Day trip to Portsmouth

  • The streets and sidewalks of Portsmouth are bustling with activity on a Saturday in April as the sun emerged and warmed the city. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/5/2016 1:38:08 PM

New Hampshire’s iconic maritime city of Portsmouth is the jewel of the Seacoast, and only an hour drive for those of us landlocked here in the Capital Region.

As spring fights off the last of winter’s lingering days, plan a trip east when the forecast calls for sun and it warms up. It can be easy to lose time in Portsmouth, whether you stroll the bustling downtown streets, take a walk near the harbor or hit the shops, so it’s recommended you make a plan to get the most out of what this idyllic New England city has to offer.

Take a walk

No matter your plans, bring your best pair of sneakers or walking shoes; this is not a city to be taken in through the car window. Find a parking space – whether it be on the street or in one of the city’s 18 off-street parking lots – and hit the sidewalks to explore downtown Portsmouth.

If you’re looking for a quieter walking path but want to stay near downtown, check out Peirce Island. A path runs along the north side of the tiny island and gives walkers a long, wide view across the Piscataqua River to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. Picnic tables are scattered along the water’s edge making for a nice spot to have lunch and watch all the boats pass in and out of the port.

Take the North Shoreline trail all the way to the eastern point for a look out over the Atlantic Ocean. Park benches line the trail for you take a seat and listen to the water pattering on the rocks and birds bustling in the trees. And if you want to take a dip, the large Peirce Island outdoor pool is right in the island’s center.

Another popular spot is Prescott Park, a short walk or drive on the mainland across the bridge from Peirce Island, where the city hosts a popular arts festival each summer.

Kids’ favorites

Portsmouth has many parks for children to run around, including on Peirce Island, but if your kids are interested in exploring the area’s history you can pick from a list of museums in and around the city.

The Strawberry Banke Museum is a local favorite and a short walk south from State Street. This living history museum lets visitors step back in time to learn of the generations of families and people that lived in this little Portsmouth neighborhood from the colonial era through World War II. Most of its historic buildings sit on original foundations, the earliest dating back to 1695, according to the museum’s website.

In nearby Rye is the Seacoast Science Center, a hands-on learning center focused on the habitats and water animals that live along New Hampshire’s rocky shores. The center’s most popular feature is the indoor tide pool touch tank where you can hold a tiny sea critter, say a hermit crab or sea urchin, in the palm of your hand. The aquariums in the Exploring the Gulf of Maine exhibit give visitors a close-up look at deep-water fish and even a blue lobster rare to these waters.

Treats and eats

If you’re taking the family, there are plenty of places to grab a bite or pick up a souvenir. Treehouse Toys, Marco Polo, Little Hardhats and G. Willikers! Toy Shop are great stops for the youngsters in your group to find a fun little memento.

A diverse restaurant scene gives visitors plenty of options for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ri Ra Irish Pub, dubbed “The Real Flavor of Ireland,” and the Portsmouth Brewery are two favorites for dinner and are also cornerstones of the city’s night scene. If you want breakfast, the Friendly Toast is on Congress Street near the Portsmouth Music Hall, and opens at 7 each morning.

For adults looking to stay out into the later evening, check out the Thirsy Moose Taphouse, which has expanded with locations in Dover and Manchester. Portsmouth’s Thirsty Moose, on Congress Street, is the original bar of the group and features 116 different beers on tap with new brews cycling in and out. The Moose also features live music every week

Arts and entertainment

Portsmouth has a varied art scene with music, theater and more. View upcoming acts at concordmonitor

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3314, or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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