How To Spend One Day in Hanover New Hampshire

Looking for an off the beaten path day trip or weekend getaway in New England? Or planning a visit to Dartmouth College?

If so, I have the perfect one day itinerary for visiting the bucolic rural town of Hanover New Hampshire.

falls colors in New Hampshire
fall colors in New Hampshire

Hanover is often called one of the United States “best places to live” and “best college towns. “Hanover is synonymous with Dartmouth College, founded in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock.

Dartmouth is the nation’s northernmost Ivy League. When Wheelock arrived, Hanover consisted of only 20 families.

Over time, Hanover and Dartmouth grew symbiotically. Hanover also developed a thriving medical community.

pin for one day in Hanover itinerary

Hanover is my birthplace and I attended Dartmouth College. 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.

It’s a tiny New England hamlet that’s perfect for both art and nature lovers, an oasis of sophistication in a pastoral setting.

sign marking the town of Hanover NH

Best Things To Do In Hanover New Hampshire in One Day

Here’s my itinerary for how to spend one day in the pretty hamlet of Hanover.

Morning Of One Day In Hanover

1. Breakfast at Lou’s Bakery

Wake up early and head to Lou’s Restaurant for breakfast at 30 Main Street. If it’s a weekend, expect a line.

Lou’s is a classic 1950s All American diner, with formica counters and green vinyl stalls and booths. It’s decorated with old pictures of Hanover from the 19th century.

Though it seems no nonsense, Lou’s serves up delicious food from local farms in fairly enormous portions. It’s some of the best diner food I’ve ever had. You can find everything at Lou’s — omelettes, french toast, donuts, crispy bacon, all with dose of real maple syrup.

The pie cart is astounding. You can also get pastries, muffins, pies, and cakes. I’d recommend getting something to go.

Lou's Bakery, the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch in Hanover NH
Lou’s Bakery, the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch
the college green and Baker Library at Dartmouth College
the college green and Baker Library at Dartmouth College

2. Dartmouth College Campus

After you’re fueled up, it’s time to visit one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States. (Yes, I’m biased.)

According to President Eisenhower, Dartmouth “is what a college should look like.” Founded in 1769, the main buildings are clustered around the green, which is Dartmouth’s central hub.

To the right you’ll see Dartmouth’s oldest building, Dartmouth Hall, built in 1784. Though ravaged by fires over the years, the white brick building still bears its classic original design and steeple.

Rollins Chapel in Hanover NH
Rollins Chapel in Hanover

Across College Street, you’ll find the iconic Baker-Berry Library, which was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

It houses 2.5 million books, including17th century editions of Shakespeare’s works. There’s also a modern addition by Robert Venturi.

Head to the Reserve reading Room in the basement to inspect a haunting 3,000 foot mural by Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

Titled The Epic of American Civilization, it’s a 24 panel sequence painted between 1932-34. It depicts the story of civilization in the Americas.

the reading room in Baker Library
the reading room in Baker Library

Another room to check out is the Theodor Seuss Geisel Toom. It’s a chamber dedicated to the 1925 Dartmouth alum who wrote the famed Dr. Seuss series of children books.

The library Bell Tower is a 20 foot white tower, topped with a weathervane. It’s Dartmouth’s most visible attraction. Given its age and historic importance, it can only be climbed on special occasions, like Homecoming Weekend.

Rollins Chapel is a beautiful Romanesque building on campus. It’s a multi-faith spiritual center. The attractive church boasts a 24 foot wide and tall prayer labyrinth for visitors and worshippers to contemplate.

To see more of Dartmouth’s campus, turn left as you exit Baker Library. You’ll come to Webster Avenue. It’s the social center of the campus, home to fraternities and sororities. At the end of the street is the President’s house.

downtown Hanover NH
downtown Hanover

3. Stroll Hanover’s Main Street

Main Street makes a delightful stroll. Begin by stopping in for coffee at the lively Dirt Cowboy Cafe right at the beginning of Main Street. There are dozens of house roasted coffees to choose from.

For lunch, you’ve got plenty of tasty options from classic American to various kinds of ethnic cuisine. If you like spicy food, try Base Camp Cafe. Molly’s Balloon or Murphy’s on the Green serves up American food in a relaxed setting. No trip to Dartmouth would be complete without a stop at Morano Gelato.

Main Street is also home to independent small stores, with a few chains like North Face. For clothing, I like Juliana’s.

For Dartmouth gear, pop into the Dartmouth Co-op or Dartmouth Bookstore. For artisan goods, check out Farmhouse Pottery. There’s a funky old movie theater if you need some entertainment, Nugget Theaters.

For bookworms, another great destination in Hanover is Left Bank Books. It’s a cozy shop with a curated collection of used books right above Dirt Cowboy Cafe.

Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College
Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College

Afternoon Of One Day In Hanover

4. Hood Museum of Art

The best place to get your art fix in Hanover is the wonderful Hood Museum of Art. The Hood was a 2015 Yankee Editor’s Pick for Best Free Art Museum.

It’s one of the oldest teaching museums in the country, housed in austere red brick buildings. It has a wide ranging 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. Notably, the museum owns Picasso’s Guitar on a Table. It also showcases contemporary African and Native American art.

the Hopkin's Center
the Hopkin’s Center

5. The Hopkins Center

Hanover is also home to the Hopkins Center for the Arts (the “HOP”), the cultural hub of Hanover. The building resembles NYC’s Metropolitan Opera House.

There, you’ll find a wide variety of performing arts — plays, shows, concerts, theater, dance, special events, movies, etc. Check the website to see what’s on, if you’re looking for something cultural to do.

6. Nature Break

When you’ve soaked up enough culture or if art isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of scenic nature spots to explore. You can go for a drive around Lake Sunapee.

Several trails climb Mt. Monadnock. In the winter, you can ski down the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center or ice skate on Occum Pond.

the Connecticut River in Hanover
the Connecticut River in Hanover

The Connecticut River is Hanover’s summer playground. You can kayak or canoe down the river. You can rent stand up paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks from the Ledyard Canoe Club of Dartmouth on Boathouse Road. The river is also a swimming hole for Dartmouth students.

If you’d like to do some hiking, Hanover is the perfect place. In Pine Park, you can stroll through pine trees, babbling brooks and have beautiful river views. The Appalachian Trail also runs down Main Street.

One of the best day hikes is Velvet Rocks, an offshoot of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a moderate 3.5 mile loop featuring beautiful wild flowers.

For an arduous hike and special full day adventure, head to the 4,000 foot Mount Moosilauke. Dartmouth maintains the 50 mile stretch of trail leading Mount Moosilauke, which is part of the White Mountain National Park.

There are two suggested trails to the summit, Gorge Brook Trail (moderate) and Beaver Brook Trail (strenuous).

Mount Moosilauke as seen from Blueberry Mountain
Mount Moosilauke as seen from Blueberry Mountain

Evening Of One Day In Hanover

7. Dinner at the Pine & Overnight at the Hanover Inn

When your day is over, head to the Hanover Inn, a sprawling Georgian style brick structure located at the intersection of Main Street and E. Wheelock Street.

Opened in 1780, it’s the longest continually operating building in New Hampshire. The Hanover Inn is THE place to stay when visiting Hanover.

Dartmouth College owns this historic inn, which underwent a massive renovation. The inn relaunched as a AAA Four Diamond Boutique Hotel.

The top notch accommodations are both cozy and luxurious, overlooking the Dartmouth Campus and Hanover’s South Main Street.

Hanover Inn, decorated for Christmas
Hanover Inn on South Main Street, decorated for Christmas

The Hanover Inn has a lovely terrace for pre-dinner cocktails. At the bar, mixologist James Ives reimagines historic cocktails into innovative 21st century drinks with in house infusions.

More importantly, the Hanover Inn boasts Hanover’s best restaurant, The Pine.

The elegant yet unfussy place is run by Executive Chef Justin Dain, under the tutelage of Boston’s Michael Schlow. The menu reflects the chef’s farm to table aesthetic, with locally sourced produce and meat.

How To Get to Hanover

Hanover is mostly easily accessed by car, Exit 13 off l I-91.

The Pine restaurant at the Hanover Inn
The Pine restaurant at the Hanover Inn

You also fly into the airport in the nearby town of Lebanon. Hanover is also an easy day trip from Boston by car or via the Dartmouth Coach from Logan Airpot.

When To Visit Hanover

Hanover is at its best in the summer and fall. Though it’s worth a visit in winter if you’re a ski buff or cross country skier. The Dartmouth Skiway is just a few miles up the road in Lyme.

Where To Stay In Hanover

In Hanover, I recommend staying at the Hanover Inn or the Sixth South Hotel.

If it’s a busy college weekend and those places are booked, check out the Hampton Inn or the Fairfield Inn in Hanover’s next door neighbor White River Junction.

Dartmouth Hall on the Dartmouth Green
Dartmouth Hall on the Dartmouth Green

Extra Time When Visiting Hanover?

Hanover is situated right on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, in an area known as the “Upper Valley.” The White Mountains are just to the east and the Green Mountains are just to the west. The Lakes Region and and Lake Winnipesaukee are two hours away.

If you’d like to head to Vermont, Hanover is only a little over an hour away from the beautiful towns of Burlington and Stowe.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my one day in Hanover itinerary. If you’d love to explore New England further, you might also enjoy these travel guides:

If you’d like to visit Hanover New Hampshire, pin it for later.

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2 thoughts on “How To Spend One Day in Hanover New Hampshire”

  1. Velvet Rocks is not in Etna. It’s right above Haskins and Low Roads (I grew up on Haskins). Used to go there all the time. Good article!

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