The Hopkins Center for the Arts, touting some seasonally appropriate Shakespeare.Photo Credit : Michael Seamans
There are many reasons why Hanover, NH, regularly wins “Best Places to Live” and “Best College Towns” acclaim, and it doesn’t require much effort to find them. They’re everywhere — and one of the biggest is Dartmouth College, right in the heart of town. It’s no surprise that Hanover is a great college town, since it’s had a lot of time to perfect the formula: Dartmouth opened in 1769, less than a decade after Hanover was founded, so the college and the town literally grew up together.
Planning your own visit to this top New Hampshire college town? Check out the 2017 Yankee“Could You Live Here?” feature, then get the scoop below on Yankee‘s picks for the best things to do in Hanover, NH, plus some of our favorite Hanover, NH, hotels, shops, and eateries.
Dartmouth offers free hourlong campus tours, which are a perfect way to start a day of exploring Hanover. If art is your thing, you’ll then want to circle back to Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art, named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Free Art Museum.” One of the oldest (1772!) and largest college art museums in the country, the Hood has terrific visiting shows and a permanent collection that includes more than 65,000 works across a broad spectrum of cultures and historical periods. The Hood has expanded considerably in recent years, so before visiting you should check what portions of the museum are open.
Dartmouth’s commitment to art extends well beyond the museum. The campus is punctuated with works by such heavy hitters as Ellsworth Kelly, Kiki Smith, and Richard Serra, and the lower level of the Baker Library is home to the remarkable American Civilization fresco mural cycle by José Clemente Orozco. Plus, the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts is an on-campus hot spot for films and performances of all sorts.
On a beautiful day, give in to the temptation to linger a while on the grass of the expansive Dartmouth Green before strolling to the shops of Hanover’s classic Main Street.
A great first stop in downtown Hanover is Left Bank Books, a cozy second-floor shop with a well-curated selection of used books that never fails to yield a treasure or two. (Note: To avoid lugging books around all day, serious bibliophiles actually may want to make this the last stop of the tour, rather than the first.) Coming from downstairs is the smell of fresh roasted coffee, courtesy of Dirt Cowboy Café,reminding you to fuel up before you head off to wander the rest of the shops.
The Dartmouth Co-op has been a one-stop shop for everything Dartmouth-related since 1919 — though as you peruse logo-emblazoned shirts, sweats, socks, underwear, chairs, and mugs, you may suspect that the shopping experience has changed a bit over the years. Just up the block, you’ll find Simon Pearce, named a 2009 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Wedding Gift Ideas”; the shelves are filled with its signature handcrafted glass and pottery selections as well as engraved mementos for students and alumni.
With the White Mountains to the east and the Green Mountains to the west, Hanover also presents a host of outdoor activities year-round.
In winter, the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Centermaintains about 16 miles of ski trails and keeps the ice on Occom Pond just right for skating. If you prefer skiing at a higher velocity, the Dartmouth Skiway in nearby Lyme, New Hampshire, boasts 100 acres of ski trails and encompasses two mountains.
In warmer months, the Connecticut River is perfect for canoeing and kayaking. Don’t have a boat of your own? Rentals are available at Ledyard Canoe Club.
There are many hiking trails near Hanover, too — and the great Appalachian Trail passes right through downtown.
In addition to its bragging rights as the only inn on the Appalachian Trail, the Dartmouth-owned Hanover Inn offers 108 nicely appointed rooms and suites right in the heart of downtown, an excellent on-site restaurant, and a terrace that makes for some terrific people-watching on a nice day. Plus, it was named a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Environmental Inn.”
Opened in 2011, the pet-friendly Six South St. Hotel has impressive modern amenities in its 69 rooms — not to mention the distinction of being named a 2012 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Cosmopolitan Hotel.” Enjoy some drinks in the lounge, and if your conscience pesters you to do something virtuous afterward, there’s a state-of-the-art gym.
Named for the tree on the Dartmouth College logo, the Hanover Inn restaurant Pine was a 2014 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Farm-to-Table Dining.” The locally sourced ingredients make for some fine dining indeed, although the creative cocktails at the bar almost steal the show.
If local tradition is more your speed, you’ll love Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery, where the buttermilk pancakes and fresh apple cider doughnuts have been pleasing townsfolk and visitors alike since 1947. Lou’s hasn’t changed much over the years — and in this case, that’s a good thing.
For a more offbeat dining experience, try Base Camp Café, where the husband-and-wife team of Bhola and Saraswati Pandey serve up authentic Nepali cuisine. If you’ve never had a goat momo, you don’t know what you’re missing.
For breakfast or lunch on the go, it’s hard to beat Umpleby’s Bakery & Café,where the savory pies were named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Bakery Dish” and the fresh soups and sandwiches never fail to satisfy.
Have you ever visited Hanover, New Hampshire?
Note: We explored Hanover, New Hampshire, in a season 2 episode of Weekends with Yankee, our public television show in collaboration with WGBH. Check the Weekends with Yankee site to learn more about the series, plus when and where to catch episodes.