Following the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail is a fine way to explore the Granite State. The official trail includes 21 museums in 11 towns spanning the Merrimack, Lakes, and Seacoast regions of New Hampshire. Some museums are better known than others: The Currier Art Museum, The Canterbury Shaker Village, and Strawberry Banke for example.
Currier Art Museum in Manchester has an internationally recognized collection of European and American art, including works by Matisse, Monet, Picasso, and O’Keefe. It’s also the only museum in the world to own two Frank Lloyd Wright homes.
Canterbury Shaker Village, set on some 700 acres, is one of the most historically pristine sites in New England, with 25 original Shaker buildings, hiking trails, demonstrations, and special events.
Strawbery Banke, one of New Hampshire’s top tourist destinations, sits on 10 acres in Portsmouth, with historic houses and gardens, costumed role players, traditional craft demonstrations, workshops, and family programs.
Look at the participating museums here, and consider purchasing a Trail Passport for $25, getting you one free admission to each museum on the trail. Passports, good for one year, are available for purchase at all participating museums. Here are five of our favorite lesser-known museums on the trail.
What’s it like to live under the sea? You’ll get a small taste of tight-quarters submarine life aboard this historical vessel, once used as a research facility. Crouch low and duck your head, as you take a self-guided tour and listen to the recorded stories of former crew members. The audio stations throughout the ship provide information on the features and operation of the submarine. Grab the controls, peek through the periscope in search of enemy vessels, and visit the bunkroom and imagine what it was like for 50 or more sailors living aboard.
USS Albacore was designed and built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and was the first boat specifically built to operate underwater. It served as a sea-going research vessel from 1953 to 1972. www.ussalbacore.org, daily 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., adults $9, ages 5-14 $4, families (two adults, two children) $20. Kids under 2 years are not allowed on board.
North East Motor Sports Museum
This family-friendly, 10,000-square-foot museum is jam-packed with race cars and motorcycles, trophies, helmets, photographs and vintage racing attire, all capturing the history of motorsports in New England. Exhibits change as most things are on loan from private owners and stay in the museum for about a year. Favorites have included the 46 Legend, a mustard-colored Jalopy driven by George Barber and Morris Roy “Pappy” Forsyth; a 1940 Packard that completed the Peking (now Beijing) to Paris race, and a dented, banged-up NASCAR Cup Series Ford Mustang that Joey Logano drove to win the Martinsville race, the one that propelled him to the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Logano is New England’s most successful big-league racer, and the youngest racer to win the Daytona 500.
There’s also a slot car track that kids love and a racing simulator that allows you to “drive” famous cars on famous race tracks. www.nemsmuseum.com, Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $10, ages 11 and under free.
Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm
Hike with goats, collect eggs, visit the farm animals, and explore the trails that crisscross this nearly 100-acre farmstead. This charming museum, including two homes, three barns, outbuildings, gardens, and pastures, provides a step-back-in-time look at small-town rural life.
Located in the tiny village of Tamworth, the historic farm was home to six generations of the Remick family, including Dr. Edwin C. Remick and his son, Dr. Edwin Crafts Remick, country doctors who served the village from 1894 to 1993. The Medical History Tour includes a visit to the historic Captain Enoch Remick House to see a collection of 19th- and 20th-century medical tools and equipment, treatment areas, and an apothecary that predates the earliest local pharmacy.
There are also lots of hands-on activities, classes, tours, veggie and herb gardens, a hands-on kids’ garden, and interpretive trails. www.remickmuseum.org, grounds open May 1, Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., museum opens June 15, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., donations accepted.
American Independence Museum
Who knew so much happened in the small town of Exeter during the American Revolution and the days leading up to it? You’ll learn about the early days of the Revolutionary War at this small but fascinating museum, packed with artifacts and stories.
The museum includes the Ladd-Gilman House, built around 1721, overlooking the Squamscott River and the Folsom Tavern, built around 1775, where heated political debates happened; President Washington visited the tavern in 1789. Tours of the Ladd-Gilman House are offered Wed.-Sat. at 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 3 p.m.; self-guided tours are offered during regular museum hours. Guided Folsom Tavern tours are available Wed.-Sat. at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The museum has more than 3,000 artifacts in its collection, including a Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence, one of 26 copies in the world, and early drafts of the US Constitution. www.independencemuseum.org, Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., adults $8, ages 6-18 $4.
NH Boat Museum
Housed in a former 1954 theater and dance hall, with a barrel-round roof, this museum in Wolfeboro showcases New Hampshire’s rich freshwater boating history, with a variety of boats, motors and nautical items on display. This year’s exhibit, “Letting Off Steam: Escaping to New Hampshire during the Golden Age of Steam,” includes an antique steamboat (which fits in the building!), artifacts from the MVS Mount Washington, and a collection of steamboat engines.
In its second season, the “Who’s in the Boat?” exhibit highlights rowing history in New Hampshire and shows how women and people of color have helped transform the sport.
Visitors can also take a ride in the Millie B, a vintage 1928-style Hacker Craft (reservations required). www.nhbm.org, Memorial Day-June 19 Millie B open Fri.-Sat., museum open Thu.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m., June 20-Oct. 10 museum and Millie B open Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m., adults $9, ages 14-21 $7, 13 and under free with an adult.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org