New England Weekend Getaways: Things to Do in New Hampshire

Extras, New Hampshire — By on September 9, 2010 at 6:00 am

New England is best known for its fall foliage but the region has plenty of natural attractions to see this time of year. From Maine to Massachusetts, this mini-series highlights what each of its states has to offer outdoors while the weather is still warm.

By Michele Herrmann

New Hampshire has its rugged peaks, dense forests, the Old Man of the Mountain (what’s left of him), covered bridges, and a coastline. A nature lover’s paradise, visitors can find many outdoor recreation options. There are museums and historic homes to spend time inside as well. Here is a mix of what to do and find in the Granite State.

Mighty Mountains

In the heart of the state’s northern region, the White Mountains range can entice the rugged types: kayakers, backpackers, rock climbers, hikers, and mountain bikers. Sixteen public attractions and a number of state parks also make any visitor feel welcome.  

The 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest is graced by dark woods, waterfalls, back-country lakes, and cascading streams. About two dozen drive-in campgrounds can be found here. Among the many sub regions in this area is Presidential Range, a series of granite peaks named for U.S. presidents.

Known for its height (it’s New England’s highest peak at 6,288 feet) and extreme weather conditions, Mount Washington is reachable by foot, in your automobile, and by railway.

A ride along the Mount Washington Auto Road is unlike any other drive. Earn proof or bragging rights with the “This Car Climbed Mount Washington” bumper sticker. Or climb aboard the Mount Washington Cog Railway , a little mountain-climbing engine that could.

Attitash in Bartlett has many thrill rides. The new Mountain Coaster goes up 1,400 feet before descending on a 2,600 foot ride down the mountain, dropping through banked curves and dips.

Take a calmer route on the Kanacamagus Highway between Conrad and Lincoln with resting and taking photos. The Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway provides nostalgic train rides with scenery of Mount Washington Valley or Crawford Notch.

Parking It

In Franconia Notch State Park, find a changed Old Man of the Mountain, the state’s granite stone profile which suddenly collapsed in spring 2003. Walk through the Flume Gorge, a natural water wonder that extends 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. Hop on the Cannon Aerial Tramway, which brings riders to the 4,200-foot summit for breathtaking views of the White Mountains and neighboring Vermont and Maine.

Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, an undeveloped stretch of shore on N.H.’s 18-mile coast, has miles of walking trails and a wooded picnic grove. At Crawford Notch State Park in Harts Location, find the Willey House, a small inn/residence left unharmed in a circa 1826 landslide, and Arethusa Falls, the state’s tallest waterfall.

In Jaffrey, Monadnock State Park‘s centerpiece is Mount Monadnock, considered to be one of the most climbed mountains in the world. Its top half is highlight by big slabs and boulders of rock.

A portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through New Hampshire, starting at Hanover and running along the White Mountains before concluding along the Mahoosac Range, northeast of Gordon.

By Lakeside

New Hampshire’s Lakes Region has 273 lakes and ponds with Lake Winnipesaukee as the crown jewel. The state’s largest lake has an endless collection of coves and inlets, bays and broads. Cruise aboard the touring vessel M/S Mount Washington or rent a canoe and straddle the perimeter of the lake.

Lake Sunapee contains eight islands and is indented by several peninsulas and lake fingers, with seven sandy beach areas including Mount Sunapee State Park beach and three historic lighthouses.

A busy summer resort in its hey day, the touristy Weirs Beach provides easy access to Lake Winnipesaukee. Stroll along a boardwalk that runs the full length of the beach to find amusements such as two major arcade centers.

Hampton Beach has an annual seafood festival (September 9 – 12) with an extensive menu of delicacies provided by more than 50 restaurants. Ocean Boulevard, its main street, goes along the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

On the shore of Newfound Lake in Bristol, Wellington State Park boasts the largest freshwater swimming beach in the state park system. The Lake Ossipee region offers crystal clear lakes and rivers, while the beauty of Squam Lake was captured in celluloid in the film On Golden Pond.

Conway’s Echo Lake State Park is surrounded by a scenic trail with great views of the 700-foot Cathedral Ledge that towers over the lake. A mile-long auto road and hiking trails lead to the top of the ledge for views across the Saco River Valley to the White Mountains.

Isles of Shoals Steamship Company and Portsmouth Harbor Cruises sail their vessels along the Isles of Shoals, nine rocky isles found off the coast.

Stately Manors

For 11 years, the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, a New England white clapboard farmhouse, was home for the American poet and his family. Tours, displays, a trail, and poetry readings are available. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish is a living memorial to American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Learn about him while touring his studio and house.

Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, a year-round Lakes Region resort, offers everything from summer camping to winter skiing. Known now as the Castle in the Clouds, a former mountaintop estate built in the 1910s in the Ossipee Mountain Range, is a unique example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England.

Back in Time

Like its New England comrades, New Hampshire has a strong sense of Colonial history. The picturesque towns of Hancock and Peterborough (which inspired the Thornton Wilder play Our Town) have sustained their charm over time.

The Strawbery Banke Museum in the seacoast city of Portsmouth peeks into the daily lives of generations of residents who occupied the area throughout four centuries. The Drisco House has been halved to show the two different domestic settings of families who lived here: the first in the 1790s and the last in the 1950s. Also see the John Paul Jones House where the Revolutionary War hero stayed during his visits there.

Canterbury Shaker Village in Concord preserves the 200-year legacy of the Canterbury Shakers, a religious sect. The museum celebrates the fall season with their Harvest Days event.

Stroll around the academic centered towns of Keene and Hanover, homes to a state college and an Ivy  League, and Exeter, a private boarding academy.

Letting Loose

Chrome is cool. Come for the races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, which hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events each year. The multi-use complex features a 1.058-mile oval speedway and a 1.6-mile road course. The track also hosts several regional professional racing series.

Perhaps return to New Hampshire next June for the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, to look on as gearheads and weekend road warriors roar into town.

For the 21-year-old set and up, the Anheuser-Busch Factory Tour in Merrimack welcomes visitors with a life-size replica of a Clydesdale horse. Foodies can savor a number of culinary-themed trails and tours.

Going Indoors

The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester features European and American paintings, decorative arts, photographs and sculpture, including works by Picasso, Monet and O’Keeffe. The museum also offers tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House.

The Hood Museum of Art in Hanover offers many treasures in its collection of nearly 60,000 objects, containing works of art and artifacts from many different culture areas and ranges.

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord is named for Christa McAuliffe, the school teacher who perished in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion, and Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut in space. The planetarium and educational museum offers exhibits on astronomy and space exploration.

Being Festive

Each October, Keene’s Main Street gets much foot traffic from volunteers who rush to put candles inside thousands of carved pumpkins for the annual Pumpkin Festival. Festival organizers attempt to surpass the previous year’s record for the most pumpkins lit (for 2009, 29,762). This year, the event falls on Saturday, October 16.

Not to be left out, the Milford Great Pumpkin Festival features all things pumpkin, a chili cookout, and a haunted trail. This year, the 21st annual event falls on October 8-10.

For more information about New Hampshire, visit these websites:

Welcome to New Hampshire

New Hampshire.com

New Hampshire State Parks

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