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Things to Do in New Hampshire

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New Hampshire State House
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The grand New Hampshire State House is the ideal place to visit to learn about the state’s history, government, and state agencies. Built just after the close of the War of 1812, the Concord landmark is steeped in American history. Made of granite in a Greek Revival style, the capitol is topped with a stately gold dome. The State House is the oldest capitol building in the country in which both houses of legislature still meet in their original chambers.

With both permanent and rotating exhibits, there is much to see and do to immerse yourself in New Hampshire’s past and present. The main entrance through the Hall of Flags is impressive, as are the many portraits and statues of historic figures including Daniel Webster, John Stark, and President Pierce (who was from New Hampshire.) The capitol building furthermore houses the New Hampshire Governor’s Office, General Court, and Executive Council.

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Squam Lake

The peaceful area around Squam Lake is best known as the setting of the classic filmOn Golden Pond. Set against the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the lake provides a tranquil escape into the scenic nature that surrounds it. Whether on or beside the lake, you’re sure to spot native wildlife such as otters, a variety of fish, an many species of birds including loons and bald eagles.

The calm lake waters beckon for kayaking, boating, fishing, and swimming, with hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreational activities available on its shores. Encompassing both Big Squam and Little Squam lakes (both fed by spring water), it is the second largest lake in the state. Much of the land has been designated as a conversation area, to ensure the preservation of the natural beauty of the land, water, its creatures. With 28 islands and several small towns, there is much to see and explore in what is considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in New Hampshire.

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Lake Winnipesaukee

New Hampshire isn’t the type of place that’s usually associated with islands. Here at Lake Winnipesaukee, however, in the central part of New Hampshire, over 258 islands spring from New England’s third largest lake. This vacation community has been a popular getaway since the middle of the 1800s, as a place to escape the summer heat as well as ski in the winter months when the mountains are blanketed in white. It’s a place that pulses with outdoor adventure, whether it’s relaxing on the sands of Weirs Beach and strolling the 1300 ft. boardwalk, or tackling the forested hiking trails to the summit of distant Mount Major. As one of America’s oldest summer resorts, you can step back in time by boarding “The Mount,” or the classicMount Washington steamship, and riding the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad between the towns of Meredith and Lakeport. Snowshoeing, ice skating, and cross country skiing are all popular activities in winter, and the fall foliage surrounding the lake can compete with the best in the country.

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Manchester Historic Association Millyard Museum

The Manchester Historic Association Millyard Museum showcases nearly 11,000 years of history and the story of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, which grew to become one of the largest textile companies in the world. At its peak the manufacturer employed more than 17,000 people, many of which immigrated from other countries. The site of the enormous brick mill yard continues to impact the community of Manchester today.

The museum’s main exhibit “Woven in Time” walks visitors through the early days of Paleo-Indians to the Industrial Revolution and the “mile of mills” that made Manchester into the biggest planned city in New England. From the origin of patterns and raw materials to the technology and culture that enabled the company to grow so rapidly, there’s much to learn about here.

Hundreds of historic artifacts, original documents, and photographs are on display, as are engaging art and multimedia works. The excellent special exhibits go more in depth into a topic or period of history. Collectively all forms powerfully convey the story behind the area and the industry.

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Mt. Washington Cog Railway (The Cog)

An engineering marvel when it was built in the late 1860s, New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Cog Railway (The Cog) was the first mountain-ascending train in the world. Today the same mechanization that ferried early tourists offers a unique alternative to driving or hiking to the wind-whipped summit of the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The half-day journey is a great way to get a taste of both New England’s rich history and beautiful natural scenery.

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Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center

Uniquely situated atop the highest peak in the Northeast, the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center measures atmospheric conditions in some of the harshest environments on the globe. Exhibits at the museum and Weather Discovery Center (down below) allow for hands-on learning about the science of weather and climate. The twice-daily live video feed from the observatory puts visitors in direct contact with the scientists themselves at the summit.

The Mount Washington weather station was the first of its kind in the world, setting a standard that would later be emulated by others. Weather records from the summit have been recorded back to the end of the 19th century. Daily temperature and humidity readings provide valuable insight into atmospheric science, as the weather conditions at the mountaintop are so extreme it has been called “the worst weather in the world.” An air cannon, wind room, and flow tank allow for visitors to experience and learn more about some of the weather phenomenons taking place at the observatory.

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Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway

Take in aerial views spanning four states as you ride the glass-lined Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway to the top of New Hampshire's tallest mountain. The country’s first aerial tramway, the tram was created to give skiers mountaintop access. Today, you can ride the tram year-round, whether you're a hiker, skier, or sightseer.

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Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

Both a zoo and a wilderness educational center, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is an open air exhibit featuring the wildlife of New Hampshire. Focused largely on teaching ecological concepts, the center operates in an expansive meadow, allowing for the nature of the area to serve as the classroom. Three hiking trails, a wide walking path suitable for families, and an outdoors playground for younger children make it fun and easy to explore. The outdoor exhibits allow for maximum interaction with the local wildlife.

The science center grants the opportunity to observe the animals up close and learn more about their habitats and natural adaptations. As many of the animals have been injured, most are unsuitable for life in the wild. Everything from deer and foxes to black bears, river otters, mountain lions, and bobcats can be seen. Looking out on Squam Lake (or taking the boat cruise there) is a way to experience even more sightings of native birds.

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Zorvino Vineyards

With inventive fruit and vegetable wines and more than 200 grapevines planted, New Hampshire's family-owned Zorvino Vineyards has a wine to suit every taste. The countryside vineyard specializes in reds, whites, blends, and dessert wines made from specialty fruits, such as pears, plums, blueberries, cherries, and mangoes. Some wines are finished with maple syrup, and most vary by season, including vegetable wines like pumpkin, beet, and rhubarb.

Adorned with woodwork and a beautiful barn, the rustic winery and its surrounding 80 acres of New England forest create an idyllic background for bocce ball games in the garden and wine tasting outdoors. Go behind-the-scenes of your favorite Zorvino wine on a tour of the facilities, with samples—or make a whole day out of New Hampshire's most indulgent foods with a chocolate, wine, and lobster day tour of the area.

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