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McKenna Dionne explores a tidal pool at the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park. (Photo by Cheryl Senter).

McKenna Dionne explores a tidal pool at the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park. (Photo by Cheryl Senter).

46 ideas for a summer staycation

All brought to you by New Hampshire's nonprofit sector

We say it all the time: nonprofits do everything in New Hampshire.

And guess what? They’re also working to make your summer vacation awesome.

So now that we’re in summer prime-time, we thought we’d share a sampling of New Hampshire “stay-cation” adventure ideas, ALL of them provided by – you guessed it – nonprofit organizations. (Many also offer summer camps!) So next time you think “nonprofit,” think “summer fun” – and also think about how nonprofits fuel the state’s tourism economy.

We could not possibly list them all (but hey, we could do this again for foliage season!) But here are some ideas from New Hampshire Charitable Foundation staff based not on an exhaustive sampling or geographic cross-section – but on, well, stuff we have enjoyed doing.

So…get going! And happy summer trails…


Aw, COOOOL: summer science (and other) fun

At the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness you can walk the trails and observe native New Hampshire animals (which are here because, for one reason or another, they are not able to live in the wild) in their natural habitats. Mountain lions, bears, deer, owls…and definitely don’t miss the river otters!

The Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center in North Conway offers a wonderful array of weather-related exhibits. Wicked cool: step inside a replica of the weather station as it was in 1934 and experience what weather researchers felt when the world-record 231-mph wind gust was recorded.

Also great for kids and families: the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point in Rye, which has hands-on exhibits, programs and more; and the wonderful Montshire Museum of Science, just over the Connecticut River in Norwich, VT. (The outdoor “Water and How it Moves” exhibit is a fave on hot summer days.)  And check out the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord and the SEE Science Center in the Manchester millyard: hands-on science fun, summer camps and more.

At the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, kids can be dinosaur detectives, cave explorers, STEAM innovators, play “post office” (what kid doesn’t love to play post office?) and more.

And our Monadnock Region staff suggest the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough, which provides a compelling and beautiful exploration of world cultures for kids and adults. Plus dance, music and other programs.

Awesome old stuff

 For all history and architecture lovers: Don’t miss Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, Canterbury Shaker Village in Canterbury and the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord. Also, the American Independence Museum in Exeter and The Fort at #4 in Charlestown (Says one colleague: “We saw a musket firing, talked to a doctor about 18th century medicine, and watched a prisoner exchange re-enactment…” Nice.)

The New Hampshire Farm Museum in Milton is a working farm with animals and vegetables and National Register of Historic Places-listed homesteads. Visitors can just enjoy the farm, or one of many programs and camps on offer. (Check out the Farm Museum’s event calendar.) Also explore the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm in Tamworth.

And if you’re one of those people who spends the summer just pining for the snow, stop in for a dose of winter at The New England Ski Museum in Franconia.

Get in the woods and on the water

Hikes on Appalachian Mountain Club-maintained trails and to AMC huts are perennial favorites…even with small kids, the Lonesome Lake Hut is a great first-backpacking-adventure destination. And in the summer, when the huts are fully staffed with “hut croos,” the family-style supper sure beats dehydrated trail food – and the evening entertainment can be quite the spectacle…

Pack a lunch and make a day of it with the kayaks on Spoonwood Pond in Nelson. Spoonwood is managed by the Harris Center for Conservation Education, which also maintains trails and campsites. Spoonwood is reached via Nubanusit Lake. Undeveloped shores, loons and osprey and eagles…it doesn’t get much better than this for paddling in the Granite State…

The Crotched Mountain Foundation in Greenfield has a network of accessible trails where everyone – people with disabilities, seniors and families with children – are welcomed and able to experience nature up close, AND an accessible tree house on campus where every kid, regardless of ability, can be a kid.

If you’re on the Seacoast, amble the Sweet Trail in Durham. Pass through scenic marshes and forest until you emerge at a beautiful field on Great Bay. The four-mile trail passes through lands that are protected, owned and managed by the town of Durham, The Nature Conservancy, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and private landowners. And amble along the walking trails at the Jackson Estuarine Lab in Durham. Beautiful views of Great Bay from a network of easy trails around Adams Point.  Perfect for multi-generational walks…

Our Nashua-based staff really like the trails at the Beaver Brook Association in Hollis: a 35-mile network of multi-use trails open to the public. The association also provides a variety of outdoor education programs. Check out this nature-based treasure hunt map and directions.

Shop local

Plan on the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s annual Craftsmen’s Fair at Mount Sunapee in August. Tip: go without a list, but let inspiration strike and then stash away those perfect gifts for the holidays…while supporting local craftspeople and the state’s arts economy.

And if you can’t make it to the fair, stop in at one of the League’s galleries in eight locations around the state.

The WREN Local Works Marketplace in Bethlehem and the Hannah Grimes Marketplace in Keene are both devoted purveyors of the wares of local craftspeople and food producers. Shop with a purpose, and keep those stay-cation dollars flowing locally!

Tunes and tales and summer theater

Looking for summer theater and music festivals? Nonprofits have you covered again.

One staff pick fave for summertime music is the River House Concert Series of the Prescott Park Arts Festival. Grab a blanket and a patch of grass, pack a picnic and sit by the Piscataqua…All-star lineup this summer includes Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, Lucinda Williams, David Grisman and Judy Collins. Wow.

The Arts Jubilee concert series in North Conway is another summer fave of some of our North Country staff.
There is summer theater all over – from New London to Peterborough to Bethlehem. A colleague from Rochester grew up going to The Rochester Opera House without really appreciating its epic coolness. “Now that I’m older, I appreciate the history, architecture, and unique moving floor system,” she says. Comedy, music, dance, and theatre shows year-round – plus summer theatre camp.

If you’re in the Lakes Region, try the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith: a range of theatrical experiences from the light-hearted to the provocative.  One colleague who subscribes says: “The acting, staging, props, costumes, sound, lighting never cease to impress.”

Further north? Music, film theater and more are on offer at the Tillotson Center in Colebrook, the Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem, the St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts in Berlin, and the Weathervane Theater in Whitefield.

And more music: Classical music lovers suggest the White Mountains Music Festival, the New Hampshire Music Festival in Plymouth, and the offerings of the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson.

Art, architecture, gardens and wordsmiths

At The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens on the shores of Lake Sunapee in Newbury, visit the historic summer estate of John Hay, take a walk around the outdoor sculpture garden and tour the expansive flower gardens.

The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is a must: the home, studio and gardens of the great American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. A summer concert series is sponsored by the Trustees of the Saint-Gaudens Memorial.

The Andres Institute of Art sculpture park is an astonishment in Brookline. More than 75 sculptures by artists from around the world on 140 acres of wooded trails.

The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester has tons of programs for adults and kids all summer. If you’ve never done the tour of the Zimmerman House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (and the ONLY Wright house in New England that is open to the public), then what the heck are you waiting for?

The Tory Hill Authors Series in the beautiful Warner Town Hall is sponsored by the Warner Historical Society and celebrates writers and their work at events during July and August.

The famed MacDowell Colony in Peterborough is open to the public for a free event on Sunday, August 14, when Nobel AND Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison will be awarded the 2016 Edward MacDowell Medal. Take in the medal ceremony, have a picnic on the grounds and explore open studios.

The Frost Place in Franconia is a window into how the great poet lived and farmed and wrote while in these mountains. A perfect spot for contemplation, featuring a poetry trail and museum. Bring a copy of Frost’s “New Hampshire” along and read it here. He wrote about buying this place in that poem.

And the Robert Frost Farm in Derry is where the poet and his family lived from 1900-1911, and the setting of many of his most well-known poems. This is where the pasture of “The Pasture” was, and the brook of “Hyla Brook.” Take your time here, and read.

We could go on. And on. So pick your spots and get out there, New Hampshire. Have an awesome “stay-cation” AND support the nonprofits that do so much to make the Granite State such a great place to live.

This report was a team effort. Thanks to Peter Benson, Judy Burrows, Jenifer Cannon, Jean Clarke, Gina Gerhard, Linda Gray, Eileen Jasie, Jessica Kierstead, Laura Marron, Melinda Mosier, Richard Ober, Kristen Oliveri, Anne Phillips, Lynda Reinish, Deborah Schachter, Monique Scharlotte, Kirsten Scobie, Yulya Spantchak and Jennifer Squires of the Foundation staff for their contributions.