On a frosty December day in 1774, Paul Revere raced north from Boston to warn colonists that the British were coming.
If you think you’ve already heard this story, think again.
Most people are unaware that four months prior to the infamous midnight ride of 1775, Revere first rode to Portsmouth carrying a message that the Red Coats were coming to secure Fort William and Mary, a local garrison filled with ammunition.
Alerted by Revere, patriots swarmed the fort, seizing the munitions and dispersing them throughout the countryside, where legend holds, they were eventually used against in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Documented as one of the first acts of the American Revolution, the event is considered by many to be the true start of the war for independence.
Nearly 250 years later, the fort, renamed Fort Constitution, still stands watch over the Piscataqua River and Atlantic Ocean, and is just one of many historic structures remaining in Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s only seaport, and popular tourist destination.
More than just history, Portsmouth’s picturesque, waterfront scenery, thriving local scene and endless stream of festivals and events, prove to be a magnet for visitors who flock to the city year-round.
It’s easy to while away the hours, wandering its red, brick sidewalks and stopping into any number of quaint boutiques, galleries, bars and trendy eateries.
Portsmouth is also a serious northeast brew destination, with a respectable array of breweries and brewpubs throughout the area.
The Portsmouth Brewery on Market Street is one of the first established in the state, and it draws locals and visitors alike, who come for its lively atmosphere, pub food, and selection of handcrafted beers
Having trouble choosing between the Dirty Blonde or Night Nurse (and, honestly, who wouldn’t)? Simply order up a flight to sample them, or any of the other varieties, before making a decision.
And if one brewpub isn’t enough to quench your beer wanderlust, consider booking a Granite State Growler Tour.
Costing around $60 per person, tours include transportation aboard Greta, the ‘Growler Getta,’ snacks, and beer tastings at several local breweries. While there’s no drinking allowed on the bus, they provide coolers to ensure your growlers stay cold.
Keeping with the theme, The Ale House Inn is a boutique hotel located on Bow Street and housed in a former storage facility of the Portsmouth Brewing Company. Offering only ten rooms, it’s very intimate and a unique departure from more traditional overnight lodgings with its brick accents and warehouse feel.
Centrally located in the Market Square District, it’s easily walkable from the most of the action (essential if you’re spending the day in brewpubs or on beer tours), and rooms range from $129 to $349 nightly.
There are dozens of great restaurants in Portsmouth, but make it a point to hit up Lexie’s, a casual burger joint a little off the beaten path, on Islington Street. It’s a funky little space, with a limited number of tables and a perpetual line of diners waiting to nab one.
There’s no silverware, but who cares. You only need your hands to throw down any one of their delectable burgers with names like The Green Monster, Stairway to Heaven or Urban Cowboy, which are loaded up with good stuff like chipotle aioli, fried pickles, chimichurri and short ribs.
Even better, add an order of Bistro fries which come with parmesan, bacon, and herbed aioli, or the Hot fries, served with jalapenos, sriracha aioli, sriracha ketchup, scallions, and Pepto-Bismol (okay, not the last one, but it might be necessary), to round out your meal.
The best part? Your wallet. Burgers and fries for two should only set you back about $20.
Roughly an hour or so north of Portsmouth is the New Hampshire lakes region. Home to more than 270 lakes and ponds, Lake Winnipesaukee is typically the most familiar.
Covering 72 square miles and surrounded by three mountain ranges, it’s the largest lake in the state, and there’s no shortage of things to do. There are a plethora of water activities, beaches, boat launch sites, rentals, and cruises along with abundant hiking trails in the area including Mount Major and Brook Trail Loop in Alton, and Rattlesnake Trail in Center Sandwich.
A series of charming little towns are nestled along Winnipesaukee’s shores. Looking like a scene cut from a Charles Wysocki wall calendar, Meredith is one of them.
A former mill town turned popular summer resort destination, Meredith is a quaint little village boasting cute little shops and is the kind of place where you sit outside and watch the sun set.
It’s home to the iconic Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which offers passengers one, or two-hour scenic excursions along the lake, as well as a port of call for Mount Washington Cruises, a small fleet of boats bringing passengers around the lake for an up-close view of its renowned scenery, along with offering an array of dinner, brunch and sunset cruises.
The Interlakes Summer Theatre, a professional theatre company, puts on several high-profile productions for locals and visitors, alike, during the months of July and August. Past shows include The Producers and My Fair Lady, and the current 2017 season includes Cats and South Pacific.
Meredith’s neighbor to the south, Laconia, is another popular town in the summertime. The Weirs Beach area offers a boardwalk, penny arcades, weekly fireworks and the area’s only drive-in theater.
Laconia is also home to Kellerhaus, a sweetery that’s been around since 1906. Looking like Hansel and Gretel might be hiding inside, it’s hard to miss, but why would you want to?
Selling kitschy trinkets and boxes of their homemade chocolates, which include the likes of toffee, pecan turtles, and all sort of other sinful treats, it’s an institution.
But more often than not, it’s the ice cream that folks line up for. Boasting an ice cream “smorgasbord,” patrons choose their favorite ice cream flavor, and then load it up with a pile of toppings. And, sure, toppings are nothing new, but Kellerhaus has been doing them for more than 100 years, making it a worthy stop if you’re in the area.
About five miles away is, Tavern 27, a farm-to-table, tapas restaurant, located in a welcoming, 235-year-old colonial house. Offerings include artichoke bites, duck confit rolls, stuffed dates, along with fish, steak and chicken tapas. There’s also a decent selection of gluten-free options and a homemade bread pudding to die for, and is mandatory if you go.
A good wine selection and an engaging piano bar round out the allure. Understandably, it’s a popular haunt, so you’ll need to make reservations in advance.
On Golden Pond
If it’s been a couple decades since you’ve seen On Golden Pond, rent it, and then head to Squam Lake and practice your back dive. A lot has changed since Jane, Henry, and Katharine, starred in the memorable movie, which was filmed on the well-known lake, but the one thing that hasn’t is its tranquil beauty.
It’s not uncommon to hear the loons calling out on the lake and it feels like the kind of place you go to find solace and contemplate the meaning of life.
There are inviting inns and B&B’s throughout the area, including the Squam Lake Inn in Holderness, which has a great restaurant, as well as a quaint marketplace that sells gifts, groceries, pastries, wine, and deli items.
Finally, before leaving the lakes region, grab the GPS, buckle up, and make a trip north to The Sandwich Creamery located on Hannah Road, and do it during the day, preferably.
After navigating the world’s longest gravel driveway (sloooowly, the road is rough), you’ll arrive at a small, isolated farm, confused, at best, at what you’re doing there.
But inside a tiny wooden shed, is a cooler full of farm-fresh ice cream in a variety of flavors including Oreo, black raspberry, chocolate and sea salt caramel, making the long, arduous journey, worth it.
Make sure to bring cash, however, as there’s no one there to ring you out. Purchases are made through the honor system, though there are cameras keeping watch to ensure that no one runs off with the goods.
Once you’ve secured your treat, grab a spoon and plop down on one of the benches set up in the yard. It’s the best place to enjoy your ice cream, amidst the animals and New Hampshire’s peaceful scenery.
Originally Published Hartford Magazine July 2017
Fort Constitution, Portsmouth:
The Portsmouth Brewery:
Granite State Growler Tours:
Ale House Inn:
New Hampshire Lakes Region:
M/S Mount Washington Scenic Cruises:
Interlakes Summer Theatre:
Meredith Chamber of Commerce:
Weirs Beach and Laconia:
Squam Lake Inn:
The Sandwich Creamery:
134 Hannah Road, North Sandwich, New Hampshire