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New Hampshire’s best small towns for a weekend getaway

Officially admitted to the Union on June 21, 1788, as the 9e State, New Hampshire is one of the beautiful northern states in the New England region of northeastern America. Besides being one of the thirteen colonies, the The White Mountain State snow-capped mountain landscapes, pristine water bodies, thriving wilderness areas and vast granite quarries fascinate locals and tourists alike. Scattered across the state’s 8,954 square miles are countless small towns that offer a nice home-away-from-home feel and are perfect for those looking for a relaxing weekend getaway.

Hanover

Hanover, New Hampshire.
The Baker-Berry Library on the campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Editorial credit: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock.com.

Hanover, a serene college town in Grafton County chartered by colonial Governor Benning Wentworth, is located along the Connecticut River, bordering the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. Named for Hanover, Connecticut – the birthplace of most of the community’s early settlers, the town is widely known for being home to the main campus of Dartmouth College – an Ivy League university and one of nine institutions of higher education founded before the American Revolution were founded. Adventure enthusiasts are especially lured by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which winds through the pleasant center of Hanover and connects it to various other nature reserves and hiking trails. In addition to exploring Dartmouth College’s picturesque campus, travelers should also take note of the vast collection of artwork and artifacts at the Hood Museum of Art, witness a baseball game at Red Rolfe Field, hike Moose Mountain, watch a movie at the Nugget Theater and enjoy a performance at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Satisfy your taste buds at Murphy’s On The Green and relax after an eventful day at the Hanover Inn Dartmouth.

Gorham

Lost Pond, Gorham New Hampshire
Lost Pond in Gorham, New Hampshire.

Called the ‘Switzerland of America’, this idyllic Coös County community is located on the northern tip of the Presidential Mountains in the Androscoggin Valley. Surrounded by striking natural landscapes, Gorham superbly combines relaxation and adventure. The Gorham Historical Society & Railroad Museum, the Medallion Opera House, and the Douglas A. Philbrook Red Barn Museum are some of the notable attractions of this town of 2,698. Take part in hiking, mountain biking, and ATV riding activities during the warmer months, while several winter recreations are available to vacationers in the cold season. Outdoorsy types can access the Presidential Rail Trail, drive up the Mount Washington Auto Road for unparalleled views of the White Mountain region, observe native wildlife with Gorham Moose Tours, take a guided kayak tour offered by the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, camp at Moose Brook State Park or stay at premier accommodations such as The Glen House and Top Notch Inn.

Exeter

Odd Fellows Hall at 115 Water Street in historic downtown Exeter, New Hampshire
Odd Fellows Hall at 115 Water Street in historic downtown Exeter, New Hampshire. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com.

Founded on April 3, 1638 by John Wheelwright and a group of clergymen exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Exeter is an alluring river town along the banks of the tidal Squamscott River in southeastern Rockingham County in New Hampshire. With an abundance of historic architecture filling Exeter’s tree-lined streets, this city of 16,049 residents perfectly combines small-town tranquility and modern facilities. Besides housing the Phillips Exeter Academy, the city also has many fascinating sights such as the American Independence Museum at Ladd-Gilman House, Gilman Garrison House, Congregational Church, Exeter Town Hall, Exeter Historical Society & Museum, etc. Visit the vibrant downtown Exeter and browse the dozens of small businesses such as Water Street Bookstore, Whirlygigs Toy Shop and Chocolatier; breweries such as Sea Dog Brewing Company; art galleries such as the Art Up Front Street Studios & Gallery; diners like Laney & Lu Café; and hotels such as Hampton Inn & Suites Exeter. For those who want to spend time among the greens, Swasey Parkway, Gilman Park, Robert H. Stewart Waterfront Park and Founders Park are excellent spots.

Portsmouth

Aerial view of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Aerial view of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire’s second-oldest settlement, Portsmouth, located along the Piscataqua River in Rockingham County, is a prime summer tourist destination. The National Register-listed Portsmouth Downtown Historic District, with more than 1,200 Colonial and Federal-era buildings reflecting Portsmouth’s maritime heritage, encompasses the city’s entire historic urban core and Market Square. The John Paul Jones House, Governor John Langdon House, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, Moffatt-Ladd House, Richard Jackson House, etc. are some interesting house museums. The USS Albacore Museum & Park, Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, Strawbery Banke Museum, Seacoast Repertory Theatre, Music Hall and North Church are must-visits on a holiday to the city. Head straight to Prescott Park for summer outdoor concerts and festivals and de-stress at the Ale House Inn.

Sugar Hill

St. Matthew's Chapel in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
St. Matthew’s Chapel in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

Sugar Hill is a picture-perfect town in Grafton County overlooking the White Mountain National Forest and panoramic views of the Dalton, Kinsman, Presidential, and Franconia mountain ranges. Sugar Hill was formally incorporated in 1962 and was named for the sugar maple forests within the city limits. It is known for its maple syrup heritage. The popular Polly’s Pancake Parlor is known for its delectable homemade pancakes, maple French toast and waffles, while the Harman’s Cheese & County Store serves foodies an array of locally made dishes, in addition to premium white cheddar cheese. Stop at the Sugar Hill Historical Museum to view the artifacts on display and The Sunset Hill House for a comfortable stay. Try to attend the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival, where the adjacent fields are covered with blooming pink and purple colored lupine flowers for a short period of time every June. Festival activities also include an outdoor market with local vendors, art shows, concerts and urban dances.

Meredith

The city center in Meredith, New Hampshire.
The city center in Meredith, New Hampshire.

A widely known vacation destination in Belknap County named for Sir William Meredith, Meredith occupies the core of the state’s lake region on the western edge of Lake Winnipesaukee. Aside from Lake Winnipesaukee, other notable larger and smaller bodies of water that lie wholly or partially within the city limits include Lake Winnisquam, Pemigewasset Lake, Lake Waukewan, and Wickwas Lake. Additionally, Meredith Village, located between the north end of Meredith Bay and Lake Waukewan, is the city’s commercial center. When you visit Meredith you can tour the Meredith Marina, attend theater performances at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, take a ride on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, explore Meredith Sculptures, shop at the numerous shops at Mill Falls Marketplace, taste wine at Hermit Woods Winery, learn about times gone by at Meredith Historical Society & Museum, explore the 114-acre Stonedam Island Conservation Area, and rest for the night at Church Landing in Mill Falls – the main lodge on Lake Meredith.

Peterborough

Fall in Peterborough, New Hampshire
Fall in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

This enchanting town, named after Concord’s top land speculator, Lieutenant Peter Prescott, is located in Hillsborough County along the Contoocook River at the intersection of New Hampshire Route 101 and US Route 202. One of Peterborough’s most prominent landmarks: the MacDowell Colony, is a wooded creative haven that offers support and residencies to more than 300 artists, composers and authors. Countless art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, restaurants like Harlow’s Pub & Restaurant, Pearl Restaurant & Oyster Bar, and cozy accommodations like Riverhouse by Weekender fill the city’s shopping center. Edward MacDowell Lake, Temple Mountain Reservation, and Miller State Park offer ample recreational activities such as bird watching, swimming, kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, etc., for outdoor enthusiasts. Witness Peterborough Players performances from June to September, in addition to attending the city’s annual celebrations such as the Thing in the Spring music festival, Greenerborough – a summer festival, Snow Ball and Children & the Arts Day.

Littleton

Littleton, New Hampshire
The River Walk Covered Bridge with the Grist Mill on the Ammnosuoc River in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Littleton is a quaint town in Grafton County on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River at the northern end of the White Mountains. Called “Chiswick” Initially, the settlement was renamed in honor of Colonel Moses Little at the time of its official founding in 1784. Vacationers visiting this commercial center of the state’s North Country region should walk down Littleton’s Main Street and check out the many local businesses, such as Little Village Toy. & Book Shop, Lahout’s Ski Shop, Chutters Candy Store, Jax Jr. Cinemas, in addition to the many coffee shops, breweries, boutiques and eateries serving delicious cuisine. In addition, tourists can also pay tribute to Pollyanna’s bronze statue outside the Littleton Public Library, learn about the past at the Littleton Area Historical Museum, attend a show at the Littleton Opera House, visit the magnificent Riverwalk Covered Bridge, stroll along one of the hiking and biking trails, and enjoy their stay at the famous Thayers Inn.

From the cheerful college town of Hanover to the beautiful White Mountain town of Sugar Hill, the beautiful cities in the 5e The nation’s smallest and 10th least populous state lures thousands of vacationers looking for an unforgettable and authentic New England experience. With sheer natural beauty, fascinating colonial architecture, colorful festivals, plenty of recreational activities, delicious cuisines and most importantly the friendly smiles of hospitable locals, these lesser-known communities in The Granite State are worth visiting during your long vacation or short weekend getaways.

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