New Hampshire picnic spots

Grab a blanket and head to one of the state’s best outdoor dining spots

What’s a beautiful spring or summer day without a picnic? Make this special family time even more memorable by giving your backyard a break and take your gathering to one of these picturesque picnicking spots.

Merrimack Valley

Ready to grill? Grab the burgers and dogs and head over to Nashua’s Greeley Park on Concord Street. The picnic area rings the north side of this luscious urban green space, with an ample number of tables and grills ready and waiting. Bonuses here include restroom facilities, room to set up volleyball or badminton nets, a playground for kids, a wooded walking loop, and the Greeley Park bandstand right across the street. Concerts, plays, and other events take place here all season long. Time your picnic right and you may just have dinner – and a show.

If you’re planning a picnic lunch of sandwiches instead, head to Livingston Park in Manchester. There are no grills here, but the picnic tables are plentiful and two playgrounds (one designed for older kids, the other for toddlers) will keep the kids busy while you set up. After you eat, a nature trail leads in a pleasant loop around Dorr’s Pond for the perfect post-picnic stroll.

Contoocook’s Elm Brook Park, located along Elm Brook Pool, is a day-use area that’s also a favorite fishing spot for walleye, brook trout, sunfish and pickerel. If you have an angler on your picnic guest list, you just may need to add fresh fish to your picnic menu. Amenities at Elm Brook include picnic tables and grills, covered picnic shelter (available for an extra fee),  swimming beach, a nature trail, boat ramp, and even horseshoe pits to add a little friendly competition to this year’s festivities.

Monadnock Region

Take your picnic to new heights, literally, by packing up for a scenic picnic atop the 2,290-foot summit of Pack Monadnock (“Little” Monadnock) mountain in Peterborough. Located in Miller State Park, New Hampshire’s oldest state park, a winding 1.3-mile paved toll road leads to the summit – or you can park at the base, strap your picnic goodies to your back, and climb to the top. What better excuse for that extra helping of potato salad?

Want a picnic that feels like you are truly getting away from it all? Try Greenfield State Park. Tucked away in the 400-acre natural area, about eight miles north of Peterborough, are ponds, bogs and a forest that extends to the scenic shore of Otter Lake. Picnic grounds are well-maintained and walking paths easily link up the park’s many points of interest. Expect to pay a small fee for day use picnicking. Forget the drinks? The park store will have you covered.

Out west in Keene, Otter Brook Recreation Area, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, offers a river-fed beach, ball field, restrooms, as well as 90 picnic sites that stretch out along the river, and 55 fireplace grills. Forecast calling for rain? Groups can rent out one of two picnic shelters for an additional fee; electrical hookups are also available.

Seacoast

Portsmouth’s Four Tree Island jutting out into the mouth of the Piscataqua River offers panoramic 360-degree views of the Kittery Shipyard and Portsmouth’s historic red brick skyline.

The island’s picnic area, including covered tables, grill areas and restrooms, may be one of the Seacoast’s best-kept secrets, probably because you can’t directly access the island by car. To reach it, cross the bridge onto Peirce Island and take the first left into the parking lot. Park near the iron gate and take the footpath causeway to the island.

Want some assurance that you won’t get squeezed out of a lovely picnic spot during the busy Memorial Day or Fourth of July weekend? At Kingston State Park, family picnickers and other larger groups are welcome to make a reservation in advance of the holiday weekend (or any time during the summer season). The picnic area includes rustic fireplaces for grilling as well as a nearby playground, softball field and pond swimming beach.

You may go to the Stratham Fair here in July, but at the end of May, Stratham Hill Farm Park is a pastoral 100-acre site that’s just perfect for a picnic. The well-maintained grounds provide picnic tables with small grills, running water, and rest rooms.  Basketball courts, a ball field, a playground, and walking trails will keep everyone busy until the hot dogs are cooked. The park is also home to three pavilions that may be reserved for larger picnic groups and other private functions.

Lakes Region & White Mountains

With views toward the White Mountains’ Presidential Range, including Mounts Adams, Jefferson, and Washington, the Dolly Copp picnic area on Route 16, just south of Gorham, will have you picnicking with the presidents this Memorial Day Weekend. Part of the National Forest Service’s string of day-use areas throughout the White Mountains, this pleasant picnic spot offers tables, grills, water fountain, covered picnic pavilion and port-o-pottys.

Give your picnic some rustic charm at Long Pond Picnic and Fishing Area, a White Mountains National Forest site located near the base of hulking Mount Moosilauke. The well-maintained day-use area offers opportunities for fishing, boating and picnicking on a gravel-surfaced, wheelchair-accessible setting. Grills are available on-site or bring your own.

For lakeside picnicking, it’s hard to beat the scenic splendor and convenience of Ellacoya State Park. Located in Gilford on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, picnic tables can be found all along the park’s 600-foot long stretch of sandy beach, with fabulous views across the lake to the Sandwich and Ossipee mountains. Bring your own table top grill or get there early to grab a table near one of the park grills.

Jacqueline Tourville is a freelance writer and longtime contributor to Parenting NH.

Categories: Spring Fun, Summer Fun

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