Known for its motto as the “Live Free or Die” state, New Hampshire is one of six states in the New England region of the United States. Located in the far northeast of the country, the state is most famous for its mountainous and coastal scenery, as well as its historical ties to the American Revolution and granite production.
Nicknamed “The Granite State”, the White Mountains are full of granite formations and quarries. These same mountains are where many people travel to enjoy outdoor recreational activities. Though the landscape is predominately mountainous, there is a little sliver of shoreline on the Atlantic Coast. A mere 18 miles, people travel to the Seacoast region to enjoy small coastal communities like Hampton Beach and Portsmouth.
The perfect destination all year round, many people go to hike, camp, ski, and snowshoe. There are also many historical sites and landmarks throughout the state that are popular destinations for educational excursions. With the perfect balance of rugged nature and quiet New England towns, New Hampshire is a beloved destination for adults and families.
Livin’ La Vida New Hampshire
Visit New Hampshire’s Top Towns and Cities
History of “The Granite State”
Living in New Hampshire before colonization were Abenaki tribes that spoke the Algonquian language. The first European explorers arrived in the area between 1600 and 1605. Odiorne’s Point was the first settlement in 1623. However, the first permanent establishment didn’t occur until 1631 at Hilton’s Point.
The state’s most famous period of history is tied to the American Revolution. As one of the original Thirteen Colonies, New Hampshire was the first to declare independence from British rule. Rallying troops to fight for the Patriot Army, there was only one battle in the state at Fort William & Mary in 1774.
On January 5th, 1776, New Hampshire officially declared independence from Britain, but it would not become the 9th US state until 1788 when it ratified the US Constitution and was admitted to the Union. Less than 100 years later, the state would again rally troops to fight during the Civil War, sending nearly 32,500 men to become Union soldiers.
During modern times, New Hampshire has the privilege of holding the first nationwide primary elections every four years, which gives the state the ability to greatly influence and impact the candidates.
In 1916, the first primary was held in the state, but the tradition of casting the first votes did not start until 1920. Since then, everyone (especially the media) looks to New Hampshire for analysis and predictions of the presidential race outcome.
Capital City of Concord
Concord is the capital city of New Hampshire. Supporting 43,976 residents as of 2020, it’s the third largest city in the state after Manchester and Nashua. Concord is situated on the bank of the Merrimack River in the South-Central region.
The city comprises its downtown area and two neighborhoods called North End and South End. Additionally, there are four villages – Penacook, Concord Heights, East Concord, and West Concord.
Boasting a small city community, many travelers head to Concord to enjoy the culture, food, and attractions. Acting as a gateway to the White Mountains, visitors will be a short distance away from hiking, skiing, and climbing destinations.
The downtown area drives tourism to the city with its historical architecture, shops, and restaurants. A few activities include the Red River Theater and New Hampshire Historical Society.
Visiting families and those who love museums must see the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, which has interactive exhibits. Additional attractions include the Granite State Candy Shoppe, Concord Antique Gallery, and the Granite Restaurant & Bar.
Around town, there are tons of things to do and see. The McLane Audubon Center, Canterbury Shaker Village, Carter Hill Orchard, New Hampshire State House, and the Franklin Pierce Manse House are all interesting places to go.
Manchester, the Largest City in New Hampshire
In Hillsborough County, Manchester is the largest city in the state with a population of 115,644 as of 2020. Straddling the Merrimack River, the city has 25 neighborhoods. Some of the most popular neighborhoods to visit are Notre Dame/McGregorville, Piscataquog/Granite Square, Rimmon Heights, and Amoskeag.
Beginning as a mill town, the city has become a major center for culture, arts, and entertainment. Downtown Manchester is definitely worth a visit because of its historic architecture and diverse list of attractions. Outside the city, travelers won’t have to go too far to escape the noise and crowds.
Top sights in the area include historic walking tours of Downtown, The Millyard Museum, SEE Science Center, the Palace Theater, New Hampshire Institute of Art, Livingston Park, the Currier Museum of Art, Amoskeag Fishways, and the Zimmerman House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Dover, Largest City in the Seacoast Region
Supporting 32,741 residents as of 2020, Dover is the largest city in the Seacoast region. Situated just inland from the coast, the city was first settled in 1623. This makes it the 7th oldest city in the United States.
Historically, the economy was driven by shipbuilding and mills. Now, tourism is important as many travelers use Dover as a base camp to explore New Hampshire’s coastal landscapes.
Most visitors will stick to Dover’s Downtown, which has a host of shops, restaurants, activities, entertainment, culture, and historic sights. Being rather compact, Downtown Dover is also easily walkable, which makes it great for visiting families.
Some of the most visited attractions are the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, the Woodman Museum, Hilton Park, Bellamy River Wildlife Management Area, Dover Community Trail, and the Tendercrop Farm.
Portsmouth, a Historic Seaport
For those that want to stay outside of the big city, Portsmouth is a small town and historic seaport that is just 13 miles away from Dover. Additionally, it’s about one hour north of Boston, Massachusetts, which makes it a popular weekend getaway destination. As a seaport, the city is home to the state’s oldest settlement.
Currently, about 21,956 people live in the city as of 2020. With the city’s popularity growing, visitors can take their pick of touring historic sites, US Naval ships, outdoor attractions, the port, and riverside areas. Portsmouth is busiest during the warm summer months with some travelers trickling into the fall and spring seasons too.
Major attractions in Portsmouth include the Strawbery Banke Museum, Prescott Park, USS Albacore Museum, Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden, Portsmouth Athenaeum, the Warner House, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, Market Square, Peirce Island, Seacoast Science Center, Isle of Shoals, Old Ferry Landing, and the Odiorne Point State park.
Hanover, a Historic College Town
With a small population of 11,870 people as of 2020, Hanover is most known for being home to Dartmouth College, which is an Ivy League institution. The college was founded in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock and it has since been ranked among some of the world’s best research universities.
Aside from the university, Hanover is a quiet community that is great for families, couples, and solo travelers. Easily traversed on foot, visitors can enjoy the architecture including some of the town’s oldest structures. A few attractions that are in the area are the Hood Museum of Art and the Montshire Museum of Science.
White Mountain National Forest
Protecting 750,852 acres of land between New Hampshire and Maine, White Mountain National Forest is an epic hiking, camping, and skiing destination. Segmented into three discontinuous areas that are separated by two highways, the forest also contains a 100-mile-long section of the Appalachian Trail.
Furthermore, there are six designated Federal Wilderness areas that are solely used for recreational activities and scientific purposes. Many visitors are eager to get a chance to view some of the park’s wildlife. Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, black bears, river otters, bobcats, Canadian lynx, mink, porcupine, fisher, and red foxes are just some of the species that can be found living within the White Mountains.
The dominant feature of the national forest is Mount Washington, which is the highest peak in the Northeastern US with an elevation of 6,288 feet. Recreational activities on the mountain include hiking, backcountry skiing, cycling, and glider flying. The easiest ways to summit the mountain are by the Mount Washington Auto Road on the eastern side and the Mount Washington Cog Railway on the western slope.
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
Also called the Lost River Reservation, this protected area is in the White Mountains near the village of North Woodstock. Known for its beautiful appearance, it got the name “Lost River” because the water flows beneath the surface of a steep-walled gorge that was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago.
Now, many of the caves in the area, as well as the gorge have been opened to the public. Larger caves will be tall enough to walk into, but some caverns are so tight and narrow that you will have to crawl. In addition to the main gorge area, there are two trails that wind their way through the reservation.
Franconia Notch State Park
Not too far from the Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves is another natural attraction – Franconia Notch State Park. Both a nature preserve and public recreation area, Franconia Notch is most famous for Flume Gorge and Cannon Mountain, the latter of which is the only state-owned ski resort. Visitors head to the state park all year long to enjoy activities like hiking, fishing, biking, and skiing.
In the northern portion of the park is Cannon Mountain, which has 11 lifts and 285 acres of skiable land. To the south, Flume Gorge was first discovered in 1808 and it has since become a popular tourist attraction. The chasm features natural granite and it stretches for 800 feet through the forest. Tourists can take a 2-mile self-guided tour to see the gorge and waterfalls.
For more than a century, tourists have been traveling to Lake Winnipesaukee to enjoy its quiet shores and numerous islands. A glacial lake, there are several divisions in the area called The Broads, Meredith Bay, Paugus Bay, Alton Bay, Wolfeboro Bay, Winter Harbor, and Moultonborough Bay.
On the lake itself, there are a series of 258 natural islands that range in size from 0.25 acres up to 1,186 acres. Many people head to Alton, which is the largest town in the region, or Laconia, which is known as Weirs Beach. Small communities on the lake include Tuftonboro, Meredith, and Wolfeboro, which is a top ski town too. Activities around the lake include boating, biking, and hiking.
Winter Mountain Resorts
With the tallest peaks in the Northeastern United States, New Hampshire gets plenty of natural snow. Many go to enjoy the fresh powder, which often sticks around for early and late season runs. Altogether, there are 28 ski resorts throughout the state and many are located not too far from one another.
Close to Mount Washington, Bretton Woods is one of the most popular ski resorts in the state with a gondola and 10 lifts. Visitors can ski 464 acres of trails, glades, and terrain parks, making it the largest too. With snowmakers set up on 92% of the trails, Bretton Woods has some of the best skiing in the state and it is typically open from early November to mid-April.
In the White Mountain National Forest, Loon Mountain is an awesome area for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The varied terrain includes 61 trails and parks spread across three mountain peaks. Other winter activities offered include snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice skating, and a zipline.
“Live Free or Die”
A desirable destination, New Hampshire entertains with its glorious mountain peaks to its sliver of the coast. For outdoor recreation, you can’t go wrong in this state. Various protected and public areas offer mountains, lakes, rivers, and beaches for tourists to explore and enjoy throughout the year.
On top of the natural beauty, the numerous historic sites ensure that you can also have an educational trip too. Smaller-sized, travelers can easily venture all over this state and make memories to last a lifetime.