Jumpstart Your Holiday Shopping with NH Open Doors

The statewide fair offers crafts, art and more

Though we may still be in jack-o'-lantern and candy corn season for now, the days are quickly approaching when people around the state will be breaking out their lists, checking them twice and beginning one of the biggest tasks of the year: holiday shopping. From your local church fair to swanky museum showcases, there will be plenty of holiday-themed craft fairs on the calendar in the next few weeks, but we'd recommend one: NH Open Doors.

This annual event from the League of NH Craftsmen lasts for two days and, with vendors in all corners of the state, allows New Hampshirites from any region to participate in the fun.

"NH Open Doors is an opportunity to experience everything that makes New Hampshire great," says League executive director Jane Oneail — and she's not exaggerating. More than 100 vendors will open their doors for the fair, including everything from fine artists to B&B owners and farmers. Open Doors gives participants the unique opportunity to visit an art gallery in the morning, a working farm in the afternoon and a restaurant in the evening, all as part of the same event. In Oneail's words, a day exploring Open Doors is "a very rich day filled with rich experiences," and from feet-dragging husbands to rowdy kids, "no one will get too bored."

The fair's offerings — from mother-in-law friendly artisan jewelry to kid-friendly sugar shacks — are spread throughout the Granite State, and organizers have partnered with chambers of commerce in many towns to ensure visitors can make the most of their Open Doors trips. In the White Mountains region, for instance, the fair coincides with the start of the holiday "BFF Getaway" initiative encouraging groups of friends to visit Littleton. In other towns, Open Doors participants have partnered together for gallery and restaurant pairings or gone interdisciplinary, with artists offering trays of snacks alongside their paintings and sculptures and B&Bs setting up photography displays in their common areas.

Once you're ready to hit the road for Open Doors, all you'll need is a car and a map. But if you'd rather not leave the route to Siri, the League offers a few suggestions.

Oneail's favorite area (where she went with her own family during last year's event) is in and around Canterbury, where a distillery, B&B and musical instrument shop supplement an impressive list of food producers and artisans. Itineraries for this and four other hotspots are available on the fair's website.

If you're feeling ambitious, though, there's no need to restrict your trip to one town or region.

"It's a tradition," Oneail says of the fair, "but it's choose your own adventure."

And, if you choose to be particularly adventurous, your efforts may pay off. Open Doors offers a downloadable Passport that participants can print off and bring along on the tour. Have it signed by five or more vendors, and you can enter a contest to win prizes including the League's 2016 Christmas ornament or 2017 calendar or tickets to next year's Craftsmen's Fair.

While you're eligible for the Passport contest with just five stops, why not go big? Oneail says she's never heard of anyone attempting to visit every stop on the tour.

Sounds like a record that's just waiting for you to get out there and set.