Attractions to See on Vacation in Portsmouth, NH

Few small cities can match the history, culture, dining, shopping, and outdoor activities that Portsmouth has in just a few square miles. More than 380 years of New England history can be seen here, from historic homes to Revolutionary War forts to early modern submarines. Restaurants and small boutiques line the brick sidewalks of this seacoast town while locals and tourists alike sip coffee at the cafes.  All of downtown Portsmouth is a 10-15 minute walk from Martin Hill Inn.  Get a real-time glimpse of Market Square, the Waterfront, and the Memorial Bridge from these webcams.

A spring visit gives visitors an early glimpse into the city's beautiful parks and gardens as the first primroses bloom and crocuses appear. Local restaurants and shops are the main draw, while a warm day will send people to the nearby beaches or nature preserves for a lovely walk. The Music Hall and local theaters provide regular shows and films for evening entertainment.

During the summer and fall, Portsmouth's doors are wide open with museums, historic homes, outdoor attractions, festivals, and beaches to visit and explore. Shops and restaurants are open later with happy groups of people meandering Market Square all day and into the evening. One of the most common sights...couples strolling with ice cream cones in hand from Annabelles.

Winter in Portsmouth is time to slow down, enjoy the local shops and restaurants. Maybe take a trip to Kittery Outlets for some holiday shopping. If the snow is deep, take a snowshoe trip through one of the nature preserves or a winter stroll on the beach. Local theaters, live music venues, and special events (such as cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen) draw people from nearby cities throughout the winter months.

Portsmouth’s Restaurant Week takes place twice a year in the spring and in the fall and gives both visitors and locals a chance to experience the special flavors of the city with limited-time promotions at participating restaurants.

Downtown Portsmouth is located just a 10-minute walk from Martin Hill Inn and within a 30-minute drive or less you can experience the many activities listed below.

Ongoing:

  • Come to the opening of Portsmouth's Museum of Art on  909 Islington St.
  • Art 'Round Town features simultaneous art gallery openings the second Friday of each month from 5 to 8 pm. Visit www.artroundtown.org.
  • At The Music Hall - Every other week take a Historic Tour of the inner workings of the Hall.
  • Tours: Historic Portsmouth Legends and Ghosts Walk with New England Curiosities, call 207-439-8905 or visit their website for schedule and information
  • Poetry: The Poetry Hoot the first Wednesday of every month at Cafe Espresso at 738 Islington Street. Call 603-772-4345. Stone Pigeon Poetry Readings from 7 to 9 pm the second Monday of every month, two feature readers followed by an open mic at Breaking New Grounds.
  • Be a painter for an evening, no experience needed.  Art with a Splash offers an opportunity to combine the artistic with a touch of wine.
  • Check the PortsmouthNH.com events calendar for the latest listing of happenings in the Portsmouth area.

Historic & Cultural:

  • Strawbery Banke Museum - Over 20 buildings and 300 years of Portsmouth, New England and American history.  Opens May 1st.
  • Wentworth Lear Historic Houses - Two houses for the price of one: An Historic Landmark building and excellent example of Georgian architecture along with the family home of President George Washington's private secretary.  Opens mid-June for tours Wednesday to Sunday. 
  • Governor Langdon House, Rundlet May House, Jackson House - These very different properties belong to Historic New England providing varied glimpses into our past from the grandeur of a governor's home to the everyday living of one of the oldest frame homes in the area.  Openings vary, generally mid-June.
  • Warner House - See some wonderful examples of Portsmouth furniture making at its finest.  Opens mid-June.
  • Moffatt Ladd House - If walls could talk, this house could say a lot.  William Whipple, signer of the Declaration of Independence, lived here.  Opens early June.
  • Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion - A rambling waterfront mansion with stunning grounds and lilac bushes blooming each May.  Opens weekends in mid-May and Wednesday to Sunday starting mid-June.
  • Gundalow Piscataqua - Learn the history of our mighty river and the life of a seaport during your sail on the Piscataqua.  Read about our ride on the Gundalow.
  • Seacoast New Hampshire Heritage Tours - Learn everything about the 350+ years of NH seacoast history on this guided 2 or 3 hour tour by mini-van.  Small groups, under 6 people.  Tour covers downtown Portsmouth and New Castle.
  • Canterbury Shaker Village - Drive less than an hour toward Concord, NH to visit this serenely beautiful village of Shaker Buildings.  Tour the facilities, see how the Shakers lived, worked and practiced their faith.  Open mid-May to late October.  Martin Hill Inn participates in the Village's lodging partnership program and can provide guests with discount coupons, just ask the Innkeeper.

Theater:

  • The Music Hall - February and March  events include:
    Films:  Nebraska, Cousin Jules .
     Live Music:  Portsmouth Symphony, Josh Ritter
    Writers: Virginia L. Towler.
    Live Comedy:  Jim Belushi and the Chicago Board of Comedy.
     Plus: Tour the Historical Theater  -  Call for information.
  • Portsmouth Library: Captain Phillips - free event
  • Seacoast Repertory Theater:     Hair
  • Pontine/West End Theater:   March - The Yo Yo Show; Where There's a Will;  Apr 2014 - Shakespeare's Will, May 2014 - Isles of Shoals: Eternal Sound of the Sea.  
  • New Hampshire Theatre Project:  Mar 2014 - Intelligent Theatre Festival, Apr 2014, Robin Hood, May 2014 - Arsenic & Old Lace
  • Player's Ring:   Mar 2014 - Next to Normal
  • Ellingtonial:  The Dance Hall, Kittery
  • Comedy Night - Darwin's Waiting Room -Player's Ring
  • The Sharp Dressed Men Trilogy - Kittery Star Theater

Festivals & Celebrations:

Business & Military:

Restaurants and Night Life:

  • Black Trumpet Bistro:  One of our favorites serving locally sourced meats and vegetables, unique combinations of flavors, foods and ethnic influences.  The upstairs wine bar offers a lovely view of the river and tugboats.
  • Jumpin' Jay's Fish Cafe:  Everyone's favorite seafood restaurant patronized by locals and tourists alike.  Jays serves the best steamed mussel appetizer we've ever tasted.  The fresh catch of the day board usually has at least eight types of fish to choose from, sourced locally when possible.  During oyster season, enjoy the Tuesday "Shuck-a-Buck" event.
  • For lobster, visit Robert's Maine Grill, in next door Kittery Maine.  Located along Spruce Creek, Robert's serves classic New England fare from yankee pot roast to clam chowder to chili and (of course) steamed lobster.  You can even order a table side clam bake for two with all the fixings.
  • See what the locals think about the best dining options in the Seacoast Area - click for the Best of 2012

Outdoor activities:

Shopping and indoor activities:

Special Interests:

  • Try your hand at knitting, quilting or other sewing projects. See the class schedule at the Portsmouth Fabric Company and the Yarn Sellar in York, ME.
  • "Getting the Love You Want" workshops are an intensive two-day workshop for partners in all stages of relationships, to rediscover the joy and spiritual potential of being together while using your relationship for personal development and growth. For more information visit www.csuemautz.com
  • Sign up for a wide variety of cooking classes at Attrezzi or at Stonewall Kitchen in York for a stimulating evening of food and wine.

For more information on other Portsmouth attractions, you can also visit Portsmouthnh.com or HiddenVacations.com.

 

Walk the Beaches of Southern Maine:

After your wonderful breakfast at the Inn, hop in the car for a 50-minute drive up Route 95 to Kennebunkport. Drive into town past the spectacular old captains' houses, walk around downtown, and then get your feet wet at the beach. Pick up the slow road by taking Route 9 south through Wells and into Ogunquit. Walk the Marginal Way cliff walk from Perkins Cove to the Beach (or vice-versa). Have lunch in town or at Perkins Cove before continuing down the Shore Drive meeting up with Route 1A to Cape Neddick and the Nubble Lighthouse. Take some photos, and then drive down to Long Sands Beach for another dip in the ocean and some saltwater taffy. Follow Route 1A south, then turn left onto Route 103 towards Kittery. Stop and walk the Wiggly Bridge, or take in the harbor view from Fort McCleary. Turn left on Route 1, and you are back in downtown Portsmouth.

Explore Lake Winnipesaukee:

Pick up Routes 4/16 at the Portsmouth Traffic Circle and head north for the mountains. About an hour later, you will hit Alton at the southern most tip of the Lake. Choose to drive up the east side or the west side and off you go. On the west side, enjoy a walk up Mount Major and a visit to Weir's Beach. Along the east side, explore the town of Wolfeboro before heading to the north end of the lake at Moultonboro and Center Harbor. On your way home, detour a little south-west for the town of Northwood in order to pick up Route 4 again and experience "Antique Alley."