15 Best Small Towns in New Hampshire

New Hampshire, one of the thirteen colonies that originally founded the United States, clings to its revolutionary history. New Hampshire is also home to stunning natural landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, expansive meadows, lakes and beaches. History buffs will enjoy visiting the sites of important decisions, viewing buildings and learning about the area from local museums. Meanwhile, active travelers should visit small towns in New Hampshire to spend their time exploring the outdoors.

It is not uncommon to find towns with friendly locals and colonial architecture in the woodlands. Although many people may appear similar on the surface due to demographics or proximity to each other, each is truly unique and has its own personality to discover. Many of these small towns have inspired classic artists and poets like Robert Frost and Nathaniel Hawthorne to create works that pay homage to the beauty of New Hampshire.

No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find that New Hampshire is a welcoming state with a wide variety of attractions and activities. While larger towns like Concord and Manchester have their charms, it’s in the smaller towns that you’ll truly experience what it’s like to be a local in this amazing state.

Let’s explore the best small towns in New Hampshire:

1. Hannover

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Park

Home to Dartmouth College, Hanover is a small town in the Upper Connecticut Valley. There are various types of entertainment options and activities such as shopping, theaters, parks, ski resorts, live college sports and museums.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love Hanover as it’s the perfect place to visit Dartmouth Ski Run, Suicide Six, Stowe Pond Recreation Area and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Park. Meanwhile, visitors interested in history, science, and culture should visit Billings Farm and Museum, Enfield Shaker Museum, Gold Nugget Theater, Old Constitution Building, and the Mount County Science Museum.

You can easily spend a few days in Hannover without getting bored.

2. Exeter

Exeter

Exeter is known for being one of the friendliest and most walkable towns in New Hampshire. The main street is lined with boutiques, independent bookstores, galleries and restaurants. Return to the historic Colonial Inn and enjoy dinner on the Squawscotch River – an important moment throughout colonial history.

In winter, the town looks picturesque, with frosted roofs and trees, and has recreational areas for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and snowman-making competitions. When the weather warms up, you can mountain bike or explore the many trails with two feet. Since the town is on a river, there are also countless boating and water activities to enjoy.

3. Sugar Mountain

Sugar Mountain

Escape the city and head to Sugar Mountain, a small oasis among the best natural attractions in New Hampshire. On a small scale, you can see hundreds of waterfalls, hike to Mount Washington, drive along the scenic Kancamagus Highway, and marvel at the massive Flume Gorge.

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There are also seasonal activities such as spring wildflower picking, ziplining, hang gliding, hiking, cross-country skiing, and more.

Learn more about the area at the Sugar Hill History Museum, where everything you need to know about the area’s history is presented in a lively, organized way. There’s also the Sugar Hill Sampler, a fun venue where you can browse and try all the different foods, drinks and trinkets.

4. Hancock

Hancock

Hancock is a small town in the Monadnock area, often considered the center of New England. Nearly every building in the town center is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Revere & Son bells in the town’s 1800s meeting room can be heard all day. It’s a friendly town with a strong community spirit (many stores just have an honor system for buying) that welcomes all who visit.

While in Hancock, consider staying at the Hancock Inn, built in 789, the oldest hotel in New Hampshire. From here, you can stroll through the Harris Conservation Education Center, hike or just walk around town – no car required. Summer concerts, art shows and other events are often held for locals and tourists alike.

5. Franconia

Franken

Nestled in the White Mountains, Franken and the surrounding area are so beautiful that it inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write Old Man of the Mountains based on its charm. There are small shops and dining areas to browse in the picturesque setting. The great poet Robert Frost also called Franconia home, and you can pay homage to his work at the Frost Square Museum.

Travelers who love the great outdoors should stop in Franken and use it as a base for exploring Franken State Park, visiting Flume Gorge, kayaking and swimming in Echo Lake, horseback riding, snowshoeing, mountain biking, high altitude Zipline and more. Ride along the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway for high-altitude views.

6. Portsmouth

Portsmouth

If you’re interested in American history, Portsmouth is one of the best small towns in the country. Many of the buildings date back to the colonial era, and the American Independence Museum houses Revolutionary-era artifacts, including the first draft of the U.S. Constitution. The Strawbery Banke Museum has a lively historical show that takes you back to colonial times – a hands-on experience, perfect for visitors of all ages. You can also take a ride on Piscataqua, a full-scale replica of a colonial sailing ship.

Grab a beer in the news room, then head to the concert hall to hear tunes from local live musicians. Prescott Park has frequent art performances and The Dance Hall Kittery has frequent dance workshops.

7. Littleton

littleton

When locals are asked which town in New Hampshire is the best, Littleton often emerges as the top contender. Maybe it’s because Main Street is lined with beautiful colonial buildings with dozens of unique stores, or because those with a sweet tooth can find their solution at Chutters Candy Store, the longest candy counter in the country. This small town is a world away from city life and is well worth a visit no matter what time of year you choose to visit. At night, the town has a beautiful skyline that highlights local churches and government buildings.

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8. Gorham

Gorham

Gorham is a town thought to have almost as many moose as its population! There are frequent moose tours and you can see these huge, gentle animals grazing at Moose Creek State Park. Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy winter activities such as skiing on Sunday River, Wildcat, Atitash and local woodland. When the weather is warm, you can spend time at the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center and stroll along the Imp Trail Loop. There are also places for whitewater rafting, hiking and swimming along the Sako and Androskogin rivers. Gorham is the best town for adventurous travelers and those who love to have fun outdoors.

9. North Conway

North Conway

North Conway in the Mount Washington Valley is a town that any type of traveler will love. From North Conway, you can explore over 700,000 acres of native forest, the perfect playground for any outdoor enthusiast. Depending on the time of year, you can ski, fish, hike, swim, snowmobile, golf, canoe, camp, admire waterfalls, and more.

North Conway also has a variety of comfortable accommodation options, from luxurious bed and breakfasts to manicured campgrounds. Shopaholics will love Setters’ Green Outlet Village, antique and craft stores, and dining at the many restaurants to choose from.

10. Meredith

Meredith

Located in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lake District, Meredith is the perfect place to view the lakes and mountains of the White Mountains. Specifically, Meredith is close to Lake Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Waukewan, Wakewath, Lake Newfoundland, Winona, Lake Squam, and more. Summer attracts most visitors who enjoy attending arts and craft festivals, fishing derbys, concerts, nature tours and more. On the lake, you can rent a boat and go water skiing, water skiing, or just spend the day on the water. With so much to do and see, you can easily spend a week here without getting bored.

Shopping duty free at Meredith means you can pick up rare gifts from antique and collectible stores. There are also galleries and craft shops featuring the work of local artists – often inspired by the beauty of the town’s surroundings.

11. Lincoln

lincoln

Lincoln is famous for being the base camp of the White Mountains, and it’s the perfect town if you’re interested in visiting those stunning mountains. From Lincoln, you can hike around the basins of Franconia Notch State Park, admire Franconia Falls, see ice castles, zipline, and even take the Hobo Railroad—it looks like the North Pole in winter. There are many other outdoor attractions in town as well as wineries, colonial-style buildings and specialty stores.

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12. Peterborough

Peterborough

Artists from all over the state are drawn to Peterborough’s thriving arts community. Concerts, live theatre performances, exhibitions, gallery shows and art workshops are constantly being held no matter the time of the year – and almost all of them are open to visitors. Some great shows usually take place at the Peterborough Players Theatre, a theatre inside the barn!

All you have to do is stroll around town, admire the buildings, and check into a friendly inn or B&B to have a great time. You can’t miss visiting the fascinating Mariposa Museum of World Cultures, shopping for antiques or taking a stroll on Temple Hill.

13. Jackson

Jackson

Jackson is one of New Hampshire’s most underrated towns, and you’re sure to find pristine wilderness and country inns that will make you feel right at home. Jackson is just off the White Mountains, where travelers of all types can explore the hills, view waterfalls, and hike through meadows. Go skiing on Wildcat Mountain, Black Mountain, or go on a cross-country ski trip with a local guide.

Jackson is also at nearby Storyland, a children’s theme park where storybook characters come to life. It’s sure to spark the imagination and make adults feel nostalgic. Ellis River Art Studio is a great place to see local art exhibits, and if you want to try creating some of your own, head over to Jackson Art Studio, which offers hands-on workshops for everyone.

14. Northwood

Northwood

Founded in 1773, the town has welcomed guests for hundreds of years. Northwood prides itself on preserving its historical roots by preserving its original architecture and natural environment. You can stay at places like Meadow Farm Bed and Breakfast, an intimate accommodation within walking distance of a lake where guests can canoe and swim, surrounded by New England paradise.

Northwood also has a number of optional farms where guests can pick berries in the summer and apples in the fall. The town is unpretentious but cozy.

15. Hampton Beaches

Hampton Beach

Hampton Beaches is a popular vacation spot for people living in New Hampshire, which is a good indicator of why you should visit while you’re on the road, too. This resort town attracts water lovers who want to spend warm days between the sea and under their umbrella. Stroll along the boardwalk, rated one of the best in the country by USA TODAY, or take part in one of the sand sculpture competitions. While this destination might not be the best during the cooler months of the year, it’s a top town as soon as the sun starts to shine.

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