Portsmouth reminds me greatly of the small towns along the Connecticut coast. Very walkable with quite a New England feel and a strong downtown area.
The city is surprisingly very walkable and easy to get around in with all the main attractions and food found in the same area.
There are buses if you are not in the mood to walk or if it's too hot outside.
Portsmouth is so small that there is no reason someone can't walk it without getting over tired. There are so many little shops to enjoy that you really should walk the city to appreciate them all. Make sure you have confortable walking shoes on though. Heels just won't cut it.
The closest commercial airports are either Logan Airport in Boston or Manchester airport (MHT) in New Hampshire. We flew on Southwest into Manchester, a small airport that is roughly an hour drive from Portsmouth. On my way back home to Chicago, it took roughly 5 minutes to check in and maybe another 5 minutes to go through security and walk to the gate. And of course my plane was delayed so I had a long wait at this tiny little airport!
Since we were staying at the Motel 6, outside of the central zone, we found it necessary to have a car. We parked at a garage for both of the organized dinners, most of the street spots are metered and if you run over your time, a happy fellow in blue shorts and a lemon yellow polo shirt will stop by and write you a parking ticket, I suspect it won't make you feel any better if he is smiling at the time. I understand they are very serious about their parking tickets in Portsmouth.
Parking wasn't very expensive, I think it was $3-4 both times we parked.
We got a little lost the 1st time we went into downtown but the 2nd time, I asked for directions and it was much simpler than my Canucky copilot thought. He was pretty much fired after that...
Because I didn't have a car at the Portsmouth meeting, I either had to bum a ride from fellow VTers (thanks, Hansi and Lori!) or take the COAST (Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation) trolley when I wanted to go from my motel to downtown.
It was a pleasant way to travel, although I had to get up ungodly early to get to the library when it opened. I was the only passenger for most of the loop, and the driver was good company and provided a running commentary.
At one point, as we were coming up to a stop sign under some trees, he said, "Look over there."
I looked and saw a line of large birds running across the road. It was dark in that spot, so I could see only their silhouettes. I thought, Peacocks? No, couldn't be.
I asked, "What ARE they?," and he said, "Turkeys!"
It was an amazing sight. I had never seen wild turkeys before, and there were six of them, running in a line.
The COAST trolley is a free service. No extra charge for turkey sightings.
Once we get into Portsmouth and park the car it's time to walk. Portsmouth is a very compact and walkable town. Liz and I enjoy walking the town, wandering into shops and enjoying some drinks along the way.
The closest airports are Boston (Massachusetts), Manchester (New Hampshire) and Portland (Maine). Once in the Northeastern United States, you will need a car to get to Portsmouth, which is easy to get to since it is located on Interstate 95 on the New Hampshire-Maine state borders. From Boston or Southern New England, simply head North on I-95... From Portland or Northern New England, simply head South on I-95. If you are in Portland or Boston, you have the option of taking the train. Amtrak runs a train, the Downeaster, between Boston and Portland with a stop in Durham, New Hampshire. I looked ticket prices on amtrak.com are they seem to run about $26 and the will take about two hours between Boston and Durham. If you take the train, simply get off at the Durham station and then take a cab into Portsmouth (about an 11 mile ride).
Driving and parking in Portsmouth is simply and easy. There are plenty of spaces on the street as well as in parking garage conveniently located through downtown (the exact opposite of the hellish driving/parking experience of Boston). Once you have parked your car, getting around is up to your own two feet. Portsmouth is perfect size town to simply walk around (except for the winter months when its bloody cold). If it is too cold for you, there are a few small cab companies in Portsmouth and you can usually find cabs near Market Square and the North Church or along Market Street.
there are meters here for street parking, but the meter maids are vicious and can't wait to give a ticket. The doowntown garage is only 75 cents an hour. A bargain! Use it
Driving is the only way we have ever travelled to Portsmouth. Portsmouth is usually one of our road trip stops when we are heading North on I-95.
The area is fairly easy to get around. Especially the downtown area. Once you find a parking spot, the majority of places to see are within a walking distance of one mile,. or so.