You have finally gotten used to lugging your tyke’s stroller down the subway stairs, maneuvering his or her giant backpack through mid-town traffic at rush hour. Now it’s time to give your self a break from the big city.
In the third of our four moderate-sized city guides that support a kinder, gentler pace, perfect for family travels, Portsmouth offers weekend fun for everyone—a Fishtival, a Kids Rule! showcase, a craft beer and culinary tour event—with a rhythm that will be just right for the pint-sized members of your crew.
Why It’s a Fun Family Field Trip
This picturesque New England city is a still-under-the-radar gem and a pedestrian’s delight. Discover its charms with the family before it gets the popularity and acclaim that it merits. Downtown shopping is dappled with independently owned businesses, from art galleries to tattoo parlors. RiverRun Bookstore has an inviting kid’s section, and a large graphic novel selection for older kids. G.Willikers is the local toy store, filled with fun and educational toys and games.
Strawbery Banke Museum is an interactive journey back in time. Portsmouth was originally called Strawbery Banke when it was settled in 1623, and the museum lets kids get a glimpse into the personal histories of residents over the past 400 years. It is fun to browse inside the authentically replicated 1940’s general store and see how some product packaging was almost exactly as it is today. If you’re planning to be in town on Saturday, September 14, don’t miss New Hampshire’s Craft Beer & Culinary World Tour event, featuring pairings of top regional brews with food by the best restaurants in the state.
Locals are understandably proud of their showpiece Prescott Park, the perfect place to stroll and have an ice cream. On September 25 from 12-4 pm, the New Hampshire Fish and Lobster Festival (a.k.a. The Fishtival) will be held in the park. Seafood tastings, fishing activities, music and games promise a fun afternoon. If the weather keeps you indoors, the venerable Music Hall hosts a kid-friendly series of art-house films, plays and concerts, called Kids Rule! Low-priced tickets make it feasible to bring the kids and not break the bank. On Saturday, October 2, The Quebecois circus Circo Comedia will perform their side-splittingly funny, daredevil stunts at 4pm. The ever-popular Dan Zanes will be in town on Saturday, November 20th for both a morning and an afternoon performance.
Where to Snuggle
The Hilton Garden Inn is centrally located on High Street. After taking in the sites, jump in the smoke-free hotel’s small indoor salt-water pool, relax in the Jacuzzi, and munch on the warm, chocolate-chip cookies available for guests in the lobby. Spacious rooms are equipped with a microwave and small refrigerator. You can walk to everything in town, but if little legs do get tired, hop on the sweet trolley for a fun ride around town.
What to Eat
Portsmouth’s food scene is thriving, and fresh, locally grown ingredients dominate many menus. The Friendly Toast is decorated with a whimsical selection of bric-a-brac that is heavy on the Americana. Breakfast is the specialty, served well into the night. Heath bar pancakes are worth a try. The children’s menu here is a winner, a half portion of anything on the regular menu for half price. When you need a caffeine fix the kids can snack on locally famous bread at Me and Ollie’s on Pleasant Street.
How to get there: Megabus to Boston’s South Station, where you can switch to the C&J Trailways line which takes you from Boston to Portsmouth in just over an hour. One child (up to age 18) rides free per ticketed adult from Boston to Portsmouth.
Photos courtesy of drocpsu and author.
Allison is a native New Yorker, who has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Toronto and Los Angeles. She frequently contributes travel pieces to Family Travel Forum, using her own children as guinea pigs as they travel the globe. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish and laughably adequate in French. Her background as an Early Childhood Educator gives her an added understanding of what it takes to travel with kids in tow. She firmly believes that the most important part of education takes place outside of the classroom, on the road, around the world. She never misses a chance to sample local delicacies, as her love for travel goes hand-in-hand with her love for food and wine. Follow Allison at @gourmetrav.