The striking White Mountains looming in the distance set the backdrop for New Hampshire’s charming little towns, peppered throughout the state’s large expanses of nature. Between the mountainous range that covers almost a quarter of the state, an abundance of state parks and a breadth of nature experiences, New Hampshire is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground.
In the winter months, skiers and snowboarders flock to this area for the wide selection of ski resorts offering more downhill trails than you can shake a ski pole at. Through the warmer seasons, the mountainous landscape offers a whole host of other activities, from hiking and rock climbing to mountain top yoga classes at Mount Sunapee.
Luckily for adventurers, the Granite State is also stuffed to the brim with delicious fare to hunker down with after a long day of physical pursuits. While it may still be a little rough around the edges, Manchester is a city on the rise. In the capital’s downtown area, you’ll find cool bars and neighbourhood restaurants whipping up complex cocktails and appetizing fare with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients.
Smaller towns like Hanover and North Conway have dining scenes to match, with local restaurants dishing out quality food. Nestled amongst the White Mountains, these little villages provide a quaint and cozy home base for all that outdoor adventuring.
To soak in all that this great state has to offer, rent a car and wind your way around New Hampshire’s rolling mountains and deep valleys. The breathtakingly scenic drive is an adventure in its own right. Use a map to find lookout points along your way for extraordinary views, or just sit back and take it all in as you cruise from town to town.
New Hampshire: Activities and things to do
Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves
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If you’ve ever wanted to go caving but feel uneasy about those deep, dark holes that seem to lead down to the centre of the earth, the Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves is just the place to ease yourself into this adventurous activity. A ¾-mile boardwalk weaves its way through the forested gorge, passing by streaming waterfalls, breathtaking lookouts and more than a dozen different caves. Choose to stay on the path for a scenic stroll, or take your time exploring each of the caves as you go. They range in size from spacious caverns you can easily walk through to the 13-inch Lemon Squeezer that you have to crawl through on your belly.
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This mighty mountain is the tallest peak in the northeastern United States. From its 6,288-foot summit, you can see all the way to Quebec on one side and to the Atlantic Ocean on the other. There are several ways up to this rewarding view, along with the visitors centre and observatory at the top. Hiking enthusiasts can tackle the trails on foot for an adventure that will run just over eight hours to the peak and back down again. You can also choose to drive up the winding roads, but for a more leisurely trip, take a tour van — you’ll want to press your face to the window and gawp at the deep valleys and mountains below. There’s also a cog train that chugs its way to the summit.
New Hampshire: Bars, restaurants and breweries
The Crown Tavern
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Just off the main drag in Manchester, The Crown Tavern is a down-to-earth spot for delicious, quality fare in an ambient atmosphere. Billed as a bar, grill, pub and social hub, this neighbourhood spot is casual with just enough polish. Behind the restaurant, a stone patio and swath of grass make the sprawling outdoor dining area feel like a very well-appointed backyard. String lights twinkle overhead as you tuck into a menu of seafood-forward dishes, wood-fired pizza and burgers — all made with a focus on locally-sourced ingredients, seasonality and sustainability.
815 Cocktails & Provisions
It may not look like much from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. Head upstairs where you’ll find a secret entrance tucked by a phonebooth. Check their Facebook page for the password to be let in through the hidden door. On the other side, you’ll find New Hampshire’s coolest speakeasy. The prohibition-era drinking den-meets-tiki bar specializes in craft cocktails, with a lengthy list running from house concoctions to classic serves. They’ve also got more than a few booze-free mocktails on the menu. A selection of bar bites is available to sop up all that alcohol, with items like tacos, charcuterie and flatbread on offer.
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Making the just-over-an-hour drive from Manchester to Hanover is worth it for this restaurant alone (though there are plenty of other places worth checking out in this quaint university town). This American fine dining spot centres on New England ingredients, sourcing local meat, dairy, produce and “the best fish out of Boston.” But seriously, PINE’s menu of beautiful pasta dishes and delicately cooked seafood is well worth the hype. Asian-inspired dishes like pork belly ramen and General Tso’s octopus are also among the offerings. On the bar side, expect a lengthy list of balanced, well thought out cocktails.
Founded in 1998 when co-owners Kirsten Neves and Nik Stanciu were just 24 years old, Tuckerman Brewing has been churning out brews for more than 20 years. You can easily find their beer across New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, but you’ll want to get it right from the source. In recent years, their facility has grown to include a tasting room, tap house and an outdoor beer garden. Enjoy lawn games and live music while you sip on their craft brews paired with a menu of bar snacks and share plates. Populated with plenty of IPAs, their straightforward beer list is easy to love.
New Hampshire: Hotels
Hilton Garden Inn Manchester Downtown
Oftentimes, the simplest solution is the best one. That being said, the Hilton Garden Inn offers a simple, no-fuss option for laying your head to rest in Manchester. The hotel is directly attached to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, which means you can watch Minor League Baseball team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats take on their rivals right from the comfort of your bed. If the sweeping view of the whole field doesn’t suit your fancy, head down to the Garden Grille & Bar. The Patio offers a front row seat to the game, plus a menu of sharable snacks and pub fare.