travel tips for New Hampshire and Maine?
August 25, 2005 7:59 PM   Subscribe

In my quest to visit all 50 states, I'm finally going to New Hampshire and Maine this fall. Please help me decide where to go and what to do.

I'll be coming from and returning to Westchester County, NY - just north of NYC. First stage of the trip is to drive (of necessity, on major highways) to Plymouth, NH, where I'll attend a conference from Oct 6 through Oct 8. Starting on the morning of Sunday, Oct 8, I'd like to take a week, maybe ten days, to explore interesting things in NH and Maine. I will have a car at all times, and don't mind driving long distances.

Some things that qualify to me as interesting: nice places to hike and/or drive, good restaurants, unusual small towns, odd/kitschy local attractions, good pie (I would imagine there is a great deal of good pie to be had in these states), nice places to see colorful leaves (they should be changed/changing around that time, yes?), museums, bookstores, Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppes.

Basically, I'd like to take in as much local color as I can, and see the "real" NH and Maine. Oddball sights and events are especially welcome.

Bonus points if you can recommend interesting and/or cheap places to stay: hotels, B&Bs, hostels are all OK. (I am not interested in camping.)
Oh, and any useful websites regarding traveling in these states are most welcome.

Thank you!

(These will be states #48 and 49, by the way. Only Alaska remains!)
posted by Dr. Wu to Travel & Transportation around New Hampshire (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Good pie--Lou's, Hanover, NH (exit 13 on Rt. 91) Mile-high apple pie! Dartmouth College is in the same town with the Hood Museum and Rauner rare collections library (both give tours).

Mt. Monadnock--most climbed mountain in America/the world. Jaffrey, NH. Also, Franconia Notch (see where the Man in the Mountain used to be!) and Mt. Washington. (A little late to climb, maybe, but you can drive to the top.) The White Mountains or Monadnock would be excellent for leaf-peeping. In fact, most anywhere in the state is good.

There's a desert in Maine, too. Check out Roadside America. There's also a show called Chronicle (the best website I could find for it, sorry) that looks at rural New England, as well as Yankee magazine for some outdoorsy festival-type stuff.

Kinda off-topic, but if you want an oddball sight, check out the National Plastics Museum in Leominster, MA (~30 minutes from the NH border in central MA; home to the plastic pink flamingo).
posted by strikhedonia at 8:31 PM on August 25, 2005

Maine Things --
Camping: the pristine, old-school Hermit Island campground. Oddball: The Maine State Prison store. Here, you can pick up cheap, unfinished wood furniture and kitschy souvenirs, all made by those serving time in the Maine correctional system.
Stunning Natural Beauty: Acadia National Park. This is really a don't-miss, especially for a 50-stater like yourself.

There's so much more. Others wiser than I will post their tips, I'm sure. If you are planning any time in/around Portsmouth, NH, I may have more local tips for you, and might even be available for a little drive-around tour. Feel free to e-mail.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on August 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

I went to NH and ME many times from NYC, always to fish for bass. There are dozens of little lakes. Gitcha self a rod and reel, a jointed Rapala or 3, and go for a walk in the woods. Catching a fish is optional but hard to avoid if you put the rapala in the water. When you land the pesky crittur, holding him by the jaw so as not to disturb his slime coating, you can then admire him for a moment in his gleaming splendor before tossing him back into the lake.

Meanwhile you are walking around in the lovely woods at one of the nicest times of year, observing badgers, sundews, cardinals, frogs, toads, and all sorts of other good things.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:44 PM on August 25, 2005

Concorde NH - Battle flags dating back to the American Revolution are inside the capitol building, the barbershop close by does the best haircuts I have have ever gotten, and the Holiday Inn down the street is nice, affordable, and has a working pool and hot tub. Finest kind el cheapo chinese restaurant on the other side of the block too. It is a nice city to just walk down the street in.
Salem (yes, that Salem) and Walden (no, you mean mom and dad were 30 minutes away?) are close enough to see both in the same day.

Bring your sunglasses... the Northeastern leaves can be mighty bright in the fall. :)
posted by buzzman at 8:57 PM on August 25, 2005

There's a Budweiser brewery in Merrimack, New Hampshire that has free tours. They also have a gorgeous Clydesdale stable. Actually the whole place is very impressive and has immaculate grounds. Too bad most of the beer made there is Natural Light and Busch.
posted by smackfu at 9:22 PM on August 25, 2005

Head out to Rockland and see the ka-RAY-zee belted Galloways!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:16 PM on August 25, 2005

Oh, and you must check out Portsmouth, NH. There's old colonial architecture everywhere... literally, entire blocks of old buildings.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:19 PM on August 25, 2005

Congratulations, I've always wanted to see all 50.
posted by samh23 at 12:19 AM on August 26, 2005

You can drive to the top of Mt. Washington until Oct. 23, when the auto road closes. You can also hike up from
Pinkham Notch, but if you do that, go prepared for arctic weather; Washington's summit is unpredictable, and can get very nasty. If the weather's clear, the view is great.

Kancamagus Highway is good for foliage and scenery.

Try to avoid North Conway on weekends; it's gridlocked. There are no ways around, because of the mountains.

Camden, Maine is a very pretty seaport. See if you can ride the chairlift (or hike) to the top of the ski trail for a panoramic view.

Do not miss Acadia.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:38 AM on August 26, 2005

Well, if I were going to New Hampshire, I would make a beeline for Funspot, the self-proclaimed "Classic Game Headquarters of the World!" The list of their games is here and it's pretty impressive.
posted by Otis at 5:16 AM on August 26, 2005

If you're heading from NH to Maine, you're going to drive to Concord and then take Route 4 to the seacoast, where you'll want to hit Portsmouth before heading on up to Maine. Concord (my hometown) is okay, definitely follow buzzman's advice and check out the State House. There's also the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, which was pretty high-tech at one point, and I like The Barley House for good food and beer. It's right across from the State House.

The portion of Route 4 between Epsom and Northwood is known for Antique Alley, an endless procession of antique stores. When you hit Durham, home of the University of New Hampshire, you might stop off at The Dairy Bar for some good ice cream.

Portsmouth is where the action is. Countless great restaurants (of note are The Friendly Toast and Gilley's), it's right on the harbor (where the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, technically in Kittery, Maine, was just spared the axe), and there's plenty of history. Oh, and shopping.

In southern Maine you could visit Fort Foster or Fort McClary, and have lunch at Bob's Clam Hut.

On preview: oh heck yes, by all means go to Funspot as Otis says! If you're at all into classic video games, it's awe-inspiring.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:23 AM on August 26, 2005

There's a desert in Maine, too.

Do not waste your time with this horrid tourist trap. There are too many good things to see and do to be bothered with this sand pit.

Do note that you will be in the mountain areas just at the peak of our foliage season and that most of the mountain tourist spots will be crowded with tour buses of people "from away". Some of the coastal places will have shut down for the season by October, but I would second Kirth's recommendation for a visit to the Camden/Rockport/Rockland area, which is stunning in the fall.
posted by briank at 5:47 AM on August 26, 2005

Awwww, briank, I LOVE the Desert of Maine! :(

Anyway, if you make it to Augusta, the State House and the Maine State Museum are in the same complex, which makes for a nice visit. There's also an old fort nearby, if you're into history. Then you'll be ready for a nice lunch in wonderfully picturesque Hallowell, the next town down the river.
posted by JanetLand at 5:57 AM on August 26, 2005

I don't have any specific sights to add, but you should make hotel reservations now. Your timeframe is prime for foliage viewing, and many places will be booked already(especially charming places or those in nice towns).

If you have trouble, try calling a couple of ski resorts. They tend to be huge and since skiing season won't have started yet, they should be relatively open. Have fun!
posted by CiaoMela at 6:36 AM on August 26, 2005

My SO just reminded me of one of the most amazing places in New Hampshire: Castle in the Clouds (aka the Lucknow Estate). It was built by eccentric millionaire Tom Plant around the turn of century on the site of an ancient volcanic caldera. The views are stupendous, the grounds immaculate, and you can go horseback riding or take a castle tour if you like. The castle has all kinds of beautiful decorations and weird architectural designs (for example, all the door knobs in the place were installed very low because Mr. Plant was a very short man). More info here.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2005

Bar Harbour, Maine. Acadia. I had a lovely week there a few years ago. Go sea kayaking. Check out the local beer, too.
posted by Decani at 6:47 AM on August 26, 2005

For NH, Visit the Lakes Region. Weirs Beach, Guilford, laconia, Alton Bay, Meredith area. Must see is castle in the clouds, as well as Funspot. Take a dinner cruise on the Mt. Washington.

Also in NH, visit the NH Seacost. Start in Hampton Beach, for a really kinda trashy-but fun boardwalk experience with old arcades, fried dough, and camaros with sub woofers.

Follow the shoreline up through rye and you will end up in Portsmouth. Eat at the BBQ joint on the main drag - its awesome. Take a ferry out to the isles of shoals. Visit Star Island.

Next, hop over to kittery, not for the outlet malls, but try to find the old fort out there, and maybe weasel your way out to kittery point.

Further up the coast is Old Orchard Beach, as well as York. Theres's a small old amusement park in York worth seeing.

Keep going north to Rockland, Maine, where Andrew Wyeth painted some of his most famous works. Lay in the field where Christina did.
posted by quibx at 6:53 AM on August 26, 2005

Keep going north to Rockland, Maine, where Andrew Wyeth painted some of his most famous works.

...and see the cows! The freakish genetic abominations, the middle-finger-to-god belted Galloway cows, man!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:24 AM on August 26, 2005

Response by poster: I never fail to be impressed with the kind helpfulness of AskMetafilter. Thank you, everyone.

There are so many great suggestions here that I may need to extend my trip. Which would be fine, actually. Seriously, just about everything listed here sounds like it would be really interesting.

Thank you all so much! I'm even more excited for this trip now.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:04 AM on August 26, 2005

Dear Dr. Wu --

The list I'm going to give you will give you a basic overview of what Maine is like -- a greatest hits, if you will.

Coming up from Portsmouth, NH, take US Route 1 North to Portland (instead of the highway). Driving it straight with no stops is about an hour, but I'd suggest stopping in Old Orchard Beach for an hour or so (Pier, Seaside Carnival, kind of mini Atlantic City atmosphere).

In Portland:
-- Walk around the shops in the Old Port
-- Take the Casco Bay Ferry mailboat run and see the Island communities in Casco Bay.
-- Visit the Wadsworth-Longfellow House
-- Spend a couple of hours at the Portland Museum of Art, and also be sure to walk around Congress Street in the area from the Museum to Longfellow square -- great small shops and ethnic restaurants. Used books, too.

In Portland I'd suggest eating at The Great Lost Bear and perhaps staying at The Inn at Saint John.
That's about a day and a half worth of stuff in Portland, so now you've spent two days in Maine.

Drive North on I-295 to Augusta (about a one hour drive). Be sure to stop at L.L.Bean in Freeport on the way.

Do everything in Augusta/Hallowell that Janetland suggests above.
Thus ends your Third Day.

From Augusta, Take Route 17 East to Camden/Rockport and spend a long afternoon enjoying this gem of a seaport. You can also travel slightly south on US Route 1 to visit the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland.

Leave Camden, and drive slowly up US Route 1 to Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park. Devote an entire day to Acadia. Its a natural wonderland.

(While going up Route 1, be sure to stop at Perry's Nut House in Belfast (although its now a shadow of its former glory), and Fort Knox in Prospect. There's also Moody's Diner in Waldoboro, but that's somewhat out of your way.)

On your Fifth day, drive back to Augusta by taking Route 1 to Ellsworth, then following Route 3 inland to Augusta.

From Augusta, take the Turnpike to Lewiston/Auburn, then head west on Route 26 to visit the Sabathday Lake Shaker Village (closes October 10th) and spend an afternoon at the Fryeburg Fair (October 2-9 this year).

From Fryeburg, you can head south or west to go back to New Hampshire and, eventually, home. Or, you can do the whole trip I've laid out backwards, if that works better for you.

Maine is a big state, and there is a whole section up at the top (Aroostook County and the Moosehead Lake Region) that I haven't touched on here. It takes a while to drive from place to place. Along the roads I've listed above you'll find lots of roadside attractions -- weird little antique shops (like Elmer's Barn on Route 17) and fresh berry stands.

A few other ideas you can do just about anywhere: go apple picking, use a local paper to find a Bean Supper or Hunter's breakfast and go there for a meal, the local paper also will list local craft fairs -- there's a big one in Lewiston October 15 and 16 -- and just, in general, stay off the beaten path. But you already knew that. :-)
posted by anastasiav at 8:22 AM on August 26, 2005

Well, drat. You were posting while I was writing.

If you need more details on anything, my email is in my profile.
posted by anastasiav at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2005

These are great suggestions. I'm writing 'em down, too -- still so much to explore around here.

If you do stop in Portland, there is a Rockwell Kent exhibit going on at the Museum of Art that is supposed to be very good. It's up until Oct. 16.

As to the Desert of Maine -- if you're the type of person that likes kitsy, quirky. mom and pop roadside attractions, you'll love it. If you're not that type of person, you'll hate it. Personally, I loved it. There's an exhibit of sand from all over the world, tram rides over the dunes, and fake camels. It's a hoot. The reason I've been there is that they also have a campground at the Desert of Maine -- a very nice one. And it's just 10 minutes or so from the busy Main St. of Freeport, where LL Bean is, but it's nice and quiet at the Desert.

If you do go to LL Bean, you might want to try one of their walk-on adventures. It's a great deal where, for $12, you can hop in a van, travel to a nearby outdoor campus, and get a solid, 90-minute class in something like kayaking, flyfishing, or archery. I took the clayshooting class and had a great time. This kind of thing makes LL Bean more of an experience. [While checking links, I discovered that the Walk-Ons don't go that late into fall, which is too bad. I leave the link in for others and for future reference).

The other fun LL Bean experience is to go there late at night. It's open 24 hours. So you can have a fine meal at, say, Gritty McDuff's, stay late for an extra pint, then cruise into Bean's and see who's there at night. Mostly college students, people on outdoor-adventure treks. A friend of mine who went to Unity says that there was an "L L Bean Club" operating on principles similar to the famous Mile High Club of aviation.
posted by Miko at 9:12 AM on August 26, 2005

Response by poster: anasatasiav, that was awesome. You planned my itinerary for me! Huzzah!
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:16 AM on August 26, 2005

Maine is a big state, and there is a whole section up at the top [...] that I haven't touched on here

Just like to add that up in Northern Maine (Smyrna) is a fairly sizeable Amish population that got tired of all the tourism in PA. Unlike their PA counterparts, these folks are genuinely happy to meet visitors.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2005

If you end up in the Camden/Rockport are (which I, like others here, highly recommend), then you should take the ferry out to Vinalhaven. The ride out to the to the island is beautiful and the community itself is story-book New England. Walk around, take some photos, have lobster for lunch... great time.
posted by 27 at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2005

and of course there's Mt. Agamenticus.Good bike trails and Hiking within a few miles of the coast. Near York, Me. , Great lighthouses along the coast as well. Coastal towns start getting quiet after Labor Day.
posted by Agamenticus at 2:34 PM on August 26, 2005

--Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park. Lots of hiking and nature-related activities. A great place to stay is the Wonder View Inn.
--Portland and Rockland/Rockport/Camden are worth stops as well.

NH (born and raised!)
--Portsmouth; very historic. Many great restaurants and shops. Strawbery Banke. Lighthouses, beaches, etc... Odiorne Point. Isles of Shoals and whale watches.
--White Mountains/North Conway (there is a bypass that will help with some of the traffic in Conway, you just have to find it, it's behind the Mountain Valley Mall and comes out near Cranmore Mt.). Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast. Definitely worth a trip! The Cog is BORING, skip it and drive up yourself. A little scary, but fun! Lots of outlet shopping and nature-related activities. Ride the tram to the top of Cannon Mt. Hike The Flume. Check out Lost River. Arethusa Falls is a great hike.
--Lakes Region (Lake Winnipesaukee, Wolfeboro, Weirs Beach). Definitely check out Funspot! Mt. Major in Alton is a great hike, not too taxing, and the view is AMAZING and free! Ride "The Mount" -- the M/S Mount Washington.
posted by suchatreat at 7:11 PM on August 26, 2005

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