Best Things to Do in Portsmouth, NH: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Emil Backup
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Are you looking to visit Portsmouth in New Hampshire in the near future? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Portsmouth NH. These charming sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for a memorable vacation experience.

Ah, Portsmouth—a hidden gem tucked away in the scenic seacoast region of the Granite State. Imagine cobblestone streets that whisper tales of colonial times, juxtaposed with a vibrant arts scene that screams modernity. Portsmouth is where history meets hipster, and trust me, it’s a match made in travel heaven. And when it comes to things to do in Portsmouth, you’ll find a delightful mix of cultural experiences, culinary delights, and coastal adventures waiting to be explored.

As you stroll through the bustling Market Square, you’ll feel the city’s pulse reverberating through indie boutiques, historic landmarks, and mouth-watering eateries. It’s a city that invites you to explore, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or someone who simply enjoys the finer things in life.

And let’s not forget the natural beauty that surrounds it. From the serene beaches to the picturesque Isles of Shoals, the call of the ocean is ever-present, promising adventures that go beyond the ordinary.

So, if you’re yearning for a seaside destination with an array of experiences, Portsmouth is your go-to. It’s not just a city; it’s a mood, an ambiance, a lifestyle. Buckle up, because we’re about to delve into the best attractions in this New England paradise. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Portsmouth.

The best things to do in Portsmouth right now.
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Top Places to Visit in Portsmouth

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Portsmouth, NH? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this quaint vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Portsmouth places to visit.

Are you looking forward to savoring delectable seafood in charming waterfront restaurants and immersing yourself in the rich history through visits to museums and historic sites? Or would you prefer exploring lively arts and cultural scenes? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Portsmouth can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Portsmouth that you should know about.

1. Strawbery Banke Museum

Ah, the Strawbery Banke Museum, a place where time seems to stand still. This living history museum is one of the coolest things to do in Portsmouth, offering a captivating journey through four centuries of New England life. Picture yourself walking through 32 historic buildings, each one a treasure trove of stories and artifacts. From the Georgian to the Colonial, the architecture alone is a feast for the eyes.

More than the buildings, it’s about the people who once called them home. Engaging reenactments bring history to life, making you feel like a time traveler on a secret mission. Whether you’re a history aficionado or just someone looking to understand the roots of this charming city, Strawbery Banke is a must-see in Portsmouth.

And let’s not forget the seasonal events that add a dash of excitement to your visit. From winter ice skating to summer garden tours, there’s always something happening here. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Portsmouth that offers both education and entertainment, look no further.

Visiting Strawbery Banke Museum is like stepping back in time to explore the rich history and charming architecture of early American life.
Visiting Strawbery Banke Museum is like stepping back in time to explore the rich history and charming architecture of early American life.

2. The Music Hall

The Music Hall, a sanctuary for the arts and one of the unique places in Portsmouth that you simply can’t miss. This historic venue, dating back to 1878, is a testament to the city’s rich cultural tapestry. Here, you can catch everything from live concerts and theater productions to film screenings and author readings.

For an evening of sophistication and culture, book a seat at The Music Hall. The interior is a marvel, with intricate Victorian details that transport you to a bygone era. The acoustics? Simply sublime. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to dress up, just because.

And if you’re a fan of the performing arts, you’re in luck. The Music Hall hosts over 130,000 patrons annually, featuring a lineup that’s as diverse as it is captivating. Whether it’s a Broadway show, a classical concert, or a contemporary dance performance, this venue has something for everyone.

So, if you’re compiling a list of Portsmouth attractions that offer a blend of history and modern entertainment, The Music Hall should be at the top. It’s not just a venue; it’s an experience that enriches the soul. Is this among the top things to do in Portsmouth, NH? You bet!

Where the magic of live performances and the allure of timeless melodies come together to create unforgettable memories.
Where the magic of live performances and the allure of timeless melodies come together to create unforgettable memories.

3. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum

If you’re a history enthusiast or just curious about the maritime heritage of the area, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum is a must-visit. This fascinating museum offers a deep dive into the naval history of the United States, with a particular focus on the role that Portsmouth has played over the years.

Looking for unique things to do in Portsmouth if you’re keen on understanding its naval significance? Look no further. The museum showcases an impressive collection of artifacts, models, and exhibits that tell the story of the shipyard’s impact on both local and national history. From the construction of submarines to the lives of the workers who made it all happen, there’s a narrative here that captures the imagination.

The museum isn’t just a collection of old things; it’s a living testament to the bravery and ingenuity of the men and women who have served in the U.S. Navy. Interactive displays make the experience engaging for all ages, so it’s a great place for families to explore together.

Those cool destinations in Portsmouth often have a historical angle, but this museum adds layers of technological wonder and human interest. It’s not just a walk through the past; it’s an inspiring look at what dedication and craftsmanship can achieve.

Discover the maritime legacy at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum.
Discover the maritime legacy at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum.

4. Portsmouth Brewery

The Portsmouth Brewery is a haven for anyone who appreciates a well-crafted pint. If you’re thinking about what to do in Portsmouth to quench your thirst and satisfy your palate, this is the spot. With an array of house-brewed beers and a menu that’s as diverse as the city itself, you’re in for a treat.

From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts, there’s a beer for every taste. And let’s not forget the food—locally sourced ingredients make up a menu that’s both comforting and adventurous.

Many of the Portsmouth things to do often involve diving into the local culture, and what better way than through its culinary scene? The brewery also offers brewery tours, where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process. It’s not just about the beer; it’s about understanding the craftsmanship that goes into each brew.

Such breweries are community hubs where locals and tourists alike can come together over good food and great beer. So, if you’re looking to experience the city’s vibrant culinary scene, make sure to add Portsmouth Brewery to your itinerary.

Raise a glass at Portsmouth Brewery, where craft beer flows and camaraderie thrives in this iconic New England brewery and pub.
Raise a glass at Portsmouth Brewery, where craft beer flows and camaraderie thrives in this iconic New England brewery and pub.

5. Prescott Park

If you’re searching for a serene escape right in the heart of the city, Prescott Park is where to visit in Portsmouth. This beautifully landscaped park is a tapestry of vibrant flower gardens, meandering pathways, and charming fountains. It’s a slice of tranquility that offers a respite from the bustling city life.

Whether you’re into photography, picnicking, or simply soaking up the sun, this park provides the perfect backdrop. During the summer months, the park comes alive with outdoor concerts and theater performances, a perfect place for arts and culture enthusiasts.

What sets Prescott Park apart from other places in Portsmouth is its waterfront location. The park overlooks the Piscataqua River, offering stunning views that are especially magical during sunset. It’s a perfect getaway where you can enjoy both natural beauty and cultural richness.

As such, Prescott Park is an experience that captures the essence of the city. 

Where nature's beauty and artistic creativity converge in a picturesque riverside oasis, inviting tranquility and inspiration.
Where nature’s beauty and artistic creativity converge in a picturesque riverside oasis, inviting tranquility and inspiration.

6. Piscataqua River

Welcome to the Piscataqua River—this natural wonder is not just a body of water; it’s an experience that captures the essence of Portsmouth. Imagine yourself on a boat, the wind in your hair, and the sun setting over the horizon. It’s one of those coolest things to do in Portsmouth that you simply can’t miss.

The river cruises offer more than just scenic views; they’re a gateway to understanding the city’s maritime history. As you glide along the water, you’ll pass by historic forts, lighthouses, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a harbor seal or two. It’s an essential destination for anyone interested in the rich tapestry that makes up this coastal town.

Now let’s talk about activities. From fishing to paddleboarding, the Piscataqua River offers water activities that you shouldn’t miss. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or someone who just wants to relax on the water, there’s something for everyone.

Looking for Portsmouth places to visit for a romantic date? Look no further. A sunset cruise on the Piscataqua is as dreamy as it gets. So, if you’re crafting a list of the best places to go in Portsmouth, make sure a scenic river cruise is on it.

7. Isles of Shoals

If you’re on the hunt for coolest activities in Portsmouth, then a whale-watching expedition to the Isles of Shoals is an absolute must. Picture yourself aboard a vessel, cruising through the Atlantic, as you approach these historic, rocky outcroppings about six miles off the coast of Portsmouth. Your heart races as a humpback whale majestically breaches the water’s surface near Smuttynose Island, one of the nine islands that make up the Isles of Shoals.

But the spectacle doesn’t end with humpbacks. The waters around these islands are also frequented by Minke and pilot whales, as well as playful dolphins and seals. It’s not just a visual feast; it’s a photographer’s dream, especially with the iconic lighthouses of White and Seavey Islands serving as your backdrop.

Operated by seasoned mariners, these tours often depart from Portsmouth Harbor and last around three to four hours. Your guides, well-versed in marine biology, will not only help you spot these magnificent creatures but also introduce you to the diverse seabird species that call these islands home. It’s an educational odyssey as much as it is an adrenaline-pumping adventure.

Thinking about where to go in Portsmouth for an experience that melds excitement with education? Whether you’re with family, friends, or your significant other, a whale-watching journey around the Isles of Shoals is a Portsmouth experience you’ll treasure forever.

A mystical archipelago off the New England coast, where nature's rugged beauty meets tales of seafaring legends and maritime lore.
A mystical archipelago off the New England coast, where nature’s rugged beauty meets tales of seafaring legends and maritime lore.

8. Great Island Common

Imagine a place where the sky meets the sea, where the grass is as green as emeralds, and where time seems to stand still. Welcome to Great Island Common, a 32-acre park that offers some of the most breathtaking views in New Hampshire. A visit to this destination is one of those best things to do in Portsmouth where you can truly disconnect and find your inner peace.

The park is a haven for picnickers, kite flyers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. With its expansive lawns, playgrounds, and a small but charming beach, it’s a family-friendly destination that promises a day full of fun and relaxation.

The standout feature of Great Island Common is its iconic lighthouse, known as Whaleback Light. Standing tall at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, this lighthouse has been guiding sailors since the 19th century. It’s a photographer’s dream to capture the captivating spots in Portsmouth.

Whether you’re into photography, picnicking, or simply soaking up the sun, Great Island Common offers a variety of fun activities. It’s the perfect spot for a day trip or even a romantic sunset date. Trust us, you won’t regret adding this to your Portsmouth itinerary.

Great Island Common: Where coastal serenity meets recreational delight, offering panoramic views of the sea.
Great Island Common: Where coastal serenity meets recreational delight, offering panoramic views of the sea.

9. Odiorne Point State Park

Odiorne Point State Park is a nature lover’s dream destination. This sprawling park offers a distinctive blend of rocky shorelines, dense woodlands, and salt marshes, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re into hiking, bird-watching, or simply enjoying the great outdoors, this park has something for everyone. It’s easy to see why this is among the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH.

The Seacoast Science Center, located within the park, is a fantastic place for families and anyone interested in marine biology. With interactive exhibits and even touch tanks filled with local sea creatures, it’s a fun and educational experience that’s not to be missed.

Let’s not forget about the park’s historical significance. It’s home to the ruins of Fort Dearborn, a World War II coastal defense installation. Exploring these remnants gives you a glimpse into the area’s past and adds an extra layer of intrigue to your visit.

The numerous scenic overlooks that offer panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean makes this spot stand out from the rest. It’s one of those cool destinations in Portsmouth where you can catch a stunning sunrise or sunset, making it perfect for photographers or anyone looking to capture a memorable moment.

For the best places in Portsmouth where you can both relax and learn, Odiorne Point State Park should be at the top of your list.

A coastal gem where nature's wonders unfold, from serene tidepools to scenic trails.
A coastal gem where nature’s wonders unfold, from serene tidepools to scenic trails.

10. Portsmouth Book and Bar

Are you a bibliophile and a foodie? There’s a unique place in Portsmouth that you absolutely can’t miss: the Portsmouth Book and Bar. Imagine a cozy, inviting space where the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the scent of old books. It’s a haven for those who love to read and enjoy good food and drinks.

The venue offers an extensive selection of both new and used books, so you can easily find something that piques your interest. Whether you’re into classic literature, modern fiction, or non-fiction, the shelves are brimming with options. And the most excitingt part? You can enjoy your chosen book while sipping on a cup of artisanal coffee or a craft beer.

The Portsmouth Book and Bar frequently hosts live music, poetry readings, and other cultural events, a perfect spot for those looking to immerse themselves in the local arts scene.

What makes this spot exceptional is its ambiance. The interior is a blend of rustic and modern elements, featuring exposed brick walls, wooden bookshelves, and contemporary art pieces. It’s the kind of place where you can lose track of time, engrossed in a good book or deep in conversation with fellow patrons.

If you’re on the hunt of where to go in Portsmouth for a distinctive blend of culture, comfort, and community, the Portsmouth Book and Bar should be on your list.

Portsmouth Book and Bar: A literary haven where words come to life.
Portsmouth Book and Bar: A literary haven where words come to life.

11. Moxy

If you’re a food lover, then Moxy is a must-see in Portsmouth. This modern American tapas restaurant is a culinary playground that will leave your taste buds dancing. The moment you step inside, you’re greeted by a warm, inviting atmosphere, complete with rustic wooden tables and an open kitchen that lets you peek at the chefs in action.

The menu at Moxy is a celebration of New England’s local produce, with a creative twist. Think lobster sliders with a side of sweet potato fries, or a deconstructed clam chowder that’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. The dishes are designed for sharing, so it’s the perfect spot for a romantic date night or a fun evening with friends.

The restaurant sources its ingredients from local farmers and fishermen, ensuring that you’re not only enjoying delicious food but also supporting the community. It’s one of those unique places in Portsmouth where every bite feels like a journey through the region’s culinary landscape.

And how about the cocktails? The bar offers a range of inventive drinks that perfectly complement the food. Whether you opt for a classic New England-inspired cocktail or something more adventurous, you’re in for a treat.

Are you looking for the Portsmouth things to do to satiate your gastronomic cravings? Make sure to visit Moxy for an experience like no other.

Moxy: A culinary journey in the heart of Portsmouth, where innovative cuisine and a vibrant atmosphere blend to create an unforgettable dining experience.
Moxy: A culinary journey in the heart of Portsmouth, where innovative cuisine and a vibrant atmosphere blend to create an unforgettable dining experience.

12. Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden

Ah, the Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden—truly one of the finest locations to find a moment of peace amidst the hustle and bustle. This 18th-century mansion and its accompanying garden offer a tranquil escape that feels like stepping back in time. The Georgian architecture of the house is a feast for the eyes, while the lush garden is a sanctuary for the soul.

As you wander through the meticulously maintained grounds, you’ll encounter a variety of flora, from blooming roses to towering oaks. It’s a horticultural haven that offers a serene backdrop for reflection or a leisurely afternoon with a good book. And if you’re interested in history, the house itself is a treasure trove of artifacts and stories that provide a glimpse into Portsmouth’s colonial past.

Frequent workshops and guided tours make it a favorite spot for those keen on learning about horticulture or history. Whether you’re a garden enthusiast or simply someone looking for a peaceful retreat, this place has something for everyone.

A historic treasure in Portsmouth, where colonial charm and meticulously maintained gardens transport visitors to a bygone era of elegance and grace.
A historic treasure in Portsmouth, where colonial charm and meticulously maintained gardens transport visitors to a bygone era of elegance and grace.

Frequently Asked (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Portsmouth? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Portsmouth:

What’s the best time to visit Portsmouth?

The best time to visit Portsmouth is during the late spring to early fall, from May to September. During this period, the weather is generally pleasant, allowing you to explore outdoor attractions comfortably and enjoy the city’s vibrant festivals and events.

How do you spend a day in Portsmouth New Hampshire?

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a charming coastal city with a rich history, vibrant arts scene, and delightful waterfront areas. Here’s a suggested itinerary for spending a day in Portsmouth:

Morning:

  1. Strawbery Banke Museum: Start your day with a visit to this outdoor history museum. It showcases over 300 years of American history in its historic buildings, heritage gardens, and costumed role-players.
  2. Prescott Park: After the museum, take a leisurely stroll in Prescott Park, which is located along the Piscataqua River. It’s a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the gardens, especially during the warmer months.

Lunch:

  1. Downtown Portsmouth: Head to Market Square and its surrounding streets. This area is filled with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and eateries. Grab a bite at one of the local spots.

Afternoon:

  1. Waterfront Walk: After lunch, walk along the waterfront on Ceres Street, taking in views of the Piscataqua River, the working port, and the iconic tugboats.
  2. Discover Portsmouth Center: This is a great place to learn more about Portsmouth’s history, art, and culture. They often have exhibitions, films, and lectures.
  3. Shopping: Spend some time browsing the boutiques, bookstores, and specialty shops in the downtown area.

Late Afternoon/Evening:

  1. Portsmouth Brewery: As New Hampshire’s original brewpub, it’s a great place to sample some local brews and enjoy a casual dinner.
  2. Music Hall or Seacoast Repertory Theatre: If you’re in the mood for entertainment, check out what’s playing at one of Portsmouth’s theaters. Both venues offer a range of performances, from live music to theater productions.

Is Portsmouth family-friendly?

Yes, Portsmouth is a family-friendly destination. It offers a range of activities suitable for all ages, including interactive museums, scenic harbor tours, and family-oriented events. The city’s welcoming atmosphere and historic charm make it a great place for families to explore together.

Visiting Portsmouth: Embark on a coastal adventure filled with rich history, stunning landscape and vibrant culture.
Visiting Portsmouth: Embark on a coastal adventure filled with rich history, stunning landscape and vibrant culture.

How do you spend a weekend in Portsmouth NH?

Spending a weekend in Portsmouth, NH, allows you to delve deeper into the city’s rich history, vibrant arts scene, and coastal charm. Here’s a suggested itinerary for a memorable weekend:

Friday Evening in Portsmouth, New Hampshire:

  1. Arrival and Check-in: If you’re staying overnight, check into one of Portsmouth’s charming inns or hotels. The city offers a mix of historic inns, boutique hotels, and familiar chains.
  2. Dinner in Downtown: Head to Market Square and its surrounding streets. With a plethora of restaurants, you can find everything from seafood to international cuisines.
  3. Evening Stroll: After dinner, take a leisurely walk along the waterfront or through the historic downtown streets, soaking in the ambiance.

Saturday in Portsmouth NH:

Morning:

  1. Breakfast: Start with breakfast at a local café or bakery.
  2. Strawbery Banke Museum: Spend your morning exploring this outdoor history museum. It provides a glimpse into life in Portsmouth over the past three centuries.
  3. Prescott Park: Adjacent to Strawbery Banke, this park along the Piscataqua River is perfect for a mid-morning stroll.

Lunch:

  1. Picnic in the Park: Consider grabbing a picnic lunch from a local deli and enjoying it in Prescott Park or another scenic spot.

Afternoon:

  1. Shopping: Spend some time browsing the boutiques, bookstores, and specialty shops in the downtown area.
  2. Discover Portsmouth Center: Stop by this visitor center and museum to learn more about the city’s history and culture.
  3. Harbor Cruise: In the late afternoon, take a scenic harbor cruise to see Portsmouth from the water and learn about its maritime history.

Dinner:

  1. Waterfront Dining: Opt for a restaurant with views of the river or harbor, enjoying the fresh seafood that Portsmouth is known for.

Evening:

  1. Live Entertainment: Check out a performance at the Music Hall or Seacoast Repertory Theatre, or enjoy live music at one of the local bars or pubs.

Sunday in Portsmouth:

Morning:

  1. Breakfast: Try another local spot for a hearty New England breakfast.
  2. Historic Homes: Visit one or two of Portsmouth’s historic homes, such as the Moffatt-Ladd House or the John Paul Jones House.

Lunch:

  1. Brewery Lunch: Head to Portsmouth Brewery or another local brewpub for a casual lunch and a taste of local brews.

Afternoon:

  1. Kittery, Maine: Just across the river, Kittery is known for its outlets and shopping. It’s also home to Fort McClary, a historic military defense structure.
  2. Odiorne Point State Park: If you prefer nature, head to this park in nearby Rye. It offers walking trails, tide pools, and the Seacoast Science Center.

Departure:

  1. Dinner on the Road: On your way out of town, grab an early dinner or snacks for the road.

How do I get around Portsmouth?

Getting around Portsmouth is convenient, as it’s a walkable city with a compact downtown area. You can explore most attractions on foot. Additionally, there are taxis, rideshare services, and a trolley system for longer distances. Biking is also a popular way to navigate the city, with bike lanes and rentals available.

Are there any must-see attractions in Portsmouth?

You bet! From the Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden to the bustling Market Square, Portsmouth is brimming with must-see attractions. Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, you’ll find something that piques your interest.

Is Portsmouth worth visiting?

Absolutely, Portsmouth, NH is a must-visit! This charming New England town offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From its historic sites to its vibrant arts scene and outdoor activities, Portsmouth provides a rich and varied experience that appeals to all kinds of travelers.

What is Portsmouth famous for?

Portsmouth, NH is renowned for its rich maritime history, beautifully preserved architecture, and vibrant arts scene. The town is a cultural hub, boasting museums, galleries, and theaters. Its scenic waterfront, historic sites like Strawbery Banke, and a plethora of dining options make it a standout New England destination.

Closing Thoughts on Visiting Portsmouth

And there you have it, folks! A comprehensive guide to the coolest activities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This charming New England city is a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, offering something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re here for a weekend getaway or an extended stay, Portsmouth promises a memorable experience filled with adventure, relaxation, and everything in between.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and set your sights on Portsmouth. Trust me, this is one destination you won’t want to miss.

Best Things to Do in Portsmouth for all types of travelers.
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