How To Spend 10 Days In New Hampshire

I was born and educated in New Hampshire. So this doughty and fiercely independent New England state has ever held a special place in my heart.

But why should you visit New Hampshire? It’s a fantastic place to live free, get off the beaten path, and escape the big city crowds of Boston. To help you along, I’ve written my recommended 10 day itinerary.

With New Hampshire’s varied geography, the state’s a mecca for outdoor fun — skiing, hiking, climbing, fishing, leaf peeping. New Hampshire has mountain peaks, clear air, and sparkling lakes.

 fall foliage in White Mountain National Forest in NH
fall foliage in White Mountain National Forest

The purple lilac state is roughly divided into five regions: the Seacoast, the Lakes Region, the White Mountains, Lake Sunapee Region, and the and the Monadnocks and Merrimack Valley.

All of these regions come with quaint New England towns with ivy draped buildings, cobblestone lanes, and century old inns with the proverbial porch swing.

There are so many fun things to do and see in New Hampshire. In summer, visitors hit the Atlantic coast or Lakes Region.

Portsmouth New Hampshire, one of my favorite town in New England
Portsmouth New Hampshire, one of my favorite towns in New England

In the fall, the leaf peepers arrive to drive the Kancamagus Highway, tromp through national and state parks, and admire the fiery foliage display. In the winter, skiers take to the White Mountains.

Snapshot Of 10 Days In New Hampshire Itinerary

Here’s a quick glance at what you can see with the ten day New Hanpshire itinerary:

  • Day 1: Manchester
  • Day 2: Portsmouth
  • Day 3: New Hampshire Coastline
  • Day 4: Concord
  • Day 5: Lake Winnipesaukee
  • Day 6: Keene
  • Day 7: Hanover
  • Day 8: White Mountains
  • Day 9: White Mountains
  • Day 10: North Conway or back to Boston
Fall colors in Sunapee NH
Fall colors in Sunapee

10 Days In New Hampshire Itinerary

For a New Hampshire road trip, you’ll want to fly into Boston’s Logan International Airport, a major hub.

You first road trip stop, Manchester, is less than an hour’s drive from Boston. If you’re already in New England, just hop in your car and drive to Manchester.

Here’s the itinerary that I recommend for the perfect 10 day road trip through the beautiful state of New Hampshire. It takes you to all of New Hampshire’s quaint must see towns, beaches, mountains, lakes, and best leaf peeping spots.

This 10 day new Hampshire road trip itinerary is easily adjustable. You can make it shorter, longer, or pick and choose destinations to plan a perfect weekend getaway in New Hampshire.

Some of these New Hampshire destinations also make great day trips from Boston.

skyline of Manchester NH on the Merrimack River
skyline of Manchester NH on the Merrimack River

Day 1: Manchester

You might think New Hampshire is all mountains and lakes. But it also boasts a rich cultural history. Manchester in particular has some fine art offerings. It’s home to the state’s only fine art college, the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

Manchester is home to an internationally acclaimed museum, the Currier Museum of Art. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by Picasso, Monet, Rothko, Wyeth, and O’Keefe. It hosts touring exhibitions.

The museum also manages Zimmerman House, designed by architected Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s the only Wright house open to the public in New England.

City Hall in downtown Manchester
City Hall in downtown Manchester

Manchester also has a premiere contemporary arts gallery, the Gallery of the New Hampshire Art Institute.

It’s multi-functional, serving as an art center, lecture hall, and performance theater. On display you’ll find a diverse mix of traditional and modern art forms, from photography to installation art.

How far to your next destination: 48 minutes

beautiful Portsmouth NH
beautiful Portsmouth NH

Day 2: Portsmouth

Start day 2 of your 10 days in New Hampshire by visiting the historic city of Portsmouth.

Portsmouth is truly one of the most beautiful towns in New England. So quaint is Portsmouth that the city’s made an appearance on Forbes’ list of America’s Prettiest Towns.

Settled in 1623, Portsmouth is one of New England’s oldest settlements. The town is dotted with grand Georgian and Federal style mansions from the 18th to early 20th centuries.

Situated along the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth is surrounded by water on all sides. You can walk along a footpath by the harbor and admire the tugboats.

Hipster Portsmouth is known for its upscale farm to table eateries, art galleries, and craft breweries.

Portsmouth’s downtown is adorable with brick sidewalks and clapboard buildings. Activity centered on Market Square.

gardens in Prescott Park
gardens in Prescott Park

You’ll find classic white steepled churches, rustic brick shops, and sidewalk cafes. Portsmouth Book & Bar combines books, coffee, and live events.

History lovers should check out the Strawbery Banke Museum, named after new Hampshire’s wild strawberries.

It’s a 10 acre outdoor museum featuring period gardens, preserved historic buildings, and exhibits telling the story of how the Portsmouth settlement was founded.

There are 39 historic buildings dating from 1695 to 1820, with Goodwin Mansion being the most impressive.

Prescott Park is a waterfront park near Strawbery Banke. It’s a 10 acre green area that’s a great place to picnic. Enjoy the gardens and the Prescott Park Arts Festival, featuring concerts and foodie events.

tugboats on the river in Portsmouth
tugboats on the river in Portsmouth

If you want to take in a concert, head to Portsmouth’s Music Hall on Chestnut Street. If theater is more your jam, you can find musicals and dramas at the Seacoast Repertory Theater.

In 2017, Travel & Leisure called Portsmouth the “Christmas Capital of North America.” It’s a wonderful New England Christmas destination.

“Vintage Christmas” is a month long celebration kicking off December 1. A trolley does a loop of the downtown and a candlelight stroll is held on weekends.

You may want to book a guided foodie and bike tour in Portsmouth. For more information, you can check out my one day in Portsmouth itinerary.

  • Where to stay in Portsmouth: Ale House Inn, Hotel Portsmouth, Wentworth by the Sea, Martin Hill Inn
  • Where to eat in Portsmouth: Cure, Black Trumpet Bistro, Momba, Cava, Row 34, Black Trumpet Bistro, Old Ferry Landing

How far to your next destination: 12 minutes

Rocky coast and beachfront homes at Concord Point, in Rye
rocky coastline and beachfront homes at Concord Point, in Rye

Day 3: The New Hampshire Coastline

On day 3, it’s time to relax. Head to the New Hampshire pristine coastline. Though it’s only 18 miles long, it packs a punch.

Most people head to the honky tonk Hampton Beach. But I think the best beach on the New Hampshire seacoast is in the picturesque town of Rye.

In Rye, you can take a scenic drive down Route 1A past Millionaire’s Row and see breathing early 20th century mansions.

First settled in 1623 on Odiorne Point, Rye is the birthplace of New Hampshire. Because Rye is largely undeveloped and subject to strict zoning laws.

It’s a stark contrast to the more frenzied Hampton Beach. In Rye, the tide is small and rolling. It’s a perfect place for a beginner surfer.

sunset over a row of brightly coloured beach huts at Milford on Sea in NH
sunset over a row of brightly coloured beach huts at Milford on Sea

In Odiorne State Park, you’ll find 335 acres of undeveloped protected seaside. There are plenty of nature trails, picnic, tables, and gorgeous views of the rocky Atlantic shoreline. The Odiorne Point Loop Trail is 3 miles.

If you need more action, Hampton Beach is just 8 miles south of Rye. It’s a sort of seaside amusement center with a 3 mile long boardwalk. Grab some fried dough and have your palm read.

  • Where to stay in Rye: The Inn at Rye Place, Wentworth by the Sea
  • Where to eat in Rye: The Carriage House, Atlantic Grill, Rye Harbor Lobster Pound, The Beach Plum

How far to the next destination: 1 hour

the gold domed State House in Concord New Hampshire with a statue of Daniel Webster
the gold domed State House in Concord

Day 4: Concord

Just 47 miles west of Portsmouth, Concord is the capital of new Hampshire. Founded in 1734, it’s a town that embodies the American spirit. There are a fair number of things to do in the sleepy New England small city.

Visit the New Hampshire State House, built in 1819. It sports a gleaming eagle topped gold dome, reminiscent of the one in Boston’s state house.

The New Hampshire legislature still uses the original chambers. Just steps from the capitol is the New Hampshire Historical Society. It boasts a sculpture by the famous Daniel Chester French.

Staying with the political theme, you can also visit Pierce Manse, the former home of President Franklin Pierce. Via a guided tour, you can see period artifacts. Franklin’s grave is also in town.

A half day in Concord may be enough for you. If so, head out and overnight around Lake Winnipesaukee, your next destination, making Wolfboro (my pick), Meredith, Alton, or Laconia your base for the region.

How far to your next destination: 1 hour

Lake Winnipesaukee, a must visit with 1- days in New Hampshire
Lake Winnipesaukee

Day 4-5: Lake Winnipesaukee in the Lakes Region

From Concord, in less than an hour you’ll arrive at the iconic Lake Winnipesaukee.

It’s one of the most beautiful lakes in New England and possibly all of the United States. In my youth, I happily split summertime between Concord and Lockes Island on the lake.

Crystal clear Lake Winnipesaukee is a 72 square mile expanse of water. It has 240 miles of shoreline, more than 300 islands, and is saturated with outdoor options. You can go boating, kayaking, water skiing, tubing, biking, swimming, and hiking.

Situated on the southeastern shore of the lake, Wolfeboro is a great place to stay. It’s the quintessential New England town, dubbed the “oldest summer resort in America.”

Castle in the Clouds  overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee
Castle in the Clouds overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee

Wolfeboro is a laid back quietly upscale getaway, where the main street and waterfront come alive in summer. Everyone seems to be eating ice cream.

Be sure to visit the historic Lucknow Estate in Moultonborough. It’s called the “Castle in the Clouds.” In 1913-14, Thomas Plant built the 16 room mansion, after amassing a fortune by selling the United Shoe Machinery Company.

It’s a beautiful estate, complete with a gatehouse, greenhouse, and stable. But the best thing is the beautiful view of Lake Winnepausaukee.

If you don’t have your own boat, a classic thing to do is take a Mount Washington cruise. In 2.5 hours, you’ll go from Weirs Beach (eastern shore) to Alton Bay (southern shore) and back.

The cruise stops at Wolfboro, Center Harbor, Meredith, and Alton Bay. There are brunch, sunset, and Sunday champagne cruise options.

Gardens and bench along the Winnipesaukee River, in Laconia NH
Gardens and bench along the Winnipesaukee River in Laconia

Weirs Beach in Laconia is a classic Lake Winnipesaukee destination that screams summer. The boardwalk includes arcades, souvenir shops, and (sometime) fireworks. There’s even a drive in movie theater at Weirs.

If you want to step back in time in Laconia, head to Canterbury Shaker Village. Established in 1792, the village embraced liberal and communal values, not ending until 1992.

On a guided tour, you can explore more than 25 restored buildings and see craft demonstrations.

How far to the next destination: 1:52, heading to the other side of the state

main building of Stonewall Farm in Keene NH
main building of Stonewall Farm in Keene NH

Day 6: Keene

A Monadnock Region gem and college town, lively Keene combines culture and the great outdoors.

Keene offers stunning brick streets, charming maple farms, and quaint specialty shops. Keene even has a white clapboard church with a soaring steeple, the United Church of Christ.

Keene has one of the loveliest and widest main streets in New Hampshire. The historic downtown area, Central Square, is an eclectic mix of old time shops, bookstores, and funky craft stores.

Keene is also home to covered bridges and museums. The Horatio Colony House Museum and Nature Preserve is housed in an 1806 Federal style building.

Keene NH

The museum houses historical artifacts for the history buff. The nature preserve offers miles of hiking trails for the nature lover.

Another fun thing to do in Keene is to visit the Stonewall Farm. The farm is open year round from sunrise to sunset. You can hike, check out the farm store, or go on a dairy farm tour.

  • Where to stay in Keene: Chesterfield Inn, The Inn at East Hill Farm, Courtyard Keene Downtown
  • Where to eat in Keene: Luca’s Mediterranean Cafe, Odelay Taqueria, Fireworks, The Stage

How far to the next destination: little over an hour

Baker Library at Darmouth College in Hanover
Baker Library on the Dartmouth Green in in Hanover

Day 7: Hanover

My son and I both attended Dartmouth College, founded in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock. So naturally, I’m partial to Hanover (and all things New England, truth be told). For a tiny rural town, Hanover packs a surprising artsy punch.

Hanover is synonymous with Dartmouth, but it’s also a cultural outpost. The best place to get your art fix is the wonderful Hood Museum of Art.

It’s one of the oldest teaching museums in the country, housed in austere red brick buildings. It has a large collection of artifacts and art dating back to Assyrian culture in 900 BC.

But it’s not all ancient. The museum has a surprisingly good collection of contemporary art, with works by Rothko and Ed Ruscha.

And notably the museum owns Picasso’s Guitar on a Table. It also showcases contemporary African and Native American art.

the Dartmouth Green in front of Baker Library at graduation
the Dartmouth Green at my son’s graduation
3 generations celebrating my son's engagement at Dartmouth in Hanover NH
3 generations in Hanover for a family celebration

Dartmouth’s Baker Library was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It houses 17th century editions of Shakespeare’s works.

It also sports a haunting 3,000 foot mural by Jose Clemente Orozco in the reserve room, where I frequently studied, called The Epic of American Civilization.

Hanover is also home to the Hopkins Center for Performing Arts (the “HOP”). The building resembles NYC’s Metropolitan Opera House. There, you’ll find a wide variety of performing arts — plays, shows, concerts, special events, movies, etc.

When you’ve soaked up enough culture, go for a drive around Lake Sunapee. Several trails climb Mt. Monadnock. Or take a swim in the Connecticut River.

For more information, you can check out my one day in Hanover itinerary.

How far to the next destination: 1:40

fall foliage along the historic Kancamagus Highway in NH

Day 8-9: White Mountains Region

On day 8 of your New Hampshire itinerary, you arrive in the New Hampshire’s premiere attraction, the White Mountains.

The White Mountains are incredibly beautiful, with plenty of natural wonders. In the fall, they really put on a show.

They’ve long attracted vacationers, photographers, and adventurous hikers and skiiers. Mount Washington is the Northeast USA’s peak of superlatives. Here are the things you can’t miss in the White Mountains:

1. Kancamagus Highway

Route 112, the sinuous Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, is the granddaddy of New England drives.

White Mountain National Forest fall foliage on Kancamagus Highway near Hancock Notch
White Mountain National Forest fall foliage on Kancamagus Highway

Be prepared to pump the brakes frequently. You’ll be dazzled by the incredibly unspoiled scenic views on this 35 mile stretch of highway, nicknamed “The Kanc.”

There a few pullouts for trailheads, providing great photo and hiking opportunities. Continue east until you hit the Rocky Gorge Parking Lot. Here, you can take a walk along the Swift River and get views of the beautiful Falls Pond.

From Rocky Gorge, backtrack a short distance to drive up Bear Notch Road. Bear Notch features a scenic drive along a mountainside and more roadside pullouts for gorgeous photo opportunities.

beautiful fall foliage at the Silver Cascade in Crawford Notch State Park
Silver Cascade in Crawford Notch State Park

2. Crawford Notch State Park

At the end of Bear Notch Road, drive north to Crawford Notch State Park.

Here, you can explore the backroads and revel in the beautiful fall colors. If you’d like to do some hiking, there are 35 hiking trails of varying difficulty.

The best hike in this area is the Mount Willard Trail. It’s a relatively steep, but short, 3.2 mile out and back hike to a clifftop vista overlooking Crawford Notch. The views are surreal.

3. Mt. Washington

Next, continue driving north where you can detour to the Mt Washington Cog Railway. Here, you can ride a historic train to the summit of Mt. Washington. The mountain is the tallest one in the northeastern United States at 6,289 feet.

the "Cog," which takes you to the top of Mt. Washington
the “Cog,” which takes you to the top of Mt. Washington

4. Franconia Notch Park

On day 9, head to the spectacular Franconia Notch State Park, a lovely spot nestled in the White Mountains.

Start your day with a sunrise hike up to Artist’s Bluff. This is a short 1.4 mile long loop trail up to a hilltop overlooking Echo Lake. The fall foliage here is simply breathtaking.

Continue on to Flume Gorge. This is one of the best stops on a New England road trip. The natural chasm stretches 800 feet along the base of Mt. Liberty.

Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge

A long wooden boardwalk and series of stairs provide a relatively easy 2 mile loop hike. Waterfalls, streams, and covered bridges keep the eyes riveted the entire way.

You can also be whisked away on the 80 person Canon Mountain Aerial Tramway. It takes you to the top of majestic Cannon Mountain for an “oh wow” view.

Cannon Cliff is the northeast’s largest vertical rock face. Trails meander on the mountain.

You can also hike the Falling Waters Trail to beautiful waterfalls. Or bike or hike the 8.7 mile Franconia Notch Recreation Path.

Lake Echo in Franconia Notch State Park
Lake Echo in Franconia Notch State Park

The paved trail offer spectacular views of the White Mountains and access to Echo Lake. More adventurous travelers should pull in at Loon Mountain and zipline 700 feet across the Pemigewasset River.

How far to your next destination: 1 hour

historic, timber-built railroad station in North Conway NH
historic timber-built railroad station in North Conway

Day 10: North Conway

On day 10, you can head back to Boston. If you’d like to spend a few days there at the end of your New Hampshire road trip, check out my 3 days in Boston itinerary.

Or, with more time, head east to the beautiful North Conway area. From outlet shopping to skiing, you can keep busy there. There are over 120 outlets in North Conway, including L.L. Bean, J. Crew, and Nike.

Hike up to Cathedral Ledge, which overlooks the small town of North Conway. You’ll have breathtaking views of the mountains. Diana’s Baths is a series of cascading waterfalls, just minutes from Cathedral Ledge.

You can also hop on the vintage Conway Scenic Railroad for an old fashioned train ride through New Hampshire. Click here for the various train ride options. You can even go on a moose safari in North Conway.

  • Where to stay in North Conway: The Buttonwood Inn, Residence Inn by Marriott, Darby Field Inn, North Conway Grand Hotel
  • Where to eat in North Conway: Table + Tonic Farm Bistro, Ledge’s Restaurant, Chef’s Bistro, Vito Marcello’s Italian Bistro, Delaney’s Hole in the Wall

How far back to Boston: 2:40

beautiful fall foliage in New Hampshire
beautiful fall foliage in New Hampshire

I hope you’ve enjoyed my 10 days in New Hampshire itinerary. If you’d like to take some other amazing US road trips on the East Coast, here are some of my other travel guides and resources:

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7 thoughts on “How To Spend 10 Days In New Hampshire”

  1. I am a New Hampshire native who retired to Arizona 2 years ago. I was cruising the internet to plan a short visit to Sedona, AZ from a relative who lives in Australia. Your website was one of hundreds (some good, some bad) with Things to Do in Sedona. I clicked on your site and was really impressed with the Sedona activities. Then I saw you had articles on things to do in New Hampshire (I’m from southern NH and my is from northern NH), Portland Maine (where I lived for several years), Hanover NH (where my sister-in-law went to college), etc. Knowing these areas well, I figured I’d check out your articles to see if your site was just a collection of information gathered from the internet (like so many sites), or was a genuine first-hand account of these places. Wow, was I impressed! Your 1-day tour of Portland was spot-on, the 10-day tour of NH was perfect, etc. – basically, your recommendations are clearly from someone who’s intimately familiar with the places covered. Great job and I look forward to spending more time on your website!

  2. I love this! We are planning a week in Vermont and New Hampshire to look at colleges (and enjoy). Having been to Vermont before, I was expecting to spend most of our time there, but after reading this, it seems NH has so much more to offer. Thank you!


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