Granite State Shopping Guide

Exploring the Main Streets and Storefronts of New Hampshire

Downtown Portsmouth
Photo by David J. Murray,

Nothing beats the adventure of exploring small town Main Streets gussied up in their seasonal best — unless it’s enjoying some warm cider at a local craft fair to chase away the bracing chill of the late autumn air.

The shops along the historic streets of Portsmouth and outlets in North Conway are perennial favorites for picking out goodies for friends and family, but don’t be afraid to wander from the beaten path.

Communities from Exeter to Bethlehem and Keene to Gorham have independent artisans and shops offering unique and quaint gifts from the Granite State, and more than several towns and regions have events planned to help bring locals and visitors alike to storefronts.

Bethlehem, nestled in the White Mountains, kicks off the holiday shopping season with its 5th annual Christmas in Bethlehem celebration. Visitors can enjoy a traditional holiday craft fair and a visit from Santa and they can also get acquainted with the town’s shops, like WREN, Country Collectibles and more.

The Rocks Estate, also located in Bethlehem, makes for a festive day. Revelers can tag and cut their own Christmas trees, enjoy a horse-drawn ride along paths on the 1,400-acre hill-top estate or pop into the gift shop to warm up and peruse offerings from craft vendors.

The Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce holds it Christmas Festival at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Berlin, Dec. 5. Northern shoppers can also buy a coffee and shop for their favorite bookworm as well at the White Mountain Café and Bookstore in neighboring Gorham.

Just south of Conway, the Freedom Village Country Store is a worthy pit stop. This nonprofit shop run by volunteers oozes small town charm. Find funky gifts like wooden earrings and bottle stoppers by Freedom craftsmen Paul Crone of Aardvark Woodworking, as well as hand-thrown mugs by Healing Touch Pottery in Sandown.

Monadnock Buy Local is leading the charge in the southwest corner of the state with the national “Shift Your Shopping” movement. The nonprofit encourages people to “buy local” with Plaid Friday (instead of Black Friday) shopping and helps shoppers locate New Hampshire-made products and small businesses in the Keene area year-round.

Instead of Cyber Monday some Monadnock businesses, such as Toadstool Books in Keene and Peterborough, are opting for Cider Monday on Nov. 30, offering patrons a free cup of cider as they explore the stacks.

The state’s largest city, Manchester, has multiple events in December to help shoppers make the most of downtown businesses. The city’s Christmas parade — the largest in the state — steps off at 4 p.m. on Dec. 5. Shops along Elm Street have been known to offer special treats or discounts for patrons during the parade as well. In addition to the parade, Queen City organization Intown Manchester hosts several other events to spread the spirit of the season. Shoppers will be kept on their toes with Morty the Elf starting Dec. 1-18. Intown will give clues away on social media on where to find the little guy in the downtown area. Lucky shoppers will receive a prize.

Harkening back to days of old, Intown also hosts a Window Wonderland, encouraging businesses to decorate for the season. People can vote on their favorites from Dec. 1-18 by going to Intown Manchester’s Facebook page.

And finally, there is Intown’s Holiday Market on Dec. 3, 10, 12 and 17, featuring more than 50 vendors at the Brady Sullivan Plaza, Manchester.

Near the Seacoast, the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Open House on Dec. 3, is not to be missed. Festivities include a visit from Santa, the Festival of Trees and more. The seasonal decorations are just an extra when it comes to Exeter’s quaint town center, boasting favorites like Water Street Books, Decorum, Serendipity and Whirlygigs Toy Shop.

Happy shopping!