Heading to New England for a vacation is a great way to guarantee a good time, especially if you include New Hampshire on your list of destinations. Visitors can go east to the Atlantic Ocean or head north to visit Quebec.
New Hampshire is home to a long history and was even the first colony to create a government that was independent of Great Britain. Today, you can see that history in historic sites or take advantage of the beautiful landscape.
Winter is an especially popular time to visit the state, particularly for skiers and other lovers of winter sports. State parks, lakes, and the ocean are open year-round, however, offering attractions for visitors at any time of the year. So, without much further ado, let's see the list of best attractions you must visit in New Hampshire.
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Stretching for 7.6 miles of lush green New Hampshire scenery, the Mount Washington Auto Road is well worth the drive--- and climb. This is one of the steepest unguarded roads in all of America. It goes from 1,527 feet from base to 6,145 feet at peak. On average, the gradient is a shocking 11.6%! That means you’re going to need a car that works as hard as you do.
Before going on this unforgettable experience, be sure your car is properly maintained. Although it’s all-important, one of the most critical yet easily forgotten is a brake check. Especially considering this drive is particularly taxing on your brakes. Also, be sure oil and gas are good before starting the track.
The Mount Washington Auto Road is a toll road and follows this pricing chart: car & driver is $31, adult passengers are $9, Children (5-12) are $7, and under 5 years old is free.
If you aren’t confident in your mountain driving abilities, check out some of the guided tours. This is a steep and unguarded drive and should only be attempted by those practiced in such a sudden incline and decline. But that doesn’t mean you should be scared away.
Thousands of tourists wind up and down this path daily. And if you’re riding with a guide, you’ll be in good hands. Be sure to look around and soak it all in because there truly isn’t another site quite like this.
Address: 1 Mount Washington Auto Road, Gorham, NH 03581
Conway Scenic Railroad is another major attraction in New Hampshire. The iconic 1874 station in the center of North Conway Village has been home for over 40 years to the Conway Scenic Railroad, which began operations in 1974. In the beginning, there were 5 miles of track between North Conway and Conway villages and only Coach seating in converted boxcars.
Today, in addition to the original line, there are roundtrip excursions to Bartlett and through Crawford Notch on tracks that once were part of the famed Mountain Division of the Maine Central Railroad.
Conway Scenic owns the Conway line, and the State of New Hampshire owns the Mountain Division line. Train excursions range from 1 to 5 hours roundtrip with all three routes offering seating choices of Coach, First Class, and First Class dining.
Address: 38 Norcross Cir Conway, NH 03860
Tom and Olive Plant's mountain top estate is now one of the most visited attractions in New Hampshire. Built in 1914, this architectural beauty has witnessed many romantic weddings and family gatherings over the years.
Go on an exciting trolley ride through the same paths that the founders took in the 1900s. Also, visit the art gallery to stand in awe in front of some of the most beautiful works of art.
Address: 455 Old Mountain Rd, Moultonborough, NH 03254
Hampton Beach is a history of being the premier beachside vacation. Golden beaches are broken only by the rolling blue waves that crash upon them. Tourists come from far and wide to soak up that famous New Hampshire sun.
The beach is lively, energetic, and always full of exciting new activities. For example, there are volleyball competitions, shows, sandcastle competitions, and several other noteworthy experiences to join in on.
As amazing as the actual beach is, there are also plenty of other events to enjoy within the city itself. Hampton Beach is also a village district with all the best in cuisine, shopping, and entertainment.
Generally, the city is bustling without being chaotic. It is a comfortable speed for travelers looking to relax and those looking for a party. Whatever your goal is this for this vacation, Hampton Beach is sure to deliver!
Address: 115 Ocean Blvd, Hampton, NH 03842
Also Read: 30 Best Beaches in the United States
This is one of the most beautiful and most romantic New Hampshire vacations that you can take. This gorgeous lakeside community has its hands full with preparations for some of the most exciting holiday events such as The Gift of Lights and the Kellerhaus Yuletide Open House.
From exquisite dining opportunities to great places to shop, this is the best place for you and your family to relax and unwind throughout the holidays.
Address: 61 Laconia Rd, Tilton, NH 03276
The iconic Mount Monadnock is one of the best places to visit in New Hampshire. The views from the isolated mountain peak are unmatched anywhere in the state, considered among New England’s best peaks.
Mount Monadnock is the highest point in Cheshire County in the state’s southern region. The mountain has an elevation of 3,165-ft – thanks to its isolation, it towers two thousand feet above the surrounding landscape with no other significant peaks nearby. You will have a perfect panoramic view overlooking the entire landscape.
Hiking to the summit is a popular activity for visitors and the highlight for anyone visiting the Mount Monadnock State Park. There are several developed trails for reaching the peak. White Arrow Trail and White Dot Trail are two of the most used routes, but there are plenty of others with different lengths and difficulty to accommodate all ages and hiking skills.
Address: Jaffrey, NH 03452
Cool off on a hot New Hampshire day with a visit to the Polar Caves Park. The park features nine granite caves formed from glacier activity that permit visitors to explore inside the caves.
Polar Caves Park is tucked away in the White Mountains. The name derives from the deep caves’ ability to preserve snow during the summer months due to the interior climate. The park opened up for tourism in 1922 and remained a popular tourist attraction.
The park includes many activities for tourists, from leisure to recreation. Take a self-guided tour through the caves – they are easily accessible with walkways and stairs. There is also a boardwalk leading around the cliffs to reach the different caves.
Other onsite activities include checking out the Glacial Rock Garden filled with giant boulders and testing your climbing skills at the rock-climbing wall. The park even has activities for kids, such as mining games and nature trails.
Address: 705 NH-25, Rumney, NH 03266
Ride along the Kancamagus Highway to see the most beautiful drives in New Hampshire. Known to the locals as ‘The Kanc,’ the highway is an official National Scenic Byway extending for 56 miles from Lincoln to Conway along NH Route 112.
Kancamagus Highway passes through the White Mountains, where you’ll be delighted with beautiful scenery. One of the best times to make the drive is during the autumn months, where the thick foliage transforms into vibrant hues of reds, yellows, and greens. The mountain backdrop complements the picturesque drive.
The route is open all year long, but occasionally closes sections due to weather conditions during the winter.
There are several outlook spots established along the route to hop out the car and enjoy the views. Hiking trails extend from the highway into the forested slopes or down to the river for a swim. Visitors can also access several campgrounds from the road.
Address: Route 112, North Conway, NH
Also Read: The Most Scenic Drives in the USA
Found in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Franconia Notch State Park is a true ethereal beauty. It is the perfect site for hikers and trailblazers looking for a brand new adventure. This park is a massive conglomeration of all things preserved land. That means wildlife, wildflowers, greenery, lakes, and so much more available for public viewing.
It is popular amongst newcomers and experienced explorers alike as no matter how many times you’ve hiked the park, you’re sure to find something new every time.
Entrance into the park requires a State Park fee. For adults, it is $4, and for youths 6-11, it is $2. Anyone under 5 or over 65 is free all-day. Specific attractions such as the Flume Gorge, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, and the discovery pass (which includes both) are sold separately.
For pricing on these adventures check out the New Hampshire State Park website. However, footpaths are free and highly recommended by all those who wander them. You’ll truly see something you never have before with every stop at Franconia Notch State Park.
Address: 260 Tramway Dr, Franconia, NH 03580
Welcome to Winnipesaukee! This popular tourist attraction is actually the largest lake in the state of New Hampshire. It is a massive body of water with several little islands, bays, and accompanying inlets.
One of the most popular things to do here is, of course, a boat tour! Lake Winnipesaukee is an incredible stretch of water and just can’t be truly appreciated from a simple look. You’re going to want to get up close and personal with this attraction. Speed along for a fast-paced boating excursion, or look into some of the unique snorkeling adventures available.
The city of Lake Winnipesaukee has much to offer as well. From several of the highest-rated eateries, cafes, and shops to all-day activities, the fun doesn’t stop. And there’s so much more natural beauty to explore.
The lake is bordered on nearly all ends by some of the most magnificent mountains in the area. Here many tourists take a day trip out to one of the footpaths and spend the day, week, or weekend paving their own way through the lush New Hampshire forestry. Whatever you choose to do in Lake Winnipesaukee, you’re in for a real treat.
Address: Lake Winnipesaukee, NH
Also Read: 25 Most Beautiful Lakes in the USA
Get a glimpse into America’s past when you visit the Strawbery Banke Museum. The former colonial neighborhood now serves as an open-air museum where visitors can see how life was in New Hampshire’s oldest neighborhood in Portsmouth.
There are 17 houses included as part of the museum – restored houses built from the 17th-19th centuries. The restoration efforts maintain their original colonial architecture on the outside, and the interior décor accurately depicts the original furnishings from the times.
All of the buildings are open to the public to explore the houses, gardens, and overall neighborhood layout to get a sense of the colonial lifestyle. The museum features many role-play characters in each house, showcasing the former residents’ way of life.
The museum hosts several museums to learn about the site’s history from knowledgeable guides. Take one of the demonstration tours to see various colonial activities live, such as cooking, basket weaving, and woodworking.
Address: 14 Hancock St, Portsmouth, NH 03801
Every child’s fantasy comes to life during a trip to the Story Land theme park. Ever since opening in 1954, the park is a popular destination for kids to live out all of their imaginations in a theme park full of fun, rides, and attractions.
Story Land is located in Glen, New Hampshire, one of the city’s best places to visit. There are nearly two dozen rides, including roller coasters for kids, themed rides, water rides, etc. Be sure to visit the unique interactive nursey rhymes attraction for an immersive experience into the stories of Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella, Goldilocks, and plenty of other childhood favorites.
The park is primarily designed for children but hosts a special “Nostalgia Nights” for adults to relive what it’s like to be a kid again.
If you get tired of walking around to explore the park, climb aboard the railroad train for a fun ride to your favorite park area.
Address: 850 NH-16, Glen, NH 03838
Adventure travelers have the perfect place to explore in New Hampshire – Lost River Gorge and the Boulder Caves. Venture to the White Mountains to locate a small stream which runs 6.5-miles long through the landscape. The unique river derives its name from flowing below the surface, through a series of caves before re-emerging above ground.
Lost River Gorge is a very scenic area of the mountains providing visitors an impressive view surrounded by flowing water, trees, and mountainous slopes. The site is a protected area and developed for tourism to allow for exploring the particular cave system.
Fallen boulders from the Ice Age for natural caves, in which the river flows. The attraction includes trails and ladders for easy access into the caves. Crawl into the tight spaces or walk along the boardwalk to see an overview of the caves.
There are information plaques around the site for details about the caves and wildlife found in the area.
Address: 1712 Lost River Rd, North Woodstock, NH 03262
Also Read: Best Caves in the USA
Clark’s Bears, formerly known as Clark’s Trading Post, is an odd combination of entertainment of fun in the middle of the White Mountains, but a must-visit attraction for anyone visiting Lincoln, New Hampshire. The fun-for-all-ages destination provides plenty to see and do for an entire day.
For more than 90 years, Clark’s Bears hosts a combination of experiences for guests. The namesake activity is watching trained Black Bears perform in a half-hour show - the bears perform various tricks and even eat ice cream.
After a show, take a 2.5-mile ride along the White Mountain Central Railroad on a steam-powered trail through the While Mountains. The ride features incredible sights and entertainment along the journey.
Kids will have a lot of fun on the bumper boats and other water rides. Visitors can also explore the multiple museums showcasing historical American artifacts, antiques, railroad memorabilia, and vintage automobiles.
Address: 110 Daniel Webster Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251
Located a few miles off the coast of New Hampshire is a collection of islands called the Isles of Shoals. The Isles of Shoals includes nine islands, four of which are part of New Hampshire (the other islands are part of Maine). Enjoy the islands’ views from the coast or hop on a ferry to explore the historical sites.
Star Island is the only accessible island via ferry boat service from the mainland. Along the ride, you’ll hear lots of informative history about the islands. Fishing communities first inhabited the islands over 400 years ago. They have traces to Native Americans, early European settlers, and more.
Today, the islands are a popular leisure destination for locals and visitors. There are several private residences, hotels, and a marine research facility. You can ride on boats, relax on the shores, or go sightseeing to landmarks such as the iconic lighthouse on White Island.
Address: Portsmouth, NH