Check out these 7 free things to do in New Hampshire

UNH Observatory

Photo courtesy of UNH Observatory

By Granite Post Staff

April 30, 2024

There are plenty of free places in New Hampshire waiting to be discovered. From national parks to museums to historic sites, there is no shortage of budget-friendly activities to enjoy. Here are 7 free things to do in New Hampshire that are sure to make your trip memorable without breaking the bank.

Explore the Beauty of White Mountain National Forest

The White Mountain National Forest’s sprawling landscape stretches over 800,000 acres. This enchanting forest invites adventurers and nature lovers alike to dive deep into its myriad of natural wonders. The forest offers free access to some of the most stunning vistas, challenging hikes, and serene spots.

As you plan your visit, the Kancamagus Highway, often referred to as “The Kanc,” should be at the top of your list. This scenic byway takes you through the heart of the forest, offering panoramic views of the White Mountains that are especially breathtaking during the fall foliage season. It’s a photographer’s paradise and a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature without even leaving your car. However, if you’re eager to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh mountain air, numerous trails along the highway offer a closer look at the forest’s diverse ecosystem.

Within the expanse of the White Mountain National Forest, hikers of all skill levels will find trails that match their abilities and interests. From the family-friendly paths that meander through lush woodlands to the more rigorous hikes leading to cascading waterfalls and craggy peaks, there’s a trail for every type of explorer. The forest is also home to a variety of wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for deer, moose, and many bird species that call this place home.

Camping enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that the forest boasts several campgrounds where you can set up a tent or park an RV. While some sites may charge a fee, the opportunity to sleep under the stars amidst the tranquility of the forest is priceless. Just be sure to follow all guidelines and respect the natural surroundings to ensure it remains a welcoming place for all visitors and wildlife.

In every season, the White Mountain National Forest reveals a different facet of its beauty. Whether it’s the lush greenery of summer, the explosion of colors in fall, the serene snow-covered landscapes in winter, or the blooming flora of spring, this natural playground is a year-round destination for free, outdoor fun.

Stroll Along Hampton Beach’s Oceanfront

Hampton Beach invites visitors to revel in New Hampshire’s scenic beauty without spending a dime. Known for its expansive, sandy shores, this beach is an idyllic spot for anyone looking to unwind beside the Atlantic Ocean.

The beach’s boardwalk is a bustling artery of activity where you can immerse yourself in the local vibe. A leisurely stroll here offers an experience punctuated with the sounds of waves crashing, seagulls calling, and the laughter of fellow beachgoers. The boardwalk is lined with shops where you can browse for souvenirs, snack bars offering tempting treats, and arcades that promise fun for the young and young at heart.

For those who find solace in the rhythm of the waves, Hampton Beach offers plenty of opportunities for swimming and beachcombing. The clear waters invite swimmers to take a refreshing dip, while the shoreline beckons treasure hunters to discover shells and sea glass hidden amongst the sands. Whether you’re building sandcastles with the kids, catching up on your summer reading, or simply soaking up the sun, the beach provides a perfect backdrop for making lasting memories.

As the day winds down, don’t miss the chance to witness one of Hampton Beach’s spectacular sunsets. The sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors, reflecting off the water in a display of nature’s artistry. It’s a moment that encapsulates the simple, unadulterated beauty of the beach and a reminder of the joy that can be found in nature’s free offerings.

Dive Into History at the New Hampshire State House

For those with a penchant for history and a curiosity about governmental roots, a visit to the New Hampshire State House in Concord offers a fascinating journey into the past. This historic building stands as the oldest state Capitol in the United States where the Legislature still occupies its original chambers.

Walking into the New Hampshire State House is like taking a step back in time. The architecture itself tells a story, with its beautiful, stately facade and the iconic Golden Dome that gleams under the sun.

Free guided tours are available, offering a deeper dive into the building’s history and significance. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who bring the stories of past legislators and governors to life. They’ll point out the Hall of Flags, where battle-worn banners date back to the Civil War.

Another highlight of the tour is the chance to visit the legislative chambers. Here, visitors can observe the preserved decor and settings where current lawmakers debate and decide on the future of New Hampshire. It’s a rare opportunity to connect with the present-day workings of government while standing within walls steeped in historical importance.

The New Hampshire State House is a must-visit for history buffs, families, and anyone looking to enrich their understanding of America’s past and present for free!

Experience Art at the Currier Museum of Art

The Currier Museum of Art, a cultural beacon in the heart of the city, extends an open invitation to all on the second Saturday of every month, where you can immerse yourself in the world of art absolutely free of charge, if you’re a New Hampshire resident.

The moment you step into the museum, you’re greeted by an air of creativity and the quiet hum of inspiration that fills its galleries. Within its walls, the museum houses an eclectic mix of American and European art that spans several centuries. From the Impressionistic splendor of Monet’s serene landscapes to the vibrant, swirling skies of Van Gogh, each exhibit transports you to a different time and place, offering a visual feast that’s as varied as it is enchanting.

The Currier Museum of Art also celebrates the innovative spirit of modern art, showcasing works by O’Keeffe, Picasso, and many others whose pieces have shaped the course of art history. As you wander from one gallery to the next, you’ll encounter a thoughtfully curated selection that reflects the broad spectrum of human experience and emotion, captured through the artist’s eye.

Beyond the paintings and sculptures, the Currier Museum of Art also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions, workshops, and events that cater to art enthusiasts of all ages. Whether you’re an aspiring artist eager to learn new skills, a family looking for a creative outing, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of art, the museum provides a welcoming space to explore, learn, and be inspired.

On your next free Saturday, consider spending it amidst the stunning collections of the Currier Museum of Art.

Hike the Trails of Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch State Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty and outdoor adventures that won’t cost you a dime to enjoy. This sprawling park is a haven for hikers, nature lovers, and anyone looking to immerse themselves in the great outdoors. With its wealth of trails, breathtaking landscapes, and iconic natural attractions, it’s a must-visit for anyone craving a dose of nature’s best, all for free.

As you step into the park, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the rugged beauty that defines the White Mountains. The park offers a variety of trails that cater to all levels of hikers, from leisurely walks that allow you to soak in the scenic beauty at a relaxed pace, to more challenging hikes that reward you with exhilarating views and a sense of achievement. Each trail has its own unique allure, whether it’s the rushing waters of the Flume Gorge, the impressive rock formations of the Old Man of the Mountain site, or the panoramic vistas from Cannon Mountain.

One of the park’s standout features is the Flume Gorge, a natural chasm that cuts through the granite of Mount Liberty. Walking through the gorge, you’re treated to the sight and sound of the Pemigewasset River rushing below, with walls that rise up to 90 feet above you. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience that encapsulates the raw beauty of Franconia Notch.

For those looking to reach new heights, the hike up to Lonesome Lake offers stunning views and a serene alpine setting. The trail is well-marked and manageable for most, making it a popular choice for families and less experienced hikers seeking a rewarding journey. At the top, the tranquil waters of Lonesome Lake and the surrounding mountain peaks create a picturesque backdrop for a picnic or a moment of quiet reflection.

Another highlight is the Basin, a large pothole carved by the swirling waters of the Pemigewasset River over thousands of years. The smooth, circular basin and the cascading waterfall that feeds into it provide a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature.

Franconia Notch State Park offers an array of experiences that celebrate the natural world, inviting visitors to discover its splendor without spending a penny.

Discover the Living History at Strawbery Banke Museum

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of American history with a visit to the Strawbery Banke Museum, a living history museum located in the heart of Portsmouth. This remarkable museum offers a unique window into life as it was from the late 17th to the mid-20th centuries in one of the country’s oldest neighborhoods.

The Strawbery Banke Museum encompasses more than 10 acres and features over 30 restored buildings, each telling its own story of the people who lived and worked in the Puddle Dock neighborhood over the centuries. From the humble abodes of early settlers to the grand homes of successful merchants, the museum beautifully captures the evolution of American life, community, and culture.

One of the most engaging aspects of Strawbery Banke is its commitment to “living history.” Here, history comes alive not just through the preserved buildings and artifacts but through the vivid reenactments by costumed interpreters. These passionate storytellers engage visitors with demonstrations of traditional crafts, cooking, and gardening, offering a hands-on connection to the past. You might find yourself chatting with a colonial shipbuilder, watching a blacksmith forge iron, or even sampling heirloom vegetables in a period-appropriate garden.

Each season at Strawbery Banke brings new themes and events that highlight different aspects of the area’s history. Spring welcomes the bloom of historic gardens, each designed to reflect the horticulture of specific time periods. Summer sees the museum bustling with traditional crafts and trades demonstrations, while autumn brings with it the vibrant hues and harvest-themed activities. Winter is no less magical, with the museum grounds turning into a festive wonderland adorned with period decorations and twinkling lights.

Exploring the Strawbery Banke Museum offers a profound understanding of New England’s heritage, presenting an immersive journey through time that enlightens and entertains.

Marvel at the Stars at UNH Observatory

The UNH Observatory in Durham is a not-to-be-missed destination for anyone with a fascination for the cosmos. Free public stargazing events here offer a unique opportunity to connect with the universe in a way that’s both awe-inspiring and accessible. Imagine looking up into the night sky and seeing the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn, or the swirling clouds of Jupiter in stunning detail, all through the lens of the observatory’s powerful telescopes.

These events are hosted by the University of New Hampshire’s knowledgeable astronomy staff and volunteers, who are passionate about sharing the wonders of space with the public. They’re on hand to guide you through the celestial sights, offering insights and explanations that bring the mysteries of the universe down to earth. Whether you’re an astronomy aficionado or a novice stargazer, the friendly atmosphere and expert guidance make for a rewarding experience.

The observatory’s public stargazing nights are perfect for families, date nights, or anyone looking to try something new and exciting without spending a penny. It’s a chance to step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and lose yourself in the vast beauty of the cosmos. Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about astronomy in an engaging, hands-on environment.

Before you visit, be sure to check the observatory’s schedule, as events are weather-dependent and may vary throughout the year. Dress warmly, as nights can be cool, especially outside city lights where the dark sky offers the best view of the stars.

The UNH Observatory isn’t just a place to visit; it’s an experience that expands your horizons and connects you to the grandeur of the universe. So why not take advantage of this unique, free opportunity to marvel at the stars? It promises to be an enlightening evening that might just leave you starstruck.

Read more: Here are some top events in NH to put on your calendar this spring

This story was generated in part by AI and edited by The Granite Post News staff.





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