Discover the 10 Best Things to Do in New Hampshire (Besides NHFF)
Nestled in the heart of the region, New Hampshire offers all things quintessential New England — brilliant fall foliage, pristine coastline, majestic mountains, and no shortage of picturesque small towns that look like something straight out of an episode of “Gilmore Girls.”
But, as charming as they are, New Hampshire is much more than just its aesthetics. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a thrill-seeker, a bonafide foodie, or a self-proclaimed shopaholic, the state offers no shortage of activities and things to entertain.
Planning your next trip to the Granite State? You’ve come to the right place — check out our full list of the best things to do in New Hampshire, sorted by category.
1. Outdoor Activities
Home to 93 state park properties, nature abounds in New Hampshire. If you’re looking to experience the great outdoors, look no further — here are a few ways to enjoy the state’s natural splendor:
Hike the White Mountains
To the north of the state lie the White Mountains, part of the northern Appalachian Mountains. While Mount Washington is certainly the most famous of the White Mountains, with its notoriously erratic weather and charming Cog Railway, there are plenty of peaks to suit hikers of all ages and ability levels.
From beginner-friendly hikes such as Artist’s Bluff and Bald Mountain in beautiful Franconia Notch to the challenging-yet-rewarding Mount Jefferson — part of the Presidential Range — the White Mountains offer a diverse range of hiking experiences.
Visit a State Park
Climbing the White Mountains isn’t the only way to experience New Hampshire’s natural beauty. The state boasts 42 state parks and four state forests, each with its own unique appeal.
Walk through the Flume, a natural granite gorge, in Franconia Notch; explore tidal pools and visit the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point; marvel at massive stones in Pawtuckaway’s Boulder Field; or enjoy panoramic views from any one of New Hampshire’s many fire towers — whatever you do, you’re all but guaranteed a good time. To take your experience to the next level, try sleeping out under the stars in one of the state’s 23 state park campgrounds.
Experience the Life Aquatic
New Hampshire’s coastline is short, but scenic, with the towns of Hampton and Rye boasting soft, sandy shorelines along the Atlantic Ocean. Venture inland to discover the state’s numerous lakes, including Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake, which offer the ideal setting for fishing, water sports, and lakeside picnics. Rounding out New Hampshire’s waterways are its many rivers, including the Pemigewasset and the Androscoggin, the latter of which is a popular destination for whitewater rafting.
2. Amusement Parks
Though they may not rival the scale of those you’d find in Florida, New Hampshire has a surprising number of amusement parks that offer family-friendly fun. Some of the popular amongst both locals and tourists include:
Fantasy lives at Story Land, a fairy tale-themed park set in the beautiful town of Glen. A New Hampshire icon, Story Land offers over 30 attractions, including the wooden Roar-O-Saurus coaster, the Bamboo Chutes, and Swan Boats. In addition to rides and games, the park also hosts special events such as 21+ nostalgia nights, sensory sensitivity weekends, live shows, and meet-and-greets with your kids’ favorite fairy tale characters.
It’s Christmas year-round in Santa’s Village, a holiday-themed attraction in Jefferson, NH. From rides such as the Skyway Sleigh and the Chimney Drop to special attractions such as the Reindeer Rendezvous and Elf University, Santa’s Village fully captures the Christmas spirit — and if you visit Santa’s Home, you may even get to meet Old Saint Nick himself.
Canobie Lake Park
The largest amusement park in New Hampshire, Canobie Lake Park in Salem, NH is home to over 85 rides, games, and attractions, including the Boston Tea Party and the famous Yankee Cannonball.
In the summer, Canobie opens the gates to Castaway Island, a popular water park complete with tidal river, multiple water slides, and private cabanas for those looking to kick back and relax. And in the fall, the park undergoes a terrifying transformation in time for Halloween. Canobie’s annual Screeemfest, which takes place throughout the month of October, features five hair-raising haunted house attractions, sure to give a scare to even the most intrepid guests.
From farm-to-table eateries celebrating seasonal ingredients to urban hotspots redefining modern cuisine, New Hampshire offers an array of dining experiences that capture the essence of its local flavors and global influences. A true haven for foodies, there are simply too many fantastic restaurants throughout the state to capture in a single list — so instead, here are some highlights:
Voted “Favorite Restaurant Overall” in New Hampshire Magazine’s 2023 Best of NH poll, Pickity Place looks as though it was plucked from a children’s fairy tale. That’s because it was: The cottage, built in 1786, served as the inspiration for Elizabeth Orton Jones’s illustrations for Little Red Riding Hood, published by Little Golden Books in 1948.
Since then, Pickity Place has been a whimsical — and flavorful — destination for fine dining enthusiasts, serving a changing monthly menu of five-course, farm-to-table meals. Featuring such dishes as blueberry boneless short rib, autumn vegetable strudel with garlic chive veloute, and gazpacho with chimichurri and lime cream, Pickity Place offers a diverse array of flavors to suit every palate, served with signature New England charm.
Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train
Those seeking a one-of-a-kind dining experience would be hard-pressed to find any restaurant more unique than the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a two-hour journey along the White Mountain timberline onboard a restored 1950s vintage rail. Guests will enjoy a five-course, gourmet meal — including such dishes as chicken florentine, citrus dill salmon, and a Tuscan orzo veggie bake — while being treated to spectacular views of the White Mountains. For fans of fall, book your trip in the autumn to experience New Hampshire’s brilliant foliage while savoring your meal.
Thompson House Eatery
At Thompson House Eatery in Jackson, NH, you’ll find Jeffrey Fournier, semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Northeast. But that’s not all: Set on a homestead situated between the Ellis and Wildcat Rivers, Thompson House Eatery offers elegant, farm-fresh cuisine and incredible views of the surrounding mountains. With dishes such as gochugaru-roasted summer squash and zucchini, pan-seared Gulf of Maine bluefin tuna, and herb-roasted pork tenderloin, Thompson House Eatery’s menu showcases a blend of flavors that celebrate New Hampshire’s seasonal bounty while taking guests on a culinary journey.
Craft beer enthusiasts will find themselves right at home in New Hampshire: The state has over 90 breweries scattered across its seven regions, each pouring a diverse array of styles and flavors. Embark on your own journey through the flourishing New Hampshire beer scene, starting with these breweries:
Schilling Beer Co.
Located on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River in Littleton, NH, Schilling Beer specializes in serving European-inspired lagers and ales. The ideal spot after a long day of hiking in the White Mountains, Schilling’s 225-year-old brewpub offers over 16 beers on tap and a hearty menu featuring locally sourced ingredients, while its tasting room offers draught pours, new releases, and rare brews.
Post & Beam Brewing
Situated inside the A. F. Stevens Post of the Grand Army of the Republic building — a former gathering place for Union Army veterans in Peterborough, NH — Post & Beam Brewing is anything but conventional. The brewery prides itself not only on its efforts to preserve local history, but also on its wide selection of beers on tap, including its house lager, hefeweizen, dark saison, and raspberry berliner. Enjoy a pint in the tasting room or take one to go — Post & Beam sells refillable growlers, encouraging repeat visits.
Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Known for its charming harbor seal mascot — just one example of the local wildlife you can find along New Hampshire’s coast — and its famous Finestkind IPA, Smuttynose Brewing in Hampton, NH is a great place to sit back and sip a pint. Smuttynose’s tasting room serves a mix of tried-and-true classics, such as its Old Brown Dog ale, and experimental flavors, such as its Cherry Cheesecake Sour, meaning there truly is something for everyone (21+, of course).
In recent years, Smuttynose has also gained attention for its onsite restaurant; with menu offerings such as its bourbon BBQ pork belly sandwich and truffalo mac and cheese, it’s the perfect complement to the brewery’s extensive draft list.
5. Live Music
Music enthusiasts love New Hampshire for its diverse range of venues, from intimate acoustic settings to expansive concert halls, featuring some of the biggest acts from across all genres and generations. If live music is a top priority during your visit to the Granite State, be sure to check out these stages:
The Music Hall
A destination for fans of live music since 1878, this Portsmouth theater has seen the likes of Tony Bennett, Mavis Staples, Brandi Carlile, Ray LaMontagne, and many more on its stage. But don’t be fooled by the name — the Music Hall is also host to comedy acts, celebrity book tours, Broadway-caliber productions and the annual New Hampshire Film Festival. From its Vaudeville-era theater to its newly renovated lounge, the Music Hall offers the ideal environment for enjoying a variety of live acts.
Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
Located on the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee, the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, NH has played host to the likes of Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band, Hozier, The Chicks and Zac Brown Band. The spacious, open-air amphitheater offers both covered seating for those who want to be close to the action and an expansive lawn where concertgoers can pull up a beach chair and enjoy an evening of live music. No matter where you choose to sit, you’ll be immersed in the atmosphere while being surrounded by lakeside views and lush greenery.
The Word Barn
For those seeking more laid-back live music events, the Word Barn in Exeter, NH offers a cozy, intimate setting for acoustic acts, as well as poetry readings and community workshops. Comprising a renovated barn first built in 1695, a lush meadow — home to the venue’s summer concert series — and a farm that sells raw honey, pasture-raised pork, and free range eggs, the Word Barn offers visitors a truly unparalleled concert-going experience.
With no shortage of charming boutiques, bustling markets, and expansive outlets — all set against the state’s natural beauty — New Hampshire is where retail therapy meets picturesque landscapes. Whether you’re interested in finding the latest trends at steep discounts or discovering one-of-a-kind treasures, New Hampshire’s retail scene offers something for everyone. Here are just a few examples of what you can find when shopping in New Hampshire:
Set amidst the White Mountains in North Conway, Settlers Green is a tax-free shopping outlet featuring major brands such as Adidas, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren, and Levi’s. Although discount prices are its primary appeal, Settlers Green is also home to outdoor art exhibitions along its public art walk, a community labyrinth, seasonal events, and a variety of restaurants. And shoppers looking to get their steps in will enjoy the One Mile Walking Route, part of the larger North Conway Recreation Path.
Pickwick’s Mercantile & Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium
Shoppers seeking a unique experience will find not just one, but two whimsical themed stores along the red brick-lined streets of Portsmouth, NH, starting with the Victorian-themed Pickwick’s Mercantile. Here, visitors can find a colorful array of imported perfumes, candles, books, cards, and novelty items lining rich cedar shelves and well-lit display cases. In addition to its Victorian trappings, staff dress in period-appropriate garb, making shoppers feel as though they’ve stepped through a portal into another time — or, indeed, another world.
Speaking of otherworldly experiences, Pickwick’s Mercantile has a sister shop that caters to all things mystical and metaphysical. Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium is equal parts Victorian séance parlor and witch’s cottage, replete with floating candles, crystal balls, and witches’ brooms on the wall. The shop specializes in selling all manner of magical items, including tarot decks, ethically sourced taxidermy, crystals, dried herbs, and sage wands. Those looking to take their visit to the next level can have their palm, tarot, or tea leaves read by resident fortune teller, Jezmina Deadwick.
League of N.H. Craftsmen
Fine art connoisseurs will enjoy visiting any one of the galleries maintained by the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, an organization founded to honor and preserve the state’s long history of craftsmanship and support artisans. With locations in Center Sandwich, Concord, Hooksett, Littleton, Meredith, Nashua, and North Conway, any one of the League’s galleries make the perfect stop on either a day trip or an extended stay. At each gallery, you’ll find a vast selection of contemporary and traditional fine craft, including jewelry, pottery, blown glass, fiber art, and photography, though each location is unique, featuring distinctive decor meant to reflect the surrounding community.
With over 135 antiques dealers and 128 antiques shops scattered across the state, New Hampshire is the perfect place for antiques aficionados to find vintage fashion, decor, and rare collectibles. Want to see what treasures wait to be unearthed? Start your antiques odyssey with these shops:
New Hampshire’s Antique Alley
New England’s oldest shopping district, Antique Alley is not a single location, but rather a collection of different antiques shops stretching along Route 4, from Portsmouth to Concord. Whether you’re in the market for antique furniture, early textiles, fine china and glassware, vintage records, sports memorabilia, or something else entirely, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for at any one of these 12 locations. For those who are serious about antiquing, Antique Alley makes for the ideal road trip itinerary — just make sure you have enough space in your car to bring home all of your amazing finds!
Antiques on Elm
Voted “Best Antique or Vintage Shop” in New Hampshire Magazine’s Best of NH 2023 readers’ poll, Antiques on Elm is a sprawling 10,000 sq ft facility located in the heart of Manchester, NH. Home to over 90 antiques dealers, Antiques on Elm offers a truly impressive variety of items from days gone by, including artwork, furniture, glassware, jewelry, records, collectibles, and more. More than just a shop, Antiques on Elm is a gathering place for vendors, experienced collectors, and first-time treasure-seekers to bond over their shared love of all things unique and antique.
Flying Pig Antiques
A fairly recent addition to the New Hampshire antiquing scene — the shop officially opened in 2019 — Flying Pig Antiques is located in Westmoreland, NH, right along the Vermont border. While the store’s wide selection of artwork, textiles, glassware, ceramics, vintage toys, and light fixtures is reason enough to make a trip, Flying Pig Antiques is perhaps best known for its Tailgate, a monthly, outdoor event featuring over 40 local antiques dealers, and its online estate auctions.
Step into a world of discovery by visiting any one of New Hampshire’s over 63 museums. From art and science to history and innovation, these facilities illuminate the past, present, and future of the state, as well as the larger world around it. Here are just a few highlights
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
Named in honor of both Christa McAuliffe, one of the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger mission, and Alan B. Shepard, the first American to travel in space, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH provides an immersive experience to those interested in learning about astronomy, aviation, and outer space. In addition to its many exhibits — which include an observatory, a collection of aircraft and space vehicles, and a theoretical lunar colony — the Center is home to a state-of-the-art planetarium theater, where guests of all ages can go on cosmic journeys, see the stars up close, and discover the origins of Earth.
Currier Museum of Art
With an impressive collection featuring the works of Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and O’Keefe, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH is an elegant gallery space where visitors can explore an exciting array of exhibits that span centuries, continents, styles, and mediums.
Beyond its permanent collection, the Currier hosts engaging temporary exhibitions that reflect the diversity of creative expression — examples of past exhibitions include “Medieval to Metal: The Art and Evolution of the Guitar,” “As Precious as Gold: Carpets from the Islamic World,” and “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence.” Whether you’re seeking timeless masterpieces or looking to expand your artistic horizon, the Currier offers an enriching experience for all visitors.
Step back in time at Strawbery Banke, a living history museum located in Portsmouth, NH. Set on a 10-acre campus just a stone’s throw from downtown Portsmouth, Strawbery Banke takes visitors on an immersive journey that spans three centuries, replete with meticulously restored buildings, costumed roleplayers, and live craft demonstrations.
The museum also honors the Abenaki people — the original inhabitants of what is now the Seacoast region — by hosting lecture series on Indigenous heritage and showcasing artwork from Abenaki artists. In addition to its regular exhibits, Strawbery Banke holds special events, including live music performances, ghost tours, and wine festivals, making this a must-see for those visiting the Portsmouth area.
9. Historical Sites
One of the thirteen original colonies, New Hampshire officially became a state in 1788 but its roots stretch much farther back — as far as 11,000 years ago, when the first Indigenous tribes settled in the area. With its considerable heritage, it comes as little surprise that New Hampshire is home to hundreds of historical sites, each of which tells a tale of revolution, innovation, and cultural evolution. Begin your journey through New Hampshire’s past by visiting any one of these locations:
Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum
Since 1991, the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (MKIM) in Warner, NH has worked in close partnership with the Indigenous tribes of New Hampshire and beyond to honor the past and celebrate the present of North America’s first peoples. MKIM displays a wide range of exhibits featuring art and artifacts from tribes throughout New England, hosts workshops for Indigenous handicrafts including beadwork and ribbon skirt making, and showcases contemporary works from Indigenous artists. In addition to the museum itself, the MKIM grounds are home to an arboretum and the Medicine Woods, a nature walk featuring native plants tribes historically used to create food, medicine, and dyes.
While MKIM highlights Indigenous connections, it’s important to note that the history and culture of Indigenous tribes such as the Abenaki, the Penobscot, and the Maliseet are deeply rooted in the landscape of New Hampshire. From the Great North Woods to Amoskeag Falls, Indigenous history is all around; we highly recommend reaching out to local Indigenous communities or organizations to learn more about specific historical sites and cultural heritage preservation efforts.
Castle in the Clouds
A testament to both opulence and natural beauty, Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH is home to the Lucknow Estate, a mansion built by 20th century shoe industry magnate Thomas G. Plant. Kept in pristine condition, the mansion is exemplary of Arts and Craft architecture, with natural elements of the surrounding landscape, such as white oak timbers and Conway pink granite. Speaking of natural elements, the mansion is nestled within the Ossipee Mountains, providing panoramic views of the area — which is exactly how it got the name “Castle in the Clouds.”
In addition to touring Lucknow or visiting the exhibit gallery, which honors Olive Dewey Plant and the women of the Progressive Era, visitors can walk the estate grounds or attend special events celebrating the history of the land and of the mansion.
Just off the Maine and New Hampshire coasts sits the Isle of Shoals, a collection of nine small islands, including Appledore Island, Smuttynose Island, and Lunging Island. The largest of these islands on the New Hampshire side of the border is Star Island, first visited by Indigenous peoples nearly 6,000 years ago. Today, visitors to the island can wander the streets and buildings of what was once Gosport, a small fishing village established in the 17th century and active until the 19th century.
After the decline of the fishing industry in Gosport in the 1800s, merchant John Poor breathed new life into the island by building the Oceanic Hotel in 1873, which soon became a haven for artists, writers, and intellectuals. That tradition continues today, with the Hotel holding summer retreats and workshops for artists, in addition to running tours that showcase the island’s rich history.
10. Holiday Festivities
A state that makes the most of its four seasons, New Hampshire offers a wide range of seasonally appropriate activities throughout the calendar year, including exciting holiday events. If you’re planning your next trip to the Granite State to coincide with any major holidays, here’s just a sampling of what you can expect:
New England’s largest haunted attraction, spanning 80 acres of forest and farmland in Litchfield, NH, Spooky World offers thrills and chills for those brave enough to enter its gates. With four spine-tingling attractions, including a haunted asylum and a mile-long haunted hayride, Spooky World has become a destination for both locals and out-of-state visitors during the Halloween season.
Bretton Woods Thanksgiving Celebration
The Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH hosts an annual weeklong celebration in honor of Thanksgiving, including special events such as nightly s’mores, live music performances, a 5k turkey trot, and football tailgating. It all culminates with a multi-course meal prepared by the hotel’s in-house chefs — a sumptuous array that easily makes the Omni Mount Washington Resort one of the best restaurants to have Thanksgiving dinner. Set in a historic hotel against a backdrop of rolling mountains and vibrant fall foliage, sitting down to turkey and stuffing in Bretton Woods will be one of the Thanksgiving meals your family will be sure to remember for years to come.
Santa’s Christmas at Charmingfare Farm
Each year, Charmingfare Farm — a working farm in Candia, NH — magically transforms into Santa’s Village, complete with live “reindeer,” a holiday gift barn, complimentary sugar cookies and hot cocoa from Mrs. Claus, or a visit to the big man in red himself. Your visit to the North Pole ends with a 1.5 hour-long horse-drawn sleigh ride through wintry woods surrounding the farm, creating a postcard-perfect Christmas experience.
Whether you’re traversing scenic trails, savoring local flavors, or immersing yourself in the state’s storied past, there’s so much to do and see in New Hampshire — and we hope this list has given you a helpful jumping off point for your next visit.