Rainy Day Adventures: 52 Museums to Visit in New Hampshire
What to Do When the Weather Won't Cooperate
The Mount Washington Observatory.
Note: Updated with 2016 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.
Northern Forest Heritage Park: 961 Main St., Berlin (752-7202). Riverfront replica of a logging camp re-creating the life and crafts of the North Woods and with guided pontoon boats rides on the Androscoggin River focusing on the logging drives. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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 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 year-round. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Admission is free for patrons of the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Mount Washington Cog Railway. For all others $5. Children 6 through 12 $1, under 6 free. As of summer 2014 you can 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. 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 Sept., Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 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 Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Adults, $10; veterans and seniors, $8; children 5-17, $6; under four, 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 noon-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 (through mid-June) Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-12 a.m.; beginning mid-June: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. daily (except Saturday, 9 a.m.-midnight).
- 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 late June through Labor Day, Wednesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Last farmhouse tour leaves at 3:15 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 daily in June through Labor Day, except Mondays, 10 a.m.-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 May 1 through October 31, Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission, $5; seniors, $4; under 5 free.
- 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, including this summer's "Along the Basket Trail," a survey of Native American and African-American basket making in New Hampshire. 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, noon-5 p.m. Adults, $8.50; seniors and students, $7.50; children ages 6-12, $6.50; families, $26.
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, $8 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 6-18, $4; under 6, 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. Admission is free.
- Did you know the terminal building was one of only two structures in the United States moved across a working runway?
Satellite Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame Museum: Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, Manchester. Northern branch of museum based in Tampa, Fla., with uniforms, bats, photographs and other memorabilia of the late Red Sox slugger. The museum is open during Fisher Cat games. Free to ticket holders.
Museum of Family Camping: Bear Brook State Park, off Route 28, Allenstown (485-3782). Exhibit of antique camping gear with more than 1,000 items including a vintage can of "dehydrated water" all housed in historic CCC structures. Open. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily until Sept. 30. Admission is free.
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.
Charlie and Bertha Baldwin Memorial Library and Museum: Room 2009, Waumbec Mill Building, 250 Commercial St., Manchester (623-2692). Exhibit of square dance collectibles including music, recordings, books, costumes and other collectibles. By appointment only. Admission is free.
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 Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m.-4 p.m,. Admission is free.
- 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 Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum/Max I Silber Scouting Library: Camp Carpenter, Blondin Road, Manchester (669-8919, www.scoutingmuseum.org). The Baden-Powell display of sketches, letters and Boer War memorabilia is one of the finest collections of memorabilia of Scouting's founder anywhere. Boy scouting manuals and uniforms and a flag carried to the moon by Alan Shepard are on display. Hours through June are Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; July and August, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.
- Did you know that when Alan Shepard became the first American in space in 1961, his 302-mile trip took only 15 minutes?
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, $5; ages 3-12, $3; 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 noon-5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, and children over age 1; senior citizens 65 and over $8.
Science and Nature Center: Seabrook Station, Route 1, Seabrook (800-338-7482). Includes hands-on tidal pool with sea stars, anemones and other creatures and a salt marsh nature trail. See a rare blue lobster and interact with a variety of exhibits on energy. Open Tuesday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Admission free.
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. Call for hours. 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 Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.
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, 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission adults, $8; senior citizens, $6; ages 6-15, $3, five 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.
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 through November, Wednesday 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 16, 2016.
- 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?
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. Memorial Day through Columbus Day. 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 (Sept. through mid-June) Wednesday through Sunday, 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.-4 p.m. and by appointment. Admission free.
The Peterborough Museum: 19 Grove St., Peterborough (924-3235). Operated by the Peterborough Historical Society with displays of artifacts and a timeline of the town. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Adults, $3; children under 12, 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.
The Dwelling House at the Canterbury Shaker Village.
Photo by Stillman Rogers
Destination Museums museums
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.
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. 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.
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.
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). This is a tribute to the state's most famous astronauts Alan Shepard and Christa McAuliffe. Visitors may take a virtual trip to the stars at the planetarium shows on "Black Holes" and "Tonight's Sky." Displays include dioramas, interactive displays and full-sized models of the Mercury capsule Shepard rode to fame and the Redstone rocket that propelled him.
Museum of the White Mountains: 17 High St., Plymouth (535-3210). Opened in February of 2013, this 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.