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Travel Talk: Plan an escape weekend in N.H. using state-centered websites

 The Mill Brook Gallery (236 Hopkinton Rd, 226-2046; themillbrookgallery.com) has indoor galleries with rotating exhibits and outdoor sculpture gardens with works such as Bob Shannahan’s “Wooly Mammoth.” Mill Brook has been with NH Open Doors since its inception – children are welcome.

The Mill Brook Gallery (236 Hopkinton Rd, 226-2046; themillbrookgallery.com) has indoor galleries with rotating exhibits and outdoor sculpture gardens with works such as Bob Shannahan’s “Wooly Mammoth.” Mill Brook has been with NH Open Doors since its inception – children are welcome.

If you’re looking to escape the barrage of political ads, but are not yet ready to take last week’s Travel Talk advice on leaving the country – good news! From Nov. 3 to 4 (when the ads will no doubt be at their peak), you can have a marvelous escape weekend of touring, shopping and even cozy overnights right here in New Hampshire. You don’t even have to do your own research and planning. NH Open Doors (nhopendoors.com) has done it all for you.

The Promotion: NH Open Doors is an outgrowth of a statewide promotion initiated in 2005 by the NH League of Craftsmen (nhcrafts.org) to encourage New Hampshire residents to explore the offerings and studios of artists around the state. In 2008, NH Made (nhmade.com), a nonprofit marketing and business support organization focused on promoting New Hampshire products and services, joined in. Now, other organizations, both state-funded (visitnh.gov) and private, are lending their expertise and resources. The result is an engaging weekend of shopping and touring for people of all ages. The robust website (nhopendoors.com) suggests itineraries, lets you design your own tour, and allows searching by type of activity, product and/or area of the state. Links to participant websites are provided – and you can even print out your custom map before you head out the door.

Making it special: One of the things that makes an adventure pop is personal interaction – getting into a conversation, sharing stories and making connections. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Cairo or Keene. You still have opportunities to make new friends, have memorable moments and find unique and irresistible items along the way. This is where NH Open Doors shines. Doors are truly open! You can meet and talk with artists and craftspeople in their studios, sample fresh foods, visit wineries, watch crafts demonstrations and take the kids on hayrides and horse-and-buggy rides. You can also listen to local musicians and skim menus at local restaurants – then, sit down and enjoy! If you have just a day, stick close to home by venturing out to Canterbury or even to nearby Hopkinton for some surprises. If you have longer, pick one of the many lodgings or B&Bs in the Lakes Region, on the Seacoast or in the Great North Woods. In either case, check out the Passport Contest – visit 10 participating venues to enter into drawings for great New Hampshire prizes.

Benefits plus: Bud and I do enjoy bringing small gifts and souvenirs home when we travel to faraway places. But when we’re home, we love buying local. In fact, a few years ago we decided that all our holiday shopping would begin and end with New Hampshire-made goods and services. Some of the benefits are obvious – supporting New Hampshire artists, craftspeople and businesses bolsters our economy and helps assure that our rich variety of offerings will continue to thrive. But it’s also nice to see the look on the faces of friends and family when we can say . . . this was designed by an artist in Concord (or Portsmouth or Keene . . . wherever!). If they love it, maybe they’ll venture out into the hidden corners of the state like we did – and who knows what they’ll find? Next weekend is your chance to have your own adventure and get a jump on holiday shopping – all while celebrating our own New Hampshire.

(Columnist Chase Binder lives in Bow.)

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