Twenty Things to Do in the NH Merrimack Valley Region

August 04. 2018 8:08PM

Henniker Bridge (Lisa Martineau /

Thinking about spending some time in the Merrimack Valley? This area of southeastern New Hampshire is the most urban. Within the Merrimack Valley there are a trio of cities: Manchester, Nashua and Concord. Among them, you'll find many attractions, covering nature and art, science and history. But, we'll take the back roads, and discover some of the "other" great things that this region has to offer. We've picked out Twenty Things to Do in the Merrimack Valley to get you started. For a more expanded list of ideas, see our list of the 101 Things to Do in NH.

Cross the Contoocook by foot
Cross the Contoocook River in Henniker via a covered bridge. The Henniker Bridge is located on the campus of New England College and the only way to cross it is on foot. You'll be treated to beautiful views of a stone arch bridge and the river itself along the trails that run behind it. It's a great place to take a walk in the fall. Maybe have a picnic riverside? The bridge was built in 1972, so it's not the oldest covered bridge in the state but its construction is still a marvel. Explore! 

See the Stars
The sky is no limit at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord. Budding astronomers can look through a telescope at the rings of Saturn, watch shows in their 40-foot domed theatre, take a journey through the solar system, and participate in space-related activities during public programs throughout the year. Call the planetarium for information, 603-271-7831.

Head to the Zoo
Charmingfare Farm in Candia has the largest collection of agricultural animals in New Hamphsire. But it's the other wildlife that gets so much attention. Here you can witness black bears, lynx, a cougar, a wolf, wolverine, and a porcupine. You'll also see peacock, a trumpeter swan, an eagle owl and other captive birds. There are more than 200 animals from 40 different species. The farm is also a great place for hay and sleigh rides. Charmingfare is the only place like it in New Hampshire. Don't miss out!

Lounge at Lake Massabesic
Lake Massabesic in Auburn is where many locals spend a Sunday afternoon. The lake serves as the water supply for the city of Manchester, so there is no swimming allowed, but kayakers, hikers and bikers all make excellent use of this body of water. Park in the lot off Route 28 and enjoy a picnic on the lawn beside the lake. Bird watchers will enjoy following the trails at the Massabesic Audubon Center, where a jaunt down a path leads to the lake, where you can eye ospreys nesting overhead. It all makes for a peaceful pilgrimage away from the city for an afternoon.

Hit the Antiques Trail
Southern New Hampshire is home to some of the best antiques shops in the state. The "Antiques Trail", located along Route 101A in Amherst and Milford is popular with collectors. Scores of dealers can be found along this stretch of roadway, including the Antiques at Mayfair Co-op, which sells everything from weathervanes to crazy quilts to advertising tins. It's a great place to browse through history. Other wonderful shops can be found a short drive away. If you plan to hit the trail, be sure to put aside some time. You'll discover how easy it is to get wrapped up in all the nostalgia and history. Pick up maps of the trail at area shops.

Building a Mystery

If you can't get enough of the History Channel or just enjoy a good mystery, take a jaunt to America's Stonehenge in Salem and you'll find 105-acres of woodlands centered on an archaeological site that is over 4,000 years old. It is perhaps the oldest man-made construction in the United States, has a maze of man-made chambers, ceremonial sites, and boasts an accurate astronomical calendar which can be used to determine certain solar and lunar events throughout the year. Come see these unique stone structures and check out the alpacas too while you are there. 

Pump Some Fresh Water
There are fresh water hand-pumps located in various spots in southern New Hampshire. If you feel like a taste of the real stuff, straight from local water supplies, you don't need to go far. A scenic drive along Route 13 (also known as the Davis Scenic Drive) in New Boston will lead you to the New Boston Spring Pump. Keep your eyes peeled to the side of the road. It's that old-fashioned looking thing on the side of the road. If you are coming from Goffstown, it will be on the opposite side of the road. Continue on Route 13 and turn around in the town common before looping back to the pump pulloff. Look for other water pumps throughout the region. 

Prison Shop
Corrections Creations, a hobbycraft retail store run by the Department of Corrections in Concord is the place you'll find all sorts of hand-made items including pottery, furniture, clocks and leather products, all for a fraction of the price you'd pay at galleries. The work is sometimes imperfect, but the majority of pieces at this little shop is made with an eye to detail. The store is located on North State Street in Concord.

Farms where you can pick fresh berries, pumpkins and apples are located throughout the southeastern portion of New Hampshire. Some of the farms have petting zoos, or small ponds where you can feed ducks and other birds. We like Mack's Apples in Londonderry, where you'll find the fruits of fall along with their annual scarecrow display. Families flock to places like Mack's. Why not you?

Manchester Monarchs (Thomas Roy/ Union Leader)

Support Our Sports Teams
Whether you like hockey or baseball, there is something for sports fans in every season. The Manchester Monarchs, who have made the Queen City their home since 2001, have become a fixture in the state's largest city. During the spring, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats run the bases at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, down the street from the arena where the Monarchs slap the puck around. The Fisher Cats are the Eastern League AA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Beer Tour
The Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack offers guided tours of their facilities. You'll be able to catch a glimpse of the famous Clydesdales at the plant, learn about the brewing process, poke around in their gift shop and sample the beer on tap as part of your tour. The stately property is also the site of many car shows and fund-raising events throughout the year.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads
The best time to visit the Amoskeag Fishways, located just outside downtown Manchester, is during fish migration season in May and June. Watch salmon climb the 54-step fish ladder that allows migrating fish to make their way around the Amoskeag Dam on their way up the Merrimack River that so defines this area of the state. Come see the different types of fish that can be found in the river, and the wildlife that make this habitat their home. Check out their programs that run many weekends during the year.

Courier to the Currier
The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester re-opened in 2008 after a $21 million expansion which closed the museum for 21 months and added 33,000 additional square feet of gallery, classroom, event, auditorium and office space. The museum has a permanent collection of about 13,000 pieces, with regular rotating traveling exhibits, exhibits featuring the work of local artists, and sometimes student exhibitions too. 

Getaway Cabin (Courtesy/Getaway - Nicole Chan Studios)

Find a White Elephant
In southern New Hampshire, there are two large flea markets that have been around for many years. They can both be found in the Merrimack Valley, one in Derry and one in Hollis. The Hollis Flea Market has had vendors peddling their wares since 1964 — and yes, that's why you remember going there as a kid. They are the largest and oldest running flea market in the state, so make a day of it and explore. At the Derry Flea Market, you can't miss the pink elephant (did we say white…?) behind the fence, or the long line of traffic waiting to get in early on the weekends to the flea market. But it's worth the short wait. And they are open year-round. That's a bonus. 

Fly Like an Eagle….
SkyVenture New Hampshire, a state-of-the-art vertical wind tunnel that offers visitors a chance to fly — or at least experience the feeling of flying — is located in Nashua. Used by skydivers to train (now you don't have to fall out of a perfectly good plane to do it) the experience is truly one-of-a-kind. The difference with SkyVenture New Hampshire, is that you don't have to feel what it's like to fall, or pull a ripcord or hope that your parachute opened. Try it; you definitely won't regret it! They have recently added some new attractions, Fishpipe NH, is a new and unique water ride where you slide farther than the world’s longest water-slide. They also offer a 24 Foot Nicros A.R.T. Rock Climbing Wall. Climb this pr premium rock climbing wall. It's the most realistic climbing experience currently available in the climbing industry. Another feature is called "Surf's Up" and it offers an endless indoor wave that you can surf - indoors. It's the largest indoor surfing facility in North America. Talk about the cutting edge, Skyventure isn't just for skydivers anymore!

Bring the family to Canobie
Nothing says summer like an amusement park and southern New Hampshire has its own in Canobie Lake Park. Roller coasters. Water rides. Cotton candy. Twirly twisty rides. Carousels. Ferris Wheel. Spinning things. Trains, tea cups and tanks (yes, tanks). Fair food. Arcade games and games where you can win stuffed toys. Oh yeah, it's all here. Just pack the family in the minivan and go spend the day. 

An equestrian destination
Lucky Seven Stables is a little gem tucked away in Londonderry. If you'd like to ride mild-mannered (used to having strangers sit on them) horses, then you're in for a treat. Lucky Seven offers guided horseback 5-mile long scenic trail rides. They also do sunset trail rides, pony parties, and more. You have to be 8 to ride, but if you have older kids, this a fantastically affordable way to spend an afternoon doing something they'll never forget. 

Take a State House Tour
Take a tour of New Hampshire's State House in Concord. The building, which was completed in 1819 using Concord granite, towers over Main Street with its gold-gilded dome. It's the oldest statehouse in which the legislature still sits in its original chambers. It remains the heart of New Hampshire's government and is one of the country's more unique and architecturally significant capitol buildings. Be sure to appreciate the Hall of Flags in the front entrance and if possible, see the Legislative and Executive Chambers and show your kids how government work is done. You may even get to meet the governor! Tours must be booked through the Visitor's Center. While you are there, walk across the street to the Museum of New Hampshire History and learn a thing or two about the Granite State's unique past. 

SEE Some Science
The kids will love this hands-on discovery center in Manchester's Millyard. The SEE Science Center offers more than 80 exhibits, including exhibits on sound, light, motion and simple machines. SEE is also the home of the LEGO Millyard project, the largest of its kind in the world.

Go Getaway
Experience what it's like to be technology-free while you're exploring the Granite State, by staying in a small cabin at Getaway's 'Boston Outpost' in Epsom. They call it their Boston Outpost. You'll find 43 modern cabins on 40 acres with plenty of room to unplug from the go of the daily grind, giving you the chance to slow down, explore nature and roam in the great outdoors. There's actually plenty of room in these 160-square foot, fully-furnished cabins, with a kitchen that offers a stove top, mini-fridge, and kitchen supplies plus a bath that features a shower and toilet. And the best part? There's no Wi-Fi! Getaway gives visitors a cell phone lockbox and provides games, classic books, ideas on how to keep idle hands busy, fire-building tools, and the ingredients to make S-mores. A fire pit will draw you outdoors and help you to reconnect with your family, friends, or a loved one.

OutdoorsTourismCampingHikingMerrimack Valley

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required