I have a group of gymnasts visiting Portsmouth from Iceland. Here is my Visitors Guide.
TONY’S GUIDE TO VISITING THE SEACOAST OF NEW HAMPSHIRE AND SOUTHERN MAINE
150 Gosling Rd. Portsmouth, NH
Settled in 1623, Portsmouth lays claim to the title of third-oldest city in the nation, but at 21,000 inhabitants, it’s no metropolis. And that’s just fine with me. With a rich fishing, shipping and brewing past, and a still active working port, Portsmouth and its pleasures are smaller scale. They’re also best approached on foot. You will find no end of brick sidewalks (if you can see them through the snow) to stroll, boutiques to pop into, and Colonial, Federal and Georgian houses to tour. Then there’s the food: Portsmouth is blessed with an absurd selection of restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors to ponder. After a long day of gymnastics and shopping you will end up at a “new favorite” waterfront cafe, bar or restaurant. Once installed at the bar raise a mug of frosty ale to my little city of contrasts: touristy and local, cultured and blue collar, historically preserved and scrappy.
Places NOT to miss.
Food and Drink. It is much easier to park in the parking garage (Hannover St) than to try to find on street parking.
Portsmouth is situated around the North Church. A typical New England Church
Breaking New Grounds Cafe (Where you can find Tony when he needs to have a coffee) Market Square Portsmouth
Popovers Cafe and Bakery (AMAZING Baked Goods. You MUST get a Popover with maple butter) Market Square Portsmouth
Stonewall Kitchen (typical New England products!) As you face the church Go to the left of the Church onto Pleasant St
River Run Books A little bookstore with many signed and 1st edition books. Tom, the owner, has a daughter at the gym. We have many famous local authors. Fleet St (as you face the church it is BEHIND you)
GILLY’S Hot Dogs Think of it as our version of Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (across the street from River Run Books)
Macro Polo- Fun, silly and stupid gifts Corner of Hannover and Market
Museums and Such
Albacore Museum– Portsmouth The USS Albacore, the prototype for modern submarines, was built in Portsmouth and has been converted into a museum. 600 Market St., Portsmouth, NH 03801 (603) 436-3680
Nubble Cape Neddick Lighthouse – York Picturesque and accessible Cape Neddick Lighthouse (The Nubble) in York Beach, Maine, draws thousands of visitors each year. Sohier Park Road, York, ME
Portsmouth Music Hall. The Music Hall is a performing arts center featuring curated entertainment from around the world in downtown Portsmouth, a landmark 1878 Victorian theater, designated an American Treasure for the Arts by the US Senate
Puddle Dock Pond at Strawbery Banke – Portsmouth Ice skating for children and adults at the outdoor rink at Strawbery Banke Museum. 14 Hancock Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801 (603) 422-0600
Seacoast Science Center – Rye The Seacoast Science Center is a non-profit marine environmental organization located on the rocky coast of historic Odiorne Point State Park. The center features live animals of the Gulf of Maine, indoor touch tanks, and hands-on exhibits about life in and around the ocean. Odiorne State Park, 570 Ocean Blvd., Rye, NH (603) 436-8043
Strawbery Banke Museum – Portsmouth Strawberry Banke Museum illustrates the lives of historic New Englander with restored homes from four centuries and working artisans. 14 Hancock St., Portsmouth, NH (603) 433-1100
A little historical diversion: According to local legend, Leif Ericsson made his first voyage, wintering over in log huts at the place he called Vinland. A year later, his brother Thorvald found the same huts and spent two years exploring north and south of the hut location. At one point they landed at a wooded cape, which is believed was Boar’s Head (a point of land 15 minutes South of Portsmouth). The sagas record that Thorvald thought the area was so beautiful that he said he would like to build his own home there. After seizing and murdering some Indians, the Norsemen were attacked by a large party of natives and Thorvald was mortally wounded in the battle. He asked to be buried near the headland and wanted his grave to be marked with a stone cut with crosses. The nearest upland adjacent to Boar’s Head suitable for a grave would have been on the northerly side of Winnacunnet Road, in the vicinity of today’s Surfside Park. There, off Thorvald Avenue on Ash Street, was a large boulder (now at the Tuck Museum in town) cut with what some people consider to be crosses or runic markings.
My favorite Restaurants With Kids:
Round about Diner. (at the traffic circle). Food is great. Owner, Dan, can let everyone order off the menu or prepare a “Family style” meal for everyone. He just needs 24 hour notice.
5 Guys. (Burger joint) Honestly, I have never been there. I am not a huge meat eater. BUT- my son Chase LOVES IT. It is right across the parking lot from hotel.
All other restaurants are Walkable from Parking Garage (just a couple blocks)
Friendly Toast. (Great Breakfast, Lunch). Kind of a punk place. Sometimes service can be slow but I always leave full. Congress St
Flat Bread. (Organic Pizza) Very Good. Congress St Pocos Cantina, (Mexican food).
Dos Amigos (Burritos and Tacos) fast and good. State St
River House, (traditional American, New England. Great soups) Not a lot of tables in the winter.
Gas Light DOWNSTAIRS (Pizza). Probably my favorite pizzas in town.
Gas Light UPSTAIRS (American, New England). Service is a little slow with kids
Rosa’s (Italian) Great food. Great wine 70 State Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801 (603) 436-9715
Portsmouth Brewery. (American food + Beer). Our local Beer. Get the Oatmeal Stout if available. Market St
Favorite Restaurants with older (or no kids)
Brazo’s (latin) Favorite place. Great wait staff. Great food. Pleasant St
Brgr Bar (Burgers and drinks) Try the Salted Carmel Pretzel milk shake with BOURBON. Under Marriott Hotel
Rudi’s (Great wine bar Great food). Either for wine and small plates or for a meal. Everything is good. Congress St (right at Market Sq)
RiRa’s (Irish Pub) Fun place. Beautiful Architecture – It used to be a bank. Right next to Breaking New Grounds
Thirsty Moose– 116 Beers on Tap. Need I say more? Congress St right at Market Sq
Fat Belly’s – (American food). Nothing Special but good. Market St
SURF – (Seafood). A little Pricey but the BEST sunset view or the Harbor
Food to Try:
We are famous for our Clam Chowder or Seafood Chowder.
New Hampshire Lobsters. BIG
New Hampshire Maple Syrup Many of the restaurants are “Farm to table”.
We really believe in buying local and avoiding Chain restaurants and stores.
SHOPPING Downtown Portsmouth is filled with Boutiques and Stores for everything. BUT if you want MORE New Hampshire does not have a sales tax.
Kittery Outlets. This is over the bridge in Maine. There is sales tax in Maine but many, many bargains. Everything from Brooks Brothers to Under Armor. Over 100 outlet stores. Kittery Trading Post – Out door stuff. Jackets, boots, Camping, hunting, fishing, HUGE STORE.