HANOVER, N.H. — On a warm and sunny afternoon, things began to pop. Crocuses peeked out; trees budded, and the Dartmouth Green buzzed with students, local families, and city workers. After a long-suffering winter, this compact, Ivy League town, set along the banks of the Connecticut River, had come alive. Of course, it was crawling with students, and Dartmouth College dominates the culture. And, that’s not a bad thing. Behind all those ivy-covered brick buildings are free museums, public art displays, and gorgeous libraries. The town also has one-of-a-kind restaurants, funky little shops, interesting bookstores, and nearby hiking and biking trails. Why not take a spring break in Hanover?
Hands down the best place to stay is the historic Hanover Inn, owned by Dartmouth College (603-643-4300, www.hanoverinn.com). It’s been around for some 225 years, but if you’re envisioning old school stuffiness: don’t. When the inn underwent a massive $43 million renovation beginning in 2011, the designers (and powers that be) took a huge leap of faith and went bright, airy, warm and contemporary. The new lobby features a glass atrium, a modern gas fireplace, Simon Pearce hand-blown glass lamps and Pompanoosuc Mills hand-crafted furniture, including a 2,800-pound granite table that anchors the new light-filled lobby space. Guest rooms and suites have soft neutral palettes, punctuated with Dartmouth green collegiate plaid accents, re-done modern baths and high-tech amenities (there’s complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the inn.) There’s a decent fitness center and Pine, the on-site restaurant (see below) is one of the hottest in the city. We also like that it’s right across from the Dartmouth Green and walkable to downtown restaurants, museums, and shops.
If you don’t mind staying a few miles out of town, consider the well-regarded Trumbull House Bed and Breakfast, set on 16 acres, with six rooms, one suite and a small cottage (800-651-5141, www.trumbullhouse.com). Guests tout the “comfortable and charming rooms,” “incredible breakfast,” and “delightful owners.” Hiking trails through woods and fields fan out from the back of the inn and connect to the Appalachian Trail.
Walk across The Green to the Baker-Berry Library (603-646-2560, www.dartmouth.edu/~library/bakerberry), home to a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, and a collection of sculptures by artists Bruce Beasley and Peter Voulkos. Not to be missed is The Epic of American Civilization by Jose Clemente Orozco, a series of stunning wall murals painted by the renowned Mexican artist between 1932 and 1934. A DIY audio tour and accompanying pamphlet explain Orozco’s work. Also, pop into the Theodor Seuss Geisel Room, with a variety of Dr. Seuss books and memorabilia. (Geisel was a graduate of Dartmouth.) Before heading out, pick up a self-guided public art walking tour map. The tour takes about an hour and leads you to 12 outdoor art pieces, including the bronze Fountain Figure by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones, and Robert Frost sculpture by George Lundeen. The Hood Museum of Art is currently closed as it undergoes a massive renovation and addition, but Hood Downtown on Main Street (603-646-2900, www.hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/) presents a series of exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world. The Hopkins Center for the Art, designed by Wallace Harrison, the architect of Lincoln Center and the United Nations Building (603-646-2422, www.hop.dartmouth.edu/Online/default.asp), hosts a year-round roster of live performances and film screenings.
The walkable downtown area has a number of fun shops. Stop in Left Bank Books (603-643-4479, www.leftbankbookshanover.com), with more than 9,000 rare and used books. Funky, fun items from around the world, along with name brands like Free People and Cut Loose, can be found at Folk (603-643-5111, www.facebook.com/FolkNH). The Hanover League of NH Craftsmen (603-643-5050, www.hanoverleague.org) features the work of more than 250 artists.
Spring is the perfect time to get outdoors. Grab sandwiches and cookies from Market Table (603-676-7996, www.markettablenh.com) and head to Storrs Pond Recreation Area (603-643-2134, www.storrspond.org). Or, rent kayaks or canoes from the Ledyard Canoe Club (603-643-6709, www.ledyardcanoeclub.org).
The nearby Cornish-Windsor Bridge, spanning the Connecticut River, is a great spot for a photo op. It’s the longest wooden covered bridge in the country, and the longest two-span covered bridge in the world.
The buzzing Pine restaurant (603-646-8000, www.pineathanoverinn.com), under the helm of acclaimed restauranteur Michael Schlow, serves the most innovative plates in town, and is drawing interest from diners from around the state and beyond. Start with a raw bar selection, like the spicy tuna poke with lotus root, or an appetizer like spicy farro with kimchi and red curry, or grilled Spanish octopus. Recent main menu selections included slow roasted duck breast and confit of leg served with a celery puree and spicy boar sausage served over fettuccine. The warm and fun-loving Canoe Club (603-643-9660, www.canoeclub.us), decked out with Dartmouth memorabilia and wooden canoes, is a longstanding favorite, for good reason. The made-from-scratch fare, showcasing local ingredients, includes updated comfort food, like the cassoulet, lamb stew, penne Bolognese, and steak frites. Have a taste for Pad Thai? Head to Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine (603-277-9192, www.tuktukthaicuisine.com).Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.