5 Reasons to Visit Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Prescott Park features 10 acres of gardens, including the “formal garden” with fountains and tree-lined walkways.
Prescott Park features 10 acres of gardens, including the “formal garden” with fountains and tree-lined walkways.
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Known for the tax-free shopping, the waterfront views, and the historic sites, the city of Portsmouth sits just 60 miles north of Boston. Nestled near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, it stretches 16.8 square miles. The population is 21,233.

The history: Settled in 1623, Portsmouth prides itself on being one of the nation’s oldest city. It served as an epicenter for the rail and sea industries and was a focal point on the Eastern seaboard until the late 1800s. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (across the river in Maine) was established in 1800 as the country’s first naval shipyard. Today, the region is noted for its beautiful historic charm and many attractions. For example, the USS Albacore Museum is a retired 1953 US Navy submarine, giving visitors a glimpse at life on the water. The Strawberry Banke Museum is another popular family site. The outdoor museum covers 10 acres and traces Portsmouth’s earliest English settlement’s history through the many historic houses and exhibits.

The shopping: Downtown Portsmouth is lined with cute boutiques and shops.. Walk down Congress Street and circle around the many side streets for a variety of art, antiques, clothing, local goodies, books, fine jewelry, and more. Market Square is located in the center of downtown and is the start of many local walking tours. Visit the galleries, browse the old-fashioned shops, and explore 0ne of the many 17th-century buildings. Tugboat Alley is considered a local tradition, with nautical-themed gifts and collectibles for all ages. The Book and Bar is located in the Old Custom House, offering a relaxed, no-media atmosphere with a wide selection of used books and small cafe. The best part about shopping in Portsmouth? No sales tax.

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The Portsmouth waterfront, overlooking the Piscataqua River.
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The harbor: The seaport city overlooks the mouth of the beautiful Piscataqua River, a short, wide river that divides New Hampshire and Maine. Take a guided tour or walk solo along the Portsmouth Harbor Trail. The path passes more than 70 historic and scenic sites and provides a taste of the local charm and culture. Another great way to take in the scenes is by boat. Board one of the daily scheduled Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, narrated tours where guests learn about local wildlife, folklore, and waterway history.

Prescott Park: Established by former resident, Josie F. Prescott, this gorgeous waterfront attraction provides a free and accessible public park to residents and visitors. Stretching along the river from State Street to Mechanic Street, Prescott Parkis over 10 acres of lush flower gardens, walkways, seating, and grass areas designated for recreation. Perfect for a picnic visit. The “formal garden” showcases fountains, tree-lined walkways, a flower wall, and a rose garden. In the summer months, the park is home to the Prescott Park Art Festival, a series of outdoor musical performances, plays, and a juried art show.

The food: Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or a casual bite, Portsmouth has a ton of tasty options for any foodie. The city is home to dozens of restaurants featuring just about every cuisine imaginable. Lexie’s Joint is a laidback burger joint with a twist, serving up classic burger recipies or a make-your-own burger option. It also has a variety of grilled items and melts. Shio is another popular pick, featuring classic Japanese fare from sushi to Shumai. A great go-to is the Friendly Toast. Located on Congress Street, the family-friendly restaurant serves breakfast all day and a range of tasty and unique sandwiches and main dishes.