A lovely coastal city in New Hampshire, Portsmouth is famed for its tree-lined streets dotted with 18th-century Colonial buildings and historic mansions including Moffatt-Ladd House and Governor John Langdon House. It’s a great destination for both couples on vacation and families with children.
Whether you wish to go for a stroll in the picturesque Prescott Park, spend a day at New England’s largest waterpark, or visit the city’s museums and art galleries, options for having a good time in Portsmouth are endless. To help you decide where to go, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Portsmouth, NH.
1. Strawbery Banke Museum
Start your Portsmouth travel itinerary with a visit to the lovely Strawbery Banke Museum, an outdoor history museum that is home to 40 historical buildings. Some of these beautiful buildings have been restored and are open to the public. Visitors will have an opportunity to learn more about the unique history of these homes and see numerous exhibits. Guided tours of the museum are led by experienced guides dressed in period clothing. Keep in mind that this is one of Portsmouth’s most popular attractions and can get crowded, especially on the weekends.
2. Water Country Water Park
There are many unique things to do in Portsmouth, NH and spending a day at the Water Country Water Park is one of them. Ideal for families with children visiting Portsmouth, this water park is home to an enormous 700,000-gallon wave pool which is definitely the highlight of this place. From enjoying the adrenaline rush of the water park’s slides like the Wild Canyon to chilling along Adventure River, a visit to the Water Country Water Park is a memorable experience for the entire family.
3. Prescott Park
Portsmouth is not short on beautiful green spaces and one of the city’s most popular parks is the lovely Prescott Park which can be found along the banks of the Piscataqua River. Some of the highlights of the park include the amazing demonstration park, the well-maintained gardens with annual flowers, and the tiny Point of Graves Burial Grounds cemetery which dates back to the 17th century. If you are visiting in spring, expect to see thousands of tulips in bloom.
4. USS Albacore Museum
No visit to Portsmouth is complete without checking out the extraordinary USS Albacore Museum. Climb aboard the Albacore, a famous submarine that was made to be the fastest in the world. It was designed to operate during WW2 and is famous for its massive hull that allows the submarine to move fast. Nowadays, the submarine is open to the public and visitors can enjoy a short tour of the boat where they can learn more about its unique features.
5. Discover Portsmouth Center
Located in the downtown area, Discover Portsmouth is owned by the Portsmouth Historical Society and acts as a community center with a variety of artifacts, videos, literature, and much more. It’s a great place to visit for travelers looking for information about the city’s local sites and attractions. The friendly on-site staff members are very knowledgeable and are always more than happy to provide all the necessary information. They can also organize many tours including visits to historic mansions and art galleries.
6. Governor John Langdon House
A historic mansion-turned-museum, the 1785 Governor John Langdon House is one of America’s finest Georgian homes. Once home to the famous merchant, war hero, governor of New Hampshire, John Langdon, the property is carefully preserved and illustrates the lifestyles of one of the city’s most famous residents. A visit to the Governor John Langdon House allows travelers to see period decorations and furnishings and to admire the beauty of the picturesque lawns surrounded by hedges.
7. John Paul Jones House
John Paul Jones House was the first sea warrior in colonial America who lived in a grand Georgian mansion built in the 18th century. Nowadays, John Paul Jones House is a spectacular museum located just a short walk from the famous Market Square. Expect to see many paintings and works on paper inside the mansion, as well as painted china, needlework, and beadwork.
8. Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion
Benning Wentworth was a royal governor in the 19th century who lived in a 40-room mansion that overlooks the lovely Little Harbor. Today, this mansion is one of the best homes from the Colonial era and America’s only surviving residence of a Royal Governor. During the tour, expect some of the finest examples of period craftsmanship, as well as beautiful lilacs that surround the mansion.
9. Market Square
Market Square Portsmouth, NH is a broad open space where travelers will find many merchants selling their wares as they did back in the 17th century. From boutiques and galleries of fine arts to specialty shops, there are many places worth visiting at the Market Square. It’s a great area to mingle with the locals and score some local goods. In case you get hungry and wish to enjoy spectacular views of the harbor, visit the nearby Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel.
10. Isles of Shoals
Looking for romantic things to do in Portsmouth, NH? Go on a tour of Isles of Shoals which are located six miles off the coast on the coast right between New Hampshire and Maine and consists of 6 different islands. From an island is the site of pirate Blackbeard’s honeymoon to the island that is home to a religious conference center, each of these islands has a special vibe. The easiest way to reach these islands is by hopping on one of the boat tours.
11. The Music Hall
There are many things to do in Portsmouth NH at night and a visit to the city’s Music Hall is one of the must-have experiences. One of the oldest theaters in the region, the Music Hall has around 1,000 seats and is known for hosting a variety of performances including everything from dance recitals and musical events to author readers and cinema exhibits. Many notable characters from the US have performed at the Music Hall.
12. Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden
Located in downtown Portsmouth just across from the Old Harbor, the Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden is a historic mansion originally built in the 18th century. Today, the mansion is a museum and a National Historic Landmark that showcases period era architecture and décor. Expect to see original artifacts ranging from letters and papers to photographs and other belongings of families that used to live here.
13. Seacoast Repertory Theatre
If you are searching for a local theatre while visiting Portsmouth, you should definitely pay a visit to the fabulous Seacoast Repertory Theatre. Whether you just wish to experience live theatre or you are interested in participating in post-show discussions, a visit to the Seacoast Repertory Theatre promises to be a memorable experience.
14. Portsmouth Harbor Trail
No list of things to do in Portsmouth would be complete without mentioning the famous Harbor Trail which covers three areas of the city including the downtown and the waterfront area, Haymarket Square and Congress Street, and the South End. This walking tour takes some of the best attractions in the city and is ideal for travelers who wish to experience the best of Portsmouth in a short time. All tours depart from the Market Square Information and last for about an hour.