My first impression of New Hampshire was when I went there for a job interview years ago. I’d driven from Pennsylvania, where I was doing research. While on the road, my attention was suddenly drawn to the pine trees that were everywhere. And it was early spring, so an earthy evergreen scent filled the air. Then, my hotel turned out to be in the middle of a pine forest.
I accepted the position, and a few months later, began the long trek from Texas with my beloved cat. My new job was near the NH Seacoast, the 18-mile stretch of oceanfront that leaves neighboring Vermont the only New England state without a coastline.
Moving to New Hampshire wasn’t hard since I had shipped everything or loaded it into my tiny car. I was happy to have gone on a short scouting trip in mid-summer since it allowed me to secure an apartment ahead of the move. I also got to know the area and my new colleagues a bit better.
When I returned in late August, accompanied by my parents (from upstate New York) and a van they had rented, it was mostly a matter of emptying two vehicles’ worth of stuff into my new home. After that, I still had a lot of shopping to do. This trip would be my last time moving with just a car!
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Traveling Around New Hampshire
Just say the word, and I will return to New Hampshire any time! Every part of the small state has a natural beauty that subsumes any appearance of fast-food restaurants, motels, or strip malls. Even billboards somehow fade into the background. NH is lovely, from the White Mountains in the north to the southwestern Monadnock Region to the Massachusetts border.
The Maine border and nearby beaches (“the Yorks”) are a half-hour trip from Dover, where I lived. I drove there a lot (and could have biked if I’d wanted). In fact, I saw a lot of the sizeable neighboring state to the east. I also enjoyed driving north through Manchester (the largest city in NH) and Concord (the state capital). From Concord on, I saw lots of lakes and mountains.
And I don’t mean just any mountains; New Hampshire’s White Mountains are among the highest on the East Coast, and the tallest, Mt. Washington, has a very pronounced tree line. With my mother, I traveled to the top on the wobbly Cog Railway—a ride that was more exciting than scary. Well, maybe just a little scary when we crossed a trestle!
On another trip, I visited old friends in the Dartmouth/Lebanon area near Lake Sunapee in the west-central part of the state and near the Vermont border. A university community, the area has a lot of engaging sites and some excellent restaurants (we chose Thai, my favorite). Still, It’s small and relatively rural. Concord and Manchester are the nearest metro area.
While my primary employment was on the Seacoast, I traveled to Manchester (South Central region) regularly for a while. It’s large since the comparatively heavily populated area comprises Concord, Manchester, Derry, Londonderry, Merrimack, Nashua, and several smaller locations. Like the Seacoast, this region also is home to quite a few fascinating repurposed textile mills.
A Few Things About New Hampshire “Locals”
Residents of the “Live free or die” state collectively mix conservative and liberal political views, bringing a balance to the political arena that doesn’t exist in most other states. For example, Democrats have carried the presidential race in most recent years. Yet Republicans always have their say, with many espousing more traditional party values (not all neoconservative).
With the New Hampshire Primary being the first major event of a presidential election and the state full of small towns with local gathering places, you can easily imagine the types of friendly (and sometimes thorny) political debates that transpire. In other words, Granite Staters still take their politics very seriously! So be sure to register to vote as soon as you arrive, and join the discussion!
Another thing: everywhere you go in the state (or Northeastern New England), you will hear a distinct dialect, with words and phrases like these. For example, I was offered a fizzy soft drink once, but they called it a “tannic.” Finally, after a few repetitions, I realized the word was “tonic.” Tonic? Like tonic water? Hmm… still not that familiar a term for a soft drink.
New Hampshire residents, like people everywhere, have their intriguing quirks. Get to know them, and they might point out some of yours.
What to Do, See, and Eat: New Hampshire Highlights
So here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: my recommendations for the best sights to see, things to do, and places to eat after moving to New Hampshire.
“Eat Fresh Seafood in New Hampshire!” should be a slogan. Unlike seafood that has to travel any distance inland, you can literally taste the ocean in seafood from Eastern New England: lobster (of course), clams, mussels, haddock, and cod. Enjoy fresh seafood at a recommended restaurant or the home of a local who knows how to prepare it. It makes all the difference.
And if you ever have the chance to go to a New England clambake, go without question!
New Hampshire’s thriving tourism industry has increased the number and variety of other unique restaurant types. For example, my hosts took me to a Japanese restaurant at my interview. Of course, international restaurants are always a treat, but whatever you do, avoid the national franchise chains unless you’re about to die of starvation. Too many better choices!
You will never run out of sports and recreational opportunities in New Hampshire, either. Some of the options include:
- Skiing (downhill, cross-country, etc.) and other snow sports.
- Mountain hiking and biking.
- Water sports: swimming, kayaking, sailing, and more.
- Plus, all the usual community sports leagues and pickup games.
There’s more than just outdoor sports to love about NH, though, so don’t even think about moving away from the state without trying something completely new at least once!
Besides what I’ve already mentioned, there are a few places I return to again and again whenever I get the chance to visit New Hampshire. Below are a few of those I love or look forward to seeing.
Portsmouth, the Seacoast “capital,” is a short drive from where I lived. It’s a sprawling village with many things to do. Market Square, a gathering place for Seacoast locals, is the center of the downtown. You’ll find unique restaurants, boutiques, public buildings, and the ever-popular Music Hall, which offers an array of movies and live events.
Portsmouth also sees a lot of tourists and day-trippers from Boston. One well-known tourist attraction is Strawberry Banke Museum, an outdoor history center dedicated to the over 300-year history of Portsmouth’s waterfront. And speaking of waterfronts, the Portsmouth Harbor, with its extensive water traffic and tall bridges, is also something not to miss.
West of Mt. Washington (mentioned earlier) is another of my “return to” places, Franconia Notch State Park. Directly off an I-93 exit (how convenient!), the park is probably best known for The Basin and Flume Gorge. No matter how many photos you see of these and other nearby attractions, nothing compares to being there, taking it in with all your senses.
Enjoy the park as a restful break while on the road, or spend a few days taking it all in while staying in your choice of lodging in nearby Lincoln or North Woodstock, NH. Several other attractions are nearby for all seasons. If you go during off-peak months, be sure the sites you want to see haven’t closed for the season.
Are you looking for a weekend getaway or even a fun day trip? After moving to New Hampshire, I had several opportunities to visit the state’s beautiful Lakes Region (273 lakes and ponds, the largest of which are Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Winnisquam, Squam Lake, and Newfound Lake).
The Lakes Region is extremely popular with tourists due to its scenery and the charming towns and villages sprinkled throughout, especially near the island and inlet-filled Lake Winnipesaukee. This area is the perfect blend of natural settings and abundant hospitality. I recommend booking a place to stay near the water well ahead of the summer rush!
I’ve heard this mountain is a place you shouldn’t miss, with its exciting trails and stunning views of New Hampshire’s southeast corner. So I’m waiting for a future visit to experience the climb—and see a part of the state that will be entirely new to me. As you can see, the views are terrific!
Find Time for All New Hampshire Has to Offer!
As you can see, the small state of New Hampshire offers a lot within its borders—even while giving the impression of a pristine natural wilderness. No matter where you go, you could easily pass a day without realizing where the time went. That’s how much there is to love about this magnificent state!
What’s more, after moving to New Hampshire, you’re no longer a tourist needing temporary lodging. It’s your new home! And unlike other parts of the country, you don’t have to travel far to escape your everyday activities. So make a plan and hit the road—you’ll be back home from a delightful adventure in time for whatever awaits you the next day.
About Our City Guides
Being a college coach, you end up moving a lot and living in a lot of different places. Then, you become friends with people who have also lived a lot of different places. We’ve leaned into our personal experiences and these relationships to try to bring you unique city and state guides on what it’s really like to live in those places, in this case, New Hampshire.
Featured Image is of the Crawford Notch State Park Bridge