Best of NH 2016 Fun & Adventure

Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson of "Game of Thrones," our Editor's Pick for Coolest Celeb Cameo at the annual New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival.

Art Classes: Studio 550 in Manchester offers all the painting and drawing classes of a standard studio, but we’d recommend their courses in trendier arts. They offered a succulent terrarium-making workshop this spring, and they hold “Ghost”-inspired pottery-throwing date nights for artsy couples. They also take on the performing arts with “movement” classes in genres like African dance and aikido.

Cookbook Dinner: The Tuscan Kitchen in Salem is the perfect venue for a cookbook dinner hosted by Mary Ann Esposito. The prolific author and host of the PBS show “Ciao Italia” oversees the meal inspired by her Italian recipes. She also graciously signs her latest cookbook at a cocktail reception. The wines are paired perfectly for the multi-course dinner, which is demonstrated, with cooking tips, by Esposito. Guests can ask questions about recipes and food preparation techniques. The meals are whisked out to guests in short order and are beautifully presented. We hope to see the event on the schedule again soon after the Tuscan Kitchen in Portsmouth opens this fall.

Coolest Celebrity Cameo: Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson is an Icelandic professional strongman and actor who appears as Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on HBO’s wildly popular “Game of Thrones.” For the past few years he’s competed in some of the heavy athletics at the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival held at Loon Mountain in Lincoln. See him perform feats of incredible strength once again at the festival held from September 16-18.

Cultural Oasis: The 30-acre private Bedrock Gardens in Lee are open to the public every third weekend of the month from May through September and on Columbus Day weekend. The garden, which also houses a number of whimsical sculptures, has been carefully cultivated over the past 37 years and is an excellent spot for quiet contemplation or a lovely afternoon walk. Stroll through the formal Parterre Garden, the Garish Garden, the Dark Woods and more while pausing to admire the Japanese teahouse, a gazebo, the 200-foot water works called the Wiggle Waggle and, of course, plant species from all over the world.

Daringly Diverse Programming: Perhaps it’s the nearby audience of academia, but whatever the influence, we’re just glad that the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College in Hanover continues to offer events and performances that surprise, delight and challenge us. Here you can enjoy excellent classical music performed by Dartmouth’s Symphony Orchestra or the Handel Society, international artists, ballets, award-winning and edgy film screenings, jazz, original plays, the annual Christmas Revels, modern dance and so much more.

Dinner and a Show: The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center in Plymouth, a beautiful vintage 1920s movie house, was saved from ruin some time ago by The Common Man Family of Restaurants. Since then, it’s grown into a jewel of the northern part of the state, hosting big-time stars, local acts, films, comedians and much more. Plus, as befitting a member of The Common Man, you can dine at the Monkey before the show. Most performances feature in-theater dining and beverage service at the premium tables where food, beer and wine are served about an hour before the curtains rise.

Eclectic Community Concerts: The Concord Community Concert Association is celebrating 85 years of making world-class music both affordable and accessible to the communities of the capital region. Here you’ll find pianists, guitar quartets, cellists, singers and more performing everything from bluegrass to Bach.

Educational Forest: Donated to the state by a wealthy Massachusetts woman after decades as a summer residence, the Caroline A. Fox Research & Demonstration Forest has been the forest research station of the state of New Hampshire since 1933. Today, it’s used for various research projects on plant growth and health, and for regular public lectures on everything from tips for avoiding tick bites to the history of New Hampshire’s bobcat population.

Inn Makeover: Without trying to simulate the grand hotel elegance of the long-gone original Sunset Hill House or make it into a frilly lace-and-ruffles B&B, the Inn at Sunset Hill’s new owners have created a hospitable and stylish small hotel with a talented young chef revitalizing its dining room. Located in charming Sugar Hill.

Irish Dancing: Fun and adventure isn’t just for the grown-ups. Murray Academy in Exeter produces world-class Irish dancers year after year. The school had 20 students compete at the Irish dancing world championships in Glasgow, Scotland, this year, and they regularly snag dozens of awards at the New England Oireachtas regional championship. Trade your little one’s soccer cleats for a curly wig with this off-the-beaten-track sport.

Local Beer Experience: We’re giving ourselves a pat on the back for this one. The NH Beer Club is a partnership between New Hampshire Magazine and New England’s Tap House Grille in Hooksett. Yes, we’re a bit biased, but this monthly gathering of local beer lovers is a hit. At each event you’re able to taste beers — some of them limited or special releases — from that month’s featured NH brewery, talk with the brewer, enjoy small bites and mingle with fellow craft beer enthusiasts. Plus, $10 of each ticket supports a local charity.

Mountain Bike Advocates North of the Notch: The grassroots Coos Cyclng Club has been building and maintaining mountain bike trails around the Gorham area for the past several years. Beginning by resurrecting overgrown trails in Moose Brook State Park, the group now is responsible for trails in the state park, Power Island and the Gorham Town Forest. They are building trails now on Pine Mountain with the help of a Tillotson grant.

Mysterious Treasure Hunt: If you like your hunts a little more complex than digging in the couch cushions for your lost remote control, you should examine the evidence left by NH Public Radio storyteller Sean Hurley in his puzzling series of “Bellwether Dispatches.” The literary clues for his treasure hunts are well-crafted and apparently done for his own amusement (or perhaps for the amusement of Hurley’s radio alter ego Sherwin Sleeves). The dispatches arrive as postcards, mailed at his own expense, and prizes are also provided by him. Why? Perhaps that’s the real puzzle here, but the best way to find out is to visit and sign up. One round of eight postcards packed with lyrical clues has already been completed, but there are rumors of another in the works.

New Hampshire’s “SNL”: Consider it an incubator for local comic talent and you’ll have part of the formula, but Darwin’s Waiting Room comedy troupe in Portsmouth has bottled some performance lightning along the way. Their Late Night series at the Players’ Ring is a sketch comedy showcase for some of the best comic writing and performing you’ll see north of 30 Rock.

Northern Hostel: Next time you’re communing with nature in the White Mountains, commune with your fellow man too, at Conway’s White Mountains Hostel. You’re encouraged to spend time in the shared kitchen or around the record player in the common room, getting to know your fellow travelers and maybe even finding a new hiking buddy. Scared off by the word “hostel”? This one, housed in a converted farmhouse, has a squeaky-clean B&B feel, with a variety of private rooms alongside the traditional dorms.

Pole Dancing School: Think rock climbing is the only way to work out in mid-air? Think again. New Perspectives Pole & Aerial in Manchester will teach you all the skills you need to perform high-flying stunts on the pole or on the silk ropes and hoops of aerial dancers. If you’re not in the market for a formal class, you can also schedule a party at New Perspectives to learn some pole techniques in a fun, social setting with a teacher and a few of your friends.

Progressive Historical Society: The Monadnock Center for History and Culture at the Peterborough Historical Society isn’t your ordinary stuffy building packed with dusty items of the past. In addition to the excellent museum and exhibits, they organize a number of programs and events, such as the wonderful Music in Bass Hall series of concerts, hearth-cooking sessions at the historic Phoenix Mill House, community discussions, lectures and much more. It’s a wonderful place that connects residents to both the history and current thriving culture of the Monadnock region.

Viral Geekery: The tagline for Science Café NH is “eat, drink and be thoughtful” — and, at one of their events, that’s exactly what you’ll do. The group hosts monthly gatherings at venues around the state to discuss scientific topics with experts and interested observers in a casual (read: beer-fueled) setting. Topics so far have ranged from the Zika virus to self-driving cars to, of course, the science of brewing beer.

Categories: Best of NH Winners