Your NH summer fun bucket list

Summers go by quickly in the Granite State, so make sure that you get your fill of fun

This adorable little girl (Lilly) doesn’t belong to our tourism guru and article author Jacqueline Tourville, but she does belong to Morgen, the ParentingNH digital media specialist. Morgen and family are working on checking items off their own bucket list this summer.
Photos courtesy of Morgen Connor.

It won’t be long before the long, lazy days and warm temperatures disappear for another year. So what’s on your bucket list for this summer? Before the school bell rings and the leaves turn orange, here a dozen fun places to see and explore in New Hampshire.

1. Hit the beach or go for a dip

Stop what you are doing — especially if what you’re doing is back-to-school shopping. Grab the swimsuits, towels and sunscreen, and head to the beach. Summer is short in these parts and before you know it, your family’s favorite swimming hole will be on its way to becoming your favorite spot for ice fishing. From Weirs Beach in the Lakes Region to Wallis Sands in Rye, wherever you find beach bliss in the Granite State, soak up the rays and skip some stones before this season is over.

Need some extra motivation to call it a beach day? The Hampton Beach Children’s Festival is an annual celebration of sun and surf that’s not to be missed. Held annually in mid August, the festival kicks off with a children’s parade and offers non-stop kid-friendly summer fun all week. For more information, call the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce office at 926-8717.

2. Ride the waves

When it comes to writing that inevitable, “What did you do over summer vacation?” essay, can anything top learning to surf? Cinnamon Rainbows in Hampton makes riding the waves easy with surf lessons and weekly camps offering expert instruction for older kids and teens. Lessons include surfboard and wetsuit, and last about an hour. For a schedule of activities, go to

If other “extreme” sports like white water rafting, rock climbing or mountain biking are more up your alley, then click here.

3. Step back in time

For a memorable summer adventure, take to the seas and spend the day visiting Star Island, one of the Isle of Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth. In this wind-whipped place, get an idea of what it was like for the first settlers in the area when the caw of gulls was the only sound that rose above the roar of the surf. Visit the island on your own boat, or leave from Portsmouth’s waterfront aboard the S.S. Thomas Leighton and learn more about the spine-tingling history of the island chain en route. Spend the day, or even the night. The island’s Oceanic Hotel, built in 1873, offers basic rooms for an unplugged family overnight.

4. Scream your heads off

Yankee Cannonball? Psychodrome? Over the Rainbow? Can summer really be over without taking a thrill ride at Canobie Lake Park? Everyone’s favorite amusement park in Salem also offers live entertainment until Labor Day, plenty of water rides and midway games and carnival food of all kinds. What are you waiting for? Get in line!

Oh, and if your kids would rather slow it down a little, then don’t worry. Canobie has plenty of non-spinning rides like the Ferris wheel, sky ride, old-fashioned cars and carousel. There’s also a half-hour lake cruise that takes park guests for a scenic ride on Canobie Lake if your family needs a few minutes of relaxation time.

5. Make a splash

Back-to-school shopping may have you stocking up on sweaters and jeans, but don’t forget to check the mercury outside. Late summer temperatures can still soar, so keep the swimsuits handy. When it’s just too hot to even shop, cool off at Candia Springs Adventure Park, a family-friendly water park in Candia. With the Adventure Bay spray area for younger kids, Twister and Vortext water slides for older kids, and The Reef spring-fed swimming hole for those who just want to take a dip, all ages can have a great time beating the heat.

And if you’ll be in the White Mountains for a day trip or vacation, don’t miss Whale’s Tale Water Park, a sister water park to Candia Springs.

6. Talk to the animals

Where else can you get up close and personal with chickens, pigs, goats, and…a camel? At Charmingfare Farm in Candia, 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 (that really do howl sometimes), and even reindeer. Hayrides, pony rides and a playground make the farm good for an entire day’s worth of fun. Call the farm for upcoming special events, 483-5623.

More places to find animals are: Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, Friendly Farm in Dublin and the Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy.

7. Play make believe

Spending the day at Story Land in Glen is a storybook end to summer (or any day, really) for the 12-and-under crowd. Among the amusement park’s 21 rides are cars kids can drive (they can even get a driver’s license to prove it!), water slides, a flying farmhouse, swirling teacups and a not-too scary roller coaster. Story Land also has some live entertainment and music, including Fun Time At Fairy Tale High, Farm Follies Show and a magic show. The icing on the cake has to be a visit to Cinderella’s castle where you can meet the beautiful princess and even have tea with her (the tea party does require an additional cost).

8. Bag a peak

That’s hiker shorthand for climbing a mountain, and there is certainly no shortage of summits to reach in the Granite State. For kids, pick hikes that take under an hour to reach the top. Good bets include Little Monadnock near Keene, Pitcher Mountain near Stoddard, and Belknap Mountain near Laconia. This family-friendly fave even comes with a climbable fire tower to check out the view.

9. Roast marshmallows under the moonlight

Summer ain’t over unless you’ve eaten your share of s’mores, so pack up the camping gear and take your bucket list adventure to the great outdoors. For a nice mix of wooded seclusion and plenty of family-friendly amenities, make your way to Moose Hillock Campground in the White Mountains town of Warren. Campfires and s’mores-making are encouraged (the camp store can sell you everything you need) and the campground’s giant blue lagoon swimming pool, complete with waterfall and pirate ship water slide, is literally a cool place kids love.

Other popular campgrounds for families are: Jellystone Park in New Hampton, Crow’s Nest in Newport and Lost River Valley in Lincoln.

10. Take a lick


With so many sweet spots for the sweet stuff to choose from, it’s hard to just pick just one ice cream parlor, so we won’t. For ice cream of the thick, rich variety (16 percent milk fat!), try the luscious flavors at Annabelle’s, the award-winning ice cream shop with scoop locations in Portsmouth (on Ceres Street), Hollis (at Brookdale Fruit Farm), Wolfeboro (at the town dock), New London (at Arctic Dreams) and Weirs Beach. For soft serve, Axel’s in Merrimack is a worthy bucket list stop. The soft serve has all-natural ingredients like real fruit, and when Fido is along, order a free Doggie Sundae – a vanilla soft serve ice cream topped with a dog bone.

If you’re into watching your waistline, then don’t miss out on some delectable fro-yo goodness like Izzy’s in Portsmouth, Sanctuary Dairy Farm in Sunapee or The Big 1 Ice Cream Stand in Bedford. You can read more about frozen yogurt and where to find it here.

11. Take in a game

While the Boys of Summer are still around, nothing beats an afternoon at the ball park. Sure, you can make your way to Fenway, but what about saving some money and staying closer to home by rooting for Manchester’s minor league home team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats? Many of the players eventually make it to the major leagues, so consider it an advance preview of the baseball stars of tomorrow. Plus, the Cats really know how to turn an afternoon at the ballpark into a real ball for kids. A special play area, kids’ activities during the game, and a huggable mascot are all part of the fun. For home games and special promotions, visit them online.

12. Combine food, fun, games, rides and animals into one stop

If you’re struggling to figure out how to combine some of the above bucket list items into one convenient day, then you should consider checking out one of New Hampshire’s fantastic agricultural fairs. For just a couple bucks a person for admission, you really can’t beat the free live music and entertainment, reasonably priced rides and food and priceless family memories.

2019 fairs and dates include: Stratham Fair on July 18-21, North Haverhill Fair on July 24-28, Cheshire Fair on August 1-4, Belknap County 4-H Fair on August 10-11, Cornish Fair on August 16-18 and Hopkinton State Fair on August 30-September 2.

Jacqueline Tourville of Nashua writes travel and family fun articles for ParentingNH.

Categories: Summer Fun, Things to Do