Summer fun from A to Z
Discover exciting places to go for family-friendly fun all summer long in the Granite State
The mysterious rock formations at America’s Stonehenge in Salem may be one of the oldest man-made structures in the United States. Visitors can wind through the estimated 4,000-year-old archaeological site’s maze of rocky chambers believed to be ancient ceremonial meeting places. Wear sneakers and get ready to explore. Elsewhere on the grounds, kids can dig for gemstones they can keep.
More info: www.stonehengeusa.com
Blueberries are ripe for the picking in New Hampshire starting in mid- to late July. Great spots for a morning or afternoon of pick-your-own fun include Bartlett’s Blueberry Farm in Newport and Blueberry Bay Farm in Stratham. If you like your blueberries on the wild side, hike Mount Pisgah in Hinsdale’s Mount Pisgah State Park. The gentle summit trail leads to nice views and in late July and August kids will love finding wild blueberries that grow along the mountain’s sunny crown.
More info: www.parentingnh.com/blueberry
Canobie Lake Park
In Salem, summer thrills await at Canobie Lake Park, the state’s largest amusement park. With more than 100 rides, games, and attractions, there is something for everyone. Little kids can ride the carousel that dates back to 1903, get lost in the walk-through mirror maze or climb aboard the Canobie Express for a steam train ride around the park. Older kids can ride the roller coasters, including the thrilling Yankee Cannonball. Be sure to check out the park’s newly expanded Castaway Island Water Park.
More info: www.canobie.com
Within the ivy-covered Dartmouth campus in Hanover is the Hood Museum, home to one of oldest and largest college art collections in the country. With art work ranging from ancient stone carvings to paintings from Renaissance masters and modern masterpieces from the 20th century, the Hood is the Upper Valley’s own mini version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Families are welcome. Check ahead for special gallery story times and other kid-friendly events.
More info: www.hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, when it’s time to eat, New Hampshire has you covered. In the Franconia Notch area, fuel up for breakfast or lunch at Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, a can’t-miss dining spot that has been offering great food in a family-friendly atmosphere since 1938. What about pizza? In North Conway and Portsmouth, look no further than Flatbread Pizza; in Dover, La Festa is a family favorite; or head to Manchester’s 900 Degrees for its award-winning wood-fired pizza.
Franconia Notch State Park
Nestled in one of the most spectacular passes in the White Mountains, Franconia Notch State Park is a crown jewel for outdoor recreation. Ready to start exploring? As Interstate 93 heads north into the Notch, don’t miss the Flume Gorge, a 800-foot-long natural canyon so narrow in places that the 90-foot-tall sheer granite walls are only separated by a mere 20 inches. A 2-mile walk in and around the gorge takes you to cascading waterfalls, historic covered bridges and glacial pools.
Family-friendly hikes include the 1.4-mile climb to the top of Mount Pemigewasset where moderate effort pays off in breathtaking views of the Franconia Ridge and back down into the Notch. If you have your bikes (and your bathing suits), the Franconia Notch Recreational Trail brings you to the refreshing destinations of Echo Lake and the Basin. The 9-mile trail can be accessed from multiple parking lots, making it easier to customize the length of your trek.
More info: www.nhstateparks.org
Great Island Common
A great place for a picnic or a swim, Great Island Common in New Castle boasts a sandy beach with stunning views of nearby Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and the Isles of Shoals.
Take a quick dip in the Atlantic’s chilly waters (note: no lifeguards are on duty) or wade along the shore and explore the rocky outcroppings. The park’s oversized playground is also good for hours of fun. Visitors pay a nominal admission charge.
More info: www.newcastlenh.org/great-island-common
What’s summer in New Hampshire without a day at the beach? In addition to the miles-long stretch of sandy beach, you will find the famous boardwalk filled with arcades, tourist shops, and family-style restaurants. Hampton Beach is budget-friendly vacation dream with free outdoor concerts, weekly fireworks displays, and a large beach-side playground to keep the kids busy.
For the most fun in the sun, time your visit to coincide with the Hampton Beach Children’s Festival, held Aug. 12-16, 2019. It’s a week filled with games and free activities, and don’t miss the children’s parade on Friday, Aug. 16. Everyone has fun — and wins a prize — at this giant beachside costume parade.
More info: www.hamptonbeach.org
Isles of Shoals
Approximately three miles off the coast, you’ll find the Isles of Shoals, a mysterious island chain that was once home to the area’s first settlers. For a fun day of exploring, leave from Portsmouth aboard the S.S. Thomas Leighton, which takes visitors to Star Island. You and the kids can even spend the night at the island’s Oceanic Hotel. But beware… the 19th-century structure is reportedly haunted.
More info: www.islesofshoals.com
Make your way to the top of Mount Monadnock, one of the most popular hiking spots in the state, with easy access from Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey. Approximately 125,000 people hike Monadnock each year, drawn by the summit’s eye-popping views that reach all the way to Boston on a clear day. Summit trails are best suited for kids older than 8 and kids who already hike.
Before you head home, be sure to stop at Kimball Farm — celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2019 — to order ice cream, seafood, or both, and get a souvenir at its country store.
More info: www.nhstateparks.org
The Kancamagus Highway is 34.5 miles of scenic views in the heart of the White Mountains National Forest. Connecting Lincoln and Conway, the beloved “Kanc” is filled with well-designated scenic overlooks, campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails and historic sites. Fun stops for families include the Lincoln Woods Trail that follows the Pemigewasset River for approximately three miles. Closer to Conway, stop by Sabbaday Falls scenic area. A short walk brings you to the crashing falls. Let the spray cool you off before heading back to the picnic area.
More info: www.fs.usda.gov
Lost River Gorge
When the last Ice Age retreated, it left behind Lost River Gorge in North Woodstock, a glacial rock-strewn canyon that makes the river flowing through it seem to mysteriously “disappear.”
Today, you and your kids can make your way along a wooden boardwalk to check out deep caves and a rushing waterfall. Kids can even pan for fossils and gemstones along the river. Check out the Gorge’s calendar for evening lantern hikes.
More info: www.findlostriver.com
Reaching the top of 6,288-ft. Mount Washington will take your family’s summer vacation to new heights. But how you get there is almost just as fun. For a unique mode of transport, take the historic Cog Railway to the summit. Leaving from Bretton Woods, the Cog Railway is the second steepest railway of its kind in the world. Marvel at the technology that enables the train to scale and descend the mountain. Reservations highly recommended.
You can also earn the iconic “This car climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker by ascending the summit via the Mount Washington Auto Road. With the mountain’s often crazy weather, winding roads and spectacular vistas, this is a car ride you and your kids will never forget. The toll road leaves from Pinkham Notch. If you prefer to go on foot, the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the most popular route to the summit, leaving from the Pinkham Notch AMC Center. Be forewarned that the trails on Mount Washington are for experienced hikers only. If needed, the AMC Center can make suggestions for more appropriate day hikes in the area.
However you get there, after your climb through the clouds, spend time exploring the summit of New England’s tallest peak. The views are spectacular and a cafeteria, gift shop and restrooms give you a nice break before your trip back down.
For a truly comprehensive look at Mount Washington events, attractions and its history, then check out this feature put together by our friends at New Hampshire Magazine.
More info: www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com
Learn more about the flora and fauna of New Hampshire at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. The center’s interpretive trails wind through meadows, marshes and forests. Along the way you can visit live animal displays of some of the creatures who call the area home — including a black bear and bobcat.
More info: www.nhnature.org
For out-of-this-world fun, stop by the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, a planetarium and science learning center that offers star shows, outer space learning exhibits, and special family programs that inspire everyone to reach for the stars. The Center is open daily during the summer.
More info: www.starhop.com
Situated along the shores of the Piscataqua River just before it meets the Atlantic, the Port City is a busy place in summer, and for good reason. From festivals and outdoor theater to fun shopping and lots of restaurants to choose from, the pedestrian-friendly Market Square and South End areas provide plenty to do. Favorite destinations include Strawbery Banke, an indoor/outdoor living history museum; live concerts and outdoor theatrical productions at Prescott Park; shopping for toys and other treasures at Treehouse Toys and G. Willikers on Market Street; and finally, having a pancake, or two or 10, at the Friendly Toast on Congress Street.
Manchester, also know as the Queen City, is the state’s largest urban hub, and also one of its most historic. For a quick history lesson, stop by Manchester’s Millyard Museum, housed in part of what was once one of the world’s largest textile mills. Learn how the mills here turned raw cotton into cloth then stroll along a re-created Manchester city street from more than a century ago. Kids will stay engaged by completing the museum’s scavenger hunt and playing a mystery objects game. The Millyard complex is also home to the SEE Science Center, a science museum that offers hands-on exhibits about lights, sounds, electricity, simple machines, and more.
It’s called the Granite State for a reason. There are a ton of rocks in New Hampshire, and you and your kids can learn how to climb them. Mooney Mountain Guides in Concord offers family lessons at one of three popular rock climbing spots — Rumney, Echo Crag, and North Conway. On a rainy day, head indoors to Vertical Dreams in Manchester and Nashua. Both rock climbing gym locations offer day passes, gear rentals, and lessons for all ages and skill levels.
In Concord, it’s hard to miss the golden-domed State House, built in 1819 and still the heart of the capital city’s bustling downtown district. Stop by Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to do a free, self-guided tour. Kids will be intrigued by the Visitors’ Center diorama depicting the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was led by New Hampshire militiamen.
Along the northern edge of the Lakes Region, the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm in Tamworth takes visitors back to rural 19th-century New Hampshire. Take part in farm chores, arts, crafts and traditional foods demonstrations, and don’t miss the family nature trail to views of Mount Chocorua.
More info: www.remickmuseum.org
USS Albacore Museum
Climb aboard the fastest submarine of its time. The USS Albacore Museum was commissioned by the Navy from 1953-1972 and is now permanently dry docked in Portsmouth for visitors to explore. Marvel at the sub’s tight living quarters and all the dials, levers, and sonar screens. Can your kids imagine being underwater for weeks at a time?
More info: www.ussalbacore.org
It is Christmas May through December at Santa’s Village in Jefferson. Stop by to feed Santa’s reindeer and meet the man himself; enjoy one of the many rides including the Chimney Drop, Yule Log Flume and Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster. Also cool off in the water park. Santa’s Village is working on completing an addition to the park — Polar Paradise — an interactive water play area that will open in summer 2019.
More info: www.santasvillage.com
When you see the iconic Weirs Beach sign, it means only one thing — you’ve arrived at one of the state’s classic summer hot spots. Ready for sand, sun, and swimming? Pull up a blanket and join the crowds along the sandy stretch of Lake Winnipesaukee shoreline. The “beach” part of Weirs Beach is actually Endicott State Park, which provides seasonal lifeguards, public bath houses, and picnic tables a plenty.
If your kids are more in the mood for amusement park fun, the Weirs Beach boardwalk and nearby area is packed with games and rides. Destinations include the Winnipesaukee Pier for classic arcade games and miniature golf, Monkey Trunks Zipline Adventure Park and Funspot, the current Guinness World Record holder for largest arcade in the world.
X marks the spot
The resort area of North Conway is a treasure trove of everything good summer has to offer in New Hampshire. Hiking trails are everywhere. Cool off in glacial potholes of Diana’s Bath. The MWV Museum and Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center await. Plus, stroll, shop and dine your way through the picturesque downtown area, whatever the weather. Coming or going, North Conway’s tax-free outlet malls on the outskirts of town help you stock up for your summer adventure. And don’t forget, White Mountains attractions, including Story Land (in Glen) and Cranmore Mountain Adventure Park, are only a short drive away.
Small dairy farms in New Hampshire are churning out some of the tastiest yogurt around. Stop by local farms like Brookford Farm in Canterbury and Brandmoore Farm in Rollinsford for creamy organic goodness, including yogurt, cheeses, bottled milk and fresh vegetables. On-site farm stores make it easy to shop, meet friendly local farmers, and get an up close view of the cows responsible for your family’s breakfast or anytime treat.
Part zoo, part farm, and a whole lot of fun, Charmingfare Farm in Candia is the only place in New Hampshire where you can visit with chickens, pigs, goats and a camel. Kids can feed and pet lambs and llamas in a traditional New England farm setting then head off on the trails to visit more exotic creatures like wolverines, wolves, reindeer and yes, camel.
More info: www.visitthefarm.com