Best Places to Visit in New Hampshire: 10 Amazing Things to Do in NH

by Jon Miksis
beautiful forest in the state of New Hampshire
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Are you wondering what to do in New Hampshire this year? Here are some of the very best places to visit in New Hampshire that will surely make you want to come back for more.

Among all the states in the United States that border the coast, New Hampshire is the one with the shortest coastline, at only 18 miles.

However, the short coast does not in any way limit the fun you can have checking out the best things to do in New Hampshire!

From breathtaking beaches to the highest peak of the entire Northeast region, New Hampshire encapsulates an abundance of splendor and beauty in itself. All that’s left for you to do is uncover and relish the natural magnificence of this place.

Below, I have compiled a list of places that I believe deserve to be on your bucket list. Hopefully, you will be able to travel to all of these locations and make your trip to New Hampshire a memorable one.

the white steeple of the North Church of Portsmouth in New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a New England state with enough history and quaint things to do to satisfy any type of visitor.

Places to Visit in New Hampshire: 10 of the Best Options

New Hampshire was one of the original 13 colonies and, as such, has centuries of history behind it. That, along with its gorgeous landscapes (especially in the fall!), attract many people to the Granite State every year.

If you’re going to be in the state for an extended amount of time, you might want to go all-in and check out some picturesque cabin rentals in New Hampshire to get a real feel for the wilderness here.

In the end, whether you’re here for two days or ten, you’ll want to take time for some of these amazing places and things to do in New Hampshire.

1. White Mountain National Forest

When considering the best places to visit in New Hampshire, it’s hard not to mention White Mountain National Forest. The White Mountains are among the most famous sightseeing attractions in the state. People love to rent Airbnbs in the White Mountains, too, to take in the true feeling of being in nature there.

the scenic overlook sign of White Mountain National Forest
The sign welcoming you to the scenic overlook of White Mountain National Forest | Credit: Elizabeth B York

The scenic landscape is just one of the phenomenal aspects of this park. You will get to see numerous breathtakingly beautiful mountain ranges, including the Presidential Range and Sandwich Range. The thick forest topography of the park and the astoundingly stunning summits forge the perfect atmosphere for an ideal vacation destination.

In terms of wildlife, you will likely encounter a wide variety of species, including moose, black bears, and bald eagles. Some fun things you can do in White Mountain National Forest include:

  • Overnight camping. Tourists prefer to stay overnight and indulge themselves in the serene, natural beauty of the forest.
  • The Appalachian Trail is perfect for a fun hiking experience, where you would be able to navigate your way through the mountains and forests, taking in the magnificent scenery that nature has spread out in front of you. There are several other trails that you can check out as well.
  • Ideally, one should visit the park during the fall. It is then that the greenery of the forest gets turned into a miraculous spectrum of colors- yellow, red, and orange.
one of the cabins you can rent in the White Mountains, a favorite place to visit in New Hampshire
One of the many cabins you can stay in to get a feel for the forest

2. Concord

Among the top New Hampshire places to visit is the state capital of Concord. The city attracts thousands of tourists every year. There is plenty to enjoy in Concord, especially if you are interested in checking out educational sites and attractions. It is perfect for a family vacation.

the downtown buildings of Concord, a favorite place in New Hampshire to visit
The picturesque downtown area of Concord, NH | Credit: Warren LeMay
  • You can begin your journey of exploring Concord from downtown, an area that has been recently reinvigorated.
  • As your entry point, take a lovely tour of the grand New Hampshire State House
  • If you are someone who likes to explore the art of a particular city or region, then Concord is an ideal destination. You can familiarize yourself with the excitingly expanding art and culture scene of the city by visiting places such as the Capitol Center for the Arts.
  • The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is worth visiting, as well, if you are up for learning something new while having fun, or if you have kids with you.
  • If you like hiking, there are as many as 30 different hiking trails that you can explore. One can also indulge in activities such as kayaking.
the New Hampshire State House in Concord, New Hampshire
The golden dome of the New Hampshire State House in Concord

3. Mt. Washington and The Cog Railway

Usually, on a bright sunny day, you can see the spectacular Mount Washington summit from as far as four states.

Mount Washington is one of the top places to visit in New Hampshire
A spectacular view of Mount Washington in New Hampshire | Credit: WWoods

Mount Washington has long been a fan-favorite among New Hampshire attractions. There are several pathways for accessing the summit. However, the Cog Railway is the easiest way to navigate your way up to the highest altitude in the northern Appalachians, which is at over 6,000 feet.

First started in 1869, the Cog Railway is quite uniquely built and has been taking visitors up to the highest elevation of Mount Washington since then. Those who have lived through the era of coal-fired steam engines, or even those who have noticed it in old movies, are likely to feel nostalgic while traveling through this train.

a sunny shot of the Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire
The Mount Washington Cog Railway that takes visitors up the mountain | Credit: King of Hearts

The Sherman Adams Visitors Center is also worth your time. It comprises a tiny museum and a cafeteria. Even the Mount Washington Observatory is housed here. This observatory is essentially a research station that examines and assesses extremities in the weather.

The reason why this observatory is established here is that abrupt and extreme weather shifts are commonplace on the mountain. For instance, in 1934, the wind speed recorded here created a new world record of 234 mph, the fastest recorded wind outside of a tornado.

4. Mount Monadnock

Mount Monadnock is another stunning place that many visitors count as among the best places to visit in New Hampshire. The spectacular sight of the secluded mountain summit is incomparable to anything you’ve ever seen. It is definitely among the best peaks in the entire New England region.

Mount Monadnock is one of the most thriller places in New Hampshire to visit for tourists
A sunny shot of Mount Monadnock showing its summit | Credit: Jonwmcinenrey

Being the highest point of elevation in Cheshire County (3,165 feet), Mount Monadnock is located in the southern part of New Hampshire. Given how secluded and detached the mountain peak is from other ranges, the sight is quite awe-inspiring. All the other peaks pale in comparison to the staggering presence of Mount Monadnock. Truly a sight to behold, you should not miss the chance of getting a 360-degree view of the complete scenery.

the breathtaking view from the summit of New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock
View from the summit of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire

You can hike up to the summit, as many do, taking any of the several trails that go all the way to the peak. Trails differ in their lengths and level of difficulty. Among the most popular of those trails are White Arrow Trail and White Dot Trail.

5. The Flume Gorge and Franconia Notch

Even though the state of New Hampshire comprises several parks that are filled with ethereal, natural beauty, there are a few things about Franconia Notch State Park that make it unique.

Flume Gorge, which runs through New Hampshire's Franconia Notch State Park
The Flume Gorge running through Franconia Notch State Park

The most fascinating among those is the Flume Gorge. It’s an 800-foot-long crack in the rock that forms the base of Mount Liberty. The walls of the Flume Gorge are 70 to 80 feet, going all the way up and over the brook that flows through it. One can go along the boardwalk, with the water flowing just a foot below.

Franconia is among the biggest notches in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A notch is a pass that gets shaped through a mountain range due to retreating glaciers. One gets miles and miles of enthralling hiking opportunities at Franconia Notch, along with plenty of space for camping.

a sweeping look at the Franconia Notch area of New Hampshire's White Mountains, one of the best places to visit in New Hampshire
The Franconia Notch area of New Hampshire’s White Mountains

By the way, while you’re in the area, Echo Lake State Park is another great outdoor place in New Hampshire where you can experience the beautiful sandy beach and rent some boats.

6. Portsmouth

Back in 1623, Strawbery Banke was the name of what ultimately became the very first settlement in New Hampshire. Today, this place is known as Portsmouth, and it is now a thriving tourist destination. Anyone wondering what to do in New Hampshire will not be bored with this amazing tourist spot.

the steeple of Portsmouth's North Church, which is a favorite New Hampshire destination among tourists
The steeple of the North Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Spread across 10 acres, Strawbery Banke Museum comprises four-century-old homes that used to be part of the old port neighborhood. Few homes have been restored, and furniture has been placed in them to demonstrate life during different points of time.

The rest of the houses are protected and preserved so as to demonstrate the methodology and techniques of construction and restoration, to those who may be inclined to learn.

The Museum showcases how activities such as cooking, crafts, etc., used to take place during that time, through the demonstrations presented by costumed interpreters. You can watch and learn how authentic boats are made, as you’ll really be seeing boats under construction.

a look at the Strawbery Banke Historic District in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
A serene garden and home in Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke Historic District | Credit: Julia Fey

Another interesting place to visit in Portsmouth is the Period Gardens. Also worth visiting is the public house that was built in 1770 and a completely stocked market from the World War II-era neighborhood. These wonderful sightseeing attractions, combined with the recurring musical and history-based programs, are what lure tourists to Portsmouth time and again.

7. Manchester

Manchester is the largest city in the state of New Hampshire and so is usually considered one of the best places to visit in New Hampshire. What immediately catches the eye about Manchester is how colorful and vibrant the place is, especially in terms of arts, entertainment, sports, and culture.

the storefronts in the quaint downtown area of Manchester, one of the best places to visit in New Hampshire
The downtown area of Manchester, showing storefronts | Credit: Alexius Horatius

The city is easily accessible from Boston, Lake Winnipesaukee, and the White Mountains National Forest. You can use Manchester as a good starting point from where you can begin your journey of exploring the visual treasures of New Hampshire. Also worth checking out is the Currier Museum of Art, given its fabulous collection of works that comprise art by legendary artists such as Monet, Picasso, and Matisse.

the staircases inside Manchester, New Hampshire's Currier Museum of Art
Inside the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire | Credit: Daderot

8. Castle in the Clouds

The Castle in the Clouds is a classic 1918 manor located in Moultonborough. It covers a massive area of 5,200 acres.

The mansion was commissioned by Thomas Gustave Plant. He was a mogul who became wealthy working in the shoe business. He commissioned Castle In the Clouds at the age of 51 after his retirement. Among the most visited tourist attractions in New Hampshire, this building is quite an architectural marvel.

The Castle in the Clouds is one of the top New Hampshire places to visit for its unusual architecture
The Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough | Credit: Fletcher

When you visit the manor house, you’ll be able to enjoy the following:

  • Spectacular views of Moultonborough
  • Horse-riding
  • The beautiful restaurant on the manor grounds
  • Live music events
  • The thrilling trolley ride that follows the same paths that the founders took in the 1900s
the water and shoreline of Chocoura Lake in Moultonborough, New Hampshire
A picturesque view of Chocoura Lake in Moultonborough, New Hampshire | Credit: Carol M. Highsmith

9. Keene

Keene encapsulates the old-world charm that only small-towns are capable of. If you want to enjoy a calmer, more laid-back vacation, then Keene, established in 1753, will be an ideal choice in New Hampshire.

the old-world charms of Keene make the town one of the top New Hampshire places to visit
Visitors get serene small-town vibes from the downtown area of Keene, New Hampshire | Credit: Jon Platek

The picturesque downtown is perfect for some on-foot sightseeing. So put on your explorer’s hat and stroll through the street. You will notice a unique blend of historic staples with modern conventions in the buildings, restaurants, shops, and the vibrant Central Square.

There are numerous attractions for you to check out, such as the impressive Colonial Theatre, which lures both tourists as well as locals. The theater hosts numerous events relating to music, film, and cultural events.

Another big attraction is the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival. Keene is also a great place to visit if you adore the outdoors. There is abundant natural beauty in Keene to keep you engaged and enthralled.

pumpkins for sale in the middle of the street in Keene, NH
Jack-o-lantern pumpkins available for sale on a street of Keene, New Hampshire | Credit: John Phelan

If the more quaint side of New England is what you’re seeking, Keene is likely going to be one of the best places to visit in New Hampshire for you.

10. Squam Lake, Holderness

Nestled in the heart of the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, Holderness is home to the exquisite Squam Lake. Even if this is your very first visit to New Hampshire, you have probably seen this lake on the big screen. As beautiful as the lake looked being the backdrop of the movie On Golden Pond, it is even more breathtakingly stunning in reality. 

Squam Lake is one of the top places to visit in New Hampshire
An island on Squam Lake in Holderness, NH | Credit: Magicpiano

The lake is easily accessible, given how it is only a couple of hours away from Boston.

Squam Lake encapsulates what is described as a quintessential New England sightseeing experience. As you paddle your way across the water, you will be able to hear the loons calling. This quietness and serenity are what sets Squam Lake apart from other beautiful water bodies in New Hampshire.

an aerial look at Squam Lake in New Hampshire, showing distant islands with clouds in the sky above
An aerial shot of Squam Lake with its numerous islands | Credit: Chuck Taylor

Set Out for the Best Places to Visit in New Hampshire

I hope you will find the above-mentioned list of New Hampshire destinations helpful for shortlisting your ideal bucket list for your trip to the region.

There is plenty for you to explore in this gem of a state. From surreal ocean sightings to gorgeous beaches, from phenomenal mountains to outlets of history and culture, everyone can find something to love about New Hampshire.

There are several kinds of fun activities that you can partake in during your trip. Whether you are envisioning hiking with your partner in your dream vacation or want to go kayaking for miles on sublime waters, New Hampshire is where you can do it all.

So stop procrastinating, and start planning your things to do in New Hampshire today!

Check out more of my favorite travel destinations in the blog posts below!

Top Lake Winnipesaukee House Rentals: Lake Houses + Vacation Rentals

The Ultimate New England Road Trip Itinerary in 2022

37 Unique Airbnbs in New England: Cabins + Treehouse Vacation Rentals

24 Best Hikes in New England: Mountain Hikes, Backpacking + More

18 Coastal Towns in Maine for the Ultimate Beach Getaway

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