85+ things to do in NH this summer
Reminder from the editors: Before you head out to explore, make sure that you check the website of where you are going for COVID-19 safety protocols, opening schedules and more.
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:
- 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.
- NASWA Resort has called Lake Winnipesaukee home since 1935 and continues to offer activities, dining and entertainment that are ideal for families.
- 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.
- Weirs Beach, has a great beach, night life, family activities, a boardwalk, shopping, restaurants and more.
- Rent a paddleboard, canoe or kayak at Ekal Activities Center at Mill Falls in Meredith.
- 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.
- 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.
- Head to Sargents Marina in Georges Mills and rent a pontoon boat and cruise the 8-mile-long Lake Sunapee.
- 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.
- 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.
- Discover Squam Lake and its wildlife with either the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness.
- Experience Sqaum offers private boat excursions and tours including perhaps the ultimate Golden Pond tour with the writer himself, NH’s own Ernest Thompson.
- 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.
- Lakes Region Seaplane Tours in Laconia will give you a new perspective on some of the state’s most desirable views.
Sports and outdoor adventure:
- Tee off at the award-winning 18-hole championship golf course at the Omni Mount Washington in Bretton Woods.
- 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.
- Ride the Mountain Coaster or Alpine Slide at Attitash Mountain Resort in Bartlett.
- 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.
- Zip along the longest zipline in the continental United States at Gunstock Mountain Resort.
- Like your aerial adventures with a little more wind in your hair? Try hang gliding or paragliding at Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown.
- 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.
- Pack a lunch for an extreme picnic atop Table Rock in Dixville Notch.
- 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.
- Interested in camping, but without the bugs, tent and sleeping bag? Try yurt camping with White Mountain Yurts.
- Catch some waves and practice your down dog position with Paddle Board Yoga in North Hampton.
Family friendly options:
- 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.
- 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.
- Marvel at the trained bears and try to escape from the Wolf Man at Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln.
- Relive your childhood and favorite nursery rhymes at Story Land in Glen.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take a scenic train ride at the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. [The village buildings remain closed, but walking trails and gardens are open to explore.]
- 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.
- Visit the Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield where you can explore the Great Stone Dwelling House, the largest Shaker dwelling ever created, which is now home to the museum.
- Learn about stars, astronauts and catch a planetarium show at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.
Inexpensive ways to have fun:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enjoy an evening of nostalgia at the Milford Drive-in. There’s also the Weirs Beach Drive-in and Northfield Drive-in.
- 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.
- No time to PYO? Head to a local farmers’ market. You’ll be supporting your neighbors and getting a great deal on fresh produce.
- The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester is free to NH residents on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m.- noon. [Opening Thursday, August 20.]
- 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:
- 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.
- In addition to Hampton Beach, there are four other Seacoast state park beaches: North Beach, North Hampton, Jenness and Wallis Sands.
- 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.
- 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.
- Explore the rustic trails in the 135-acre Odiorne Point State Park, where the Seacoast Science Center is located.
- 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.
- Set sail for the high seas with Eastman’s Docks in Seabrook for half or full day fishing excursions.
Bring your appetite:
- Put on a bib and pass the melted butter. Here are 10 of our favorite casual places to eat lobster.
- Keep your shopping uber local and stock up at a farmers market.
- Order a fruity cocktail, local brew or tasty tapas and hit the deck. Here’s a guide on where you can dine outdoors.
- Enjoy a tasty treat at one of the state’s ice cream shops or stands.
- Have a glass of wine at the Gilmanton Winery and Vineyard while you toast Grace Metalious, author of “Peyton Place.”
- Have a spirited taste of something new and visit a NH distillery. Here are some of our favorites.
These places aren’t open quite yet for 2020, but we’ll be among the first to go when they do open back up.
- 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. [No opening date has been set yet.]
- 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. [No opening date has been set yet.]
- Learn about life on the farm, blacksmithing, animals and luscious gardens at the New Hampshire Farm Museum in Milton. [No opening date has been set yet.]