Rainy Day Adventures: 46 Museums to Visit in New Hampshire
What to Do When the Weather Won't Cooperate
The Mount Washington Observatory
Note: Updated with 2017 prices, dates and information.
When the summertime impulse to get out of the house encounters the drearier forces of nature, don't just hunker down in front of a screen. Hit the road and discover the many bright worlds to be explored inside New Hampshire's inner space. Museums, large and small, offer journeys into the past and the future and provide new ways of looking at our state and our planet. And if you are feeling lucky, pack a picnic lunch, 'cause you never know when the sun might break through.
North Country museums
The Frost Place: 158 Ridge Rd., Franconia. (823-5510). Simple country cottage where Robert Frost and his family spent summers and lived full time from 1915 to 1920. The cottage has a half-mile nature trail with plaques displaying poems written during the poet's Franconia years and a small exhibit of signed first-editions of Frost's work.
Old Man of the Mountain Museum: Franconia State Park, Franconia (823-8800). The stone face might be gone, but his memory lives on in this small museum, located in the Cannon Mountain aerial tramway base station, with an Old Man gift shop (open from Memorial Day Weekend to Columbus Day) and a display of photos and artifacts. The collection includes the turnbuckle used to fasten the Old Man to the mountain when the stone face was crumbling. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is free.
Hartmann Model Railroad and Train Museum: Route 16/302, 15 Town Hall Rd., Intervale (356-9922). Massive operating model train layout in G-Z scale wending through villages over bridges and trestles. The museum grew out of the youthful collection of Roger Hartmann, who has added to his collection through international travel. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in July and August and open Fridays through Mondays September through June.
Gorham Historical Society and Railroad Museum: 25 Railroad St., Gorham (466-5338). Situated in a 1907 depot, this museum contains memorabilia of the Grand Trunk Railroad including a 1949 F-7 B&M diesel locomotive, two 1929 boxcars, a 1951 Russell snow plow, a 1924 boxcar and a 1942 caboose. Open Tuesday through Saturday through Columbus Day, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Mt. Washington Observatory Museum: Summit of Mt. Washington. (356-2137). Displays of weather on the state's highest peak and the geological history of the Presidential Range. Among the displays are alpine flowers preserved in resin. Open from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. May 1-September 30 and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. October 1-April 30, weather permitting. Admission is free for patrons of the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Mount Washington Cog Railway. For all others $2. Children 7 through 17 $1, 6 and under are free. You can also check out "Extreme Mount Washington," featuring new-and-improved exhibits that will provide interactive ways for visitors to experience the wintery wonders of the tallest mountain in the Northeast.
- Did you know that for decades the summit of Mt. Washington held the record for the highest wind speed ever recorded, 231 miles per hour clocked in 1934? The record stood until 1996 when a wind speed of 253 miles per hour was recorded on Barrow Island in Australia during Typhoon Olivia.
The Poore Family Farm
Lakes Region museums
Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm: 58 Cleveland Hill Rd., Tamworth (323-7591). You can see a working farm with sheep, goats, cows, steers, oxen, chickens and turkeys. There's an exhibit on farm life and career of three generations of the Remick Family of country doctors who served the local community. Their entire medical office and exam room are on display. Guided tours are conducted daily on horse-drawn wagon, sled or sleigh. Fall/Winter/Spring hours (October 10-May 5): Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Summer hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. except major holidays. General admission is $5, children under 4 are free.
Poore Family Homestead Historic Farm Museum: 101 Route 145, Stewartstown (237-5500). A working farm and museum recounting one farm family's life on the property from the 1830s through the 1980s. Open June through September 30, Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Suggested admission $5, children under 12, free.
- Did you know that the most lucrative period of farming in New Hampshire was during the sheep farming boom from 1810-1830?
The Wright Museum: 77 Center St., Wolfeboro (569-1212). Exhibit of World War II memorabilia, including tanks, posters, home front exhibits and other art and artifacts from the Greatest Generation. Open May 1-October 31, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Monday-Saturday and 12-4 p.m. on Sunday. Closed November through April except by appointment. Adults, $10; veterans and seniors, $8; children 5-17, $6; under 4, free.
The Wright Museum
New Hampshire Boat Museum: 399 Center St., Wolfeboro (569-4554). Displays of historic and contemporary power boats, canoes and other watercraft used on local lakes. Open Memorial Day through Columbus Day, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 12-4 p.m. Adults, $7; seniors, $5; children ages 7-17, $3; family pass, $17
American Classic Arcade Museum: Funspot, 579 Endicott St. North, Laconia (366-4377). Claims to have the largest collection of vintage working arcade games in the world. Hours from Labor Day to mid-June are 9 a.m.-11 p.m. and until midnight on Saturdays. From mid-June to Labor Day hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m.-midnight on Saturday. Admission free.
- Did you know that the cult film "King of Kong" was filmed at Funspot, the site of the arcade museum?
Harold S. Gilman Museum: Rt. 140 and Main St., Alton (875-2161). Harold S. Gilman left his collections of buttons, furniture, dolls and photographs to the town. Exhibit includes rare Regina music box. Open by appointment only. Admission free.
New Hampshire Farm Museum: 1305 White Mountain Hwy., Milton (652-7840). Learn about three centuries of New Hampshire farm life at this working farm. Open to the public Memorial Day to mid-June, weekends only from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. From late June to Labor Day, open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Open Labor Day-late October, Friday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults, $7, children age 4-17, $4; seniors and students, $6; family rate, $20. Special events include New Hampshire Dairy Day, June 20, where you can get up close to a cow and a dairy goat, enjoy a hayride around the farm, take a special barn tour focused on dairy farming, help churn cream into butter, learn about cheese making and enjoy free New Hampshire-made ice cream.
Lake Winnipesaukee Museum: 503 Endicott St., Laconia (366-5776). Exhibit includes vintage souvenir postcards, photographs and memorabilia of summer camps and steamboats.
- Did you know that at one time there were more than 100 summer boys and girls camps on Lake Winnipesaukee, the majority run by educators interested in the physical and moral health of youth? There are now about two dozen camps left.
American Police Motorcycle Museum: 194 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith. Features exhibits of motorcycles and motorcycle memorabilia including a 1948 Indian police motorcycle outfitted for the Laconia Police Department. Open starting in May, daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Adults $11, credit, $10, cash; children under 12, $5.
Libby Museum: Route 109, Wolfeboro (569-1035). Natural history museum built in 1912 by local dentist Henry Libby includes mounted animals, Abenaki Indian artifacts and more. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day, except Mondays. Open Sundays from 12-4 p.m.
The Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum
Concord Area museums
New Hampshire Telephone Museum: 22 East Main St., Warner (456-2234). Collection of telephones, equipment and tools from the very first telephones to the latest wireless devices. Display includes hand-cranked magneto boxes familiar to viewers of old movies - you know, "call me on the Don Ameche." Open Tuesdays and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission, $7; seniors, $6; school-age children, $3.
- Did you know that until the New England Hurricane of 1938 small, private telephone companies were common in New Hampshire? It was only after all those trees fell that Bell Telephone bought them out and prospered.
Hopkinton Historical Society: 300 Main St., Hopkinton (746-3825). This 19th-century brick building has a collection of local art and memorabilia and changing exhibits. Open Thursday and Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Admission is free.
Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum: 18 Highlawn Rd., Warner (456-2600). Exhibit of Native Americana - dioramas, clothing and crafts as well as teepee mockup and a nature trail highlighting plants used for medicine and native American rituals. Open May 1 through October 31, Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m.
The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire. Photo by Kevin Harkins
Manchester Area museums
SEE Museum: SEE Science Center, 200 Bedford St., Manchester (669-0400). Includes hands-on exhibits about light, sound, electricity and simple machines. There is also a model of the Amoskeag millyard made from three million LEGOs on permanent display. Open seven days a week, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission, $9 ages 3 and up.
Millyard Museum: 200 Bedford St., Manchester (622-7531). On permanent display is "Woven in time: 11,000 Years at Amoskeag Falls." Amoskeag Mills was one of the largest textile mills in the world and employed more than 17,000 people at its peak. The museum houses the over 600,000 documents and artifacts from the Manchester Historical Society, from neon shoe store signs to textile looms. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults, $8; seniors and college students, $6; children age 12-18, $4; under 12, free.
Aviation Museum of New Hampshire: 13 East Perimeter Rd., Londonderry (669-4820). Airplane models, photographs and memorabilia of Granite State's history in the air. The museum is housed in the original Art Deco terminal building built in 1937. Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.- 4 p. m., Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Adults, $5; seniors, $4; children 12-16, $2.50; under 12, free; veterans, $4; max family price is $15.
- Did you know the terminal building was one of only two structures in the United States moved across a working runway?
New Hampshire Snowmobile Museum: Bear Brook State Park, off Route 28, Allenstown (235-7314). Exhibit of snow machines from early experimental models to present space age rides. Check out the converted Model T Fords with skis in front. The museum is staffed by volunteers from the Camping Museum and is open daily, but please call or e-mail to make sure the complex will be open.
American Credit Union Museum: 418 Notre Dame Ave., Manchester (629-1553). The museum was the former dwelling of Joseph Boivin, manager of the St. Mary's Cooperative Credit Association, with period offices and exhibits on the history of the credit union. Open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. or by appointment.
- Did you know that St. Mary's Cooperative Credit Association was the first credit union in the country? It was founded by Monsignor Pierre Hevey and his Manchester parishioners in 1908.
The Seacoast Science Center
Seacoast Area museums
Portsmouth Athenaeum: 9 Market Square, Portsmouth (431-2538). Genealogy, maritime history, biographies and Civil War memorabilia are featured here. Open Tuesday and Thursday 1 p.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.
Seacoast Science Center: 570 Ocean Boulevard, Rye (436-8043). Hands-on tidal pool, fish tanks and exhibits of the Seacoast. The 32-foot-long skeleton of a humpback whale hangs from the museum's ceiling. Open daily March through October, 10 am.-5 p.m. Admission ages 13 and above, $10; seniors and active military, $8; ages 3-12, $5; under 3, free.
- Did you know that the heart of the average humpback whale weighs 430 pounds - about as much as three adult humans?
Children's Museum of New Hampshire: 6 Washington St., Dover (742-2002). Check out the human-sized kaleidoscope and see yourself reflected over and over, stretching in every direction. Open Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, and children over age 1; senior citizens 65 and over $9.
Derry History Museum: 29 West Broadway, Derry (490-3054). This local potpourri includes Native American artifacts like a dugout canoe and a quill basket. There's also a room devoted to native son, astronaut Alan Shepard, and a rock artifact commemorating the growing of the first potato in North America in town in 1719. Sunday 1-5 p.m. Admission is free.
Tuck Museum: 40 Park Ave., Hampton (929-0781). Exhibit of millstones, monuments, a fire station museum, old postcards and memorabilia of this seaside town first settled by Puritans in 1638. Collection includes the Viking's Stone thought by some to be a relic of an early visit to the area by Norsemen. Open in the spring, summer and fall Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
Woodman Institute Museum: 182 Central Avenue, Dover (742-1038). Eclectic collection of local art artifacts including 1,300 labeled rocks and minerals and a 10-foot tall polar bear. Exhibit also includes the last cougar killed in the state, in 1843. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission adults, $13; senior citizens, $10; students 13-college and active military, $9; children 4-12, $7; 3 and under, free.
- Did you know that the last cougar in the state was killed in 1843?
Celia Thaxter Museum
Celia Thaxter Museum: Stone Cottage, Star Island, Isles of Shoals. Memorabilia of the Isles of Shoals' poet and consummate gardener, including manuscripts and hand-painted china. Open 1-3 p.m. daily through labor day. Admission is free but it involves a ferry ride from Portsmouth to the island.
Did you know surplus World War II carrier pigeons provided communication about dinner guests between the Isles of Shoals and the mainland before telephone service arrived?
American Independence Museum: 1 Governors Lane, Exeter (772-2622). Permanent collections include American furnishings, ceramics, silver, textiles and military ephemera. The museum was founded in 1991 to display rare Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence found on the property in 1985. Open May 5 through November, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, students, $3; children under six, free. Don't miss the American Independence Festival, July 15, 2017.
USS Albacore Museum Albacore Park: 600 Market St., Portsmouth, (436-3680). Hands-on tour of submarine built in at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. You can sit on the bunks and tables in the cramped quarters and even check out the traffic on Route 1 Bypass through the periscope. Open daily 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. through Columbus Day. Open in winter (January and February) on weekends only from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults, $7; children age 7-17, $3; children under 7, free; family, $14.
- Did you know that the USS Albacore was an experimental submarine built expressly for speed in 1953? Fish were used as a model. The vessel ship has a cod's head and a mackerel's tail.
The Peterborough Museum
Monadnock Area museums
Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center: 26 Main St., Peterborough (924-4555). An interactive museum of artifacts from around the world including drums, costumes, chimes and marionettes in a historic Baptist church. Make sure to visit the outdoor zen garden. Open Tuesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; summer hours daily, 11 a.m.-5. p.m. Adults, $6; seniors, $5; children, $4.
The Florence H. Speare Memorial Museum: 5 Abbott St., Nashua (883-0015). Operated by the Nashua Historical Society this small museum features Industrial Age artifacts, an impressive selection of historical textiles and rotating exhibits. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 10a.m.-3 p.m. and by appointment. Admission free.
Horatio Colony Museum and Nature Preserve: 199 Main St., Keene (352-0460). The four-square Federal-style house built in 1806 was the home of Horatio Colony, descendant of one of Keene's historic families and is filled with original family furnishings. Open Wednesday through Sunday,11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee museums
The Aidron Duckworth Art Museum: 21 Bean Rd., Meriden (469-3444). This museum is dedicated to preserving and presenting the artworks of Aidron Duckworth. The building, Meriden's former "White School," was an elementary school from 1940 to 1972. From 1977 to 2001 it was Duckworth's home and studio, and a for a brief time his art school for adults. You'll also find works from guest artists, four changing exhibitions each year, and sculpture outdoors on the former school grounds and Duckworth's gardens. Opening in 2017 on April 29. Closes for the season in October.
The Hood Downtown: 53 Main St., Hanover. While the Hood Museum of Art is closed for a major expansion, visit this new contemporary art gallery space on Main Street in Hanover. Spring hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.; closed Monday-Tuesday.
New Hampshire is home to some amazing destination museums - that is a museum around which you'd plan a whole outing. Some have on-site cafés and restaurants, concerts and recitals and impressive gift shops. They include:
The Currier Museum of Art: 150 Ash St., Manchester (669-7194). The Currier is considered to be one of the best small museums in the country and includes European and American paintings, decorative arts, photographs and sculpture, including works by Picasso, Monet, O'Keeffe and Wyeth. The museum also offers tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House, and has an on-site café, The Winter Garden.
The Hood Museum of Art: Dartmouth College, Hanover (646-2808). The Hood has at least 10 special exhibitions and more than 100 lectures, gallery talks, tours and workshops each year. **The Hood is currently closed for a major expansion. In the meantime, do visit the Hood Downtown, the museum's new exhibition space for exploring contemporary art. Located at 53 Main St., Hanover.
Museum of New Hampshire History: 6 Eagle Square, Concord (228-6688). The New Hampshire Historical Society's museum includes a Concord Coach, 19th century paintings of the White Mountains, Abenaki artifacts and the "mystery stone" (don't ask, you'll have to visit). The museum even has a re-creation of a fire lookout tower on the roof with a magnificent view of the Merrimack River as it corkscrews its way north.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site: 139 Saint Gaudens Rd., Cornish (675-2175). This is the home, studios and gardens of famed American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The site also has summer concerts, nature trails and sculpture classes. Did you know that Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the first sculptor to design an American coin? The $20 gold piece he designed in 1907 at the request of Theodore Roosevelt is known as a "Saint-Gaudens" by coin collectors. Opens for the season on May 27. Click here for our guide to the Saint-Gaudens estate plus a history of the artist's life.
Strawbery Banke Museum: 14 Hancock St., Portsmouth (433.1100). This 10-acre site was the location of the first Portsmouth settlement in 1630 and continued to be a residential area until the 1960s. The restored buildings represent over 300 years of our state and our nation's history. There are gifts shops and a full-service restaurant. Special events include a special Fourth of July celebration with a children's bike and wagon parade, traditional games and crafts, historic garden tours, live music, living history, hands-on activities and refreshments. Opens for the season on May 1.
The Dwelling House at the Canterbury Shaker Village.
Canterbury Shaker Village: 288 Shaker Rd., Canterbury (783-9511). Canterbury Shaker Village is a tribute to the 200-year history of the Canterbury Shakers with 25 restored original Shaker buildings, four reconstructed Shaker buildings and 694 acres of forests, fields, gardens, nature trails and mill ponds. On site is one of the best museum gift shops in the state and The Shaker Box Lunch & Farm Stand offering sandwiches, salads, soups, baked goods and local products. In addition to the farm stand, the Shaker Table restaurant is back serving lunch to guests three days a week. This is due to a partnership the Lakes Region Community College’s Culinary Arts program. Opens for the season on May 6.
Enfield Shaker Museum: Rte. 4A, Enfield (632-4346). Canterbury was not the state's only Shaker village, one also once thrived on Mascoma Lake in Enfield. Thirteen of the original buildings still survive and the Great Stone Dwelling, the largest structure ever built by the sect, is now a museum. The collection includes clothing, furniture, tools and photographs of the earnest agriculturists. The museum also has an extensive herb and flower garden.
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center: 2 Institute Dr., Concord (271-7827). Foster a sense of wonder and curiosity about astronomy, aviation, earth and space science with the center's many exhibits, activities, planetarium and more. The museum part of the Discovery Center includes a wonderful collection of interactive exhibits kids (and adults!) will love to explore. There are also a number of programs and events scheduled throughout the year. Open all year, but hours vary due to seasons and school vacation weeks. See a complete list of hours here. Admission: adults, $10; children 3-12, $7; students 13-college, $9; groups of 15 or more, $7
- Did you know that when New Hampshire's own Alan Shepard became the first American in space in 1961, his 302-mile trip took only 15 minutes?
Museum of the White Mountains: 17 High St., Plymouth (535-3210). Opened in February of 2013, this relatively new museum is located on the Plymouth State University campus. The museum's mission is to preserve, celebrate and promote the history, environmental legacy and culture of the region.