The 5 best budget-friendly vacation spots in New Hampshire, according to readers

A view of Portsmouth from the water.

Denis Tangney Jr. - Getty Images Signature

By Stacy Rounds

May 31, 2024

Looking for a budget-friendly vacation in New Hampshire that still offers amazing experiences? Our readers have spoken in our recent poll and voted on the top five best budget-friendly vacation spots in the Granite State. From stunning natural wonders to intriguing historical sites, New Hampshire has something for everyone without breaking the bank.

5. Strawberry Banke Museum

In the charming seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Strawberry Banke Museum is your ticket to a time travel experience without the pesky nonexistence of time travel. And the best part? It’s as friendly on your wallet as it is on your curiosity.

As you wander through this living history museum, you’ll be greeted by homes and gardens turned into time capsules, lovingly preserved and inviting you to step inside. Imagine chatting with a blacksmith as he clangs away at his anvil or watching a colonial-era cook whip up a batch of something that smells suspiciously delicious. It’s like crashing the ultimate historical block party (without the dysentery).

Strawberry Banke Museum isn’t just a place to gawk at antiques — it’s much more interactive than that. Here, costumed interpreters wear the clothes, talk the talk, walk the walk, and engage visitors in the kind of conversations that would have taken place centuries ago. Ever wondered how to churn butter, tend a colonial garden, or navigate the complexities of 17th-century etiquette? This is your chance to find out. And if you’re lucky, you might just pick up a few colonial slang terms to confuse your friends with later.

Beyond the hands-on history lessons, the museum’s gardens are a serene retreat, blooming with the kinds of plants and flowers that would have been familiar to the museum’s original inhabitants. Whether you’re a history buff, a family in search of an educational adventure, or simply someone who loves to immerse themselves in different eras, the museum offers a rich, engaging experience that feels like a steal for the admission price.

4. Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves

Dive into the heart of adventure at Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves. In New Hampshire’s scenic White Mountains, you’ll find yourself squeezing through boulder caves, tip-toeing across swinging bridges, and marveling at waterfalls. And the best part? You get to experience all of this without the guilt of an overpriced admission ticket.

Each cave has its own footprint for nature adventurers, and there’s something for spelunkers of all skill levels to explore. For the brave at heart, there’s the opportunity to navigate the boulder caves, where the light of day barely touches, and adventure takes on a whole new meaning.

The boardwalks that weave through the gorge offer soul-quenching views and a gentler pace for those who prefer a leisurely stride while challenging hikes stretch up and down the chasm. It’s a place where thrill-seekers and peace-seekers can find common ground, bound by their love for nature’s wonders.

For families looking for an outing that’s both educational and exhilarating, Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves delivers. Kids (and let’s be honest, adults too) can become explorers for a day, discovering the nooks and crannies of this geological wonderland. And with guided tours available, you won’t miss out on the fascinating history and geology that make this place a treasure trove of learning opportunities.

Affordable, engaging, and bursting with natural beauty, Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves stands as a testament that the best things in life don’t have to cost a fortune. So, lace up those hiking boots, grab a flashlight, and prepare to explore.

3. America’s Stonehenge

Who doesn’t love an enigma wrapped in a mystery? That is America’s Stonehenge, located in the quaint town of Salem, New Hampshire. This peculiar and fascinating archaeological site has puzzled scholars, locals, and tourists for years. With stone structures from ancient times and celestial alignments that baffle the modern mind, America’s Stonehenge is an intriguing budget-friendly spot for those with a penchant for history and mystery.

You don’t have to hop on a plane to the U.K.; New Hampshire has its own version of Stonehenge, and it’s just as captivating (with a fraction of the crowd and none of that pricey international travel). The site boasts impressive megaliths, stone chambers, and mysterious man-made caves.

With an admission price that’s music to the ears of budget-conscious travelers, you can indulge your inner detective or historian. Dive into the myriad of theories about the site’s origins, which range from the plausible to the delightfully outrageous. Whether you fancy yourself a bit of a Google detective, an aspiring archaeologist, or just someone who loves history, this place can be your playground.

Part of the charm of America’s Stonehenge is the interactive experience it offers. The site’s visitor center provides a wealth of information about the structures and the surrounding woods.

Don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds this site. The quiet woods are a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. This is a place where history and nature intertwine, offering a serene backdrop to your explorations.

A view of the mountains at Franconia Notch State Park.

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2. Franconia Notch State Park

Tucked away in the White Mountains, Franconia Notch State Park is the canvas where nature painted some seriously breathtaking scenes. It’s a budget-friendly vacation spot that proves you don’t need to spend a fortune to witness awe-inspiring beauty.

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to conquer the trails or a leisure lover in search of serene landscapes, Franconia Notch has got you covered. You can explore Flume Gorge, with its towering granite walls and cascading waterfalls. The wooden walkway that winds through the gorge offers an up-close look at this marvel, and it’s all yours for a very wallet-friendly admission fee.

Then there’s the iconic Old Man of the Mountain site. Okay, so the Old Man himself may have taken a tumble, but the legacy and the views from this spot are as solid as ever. It’s a reminder that nature knows how to put on a show that keeps us talking for generations.

With numerous trails that cater to all levels of hikers, Franconia Notch State Park can push you to your limits with a steep climb while rewarding you with panoramic views. And for those who prefer to pedal their way through the trails, the park offers biking paths that are invigorating and picturesque.

Don’t forget about Echo Lake Beach, where you can take a dip in crystal-clear waters or simply lounge by the shore, admiring the mountainous backdrop.

In short, Franconia Notch State Park is a must-see destination where you can chase waterfalls, explore caves, and marvel at the grandeur of the mountains, all without worrying about the cost. So, lace up those hiking boots, pack a picnic, and prepare for an adventure that’ll fill your camera roll and your heart, without emptying your bank account.

1. Castle in the Clouds

Imagine stepping into the pages of your favorite fairytale —– that’s exactly what a visit to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, New Hampshire feels like. Perched majestically atop the Ossipee Mountains, this enchanting historic mansion isn’t guarded by dragons or surrounded by an impassable moat. Instead, it welcomes visitors with open arms.

As you wander through the lush, manicured gardens, you might wonder if you’re in a dream. The panoramic views of Lake Winnipesaukee are so stunning, that you’ll be pinching yourself. And for those who love a good trek, the estate’s hiking trails offer adventures that even your favorite storybook heroes would envy.

But the magic of Castle in the Clouds isn’t just in its breathtaking scenery, it’s also in the accessibility of this fantastical experience. With admission prices that won’t have you emptying your treasure chest, exploring this fairytale castle and its surroundings is a quest that every prince, princess, and pauper can embark upon.

Sure, you can enjoy a fine dining experience here or trot along to the stables if you have the budget for it. However, guided tours for all ages, visual scavenger hunts, and youth art events offer just as much enrichment without the high price tag.

So, whether you’re looking to uncover the secret stories hidden in the castle’s walls, enjoy a picnic worthy of royal guests in the estate’s grounds, or simply bask in the splendor of nature while gazing out at the kingdom below, Castle in the Clouds offers a budget-friendly escape to a world where fairytales come to life.

 

Author

  • Stacy Rounds

    Stacy Rounds is a writer and growth producer for Granite Post. Prior to joining the team, Stacy has worked as a writer, editor, and engagement specialist covering topics ranging from local history, disability advocacy, recreation, and food hotspots to relationships and mental health.

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