Southern New Hampshire itinerary dilemma

Jun 14th, 2010, 01:26 PM
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Southern New Hampshire itinerary dilemma

Thanks to many of the posters here (esp RLFox184 & dfrostnh, and many others), DH & I are planning a weekend trip to Southern NH in July. Of course, once you've provided me with so much information, I realized 2 days is not nearly enough!

Our #1 goal is to visit the Zimmerman House at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, plus the museum itself.

We will be staying overnight in Manchester NH.

Here's one itinerary I have come up with:

- AM depart home, take Rt 2 West then Rt 12 North, pass via Fitzwilliam to Rhdodendron State Park (plan to arrive by 11am). Do some hiking and have picnic lunch.

- Continue on Rt 12 to Keene (and visit the covered bridges)

- East on Rt 101, with a detour to Harrisville, then Peterborough. If time allows, drive up Pack Monadnock auto road for view

- Continue Rt 101 to Manchester for hotel

- AM drive to Hillsborough area (including E Washington & Washington)
- back to Manchester for lunch, then visit Currier Museum of Art
- head home

Does this itinerary look reasonable? Here are my dilemma and questions:

1) Ideally, I'd like to hike up Monadnock Mtn, but it doesn't seem like we'll have time to do so on Day 1. We *could* skip Rhododendron State park, but the website says the rhododendrons will bloom in July, so it seems a shame to miss it?

2) We're skipping Walpole because I think it may be too far West. Is it such a quaint place that we should try to squeeze it in too?

3) Regarding the Hillsborough area, I read about Washington and E washington in the Fodors guidebook. Is it very picturesque to warrant the extra drive to these 2 towns? We won't have time for Franklin Pierce Homestead given that we have to be back in Manchester by lunch time.

4) I have trouble visualizing which town is a "drive-by", and which is a "park-and-wander". Right now I have:
"drive-bys" are Fitzwilliam, Harrisville, Washington & E Washington
"park-and-wanders" are Keene, Peterborough, Hillsborough
Does this sound about right?

5) I see that the Hillsborough Balloon festival takes place July 8-11. If we visit during that weekend, does anyone know how bad is the crowd? Is it something we should avoid if we don't want to stuck in mile-long traffic?

6) If we completely skip Hillsborough area on Sunday morning, is there other closer & scenic places we can visit?

Thanks in advance!
yk is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 02:53 PM
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If you miss Walpole, you'll miss Burdick's chocolate and DH's favorite John Deere dealer. I recently had lunch in Keene at Luca's. It's small and wonderful. You might want to browse downtown Keene.
The drive-by towns will have to be drive-bys because they aren't set up for tourists. They're just darn pretty. You might see if there's anything going on around Washington because sometimes there are artists in a small park and the one room school house is open. Downtown Hillsboro is not pretty but Hillsboro Center is beautiful. You'll have to make sure to get to the right one. We went to the balloon festival years ago but there wasn't much activity, probably because we didn't go during launch times. During the day I wouldn't worry about traffic. If you view Hillsboro's web page you will see the stone arch bridges. You might want to look those up since they are so rare. You'll also see an old dump truck on the photo collage but the dump truck collection is gone. The owner died and all the trucks were auctioned off, maybe just last year.
A different place I would suggest would be the New London - Warner area. Near New London in Wilmot is Winslow State Park with a fun auto road with switchbacks and a lovely small park at the top. The hike to the very top of Mt Kearsarge is steep. You can also go up Mt Kearsarge from the Warner side and this route will take you past the Kearsarge Indian Museum. I like downtown Warner but it's small and pretty quiet. In between New London and Warner is N Sutton NH which is almost overlooked but there's a small, pretty lake and a wonderful small farm museum, Musterfield Farm but unless there is something going on, it doesn't look like much. We usually attend Old Time Farming Days but that's the end of August. There is an active farm stand on the property. During Farming Days there are people demonstrating how to do things, antique tractors, 4-H kids with their young oxen teams, knitters, weavers, lace makers, etc. The former owner was a bachelor who collected old buildings, usually small ones so there is an assortment that you wouldn't expect to see but it's nothing as big as Sturbridge.
From Warner it's a pretty drive Rt 103 to Concord. It ends up as Pleasant St in downtown Concord and then it's simple to get on Rt 93 to head south.
But you have to be in Manchester by lunch time. Oops. The drive out to Hillsboro and Washington is some back roads driving. Scenic but I don't think you have the time. Warner would be closer. The Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum is having a pow wow that weekend but it doesn't start until 10am.

If you want to revise your itinerary, Canterbury Shaker Village is having lavender days on Sat July 10. Unfortunately, what to do on a Sunday morning but be in Manchester for lunch might be a problem. But if you stick to the original plan you might want to include a tour of Frye's Measure Mill in Wilton (near Peterborough). (Sat only)

good luck deciding!
dfrostnh is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 03:32 PM
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You would want to phone Rhodendron State Park and try to get an honest answer regarding blooms. Some years, they bloom earlier or later and also not so much. You might want to consider Cathedral in the Pines in Swanzey.

If you're an early riser, breakfast at the Bedford Village Inn is fantastic
djkbooks is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 05:31 PM
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Great to hear you have decided to explore this area: several thoughts:

1) I think the main question is why stay in Manchester? If Saturday and Sunday are spent exploring the Monadnock region and the only reason you are going into Manchester is to see the museum, then find a hotel or B&B in the region for Saturday Night and save yourself an hour of driving and probably about a half hour of driving on Sunday AM. There are some fantastic lodging and dining options in the area.

2) I completely agree with your drive-by for Harrisville and the park/explore for Keene and Peterborough.

3) Hillsborough has a few nice attractions, I like the stone arch bridges (bring your swimming trunks and aqua socks if you want to take a dip in the river). That said, and agreeing with dfrost, downtown Hillsborough doesn't have a walkable downtown like Keene or Peterborough (although a stop at German John's Bakery and the ice cream shop is a treat). Historic Hillsborough Center is cute. Have not been to the balloon festival yet, hoping to do it this year.

4) Agree with djkbooks about calling Rhododendron S.P. first to make sure the flowers are blooming at the right time. Cathedral in the Pines (in Rindge) is a very nice alternative. It's more of a casual walk with some great views and a spiritual feel (I went there to spend time by myself last Yom Kippur and it made the holy day extra meaningful for me).

5) Monadnock is a very nice hike and the views from the top are sweet but you do need to commit three or four hours to it and your legs might be tired and you will be sweaty so the last thing you would want to do is go explore Keene and Peterborough after that (most of my guests simply come back to the B&B, take showers, and hit the pub for dinner after the climb). I am not saying don't do it but if you do...just beware you would have to cut some other parts of the itinerary.

So, just to tweak the itinerary (and you don't have to do any of this...of course)...

Saturday AM: Route 2 West to Route 140 in Gardner to Route 202 North towards Rindge. If Rhododendron SP is the destination, head West on Rt 119, if Cathedral in the Pines is the destination head East on Rt 119.

From there head to Swanzey and hit four of the covered bridges and up into Keene (focus on Main Street and perhaps the Colony Mill off West Street).

You could either stay here overnight and continue the itinerary tomorrow or...

Take Route 101 East towards Peterborough (with the drive through Harrisville) and find a place to crash near there. There are half a dozen nice restaurants in town so no worries about that.

Sunday: Drive up Pack Monadnock and then take the scenic route to Manchester through Greenfield, Francestown, New Boston, Goffstown, and into Manchester. I think Francestown and New Boston may be equally as "drive-by" scenic as Washington/East Washington.
RLFox184 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2010, 07:19 PM
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Thank you all for your input so far. Now I have even MORE places to choose from for our limited time! Yikes. I guess that means another trip perhaps later in the year. Maybe we can go hiking at Mt Monadnock in the Fall as a day trip.

I appreciate all the information as well as details on routes.

I know the choice of hotel in Manchester is not ideal - it is a bit out of the way for the places we want to see. However, we are sort of on a limited budget, and the Courtyard Marriott in Manchester is offering $79/n including breakfast. I doubt we can find any B&Bs for this rate - and I assume many have a minimum 2-night weekend stay for the summer. I guess we'll just spend some extra time in the car and enjoy the scenery!
yk is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 06:45 AM
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yk, I've hiked Mt. Monadnock twice, once in the summer and once in the early fall. It was great both times. I say either one will be rewarding.

Plan on at least half a day, perhaps longer, for a hike up to the summit and back.
bachslunch is offline  
Jun 15th, 2010, 07:24 AM
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$80/night is hard to beat. I hope you have a great weekend!

BTW, if you go to Cathedral in the Pine and have a hankering for some really awesome ice cream, stop at Kimball's in Jaffrey (the ice cream is made in Westford, MA but this is one of the few places you can get it).
RLFox184 is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 07:13 PM
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How's the "country store" at Kimball's in Jaffrey? If I don't feel like packing a picnic lunch, perhaps we can stop by Kimball's to pick up some sandwiches for lunch later? (and we'll eat ice-cream as a mid-morning snack!)
yk is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2010, 05:39 AM
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I agree with Monadnock later in the year. It is a great hike (well, there are lots of hikes) but the area below tree line can be buggy in July (will be buggy in July).

We used to do this as a one day trip, including hike, from Milton, MA, south of Boston, and it was not a problem. Take water. Plenty of water.

The rest of the trip suggestions bring back fond memories or make me think about another trip to the area. I never really did anything in the NH State Parks, and it is pretty clear we were missing things.
Ackislander is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2010, 06:03 AM
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FYI my Rhododendron blooms have come and gone for quite sometime, so I agree with checking about the blooms.
silentserver is offline  
Jul 7th, 2010, 10:31 AM
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The country store at Kimball's is a gift shop...typical knick knacks. They do serve food...burgers, chicken sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, etc.

If you want sandwiches to go for a picnic, I am a big fan of the Dublin General Store in...Dublin. Very reasonable prices on good sandwiches...and they have daily specials as well.
RLFox184 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2010, 07:49 PM
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djkbooks, do you know if the Bedford Village Inn Tavern very popular for Sunday brunch?
yk is offline  
Jul 12th, 2010, 11:03 AM
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Hey everyone, DH & I decided to take a rain check on the Monadnock region until the Fall. We were planning to go this past weekend, but between the heat and the threatened thunderstorms, we decided that wouldn't be the ideal weather for hiking and walking around in towns. We did go to Manchester for a day, and I posted the TR here:
yk is offline  
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