You’ve been saving up for months. You’ve bought the new bathing suit and a stash of high SPF sunscreen, gotten someone to cover your workload and written that liberating out-of-office automated email response.
Maybe you’re an adventurer looking for a week of heart-racing thrills, or you can’t wait to relive the magic of a theme park. Or maybe you’re the type to spend your leisure time exploring awe-inspiring cultural landmarks. Perhaps you and your sweetheart are looking to have some romantic quality time together, sans kids and obligations.
But one thing you know for sure is that you don’t want to spend your time packing suitcases or waiting in airport security lines.
Lucky for you, New Hampshire is a treasure trove of landscapes, entertainment and culture, says Tai Freligh, spokesperson for the New Hampshire Office of Travel and Tourism Development. And it’s completely easy to access.
“We’re a compact state,” Freligh said. “Even if you’re driving from one end to the other, it’s a couple of hours. We have such a diversity of landscapes and activities that you can make it something different every day.”
Kissing goodbye all those long hours wasted in airports, on the road or packing means more time can be spent really vacationing — and that means less stress. It also means spending less money while gaining a whole new appreciation for the parts of New Hampshire that you’ve been missing out on.
“You almost have to have visiting relatives come stay with you to realize what’s in your backyard,” said Kate Luczko, director of Stay Work Play.
The Hippo has some ideas for week-long staycations that will have you seeing New Hampshire through tourists’ eyes: there’s a week filled with adventures, a week of visiting local landmarks, a week hanging out at the state’s coolest theme parks and a week of city-inspired romance.
Who Needs Mickey?
Consider ditching the Mickey ears and expensive theme parks this summer to explore some of New Hampshire’s amusement spots.
“We’ve got Canobie Lake Park, that’s kind of a typical theme park with roller coasters and all different kinds of activities. But we also have quite a few clustered up in the White Mountain area,” Freligh said. “And then you have some more focused around the outdoors like the Lost River Gorge.”
Many of the parks are historical. Santa’s Village was built in the 1950s because its owners wanted to create something novel to the region. Storyland opened with only one ride — an old fire truck — in 1954, after its creators started collecting a large number of dolls from Germany based on storybook characters.
Monday: take to the lake
Few Granite Staters have never experienced Canobie Lake Park (85 N. Policy St., Salem, 893-3506, canobie.com), and most have been to New Hampshire’s oldest and biggest amusement park many times. Kick your week off at this Salem hotspot. Originating as a trolley park for Massachusetts Northeast Street Railway Company, Canobie Lake Park has offered summer amusement every year since 1902. Canobie is the mother of New Hampshire theme parks, and will have you forgetting you didn’t fly hundreds of miles to Florida.
The park offers rides for everyone from thrill-seekers to kids to those who just want to relax on a carousel or antique car. Some of its most adored rides include the 1930s-era wooden roller coaster Yankee Cannonball, its newest roller coaster, Untamed — the steepest rollercoaster in the Northeast — and dark and spooky Mine of Lost Souls. Over the years, Canobie Lake Park has also built up quite the water park, featuring water slides, the famed Boston Tea Party ride and an interactive activity center called Adventure Island.
Tuesday: make a splash
What better way to spend a hot summer day than speeding down a vertical plunge or taking it easy on a lazy river? Water Country (2300 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, 427-1111, watercountry.com) is one of the few U.S. amusement parks to encourage visitors to pack picnics and eat them on the premises, which means in addition to staying local, you’ll be saving loads of money on food.
This wet-and-wild landscape features tons of slides and pools that range from the scream-worthy, like the head-first Double Dive Boggan or the 58-foot-high Double Geronimo, to the leisurely, like the adventure river, which takes tubes through waterfalls, caves and fountains at a nice-and-easy pace.
Wednesday: for your inner child
Nearcation Alert: Since most of the state’s theme parks are nestled in the White Mountains region, packing the southern New Hampshire theme parks into the beginning of your staycation means you can spend a few days in a row up north. Instead of hitting up an expensive hotel, consider spending some quality time between amusement parks at a scenic campground. Between the excitement and silliness of theme parks and the serenity and beauty of New Hampshire’s forests, you’ll strike a happy staycation balance.
In his memoir The Hardcore Diaries, ex pro-wrestler and bestselling memoirist Mick Foley said that a trip to Santa’s Village (1624 Golden Beach Road, 645-2512, santasvillage.com) was the reason he developed a Christmas fixation. He wrote: “Every good thing in my life somehow leads me back to Jefferson, New Hampshire and the trip to Santa’s Village my parents took me on...”
Santa’s Village is geared toward parents with children ages 13 and younger, but anyone can visit and enjoy the nation’s first Santa-themed park, kids or no kids, if you’re feeling nostalgic for the holiday season.
Santa’s Village features rides for toddlers, like the Pixie Mix and the Peppermint Twist, and rides for all ages, including antique cars and Santa’s skyway. Other more thriller-style rides include the Yule Log Flume and Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster.
And, of course, you’ll find Santa at his home, ready to greet his guests, and reindeer hanging out in the barn. You can even take home a special “good luck ring” crafted by the Village Smithy at the Reindeer Shoe Shop.
If the idea of Christmas in the summer gives you the chills, Storyland’s (850 New Hampshire 16, Glen, 383-4186, StorylandNH.com) landscape of fairy tales will warm you up. The park is built for family-friendly fun and entertainment, and there’s something for all ages. Promenade the park in Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach or get churned up on Dr. Geyser’s Remarkable Raft Ride. The newest attraction in town is a surprisingly fierce roller coaster, which will have the most thrill-seeking adults screaming in their seats. The one-of-a-kind wooden roller coaster called the Roar-O-Saurus flies around sharp curbs and shoots down steep drops. There are also shows like “Storybook Adventure,” where the audience helps Pinocchio, Rapunzel, and Little Bo Peep break the spell that Rumpelstiltskin has cast on the kingdom.
Thursday: a beary strange time
For a change of pace, head over to the uniquely New Hampshire Clark’s Trading Post (110 Daniel Webster Hwy., Lincoln, 745-8913, clarkstradingpost.com). This attraction is known for its trained bear shows and the White Mountain Central Railroad, a 30-minute steam-powered train ride that takes riders face to face with wolfman, who tries to scare people away from a nearby mine. The property has roots as a roadside stand that opened in 1928, but after the Clark brothers began salvaging old steam locomotives, in the 1950s, it quickly began to grow into the odd destination it is today. Visitors can now enjoy a Segway ride and safari, tour Merlin’s Mystical Mansion, and soak their friends while riding Blaster Boats in the Old Mill Pond. And no trip to Clark’s would be complete without the native black bear show, which has made Clark’s Trading Post a White Mountain tradition.
Friday: east meets western
You may remember Jefferson’s Six Gun City as the theme destination that brought the Wild West out of New England. But this year, the park has been re-imagined and opened Memorial Day weekend as Fort Jefferson Fun Park (1492 Presidential Hwy., Jefferson, 586-4510, fortjeffersonfunpark.com).
Though cowboy skits will no longer be featured, “the west is fun” has become the overarching theme of the entire attraction, which includes a campground for staycationers who want to spend the night. Admission to Fort Jefferson is free, so visitors only pay for the rides they want. Hit up the Cheyenne Falls waterslide or the Prospectors’ Plunge Roller Coaster, climb into the stage coach for a romp around the park, or take the wheel at the Tumbleweed Speedway go-karts. There are 14 rides and slides to choose from, and during the next year or two the park is expected to expand even more.
Thrill out at home
Some people need adventure — heart-pounding, stomach-dropping adventure — to really leave the day-to-day behind. Whether you’re a speed freak, a glutton for (paintball) punishment, or addicted to that free-fall feeling, New Hampshire offers enough local thrills to keep you busy all week long.
Monday: reach new heights
Challenge yourself mentally and physically with rock climbing, either the indoor variety or outside. Vertical Dreams (250 Commercial St., Manchester, 625-6919; 25 E. Otterson St., Nashua, 943-7571, verticaldreams.com) climbing gyms offer a bunch of variety: top roping, lead climbing and lots of bouldering routes for every ability. There’s no need to choose the indoor gym when the weather is fine, either. Plan ahead and sign up for a one-day class for beginner or intermediate climbers. Classes will take you to local climbing areas like the bouldering rocks at Pawtuckaway State Park, the cliffs in Rumney, or Franconia Notch.
Tuesday: fearless and free falling
If you want the thrill of skydiving without the danger, Skyventure (3 Poisson Ave., Nashua, 897-0002, skyventurenh.com) is the perfect fit. It’s an indoor vertical wind tunnel used for training by the world’s best skydivers, and it’s also designed for the public to experience the sport of body flight. There’s no need for a parachute or a ripcord. At $55 for two minutes per adult, it may be one of the more pricy events on your adventure itinerary, so pair the one-of-a-kind experience with a picnic instead of an expensive dinner out. While you’re at SkyVenture, consider checking out the indoor surfing, Fishpipe waterslide and (if you’ve still got the rock climbing bug) the climbing wall.
Wednesday: trigger happy
Are you the hunter or the hunted? In paintball, you’re both! During your staycation, ditch the video games and be part of the action, competing to eliminate opponents by shooting them with capsules full of color. The Granite State is rife with paintball fields, but OSG Paintball (1053 N. Barnstead Road, Center Barnstead, 800-707-7259, osgpaintball.com) in Barnstead is the largest in New England. It boasts a ton of awesome landscapes including a castle, a pirate cove with six boats (including a tri-mast pirate ship) and a lighthouse, a two-acre urban town, a tombstone Western town, a HALO village, Sherwood Forest, and much more. If you don’t have your own equipment, no problem. Rentals are available, and they sell the paintballs too.
Thursday: plan a river day
New Hampshire has amazing lakes and a hopping coastline, but let’s not forget about the state’s many rivers. After a day of duking it out on the paintball field, make amends and slow the pace (just a little) with a canoe or kayak trip down the Merrimack. Merrimack Canoe and Kayak Rentals (9 Horse Hill Road, Concord, 753-8904, contoocookcanoe.com) is stocked with single recreational kayaks, light touring kayaks, and double (tandem) models, as well as canoes and stand-up paddle boards. Depending on how much adventure you can handle, make reservations for a 5-mile, two- to three-hour trip that’s great for beginners and children, or the long trip, a 10-mile, three- to five-hour day of paddling, swimming, picnicking and relaxing on bluffs and beaches. You will be getting wet, so don’t forget your bathing suit.
Friday: zip it up
Up north, the White Mountains have so many ziplines you’d think they were sewn into the forests to keep the peaks up. But there’s also a treetop trek as close as Candia. Staycationers who weigh between 50 and 250 pounds can head to the Escape Velocity Zip Line at Liquid Planet (446 Raymond Road, Candia, 483-2200, liquidplanet.com) to fly over the woods of Candia, a freshwater lake and the entire park. And as long as you’re at the waterpark, you might as well ride the water slides, including a pair of brand new 40-foot vertical drop slides called The Shooting Stars.
If you’re looking for an even more intense and involved treetop experience, head up to the Lakes Regions Zip Tour Ziplines at Gunstock Mountain Resort (719, Cherry Valley Road, Gilford, 737-4388, gunstock.com/summer/treetop-adventures). This nearly 2-mile zipline “rollercoaster” is one of the longest in the country. You will soar from peak-to-peak and peak-to-base and reach top speeds of 65 miles per hour. Before the adventure, you’ll receive special training from guides who will familiarize you with all the gear and zipline technique.
First settled by fishermen in 1623, New Hampshire has a lot of history and a lot of landmarks. They speckle the entire landscape of the state, from the Mount Washington Hotel in Coos County to Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, from meeting houses to modern architecture.
But once we’re past school age and the field trips subside, many of us might think less about the rich history of our own state. Maybe we fall into a rut of visiting the same tried-and-true spots each summer, or we simply don’t know what’s out there.
“As people who live in the state, we kind of overlook a lot of these things. I’ll put up a tourist photo on our website, and people say, ‘I’ve lived here for 20 years. I didn’t know we have that,” Freligh said.
Luczko agrees that the state’s many landmarks sometimes stay hidden, and while they’re great to take kids to, perhaps adults can appreciate the depth and value of what they mean even more.
“I often ask people, when I have a new intern or something, and we are driving up [Interstate] 93, if they know why the Statehouse is gold,” she said. “It’s because we had a state president.”
There’s a tremendous range of historical and cultural resources in the state, said Jennifer Goodman, executive director of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, “from historic sites open to the public to vibrant main streets where you can shop and walk, and landscapes that offer irreplaceable scenic views, historic farms and great natural resources.”
With so much to see, planning could be tricky, so Goodman suggests pairing a big destination each day with a neighbor walkaround or ridearound.
Monday: Modernism in Manchester
Historic hotspot: Considered one of the fathers of modern architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright created designs that embodied his philosophy of harmony between humanity and its environment. The Zimmerman House (223 Heather St., Manchester, 669-6144, currier.org/collections/zimmerman-house) follows this philosophy to a tee. It’s the only one of his designs open to the public in New England. Wright designed the house, the interior, the landscape and all its furniture based on his theory of usonia, which envisions the American landscape as distinct and without previous architectural convention. The Zimmerman House has an intimate, some say cave-like feel, with openings set above eyelevel for privacy. The Currier Museum of Art offers 90-minute tours, and focus tours like “Landscaping a Usonian,” and Twilight Tours that feature live music.
Walkaround: Combine a trip to the Zimmerman House with a stroll through Manchester, Goodman said. Take a trip to the Amoskeag Millyard Museum (200 Bedford St., No. 103, Manchester) and a walk along the river, or mosey through one of the city’s neighborhoods. Grab a lunch at any of the wonderful restaurants along the way. Take a walk around Victory Park and learn the history of the Manchester City Library (405 Pine St., Manchester), which has been in its current historic building since 1914.
Tuesday: literary legend
Historic hotspot: If the road you’re on diverges, take the path that leads to the Robert Frost Farm (122 Rockingham Road, Derry, 432-3091, robertfrostfarm.org). Robert Frost attributed many of his poems and memories to the Derry farm that he and his family inhabited from 1900 to 1911. The simple, white, clapboard farmhouse typical of New Hampshire in the 1880s is now a national historic landmark supported by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. When visiting the scenic and tranquil setting it’s easy to be transported and imagine the source of Frost’s inspiration. Come for the tour, displays and walking trail, or stop in during one of the scheduled poetry readings. Everything at the site is free save for the guided inside tour, which, at $4 for New Hampshire residents, won’t burn a hole in your pocketbook.
Walkaround: Park your car and walk along Derry’s West Broadway to observe many architectural landmarks like the Marion Gerrish Community Center (39 W Broadway, Derry) and the Derry Opera House (29 W. Broadway, Derry) located in the historic Adams Memorial Building, which is also home to the Derry Historical Museum. The museum’s collection contains thousands of documents, photographs and artifacts spanning the town’s history, as well as Native American items like a dug-out canoe discovered at the bottom of Beaver Lake, and rooms devoted to Derry’s schools, military history and transportation systems. Grab lunch at MaryAnn’s Diner (29 E Broadway, Derry), a popular place for political campaign stops.
Wednesday: oh the mystery!
Historic hotspot: Check out a very different kind of local architecture and travel very, very far back in time. Nobody quite knows the origins of America’s Stonehenge (105 Haverhill Road, Salem, 893-8300, Stonehengeusa.com), touted as the nation’s oldest archeological site. Consisting of large rocks and structures that align with astrological events, it’s scattered over 30 miles in Salem. Some believe the structures were built by an ancient Native American culture, while others wonder if they’re the handiwork of early 20th century tricksters. The site is open daily and is the home of eight alpacas. During the visit, you can watch a video presentation and stroll through the scenic back forests of Salem.
Walkaround: From the mid 1800s to around 1953, the Manchester and Lawrence Railroad came through Salem. The historic passenger line was shut down, but the abandoned rail has been transformed into a scenic cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly pathway. The Windham Rail-Trail occupies a scenic stretch of abandoned rail between Range Road at Rockingham Road in Salem and Windham Road, about 4 miles to the northwest.
Thursday: shake it up
Historic hotspot: At Canterbury Shaker Village (288 Shaker Road, Canterbury, 783-9511, shakers.org), guests step back in time into the 200-year legacy of the Canterbury Shakers. Its traditionally clad staff conducts tours of the 25 original Shaker buildings, four reconstructed buildings, and 694 acres of forests, gardens and fields. Guided tours allow visitors to get a sense of history and community that once thrived in one of only two New Hampshire Shaker communities. You are also welcome to visit for a self-guided tour. You can bring a picnic lunch, or eat at the restaurant, which serves traditional lunches and dinners. Throughout the summer, there are special events and workshops.
Ridearound: Stop at the Village Store in Canterbury Center before embarking on a self-guided tour of some of the area’s historic farms, Goodman suggests. Beech Hill Farm (107 Beech Hill Road, Hopkinton), Great Brook Farm (335 Hackleboro Road, Canterbury), Diamond Hill Farm (314 Hopkinton Road Concord) and Carter Hill Orchard (73 Carter Hill Road, Concord) each capture a different slice of New Hampshire’s farmland history and offer delicious pickings from fresh ice cream to seasonal produce all summer long. “Those are great historic farms,” Goodman said. “They are wonderful places, great for families and people who want to spend time outdoors. Some are even connected by trails.”
Friday: leave the mainland
Historic hotspot: Star Island, the largest of New Hampshire’s four Isles of Shoals, was settled in the 17th century by fishermen working up the Atlantic coast. Take an Isles of Shoals Steamship Co. cruise (315 Market St., Portsmouth, 431-5500, islesofshoals.com) and spend a day or an hour exploring the Oceanic House, which gives a glimpse of the Island’s Grand Hotel Era, a chapel, built in 1800, and the museum and library in the Vaugh-Thaxter Memorial Cottage. Pair the educational stuff with some athletic recreation or serious relaxation: rent one of the Island’s classic wooden rowboats, play some frisbee golf, or treat yourself to a massage.
Walkaround: Even if you tried, you would be hard-pressed to avoid historical and cultural landmarks when visiting downtown Portsmouth from the 10-acre museum at Strawbery Banke (14 Hancock St., Portsmouth) to the 1950s military submarine USS Albacore Museum (600 Market St., Portsmouth). But this time when you visit, get another perspective of the city’s history — follow the self-guided Black Heritage Trail (pbhtrail.org) walking tour. This walk will bring you out to important landmarks in Portsmouth’s 350-year African and African-American history. The guide, which can be printed from the website, visits 24 locations and tells stories omitted from three centuries of white historical narrative.
City of Romance
When people come to Manchester from other areas of the state, they look at it as the “big city,” said Sarah Beaudry, Intown Manchester’s director of marketing and events.
“There are so many options, like a show at the Palace or the Verizon. But then there are all sorts of really fantastic restaurants and eateries that seem very metropolitan, if you will,” she said. “You could very easily be in New York City, and you’re in downtown Manchester.”
Nothing is healthier for a relationship than getting away from the responsibilities and stresses of the daily grind. This summer, spend some quality time relaxing, bonding and exploring together. Time spent together, not traveling long distances, is the key to an amazing romantic vacation.
Staying local means couples bypass the costs and inconveniences of traveling to typical big-city destinations like Boston and New York, and forgoing the high prices of attractions and dining in Boston or New York City means more resources and enjoying the week to the fullest.
“People equate date night with ‘we’re going to have to spend money,’ and it doesn’t need to be like that,” Beaudry said.
Monday: ease your muscles & minds
Nothing spells romance and relaxation like a day of pampering. Massages not only calm the mind, but they can relieve those physical aches and pains accumulated by too much work and not enough staycations. Start off your week right with a couple’s massage, one of the offerings at many local spas. For example, Serenity Spa (530 Chestnut St, Manchester, 669-5593, nhdayspa.com) has a half-hour or hour “couple’s peppermint stick” massage, which uses aromatherapy and peppermint oil to relieve muscle tension, or a couple’s “cranberry salt glow” massage, which exfoliates using sea salts and antioxidizing cranberry oils. Or go all out and indulge in the Couple’s Lounge, which includes a one-house champagne or chocolate massage in the same room, and then one-hour custom facials custom designed for each of your skin.
Pair with: live music. In the summer the Queen City is rife with cheap or free live music. Head to one of downtown’s many bars, like Strange Brew Tavern (88 Market St., Manchester), The Shaskeen Pub (909 Elm St., Manchester), or Milly’s Tavern (500 N. Commercial St., Manchester).
Tuesday: root for the home team
With its old-school atmosphere, leisurely pace and aggression-free vibe, baseball is arguably the most romantic sport out there. In the summer, Manchester’s own minor-league team has a whole schedule of afternoon and evening home games, played at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (1 Line Drive, Manchester). Head to a game, pick up some beers and hot dogs, and spend a few hours building your relationship by cheering on the Fisher Cats together.
Pair with: A home improvement project. It may sound like a strange pick for a staycation activity, but it actually may be the perfect time to plant that garden you always wanted, or paint the living room walls a funky new color. Working together to spruce up the house builds connections, and will leave you with a sense of accomplishment that merits the reward of a beer and a ballgame.
Wednesday: unwind, scenically
Not only does the state’s biggest city have oodles to offer couples, but it’s also a short drive away from more rural excursions. You don’t have to bother using precious vacation time planning for a romantic romp — the Office of Travel and Tourism development’s Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Tour, available online at Visitnh.gov, will have you feeling like you’re rolling through California wine country. While there are four self-guided wine, cheese and chocolate routes to choose from, the “near coast trail” will keep you close to home, recommending eight stops including Candia Vineyards in Candia, Sanborn’s fine candies, which specializes in fudge and caramel, Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown, and Robie Farm in Piermont, which offers savory Piermont, Swaledale, Gruyere and “Manch-Vegas” cheeses.
Pair with: You’ve got the wine. You’ve got the cheese. You’re stocked up on chocolate. Now it’s time to enjoy the spoils of your local road trip. With all those goodies, movie night won’t feel like your average at-home activity. To amp up the romance factor, light some candles and dress up as if you’re on a fancy date.
Thursday: let them entertain you
It’s difficult not to feel a bit romantic and nostalgic while spending an evening in Manchester’s historic Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St., Manchester, 668-5588, palacetheatre.org). Circa 1914, the restored professional performance arts theater has shows throughout the summer. Currently showing is My Mixtape: Sounds of the ‘80s.
Pair with: A relaxing day at a downtown park, and shopping at boutiques. Pack a frisbee, a picnic and a couple good books and spend some time in the sun at Arms Park or Veteran’s Memorial Park. Browse some of the unique clothing and gift shops on Elm Street, like Antiques on Elm (321 Elm St., Manchester), K-Fab’s Boutique (1358 Elm St., Manchester), or Shop Estella (34 Hanover St., Manchester). Staying local means more cash to spend, and it’s tax-free.
Friday: art for two
It’s said that couples grow closer when they learn new skills together. While any skill will do, Manchester’s got a lot to offer by way of romantic art classes that can remind couples arts and crafts aren’t just for the kids. Studio 550 (550 Elm St, Manchester, 232-5597, 550Arts.com) has capitalized on one of the steamiest scenes in cinema history — but you don’t have to be Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore to get your wheel throwing on. On Friday nights, the local pottery studio hosts “date night.” Spend an hour-and-a-half before or after dinner being guided through a basic pottery lesson, then create something of your own.
If you’d rather hold a paintbrush than get messy with some clay, head to Muse Paintbar (42 Hanover St., Manchester, 421-6500, musepaintbar.com). The bar fuses step-by-step painting instruction with beer and wine offerings, and is sure to provide some flirty fun, and the hand-made works of art will be a perfect reminder of your fabulous staycation.
Pair with: morning “room service.” Savor the final day of your romantic week at home by sleeping in and eating breakfast in bed. Your home doesn’t come with room service, so find a local restaurant that delivers breakfast, like the Bridge Cafe (1117 Elm St, Manchester) or Belmont Hall and Restaurant (718 Grove St., Manchester).
As seen in the June 12, 2014 issue of the Hippo.