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Things to See & Do on Vacation in Portsmouth, NH

Few small cities can match the attractions, history, dining, culture, shopping, attractions, and outdoor recreation that Portsmouth, New Hampshire offers in just a few square miles. Nearly 400 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. [Read More...]

A spring visit gives visitors an early glimpse into the city’s beautiful parks and gardens as the first primroses bloom and crocuses appear. Dining and shopping are the main activities in town; although if it’s a beautiful warm day, the nearby beaches and nature preserves are tempting to visitors as well. Evening entertainment is provided by The Music Hall and local theaters in the form of regular shows and films.During the summer and fall, Portsmouth is buzzing with activity. Visit outdoor attractions, tour museums & historic homes, attend festivals, and explore the beaches. Shops and restaurants keep later hours in the warmer months, and people stroll leisurely through Market Square all day and into the evening. One of the most common sights…couples strolling with ice cream cones in hand from Annabelle’s. Winter in Portsmouth is time to slow down, and enjoy the local shops and restaurants. For some holiday shopping, head to Kittery Outlets in Southern Maine. If there’s a nice snowfall, take a winter wonderland snowshoe trip through one of the nature preserves, or go see the beach in a whole new way. During the winter months, people are drawn from nearby cities to Portsmouth by local theaters, live music venues, and special events (such as cooking classes at Stonewall Kitchen). 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. For more information on other attractions in and around Portsmouth, you can also visit Portsmouthnh.com or HiddenVacations.com.

Ongoing  [Read Details...]

  • 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 mike 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  [Read Details...]

  • Strawbery Banke Museum – More than 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  [Read Details...]

  • The Music Hall – December 2013 events include: Films:  The Summit, In a World, Blue is the Warmest Color, Muscle Shoals, Deceptive Practice, The Spectacular Now, All is Lost, .  Live Music: Home for the Holidays, Arc Iris, Leahy Family Christmas, Portsmouth Symphony: Family Holiday Pops, Messiah Sing, Creole Christmas with Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Writers: Doris Kearns Goodwin. Live Comedy:  Justin McKinney’s Last Laugh 2013. Opera/Theater: Verdi Falstaff, An 1836 Portsmouth Nutcracker, Ragpicker’s Dream.  Plus: Tour the Historical Theater - Call for information.
  • Seacoast Repertory Theater: Dec – A Christmas Story
  • Pontine/West End Theater: Dec – A New England Christmas, Apr 2014 – Shakespeare’s Will, May 2014 – Isles of Shoals: Eternal Sound of the Sea.
  • New Hampshire Theatre Project: Nov/Dec – Six Characters in Search of an Author, Jan 2014 – Le Petit Prince, Mar 2014 – Intelligent Theatre Festival, Apr 2014, Robin Hood, May 2014 – Arsenic & Old Lace
  • Player’s Ring: Dec – A Christmas Carol, Jan 2014 – Background Check, Jan/Feb 2014 – Temptress, Feb 2014 – Death of a Salesman, Mar 2014 – Next to Normal
  • Ogunquit Playhouse
  • Prescott Park Arts Festival
  • Hackmatach Playhouse

Festivals & Celebrations [Read Details...]

Business & Military [Read Details...]

Restaurants & Night Life [Read Details...]

  • 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 tableside clambake for two with all the fixings.

Outdoor Activities [Read Details...]

Shopping & Indoor Activities [Read Details...]

Special Interests [Read Details...]

  • 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.
  • Rediscovering the joy and spiritual potential of your relationship, while experiencing personal growth and development is the focus of “Getting the Love You Want,” two-day intensive workshops for partners in all stages of relationships. 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.

Sample Daytrip Itineraries [Read Details...]

Walk the Beaches of Southern Maine: After your wonderful breakfast at Martin Hill 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 southwest for the town of Northwood in order to pick up Route 4 again and experience “Antique Alley.”
“Thank you so much for the amazing breakfasts and for always being ready with a suggestion for dinner or directions. We had a wonderful time and would love to return in the near future.” Dan & Alix, New York.