By Joyce Mann
New Hampshire is a state of surprising diversity for its small size: eighteen miles of beach along the Atlantic coast; the grandeur of tundra-topped Mt. Washington, and quaint New England towns, each with a bandstand centered on the village green. Each with a white-clapboard Congregational church keeping watch nearby.
New Hampshire is also within a day’s drive from all the major cities along the Northeast Corridor. Boston is just south of the New Hampshire state line, and folks from Washington D.C. can accomplish the drive in under ten hours.
Here’s how to have a relaxing, New Hampshire summer vacation that won’t break the bank.
1. Consider the Merrimack River Valley as your home base. The tourist hot spots in New Hampshire include its shoreline, the White Mountains and the Lakes Region. These areas also command the highest rates for hotels and other vacation rentals. You’ll be saving money by staying in this scenic valley that is home to Concord, the state’s capital, as well as Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city.
From the Merrimack River valley, day trips to the pricier tourist spots are easy.
2. Consider renting a housekeeping cottage to save money. Lakes, ponds, and gentle rivers mark the landscape of the Merrimack River Valley. Along these waterways you can find affordable waterfront living for the duration of your vacation. Housekeeping cottages usually require you to bring your own towels, linens and groceries. Most come equipped with an efficiency kitchen, running water and electricity, a bath with shower, furnishings and a bedroom or two.
3. Plan your itinerary or take it a day at a time. If you never visited New Hampshire before, you might want to pick out a few highlights, such as:
Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. Mt. Washington is the second-highest peak east of the Mississippi. At 6,288 feet, you may wish to climb it, drive the road to the top, or take the historic cog railway to its summit. Be forewarned, Mt. Washington is notorious for its bad weather. Wind chills at its summit have reached Minus-120 degrees F. The world’s highest wind speed of 231 MPH was recorded here. If you are familiar with the tundra of interior Alaska, you will be surprised to find a similar landscape atop Mt. Washington.
The Lakes Region. As New Hampshire’s largest lake, Lake Winnepesaukee offers every water activity imaginable. A dinner cruise at sunset is a special treat .The Lakes Region is also home to Squam Lake, the setting for the movie “On Golden Pond.”
The coastline. From the port city of Portsmouth, you can hop aboard a ship for a whale-watching excursion. Quiet and laid-back Rye is great for beach combing. And all the shops, restaurants and bars you could ever want are located in Hampton Beach.
4. Enjoy your wn backyard, the Merrimack River Valley. Berry picking, antiquing, swimming — all these fun activities are yours for the taking along this area’s long, winding and scenic roads. For a bit of history, visit the home of President Franklin Pierce, or drive into Concord and check out the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum. There you’ll come face-to-face with an authentic Concord Coach, the official name for the stagecoaches featured in every cowboy movie you’ve ever seen.
5. Enjoy your trip!