New Hampshire is known for its cold weather, but travelers shouldn’t let that stop them from experiencing the winter season there. In fact, the climate has made many New Hampshire cities perfect locations for winter activities and sports. Today, many people flock to the state during the winter season to experience everything it has to offer, from cold-weather activities to vast natural beauty.
There are many stunning places to see in New Hampshire in the winter, but travelers shouldn’t automatically flock to the tourist traps. There is something to be said for the small towns. They may not offer as many options in terms of dining and accommodation, but they make up for it with charm and uniqueness.
Below we take a look at the 10 best small towns in New Hampshire to visit in winter. Some of these towns are decked out for the holidays and have been repeating the same traditions for decades, making them perfect for travelers looking to get away for Christmas. But others are underrated gems for outdoor activities and sports. Needless to say, these New Hampshire towns each offer their own charm, making them perfect winter getaways.
Portsmouth offers travelers a colonial-style winter getaway during the colder months. This seaside town is colorfully decorated around the holidays and its rich history will keep guests busy.
Popular Portsmouth attractions include the Strawbery Banke Museum and the USS Albacore, a former research submarine open to the public. Additionally, guests who are in town on December 1 should see the annual downtown tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.
The only thing that stands out about this small town is how stunning it is around the holidays. Stark, New Hampshire is famous for its Covered Bridge, which is decorated with Christmas lights each year. This tradition began over five decades ago when local children accepted donations for charity to set up.
Hannover is known as a university city, which is surprisingly good around the holidays as the city goes all out with the Christmas decorations. Also, many of the students will be away for the holidays, providing a more low-key experience for out-of-town guests.
Visitors should check out the magical Christmas tree on Dartmouth Street and the gingerbread display at the Hanover Inn.
With a population of just over 16,000 (as of 2020), Exeter offers a scenic experience for tourists. It’s a classic New England winter, filled with charming festive decor and snow-capped treetops. Visitors should check out the American Independence Museum on Water Street, which houses one of the rare original versions of the Declaration of Independence.
Another New Hampshire town that’s fully committed to the holiday season is Jefferson, which spends at least a full month each year in the spirit of Christmas. The Christmas Farm Inn is one of the best places to stay in Jefferson during the holidays for obvious reasons. The guests can expect a charming city with many cozy cafes and cute shops.
5/10 North Conway
North Conway is another excellent New Hampshire town for people who love winter activities. It offers easy access to some of the state’s best ski resorts. It also offers a range of other winter themed activities including sleigh rides, ice skating and more.
There are many hotels and inns to stay in, but visitors can also opt for a cabin for a very special winter getaway.
4/10 Pile of sugar
Sugar Hill has the best of small town qualities, from tiny boutiques to historical markers and plaques explaining its centuries-old history. But another plus is that Sugar Hill is close to ski resorts, giving visitors the chance to enjoy a range of outdoor winter activities against the backdrop of a charming small town.
Canterbury Shaker Village has become one of New Hampshire’s most well-known Christmas celebrations. There are many festive events for guests to attend including the Canterbury Christmas Market, gingerbread and wreath making classes. Canterbury is a great place for people looking to travel specifically over the Christmas period, not just the winter season.
For a funky vibe, consider Monadnock. This relaxing city provides a perfect setting for guests looking for a scenic getaway. In some areas of the city, guests feel transported back to the 18th century. There’s plenty of festive decor around the holidays, but it pales in comparison to the city’s surrounding natural beauty.
Guests can enjoy a range of activities including antique shopping, sleigh rides at Stonewall Farm and beverage tastings at one of the many distilleries.
Another great place for travelers who want to see some festive decorations is Enfield. This city has become known for its La Salette Shrine, which ignites over 10 hectares of Christmas lights each year. This great exhibition has been held in Jefferson since the 1950’s, making it a must-see during the winter season.