Santas Village amusement park in Jefferson, New Hampshire. Image credit Ritu Manoj Jethani via Shutterstock

8 of the Most Overlooked Towns in New Hampshire

Already an overlooked state, New Hampshire has many overlooked towns. If you thought its capital, Concord, was small, all of the following communities have fewer than 7,000 residents as of the last decennial census. Yet, they have magnificent mountains, centuries-old buildings, colorful shops, unbelievable museums, and winsome wilderness that are passed over by in-staters and out-of-staters. Do not miss what they missed; choose these eight neglected New Hampshire towns instead of overrun tourist hot spots elsewhere in the country.


The River Walk Covered Bridge with the Grist mill on the Ammnosuoc River in Littleton, New Hampshire.
The River Walk Covered Bridge with the Grist mill on the Ammnosuoc River in Littleton, New Hampshire.

With roughly 6,000 residents, Littleton lives up to its name. This little town is a painted paradise set against the White Mountains. Attractions include Chutters, a pink-hued candy store; Crumb Bum, a rainbow-flag-adorned bakery; and Schilling Beer Co., a brewery in a red 18th-century mill. Aside from Schilling, these buildings line a model Main Street that looks like it was crafted in a workshop. Adding more color to Littleton is greenery, which, nourished by the Connecticut River, contains a scenic covered bridge and numerous nature trails.


Twin arch bridge Stoddard New Hampshire with fall colors
Twin arch bridge Stoddard, New Hampshire.

Another New Hampshire mountain town but in the southern part of the state, Stoddard is an underrated stunner. Among its little-known wonders are the Stone Arch Bridge, a mortarless 19th-century twin stone bridge that crosses the North Branch River, and the marker for Stoddard Glass, an amalgam of companies that operated from 1842 to 1873 and manufactured glass bottles that are now worth thousands of dollars. But Stoddard's climax is Pitcher Mountain, a 2,153-foot monadnock (an isolated peak in a relatively flat area) whose summit has views and blueberries for the picking.

To cap off the trip with a busier outdoor excursion, drive 20 minutes south to Granite Gorge Mountain Park, a prime ski area.


Autumn in Peterborough, New Hampshire
Autumn in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

South of Stoddard, Peterborough, in Hillsborough County, has been around for almost 300 years. Although none of its 18th-century buildings remain, Peterborough preserves early-19th-century architecture. One example is Peterborough Unitarian Church, which was built in 1825 for a congregation founded in 1752. After checking out that historic chapel, you can visit the site of the Old Bell Factory, which dates to 1808 and is said to have been the first cotton factory in New Hampshire powered by water.

From there, you can explore a symbolic remnant of this former mill town, Bagel Mill, before dining at other eateries like Kogetsu and Harlow's Pub. It is easy to miss Peterborough, given its lush countryside. Get lost (in a good way) at Miller State Park, Monadnock State Park, and Wapack National Wildlife Refuge.


Road in rural Jefferson, New Hampshire.
Road in rural Jefferson, New Hampshire.

It turns out that Santa's Village is not in the North Pole. It is tucked away in the tiny New Hampshire town of Jefferson. The "village" is a Christmas-themed amusement park that opened in 1953 and features rides, shops, and eateries with names like Polar Expresso, Sugar n’ Spice Bake Shop, and the S. S. Peppermint Twist. From frosted treats to frosted peaks, Jefferson straddles the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, which contains the Presidential Range.

Arguably, the best views of Mount Washington, Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams, and other president-christened summits are from Cherry Pond in the Pondicherry Wildlife Sanctuary.


East Main Street, Warner New Hampshire
Main Street, Warner, New Hampshire. Image credit John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Warner is full of museums you probably did not know existed, at least not in rural New Hampshire. The first is Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, a 12.5-acre indoor and outdoor preserve of Indigenous history comprising the only Native American museum in the state. The second is the New Hampshire Telephone Museum, which is exactly how it sounds: a museum showcasing the history of telecommunications with over 1,000 phones and phone-related artifacts. The third is The Nature Discovery Center, a collection of all things natural, from minerals to mounted mammals. You can drive between these museums on historic covered bridges, making the commute its own exhibit.


A beautiful shot of the Sandwich new Hampshire church surrounded by autumn trees
Sandwich, New Hampshire church in the fall.

There are quite a few Sandwiches in the United States, and not just the food. New Hampshire's Sandwich is a town of roughly 1,500 people in Carroll County. Named after the food's alleged inventor, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, Sandwich is sandwiched between mountain country and lake country, thereby offering scenic sites such as Squam Lake, Hemenway State Forest, and Sandwich Mountain.

Before conquering its greens, you can fuel up on its namesake meat and bread at The Foothills Restaurant in Center Sandwich. Also at the center of Sandwich is a three-day festival held each Columbus Day Weekend. Although it is called the Sandwich Fair, it is less about sandwiches and more about livestock, rides, and parades.

Sugar Hill

Drone shot of St Matthew's Church in Sugar Hill New Hampshire.
St Matthew's Church in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

If Sandwich is your entrée, make Sugar Hill your dessert. Just over an hour's drive northwest, Sugar Hill is a White Mountains retreat with more attractions than people. Some 650 residents and smatterings of tourists needlessly vie for views of Franconia Notch State Park and Sunset Hill. During spring, the latter turns purple as lupines bloom in such abundance that it inspired an early June flower festival.

Spring in Sugar Hill is vibrant, summer is lush, autumn is colorful, and winter is magical. There is no bad season to visit town, especially since Sunset Hill House and Polly’s Pancake Parlor can warm hands and bellies during cold weather.


Hebron Town Forest, New Hampshire Winter Sunset
Winter sunset over Hebron Town Forest, New Hampshire.

Hebron is a central New Hampshire town on the banks of Newfound Lake. This lake is the core of Hebron recreation, something that only 630ish people experience year-round. On-lake activities include swimming, fishing, motorboating, canoeing, and kayaking, while lakeside pursuits include hiking, picnicking, and camping in Wellington State Park.

Charles L. Bean Sanctuary is another lakeside preserve. Just a few miles off-lake are more nature preserves like Sculptured Rocks Natural Area and Cardigan Mountain State Park. Downtown Hebron is bereft of hotels and restaurants, but Newfound Lake picks up the slack with Newfound Lake Inn and its Pasquaney Restaurant.

New Hampshire is a rural American shrine. Many of its attractions are spread across the barrens in tiny towns that few have heard of. Shrines get neglected over time, so convert to rural New Hampshirite to see the truth that most people are missing: Littleton, Stoddard, Peterborough, Jefferson, Warner, Sandwich, Sugar Hill, and Hebron are the real prophets of a good time in The Granite State.

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