Aerial view of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

8 Top-Rated Small Towns In New Hampshire

New Hampshire, known as the Granite State for its abundant granite quarries, is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, various art communities, and historic charm. One of the original 13 colonies, New Hampshire, is in the heart of New England and provides a unique glimpse into America's past. Throughout the state are small towns that offer distinctive heritage and cultural events. These small towns host annual festivals, boast winter sports activities, and offer incredible waterfront stays. From catapulting a pumpkin in Milford to snowmobiling in Pittsburg and exploring an outdoor history museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, offers unforgettable experiences. Here are eight top-rated small towns in New Hampshire for a perfect getaway.


The campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Home to Dartmouth College, Hanover offers a unique blend of Ivy League charm and scenic beauty. Located along the Connecticut River, part of the Appalachian Trail crosses through Hanover and into neighboring Vermont. For a natural retreat, head to the nearby Mink Brook Nature Preserve, known for its babbling brooks and tranquil trails. Another great spot for hiking is the Balch Hill Natural Area, which offers ten trails to the breathtaking 937-foot summit.

A trip to Hanover must include exploring top-rated Dartmouth College. Take a stroll through historic Dartmouth Green, the large green field at the center of campus. View the Colonial-style buildings on campus, discover the 65,000 artworks at the Hood Museum of Art, and catch a live show at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. For travelers wanting to stay in a historic hotel, the charming Hanover Inn Dartmouth mixes modern comfort with New England hospitality.


The waterfront in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
The waterfront in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Established in 1623, the coastal town of Portsmouth provides visitors with maritime history and excursions. The town's history is alive at Strawbery Banke, an outdoor museum showcasing various eras in Portsmouth's history. From May through October, history buffs can tour homes from the 1600s to 1800s, as well as view maritime artifacts. During the winter, the museum turns into a winter wonderland for the annual Candlelight Stroll. Guests can ice skate at Puddle Dock Pond, learn about Christmas traditions from period roleplayers, and delight in musical performances.

Since the town is situated along the Piscataqua River, travelers can enjoy a riverside stroll and visit the beautiful gardens in Prescott Park. To learn more about the town's history and view the beautiful waters, take a cruise with the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company. After exploring the town, book a room at Ale House Inn, located in an 1870s former brewery warehouse.


Aerial view of Milford, New Hampshire.
Aerial view of Milford, New Hampshire.

Located along the banks of the Souhegan River, Milford blends rich history and natural beauty for a serene getaway. Stroll along the Milford Oval, the town's historic center, for antique stores, annual festivals, and local eateries. Enjoy a specialty pizza and a pint with the locals at the top-rated Pasta Loft Restaurant and Brewery. During October, the Oval hosts the annual Pumpkin Festival with an exciting pumpkin catapult into the nearby pond. The historic downtown also has several stops along the Milford Black Heritage Trail, which shares the role Milford played in the Underground Railroad and African American history.

Milford also boasts exciting outdoor adventures, such as ice skating at Shepard Park in the winter, cross-country skiing at Hitchiner Town Forest, and hiking in Tucker Brook Town Forest. For a unique lodging option, Quarry Vacation offers cottages in the natural oasis of the town's old granite quarry.


Covered Bridge in Jackson, New Hampshire.
Covered Bridge in Jackson, New Hampshire.

Surrounded by the White Mountains, Jackson provides a stunning four-season mountain escape. Visitors enjoy crossing the Ellis River on the iconic Honeymoon Bridge, built in 1876. After crossing the covered bridge, stop at Flossie's General Store & Gift Emporium on Main Street for items from local artisans. For scenic adventures, hike the Jackson Falls Trail to view the stunning 100-foot waterfall or hike the .9-mile trail to Winniweta Falls.

During the winter, Jackson is a haven for cold-weather enthusiasts. Nestlenook Farm transforms into a winter wonderland with riverfront sleigh rides, ice skating on the largest outdoor skatepark in the Mount Washington Valley, and snowshoeing on beginner to advanced terrain. Outdoor enthusiasts can also backcountry ski along the advanced Black Mountain Ski Trailhead and stay at the rustic Black Mountain Cabin. For a stay with modern comforts, the Wentworth offers serene elegance any time of the year.


A small cascade in Peterborough, New Hampshire.
A small cascade in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

The inspiration for the setting of the famous play Our Town, Peterborough, is known for its vibrant arts community and outdoor activities in the Monadnock Region. Visitors can learn more about the region and local history at the Monadnock Center for History & Culture. Nearby is the town's vibrant Depot Square, home to many festivals and art galleries, such as the New England Art Exchange. Experience a thrilling theatrical performance at Peterborough Players Theatre, located at historic Stearns Farm in a renovated 18th-century barn.

For outdoor adventures, a visit to Miller State Park on the summit of Pack Monadnock is a must. The park offers three main hiking trails, views of Mount Washington on clear days, and unforgettable sightings of raptors migrating at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory from September through November. After exploring the summit and charming town, book a room in downtown Peterborough at the beautiful Riverhouse. 


Aerial view of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
Aerial view of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.

Located on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro is a picturesque waterfront community. Known as "America's Oldest Summer Resort," the charming town is a haven for water enthusiasts to boat, fish, and swim. Visitors also enjoy soaking up the sun at Albee Beach and touring the lake on the Millie B and Miss Lauren, two replica 1928 Hacker-Craft boats. In the summer, travelers can explore the Wright Museum of WWII and the Clark Museum Complex, which features buildings from the 1700s and 1800s.

During the winter, the area transforms into an ice-fishing and snowmobiling paradise. Outdoor enthusiasts also enjoy snowshoeing and skiing on the 11-mile Cotton Valley Rail Trail. For more skiing adventures, hit the slopes at the Abenaki Ski Area, the oldest community-run ski area in the U.S. After exploring the scenic outdoors, book a room at the historic Wolfeboro Inn for lakeside accommodations. 


Landscape surrounding Pittsburg, New Hampshire.
Landscape surrounding Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

The northernmost town in the state, Pittsburg, is the only town in New Hampshire that borders Canada, as well as both Vermont and Maine. Pittsburg's unique location provides scenic views, tranquility, and unique outdoor adventures to visitors year-round. The town offers approximately 140 miles of ATV (all-terrain vehicle) trails, hiking trails along the Connecticut River, and views of moose along the Cohos Trail in the Great North Woods. 

In the summer, visitors can boat and fish at the four Connecticut Lakes, enjoy the beachfront at Back Lake, and hike at Lake Francis State Park. During the winter, the town is a snowmobiling paradise with over 170 inches of annual snowfall and nearly 200 miles of snowmobile trails. Outdoor enthusiasts also enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing along the trails. After exploring the rugged outdoors, enjoy delicious clam chowder and stay in a log cabin at the Buck Rub Pub and Lodge.


Beautiful fall colors in Franconia Notch State Park
Beautiful fall colors in Franconia Notch State Park.

Franconia is a small town with breathtaking views of the White Mountains and incredible outdoor adventures. Nature enthusiasts enjoy exploring Franconia Notch State Park, which offers swimming at Echo Lake, hiking on the 2-mile Flume Gorge Trail, and biking along the scenic Franconia Notch Parkway. Home to the New England Ski Museum, the park transforms into a skiing haven in the winter. Skiers can hit the 97 slopes at Cannon Mountain and ride on the state's only aerial tramway. While visiting the town, escape to the Franconia Inn, a charming hotel built in 1863 with majestic mountain views. The inn offers seasonal activities, such as mountain biking and horseback riding in warmer months and sleigh rides in the winter.

These top-rated small towns in New Hampshire blend natural beauty with historical charm and unique attractions. Whether looking to learn more about the state's maritime history, encounter New England hospitality, or hike along the Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire offers something for everyone. Each small town is the perfect place to relax and unwind, or experience an outdoor adventure.

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