New Hampshire is one of the best states in New England to celebrate the outdoors. With ample outdoor adventure, gorgeous day trips, and charming little towns, it’s easy to enjoy the culture and recreation opportunities in this northerly state. A multitude of gorgeous towns lie between the mountains and the coast, and it can be hard to choose where to spend your next adventure. Read on for a few of our favorite lesser-explored New Hampshire towns that are packed with all the essentials for the perfect family trip.
The beauty of this town is hard to beat, especially given its reputation as an artist’s haven and it’s location in the White Mountains. It’s not unusual to see every kind of artist attempting to capture the allure of the area by camera or paintbrush, especially when visiting in the summer and fall months. Hiking and biking trails abound here, with ample opportunity for kayaking and other outdoor adventures as well as historic buildings. One of the best hikes around is a trip to Arethusa Falls. The tallest waterfall in the state reached by a short 1.4-mile hike that's perfect for families. And Mount Willard, just a little farther north on 302, offers some terrific views after a very mild, family-friendly ascent. Combine the two for a full day in the Crawford Notch area.
Located a stone's throw from Pisgah State Park, Keene is full of small town appeal and has plenty of great outdoor activities nearby. Head north on Main Street to enjoy local shops and cafes, and continue to the Central Square to grab a bite near the center of town. This quaint spot will rope you in, but once you're ready to head out of town for a look around, Keene's got you covered. New Hampshire's oldest state park, Miller State Park, is just a 30-minute drive east, and there you can enjoy unobstructed views from the summit of Pack Monadnock. To the north you'll have another opportunity for big views from the Pitcher Mountain Fire Tower, which is accessible via a loop or with a there-and-back option. Both are kid-friendly, so this is a perfect mission for a half-day trip from Keene. Finally, if you are in the area in the summer, a trip to Rhododendron State Park is a must. While the park is worth a stop year round for its historic structure and wildlife viewing opportunities, the rhododendrons usually perform their magic in July.
Often compared to Cambridge's famous Harvard Square, Hanover is a quaint cultural hub in its own right. Centered around Dartmouth College, the town has a bustling Main Street filled with quirky shops and niche restaurants. Plenty of outdoor activities loom just beyond the town border, including apple picking farms and seasonal fairs and festivities. And Hanover is about an hour away from several spectacular adventures that will keep you active and busy during your stay. For an easy family hike with great scenery, check out Rainbow Falls, especially if you are visiting in the spring when the flows are high. For some great views, hit the trail that leads over Mount Sunapee and White Ledges to Lake Solitude or try the family-friendly walk up Mount Kearsarge. Finally, don't overlook Pillsbury State Park, where you can camp, hike, and boat for days.
This tiny town with panoramic views of the White Mountains can’t be beat on the charm factor. With unlimited quiet outdoor escapes, the town was so-named for its sugar maple groves and is one of the state’s most-recently incorporated places. The tiny population and quaint history museum and shops allow for days of solitude and exploration, and a perfect family getaway. Best of all, it is located a short drive from the many adventures in the Franconia area. The hike to Bald Mountain and Artists Bluff is a must for anyone visiting Franconia Notch State Park, and the nearby Pemi Trail is a great walk that leaves from Profile Lake and proceeds along the river. A little farther afield, one of the best adventures in the area is a trip to Zealand Falls, a backcountry hut offering lodgings and snacks within a hiking distance of impressive forest views and, of course, a waterfall.
There's no denying the quaint appeal of Exeter's town center...show up on a Thursday for a killer farmer's market, stroll along the Squamscott River, or enjoy a cup of coffee and a central perspective from the Exeter Bandstand. If you're looking for more action, head out to Pawtuckaway Lake and Pawtuckaway State Park or just a little farther west to Bear Brook State Park; both of these state parks hold hiking, fishing, and swimming opportunities for the whole family. Alternately, for a quick trip to the ocean, Seabrook is a great stop. It is less crowded than Hampton State Beach Park, and it is a favorite among local families who don't mind the slightly longer walk.