Our Favorite Ways to Stay "Cool"
Have fun and be cool — literally and figuratively — in New Hampshire this summer
There’s more than one way to keep cool during the hottest days of summer. The following suggestions both lower the temperature and increase your “cool” factor, all while providing the very best fun and adventure.
Kids and instructors from a Summer Sessions Surf Camp Photo by Brian Sullivan
Dive Into Summer Fun
Swimming holes, surf lessons, top-notch pools and other ways to keep cool the obvious way this summer — in, under or on top of the water.
Sculptured Rocks Falls
One of the more beautiful and scenic swimming holes in the state, Sculptured Rocks, or “the little Grand Canyon of New Hampshire,” is a must-see, even if you don’t want to swim. As the last ice age drew to a close, small grains of sand in what is now known as the Cockermouth River sculpted the river’s bedrock into unique flowing shapes. The mist from the 30-foot gorge falls creates pools perfect for cooling off on hot summer days, while the jump from the top of the gorge offers a thrilling cool-down option for the more daring adventurers in your group. The Sculptured Rocks Natural Area covers 272 acres across Hebron and Groton. To find the falls, follow Sculptured Rocks Road or go to downtown Groton and follow signs marked with directions to the state park.
Paradise Falls Swimming Hole on Sawyer Brook
Tucked away from the usual water-seeking summer crowds, this Bartlett paradise is a perfect place to find rocks for jumping into cool water and soaking up the sun. Head about 2.6 miles west past Bear Notch Road to the Sawyer Pond Trailhead to find this hidden swimming hole. If the road is open, there is parking about one mile up on the left. If not, then proceed on foot to the parking lot and walk down the steep hill to find the destination along the Sawyer Brook.
A 12-foot-deep pool, Jacuzzi-like bubbles and a 15-foot jump can all be found in this spot along the Souhegan River in Wilton. You’ll want to visit this swimming hole early in the day to avoid crowds, but even when the sun is hottest, this natural water park is a great place to stay cool. If swimming isn’t really your thing, no worries: This location is also perfect for floating around in an inner tube. There is no parking directly by the falls, so leave your car in the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle High School parking lot and then follow the road to a bend to the trailhead. The falls are about 600 feet from this point.
Franconia Falls Trail
Set against the picturesque backdrop of a classic covered bridge, this swimming hole is a perfect family destination. Swiftwater Falls is one of the largest swimming holes in New England, and its western sun exposure creates ideal water temperatures. This area is home to two waterfalls, plus a natural waterslide for the confident swimmer. Located on the Wild Ammonoosuc River, this swimming hole comes equipped with parking and is easy to get to. At the intersection of Routes 302 and 112 south of Bath, follow Route 112 for around two miles until you cross the covered bridge. Turn left into the parking lot, and the swimming hole is under the bridge. This is also a popular fishing destination.
Franconia Falls Trail
At this easy-to-reach spot, a 20-foot-long natural waterslide lies at the end of a relaxed 3-mile hike from the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center (exit 32 on I-93). The 1.5-hour trek opens with a suspension bridge and takes visitors through a relatively flat portion of the White Mountains. In the summer months, the falls are accessible by foot or bike, and dogs are more than welcome as long as they remain leashed. Though the falls are not large in scale, their smooth, rocky surface creates natural waterslides and swimming pools that can reach up to 7 feet deep. Franconia Falls is a family favorite, making it a busy and popular summer destination.
We may not be California or the Land Down Under, but the few miles of coastline in the Granite State boast their own thriving (if modestly sized) surfing scene. Before you hang 10 in the ninth state, there’s one thing you should know: Our patch of ocean is cold. But if you’re prepared for that, there’s a surf shop near your favorite beach that can help you master the waves. In Rye, try the family-owned Summer Sessions; in Seabrook, Northeast Board Culture; and in Hampton, the psychedelically colored surfer dude hotspot Cinnamon Rainbows.
Adventure Is Out There
From shaded gardens to underground caves and two hip-and-happening small towns, a few of the coolest places to go exploring.
Polar Caves Park
Tucked away in a pine tree forest in Rumney lie what some have called the country’s most sensational granite caves. A few ice ages ago, a glacier pushed boulders from the towering heights of what’s now called Hawk’s Cliff to form cool underground pathways that today’s tourists and locals alike love to explore. Polar Caves Park comprises nine caves, all connected by wooden stairs and boardwalks for easy exploration. You can make your own way, but for an extra-cool adventure, join the park’s guides to journey into corners where the caves are so remote, they house unmelted ice even in August.
If you ever wondered what the Old Man of the Mountain saw before he fell in 2003, Profile Lake is the place to go. The 13-acre lake sits at the foot of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch and is a perfect spot for fly fishing, canoeing, kayaking or just lounging in the sun. Thanks to its state park location, this accessible spot offers nearby parking and welcoming dog policies (just keep Fido on a leash). Profile Lake has been described as one of the most peaceful places in the Granite State, making it the perfect place to metaphorically and literally chill out.
Squam Lake Cruises
Described as a “gem” among New Hampshire’s famous lakes, Squam Lake is known especially for its clear water, wildlife, mountain views and historic homes. To explore the lake, hop on a canopied pontoon boat for one of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center’s five different 90-minute scenic cruises. The four themed rides focus on topics such as loons and Squam Lake wildlife, and you can snag a pair of binoculars on each for wildlife viewing at no extra cost. Even when the temperatures elsewhere in the state are climbing, you’re promised some literal cool-down time on these rides — organizers suggest bringing extra layers since temps on the lake tend to be much cooler than those on land.
The Fells Historic Estate & Gardens in Newbury
Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves
Can you squeeze through the lemon squeezer? Head to Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in Woodstock and find out. The Kinsman Notch’s natural adventure park takes explorers through the White Mountains past the Lost River as it plays “hide and seek” with the granite boulders and through the cool caves created by glaciers millions of years ago. Make sure to bring good walking shoes and leave your favorite shorts at home as this adventure brings you up close and personal with nature. If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, wait for the sun to go down and take part in an evening lantern tour ending with a campfire and s’mores.
Two Cool Towns
Manchester may have the Currier and Portsmouth may have, well, Portsmouth, but two towns off the beaten track offer particularly impressive rosters for urban explorers. On the south end of the state, head to Newmarket for a day rocking out at The Stone Church, sipping beers at Deciduous Brewing Company and munching on eggs Benny at The Big Bean. Up north, try Littleton for antiques shopping at Just L, craft brew and pizza at Schilling Beer Co. and — as is to be expected with their White Mountains location — a thriving outdoor recreation scene populated with mountain-loving, bearded young hipsters.
When all else fails, keep cool by staying in the air conditioning-equipped great indoors.
If you ever thought climbing on a ceiling was impossible, Dover's Indoor Ascent may have you questioning the meaning of the word. With more than 9,000 square feet of wall space, this climbing gym has walls for beginners, experts and everyone in between. Open seven days a week (with ladies-only nights on Mondays), the gym offers friendly and competent staff to assist in what may be a scary ascent for some.
Also try …
- Vertical Dreams, Manchester and Nashua
- EVO Rock & Fitness, Concord
- North Country Climbing Center, Lisbon
Trade sunburn-causing outdoor rock climbing for its indoor cousin. Photo courtesy of North Country Climbing Center
Beat the heat and pick up a paintbrush at one of the state’s many art classes and artistic activity centers. Decorate your own pottery at Bedford’s You’re Fired, create a wall-worthy painting while sipping local wine at LaBelle Winery’s monthly Taste & Create workshops in Amherst, or, for the truly artsy, sign up for a Community Education class at the Manchester or Peterborough campuses of the New Hampshire Institute of Art — subjects range from ceramics and painting to photography and even metalsmithing.
Lace up (or strap on) your skates this summer for some indoor fun on the rink. Enfield’s Great View Roller Skating is the state’s last indoor roller-skating rink, while the Rinks at Exeter are the best place to find indoor ice-skating even in the heat of summer. If you’d rather spectate than skate, then grab a seat at a roller derby match — New Hampshire has a number of active teams.
Whether you have a case full of trophies at home or you need bumpers to assure you score any points, bowling is a classic way to pass the time when the summer heat forces you inside to cool off. Here are a few places to get your bowl on in the 603.
- King Bowling Lanes, Manchester
- Bowling Acres Grill, Peterborough
- Maple Lanes, Claremont
- Dover Bowl, Dover
- Park Place Lanes, Windham
“Netflix and chill” isn’t the only way to stay cool with the help of a streaming service. Check the schedule at your local movie theater, and you’re likely to find two sets of live-streaming cultural icons: National Theatre Live and The Met Live in HD. The respectively London- and New York-based programs each play in a long list of New Hampshire theaters, searchable via their websites, nationaltheatre.org.uk and metopera.org.
At an escape room, the idea is to get locked up and then work with other players to solve a series of clues and puzzles that will (hopefully) lead to your release. Each game has a time limit, but no worries — we’re pretty sure they let you out if you can't solve the riddle in time.
- Granite State Escape, Manchester
- LOK’d! Room Escape, Manchester
- Portsmouth Escape Room, Portsmouth
- Mystery NH Escape Rooms, North Conway
- Time Quest NH: Escape Room Adventures, Littleton
- Key to Escape, Nashua
- Escape Factory, Claremont