While away a November day with museums, murals, music and more.
Nobody claims that November is New Hampshire's most beautiful month, set as it is between the glories of foliage and winter's fields of white. But it is not without its charms, a good time to admire beauty indoors in art museums and galleries – and maybe do a bit of stocking up for the holiday season.
Begin on Keene's famously wide Main Street, with coffee at Prime Roast and a lingering browse through the locally hand crafted works at Hannah Grimes Marketplace. Everything from silver earrings to wooden cutting boards and handwoven scarves fill this bright space, along with locally produced maple syrup, fruit jams, honey and other delicacies.
Admire the arts of previous ages at the Horatio Colony House, farther down Main Street. Horatio Colony was a gentleman of wealth and good taste who collected art and antiques as he traveled around the world. His home, furnished with the treasures he gathered, is just as he left it.
Just down Main Street is the Cheshire County Historical Society, where you can admire the art of the well-known Keene muralist, Barry Faulkner. His best known works adorn Rockefeller Center and the National Archives Building in Washington.
The studies for several of his works are here, and the Historical Society staff will direct you to several examples of his work in Keene, one of them across the street at Keene State College.
Leave Keene on Route 12, heading north through Westmoreland. Without leaves to obscure the views, long vistas of the lower Connecticut Valley are visible. If you brought a cooler along (always a good idea) detour left onto Route 63, then right on River Road, following signs to the Cheshire County Farm. At the barn you can buy naturally raised beef, frozen in one-pound packages.
Back on Route 12, watch for the metal sculpture apple tree and climb the hill through Alyson's Orchards for a jug of cider to make into hot mulled cider and a bag of apples for Thanksgiving pies. While thinking of hot drinks, a short detour right into Walpole leads to Burdick's, where they sell bags of hot cocoa mix – a good addition to holiday gift baskets. Burdick's is also a good stop for lunch.
Follow Route 12 and the Connecticut River north through Charlestown, and stay on Route 12 into Claremont. In its center stands one of the state's grand old opera houses – worth checking ahead for pre-holiday performances. Doug Langevin has once opened New Socials Bar and Grill in Claremont, to the delight of his loyal partons. Detour on Airport Hill Road to North Country Smokehouse for cured and smoked meats (try crumbling a few slices of their bacon into a cornbread turkey dressing).
From Claremont head to Lebanon on Route 120 to find another opera house with an active performance schedule, and across the street the AVA Gallery and Art Center, a bright gallery of local art. Changing exhibits highlight the diversity of talent in the Upper Valley.
Route 120 continues on to Hanover, where the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen has a large showroom and shop. Along with a wide range of crafts and hand-crafted practical works are photography, paintings, original prints and sculpture. Art galleries and shops in Hanover's lively downtown add even more choices for browsing and buying.
Continue your quest for art at the Hood Museum of Art, next to the Hopkins Center for Performing Arts (it's hard to find an evening when there's not something happening there). The Hood's collections cover both fine and decorative arts, along with outstanding Native American and primitive arts (much of which is sadly not on display).
Less well known in Dartmouth's art collections are the striking murals of Jose Clemente Orozco, which cover the walls of the reading room in the Baker Library, across the green. These are recognized as some of the nation's finest examples of their era. Orozco used historical themes, but interpreted them in entirely different ways, and with clear social and political commentary.