New Hampshire

New Hampshire view by CC user boblinsdell on Flickr

Introduction

An independent spirit runs through the psyche of residents of New Hampshire. The attitude is so ingrained in their upbringing that their state’s motto is the very curt and clear statement, “Live Free Or Die”. They were the first of the thirteen colonies to form a surreptitious shadow government to oppose their colonial masters, a full year before the official Declaration of Independence was read in 1776.

It continues today, as this state varies considerably from the mostly liberal politics of the region, adopting a more conservative mindset with its regionally famous reputation as a no sales tax jurisdiction. But New Hampshire’s appeal goes far beyond cheap consumer goods – it possesses some of the highest, wildest mountains of the geologically ancient peaks of the Appalachians, with Mount Washington overshadowing them all in stature and terrible weather (some of the highest wind gusts on Earth have been clocked at its summit).

It has charming neighborhoods that possess many old homes and buildings built in the architecturally noteworthy New England style, and its short coast plays host to another fabulous beach resort that is worth your while. Whatever you do, allow the spirit of New Hampshire to carry you wherever you please during your time here … after all, it is a free country!

Garden of a Portsmouth home by CC user nhoulihan on Flickr

What To Do – Culture & History

The bulk of New Hampshire’s culture and history can be found along its coast, where the bulk of economically viable settlements in centuries past were founded. Portsmouth stands chief among these places historically, as its status as a seaport with an easily defensible harbour made its a vitally important centre in New Hampshire in the days of yore.

Stroll its residential streets, taking in historic houses such as the collection preserved by Strawberry Banke Museum, an outdoor living history museum that brings to life Portsmouth as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries, complete with residents in period dress, artisans creating ye olde horseshoes and woollen mittens, and plenty of authentic structures that have been restored to the way they would have been back in their time.

The downtown core is equally as stunning, boasting a large amount of red brick buildings containing boutiques, restaurants, microbreweries, and theaters. On the waterfront, don’t miss a chance to explore the USS Albacore, which is a decommissioned submarine that served in the US Navy from 1953 to 1972, which was right at the height of Cold War paranoia.

It was a test design that ultimately proved to be a success, leading to countless future models being based on its innovative structure. For $5 per adult, you get to see what passed as state of the art military technology in the 50’s, as well as how much this submarine could be a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare, as this compact submersible held a crew of 55 during times of active duty.

Castle in the Clouds by CC user infynyxx on Flickr

Further inland, fans of exploring the spoils of flagrant wealth will enjoy a tour through the Castle In The Clouds, a mansion located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the state capital of Manchester. Situated atop one of the foothills of the White Mountain range, it has a commanding view of the lowlands that lay before it, making it a favored destination for weddings for couples from the area.

Even if you are not getting married, a tour through this fabulous compound will find period furniture that was the highest of high end in the time it was purchased, immaculately kept gardens, and horseback riding and hiking trails will also keep active people from getting too antsy during the time that they are here.

Being largely formed by Christians protesting the excesses of the Catholic and Anglican churches, the population of the Thirteen Colonies served as a massive test tube for the development of the many sects of Protestantism. One of those iterations of the Christian faith were the Shakers, forming communities of Friends throughout America centuries ago.

They formed such a place in New Hampshire as well, as the Canterbury Shaker Village gives you a look inside their unique culture. On one hand, they emphasized equality of the sexes long before in was fashionable in the general population, believing that the Second Coming of Christ could be through a woman. However, the growth of their ranks was doomed by another core belief of their communities – adherents had to commit to being celibate (aka no more Hanky Panky Time), thus ensuring the gradual dying out of their members.

The Shaker Village today only exists there fore as a living history museum, where visitors can see key structures of their society, from the meeting house where hymns were sung, to the work houses where innovative inventions pioneered within their community made their life easier than those outside of it.

Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington by CC user pthread on Flickr

What To Do – Natural Attractions

No discussion on the natural wonders of New Hampshire can begin without first discussing one of the highest, most rugged peaks in the Eastern United States. Mount Washington, standing at 6,288 feet, certainly sounds like a lofty peak, but the number alone doesn’t inspire awe … after all, many peaks in Colorado in the American Rockies routinely exceed 10,000 feet.

What makes this place so worthy of special attention is its jaw dropping vertical prominence (its summit stands at 6,288 feet, whereas the base of the mountain is at a lowly 140 feet above sea level, and the wicked weather that makes it one of the only Appalachian peaks to have alpine characteristics at its higher elevations.

And how! Until just a few years ago, the weather station had clocked the highest wind gust in the world, at a neck-snapping 231 miles per hour (that’s an incomprehensible 372 kilometres per hour for metric users!) When the weather isn’t giving recreation seekers fits, hikers scale its shale slopes, backcountry skiers carve up bowls like Tuckerman’s Ravine well into June (Mount Washington seeks well over 20 feet of snow per year), and the lazy drive up a road to its summit (not a joke – a road actually takes you to the peak, as it has for decades!)

Hampton Beach, NH by CC user mendivil on Flickr

More fun in New Hampshire’s mountainous playground awaits in Franconia Notch State Park, where numerous options await the avid outsdoorsperson. From hiking alongside lakes and waterfalls framed beautifully by the surrounding peaks, to skiing within the groomed and controlled bounds of Cannon Mountain Ski Area, those looking to get a lungful of fresh air will find plenty of pursuits to get the job done in this corner of New Hampshire.

If you’d prefer a beach holiday, walking the boardwalks of Hampton Beach will prove to be an invitation that you wouldn’t easily refuse. With events all summer, a unique culture of Quebec summer vacationers injecting a French flavor into the area, and multiple restaurants, shops, and amusements that include a casino, you wouldn’t ever be bored after days well spent along its beach, which is ranked as one of the cleanest in America.

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