s also Haunting Whisper Vineyard, Flag Hill, Fulchino Vineyard, and more. And most of these offer wine tastings, tours, and dining on site. Take your pick!
See a show at a historic theatre.
The Palace Theatre in Manchester is a great place to catch a live show. It offers a wide variety of productions, from plays to concerts to other performing arts events. We think it’s in the top 19 things to do in Manchester, NH!
But it’s not just about the world-class performances they host. The Palace, which opened in 1915, is steeped in history, charm, and some even say hauntings (it was featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters!). So come for the show, stay for the ghosts.
Peruse a farmers market on the seacoast.
The Portsmouth Farmers Market is an open-air marketplace, where over 100 local vendors set up shop and sell their unique goods. It’s an awesome way to shop fresh, and support the region’s farmers, artisans, and craftspeople. This farmers market runs from May-November.
Explore the inside of a Navy submarine.
Have you ever wondered what the inside of a real submarine looks like? Well, satisfy your curiosity at the USS Albacore Museum.
The USS Albacore is a preserved U.S. Navy submarine that was designed to conduct top-secret research in the 1950s. It sits in USS Albacore Park in Portsmouth now, where you can take a self-guided tour of its interior.
Visit a mountaintop castle in the clouds.
Lucknow mansion, otherwise known as the Castle in the Clouds, is a massive mountaintop estate in Moultonborough.
Built by a wealthy businessman in 1913, the property has 5500 acres, a restaurant, and sprawling views of the lake and Ossipee Mountains.
Come take a tour, learn about its fascinating history, appreciate the beauty, and enjoy the food. This historical mansion truly is a castle in the clouds.
Take a walk with a rewarding view at Cathedral Ledge.
The Cathedral Ledge summit in Bartlett is a fairly low-commitment hike that offers a pretty big reward. Take this shaded walk along a mile-long auto road, up to Cathedral Ledge’s 1159-foot summit. You’ll find incredible views of the Saco River Valley and White Mountains from every direction.
Taste penny candy at an old-fashioned general store.
If you’re nostalgic for those good ol’ days of candy counters and charming Yankee watering holes, you have to visit Zeb’s General Store in North Conway Village. It’s a really fun, whimsical spot for shopping while you’re exploring North Conway. You’ll find a wide array of old-fashioned candy, New England-made specialty foods, and unique souvenirs.
Read Next: 14 Top Things to Do in North Conway NH
Enjoy autumn like a local at the Deerfield Fair.
We love Fair Season in NH! It’s one of our quintessential fall activities. There’s just something about wearing flannel, petting farm animals, watching tractors race each other, riding rickety Ferris wheels, and eating shameful amounts of fried dough we can’t get enough of.
The Deerfield Fair, held every September, has been operating for 144 years now. In 2019 this super popular fair attracted over 125,000 people in just four days! Oh, and if you do go, please try the apple cider donuts.
Spend an epic lake day at Lake Winnipesaukee.
As the biggest lake in the state, Lake Winnipesaukee comes alive in the spring and summertime. Located in the Lakes Region, there are so many ways to enjoy this gorgeous spot. Lounge on Weirs Beach, rent a boat from Goodhue Boat Co., take a cruise on the M/S Mount Washington, or shop and dine at Mill Falls Marketplace.
Visit one of the oldest surviving businesses in the United States.
First opened in 1781, the Old Country Store and Museum in Moultonborough is considered one of the oldest businesses – and possibly the oldest general store – in the U.S.
This sunny-yellow store with its original foundation still intact is brimming with little wonders, knick-knacks, locally made foods, New England souvenirs, and a candy counter where you can try old-fashioned candy. The top floor holds a small museum for the history of the store and Moultonborough.
Explore a historical, eclectic museum.
If a museum that exhibits a variety of items covering local history, natural science, and decorative arts sounds fascinating, the Woodman Museum in Dover might be just the place for you. Apart from cool intrigues and oddities displayed across four historical buildings, you’ll find the oldest sycamore tree in Strafford County, a lovely garden, and the oldest house in Dover (built in 1675!).
Drink craft beer at NH Brewfest.
We like our beer, period. In fact, there are almost 100 craft breweries across the state, serving up their unique styles for every kind of beer lover. To make it easy on yourself, why not sample them all in one place at the NH Brewfest in Portsmouth? This festival features over 150 beers from 50 NH brewers! There’s a good chance you’ll find a new favorite.
Attend the largest beer festival in New England.
While NH Brewfest is perfect if you’re interested solely in NH brewers, the New England Brewfest highlights all of New England’s best. New England’s official beer festival, New England Brewfest, is held in Woodstock, NH (which we’re pretty proud of).
Enjoy a downtown festival at the state capitol.
One of the summer’s most fun festivals takes place right in downtown Concord, the state capitol. Market Days Festival is a three-day event along Main Street in August, with live music, street food, crafts, carnival games, and all kinds of shopping.
So many local businesses set up booths and sell their services and goods at Market Days. This event is so much fun, and really uplifts the whole community.
Pick fresh produce at a family-owned farm.
There are so many wonderful farms in NH, it’s hard to pick which ones to highlight. But I’ll give it a shot.
Lull Farm in Hollis is always bustling no matter what time of year. They have gorgeous flowers for sale, a bakery counter, and fresh seafood and dairy. Moulton Farm in Meredith is a favorite of mine. They have an extensive amount of produce, a corn maze every fall, and delicious homemade pies.
And finally, check out Applecrest Farm Orchards if you’re looking for one on the seacoast. It’ll satisfy all of you apple fanatics out there.
Have dinner and brews at a popular brewpub.
Sometimes you might just be craving some good American grub and a local craft beer. Well, Backyard Brewery & Kitchen has your back.
Recently featured on Phantom Gourmet, this brewpub is a bustling locale. People rave about the handmade beer, wide-open interior and outdoor patio, and the mouthwatering prime rib.
Immerse yourself in the history of Canterbury Shaker Village.
Canterbury Shaker Village is over 200 years old, and as a National Historic Landmark it preserves the heritage of the Canterbury Shakers and educates the public on its historical significance.
On your visit you can explore the Village grounds, take a guided tour, and check out various indoor exhibits. The unique architecture throughout the Village is a definite highlight!
Sample some wicked good chowda at Chowderfest.
Chowder is a beloved New England soup. Probably because it’s comforting and hardy, and New Englanders definitely need hardiness to get through these killer winters.
In any case, if you’re a fan of a good chowder, visit Chowderfest and Brews at Waterville Valley Resort. It takes place in May, and for a small fee you can sample all the chowder your stomach can stand. Live music and local beer samples included!
Sip on a latte at a cozy café.
NH’s coffee scene doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. And while we’re no Portland, there are some undeniable gems sprinkled around the state.
Second to none is Apotheca in Goffstown, a café and flower shop combo that will spark your imagination and your tastebuds. They have whimsical, earthy decor, comfy repurposed furniture, local artisan crafts and gifts, gorgeous flower arrangements and incredible coffee. What more do you need?
Take the family to Chucksters Family Fun Park.
This amusement center in Chichester is jam-packed with fun activities you can enjoy with your kids. From a bumper boat pond to ziplining, go-karts, batting cages, a climbing wall, and mini golf, you won’t experience a single moment of boredom.
Take a walk in the woods to the ruins of a castle.
There’s a fascinating history to this castle. It was built by the eccentric Parisian costume designer, Madame Sherri, to entertain New York City’s rich and famous in the Roaring Twenties. It’s fun to visit and imagine all the scandalous ragers taking place in those woods.
Drive through a magical tunnel of Christmas lights.
If you love peeping amazing Christmas lights displays in December, look no further than the NH Motor Speedway in Loudon. While this speedway is normally used as a race car track, it is converted each holiday season into a magical 2.5-mile tunnel of Christmas lights that you can drive your car through. It’s worth waiting in line for, I promise.
Go on a shopping spree at the Merrimack Outlets.
The Merrimack Outlets is a large, modern shopping center that has a nice food court, outdoor walking paths and over 100 outlet stores. There are so many upscale brands here that you won’t find anywhere else in the state, like Barbour, Coach, Lucky Brand, and Michael Kors.
Go flower-peeping at the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival.
For nature-lovers and photographers who love capturing lightning in a bottle, you’ll want to attend the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival in the White Mountains.
The town of Sugar Hill is way off the beaten path, but it possesses a secret treasure: endless fields and gardens of lupines. These beautiful purple, white, and pink flowers bloom for just a few short weeks in June.
So attend the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival to catch them at their glorious peak; the rolling hills explode with color, but only for a brief moment.
Take a trip to outer space.
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is the perfect place to make your dream of going to space come true, without actually leaving earth.
This center has an observatory and interactive space exhibits, where you can learn all about astronomy, aviation, space science, and real-life astronauts such as the courageous Christa McAuliffe.
But the best part? The planetarium shows. Recline in their domed theater, and feel like you’re literally flying through the stars.
Which of these top things to do in NH is your favorite?
Read these next:
- 10 Waterfalls in New Hampshire That Will Make Your Jaw Drop
- 13 of the Coziest + Best Cabins in New Hampshire
- 14 Amazing Things to Do In New Hampshire in Winter
Jessica Vaillancourt is a New Hampshire-based travel writer and freelance editor. An avid traveler, she is the founder of The Simple Nomad, a travel & lifestyle website where she blogs about solo travel, trip planning guides, minimalist living, and more. When Jess is not blogging and wrangling her classroom of high schoolers, she’s likely planning her next global adventure, exploring the States in her little blue Volvo, or guzzling coffee in a cafe near you