Museums and historic places to visit this summer

There's no shortage of historical sites and activities in New Hampshire to see and do this summer.

Discover the history and beautiful simplicity of the Shakers at the Canterbury Shaker Village, where this picture of a Shaker bonnet is from. Photo courtesy of the Canterbury Shaker Village.

Spend the day at Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke Museum, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the country. With its restored houses, historic landscapes and gardens, featured exhibits and interpretive programs, you can experience four centuries of history. (Its old-fashioned July 4th celebration is not-to-miss.)

Anchored on the nearby Piscataqua River is a historically accurate replica gundalow, a type of boat that sailed the river as far back as 1690. The Gundalow Company has public sails with onboard educators sharing their knowledge of the area’s maritime history.

We already mentioned the Isles of Shoals and their rich history in our "Beachcomber" section, but no history buff will want to miss out on the stories and legends of pirates, ghosts, exploration or a visit to the 1600s-era fishing village on Star Island.

Not far away is the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, the 40-room home of NH’s first royal governor. Take the tour to learn its history, including the shocking-in-its-day romance between the governor and his maid.

Learn more about two other state luminaries — Daniel Webster and Franklin Pierce. The homes of the 14th president — The Pierce Manse in Concord and the Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough — are restored and open for tours. The Daniel Webster Birthplace in Salisbury is where the great orator and statesman was born and grew up. The 147-acre homestead provides a glimpse of farm life during the 1700s.

See the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation for a list of other historic sites maintained by the state.

Take a trip to Canterbury (not far from Concord) and visit Canterbury Shaker Village, a museum dedicated to preserving the 200-year legacy of the Canterbury Shakers. The Village has 25 restored or original Shaker buildings and four reconstructed; you can see them with self-guided or guided tours. (On August 26,  the “Shakers & Equality: Let Freedom Ring Tour” takes place, commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.) There's also the Enfield Shaker Museum in Enfield where you can visit the Great Stone Dwelling House, the largest Shaker dwelling ever created, which is now home to the museum. You can also explore the lovely gardens, fields and hills that come alive with color in the summer or hike to the Shaker Feast Ground for a spectacular vista of the Shaker Village nestled along Mascoma Lake. See more photos and learn about the history of Shakers in New Hampshire with this feature story by Jane Harrigan.

Continuing in the vein of contemplation and spirituality, don't miss the lovely and serene Cathedral of the Pines, an open-air cathedral and meeting space that's dedicated to remembering and honoring those American men and women – both military and civilian – who have served our nation. Founded in 1945 by Sibyl and Douglas Sloane III, it was originally a monument to those who died in World War II, including their son Sandy. They envisioned a place without walls where those of all faiths could come together in mutual respect and that interfaith understanding could help foster peace.

Take a trip back to pre- and Revolutionary War times at the living history museum Fort at No. 4 in Charleston, which was once the northwestern most village within the British colonies. There are events happening all summer long at the Fort including reenactments including Sights and Sounds of the French and Indian War on June 4 and 5.

Located on the grounds of a 200 plus-year-old homestead, the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm in Tamworth offers not only a glimpse into the past, but highlights ways we can learn from it agriculturally and domestically. This museum and working farm is open all year long, but the summer events, tours and activities are definitely not to miss. A great place to connect with New Hampshire's rural and agricultural roots. 

Riding the world-famous Cog Railway on Mount Washington is both exciting and an opportunity to learn about an interesting piece of engineering history. This mountain climbing train is the only cog railway east of the Rockies and has remained privately owned for more than 144 years. This National Historic Engineering Landmark will take you on a three-hour guided journey up Mount Washington to the 6,288-foot summit. The Cog runs from the end of April-November.

In 1985, a Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence was found in the Ladd-Gilman House in Exeter. This amazing discovery is now a major focus of the American Independence Museum’s collections and programming. Founded in 1991, the museum now hosts a number of events that will educate you on what it took to create the freedoms that we enjoy today. Definitely not to miss is the American Independence Festival (Saturday, July 16), which features historic battle reenactments, colonial demonstrations, games, children’s activities, cannon firings, crafts, music, food and more.

Explore the history of Manchester's millyard at the Millyard Museum. Housed in Mill No. 3 at the corner of Commercial and Pleasant Streets in the historic Amoskeag Millyard, the museum features the permanent exhibit, "Woven in Time: 11,000 Years at Amoskeag Falls," that tells the story of Manchester and the people who have lived and worked here.

We could go on and on, but why not check out this directory of historic places at Visit NH for more great things to do.

Categories: Summer Planner