7 Great Things to do in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
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Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a small New England town with a big past. It was settled by English colonists in 1630 and it has remained a strategic port in both war and peace time throughout its existence.
It was such an important port for the colonists that Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth to tell them the British were coming with ships and to secure the harbor!
Today, Portsmouth is a bustling tourist town. The cobblestone sidewalks, highly rated restaurants and picturesque downtown have made people flock to the city for an afternoon or weekend.
Top things to do In Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Strawberry Banke Museum
Strawberry Banke was the location of the first settlement in Portsmouth. It was named Strawberry Banke because wild strawberries grew all over the countryside.
The open-air museum features 37 restored buildings from the 17th-19th century’s. Numerous houses are open to the public and costumed guides lead you through the routine of daily life for early American settlers.
- Basket weaving
- Iron work
- And more
Strawberry Banke is similar to other area living history museums like Plimoth Plantation, Sturbridge Village and Mystic Seaport. The main difference is size and proximity to other things to do. I really recommend Strawberry Banke for families with younger kids as it is a smaller and more compact size than the others I have mentioned.
My favorite time to visit the Strawberry Banke Museum is in December when they have their Christmas programming. Learn more about it and other Christmas in New England activities here.
Plan on 2-3 hours.
USS Albacore Museum
The USS Albacore was used as a test submarine from 1953-1972 and was the first submarine built to be used entirely underwater. It was built and kept in Portsmouth during its active years and was returned home after many years to stand as a museum.
You and your family will love visiting a real submarine on this self guided tour. The tour doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes and is really inexpensive. We were particularly struck by how little space was available for the sailors and how tiny their bunks were.
Plan on 1 hour.
The Music Hall
This midsized theater originally opened in 1878 and was a centerpiece of Portsmouth life in the late 19th century. It is the 14th oldest operating theater in the United States and the oldest in New Hampshire.
If you have the opportunity to see a play or concert here you are in for a treat as The Music Hall offers first rate entertainment in a historic building.
Check what is playing when you make your trip.
If you are visiting at Christmastime you can catch “A Christmas Carol” here.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
Portsmouth lighthouse is one of 11 lighthouses that were operational before the American Revolution and used by colonists during the war. Although the original lighthouse has been replaced and changed over the years, the location remains the same.
If you love beautiful New England light houses, you will want to make a stop to see this one.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is open for tours during the summer months.
Plan on 30 minutes.
Prescott Park is a small but beautiful park overlooking Portsmouth Harbor. It is great place to wander through the flowers in the spring and summer, watch the boats come and go and grab a bench to people watch.
The park is near Strawberry Banke and Portsmouth shopping so it is a perfect place to rest your feet and relax.
Throughout the year there are plays, music and more in the park!
This historic home was the residence of William Whipple who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. You can even see a tree he planted when he returned from Philadelphia in 1776.
Like many historic homes this one is kept in immaculate condition with pieces of original furniture. There is a guided tour offered throughout the year that gives you insight into how the owners lived and what they valued. The entrance ticket also gives you access to a surprisingly lovely garden.
If you are traveling with kids and you have been to the Strawberry Banke Museum, I would skip this one. If you love history this is a must see!
Plan on an hour.
Shopping and Eating in Market Square
Market Square is the center of downtown Portsmouth and there is tons to do here! Shopping, restaurants, coffee and all kinds of specialty spots. The cobblestone sidewalks are reminiscent of Portland, Maine and the variety of shopping parallels what you will find in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Here are some of our favorite spots to explore:
LeRoux Kitchen Store
If you need something for your kitchen and you can’t find it here, you don’t really need it! This store is packed with wall to wall gadgets, pots, pans, and utensils. Even if you don’t need something, you will find something cool here.
Corks and Curds
If you are a long-time reader then you know that we are snooty cheese people. We love cheese. Corks and Curds has some of the yummiest, most interesting cheeses we have found.
They give out samples and are very knowledgeable about the cheeses. Our most recent favorites are Rogue River Bleu, Midnight Moon, and Ewephoria.
If you are in New England and are interested in cheese you need to make a stop in Brattleboro, Vermont.
You have probably seen Stonewall Kitchen jams and sauces in local grocery stores, but you will find some delicious treats at their retail store. Try out some new and interesting flavors with free pretzels/crackers and take some new favorites home.
Irish and Celtic Store
I don’t know what it is about Irish stores, but they are like a magnet to me! I love traveling to Ireland but it is more than that, they have the most charming displays and traditional crafts. This Irish store is a good one too! If you love Irish stores as much as I do, you won’t want to miss this one.
What to Eat in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
The Thirsty Moose
This restaurant/brewery is a fabulous place to grab some lunch while you are exploring Portsmouth. It is right in Market Square and has food the entire family will be happy to eat.
I recommend the enormous pretzel appetizer!
If you are traveling with your kids, Fezziwigs is a must! You probably recognize the name as a nod to Mr. Fezziwig in “A Christmas Carol” so its a great place to eat at Christmastime too!
Fezziwigs is great for a light lunch or to grab a treat later in the day. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and their concoctions are beautifully decorated as well! Grab a sundae or sweet treat and you won’t be disappointed.
Where to stay in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Wentworth by the Sea
This historic hotel is a little way from town on New Castle Island. This luxury hotel offers everything you will need for a relaxing stay!
It has a gorgeous indoor pool and hot tub, a great spa with an incredible selections of services and a highly rated restaurant. If you visit in a warm month you can watch the boats in the marina from the huge wrap around porch!
Plus the bed are sooooo comfy! I normally wake up with a sore back when I sleep away from home, but these beds were amazing!
For booking information click here.
Ale House Inn
This boutique hotels is right downtown in Portsmouth so you never have to use your car! It is a mix of old and new with fabulous amenities. My favorite thing about this hotel is that you have use of their fleet of bikes!
Take a bike ride down to Prescott Park or the USS Albacore, or head out on one of many bike trails in the area! Use this map to see where you can go.
For booking information click here
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