As a New Englander, one of my absolute favorite places to go is Portsmouth- a small coastal city right on the border of Maine. This city has been up and coming for awhile now and has grown significantly. It once was considered a ‘bad’ part of the state where lots of seedy activities took place, but over the past two decades, the city has come into its own and is now considered a family tourist attraction. I love Portsmouth because it has the charm of New England, but also has its own unique flavor to it. Since I’ve been to Portsmouth lots of times, I thought that I would write a travel guide for what to see and do in Portsmouth. It’s a place like no other and you’ll never forget it.
In my opinion, there is no better place to experience a place’s culture than just walking the streets and not having a fixed plan. “Market Square” is often where the hub-bub is. You will often see musical performers playing as you walk by, which definitely gives Portsmouth its upbeat mood. The architecture of Portsmouth is also extremely old, which makes the downtown that more fascinating. It is often a great time to peek through the unique shops of Portsmouth. Here are some stores that are a must see!
Bull Moose Music: Music junkies cannot miss this one of a kind music store. This store hosts a huge library of music by almost any artist you could think of. The prices of their good quality used cd’s are crazy awesome, many of them even being under $5! They also sell TV show and movie dvds, old records, and even video tapes, many of them being as little as 30 cents. It’s my sister’s absolute favorite place to go and I have to admit, I always have a good time too!
The Old Salt Cellar: My Mom recently took me to this store and I fell in love!!! The store sells exclusively Himalayan Salt Lamps and has every single type of Himalayan Salt Lamp imaginable, some even in the shape of animals! You will not hear about this store in any other travel guide to Portsmouth, but it’s a secret treasure that you can’t miss.
Marco Polo: Marco Polo is what I like to call the children’s store for all ages. It is extremely humorous and has lots of unique toys/books/signs that you can’t find anywhere else. Be warned though there is lots of dirty humor in there, so if you are offended by that type of thing, you might want to go elsewhere.
Book and Bar: This is truly a book store of its own. The book and bar stands out in that not only do they sell used books for amazing prices (I once got a hardcover for $5!!!), but they also are a cafe. They make delicious food and nourishing teas (and beers if that’s your thing). The architecture in this place is reminiscent of ancient Greece, which makes the atmosphere truly one of a kind. They also have events there, such as concerts.
Ms. Picwick’s Mercantile: This 20th century themed mercantile boasts an eclectic mix of home decor products, candles, kitchen accessories, stationery, books, toys, candy, beauty products, and unique foods. Pretty much all of the items I’ve seen in this store I truly have not been able to find anywhere else. Be prepared to be wowed the moment you walk in!
Lizology: A very feminine and chique woman’s boutique with bold cuts, fabrics, and styles. They also sell beautiful accessories. The help in this store is phenomenal and it is of my opinion, that you cannot walk out of Lizology without something awesome.
Alex and Ani: You’ve probably heard of the jewelry company Alex and Ani. They are famous for their bracelets with an antique finish. Their downtown Portsmouth store is always hustling and bustling. The sales associates there also always knowledgeable about their products and eager to help.
Prescott Park/Prescott Park Arts Festival: Prescott Park is one of the most beautiful and enchanting parks I’ve ever been to period. Located on the waterfront and the bridge boarding Maine not far in sight, this park boasts lots of greenery to hang out and a pier you can walk on. My favorite part about this park are their magnificent and unique gardens. The flowers are planted in a very aesthetically pleasing way and make for some gorgeous photography!
Additionally, each summer they have an arts festival that lasts from June-August, that includes high quality low cost (by donation: recommended fee is $8) live performances with artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, Bruce Cockburn, Steve Earle and The Dukes, Shawn Colvin, and Dar Williams. They also have live musical theater performances such as Shrek the Musical and this year they are doing The Little Mermaid. You definitely cannot miss this Arts Festival!
Pierce Island: I feel like it took me way too long to discover this island. Pierce Island is a hidden gem, with movie picture perfect coastal nature trails, a greenery set off of a peninsula with picnic tables and grills, and ample places for biking. Plus, as a photo enthusiast Pierce Island is one of my favorite places to snap pictures!
Walk the bridge lit up at night: Recently, Portsmouth has built a new bridge to replace an old one that was falling apart. While there has been much controversy about the new design, I personally like it, as it has wide sidewalks, bike lanes, and even lights up/changes colors every night. I feel like this would be a fun thing to do on a first date…..walk the bridge while it is lit up, looking out over the moonlit river, so romantic, *sigh* a girl can only dream right? :).
Flatbread Pizza: The best pizza in town and their gluten-free crust is amazing. They even use a separate oven and put aluminum over the circular pizza plate for those who are Celiac. I love this restaurant because not only do they make great pizza, but are committed to utilizing the the most fresh ingredients as possible and therefore get a lot of their food from local and organic sources. Not to mention, they have THEE best house salad I’ve ever tasted, which is saying something since my mother is the queen of salad making.
The Juicery: Not only does this place have the best smoothies in town, but they also have unique ethnic dishes that are Japanese, Mexican, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and more. The food here is mostly organic and entirely vegan and overall is one of the best places to grab a quick bite to eat!
Popovers on the Square: This cafe has the most delectable salads and sandwiches and boasts many gluten-free options. Additionally, they have one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted; their almond cloud cookie. If you don’t go here fore anything else, go for the cookie!
The Old North Church: This church was founded in 1647 and is one of the oldest churches in New England. Famous historical figures, such as George Washington, have visited here. I recommend going inside this church during sunset as the light will bend through the stained glass in the most beautiful way. When I was in that church I felt my heart warm up and I definitely felt more connected spiritually. Overall, architecture lovers and history buffs will rejoice and everyone who comes to Portsmouth should put this church high up on their list. Not to mention, it poses incredible photography opportunities proven with this photo here.
Have any of you visited Portsmouth? If so, have you been to any of these places?