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A Tank Away

Dover, N.H., a historic town with modern comforts

Dover’s Central Ave. is lined with shops, restaurants, and small businesses.

Pamela Wright for the Boston Globe

Dover’s Central Ave. is lined with shops, restaurants, and small businesses.

This bustling and diverse city is loaded with history. Settled in 1623, it’s considered the oldest continuous settlement in New Hampshire (neighboring Portsmouth was settled first but later abandoned). It’s the seventh oldest in the country. Take a historic walking tour and you’ll learn about its Native American trading days, its agricultural roots, and its role as a thriving shipping and manufacturing center. The renovated downtown area, located along the Cocheco River, is home to a cluster of restaurants and shops, and two fine museums. It’s easy enough to get to, right off of Route 16 about 65 miles north of Boston, but you can also hop on the Amtrak Downeaster, which makes several daily round trips to and from Boston.

STAY

Homewood Suites (21 Members Way, 603-516-0929, www.homewoodsuites.com, around $144-$209) is perfect for anyone looking for clean and spacious, suite-style digs. Expect standard décor, but there’s an indoor pool and small fitness area, and all studio and one-bedroom suites have full kitchens; hot breakfast is included in the rates. Downside: It’s in the commercial stretch of Dover, a short drive from the historic downtown center. You’ll find a handful of other hotel chains in this same area, including the Hampton Inn (9 Hotel Drive, 603-516-5600, www.hamptoninn.com, around $139-$189), with an indoor pool, fitness area and complimentary breakfast. It’s a magnet for traveling families and visiting youth sports teams. If you’re looking for more intimate accommodations, consider the Silver Fountain Inn (103 Silver St., 603-750-4200, www.silverfountain.com, $145-$175). The three-story, nine-room Victorian is loaded with historic appeal, including fine woodworking, hand-painted wallpapering, period antiques, and a working fireplace in the parlor. Guests rave about the friendly innkeepers, who also provide a home-cooked breakfast and afternoon tea and cookies.

DINE

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Every neighborhood needs a place like the 7th Settlement Brewery (47 Washington St., 603-373-1001, www.7th
settlement.com, $8-$17), a craft beer maker with a strong community ethos and a palate for decent food. Order a pint of the 1623 Settlement Imperial Brown Ale to go with upscale pub grub like lobster beignets, crab-stuffed cod, and flatbread pizzas (the pistachio pesto is a winner). Anything you want (nearly) you can get at Christopher’s Third Street Grille (16 3d St., 603-740-0044, www.christophersthirdstreetgrille.com, entrees $11-$22). The menu runs the gamut from sandwiches and burgers, pasta and seafood to steaks and house specialties like chicken Kiev and beef stroganoff. Prices are ridiculously fair; the 10-ounce, slow-roasted prime rib ($15) and 12-ounce rib-eye ($17) are popular for a reason. If you’re looking for a casual place to hang out, have a drink and a quick bite, consider Farm Bar and Grille (25 Portland St., 603-516-3276, www.farmbargrille.com , $9-$24). The BBQ nacho platter, piled high with slow-roasted pork and homemade sauces was awarded “Dish Worth Driving To” by The Phantom Gourmet and is big enough to share. Their burgers and BBQ ribs are decent, too. The fanciest place in town is the Orchard Street Chophouse (1 Orchard St., 603-749-0006, www.orchardstreetchopshop.com , $18-$48), a classic, high-end steak joint housed in a former 1865 firehouse, with brick walls, wood floors, cozy booths, and white linen table tops. You can’t go wrong with the 45-day, dry-aged Cowboy ribeye steak, with a side of smoked carrots in pecan butter or blackened asparagus. Locals (and campaigning politicians) love longstanding Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop (378 Central Ave., 603-749-3564, www.harveysbakery.com, $3.99-$8.99), serving breakfast and lunch, including homemade soups and chowders. You’ll want to pick up a chocolate eclair or a slice of pecan cheese coffeecake at the bakery before you leave. Hot dog lovers should pop over to Downtown Dogs (One Washington St., 603-553-3641, www.downtowndogsnh.com, $2.75-$4.75), for a straightforward steamed veggie or beef dog, or one of the tasty combos like the Sonoran with bacon, refried beans, onions, peppers, salsa, and cheese. They also have a street cart off Central Ave. during the summer months.

DURING THE DAY

Pamela Wright for the Boston Globe

The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire has two floors of hands-on exhibits and play areas.

Families flock to The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St., 603-742-2002, www.childrens-museum.org, $9 adults and children 1 years of age and older), with two floors of hands-on exhibits and play areas. Kids can build their own flying machine, dig for dinosaur bones, create a song, take a journey to exotic locales, board a submarine and enter a dark cave to discover glow-in-the-dark paintings. The museum also hosts a variety of live performances, workshops, classes and special events for families. History buffs will not want to miss a visit to the Woodman Institute Museum (182 Central Ave., 603-742-1038, www.woodmanmuseum.org, $8 adults, $3 ages 6-15), spread across four historic buildings, and chock-full of artifacts, historical items and memorabilia. The 1675 Colonial Garrison House is furnished with period artifacts; the 1813 Senator John P. Hale House displays furniture, paintings, nautical instruments, model ships, antique household tools, and other items. The 1818 Woodman House features a Civil War exhibit that includes a saddle used by President Lincoln, and more than 1,800 minerals, birds, and butterflies, and Native American artifacts. The 1825 Keefe House displays a variety of changing exhibits throughout the year. The best way to learn of Dover’s fascinating history is to take a Historic Walking Tour (Chamber Visitor Center, 550 Central Ave., 603-742-2218, www.dovernh.org, $5 adults, $15 families) offered Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., June through September. You can also pick up self-guided walking tour maps of Dover’s Heritage Trails at the Visitor Center. Downtown has a cluster of shops, including independently owned Baldface Books (505 Central Ave., 603-749-2300, www.facebook.com/Baldface), a great place to buy gently used editions, and the colorful Noggin Factory (53 Washington St., 603-742-0012, www.nogginfactorytoys.com), with a great selection of toys, puzzles, and kid’s books.

AFTER DARK

You can grab decent pub grub downstairs but the real draw at Dover Brick House (2 Orchard St., 603-749-3838, www.doverbrickhouse.com) is upstairs where local artists take the stage. There’s also live entertainment at Kelley’s Row (421 Central Ave., 603-750-7081, www.kelleysrow.com). Located in a historic mill building, the popular hangout has several venues, including a restaurant, Cellar Pub, upstairs bar, and outdoor deck. Henry Law Park is home to a variety of events and performances, including free Friday night summer concerts.

For information, visit www.dovernh.org.

Dian Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bairwright@gmail.com.
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