Portsmouth Things to Do

  • Warner House
    Warner House
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  • Market Street, one of the many streets to explore
    Market Street, one of the many streets...
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  • North Church in Market Square
    North Church in Market Square
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Best Rated Things to Do in Portsmouth

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    Living History

    by Rixie Updated Oct 13, 2007

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    Four-poster bed at Strawbery Banke
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    Portsmouth's original name was Strawbery Banke (yes, that's the way it's spelled -- people weren't particular about spelling in those days) after the wild strawberries that grew there.

    The Strawbery Banke Museum is a collection of restored historic houses surrounding what is now a green but 200 years ago was a canal. A docent greets you as you enter each house and tells you a little bit about the family that built the house.

    The homes are restored to different years, some to the 18th century, and some to the 19th. In one house, when they stripped down the walls, they found remnants of the original wallpaper underneath: an eye-zapping pineapple print that was probably cutting-edge in 1820. A contemporary design company was able to produce a facsimile, and the room is now garishly re-papered in pineapples.

    Some of the staircases are impossibly narrow and steep; you wonder how women managed to navigate them in long skirts while carrying candles and chamberpots. Speaking of chamberpots, one home (the Rider-Wood House) even had a 4-seater privy in the backyard. I guess folks back then weren't as straightlaced as we thought, if they were open to participating in group toilet activities.

    Admission: Adults $15, Youths (5-17) $10, 4 years and under FREE. Family Rate (2 adults & youths 5-17) $40. Check the website for hours.

    The day we were there was also some kind of a family day at the museum that coincided with a Fairy House Tour (not sure what that was about), so there were lots of little girls dressed as fairies, and children played with old-fashioned toys, like hoops.

    In the public gardens across the street, a bride and groom posed for wedding pictures.

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    ISLES OF SHOALS/ PORTSMOUTH HARBOR CRUISE

    by LoriPori Written Oct 1, 2007

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    The Isles of Shoals
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    Saturday, September 22, 2007
    VT Outing - ISLES OF SHOALS/PORTSMOUTH HARBOR CRUISE
    We all met at the dock at 1:00 p.m. for the 1:30 boarding time. The cost per adult was $25.00 and Seniors was $22.00.
    We boarded the Thomas A. Laighton and the fun began.
    The narrated cruise began in Portsmouth Harbor where we passed the industrial waterfront with its tankers, freighters, past the remains of old shipyards where military and merchant vessels were built. We passed by a Coast Guard Boat and the old Portsmouth Prison. We also cruised by Fort Constitution and a couple of Lighthouses before we got out to open waters of the Piscataqua River.
    We got as far as the Isles of Shoals and the narrator told us the folklore of the Isles - legendery islands located six miles off the coast. Settled by Captain John Smith, the Isles of Shoals have had a diverse history as a mecca for fishing in colonial times, a hideout for notorious pirates and a resort for intellectuals.
    All in all, it sure was a fun and relaxing cruise enjoyed by all. Thanks Em! That was great!

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    STRAWBERRY BANKE MUSEUM

    by LoriPori Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    A living history museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the STRAWBERRY BANKE MUSEUM recreates life from the 1600's to the 1950's through its restored houses, featured exhibits and its landscapes & Gardens. Strawberry Banke Museum tells the stories of the many generations who settled in the Portsmouth Puddle Dock section, New Hampshire's oldest waterfront neighbourhood.
    The 10-acre site, has more than 40 buildings, including 10 furnished houses.
    Museum hours:
    May through October, 7 days a week 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Adults $15.00
    Youth (5 - 17) $10.00
    4 and under free

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    Wentworth & Lear Homes

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 21, 2008

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    Literature of the houses
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    The Wentworth home is from 1760. The front is made of beveled wood blocks, and the staircase is the outstanding feature of the home, with elegant ballusters. The home had 12 chimneys. The kitchen is rudimentary and still shows the local uses from those days. Thomas Wentworth occupied and the family was influential in politice and had wealth. Thomas got the home from dad who had a sail mast business and owned wharves. Willima GArdner bought in 1763. The Nicols family bought it and then Gardners. For 100 years it was a tenant house because no one could upkeep it. NY Met bought the housee in early 1920's and modified much of the interior, trying to bring back to original circa. They did not do too good of a job, and it was taken over by an Association in around 1950's. It is now sparcely furnished with that era things.
    Tobias Lear house is not well preserved inside, even though it has an elegant facade. Built in 1740, it was one of the better mansions of Portsmouth then. Lear was a sea captain and a privateer in the War and settled the Barbary War in 1819. The family lived here until 1860. Then it became a tenant house, and got run down. The wallpaper is being renovated but does not look too good, and is costly to rework. Few furinishing are in the home. NY Met also bought this home in 1920, and did little to help the improvements.
    Tours for each are mid june thru mid Oct only and cost is $5. Times are 1-4 daily Tuesday -Saturday only.

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  • Take a Harbor Cruise

    by peach93 Written Sep 28, 2007

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    VTers aboard Thomas Leighton
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    There are few different boat companies in Portsmouth that offer cruises of the harbor. My favorite is the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company located on Market Street. They do a really great job. Their boat, Thomas Leighton, is a nice size, serves food and has a two full bars. Their day cruises last for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours and go past the Portsmouth Naval shipyard, all the way out into the Gulf of Maine and out to the Isles of Shoals. The scenery is breathtaking. The cruises are narrated by a historian, who knows quite a bit about the area. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for kids. The pier where the boat is located has parking available.

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    STRAWBERRY BANKE MUSEUM

    by moiraistyx Updated Jul 4, 2006

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    a building in Strawberry Banke
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    Unfortunately we came here to late to really see much but the buildings. During daylight hours this is one of those great living museums, offering visitors a trip back to the 1600's. Strawberry Banke is a collection of over a dozen buildings and small parks. It has children's programs as well as special celebrations. The admission price is rather steep at adults $15, youths (5-17) $10, 4 years and under - FREE, Family Rate $40. During the Self-Guiding Season, May 1 through October 31 the museum is open 7 Days, 10am-5pm, please see the website for other dates and times.

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    Strawbery Bank Information

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 20, 2008

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    Sign at Entrance
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    This was teh most active area for commerce and everyday living for the commoners. It was settled in 1630 due to the gentle tidal harbor, but the tide rose 14 feet. CAlled after teh fruit, it was spelled different then. The new town name became Portsmouth in 1653. Today some of the residential community from circa 1700's is preserved to depict those times in the past. There remains 42 historic buildings, and some 30+ are within the confines of the "museum" for touring. There were over 600 residents once living in that area, and immigrants had local commerce to survive and thrive. In the early 1900's it became run down, and many buildings and warehoues were torn down. Brothels and bad things prevailed in this part of town then.
    Discounts are available if you get a brochure at visitor center-$2 off and are $13 vs $15. Times are 10-5 May through October. All peopel are volunteers. The society to preerve this community started in 1960's a lot of effort has brought it to the historical monument today.

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    Warner House

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 21, 2008

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    Literature on the house
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    The house was built in 1716-18, and is the only house remaining of many elegant that once were along this street. It stood out because of the red brick, not something they had much of back then. Warner's wife stayed until 1760 and the son then occupied. The family occupied the house for 200 years, and has a great collection of the period furniture and artifacts/momentos. Owner MacPhedrias was a sea captain that came from Ireland and worked his way up to control a fleet of ships and was a merchant. He lived here 11 years, and died in 1778 and second hsuband John inherited the Georgian style home. It was passed down the heirs, and Sherborne donated it to Warner House Assn in 1932. It has the oldest remaining painting on the hall walls of Colonial style paiting depicting the Bible, localImeeting the Queen from 1720. A great tour for $6 and open 11-5 daily and closes mid October to reopen mid March.

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    Governor Langdon Mansion

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 21, 2008

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    Brochure on the home
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    Langsdon was a supporter of the Revolutionary War and a General at age 25. Washington liked him and his skills of leadership, and he became Governor 3 terms. Langdon was a merchant and shipbuilder. After his death in 1819, it went to other prominent families, but the daughter bought back and restored the home and added a large wing with molre modern theme. Very ornate wood carvings are throughout the home. It was built 1783-85. The rooms are very large and some are furnished with some period items. The garden in the rear ws more elegant in its time, but still nice in the fall.
    Open and administered by SPNEA, it has hours of Friday-Saturday 11-4 only. Costs are $6 for the guided tour.

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    Strawberry Banke

    by Dabs Updated Nov 11, 2007

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    Interior Goodwin Mansion
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    On Saturday morning we had a few hours before the harbor cruise so Robert and I decided to go to Strawberry Banke, a collection of 40+ historic buildings, all but 6 of which are in the same spot where they were built, covering 375 years of Portsmouth's history from pre-Colonial to WWII. It was a fascinating look at different periods in Portsmouth's history, my favorite buildings were the store set in the WWII era with all of the original packaging for products that you can still buy today and the Aldrich House that was decorated in scenes from Thomas Aldrich's novel Story of a Bad Boy. Please see my travelogues for more on Thomas Aldrich.

    Most of the buildings are open to the public, the Walsh House had a docent dressed in period costume who led us through the house telling us about the history of that house and a slice of what their daily lives would have been like, some of the other houses have docents available to answer questions.

    Strawberry Banke was the original name of this area, named for the wild strawberries that grew along the shoreline.

    Admission was $15 for adults, you can spread your visit over two days if you prefer. We spent about 2 hours there and could have easily spent another hour or so. Parking is free in the their lot. If you need something to eat, there is the Pitt Tavern where you can get soup and salador the Dunaway restaurant with sit down dining.

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    OUTDOOR THEATER AT PRESCOTT PARK

    by moiraistyx Updated Jul 31, 2008

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    Actors in the musical-sorry so dark.

    What a wonderful treat we had as we were strolling through Strawberry Banke. I heard the famous words of Oliver Twist, "Please sir, can I have more". My travel buddy and I now had a mission of finding where the music and singing was coming from. I was delighted to find an outdoor theater with a full blown production of Oliver. There was a minimum $5.00 donation, but it was well worth it. This rendition of Oliver was choreographed by a local favorite, Michael J. Tobin and was musically directed by Evelyn Mann. I hope you all enjoy theater in the park as much as my buddy and I did. I especially loved the artful dodger, he's always been my favorite character in Oliver.

    This years production is of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Show times are 7 PM on Thursdays and Sundays and 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

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    Maps of the Area-New and Old

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 20, 2008

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    Layout of sites by regions in town
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    At one time Portsmouth was the third largest port for merchant shiiping and ship building. It had 15 wharves along the inlets from downtown. Most were in the most active area of what is now Strawwbury Bank. Its maintributtary was called Puddle Dock. They loaded and unloaded ships from here and also had large warehouse along the water edge. Puddle dock was filled in in early 1900's and long before that the other wharves were no longer used, and filled in with dirt.

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    Moffatt Ladd Home

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 27, 2008

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    Brochure of the home
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    The home is right down by the water line, overlooking the old wharf, near the west end of town, it had a purpose of allowing Moffat to oversee his shipbuilding and merchant activity from the upper window of the home. It was built 1760-63 and the family continued ownership until 1912. John Moffatt first occupied, and then SIL Ladd and daughter lived here to 1900. Ironically John was a privateer in the War, then the son with drinking problems took over and ran the business in the ground. Dad came back but could not revive it. The SIL had money to buy back for the wife. They donated it to a non profit for tours. They made masts for ships, and he traded molasses and rum form the West Indies. It made him wealthly. Furnishings are form 1768 era and well preserved. There is also two buildings in the back and a well maintained garden, with a lot of work from an 86 year old woman who has been at it for 40 years.
    Open 11-5 Monday-Saturday and cost is $6.

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    Navy Yard at Kittery and Bay

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 27, 2008

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    BAy view of the Nvay cranes in background
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    The Government first established the yard in 1800. It had 5,000 personal building ships in WWI and 25,000 in WWII. It is now a base for sub overhaul of the nuclear class. The last sub built here was 1969, and they built 70 during the span.

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    Strawbery Bank House Pictures

    by BruceDunning Updated Oct 20, 2008

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    View looking down Jefferson St at Yeaton House
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    The tour through the houses is great. it takes about 2 hours to see it on a cursiouary time frame. Volunteers are throughout the area to present facts of local times and some exhibits, like barrel making by a real nice guy been in the trade 20 years is an example. You can stroll on your own, but I believe there may also be guided tours at times.

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