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New Hampshire outdoor summertime activities

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Did You Know … ?

  • The Barnstormers in Tamworth is the world’s last theater to stage eight plays in eight weeks during summer.
  • Wolfeboro boasts of being the oldest summer resort in America (1770s).
  • North America’s first passenger aerial tramway began operation on Cannon Mountain in 1938.
  • Funspot, near Lake Winnipesaukee, is the world’s largest arcade, with 600 games.
  • The 449-foot, five-inch Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge is the world’s longest two-span covered bridge.

Sun, fun and ziplines

New Hampshire has mountains and lakes that seem designed to please vacationers in all personality categories. Outdoor fun also includes picnics, county fairs, wildlife viewing, traveling the scenic byways and photography.

The White Mountains are well known for their ski resorts, but the forested mountain terrain is just as good for active summertime travelers interested in biking, hiking — or hiking that morphs into mountain climbing. The state’s several ziplines offer views that are literally over the top.

As to the water, New Hampshire boasts that “there are more lakes and ponds than you could explore in a lifetime.” Among them, they offer canoeing and kayaking, diving, swimming, a range of boating choices and sightseeing cruises. There also is a tiny, but useful, bit of shoreline on the Atlantic with its own boating options.

Some outdoor pastimes, put simply, involve keeping one’s eyes open — as well as some planning. In New Hampshire, more than 1,000 miles are designated as scenic and cultural byways, meant to be covered as you wish, in your car or, for example, aboard a motorcycle. Rides on historic trains are another way to watch the scenery go by.

Other ways to chart a journey around New Hampshire involve themes, such as hunting down the prettiest of the covered bridges or making one’s way from brewery to brewery or following some part of designated trails dedicated to wine, cheese and chocolate, or some combination of the three.

Visitors may be spectators or participate in athletic competitions, historical reenactments and agricultural fairs; the fairs are held throughout the summer and into autumn.

Even on a vacation emphasizing outdoor fun, other attractions and activities fit well in the mix, especially summer stock theater. Then, there is that other indoor sport, shopping. New Hampshire, which has no sales tax, is home to clusters of outlet stores in Merrimack, North Conway and Tilton.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Ride a zipline or two or more over the trees. There are around a dozen vendors of zipline programs.
  • Roar through the backcountry on an ATV. The state points to several designated ATV trails.
  • Operate your own moose safari in effect, by choosing scenic driving in the Great North Woods where it can seem the moose outnumber motorists. They probably do.
  • Compete in the late summer Timberman Triathlon in Gilford.
  • For a serious adrenaline rush, shoot the rapids on the Androscoggin River between Berlin and Lake Umbagog. There are gentler options, too.
  • There are all sorts of hiking trails, short and long, easy and not so much. Consider the SRK Greenway, a 75-mile loop of hiking trails that circles the Lake Sunapee area and connects Sunapee, Ragged and Kearsarge mountains.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Choose a scenic byway and drive it — in a car or on your motorcycle. Also, ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway.
  • The state’s tourism office has developed its Wine, Cheese and Chocolate trails. Choose one to make a theme for your trip.
  • A beer lover? Make the rounds of a few very local breweries and microbreweries. Tour Anheuser-Busch’s Merrimack plant where, for an extra bonus, you will see a pair of Clydesdales. Spend a weekend at Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery and do a little brewing of your own.
  • Attend one of the state’s numerous agricultural fairs, generally available on any summer weekend.
  • Charter a boat or take a cruise on one of the many excursion boats on Lake Winnipesuakee.
  • In Portsmouth, step aboard the Navy’s first modern submarine, the USS Albacore.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Picnic near the top of Mount Kearsarge in Winslow State Park. You can drive to the site.
  • Attend summer stock theater. The state is known for it.
  • Pack the camera and make the rounds of as many covered bridges as interest you. The state boasts 54 historic bridges.
  • Ride the rails for scenic views of New Hampshire, and it doesn’t have to be leaf-peeping time for this. There are several historic trains to choose from. Or, choose dinner on the rails aboard the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train at North Woodstock.
  • Duck indoors to shop for bargains at outlet stores.
  • Visit the Daniel Webster Birthplace in Franklin and the Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough. Webster retains his fame as an orator, but Pierce was president.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development at