First Trip to Portsmouth, NH?  Here Are Some Suggestions For Your Visit!

Whether you call New Hampshire home or are experiencing your first year in the Granite State, Portsmouth is a must-see tourist attraction that has delighted both tourists and locals alike for many years!  Founded in 1630 by English colonists, this small - yet charming city, is just one bus ride away from UNH campus, is overflowing with history, art, coastal charm, food, music, and events, and is visited by thousands of tourists each year.  With gorgeous views overlooking the Piscataqua River and a beautiful, historic downtown that is bustling with things to do, one might never run out of things to see or explore! If you decide to make the trip, here are just some of the many things you can do……..


Prescott Park Gardens

Prescott Park, originated by the Prescott Sisters in the 1930’s, never ceases to amaze with its charm, beauty, and views.  Visitors can walk out onto several decks to admire the views of the Piscataqua, lie in the grass or on benches, wade in the waters of tiny beach areas, and admire the docked sailboats.  The Gundalow Company is also stationed in this location, where it welcomes and teaches visitors about the history of gundalows in New England, and allows them to take a tour of a gundalow ship.  Other treasures within the Park are the colorful gardens filled with a rainbow of assorted flowers and plant life, trees with twisting branches hanging overhead, and several fountains. Over the summer, the Prescott Park Arts Festival presents a series of concerts on its Main Stage, as well as Monday Night Movie Nights, and its annual musical, which has a run of over thirty performances.


The Seacoast Repertory Theatre


Located on Bow Street, this quaint yet impressive professional regional nonprofit theatre serves its community by putting on more than a dozen productions every year!  From its immensely popular Mainstage productions to its edgier Red Light and Mad Haus shows, this venue creates art that is sure to captivate audiences of all types. For teenagers, the Rep’s Portsmouth Academy of Performing Arts (PAPA), rehearses and performs musicals every year on the Rep stage.  For children, youth classes, camps, and workshops serve as creative outlets for them to be introduced to the world of performing arts. Recent days saw the opening of the Senior Repertory Theatre program, which was created as a way for the elderly to create and perform art to bless the community. These are just some of the programs that the Rep continues to run and uphold as its productions continue to receive rave reviews!  Just this month, the Rep announced their 2019 season, consisting of fifteen productions. It’s bound to be their best season yet, so be sure to swing by and witness it for yourself!


Strawbery Banke Museum

Yes, the spelling is correct!  Named after Portsmouth’s original name, Strawbery Banke is a collection of 39 colonial homes and buildings that are hundreds of years old, with the oldest one having been built in 1695.  Tourists can journey back in time as they walk down the dirt streets and explore these homes, guided by tour guides and roleplayers. Homes include the Shapiro House, which housed a Russian-Jewish couple and their young daughter in the early 1900’s, Stoodley’s Tavern (one of the Banke’s education homes that is said to have been visited by Paul Revere), the Goodwin House (a Victorian home surrounded by beautiful gardens and grassy clearings), and the Marden-Abbott Store, which was in business from 1919 through World War II.  For children with an interest in history, summer camps also serve as valuable teaching methods to expose them to historical knowledge!


The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company

    Fascinated by what lies beyond the coasts of Portsmouth?  You can find out by spending a day on the Thomas Laighton!  This Victorian ship takes 340 passengers out from the docks towards the historic Isles of Shoals- a collection of nine islands located several miles from shore.  If you’re lucky, you may even spot some whales or other oceanic life during the trip!  Upon arriving at the islands, guests have the option to remain on the boat and admire the view from the comfort of the ship, or to spend the day on the main island, exploring its rich history, scenic views, and beautiful wildlife.  One might even learn about the mysterious Smuttynose Island Murders- a legend involving the brutal demise of two sisters named Karen and Anethe Christensen.  


    The Friendly Toast


    Looking for a place to eat?  Why not pay a visit to the Friendly Toast, located on Congress Street right by Market Square!  While I chose this restaurant to highlight in particular due to its funky, eye-catching interior and its positive reputation,  it is just one of dozens of restaurants, cafes, and bars scattered all across the city. Whether it’s a quick coffee at Breaking New Grounds or Starbucks, a sandwich from the Works, a hearty dinner at the Portsmouth Gas Light, fancier seaside dining at the River House, or dessert at Annabelle’s or Izzy’s, there’s something here to satisfy the appetite of any visitor.  Other restaurants include the Rusty Hammer, La Maison Navarre, Fat Bellie’s, Flatbread, and Popover’s, amongst many others. You’ll never run out of new restaurants to try, and food to taste!


The Portsmouth Music Hall


    This gorgeous renovated 895-seat hall first opened in 1878 as a Vaudeville theatre, and is home  to a wide variety of types of entertainment today! From film festivals, to music events, to innovative speakers, to occasional theatrical performances straight from the Ogunquit Playhouse, this multi-purpose hall serves its community in more ways than one!  The venue is also the performance space of the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra- a professional-quality orchestra comprised of professional musicians and advanced amateurs who bless the community with beautiful symphonic performances, often collaborating with local New England musical artists in the process.


Market Square

    There is never a dull moment in this bustling center of town!  Up and down these streets and through the city- in addition to the many restaurants- lie dozens and dozens of cute shops.  Stop by Bull Moose to browse through hundreds of vinyl records, CDs, and DVDs. Swing by Serendipity for some cute fashion, jewelry, and decor!  Have a flair for organizing? Gus & Ruby is another cute store filled with planners of all kinds, along with some other stationary items. Prefer edgier stores with amusing products?  Macro Polo and Off Piste are the places to go for items containing witty remarks and sarcastic humor that are bound to make you chuckle! Other stores for clothing, jewelry, New England knick knacks, and more can all be found as well.  While you’re looking, be sure to stop and listen to the street performers, who can often be found at or near North Church.