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From windy mountain peaks to lakes surrounded by foliage, seaport cities to small touristy towns – this article reveals the best places to visit in New Hampshire and when to visit them!
To help you get your bearings, we’ll look at the state’s cities and the prettiest towns in New Hampshire in sections and provide maps so you can visualize the regions of this New England destination.
At Hey! East Coast USA, we like to create organized destination guides so you can plan your trip and go!
Did you find this guide useful? Did we miss your favorite New Hampshire attraction? Tell us in the comments below.
Starting from the White Mountains and working our way down the south of New Hampshire, let’s dive into what The Granite State has to offer.
Did you know it has a beach?
If you want a comprehensive list of things to do in the ”Granite State”, check our New Hampshire bucket list.
If you are looking to get lost in the most rugged mountains in New England, you’ve chosen the right state!
The White Mountains in New Hampshire cover a quarter of the state as well as some of neighboring Maine.
Another claim is that the mountains sit on the northern edge of the Appalachians and are home to a number of state parks, parkways, waterfalls, and vintage train rides.
There are many small towns that act as a base for visitors, with the most popular ones being North Conway, Lincoln, and Littleton.
North Conway to Littleton takes around one hour to drive, and the same again for North Conway to Lincoln.
The Kancamagus Highway is the famous New Hampshire road trip route that starts at Lincoln and ends in Conway.
Check out our guide to all the best things to do in the White Mountains to start planning your adventure.
Would you prefer somewhere a little less touristy?
Consider the Jackson region, which includes Jackson, Intervale, Bartlett, Glen, and Hart’s Location for accommodation and mountain resorts.
Let’s get a little more acquainted with the White Mountains towns and resorts.
Littleton is one of the best towns to visit in New Hampshire if you are looking for a base in the White Mountains.
Downtown Littleton and Main Street have a number of shops and boutiques for you to shop locally at.
There is also the Littleton Museum, which features permanent gallery exhibits and a historical look at the town from prehistory to the present day.
For impressive architecture and accommodation, Thayers Inn Hotel is a striking building, and The Beal House is said to be haunted!
If you are ticking off your New England covered bridges bucket list in New Hampshire, Riverwalk Covered Bridge is located at 18 Mill Street.
Find out more in our New Hampshire covered bridges guide.
Littleton is the hometown of Eleanor Emily Hodgman Porter, the American novelist most known for her novels Pollyanna and Just David.
Just north of Littleton is a festive location Christmas fans will want to stop at: Santa’s Village!
This is an amusement park with theaters and rides dedicated to winter and is open all year round.
Mt Washington is the highest peak (6,288.3 ft) in the northeastern US and part of the Presidential Range White Mountains in Sargent’s Purchase.
It is known for its windy conditions, with more than 100 days of hurricane-force wind, so pack a coat and check the weather before you decide to drive up the steep, unguarded 7.6-mile Auto Road!
To reinforce this point, Mt. Washington used to hold the wind speed record at a whopping 231 miles per hour!
The summit is often “socked in” or completely shrouded in clouds, so you likely won’t have a great view from up there.
To give you an idea, here’s a view at a turn-off 5.5 miles up where everything is iced over and totally socked in:
Don’t worry though; regardless of the weather near the summit, you should get lots of gorgeous views on the way back down at the many turn-offs.
You’ll need to stop several times to cool your brakes (literally), so you may as well grab the camera and capture the vista!
If you don’t want to drive, you can hop aboard the Mt. Washington Cog, aka the ‘Railway to the Moon.’
Read more about New Hampshire’s train rides here.
In winter, you can use the SnowCoach as the Auto Road is closed to cars.
You can also ski at the Omni Mount Washington Resort.
Mt. Washington is one of the top attractions in New Hampshire.
Mt Washington is also featured in our NH fall foliage road trip itinerary.
If you like waterfalls, there are two in the area: the 64-foot Glen Ellis Falls on the Ellis River and the 100-foot Jackson Falls.
You may have seen the Honeymoon Covered Bridge in photos; it is the one with the Jackson sign, located at Rt. 03860, 16 Main Street.
If visiting the White Mountains in winter, you must go ice skating at the cute Nestlenook Farm in Jackson!
There is also a small, family-run ski resort called Black Mountain.
Jackson is one of the best places to go in New Hampshire if you are looking for a town that provides access to the mountains and is close to the cities in the south and the coast.
Jackson to Littleton takes less than an hour to drive.
Concord is less than a 2-hour drive, and Jackson to Hampton Beach is, again, just under 2 hours by car.
Crawford Notch State Park, Harts Location
Crawford Notch State Park is a really scenic location all year round, but especially in fall when the colors start to change.
The park has 5,775 acres and access to a variety of hiking trails, waterfalls, fishing, wildlife viewing, and mountain views.
Trails include the 3-mile Mount Willard for the best views, the 1.5-mile one-way Arethusa Falls Trailhead for waterfalls, and finally, the trial to Willey House, aka Old Notch House (1793), to see a historic home.
Arethusa is also featured in our guide on the best hikes in New Hampshire.
Frankenstein Trestle, Crawford Notch
The Frankenstein Trestle is an interesting, rusty series of beams that acts as a bridge located along the old Maine Central Railroad.
This New Hampshire attraction is part of the challenging Frankenstein Cliffs Trail.
If you are traveling with kids, you might want to add a trip to the 1950s Story Land theme park before heading to our next recommendation, Diana’s Baths.
Diana’s Baths, Bartlett
Yet another New Hampshire waterfall worth visiting is Diana’s Baths, which is actually a series of small waterfalls in Bartlett, near the village of North Conway.
This waterfall is named Diana’s Baths after the Roman goddess of wild animals and hunting.
The hike to get to the falls is less than a mile.
There is a charge at the car park so bring loose change.
These falls freeze over winter!
North Conway is home to Cranmore Mountain Resort, a kid-friendly ski area with 56 trails, snowboarding terrain, and a tubing park.
Zips is the resort’s casual pub serving beer and hot chocolate.
If the weather is against you during your trip to North Conway, hit the slides at Kahuna Laguna Indoor Water Park.
Another landmark in North Conway is Echo Lake State Park.
This 118-acre state park is a great spot for hiking, biking, and swimming.
One of the most popular hikes is the 1.5-mile Artist Bluff Trail Loop.
You can also watch advanced climbers scale the rock face of Cathedral Ledge from its viewpoint or do a safer hour-long hike yourself.
Whitehorse Ledge is another climbing area with a loop trail.
If you enjoy hiking trips, you may also like our guide to the best hikes on the East Coast.
Conway is also home to a vintage train station built in 1874.
This is where you can also hop aboard the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Choose from a variety of routes, such as the Heritage Valley Excursions on the Valley Train or the Mountaineer to Crawford Notch.
They go all out for seasons at Conway, with pumpkin patches in fall and Santa rides in winter!
Lincoln, Grafton County
Lincoln is a four-season destination.
During the warmer and drier months, the Lincoln Woods Trailhead provides a natural waterslide at Franconia Falls.
If you prefer your slides to come with lifeguards, spend the day at Whale’s Tale Water Park.
In winter, locals and visitors hit the well-maintained 61 trails at Loon Mountain Ski Resort.
From Lincoln, you can join the 112 route, which is more commonly known as the Kancamagus Scenic Highway.
This road connects Lincoln and Conway (34.5 miles) with views over the White Mountains, the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls, and Rocky Gorge.
It is often cited as one of the best places to see fall foliage in New England.
You can learn more about the locations on the Kancamagus by tuning into this audio tour.
The Flume Bridge
Visit one of New Hampshire’s lovely covered bridges on the east of U.S. Route 3 over the Pemigewasset River at the junction of N.H. Route 175 and U.S. Route 3.
This New England beauty was built in 1871 and is a paddleford truss style bridge.
Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park is just a 15-minute drive from Lincoln and offers at least half a day’s worth of outdoor activities.
Attractions include the granite pothole waterfall called The Basin, golden sands at Echo Lake Beach, the state’s only Aerial Tramway to Cannon’s 4,080′ summit, and Flume Gorge.
Note: the famous Old Man on the Mountain (Cannon Mountain) collapsed in 2003.
Franconia is one of the best places to go in New Hampshire in the spring, so you can spot the state flower: the Pink Lady’s Slipper.
You may also like our guide to New Hampshire’s state parks.
Flume Gorge, Franconia Notch State Park
A fun location to visit near Lincoln is Flume Gorge.
Here, you can hike the 2-mile loop through the gorge, which is sandwiched between granite.
The route also features covered bridges, a New Hampshire must-see!
West Rattlesnake Mountain, Holderness
For lovely views over Squam Lake, take on the 40-minute walk up the trail through oak and maple trees to the summit of West Rattlesnake Mountain.
The trail is classified as moderate and takes around 1.5 hours full trip.
Castle in the Clouds, Lakes Region, New Hampshire
Castle in the Clouds (Route 171, 455 Old Mountain Rd, Moultonborough) is a dreamy estate built on the top of Ossipee Mountain.
It dates back to 1913 when Tom Plant, who made his money in the shoe industry, built this unique mansion over 6,300 acres!
Today, you can stay here, dine at the restaurant, take a tour, hike, or enjoy Shannon Pond.
Lake Winnipesaukee, Lakes Region
Lake Winnipesaukee is New Hampshire’s largest lake, and it really puts on a show for autumn.
Doll house-like lakeside accommodation reflects in the water as the yellows, reds, and oranges frame them.
A stunning 81-mile loop around the big lake takes you through the towns of Laconia, Meredith, Center Harbor, Ossipee Mountain area, Wolfeboro, and the Alton Bay area.
The Lakes Region is one of the best vacation spots in New Hampshire.
Lake Winnipesaukee means ‘the lake between or around land or islands’ in Abenaki, which is the language spoken by the collective native tribes who lived in the area for over 11,000 years.
Check our guide to lake houses for rent in New Hampshire to plan your stay.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish
Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish is the home of the architect, artist, and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Saint-Gaudens famously designed the most beautiful coin ever made, the Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle gold coin.
Visitors can tour the lush grounds, sculptures, and gardens, as well as the house and studio.
Portsmouth in New Hampshire is known as The Seaport City and is home to around 22,000 people.
The city lies beside the Piscataqua River, which means ‘the water looks dark’ in Abenaki, and borders the state of Maine, another New England destination.
You can enjoy water-based activities in Portsmouth, such as cruises to the Isles of Shoals, and sailing from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
If you prefer to visit indoor attractions, there are plenty of museums, such as The Museum of New Art (MONA) and Portsmouth Historical Society’s Discover Portsmouth.
Other areas of interest include Strawbery Banke Museum (14 Hancock St), the outdoor history museum, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, the colonial home to Governor Benning Wentworth (375 Little Harbor Rd), and The Portsmouth African Burying Ground (386 State St), a memorial park for two hundred freed and enslaved African people.
You can learn more about the above locations in this audio tour.
If you want to visit the best Portsmouth sightseeing spots, consider this 2-hour bike tour of the city.
There are also a number of Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire (BHTNH) guided and themed tours that explore the ‘rich and often forgotten African-American history’ in the state.
Locals like this city for its food scene, where you can pick up decent coffee and artisan baked goods and dine on seafood.
If you like to shop, head to Market Square for boutiques and galleries.
Portsmouth is close to the beach town of York, ME, which also features in our prettiest towns in Maine guide.
Portsmouth really is one of the best cities to visit in New Hampshire for its variety and location.
The capital city of New Hampshire, Concord, is home to just over 43,000 people.
New Hampshire State House has a gold dome, and its architecture dates back to 1819.
Attractions include tours of the State House, the National Historic Landmark, Canterbury Shaker Village, McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, and the city’s science museum.
If you are interested in the history of the city, you can learn about the battles of Lexington and Concord through this self-guided driving tour.
Bear Brook State Park
Bear Brook State Park is the state’s biggest, with over 10,000 acres!
This is a popular state park with campers, hikers, and bikers.
Water sports such as swimming and fishing are also permitted.
Uniquely, Bear Brook has two archery ranges.
Beaver and Catamount Ponds are popular locations at Bear Brook.
The latter is used for fly fishing.
Like Portsmouth, Manchester is a city by the river, this time the Merrimack, which means ‘deep water of river’ in Abenaki.
Just over 112,000 live in Manchester, making it New Hampshire’s biggest city.
There are indoor and outdoor things to do in Manchester all year round, from visiting the historic house at Zimmerman House, The Currier Museum of Art, the SEE Science Center, and winter sports at McIntyre Ski Area.
Named one of the prettiest towns in New Hampshire, Exeter is home to around 15,000 people and is said to be one of the best places to live in the state.
This is another location with water where the town’s historic mills sit by the Squamscott River.
Exeter is New Hampshire’s Revolutionary War Capital, and you can find out more about it at the American Independence Museum.
The bustling summer destination, Hampton Beach, is the only beach by an ocean in New Hampshire.
This built-up area has a boardwalk with shops, arcades (Funorama), and ice cream parlors.
At night, entertainment in the form of musicians and comedians takes place on the Casino Ballroom stage.
During the summer months, there are a number of things to do, from the Seafood Festival to the Sand Sculpture Event.
To top all of this off, there are weekly family-friendly movie nights and fireworks on the beach!
Hampton Beach also features in our guide on where to spend Memorial Day Weekend on the East Coast.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our fun things to do in New Hampshire guide and can take tips away for your next vacation.
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments section. Thank you.