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Essential Things to do in New Hampshire in 2023

The small but mighty state of New Hampshire is one of the best New England states for exploring the great outdoors.

It’s home to over 90 state parks, the stunning White Mountains region, and the highest peak in New England. It’s one of America’s great road trip destinations.

If it’s a quaint little getaway in a charming town you prefer, New England has plenty of those, too. We’ve rounded up the best things to do and places to visit in New Hampshire, everything from scenic train rides through the mountains to insider tips on where to see the best fall foliage views

Wooden covered bridge in a snowy landscape in New Hampshire.

Pro Tip: Did you know – New Hampshire doesn’t charge sales tax, even for visitors? It’s the perfect destination for some retail therapy and to save a few bucks.

21 Best Things To Do In New Hampshire

1. Take The Cog Railway To The Highest Peak In New England

At over 6,000 feet tall, Mount Washington is the highest peak in New England. The Cog Railway offers an easy and unique way to take in the sweeping views from the top.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway was the first mountain railroad built in the world and has been taking visitors to the summit since 1869. When the infamous showman P.T. Barnum took his first ride to the top, he claimed it to be the “second greatest show in the world” – after his show, of course. 

The traitional steam cog train with a green carriage makes its way dow the snowy mountain.

Mid-May through early October, one of the most popular New Hampshire attractions is the Cog Railway ride up to the summit of the mountain for some of the best views on the entire East Coast. While it won’t go to the top of the mountain after early October, it goes up about 4,000 feet to Waumbeck Station, so even if you visit New Hampshire in the winter, you can still enjoy this thrilling experience. 

2. Stay At The Omni Mount Washington Resort

One of the essential things to do in New Hampshire is have the best luxury resort experience at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods. Named one of the top resorts in the Northeast for its perfect balance of luxury accommodations with the best of the outdoors. 

Aerial view of green fields. A large luxury white resort hotel with a swimming pool is in the middle. .

In the warmer months, a championship golf course, scenic gondola rides, hiking trails, and wall climbing are just a few of the wonderful experiences Omni Mount Washington Resort offers. 

During the winter, it’s one of the best places to stay for skiing in the region, with easy access to the slopes. The resort also offers sleigh rides and snow tubing to guests.

Indoors, you’ll find all the luxury amenities you’d expect, such as spa facilities and fine dining restaurants. 

Get rates and availability for Omni Mount Washington Resort.

3. Discover The White Mountains

One of the most beautiful places to visit in New Hampshire is the White Mountains region, which is home to Franconia Notch State Park, the highest park on the East Coast.

You’ll also find incredible sites like Crawford Notch State Park, the White Mountains National Forest, the Kancamagus Scenic Highway, and some of the best hiking in the entire state in this region, making it one of the best outdoor destinations in the US. Hiking these breathtaking trails is definitely one of the most essential things to do in New Hampshire.

Mountain views in New Hampshire covered with red fall foliage and a white sky.

4. Explore New Hampshire in Portsmouth

One of the best places to go in New Hampshire if you’re looking for shopping, dining, and theater is the beautiful streets of Portsmouth. This coastal city is close to the Maine border and feels like a quaint village. It is home to one of the most beautiful shopping districts in the state – Market Square. Exploring the shopping district is fun and definitely one of the essential things to do in New Hampshire.

Sunset casts a soft pink and orange glow and reflections in the water in the colourful fishing village of Portsmouth.

In Portsmouth, you’ll also find an incredible culinary scene and fantastic theater performances at the historic Music Hall. 

Tour Tip for Portsmouth: Since Portsmouth is one of the few places in New Hampshire to explore the coastline, a great option to consider during your visit is a 2 hr Portsmouth & Newcastle Islands and Harbour Bike Tour of the coast. Led by a local expert, you’ll learn about the city’s incredible history while seeing much more of the scenic coast than you could on foot. 

See here for full tour details and bookings.

5. See One Of The Best Main Streets In The U.S.

Littleton is an adorable little town in the western part of the White Mountains known for having one of the best Main Streets in the U.S. It’s also home to the world’s longest candy counter. If you’re looking to make your trip magical, visiting Chutters is an essential thing to do in New Hampshire.

Littleton sits along the Ammonoosuc River, brimming with beautiful scenery, charming restaurants, and independent shops.

Quaint New Hampshire town on a river with colourful fall foliage.

6. Explore North America’s Top Ski Town

New Hampshire is home to North America’s best ski town, North Conway. USA Today named this cute little town one of the best for skiers because of its proximity to 13 ski resorts. It has one of the most charming downtown areas, with plenty of apres ski atmosphere.

If you’re looking for one of the coziest winter getaways in New England, you’ll want to consider North Conway. Even non-skiers can enjoy an authentic winter wonderland atmosphere in the colder months.

7. Tackle The Lincoln Woods Trail

Don’t miss this item on the essential things to do in New Hampshire list. One of the best hikes in New Hampshire is the Lincoln Woods Trail, which takes you through nine miles of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the largest backcountry in the Northeast. Lincoln Woods is the ultimate trail for unplugging and connecting with nature.

8. See Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee is the state’s largest lake and one of the essential things to do in New Hampshire in the summer. In the warmer months, it’s one of the top destinations for beaches, boating, and waterskiing and is also packed with charming little waterfront towns to explore.

Boats parked at a lake jetty with a small wooden gas station at the end. The white sky suggests winter on the lake.

9. Tour New Hampshire’s Famous Covered Bridges

New Hampshire is home to 60 covered bridges, each of which is beautiful and historic. One of the best ways to see them is to plan a fun day trip or weekend road trip, which will take you through charming towns and villages. 

Red wooden covered bridge surrounded by fall foliage in New Hampshire.

The Haverhill Bath Bridge is the oldest covered bridge in New Hampshire, which dates back to 1829. You can head to the Windsor-Corning Covered Bridge to see the longest covered bridge in New England. 

10. Tour The Isle Of Shoals

One of the most exciting and essential things to do in New Hampshire along the coast is tour the Isle of Shoals, a grouping of small islands just off the coast of both New Hampshire and Maine. 

Tours around the islands are incredibly scenic and a fantastic opportunity to learn about the local maritime history.

You Might Also Like: 3 Day Maine Coast Road Trip Itinerary

11. Experience The Castle In The Clouds

The Castle in the Clouds is a stunning historic estate that allows visitors to tour the authentic interior and explore its 28 miles of beautiful nature trails. 

The mountaintop mansion also provides incredible views of the surrounding lakes and mountains – the views are worth the admission alone. But the nature trails shouldn’t be missed, as you’ll get to pass by waterfalls and glacier boulders. 

Stone castle style building with tourists in the gardens.

12. Taste The Local New Hampshire Wine

New Hampshire is home to over 25 wineries, an area that specializes in cold-climate grapes. For this reason, the region is now recognized as an up-and-comer in the U.S. wine industry.

One of the best places for a winery tour is the White Mountains at the Seven Birches Tasting Room. One of the winemakers runs the Seven Birches Winery Tour, so you’ll get expert knowledge of the process and production and the best pairing suggestions. And, of course, you get to taste the wine for yourself. 

The tour also includes a souvenir Seven Birches wine glass of your choice as a keepsake of the region. See here for full tour details and bookings.

13. Explore Canterbury Shaker Village

To see history come to life, one of the best New Hampshire tourist attractions is the Shaker Canterbury Village. At this interactive museum, visitors can immerse themselves in a preserved Shaker village with over 25 restored and original Shaker houses and lots of gorgeous nature trails to explore. 

White shaker houses in New Hampshire.
By RDBolton – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Pro Tip: Canterbury Shaker Village is an enjoyable Christmas destination, with candle-dipping demonstrations and live concert and cocktail events. 

14. Hunt For Unique Finds At Der Markt at Marklin

One of the most unique shops in New Hampshire is the Der Markt at Marklin in Contoocook. You’ll only find fair-trade and local products at this fantastic boutique. From local honey, handmade candles, and gorgeous leather goods to home decor, it’ll be hard not to fill up a basket with gorgeous, one-of-a-kind things to bring home.

15. Get The Most Instagram-Worthy Treats At Lickee’s & Chewy’s Candies

Likee’s & Chewy’s is a medieval-themed candy shop that definitely deserves a square on your Instagram feed. The interior is a feast for the eyes, and you’ll also walk out with the most exciting treats that are almost too pretty to eat.

Specializing in frappes, caramel apples, and ice cream cones, everything you order will be entirely over the top in the best possible way. And, of course, they’ll be stocked with pretty much any candy you could want.

Best Things To Do In New Hampshire In The Fall

16. Explore Franconia Notch State Park

One of the essential things to do in New Hampshire in the is to explore Franconia Notch State Park, famous for its gorgeous fall color and home to some of the best attractions in the entire state. 

Some of the best things to do in Franconia are walking the 2-mile Flume Gorge trail, visiting The Basin, taking in the views at Echo Lake, and riding the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway to the mountain’s summit.

A narrow rocky gully with a stream running through and lush green vegetation.

17. Drive The Kancamagus Highway

The Kancamagus Highway is one of the most scenic drives in New Hampshire and New England, especially in the fall.

During the fall season, the roads are ablaze with color, with many opportunities to pull off at scenic overlooks. You’ll also take in stunning views of the surrounding mountains covered in foliage color. 

Arial view of a car driving down the Kancamagus Highway with dense fall foliage on either side of the road.

The Kanc, as locals call it, runs along Route 112 and connects the towns of Conway and Lincoln

Pro Tip: There is no cell service along this drive, and no restrooms, restaurants, or gas stations, so plan accordingly.

Self-Guided Tour Tip: To ensure you get all of the history and notable facts about the drive, download this self-guided Audio Driving Tour Guide to enhance your experience.

18. Hike The Artist Bluff Trail

Within Franconia Notch State Park is the Artist Bluff Trail, which is one of the most scenic and popular trails in New Hampshire in the fall season. It is, without doubt, worth all the hype it receives. 

This short but steep trail takes you to a scenic overlook and provides impressive views of Echo Lake and the surrounding mountains, which, during the fall season, are draped in vibrant fall foliage color. 

19. Take A Scenic Train Ride

New Hampshire knows how to show you around by train. One of the best things to do in the fall is to hop aboard the Conway Scenic Railroad in the White Mountains for a scenic ride that showcases all the beautiful fall foliage. 

Vintage red Conway Scenic train at the station in New Hampshire.

With different options ranging from short and sweet 1-hour tours to half-day 5-hour tours, you can pick from a wide range of options to plan a fun and memorable fall day.

20. Indulge At The White Mountain Cider Co.

If it’s delicious fall treats you’re after, visit the White Mountain Cider Co. in Bartlett. You’ll find all the staples like cider donuts, apple fritters, and a charming little farm market. 

But the real treat here is their incredible restaurant, which features a rotating menu highlighting the harvest season’s flavors and delicious seasonal cocktails. 

21. Tour The Historic Apple Orchards

New Hampshire has a long-standing history of apple farming, and it’s home to some of the oldest orchards in the country. This makes visiting an apple orchard one of the essential things to do in New Hampshire. Applecrest Orchards in Hampton Falls is the oldest continually-operating apple orchard in the U.S.

Throughout the state, dozens of gorgeous, family-owned orchards offer everything you need for the perfect fall outing. You’ll find fresh donuts, caramel apples, baked goods, corn mazes, and locally-made specialty foods. 

Best Places To Stay In New Hampshire

If you’re looking to see the best of the outdoors during your stay in New Hampshire, you’ll want to go straight to the White Mountains region. This region offers the best access to all the state parks and attractions, including Mount Washington. Any of these places will easily allow you to complete your list of essential things to do in New Hampshire.

Portsmouth is perfect for an incredible Christmas getaway or a fun weekend destination for theater, shopping, and fantastic food. In Portsmouth, you’re close to Exeter, NH, Newburyport in Massachusetts, and Kittery in Maine, making it a great home base to explore other quaint little towns. 

A fishing harbour with boats moored to wooden piers at sunset in autumn. Residential buildings are visible in background.

The Best Time Of Year To Visit New Hampshire

Fall and winter are the most popular times to visit New Hampshire, as the state is home to some of New England’s best fall foliage displays. This is an incredible and memorable time to visit, especially for those who don’t experience stunning fall foliage at home.

White Mountains is where you will find the best fall foliage in New Hampshire. The best time to visit is during peak foliage – the end of September or early October. 

The Mt. Washington Cog Railway is surrounded by wooded forest on a cold, windy, foggy morning in the White Mountains National Forest.

Winter is also a fun time to visit since New Hampshire as it is one of the top ski destinations in the Northeast. If you love hitting the slopes in the winter, you’ll find fantastic runs at Cranmore Ski Resort, Bretton Woods, Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain, and about a dozen more. 

Even for non-skiers, you’ll find all kinds of cozy winter activities like ice skating, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, and winter festivals throughout the state. 

Summer is also a great time to visit New Hampshire as it is when you’ll experience the most reliable weather. As with the rest of New England, summer is the driest and warmest season, and July and August are wonderful months to explore the region. 

Plan Your Trip to Explore New Hampshire

As you can see, there are so many incredible things to do in New Hampshire in any season. Whether you’re looking forward to shopping in the charming streets of Portsmouth or are excited to lace up your hiking boots to tackle the epic trails of the White Mountains, there’s a little something for everyone in New Hampshire. Certainly enough to plan an exciting adventure through the Granite State for any interest. 

About the Author

Samantha Hamilton

Samantha is the creator and writer of New England Wanderlust, a dedicated travel resource covering the entire New England region.