With quaint, walkable downtown areas and surrounding parks and mountains, Peterborough and Keene are neat little adventure hubs that offer the complete package for families looking to have some serious fun. Only a 30-minute drive from one another, you can spend the whole weekend exploring these New England towns or squeeze them both into a one-day adventure extravaganza.
Keene somehow pulls off the coziness of a small town and the excitement of a little city. Situated on the borders of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts and home to Keene State College, this hip town is a haven for free-thinking outdoorsy folks. Surrounded by plots of nature like Pisgah State Park, Otter Brook, and Greater Goose Pond Forest, a quiet stroll, fishing excursion, or Nordic skiing trip is only minutes from downtown shops and restaurants. One ideal spot for an introduction to the area is the Pitcher Mountain Fire Tower.
You can make this the focus of a scenic circuit that takes you 30 minutes north of Keene toward Stoddard on Highways 10 and 123. Make a detour to the fire tower for a picnic and fantastic views of Mount Monadnock and the surrounding New Hampshire farmland, the Vermont's Green Mountains, and into Massachusetts. Once you've packed up, continue southeast on Highway 123 to Highway 9, which will take you south back to Keene.
When traveling from Keene to Peterborough, a 20-minute detour to Rhododendron State Park is well worth the effort, especially in the summer. With a picnic area and easy walking trails, this park is the perfect place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. While the best time to visit is in July, when the 16-acre rhododendron grove is in bloom, the park is yours to enjoy all year long.
Be sure to give yourselves ample time to lazily explore the historic and hip streets of Peterborough. Once a bustling mill town, Peterborough is now known for its awesome art galleries, antique stores, and creative little restaurants. Find some treasure in town, then head to the outskirts to explore the gems that are Wapack Wildlife Refuge, and Mount Monadnock State Park, a popular hiking and camping destination.
Before the weekend's over, you've got to check out New Hampshire's very first state park, Miller State Park. From the main entrance, you can choose from a 1.4 or 3.8 mile one-way hike to the top of Pack Monadnock. This classic summit features amazing scenic views of the area that sometimes extend all the way to Boston on a clear day. With restrooms, interpretive signage, and picnic tables, the whole family can enjoy the summit with a laid-back lunch before heading home.