Find boatloads of kid-friendly fun in the state's sole seaport city
By Jacqueline Tourville
April 1, 2009
Winding waterside streets, historic buildings and a vibrant cultural scene make picturesque Portsmouth a destination of choice for travelers from around the globe. Planning a visit, but want to avoid the summer tourist crowds? Drop anchor this spring for a relaxed family outing packed with plenty to see and do.
Portsmouth is one of New England’s most walkable cities and the best starting
point for a day trip here is the ample (and low-cost) public parking garage on Hanover Street. Leave the car behind and head out on foot to the heart of the city’s bustling downtown district, Market Square. A great people-watching spot, enjoy a sunny afternoon at one the area’s outdoor cafes or simply stop by the square to take in the well-preserved red brick architecture.
Market Square is also home to a number of popular community festivals held
throughout the spring and summer. Follow any of the streets fanning out from Market Square and find an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Downtown highlights for kids include Treehouse Toys, G. Willikers Toy Store, and Annabelle’s Ice Cream. On Chestnut Street, the Music Hall performance center is home to Kids Rule!, a music and theatre program that caters to families.
Downtown is notable, too, for its proximity to the Piscataqua River and Portsmouth
harbor. Follow Chapel Street to Bow Street for a panoramic view of passing ocean cargo ships and hard-working tugboats, a testimony to the continued work of the almost 400 year-old seaport.
Leave downtown via State Street and another waterfront treat awaits: Prescott Park. The sprawling public green space is abloom with elaborate flowering gardens
in summer, but in spring, the park is a fun place to run and play. Make your way
through the park and over a small bridge and you will be on Pierce Island. Here, find picnic tables, a playground, walking paths, and an up close view of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, across the water in Kittery, Maine.
Other upcoming events this spring include the reopening of the popular Strawbery
Banke Museum in May and Market Square Day, a festive outdoor community
celebration held annually on the second Saturday in June.
The Music Hall: Built in
1878, the historic theater is the oldest in New Hampshire.
On April 18 at 2 p.m., see “Tomas
Kubinek: Master of the Impossible”, part of the Kids Rule! program, and a one-man show billed as zany fun for all ages (think Charlie Chaplin
meets Monty Python). Call for
USS Albacore Museum:
Climb aboard the fastest
submarine of its time. Commissioned by the Navy from 1953-72 and now in its permanent port just off Market Street, Albacore visitors
can explore the sub’s tight living
quarters and marvel at all the dials, levers and sonar screens. Call for springtime hours of operation. 436-3680
Tugboat Alley Tugboat
Rides: Cruise the Piscataqua
on a working tugboat. Charter
tours take passengers past historic forts, the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and other seacoast landmarks. For schedule and rates, go to www.tugboatalley.com.
Flatbread Pizza: This
Street restaurant uses natural
and organic ingredients, many
from local farms, to make its delicious wood-fired pizzas. Dine on a Tuesday night and part of your tab is donated to local community groups. 436-7888
Stop by the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce at 500 Market St. to
pick up a map and brochure, or go to www.portsmouthchamber.org for more