Home to breathtaking forests and brilliant foliage, New Hampshire is a popular autumn getaway destination. However, summers in New Hampshire are equally fantastic, thanks to abundant festivals, national parks, lakes, and rural beauty. Look forward to hiking the White Mountains, and sunbathing at Lake Sunapee. When planning your itinerary, book a stay at a New Hampshire vacation rental at one of these top cities and towns.

1. Wolfeboro

forest lake
Source: Flickr / Bo Gordy-Stith

Wolfeboro is a small town in New Hampshire’s lake country, in the east-central part of the state. It lies on New Hampshire’s largest lake Winnipesaukee. Choose one of the dozens of lakeside rentals with private docks. Better yet, the calm Wolfeboro Bay waters are great for families with children. If you don’t have a boat of your own, rent one at Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht, Goodhue and Navy Yard, or Wolfeboro Jet Ski Rentals. In June is Wolfeboro’s annual Moonlight Madness, an event that combines a motorcycle tour live music, entertainment, and food. The New Hampshire Music Festival takes place in Wolfeboro during July and early August. All month long you have access to craft and food vendors, family activities, and live concerts. To the east of Wolfeboro is Lake Wentworth where the annual Sailing Regatta takes place. Take part in the action, or pull up a hair on Albee Beach, and enjoy the festivities.

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2. Sutton

lake trees

Sutton lies in central New Hampshire on the west boundary of Mount Kearsarge State Forest Park. This tiny town contains Kezar Lake, Wadleigh State Park, Gile Pond, and Shadow Hill State Forest, giving you plenty of summer fun. Snag a vacation house on the boundary of Wadleigh State Park and Kezar Lake. Kayak out to Loon Island for the afternoon, and finish off with a hike through the surrounding trees. The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway is a 75-mile hiking loop that trails from Wadleigh State Park to Winslow State Park, down to Rollins State Park and over to Mount Sunapee State Park before heading back to Wadleigh. Hike part of it, or take the kids on an exciting biking trip. Don’t leave without a trip to Bayberry Barn Christmas Shop because Christmas in July is a thing.

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3. Sunapee

lake trees
Source: Flickr / Gianina Lindsey

Sunapee is a very small town covering a huge area: the west side of Lake Sunapee. Settle down in one of the lake houses for your stay, especially if you can get one on the Sunapee Harbor where the waters are calm and eateries are close by. Go to Sargents Marina or Sunapee Cruises for guided boat tours of the 8-mile lake. Mount Sunapee State Park, on the town’s south end, offers water access and a sand beach where you can boat, kayak, and water ski. Sunapee and a few of the small towns along the lake host events and festivals all summer long from the Lobster and Clambake in June to the Annual League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair in August. In fact, the latter is a great way to see masters at work, take a few art classes, and pick up some souvenirs.

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4. Conway

lake echo
Source: Flickr / Robert Linsdell

Conway lies along the White Mountain National Forest and by the Maine border. After getting a vacation house, preferably along Conway Lake or along the national forest, head to Echo Lake State Park, a 118-acre area that’s part of the White Mountains and boasts hiking trails, swimming, and a bathhouse. The Cathedral Ledge hike is a favorite among explorers, or hike up to Diana’s Baths, a natural pool fed by waterfalls. Another way to beat the heat is tubing at Cranmore Mountain, which also has a ropes courses for kids and other activities. Finish off with a train ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad. If you have young children, they’re sure to enjoy Thomas the Train’s visit during July.

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5. Lincoln

rock gorge
Source: Flickr / Cliff

Lincoln lies within the White Mountain National Forest. With all the natural beauty to explore, start at Franconia Notch State Park. Here you can take a hiking trail through Flume Gorge all the way to Echo State Park. Or experience the beauty at your leisure in the aerial tramway. The park also offers fishing, geocaching, bathrooms, showers, scenic geology, boating, kayaking, and swimming. Afterwards, visit Clark’s Trading Post, a bear-themed amusement park with trained bears, climbing walls for kids, water slides, acrobats, gem mining, and other fun. If you’re in town in August, check out the annual Summer Craft Festival where the entire family can get into the fun from shopping to crafting to live entertainment.

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6. Portsmouth

town lake

Portsmouth, located on the coast and the Piscataqua River across from Maine, offers a different kind of summer fun, trading mountains for white sand beaches and salty ocean air. Arrive in June, and you’ll be in time for the annual WOKQ Chowder Festival where you can try dozens of delicious chowder recipes — from smoked scallop chowder to corn chowder — dine on fresh seafood, and enjoy live music. During the summer, Prescott Park puts on movies in the park from Thursday to Sunday nights, so grab a blanket, a picnic dinner or snacks, and enjoy some kid-friendly movies with the family. The park also hosts the Prescott Park Arts Festival. Set aside a generous portion of your vacation to lie on the beach, boat, and surf. Summer Sessions Surf Shop offers lessons for all ages.

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7. Rye

beach ocean
Source: Flickr / Mark Bonica

If you want a quieter beach vacation, opt for Rye, just down the coast from Portsmouth. Wallis Sands State Beach is just the ticket for some low-key family time; enjoy the sun or get into a beach read while the kids build sand castles and swim. Plus, the first New Hampshire settlement was here, at Odiorne Point, which also boasts native wildlife and plants, so you can sneak in a little learning during your vacation. Learn more about all that local flora and fauna at Seacoast Science Center, and then see all that learning in action with some whale watching. Both Granite State Whale Watching and Atlantic Whale Watch both specialize in showing you the giant mammals.

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8. Manchester

lake boat
Source: Flickr / Carter Brown

Manchester lies south of Concord in southern New Hampshire. While it doesn’t have mountains or see breeze, it does have the Merrimack River and Massabesic Lake. It also has the annual Best of New Hampshire party in mid-June which brings together food, live music and entertainment, and fireworks. After partying, spend time kayaking Massabesic Lake or head downtown for some cool treats such as ice cream at Cremeland Drive-In, a local landmark. Don’t forget to catch a ball game with the Fisher Cats; nothing says summer like baseball, hotdogs, and family togetherness.

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9. Derry

river balloon
Source: Facebook / High5BallooningNH

If you head southeast from Manchester, you’ll hit Derry, a town in the Merrimack Valley. Get a birds-eye view of the lush valley with High 5 Ballooning. Afterwards, explore the area up-close with some horseback riding at Hidden Pond Farms and Stables. Round out your vacation with a show at Stockbridge Theater, some fun at Canobie Lake Park, and a tour of Robert Frost Farm State Historic Site. If it’s an adult-only vacation, go on a tour of the surrounding breweries and wineries including Kelsen Brewing Company, Rockingham Brewing Company, Moonlight Meadery, and Appolo Vineyards.

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10. Dover

museum childrens
Source: Facebook / ChildrensMuseumNH

As one of the biggest cities in New Hampshire, Dover has a range of summer activities for all ages. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is hugely popular. There are exhibits teaching kids the joy of science, music, animals, and discovery. The Build It. Fly It. lab allows children hands-on experience in building flying devices. There are also summer classes and camps for kids that are all about science. After visiting, explore the attached Henry Law Park which boasts a playground, swimming pool, and river access where you can go kayaking. The Cochecho Arts Festival occurs all summer long with music and live entertainment.

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