Rollicking Hampton Beach is full of noisy, kid-friendly, old-fashioned summer fun. Miles of white, sandy beaches are flanked by a 3-mile boardwalk, and lined with restaurants, takeout joints, ice cream stands, souvenir shops, arcades, and crowds. There are Wednesday night fireworks, movies on the beach, entertainment in oceanfront pavilions, and a slew of events all summer long, including rodeos, sand sculpting competitions, and New England’s largest seafood festival (Sept. 6-8). Pack your cooler, flip-flops, and T-shirts, and join the fun.
If you’re looking for more space than a typical motel room, consider the Atlantic Breeze Suites (429 Ocean Blvd., 603-967-4781, www.atlanticbreezesuites.com, $250-$350, weekly $1,400-$1,500). It’s one of the newer properties in town, located within easy walking distance to the beach and major attractions. The spacious studios and one-bedroom suites have contemporary decor, kitchenettes, and private balconies with ocean or salt marsh views. The landmark Ashworth by the Sea Hotel (295 Ocean Blvd., 603-926-6762, www.ashworthhotel.com, $200-$400) is in the center of the action and has been hosting beachgoers for more than 100 years. No-frills rooms are simply furnished; ask for a front-facing room for ocean views. It’s kid-friendly (there’s an indoor pool) and pet-friendly. For a quieter stay, check out D.W.’s Oceanside Inn (365 Ocean Blvd., 603-926-3542, www.oceansideinn.com, $200-$250, discounts for three nights or more), located on the north end of the beach. The white-glove-clean rooms are filled with art, antiques, and floral wall coverings and fabrics. Touches like beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, and a full breakfast win raves from guests. The historic Lamie’s Inn (490 Lafayette Road, 603-926-0330, www.lamiesinn.com, $125-
$175), housed in a 1740 home, is slightly removed from the hustle and bustle and is loaded with Colonial charm, including old photographs, wingback chairs, brick walls, and wood trimwork.
When folks tire of pizza, burgers, and hot dogs, they head to Ron’s Landing at Rocky Bend (379 Ocean Blvd., 603-929-2122, www.ronslanding.com, entrees $22.95-$31.95) for fancier food and ocean views. The extensive menu includes traditional seafood, pasta, and meat dishes. Fast Eddie’s Diner (320 Lafayette Blvd., 603-926-2314, www.fasteddiesdiner.com, $7.99-$13.99) offers classic diner fare: sandwiches, tacos, burgers, dogs, and fish and chips, along with comfort food, like the mac and cheese and meatloaf combo, liver and onions, and ham and beans. Bonta (287 Exeter Road, 603-929-7972, www.bonta.net, entrees $16-$38) serves creative and tasty Italian classics, made with fresh ingredients. Start with slow-roasted shrimp in lemon scampi butter or the house-made veal meatballs, followed by entrees like the bistro filet with spinach fondue, braised beef short ribs, local haddock picatta, or the seared sea scallops served with a poached pear and cauliflower puree. The house-made pasta dishes are also popular. If you wake up hungry, head to Hoaty’s (682 Lafayette Road, 603-926-1198, www.hoatys.com, $4.95-$6.25) where you can get two eggs, sausage, homemade baked beans, home fries, and Texas toast for $5.95. The come-as-you-are restaurant is known for its hearty breakfasts and fair prices. Don’t pass up the fresh-baked cinnamon, sour cream coffee cake. When you can’t resist the aromas any longer, relent and purchase a fried dough stick at Blink’s Fry Doe (191 Ocean Blvd., 603-926-8933, around $4); some consider the crispy outside, soft inside, sweet concoction, with a choice of more than 20 toppings, the best food in town (last we looked, Blink’s was rated the number one restaurant in Hampton Beach on Tripadvisor).
DURING THE DAY
The swath of beaches gets center attention from sun bathers, swimmers, boogie boarders, and gawkers. The Hampton Beach State Park (Route 1A, 603-926-3784, www.nhstateparks.org, metered parking $2 an hour) has lifeguards and a new Seashell Complex, with a pavilion, bathhouses, and visitors center. The North Hampton State Beach (Route 1A, 603-227-8722, www.nhstateparks.org, metered parking $2 an hour) is a little quieter and family-friendly. You’ll have a tough time getting your kids away from the Hampton Beach Casino (169 Ocean Blvd., 603-926-4541, www.hamptonbeachcasinonh.com) with food vendors, souvenir shops, arcade games, and mini golf. Surfing lessons ($50), board rentals ($20 half day/$25 full day) and Stand Up Paddle tours ($35) are offered by Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co. (931 Ocean Blvd., 603-929-7467, www.cinnamonrainbows.com). Escape the buzz of the beach at pretty Fuller Gardens (10 Willow Ave., North Hampton, 603-964-5414, www.fullergardens.org, adults $9, students $6, under 12 $4), with a huge collection of roses, formal English perennial borders, a tranquil Japanese garden, and a tropical and desert conservatory.
The action hardly slows down when the sun sets. The historic 1899 Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom (169 Ocean Blvd., 603-929-4100, www.casinoballroom.com) still draws top musicians and comedians to its intimate stage. Wally’s Pub (144 Ashworth Ave., 603-926-1810, www.wallyspubnh.com) has been around for nearly three decades and is still going strong. Live music with national, regional, and local acts, DJ dance parties, darts and pool competitions, and live band karaoke, along with wallet-pleasing nightly dinner and drink specials draw a loyal following. Things are always hopping at the Boardwalk Café & Pub (139 Ocean Blvd., 603-929-7400, www.boardwalkcafe.net), with two floors filled with diners, drinkers, and dancers. There’s often live music, and sipping cocktails on the upstairs or downstairs outdoor patios is a great way to spend a summer evening. Check out the Hampton Beach Seashell pavilion to see free, live entertainment.Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.