85+ things to do in NH this summer

So you think there’s nothing left for you to do in this state that you haven’t already seen or done before? Think again!

Make this summer one for the record books — a vacation that lives on in legend. This summer, go forth and have a blast with 85+ of our favorite attractions, museums, events and outdoor adventures.

Not-to-miss spots in the Lakes Region:

Take a scenic cruise of Lake Winnipesaukee on the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington.
Courtesy photo.
  1. Ellacoya State Park in Gilford on Lake Winnipesaukee has a 600-foot long sandy beach with views across the lake to the Sandwich and Ossipee mountains.
  2. NASWA Resort has called Lake Winnipesaukee home since 1935 and continues to offer activities, dining and entertainment that are ideal for families.
  3. Pop over to Newfound Lake and enjoy the largest freshwater swimming beach in the New Hampshire State Park system at Wellington State Park in Bristol.
  4. Weirs Beach, has a great beach, night life, family activities, a boardwalk, shopping, restaurants and more.
  5. Rent a paddleboard, canoe or kayak at Ekal Activities Center at Mill Falls in Meredith.
  6. Ride the NH Boat Museum’s Millie B, a 28-foot, triple-cockpit, 1928 “woodie” replica.
  7. For the granddaddy of boats, buy a ticket on the 230-foot M/S Mount Washington for a scenic daytime cruise or a sunset dinner-dance cruise.
  8. Visit Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough and take in the killer lake view, then tour the Arts and Crafts-style mountaintop estate, go for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and stop for a bite at the Carriage House Restaurant. They also offer a number of special events throughout the season, including star-gazing nights, exclusive tours, an antique car show, the Best of NH award-winning Music Nights and more.
  9. Head to Sargents Marina in Georges Mills and rent a pontoon boat and cruise the 8-mile-long Lake Sunapee.
  10. Get on board with Sunapee Cruises on the MV Mt. Sunapee II for a narrated daytime cruise or the MV Kearsarge Restaurant Ship for an evening of cruising and fine dining.
  11. Visit the 4,085 acre lake at Mt. Sunapee State Park in Newbury for your next family or group outings. A boat launch and boat rentals are available as well.
  12. Discover Squam Lake and its wildlife with either the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness or the Loon Center in Moultonborough.
  13. Experience Sqaum offers private boat excursions and tours including perhaps the ultimate Golden Pond tour with the writer himself, NH’s own Ernest Thompson.
  14. Walk the scenic trail at stunning Echo Lake State Park in Conway and see great views of the 700-foot Cathedral Ledge which towers over the lake. Or, get a view of the lake from above via the mile-long auto road and hiking trails lead to the top of Cathedral Ledge.
  15. Lakes Region Seaplane Tours in Laconia will give you a new perspective on some of the state’s most desirable views.

Music, art and entertainment:

  1. After a fun day in the sun, stick around for a show at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. Our favorite shows for 2019 include: OAR, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Lang, The Struts, Trevor Noah, Tom Segura, Jim Jefferies, Melissa Etheridge, the Beach Boys, Pat Benatar and Brian Regan.
  2. Treat yourself to local theatre in Tamworth and catch a show at the Barnstormers Theatre. This summer, don’t miss “Damn Yankees,” “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
  3. Kids of all ages will want to check out the Children’s Summer Series at The Palace Theatre in Manchester. Classics from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Aladdin” and more will be on stage this summer.
  4. Bring a chair and your favorite picnic blanket to Prescott Park in Portsmouth and enjoy the 2019 summer showing of “Beauty and the Beast,” with shows Thursday-Sunday from late June through late August. Plus, the always-impressive live music lineup this year includes Aimee Mann (July 5) and Lucius (July 7).

Sports and outdoor adventure:

Ready to soar? Don’t miss the Hillsborough Balloon Fest & Fair in July and Suncook Valley Rotary Hot Air Balloon Rally in August. Photo by Karen Booth
  1. Tee off at the award-winning 18-hole championship golf course at the Omni Mount Washington in Bretton Woods.
  2. The Bretton Woods Adventure Center  offers archery, a canopy tour, cross-country and downhill mountain biking, disc golf, fly-fishing, horseback riding, hiking and more.
  3. Go for a swim in the outdoor or indoor pools, visit the working farm or go mountain biking at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield.
  4. Ride the Mountain Coaster or Alpine Slide at Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett.
  5. Skip the snow gear and enjoy summer tubing at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway. There’s also bounce houses, a mountain coaster and kids ropes course at the summer park.
  6. Embark on your own private mountain adventure at Black Mountain in Jackson. Ski season may be done at the mountain, but you’ll want to add an overnight horseback riding adventure to your NH bucket list.
  7. Zip along the longest zipline in the continental United States at Gunstock Mountain Resort.
  8. Like your aerial adventures with a little more wind in your hair? Try hang gliding or paragliding at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown.
  9. Challenge yourself to hike NH’s portion of the Appalachian Trail, a seriously tough 160.9-mile stretch (it’s rated an 8 out of the 1-9 difficulty scale) that winds through the White Mountains.
  10. Wake up before the sun and watch the sun rise atop Mount Washington. Don’t miss Sunrise Drives on June 24, July 29 and August 26, 2018.
  11. Pack a lunch for an extreme picnic atop Table Rock in Dixville Notch.
  12. Tackle the rapids with North Woods Rafting and Mahoosuc Outdoors in Milan or join ELC Outdoors in Berlin on one of their great combos, like the Whitewater Rafting and Wildlife Tour, River Raft and Ropes or the Rapid River Float Plane Adventure.
  13. Stop in at Bear Rock Adventures in Colebrook to get hooked up with an ATV and everything else you need to explore the 1,000-plus miles of interconnected trails that make up Ride the Wilds.
  14. Go up, up and away with High 5 Ballooning of Derry as you tour the Merrimack Valley.
  15. Interested in camping, but without the bugs, tent and sleeping bag? Try yurt camping with White Mountain Yurts.
  16. Catch some waves and practice your down dog position with Paddle Board Yoga in North Hampton.
  17. Feel the engines roar and crowds cheer at NASCAR’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 race.

Family friendly options:

Kids won’t be the only ones having fun at Story Land in Glen. There’s plenty of rides and amusements for the whole family. Photo by Don Himsel
  1. Spend the day with animals at Charmingfare Farm in Candia. The farm has a zoo (open from May-September) that features a hands-on petting area, pony rides, and horse-drawn rides.
  2. Do your kids love “Curious George” books? The Rey Center in Waterville Valley is the perfect place to go — there kids can meet Curious George himself, then create art or explore nature. Storytime is held every Saturday and is open and free for all to attend.
  3. Raining? Visit the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover. Art, science, culture — it’s all there, packaged for kids’ maximum enjoyment, rainy day or not.
  4. Exploration and adventure await at Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in the White Mountains. The older kids (and adults) might enjoy the cave exploration on the evening lantern tour while the youngsters (ages 4-12) will have a blast on the hands-on learning adventures.
  5. Marvel at the trained bears and try to escape from the Wolf Man at Clark’s Trading Post  in Lincoln.
  6. Relive your childhood and favorite nursery rhymes at Story Land in Glen.
  7. Try for a hole-in-one at Mel’s Funway Park in Litchfield. They also have batting cages, go karts, laser tag and an arcade.
  8. Candia Springs Adventure Park in Candia offers zip lining, a water park and adventure course.
  9. Love the idea of Christmas in July? Visit Santa, Rudolph and all the elves at Santa’s Village in Jefferson. Bring your bathing suit for the Ho Ho H2O water park.
  10. Chuckster’s Family Fun Park in Chichester and Hooksett is home to the largest minature golf hole on the planet and it’s time to test your skills.
  11. Kids of all ages will love Canobie Lake Park in Salem. With rollercoasters and other thrilling rides, live shows, games, rides for kids, water rides, food and more, it’s a one-stop-shop for summer family fun.
  12. Take a train ride at the Conway Scenic Railroad.
  13. Don’t miss the world-famous, mountain-climbing Cog Railway on Mount Washington. The train is the only cog railway east of the Rockies and has remained privately owned for 150 years. For 2019, celebrate the 150th anniversary all summer long, plus at the gala event on June 22.
  14. Did you know that NH is home to 54 of the entire country’s 750 historic covered bridges? Perhaps it’s time that you took a covered bridge tour.

Learn something:

  1. Visit Canterbury Shaker Village, a museum dedicated to preserving the 200-year legacy of the Canterbury Shakers. The Village has 25 restored or original Shaker buildings and four reconstructed; you can see them with self-guided or guided tours.
  2. There’s also the Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield where you can visit the Great Stone Dwelling House, the largest Shaker dwelling ever created, which is now home to the museum.
  3. If you like stepping back in time, then don’t miss Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth. With its restored houses, historic landscapes and gardens, featured exhibits and interpretive programs, you can experience four centuries of history. (Its old-fashioned July Fourth event, an American Celebration, is not-to-miss.)
  4. Take a trip back to pre- and Revolutionary War times at the living history museum Fort at No. 4 in Charleston, which was once the northwestern most village within the British colonies.
  5. Take a tour and get a scandalous (for the time) history lesson at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth, the 40-room home of NH’s first royal governor.
  6. Connect with NH’s agricultural roots at the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm in Tamworth. This museum and working farm is open all year long, but the summer events, tours and activities are definitely not to miss. Psst. NH Appreciation Day is on June 15.
  7. Learn about stars, astronauts and catch a planetarium show at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.
  8. Learn about life on the farm, blacksmithing, animals and luscious gardens at the New Hampshire Farm Museum in Milton.
  9. Discover cultures and traditions outside of the Granite State at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough.

Inexpensive ways to have fun:

The Smith Covered Bridge in Plymouth doubles as a swimming hole and stop on your covered bridge tour.
Photo by Susan Laughlin.
  1. The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester is free to NH residents on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m.- noon.
  2. Catch a ballgame at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, home of the Toronto Blue Jay’s AA team the Fisher Cats. Keep your eye out for days they play the Red Sox’s farm team, the Portland Sea Dogs.
  3. Hiking in the Great North Woods or White Mountains may only cost you parking fees, though you might want to invest in some good hiking boots or sneakers.
  4. Ascend Mount Monadnock, which has been designated a National Natural Landmark. This gorgeous spot once inspired the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and continues to be a magnet for hikers and is said to be the third most-climbed mountain the world after Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai.
  5. Cool off for free at one of the state’s many official (and secret — shhh) swimming holes such as Sawyer Rock on Sawyer Brook or Diana’s Bath in North Conway.
  6. Catch a free outdoor flick on Tuesdays at Settlers’ Green Outlet Village (July -August), Mondays at Hampton Beach (July -August) and during the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth.
  7. Enjoy an evening of nostalgia at the Milford Drive-in. It’s only $27 per car load for up to six people (that’s just about $5 per person).
  8. Head to Hampton Beach every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. for a weekly fireworks display.
  9. Pick your own fruit at many New Hampshire farms and enjoy the best of summer’s bounty for a low price. Find locally grown blueberries and strawberries at the excellent Lull Farm (locations in Milford and Hollis). Brookdale Fruit Farm, also in Hollis, is a berry lover’s dream with pick-your-own strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries. With 1,300 bushes on the 12-acre farm, you’re sure to find your fill of blueberries at Blueberry Bay Farm in Stratham.
  10. No time to PYO? Head to a local farmers’ market. You’ll be supporting your neighbors and getting a great deal on fresh produce.
  11. All you need is gas money to take a drive along the Kancamagus Highway (or “The Kanc” as it’s known to locals), a 34.5 scenic mile drive along NH’s Rt. 112 in Northern New Hampshire. It’s famous for leaf peeping in the fall, but this designated American Scenic Byway offers plenty to see in the summer as it winds through White Mountain National Forest with breathtaking views of the White Mountains, the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge.

Head to the seacoast:

Make sure that a visit to Hampton Beach is on this year’s to-do list. Photo by P.T. Sullivan
  1. Looking for some peace and quiet? Rye Beach is the place to crack open that novel you’ve been meaning to get to for months.
  2. In addition to Hampton Beach, there are four other Seacoast state park beaches: North Beach, North Hampton, Jenness and Wallis Sands.
  3. New Castle Beach is often overlooked by the summer tourists. It’s a small, picturesque spot that’s somewhat rocky but still sandy. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Portsmouth, located at the Great Island Common in New Castle. It’s also right next to the lovely New Castle Common Park, which is where you’ll find parking.
  4. If surfing is your sport, then check out Summer Sessions Surf Shop in Rye and Portsmouth, Pioneers Board Shop in North Hampton and Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co. in Hampton. All offer lessons and rentals.
  5. Learn about marine life at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye.
  6. Explore the rustic trails in the 135-acre Odiorne Point State Park, where the Seacoast Science Center is located.
  7. Get out on the water with Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, which offers narrated harbor cruises, an Isles of Shoals trip, evening sunset cruises and a wine cruise aboard the M/V Heritage with Carla Snow.
  8. Try to spot whales and other marine life with Granite State Whale Watching or Atlantic Whale Watch, both based in Rye.
  9. The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company has a bunch of great tours including a walking tour of the historic Star Island, one of the first footholds for settlement in the new world.
  10. Spend a night at the historic Oceanic Hotel, located on Star Island.
  11. Set sail for the high seas with Eastman’s Docks in Seabrook for half or full day fishing excursions.

Bring your appetite:

  1. Put on a bib and pass the melted butter. Here are 10 of our favorite casual places to eat lobster.
  2. Order a fruity cocktail, local brew, your tapas and hit the deck. Here’s a guide on where you can dine outdoors.
  3. Enjoy a tasty treat at one of the state’s ice cream shops or stands.
  4. Have a glass of wine at the Gilmanton Winery and Vineyard while you toast Grace Metalious, author of “Peyton Place.”
  5. Satisfy your sweet tooth at The Mill Fudge Factory in Bristol. You’ll find award-winning homemade fudge and ice cream as well as nice salads, sandwiches and ravioli.
Categories: Guide to Summer