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Travel Talk

Travel Talk: Get to know your city at Concord’s visitors’ center

When Bud and I travel – whether abroad or even in the great state of New Hampshire – we always head straight for a visitors’ center. After all, it’s usually the best one-stop place to get all kinds of nifty insider advice. But in Concord? Heck, we live here! It wasn’t on our radar – that is, until we stumbled upon the new Capitol Region Visitor Center, run by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, in the Smile Building at 49 South Main St. We were in the building for something else entirely and couldn’t linger, but I returned the very next day.

Collaboration: I just love it when people and organizations get together and do good things! The first thing you’ll notice is that the entrance area is dedicated to a celebration of fine art as well as the art of furniture making – thanks to the foresight of local businessman and arts advocate Steve Duprey, the building’s owner. The New Hampshire Art Association (nhartassociation.org) has filled the walls with the work of state artists. And the gallery floor space is a delight of handcrafted furniture assembled by the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association (furnituremasters.org). These displays will rotate on a regular basis, but the gallery space itself is permanently dedicated to art. This means you’ll want to stop by often! Why not start tomorrow when the new display of unique chairs goes up?

And the collaboration doesn’t stop there. Visitors flow from the gallery into the main information area, and just beyond there’s a cozy and colorful nook filled with comfy furniture arranged by the Chapin’s founders of Concord’s own Company C (companyc.com). Settle in and check out some brochures!

Information: The guts of any information center are the information (of course!) and the people. The visitors’ center manager, Carolyn O’Brien, is a 13-year veteran and always has on hand a volunteer from the Granite State Ambassadors (nhgsa.com – looking for something to do? Why not volunteer?). The bright and airy space has an open feel and an intuitive organization. Being the capitol region, there’s information on all areas of the state, organized by region. So, if you’ve a mind to wander the state, this is a good place to start planning. If you’re more interested in what’s new in Concord, you’ll find a special section just for “us” along with sheets of recommendations for restaurants, things to do, parks, attractions and more. Some lists just include chamber members, but other booklets like Greater Concord include everyone. They even have phone books and newspaper inserts like The Insider and Hippo. But the key is friendly greetings. As I browsed around, several people wandered in – some local, some tourists. Each got a personal “hello,” an offer of help and a smile. Anywhere in the world, that works for me. In my home town, I love it!

Even more: Those of you who remember the old visitors’ center will remember a cool selection of New Hampshire-made products – everything from hats (I bought Bud one featuring a bear with paw prints running off the brim) to maple syrup, puzzles, Christmas ornaments, books and a selection of children’s coloring and activity books. The retail space is smaller now, but they’re working hard to stock things people want – so stop by and give your input. Perhaps they can help with your Christmas list.

While you’re on the way in (or out), check out the historical display in the main foyer titled “South Main Below the Crook.” Elizabeth Durfee Hengen worked with Russ Aubertin of Advantage Signs (advantagesigns.net) to create a house-by-house montage, complete with history and dates. Fascinating.

Visit concordnhchamber.com for lots more.

(Chase Binder lives in Bow. Read her blog at
travelwithchase.blogspot.com.)

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