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A Tank Away: Concord, N.H.

Capital expenditure

Invest a little time in this classic setting

Downtown Concord, with the State House in the background. Downtown Concord, with the State House in the background. (Paul E. Kandarian for The Boston Globe)
By Paul E. Kandarian
Globe Correspondent / May 11, 2011

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Many who think they know the state capital of New Hampshire because they have zipped through it on Interstate 93 and perhaps caught a glimpse of the State House’s golden dome don’t know what they are missing. Concord is classic New England, with a wide main drag, ample supply of 19th-century structures, a mix of old and new shops and restaurants, from the ancient low-slung L & B Tailoring to the gleaming glass-and-brick Capital Commons building, and a rich history on display at museums.

STAY The Centennial Hotel (96 Pleasant St., 603-227-9000, www.thecentennialhotel.com, $149-$169) is a Queen Anne Victorian brick-and-granite beauty that started life as a home for Civil War widows. Best bet: first-floor suite, with huge bath, circular seating area, and wide porch for spending warm nights watching traffic go by. Nearby B&Bs include Highland Lake Inn (32 Maple St., Andover, 603-735-6426, www.highlandlakeinn.com, $160-$210), a gentleman’s farmhouse built in 1767 and close to the beach at spring-fed Highland Lake; and Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks, Henniker, 603-428-3281, www.colbyhillinn.com, $140-$279), a 14-room establishment that overlooks perennial gardens, antique barns, and a garden gazebo.

FOOD If you wake up a bit peckish, head to White Mountain Gourmet Coffee (15 Pleasant St., 603-228-3317, www.whitemountaingourmetcoffee.com, breakfast/lunch from $3.39-$6.39) and indulge in fresh international gourmet coffee, pastries, and muffins. Come lunchtime, if you have a passion for burgers with a side of political discussion, make your way to The Barley House (132 North Main St., 603-228-6363, www.thebarleyhouse.com, entrees $8-$16), directly across from the State House, a favorite hangout for the governor and legislators. But make no mistake. This eatery is neither partisan nor parochial, having hosted the likes of the Clintons, Rudy Giuliani, and other national pols during presidential campaigns. Burgers include bison and black bean and the signature Dublin, covered with whiskey gravy and blue cheese. For dinner, a great, if decidedly upscale, choice is O Steak and Seafood (11 South Main St., 603-856-7925, www.magicfoodsrestaurantgroup.com/osteaks/, dinner entrees $15-$41), with Kobe beef burgers and lobster mac and cheese.

DURING THE DAY The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (205 North Main St., 603-224-3375, www.nhcrafts.org) is a nonprofit founded in 1932 to help Depression-era crafters make a living, and where now you find amazing displays such as one featuring the work of 93-year-old master furniture maker Walker T. Weed. Nothing from the Weed exhibit is for sale, but occasionally works from other exhibits are. The organization moves to bigger downtown digs in July, but Weed’s work, including a ram made of white birch, black walnut, and butternut, is on display through June 22. The state’s history is magnificently shown at the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum (6 Eagle Square, 603-228-6688, www.nhhistory.org, adult admission $5.50). The museum was founded in 1823 and is a repository of Granite State artifacts, both big, like the Concord stage coach, and small, like a half-inch miniature baseball made in 1930. The newest exhibit, “Icons of History: Objects That Define New Hampshire,’’ runs through Dec. 31. Foodies will love the Concord Cooperative Market (24 South Main St., 603-225-6840, www.concordfoodcoop.coop) with a whopping produce section and variety of natural food, including organic hemp beverages, Endangered Species chocolate, and Canadian wild rice hand-harvested by canoe and airboat. Butter’s Fine Food & Wine (70 North Main St., 603-225-5995, www.buttersfinefood.com) is the place for imported artisan cheese, charcuterie, gourmet grocery items, and more, including popular Thursday afternoon wine tastings. Walk in, inhale aromas of fresh bread and cheese, and just try to not buy something.

AFTER DARK Red River Theatres (11 South Main St., 603-224-4600, www.redrivertheatres.org) is a cinema art house that shows films and hosts speakers. It runs the SNOB (Somewhat North of Boston) Film Festival, which on Sept. 15-18 will feature a lineup of independent and local films yet to be announced. Past films have included “Virtual JFK: Vietnam, If Kennedy Had Lived’’ and “Bumpers,’’ a mockumentary shot in New Hampshire. On May 20, Nathaniel Philbrick, author of “The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of Little Bighorn,’’ will speak about that battle. The 1,304 seats at the historic Capitol Center for the Arts (44 South Main St., 603-225-1111, www.ccanh.com) make it the state’s largest performing arts venue, which has hosted Howie Mandel, Rosanne Cash, and Crosby and Nash. On June 9, “Fiddler on the Roof’’ plays there, and on July 7, Roy Blount Jr. speaks as part of the Writers in the Spotlight series. A great spot to watch the game and hoist a brew is The Draft (67 South Main St., 603-227-1175, www.draftsportsbar.com), where sports play on more than 50 TVs on the bar’s three floors. Also hot is Green Martini Restaurant and Lounge (6 Pleasant St. extension, 603-223-6672, www.greenmartinilounge.com), with acoustic open mike nights on Wednesdays and Thursdays and live acoustic music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at kandarian@globe.com.