Offering a front-row seat to the Presidential Range, the Omni Mount Washington Resort is a favorite perch for leaf peepers.Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
Whether you’re an out-of-stater planning a vacation or a New Hampshire resident looking to check off your bucket list, here’s a sampling of the best things to do in New Hampshire that was inspired by Yankee’s 2020 feature “The 85 Best Things to Do in New England.” How many have you seen, done, or eaten?
In 1632 it took Darby Field and two Abenaki guides 18 days from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to reach the top of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. These days the commute is considerably shorter. Five primary hiking trails lead to the top, while the vertiginous auto road offers thrills of its own. And don’t forget the Cog Railway, which still chugs up the second-steepest track in the world after more than 150 years. Regardless of how you get there, the views never fail to amaze.
Time was, trainloads of wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers would arrive in New England each summer in search of fresh air and more than a little pampering. Of the castlelike getaways that sprang up to serve them, only a few remain, all in the Granite State. There’s the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield and New Castle’s Wentworth by the Sea, but the grandest of all is the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods (today’s Omni Mount Washington Resort). Step into its Great Hall, replete with soaring ceilings, Tiffany art glass, and crystal chandeliers, and you’ll immediately fall under the property’s turn-of-the-century spell.
A Cornish, New Hampshire, gem, Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park is one of the least-visited national parks in America — a fact you’ll find hard to believe as you wander the tranquil former estate of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose works include the stirring memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the nation’s first civic monument to the heroism of Black soldiers.
It’s the fall-iest of New England fall outings: You park in a grassy lot, hop on a wagon, and ride out past rows of McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Cortland, and, ideally, a few regional heirlooms, like Roxbury Russet and Rhode Island Greening. Fill your bucket or bag (remembering to twist, not pull, the apples off), pay the per-pound price, and reward yourself with a cinnamon-spiced cider doughnut fresh from the fryer. And while there’s no shortage of orchards at which to practice this tasty ritual, here are a few New Hampshire picks to get you started:
Leave the tent at home. Thanks to the Appalachian Mountain Club, you can get made-from-scratch meals, running water, an actual bed, and the chance to commune with fellow hikers in the shadow of some of the White Mountains’ most majestic peaks.
Take a waterfall-crowned hike through Flume Gorge or a high-flying tram ride up 4,000-foot Cannon Mountain, but on your visit to New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park be sure to leave time to visit Profiler Plaza, the site where the Old Man of the Mountain’s craggy visage once looked out over the notch.
It began in 1902 as a lakeside botanical park, but Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire, is still going strong as a beloved old-timey amusement park that hits all the essentials: small-kid-friendly, immaculately clean, a bit homespun, but with just enough legit thrill rides to satisfy adrenaline junkies.
Back in horse-and-buggy days, covered bridges with lengthy spans were known as “kissin’ bridges,” because of the moment of privacy they provided. While we can’t recommend such activities in today’s faster-moving vehicles, you can sense the interlude that might have been while traversing the 1866 Cornish-Windsor Bridge, which crosses the Connecticut River between Cornish, New Hampshire, and Windsor, Vermont. Until an Ohio bridge stole the crown in 2008, this 449-foot-long span had been the country’s longest covered bridge. It’s still terrifically scenic, as are New England’s other 200-odd covered bridges. (Note: If a perfect photo is what you’re after, Connecticut’s West Cornwall Bridge is a fall favorite.)
Standing at 3,165 feet, Mount Monadnock is one of the most-climbed summits in the world for a reason: In under two hours, you can be atop the only peak in New England that offers views of all six states.
When it comes to the A-listers of New England foliage roads, you owe it to yourself to see what all the fuss is about. Take the Kancamagus Highway: Sure, this 34-mile stretch of Route 112 between Lincoln and Conway, New Hampshire, can be jammed with cars and RVs on a brilliant autumn day, but the payoff is undiminished. Up and up you go, to 2,860 feet, with a scattering of lookouts where you can pull over for views of the Mad River Notch and the chance to linger among all those White Mountain peaks.
What would you add to the list of the best things to do in New Hampshire? Let us know in the comments below!
And see more great things to do in New Hampshire (and beyond) in “The 85 Best Things to Do in New England.”