Must-See Activities and Attractions
Healthful mountain air and elegant grand hotels lured New Hampshire's first vacationers in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, nostalgia reigns at the state's family-friendly attractions, many of which have entertained generations of visitors. Among these highlights, you'll find amusements where the focus is on spending time together — not spending a ton of money.
RAINY DAY FUN
New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe captured the world's imagination when she became the first civilian astronaut. Her untimely death in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger devastated a nation that had followed her dream. The Christa McAuliffe Planetarium (2 Institute Drive, Concord, 603-271-7827,
105 Haverhill Road, Salem
You don't have to travel to England to see a prehistoric archaeological enigma. New England has its own Stonehenge in Salem, New Hampshire. Explore thirty acres of cave-like dwellings, astronomically aligned rock formations, and other mysterious structures left behind on “Mystery Hill” by an unknown people.
Canterbury Shaker Village
288 Shaker Rd, Canterbury
Step back in time to the simple ways espoused by the Shaker religious community formed at Canterbury in 1792. This 694-acre National Historic Landmark has twenty-five original Shaker buildings to explore, plus nature trails, gardens, costumed guides, daily craft demonstrations, a gift shop featuring Shaker reproductions, and a restaurant, the Creamery, that serves traditional Shaker cuisine.
Cathedral of the Pines
Cathedral Road, Rindge
This outdoor memorial honors Americans who have died in service to their country. The Altar of the Nation is constructed of rock from every U.S. state and territory. Norman Rockwell designed the bronze tablets you'll see inside the Memorial Bell Tower, which also houses bells from around the world.
Clark's Trading Post
Route 3, Lincoln
One of the White Mountains' most unusual attractions, Clark's Trading Post is best known for its trained black bears that perform daily. Clark's has been delighting families for more than seventy-five years with its interesting collection of entertainment, which includes a scenic train ride on the White Mountain Central Railroad, water bumper boats, the mysterious Tuttle House, Merlin's Mystical Mansion, and a museum of Americana.
Ocean Boulevard, Hampton Beach
This classic beach community offers all of the old-fashioned ingredients you need for the perfect summer vacation: a white sand beach open free to the public, gentle ocean surf, casual restaurants, colorful souvenir shops, deep-sea fishing charters, arcades, miniature golf courses, weekly fireworks, and nightly outdoor concerts.
The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company
315 Market Street, Portsmouth
Take a scenic cruise tour of historic Portsmouth Harbor and see lighthouses, forts, and coastal landmarks. Narrated trips feature tales of ghosts, pirates, fierce storms, and other legendary people and events. Also check their schedule of fall foliage outings and lobster clambake dinner cruises.
528 Presidential Highway, Jefferson
You can't blame Santa for spending his summers in the picturesque White Mountains. This enchanting, Christmas-themed amusement park enthralls little ones and offers enough thrilling rides — including a log flume and a roller coaster — to excite older children, too.
Three railroad sightseeing options provide New Hampshire visitors with a nostalgic, leisurely means of viewing the state's natural beauty. Most famous is the Mount Washington Cog Railway in Bretton Woods (603-278-5404 or 800-922-8825,
Route 16, Glen
Kids' favorite fairy tales and nursery rhymes come to life at this enduring amusement park that opened its doors in the White Mountains in 1954. Pay one admission price for unlimited rides and shows. The park is geared primarily to preschoolers and young children, who will lead the charge to see all of the park's magical attractions the moment you step through the gates.
There is no sales tax on purchases anywhere in New Hampshire. That makes the state's outlet shopping centers an even better bargain. Many New Hampshire shops will gladly ship purchases for visitors.
Route 1, Portsmouth
Water Country is New England's largest water amusement park, with more than a dozen different water slides and rides ranging from big thrillers to tamer options appropriate for the tiniest of tots. Water Country also boasts New England's largest wave pool; it's 700,000 gallons! One admission price includes all water rides and attractions.