New Hampshire

Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire | Eat, Stay & Play

A former mill town on the Squamscott River, Exeter, New Hampshire, blends small-town tranquility with city sophistication.

By Cathryn McCann

Mar 01 2022



Please note that businesses, attractions, and events throughout New England have been modified, closed, and/or canceled in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please travel responsibly, and check with state guidelines and individual businesses and organizations before making travel plans.

Boasting tree-lined streets and a wealth of historical architecture, Exeter, New Hampshire, is a picturesque river town about 10 miles inland from the coast. It’s home to one of the nation’s oldest private secondary schools, Phillips Exeter Academy (c. 1783), but that’s just scratching the surface of what it has to offer. Visitors can step back in time at the American Independence Museum or the annual Revolutionary War Festival, meander down Water Street and browse its boutiques, pick up fresh produce at the seasonal farmers’ market, or relax by the Squamscott River. For more on what to do, where to eat, and places to stay in Exeter, New Hampshire, read on to discover our top picks.

Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire

Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
Exeter, New Hampshire
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Things to Do in Exeter, New Hampshire


Get a refresher on our nation’s history at this trim little museum located in the Ladd-Gilman House, a National Historic Landmark and the 1775 home of a New Hampshire state treasurer. You can peek at an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, visit the room where George Washington ate breakfast, and peruse thousands of items from the American Revolution as well as seasonal exhibits. In July, the museum hosts the American Independence Festival, where visitors can interact with costumed interpreters, watch battle reenactments, and enjoy food and live music.


The main stretch of shops in Exeter is on Water Street. Stop into Whirlygigs Toy Shop (named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Toy Store”), packed with playthings from past and present; wander the aisles at the Water Street Bookstore, the largest independent bookstore on the Seacoast; or duck in for a treat at the Chocolatier, which offers chocolate-covered strawberries, Oreo cookie bark, and more.



Looking to get outdoors? Head to Swasey Parkway for a walk or jog along the river, a picnic, or just a brief stop to appreciate the peaceful setting. From May to the end of October, this is also where you’ll find the Exeter Farmers’ Market, which features local produce, dairy products, meats, eggs, honey, syrup, wine, cider, tea, and baked goods, as well as fine crafts from Exeter artists.


On select summer nights, music rings out from the Exeter bandstand, where residents and visitors gather to sing, dance, or just enjoy listening to rock, country, pop, and folk tunes. Bring a blanket or chair and something to snack on, and settle in for a fun summer evening in Exeter.

Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
American Independence Museum | Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Restaurants in Exeter, New Hampshire


A charming, upscale eatery housed in a former 1910 jewelry store, Otis retains many of the original details of the building, including the floors, ceilings, and crown molding. The menu focuses on simple but deeply flavorful dishes — farmer’s salad, duck confit, roast chicken — while oversized windows frame a view of the bandstand.


Located inside Gerry’s Variety Store on Lincoln Street, this family-owned joint opens at 6 a.m. to serve up homemade corned beef hash, breakfast burritos, doughnut muffins, and other tasty breakfast options at an affordable price. The café is open for lunch, too, but serves breakfast all day.


An Exeter staple for more than a decade, the Green Bean now has two in-town locations — one on Domain Drive, the other right downtown on Water Street — as well as one in New Castle. It’s known for its robust lineup of soups, salads, and sandwiches that include such favorites as grilled cheese and BLTs.

Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
Laney & Lu Café | Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


The food here is not only lovely to look at but also healthy and tasty, made as it is with fresh local and organic ingredients. Choose from a full range of organic coffees, “herbalist designed” organic teas, smoothies, bowls, salads, wraps, and sandwiches. And just like the food, the café itself is colorful and inviting, making it an ideal place to spend an afternoon.

Inns and Hotels in Exeter, New Hampshire


Right in the heart of the Phillips Exeter campus is where you’ll find this elegant boutique hotel, which has been welcoming travelers since 1932. Its Georgian architecture lends historic appeal amid modern updates and amenities, while its restaurant, Epoch, offers memorable on-site dining. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Inn With Old-School Charm.”


This bright yellow 1809 Federal-style mansion in downtown Exeter has eight luxurious rooms and suites decorated with antiques and fine art. Each has its own refined style, and may also come with a fireplace, vaulted ceilings, and crown molding.

Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
The Bandstand | Guide to Exeter, New Hampshire
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


For a “home away from home” experience, check out this cozy B&B in a 1930 colonial home on High Street. It has just four rooms, all charmingly decorated with inspiration from the art world (the Monet Room, the Wyeth Room, etc.). In the morning, a gourmet-cooked breakfast starts the day off right.

Have you ever been to Exeter, New Hampshire? Tell us about it!

This post was first published in 2018 and has been updated. 

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