Your Gateway to the White Mountains
At just over 9,000 square miles, New Hampshire may be one of the smallest states in the U.S. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in awesomeness. Here’s 3 adorable small towns you should visit in the Granite State:
It’s no surprise Littleton, New Hampshire has been ranked among America’s best small towns for years. This picturesque town on the western side of the legendary White Mountains offers plenty to do for a fantastic weekend getaway.
Littleton exudes charm, with its brick store fronts and white steepled churches dating back over 100 years.
When white settlers arrived in the valley near the Connecticut and Ammonoosuc Rivers, they found fertile land and a desirable place to build. They settled here in 1770 and quickly built mills, tanneries, and factories. But it was the introduction of the railroad in the 1850s that saw the development of the Main Street and downtown area visitors see today.
Small town charm like this doesn’t happen by accident. Thanks to the efforts of locals, the downtown area abounds with successful businesses, run by owners who coordinate with other businesses to add to the atmosphere.
For a scenic stroll, take a walk along the Ammonoosuc River Covered Bridge Trail. This is an easy 0.8 mile, mostly flat walk next to the river, across a covered bridge on one side, and over a suspension bridge on the other.
From there, grab something to eat at of one of the many local restaurants, like The Coffee Pot Restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch. For dinner with a river view, there’s Schilling Beer Co., offering pizza, burgers, and beer tasting. I’d highly recommend a stop at Chang Thai Cafe, which serves delicious noodle dishes, curries, seasonal specials, and sushi.
Littleton is a great place to just browse through the eclectic shops selling new age items, clothes, musical instruments, antiques, herbs and teas, books, and toys.
While you stroll, take a moment to stop in the brick classical revival building which houses the Littleton Public Library. This is one of the 1,689 Carnegie Libraries in the U.S. It opened its doors to the public in 1906. Though the library has undergone some renovations over the years, the impressive woodwork and beautiful original construction elements are still visible.
Another unique architectural structure is the Thayer’s Inn Hotel, opened by Henry Thayer in 1850. Built in the Greek-revival style, this multi-story hotel with large white columns became successful by providing top of the line amenities to its guests, as well as hosting several U.S. presidents.
The town of Gorham rests on the eastern side of the White Mountains. In the summer, the town swells with outdoor enthusiasts, enjoying the plentiful hiking, cycling, and ATV opportunities. Unlike the other two towns mentioned on this list, you’ll need to drive around to get to a lot of the activities. Fortunately, the scenic roads in Gorham are part of the experience.
Like many towns and cities in the mid-1800s, Gorham benefited from its proximity to the trains. Around 1851, just fifteen years after the town was incorporated, the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railway came to Gorham. This brought tourism to the White Mountains for visitors who could only previously access the area by horse or a rough carriage ride.
Today, people arrive by driving down Route 2, hiking in from the Appalachian Trail, cycling to nearby shops, or renting ATVs from vendors. In the winter, this all-seasons destination becomes a hub of activity for snowmobilers, and a gateway to surrounding ski slopes.
On your way to town, stop by the White Mountain Café & Bookstore to grab a coffee, a bite to eat, and maybe find a good book while you wait for your order. This cozy café has delectable treats, plenty of breakfast options (even for special diets), and warming coffees. Once you’re fueled up, check out the cute gift shops like Scroggins General Store to pick up a memento of your trip, or look for a unique find at The Wandering Soul Antiques.
One of the best ways to learn about a place is to visit its local museums and historical society. Check out the Gorham Historical Society & Railroad Museum to learn about how Gorham’s location between Montreal and Portland, Maine made it ideal for trade.
For one of the most scenic drives you’ll find on the east coast, tour the Mount Washington Auto Road. This area is a jumping-off point for countless hikes and activities, like a visit to the Douglas A. Philbrook Red Barn Museum or a stop at the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center.
If you want to hike a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail, or climb to the top of Mount Washington (open seasonally), this is where you want to be. The parking area accommodates most vehicles, including school buses that drop off groups, vans, and large pickup trucks.
This town has everything you’d expect at a premier tourist destination, with a bustling main thoroughfare, all the shopping you could want, and plenty of places to eat.
By far, my favorite place to see in North Conway was The Christmas Loft. It is more than just a Christmas store. Though they sell all the holiday goods you could want to make your Christmas bright, this store is also an attraction.
They have a life-size Christmas village equipped with a pathway, covered bridge, houses, a replica ice rink, and small shops. The animated mannequins bring the scene to life, with the sights and sounds of holiday cheer. And don’t forget to look up, where you’ll see Santa and his reindeer making their deliveries.
On the scenic White Mountain Highway, you’ll find White Birches Bookstore, a cozy, locally owned two-story book shop. After book browsing, take a coffee break at The Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Art Gallery, where the interior holds a city vibe in the heart of a mountain village.
Outside, it’s impossible to miss the Conway Scenic Railroad, where train cars wait for passengers at the bright yellow station. Even you’re not up for a ride, a visit to the station and gift shop is well worth a few minutes, to see the beautiful historic building.
As is standard for a tourist town, there are a lot of gift shops in North Conway. Many of them sell similar fare like souvenirs and books about exploring New Hampshire. But don’t let that stop you from going in. This is where you’ll find any type of gift you’re looking to bring back home.
Zeb’s General Store has candy, maple products, gifts, toys, crafts, décor, sauces, snacks, and more. Zeb’s is a fun store to walk around in, and an easy place to spend money. However, if you’re there for the candy, you may want to wait until you get to the outlet village.
A short drive from the White Mountain Highway, you’ll find the Settler’s Green Outlet Village. They have all the clothing and home goods stores you’d expect to find if you’re a regular outlet mall enthusiast.
After finding the Sweetz & More shop here, I felt like I got a much better deal on candy, with more of a variety than what was available at Zeb’s General Store. Settler’s Green also offers dining options like Black Cap Grille, Cheese Louise, and Asian street food at Mountain Moose. And for a little dessert, you’ll want to visit the White Mountain Cupcakery, for a flavorful array of cupcakes.
These 3 Adorable Small Towns in New Hampshire, amongst the backdrop of the stunning White Mountains, are true four-season destinations that you can enjoy any time of year.