There is a certain dichotomy at play in this city, just under 30 miles from the Massachusetts border, a blend of small-town Americana and modern-day business that gives it a unique feel. Like nearby Newmarket, Dover seems intent on reinventing itself, utilizing vacant mills to create living spaces, restaurants, and shops amidst the barber shops, cobblers, and diners of yore. The city labels itself “A Main Street Community,” and that is certainly the case with a multitude of businesses and attractions within an easily accessed half-mile radius. It is an understated destination that delivers on charm.
If you’re intent on staying in the immediate downtown area, there is a Days Inn (481 Central Ave., 603-742-0400, www.dover-durham-daysinn.com, $86.11-$162.41) at your disposal, just one block from the local Amtrak station, with service from Boston. For a decidedly more romantic stay, the Silver Fountain Inn (103 Silver St., 603-750-4200, www.silverfountain.com, $109-$159) gets high marks for its elegant comfort in a Victorian-style structure that dates back more than a century. Just north of downtown, you’ll find more budget lodging, including the Microtel Inn and Suites (31 Webb Place, 603-953-0800, www.microtelinn.com, $75-$168), which is a convenient option when visiting the University of New Hampshire in nearby Durham.
Options abound downtown, where an emerging hip scene blends with classic cuisine. For breakfast, Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop (376 Central Ave., 603-742-6029, www.harveysbakery.com) is a local institution. It is an old-style bakery that caters to your average sweet tooth. Read: not for the calorie-conscious. Another long-time favorite is Moe’s Italian Sandwiches (262 Central Ave., 603-749-4514, www.moesitaliansandwiches.com, $3.99-$7.99), a New Hampshire chain with 13 locations, featuring classic submarine sandwiches and soups. Dinner options include La Festa Brick and Brew (300 Central Ave., 603-743-4100, www.lafestabrickandbrew.com, entrees from $7.95), a lively location serving pizza, pasta, and calzones paired with a craft brew menu that recently received raves from the beer connoisseur website www.beeradvocate.com. For a more refined atmosphere, Christopher’s Third Street Grille (16 Third St., 603-740-0044, www.christophersthirdstreetgrille.com, entrees $13-$21) offers a variety of seafood, steak, and other house specialties including chicken Kiev and Danish-style lamb chops.
Families with young children will want to visit the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (10 Henry Law Ave., 603-742-2002, www.childrens-museum.org, $9 admission for adults and children over 1 year old), featuring a host of interactive educational and entertaining exhibits, as well as a full calendar of special events geared toward youngsters. The museum is closed on Monday during the school year except for school vacation weeks and certain holidays. Contact the museum for full information before visiting. The downtown area is also home to the Friends of Joe B. Parks Riverwalk Public Garden (400 Central Ave., www.joeparksgarden.org), a scenic walking trail along the Cochecho River. A contemplative path perfect for a morning stroll, it is also the site of the impressive falls at the Cocheco Mills, a Dover landmark with a mesmerizing rush of water that has played an integral part in the city’s history (a flood in 1896 is documented at the site as “Dover’s Black Day”). History is important here (Dover is known as the oldest permanent settlement in New Hampshire) and visitors can dive into the city’s past by participating in a Guided Walking Tour of Historic Dover (Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce, 550 Central Ave., www.dovernh.org/historic-tours, $5 per person, $15 for families) every Saturday from May 25-Sept. 28. The 10:30 a.m. tours leave from the Chamber Visitor Center and generally run about 90 minutes.
With dozens of bars and restaurants in the general vicinity, Dover has a rather lively night life. Craft brew aficionados will want to visit the Barley Pub (83 Washington St., 603-742-4226, www.facebook.com/thebarleypub?fref=ts), recently nominated by New Hampshire Magazine’s annual “Best of NH” for having the best beer selection in the state, along with a packed calendar of local musical performances. Live music is offered at the Dover Brick House (2 Orchard St., 603-749-3838, www.doverbrickhouse.com), a dual facility featuring a casual restaurant on the first floor and a second-floor live musical venue and the location for a Sunday morning jazz brunch, the perfect way to get one final taste of Dover before heading home following a weekend stay.Eric Wilbur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.