Moving to the Upper Valley
March 7, 2009 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Mz. Billtron and I are moving from Brooklyn, New York, to Hanover, New Hampshire, this summer. I know nothing about that part of the country and would appreciate any advice or recommendations that will make the transition a great one.

We're going to need a car. We'd get a Prius if we were moving elsewhere, so what should we get for the snow?
I am going to miss my Gorilla Coffee. What should I switch to?
Where should I buy beer? Where should I buy beer-making supplies?
What's a reasonable distance to travel to do something interesting, and what's within that radius that I should check out?
My dad really wants to canoe down the Connecticut River. Is that the best place to go canoeing nearby?
What else should I know?
posted by billtron to Travel & Transportation around Hanover, NH (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're moving to a great area!
Hubs and I have been vacationing locally for years. As for a car, I highly recommend a Honda Element or CRV. They both get decent mileage, are good in the snow and carry lots of gear. (we are not affiliated in any way with Honda)
Many brewpubs nearby. The best known is probably the Seven Barrel Brewery in Lebanon NH. We aslo like Murphy's on the Green in Hanover.
Lots of kayaking opportunities on the river. The Vermont state parks system has various put in points along the Connecticut as does Dartmouth, I think. Wilgus state park has a shuttle to and from som locations.
I'm not a coffee drinker, but Green Mountain coffee is big locally.
All sorts of activities nearby. Write me if you want more.
I'm sure more local people will chime in, too.
posted by pentagoet at 9:33 AM on March 7, 2009

I grew up in that general area and would be happy to answer any specific questions you have via MeMail. My stepfather works for Dartmouth med school and my mom got her Master's from Dartmouth, so I am quite familiar with Hanover.

For car: Anything with 4WD. Bigger is not necessarily better. The most common cars in N. New England are Volvos, Subarus, and Saabs. Think "Safety first!" Prius would be ok, except that most of your driving is going to be on back roads and not on highways *or* in the city. I don't know that gas mileage is really different with a hybrid. If there exists a Prius with 4WD, go for it.

Seriously. 4WD is absolutely non-negotiable. One of my parents' cars doesn't have it and they just can't drive that car when the weather gets bad in the winters.

Hanover is really going to have the most "cultural" activities. Dartmouth's Hood museum is not bad at all for a museum of its size. Sign up for updates from the Hopkins Center - lots of dance, theatre, general artsy stuff going on there. Lots of good concerts of the more "classical" variety (i.e. not those "shows" that the kids are going on about).

As for a reasonable driving radius: be prepared that you are going to have to drive at least half an hour for anything. I grew up in N. New England and anything under three hours one-way is a "day trip." Burlington and Boston are both within this radius.

As for beer: Magic Hat and Harpoon are both local - Harpoon's brewery is in nearby Windsor, VT - and I hear from beer drinkers that they're pretty good.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2009

Another former Hanover resident, although it's been years since I lived there.

Hanover's a college town, and most of the stuff to do does revolve around/happen at the college. They have a film society, which brings in cool films; there are a bunch of different open-to-the-public lecture series - Jane Goodall was there recently, for instance; various bands and dance troupes will make their way to Hanover.

If you're into outdoorsy stuff, get in touch with the Dartmouth Outing Club; the Ledyard Canoe Club can advise you about canoeing in the area, although we always went the path of least resistance by renting canoes from them and paddling on the Connecticut. You don't have to be affiliated with the college to join either organization or rent equipment or cabins from them.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2009

For a car, something with at least front-wheel or four-wheel drive, for sure. I'd say the most important thing is to know how to drive in slushy/snowy conditions. Also, while the main roads are maintained in the winter, a lot of people live on gravel roads or on the side of a hill. Keep a shovel and road sand/salt in your car no matter what you drive. And invest in a good set of snow tires.

Local coffee shops: Dirt Cowboy in Hanover and Tuckerbox in White River Junction, VT are both excellent. Green Mountain coffee is usually what's served in local restaurants. is a solid resource for good eats locally.

Buying beer: Murphy's and Canoe Club in Hanover both have at least a dozen mostly local beers on tap. If you're looking for a six-pack or a keg, Stinson's in Hanover is good. Beverage King in West Lebanon has a ton of variety. Hard liquor is only sold at NH state liquor stores, closest ones are in Lebanon or West Leb. Beer and wine is also sold at gas stations and grocery stores, too. Not sure where to get supplies to make beer, though.

Burlington, VT is about an hour away, Boston is two hours. More locally, there's a ton of stuff at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth, the Lebanon Opera House, White River Junction has a bunch of artsy stuff. Route 12A in West Lebanon is the local shopping mecca... department stores, etc. Best grocery store is the Co-op, with stores in Hanover and Lebanon. Pub crawling, as with most things in the UV, usually involves driving to the next town.

The Dartmouth Outing Club has a dock on the river right in Hanover, run by the Ledyard Canoe Club (not to be confused with the restaurant). They rent out canoes and kayaks, too.

Most people who live here are from somewhere else, so Dartmouth and its affiliated grad schools have a lot of resources for people new to the area: 1, 2, 3, 4.

I'm a current resident, so feel free to memail me with more specific questions.
posted by angels in the architecture at 10:44 AM on March 7, 2009

What's wrong with a Prius. My brother has a back country Vermont, 45 minute commute and loves his. Just don't hit a deer like he did. Another official car of snow country is the AWD Subura Outback, which I have and is great if you are planning to add kids or dogs to your life.

I'll nth the recommendations for Murphy's, 7 barrels and the Co-op.
posted by saffry at 10:56 AM on March 7, 2009

I'm a Dartmouth alum, and I'm going to say that everyone else probably has the correct info. The only stuff that I'd add is to EXPLORE!

The King Arthur Flour Company is right across the river in Vermont, and has tons of stuff to taste and do. The entire Upper Valley is filled with great hikes, walks, and everything else. If you get tied into the Dartmouth Outing Club, the cabins and stuff that they own up in the Second College Grant are amazing.

As people have said, Hanover is also pretty close to a bunch of good cities - Burlington, Manchester, Concord, Boston, etc. You can drive most places, and they're really good about keeping the roads clear, especially in the winter.

Congrats on moving to the Upper Valley - I have to say that it's a little slow, but I do miss it.

Go Green!
posted by SNWidget at 11:07 AM on March 7, 2009

Addendum: YES! Magic Hat and Harpoon are two great brewery tours. Being a college town, there are plenty of places to get nice beer if you're into that. And plenty of places to get kegs of Keystone Light and other swill if you're into that as well.
posted by SNWidget at 11:07 AM on March 7, 2009

Mother-in-law lives in Lebanon, NH, so we are occasional visitors to the area. The Upper Valley is a great area. Some other suggestions, check out the Norwich Inn in Norwich, VT, which has a microbrewery. Also, Dan & Whit's in Norwich has some good stuff. We love the Dartmouth Co-op. The League of New Hampshire Crafters shop in Hanover has some great stuff. Definitely do an excursion to Quechee, VT. The restaurant at Simon Pearce in Quechee is great. Try Polly's Pancake Parlor in NH. If you have kids, the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich is great fun. The Northern Stage in White River Junction, VT puts on some good plays. The Killdeer Farm Stand in Norwich has good fresh stuff in season. The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is worth a visit. That's all I can think of off the top of my head.
posted by gudrun at 12:36 PM on March 7, 2009

I have never been there. BUT

I do recall Bill Bryson lived there for a few years after moving back to the States with his family after living in the UK. He details his experiences in moving to the town, in admittedly general terms, in his book I am a Stranger Here Myself (published in the UK as Notes from a Big Country). It is a complation of some columns he wrote for the Daily Mail (A UK newspaper) about the area, and readjusting to an American way of life.

You might get a little bit of insight into Hanover and its surrounds, as well as plenty of laugh out loud moments. It is one of the funniest books I have ever read.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 3:35 PM on March 7, 2009

wow, it's funny watching the other mefi D alums come out on this thread...

one question I haven't seen answered is on brewing supplies. I did some homebrewing when I was an undergrad, and the brewers I knew in school bought their gear from the Lebanon Health Food Store. Decent, if not great selection, and helpful folks.

For beers on tap, Hanover isn't great -- it's not really a bar town -- but as others have mentioned, Canoe Club and Murphy's (both on Main Street) always have a decent selection on tap. Ramunto's generally has some good brews, too. You can buy beer in town at Stinson's, but you may have to fight through the crowds of undergrads. (It's where the fraternities buy their beer; in spite of that, they generally carry a good-to-great selection of domestic microbrews, depending on the season. Side note: if you want to see ridiculous quantities of bad beer, ask to see the Keystone cooler.) Beverage King has mass quantities, if not necessarily always quality.

Thumbs-up to Harpoon (mmm, Double Bag), but I'll put out a word of caution on Magic Hat's lineup. #9 is good for what it is, but a lot of their seasonals are pretty hit-or-miss.

carwise, you can get by with most things -- I myself drove a 20-year old cadillac cimarron around the upper valley without incident, albeit with a great deal of caution in the winter -- but there's a reason you see a ton of subarus. AWD / 4WD is great to have on those roads.

If you're inclined to the outdoors, well, there are tons of dayhikes to be had year-round, plenty of skiing within a short drive during the wintertime...and, well, you name it. the DOC is a good starting point for information. (they publish the Dartmouth Outing Guide, which is a pretty comprehensive list of things to do outdoors around Hanover, for all skill levels.)

also, if you need an urban weekend getaway, remember: you're not that far from Montreal up there. (3.5 hour drive, if memory serves.)

I'm in NYC these days, a few years removed from Hanover -- I kinda made your trip in reverse. If you've got any other questions, feel free to MeFi mail me.
posted by theoddball at 5:31 PM on March 7, 2009

I am no help on New Hampshire, but when we left Brooklyn for Boston, we couldn't find anything we liked as much as Gorilla coffee. So we mail order it! It actually works out to cost the same or in some cases less than buying good coffee beans here.
posted by min at 6:02 PM on March 8, 2009

It is... very bizarre to see the finer points of your tiny hometown spelled out by half a dozen Mefites.

Pretty spot on advice from everybody, so rather than reiterating, I'll only try to add on:

-Somehow, nobody mentioned Long Trail Ale. This is criminal. Their beer is spectacular and only available locally. The brewery is also a short drive away: Long Trail Brewery.

-If you buy a 1998 Subaru Outback in forest green, nobody will ever know you're not a local. (Plus, they're 100% perfect for the driving year-round, provided you don't get one with a bum catalytic converter.)

-Green Mountain Coffee is pretty good. No Gorilla, but what is?

-For the most part, you're stuck with whatever Dartmouth sends your way in terms of culture (which is a lot, to be fair.) But as others have mentioned, Boston and Burlington are both pretty close, and NYC is actually much, much closer than you might think. The drive's short enough that it can make an overnight trip worthwhile for the right event, or $50 (assuming they haven't jacked up the price, which they well might have) will get you a seat on The Vermonter, an 8-hour, once a day train that will take you from White River Junction to Grand Central.

ENJOY. I love and miss Hanover dearly.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:58 AM on March 9, 2009

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