On our way to Maine, we decided to stop over in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Portsmouth is a historic maritime town that has recently become a hub for foodies and locavores while retaining its quintessential New England charm. From its clapboard houses dating back to the 1700s, to the downtown square with its white-steepled church, to the rows of adorable shops and waterfront seafood restaurants, Portsmouth is a must for anyone wanting to experience New England.
You can easily spend several days exploring this picturesque maritime town. I will be focusing in this post on things to do with kids in Portsmouth because that is the stage of life I’m in, but it’s also a perfect destination for a romantic couple’s weekend or a fun girlfriends’ getaway.
We first discovered Portsmouth two years ago on our way to Maine. We stopped through for lunch and landed at the Portsmouth Brewery. We liked it so much that we stopped again on our way home, that time trying the famed Lexie’s Joint (ah-mazing burgers AND a gluten-free bun option.)
This year when we started up the east coast, we made plans to stop again in Portsmouth, this time for an overnight visit. We ate again at the Portsmouth Brewery and Lexie’s Place, and we toured the Strawbery Banke Museum before heading on up the coast into Maine. Based on my research of the area, this is my list of things to do with kids in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We hope to return sometime and do more of these.
Things To Do with Kids in Portsmouth, NH
1. Visit the Strawbery Banke Museum. This is the one touristy thing we did while in Portsmouth, and it is well worth the price of admission. Definitely plan to spend a whole day here, although your tickets actually include two days, so you can spread out your visit if you wish. There is A LOT to see here. It’s actually a collection of over 40 buildings that have been assembled to depict Portsmouth life from 1695 to 1950, many with costumed actors. Everything is interactive and extremely child-friendly. My kids spent a long time playing with 18th century toys on the lawn and then later pretending to keep store circa 1942.
2. Visit the USS Albacore, a retired U.S. Navy submarine offering tours and exhibits. Get a feel for the tight quarters, tiny berths and general submarine lifestyle.
3. Take a Harbor Cruise which includes a narrated tour where you can learn about local wildlife, folklore, and waterway history.
4. Eat at Lexie’s Joint. This casual burger joint is a great place to stop for a quick bite, and their burgers are amazing. They have vegetarian and gluten-free options, and the truffle fries are to die for.
5. Hang out at Prescott Park. Located on the banks of the picturesque Piscataqua River, this free and accessible public park is 10 acres of lush flower gardens, walkways, seating, and grass areas designated for recreation. Bring a picnic and give the kids a chance to run around and get their energy out. During the summertime, you may happen upon live music, outdoor movies and a juried art show.
6. Consider a walking tour. The Portsmouth Harbor Trail comes highly recommended, linking together historic homes, the waterfront, Prescott Park, Market Square and many of the boutique shops, restaurants and art galleries of downtown Portsmouth.
7. Another restaurant that comes highly recommended, especially for families is the Friendly Toast. This highly acclaimed downtown eatery serves breakfast all day.
8. Finally, if you want to travel a bit outside of Portsmouth, check out The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover. This museum sounds like one not to miss.
Where to Stay in Portsmouth
We stayed at the Hampton Inn Portsmouth Central, which proved to be an excellent mid-range choice. It was clean and spacious, and the staff was accommodating and knowledgable. It is a short drive from the center of town, but they do have free shuttle service. We are a family of five, and they provided a cot in addition to the two queen beds. It was a snug fit, but it worked. If your budget allows, the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel sounds spectacular.
For more family travel reviews and advice, see all of my Things To Do With Kids posts.