Best of NH 2018 This & That
Not all of New Hampshire's best things fit neatly into categories. Here are our Editor's Picks for all the quirky, interesting or just cool things you should know about.
Body Art: Underworld Tattoo Company of Salem has an otherworldy approach to its applications of permanent ink to human skin. Artist Tyler Malek takes the “art” in body art as a serious challenge and adorns spots, limbs or entire bodies with his visions in startling color or elaborate schemes and patterns of black. His tattoos seem to burst off the bearer with a life of their own. Mind-blowing scenes from anime, film, myth and fantasy are all in his inventory, and with Underworld Tattoo Company, not even the sky is the limit. Bring your dreams in your head and walk out with them on your skin.
City on the Rise: The creative sprawl of Portsmouth has already enlivened neighboring towns, with Dover catching most of the overflow, but next is line is Rochester, and the downtown businesses are not waiting passively. In fact, there’s a significant grassroots movement to bootstrap the city into prominence as a center for art, culture, dining and economic vitality. Great bone structure helps, notably the unique and historic Rochester Opera House that hosts touring acts and has its own production company for the stage, plus a new Performance & Arts Center for smaller acts and events. Curlies Comedy Club opened last year in an old Chinese restaurant on Union Street and has gained a rep for its authentic stand-up vibe and the quality of talent it attracts. The Rochester Museum of Fine Art uses the city’s community center and library, plus pop-up galleries in downtown storefronts to spread culture to the masses. Local individuals were the force behind a new ARTWalk and improved navigational signage for pedestrians that will help connect all the dots on Rochester’s rise.
General Store: The Brick Store in Bath calls itself “America’s Oldest General Store” and while such claims rarely go unchallenged, they’ve been in business since around 1790. But it’s what’s new here that really makes it worth a visit. The owner’s recent upgrades added period lights and fans, a new boardwalk (with hand-cut square nails for authenticity), a new stone wall and stone benches, an outdoor antique clock and a real Civil War cannon. With their own smokehouse for meats and cheeses and a newly opened ice cream shop, the old Brick Store has become a hot new attraction.
Late-night Hot Dog Stand: One sure sign of a town’s nightlife is the number of eateries that stay open after 9 p.m. Rochester has its share, but has one that’s open for business until the wee hours of the next morning from Wednesday to Sunday all summer long. Wowzers Wieners has become a tourist attraction in its own right. It’s located on Rochester’s Main Street (next to the district courthouse) where owner/entrepreneur Chris Ragno parks his cart and sells his all-natural hot dogs with odd names (like the Trailer Trash Dog and the Ugly Stepsister) to the late-night crowd. His bacon-wrapped dogs, topped with one of his specialty relishes, is a popular item. July 18 is National Hot Dog Day and Wowzers sells dogs for a dollar to celebrate.
Maker Space: MakeIt Labs on Court Street in Nashua is the first “community workshop” in the Granite State, and it’s the biggest and best-equipped with both hardware and know-how. The proximity to the Boston tech bubble and Nashua’s own engineering history ensures that there will always be old hands and newbies around to see what you can do with an electronics and computer lab, plus wood and machine shops, welding and fabrication equipment, an automotive garage and rapid prototyping area, all operated by avid volunteer makers. The functioning R2D2 (minus holographic projector and space jets) pictured above was built there.
Podcast: After 11 million downloads in 136 countries, “Crime Writers On” has become the industry tastemaker in true crime entertainment. With their fast-paced humor, intelligent insight and honest reviews, writers and hosts Rebecca Lavoie, Kevin Flynn, Lara Bricker and Toby Ball have broken into iTunes’s Top 10 chart. The show recently won the Podcast Madness tournament, beating Goliaths like “Criminal,” “S-town” and “This American Life” in head-to-head matchups.
Sandbox for Grownups: If you loved playing in a sandbox, you’ve probably gazed at a bulldozer moving earth around at a construction site and taken at least a few moments to consider a job change. The Heavy Construction Academy in Brentwood wants you to think a little harder about that. They offer six-week courses spanning every big-boy toy you could imagine, from excavators to front-end loaders, and the lessons and exams take place, for the most part, in a 12-acre sandbox. The program is popular with veterans and others looking to change or rethink their careers.