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Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire
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Spend a day, a weekend, or an entire lazy week just tripping around the shops, galleries, and restaurants in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Peterborough, New Hampshire
Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire
Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

When my uncles visited from Texas last summer, they informed me they’d spent one entire lazy day just tripping around the shops, galleries, and restaurants in Peterborough, New Hampshire. That didn’t surprise me. What we’ve got here is quite special. The magazine Budget Travel placed Peterborough on their Top Ten Coolest Small Towns list in 2007, declaring it “a little bit hip and a little bit homey.” That combination is a real draw for the big-city Texans who need their small town New England fix each year. Here’s a little insight into what they found so appealing…Let’s start with a bit of local history at the Peterborough Historical Society in the heart of downtown. Currently, they’re offering a small exhibit entitled “Children: Seen and Heard” (through July 28, 2012) which explores childhood in the early 19th and 20th centuries through photos, toys, clothing, and other artifacts. The rest of the museum area is worth a peek, including the 17th century kitchen on the lower level.

Originally a mill town, you’ll find brick and stone buildings at every turn – a pretty backdrop for the spring blooms. Make your way over to one of the hot breakfast spots: the iconic Peterborough Diner on Depot Street, where many a Presidential candidate has tread, or Nonie’s Restaurant and Bakery on Main Street for a bit of local flavor.

Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

Follow the sidewalk from Grove Street to School Street and you’ll pass by Depot Square which offers several unique specialty shops. A must-see is New England Everyday Goods– a store owned by Yankee blogger Jim Therriault and his wife Susan, and chock-full of quality items, all with a story tied to the New England region. Visit our wonderful independent bookstore, The Toadstool, for the latest titles, plus autographed copies by local authors. Joseph’s Coat features unique items made by artisans worldwide, while the Sharon Arts Center next door offers two galleries – one for rotating exhibits, and another for fine juried crafts.

Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire
Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

If we take a short drive south on Route 101, the treasure hunting can continue at the next must-see shop: Twin Elm Antiques. No doubt you will come upon finds in this sprawling white farmhouse that you never knew you absolutely had to have. But you do. So buy them now, because they may not be there later. And, now that I’ve got you in the car, zip on over to the Peterboro Basket Company. They’ve been creating handmade baskets for over 150 years. I find my bicycle basket to be a useful accessory, but you’ll discover basketry here for every occasion. The shop also features some discounted “seconds” that make good buys. Lunch time? Drive down Union Street to the west side of town for the organic-centric café in Nature’s Green Grocer and a sandwich you’ll dream about later (personal favorite: Herb-roasted Turkey with Pesto Aioli on Olive-Rosemary Bread). Savor locally famous soups here, too, plus a wide selection of dairy-free and gluten-free offerings in both the market and the café. Don’t overlook the downtown locales as lunch options: Harlow’s on Main Street, and Aesop’s Tables which occupies a corner of the Toadstool bookshop. Afterward, pick up some house-made gelato from Twelve Pine in the Depot, or head back up Grove Street and let the lure of chocolate draw you into one of Peterborough’s best: Ava Marie Chocolates. They’re not just about extraordinary chocolate, but fine premium ice cream as well, and offer indoor and outdoor seating for your noshing comfort.

Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

If the weather is cooperating, perhaps you’d like to pack up your lunch and enjoy it amidst the distant views atop Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park– a reasonable little 1.5 mile hike, or, in-season, a short drive up the auto road. If it’s raining, no worries. Pay a visit to the good, friendly folks at Bowling Acres for the classic New England activity – candlepin bowling (great pizza, too!).

Marzano's Trattoria and Peterborough Movies Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

Evenings should start at Marzano’s Trattoria where chef Jerry Willis offers casual Italian/American fare. Right next door, see what’s playing at the Peterborough Community Theatre – just 95 seats and the kind of charm you won’t find in a big multiplex. The Peterborough Players is another must on my list for visitors. They’ll soon be kicking off their 79th season of summer theatre, but the show goes on in the off-season, too, with high-def presentations from the Met, and other special events. I attended a “live” opening exhibit featuring Leonardo da Vinci’s works at the National Gallery in London this winter while comfortably seated in the Players beautifully renovated 18th century barn. A bit of culture, and no jet lag required.

Peterborough is said to be the model of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. There’s no denying that the “hip and homey” vibe attracts authors, actors, and artists. MacDowell Colony –the oldest art colony in the country– has offered a retreat for creative endeavors since 1907. On Medal Day (usually the second Sunday in August), a noted writer, musician, or artist is recognized, and the public is invited to attend the ceremony, listen to the speeches, and tour the otherwise private grounds.

Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

With all this activity, you’ll need a place to lay your head. Chez Despres may suit my relatives, but for overnight accommodations, look to The Little River Bed & Breakfast.

Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

An 1870’s farmhouse, it was once owned by Marian and Edward MacDowell, and used as housing for the first male artists accepted into MacDowell Colony. Today, you can enjoy the hospitality of Paula and Rob Fox and the comfort of their fresh and inviting guest rooms. You’ll need a good night’s rest. There’s still so much more of Our Town to explore.

Have you ever been to Peterborough, New Hampshire?



Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Debbie Despres


Debbie Despres


Debbie Despres is an associate editor for the magazine. Deb is the primary fact checker for Yankee Magazine and also contributes content to each issue. A member of YPI’s corporate staff since 2000, Deb joined Yankee’s editorial team in 2011. A native of New Hampshire, with a work history that includes several years in the travel industry, she enjoys discovering new destinations, and the myriad of road trip opportunities unique to New England.
Updated Friday, April 27th, 2012

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12 Responses to Exploring Peterborough, New Hampshire

  1. Dawn April 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks for taking me back to those peaceful days of my childhood home. I have to admit to being more than a bit homesick now. But things will change and I will be back in my beloved New Hampshire again and this time to stay!

  2. Betty May 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Peterborough, the best place on earth is home sweet home for me.

  3. Wayne H Franklin May 2, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    1. What’s it look like in the dead of Winter?
    2. Can I paint my house purple?

    • Michelle May 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      To answer Wayne’s questions:
      1. White and Cold
      2. Yes, this is the Live Free or Die state!

    • drmel May 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

      There’s already a purple house in Marlborough, but New Hampshirites believe in freedom of expression (also known as “minding your own business”). Paint away!

    • Deb Despres May 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      Ahh, Mr. Franklin, one’s perspective on winter is very much dependent on whether mid-season is viewed as the “dead” of winter or the “heart” of winter… :)

  4. Sheila Collins Babneau May 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    So glad I happened upon this link on FB today. My husband and I were born there, he raised in Dubin and myself early years in Peterborough then on to Jaffrey in 1968. My grandparents lived on Summer Street across from the “town sheds” until their passing. Very fond memories of “Our Town”, more so of years past than the last 30+ as we moved west in 1976 when we married. New England will always be our home.

  5. Laura May 4, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    22 High Street, was my childhood address :) As children we had the freedom to explore, we enjoyed at day at the dam or getteing a few apples from the orchid and hanging out at McDowell Colony in their quaint Library or taking a dip in the pond on their property.

  6. Deb Despres May 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Thank you all for sharing your own memories and thoughts about Peterborough!

  7. CATHY SSENFORT May 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    You didn’t give any thing for the genealogy crowd to want to visit about cemteries and other genealogical resources for those doing that type of research. I have ancestors from NH and in that area so tome the interest would be in finding more information on them . it is a hobbie or passion of Americans and even those from other countries looking for those who left a homeland for here.

  8. bob banks June 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    We spent many happy hours in Peterborough when our kids were younger. We usually stayed in a small motel by the river, not too far away from a school. We were going to move there, I had a job offer but we tried and tried to find a place to live. When we were looking there was nothing available that we could afford. There weren’t any rentals available then either I regret to this day that we weren’t able to make the move. We loved the weather, people and many things to do. I would still make the move , even though I’m a good bit older now, if I but had the chance. You people in Peterborough are so fortunate to live in that beautiful place. We had many enjoyable times there. Bob Banks Dillsburg, Pa.

  9. Peggy Baker October 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Our mom, Jeanette, and her older sister Lucy lived in Peterbrough and we visited every summer. Still niss the town, library, historical museum; etc;

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