There are plenty of things to do in Keene NH including wandering the downtown, taking in a show, visiting museums, climbing a mountain, and more.
Although it’s technically a city, you would be forgiven for thinking that Keene NH is a town.
With a population of just over 23,000, Keene has everything you would expect from a classic New England former mill community. There are the stores lining Main Street, the white steeple church, and a village green with a gazebo.
The city is also home to Keene State College which adds a youthful vibe to the town plus an additional 3,000 people when school is in session.
While Keene isn’t typically a tourist destination, there are still plenty of things to do. Wandering along the city’s downtown streets, you’ll find independent stores, restaurants, a bookstore, and a few cafes.
And within a 30-minute drive are outdoor recreation activities and other quaint New England towns to explore.
12 Best Things to Do in Keene NH
So without further ado, here are the best things to add to your itinerary when visiting Keene NH.
Wander through downtown Keene
One of the best features of Keene is its quintessential New England downtown with red brick buildings lining the Main Street.
Here you’ll find a range of different retailers selling antiques, crafts, clothing, music, books, and more. There’s also a wide range of restaurants from Thai to American to Mediterranean as well as old-time diners, ice cream shops, and cafes.
Catch a performance at the Colonial Theater
A fun thing to do in Keene NH is to catch a show at its Colonial Theater.
This theater, located in the center of the downtown hosts live music, plays, movies, and other events. It opened in 1924 as a movie house but fell on hard times in the 70s and 80s, only to be revived again in the 90s by a non-profit.
The Colonial Theater also underwent a renovation in 2020, allowing it to host large touring productions. A separate space called Showroom was also opened behind the theater to host smaller performances. (95 Main Street)
Follow us on our latest New England Adventure
Sign up to join our mailing list
Check out the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College
For art lovers, Keene State College provides free admission to its Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery.
Here you’ll find a number of hosted exhibits by local, national, and international contemporary artists. The gallery also hosts occasional education and public programs. Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 5 PM. (229 Main Street)
Take a walk or ride along the Ashuelot or Cheshire Rail Trails
Keene has not one but two rail trails that traverse through its city, allowing anyone to ride, bike, or, in the winter, snowshoe or cross-country ski.
The Ashuelot trail begins south of the city near Hinsdale and extends 21 miles, ending at the corner of Ralston and Emerald Streets in Keene. And it’s at this point where you can choose to pick up the Cheshire Rail Trail, which is 32 miles in total, from the Massachusetts state line in Fitzwilliam to Walpole, close to the Vermont border. Keene is approximately the halfway point of the trail.
Visit the Cheshire Children’s Museum
A fun thing for kids to do in Keene NH is visit the Cheshire Children’s Museum.
The museum is a one-floor space for kids to explore, run around and engage in imaginary play. Some of the fun things to do include buying groceries at a pretend grocery store, milking an imaginary cow, and “driving” a school bus.
Admission is $10 per person. Hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, closed 12 PM – 1 PM, and the museum opens early on Saturday at 9 AM. (149 Emerald Street)
Visit the Horatio Colony House Museum and Nature Preserve
History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Horatio Colony House Museum, an old New England home filled with original furnishings and objects from around the world.
The home preserves the 1806 Federal house that was once owned by Horatio Colony II, a mill owner as well as a poet and playwright.
In addition to the house, Colony also left a 645-acre nature preserve on West Hill in Keene that’s open to the public and includes five miles of hiking trails. (House: 119 Main Street) (Nature preserve: Daniels Road)
Explore Keene’s food markets
For foodies, Keen offers a few different options for exploring local, international, and organic foods. First, the Monadnock Food Co-op (34 Cypress Street) provides a wide range of foods as well as a deli and beverage bar.
For more international fare, check out the Keene International Market (162 Emerald Street) which carries products from over 30 countries – often specialties that aren’t available at other grocery stores or markets.
And finally, there’s the Keene Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday from May through October from 9 AM to 1 PM in the Commercial Street parking lot off Gilbo Avenue, just across from Lindy’s Diner.
Just on the eastern edge of Keene is the small Granite Gorge Mountain Park. Here you’ll find a few runs perfect for new skiers or anyone who doesn’t want to drive far for a quick ski.
The Mountain Park also features a terrain park and snow tubing. Hours vary by day and whether you’re skiing or snow tubing. Click here to see when it’s open. (341 Route 9)
Things to do near Keene NH
While the following activities aren’t in Keene, they’re only a short drive away.
Hike up Mount Monadnock
Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Keene is Mount Monadnock, the shining jewel of the region. Here, you can hike, camp, picnic, and in the winter, cross-country ski and snowshoe.
Hiking is the most popular activity at Monadnock. In fact, there’s a debate about whether Mount Monadnock or Japan’s Mount Fuji is the most climbed mountain in the world.
Given the popularity of the park, it’s advised to make reservations ahead of time, especially on nice holidays and weekend days. Note that pets are not permitted in the park and there’s a parking pass fee of $15 per car. (169 Poole Road, Jaffrey, NH)
Go Skiing at Crotched Mountain Ski Resort
About 43 minutes from Keene is Crotched Mountain Ski Resort, a popular ski destination in southern New Hampshire.
Crotched features over 100 acres of skiable terrain and is the perfect mountain for beginning and intermediate skiers with black diamond trails as well.
Parking is plentiful but does fill up, especially on weekends and holidays. You’ll also find plenty of storage in the lodge as well as a cafeteria and gift store.
One-day passes are around $64 – $74 and the resort is open Sunday through Monday, 9 AM – 4 PM, and Tuesday through Saturday 9 AM to 9 PM.
Tour local covered bridges
There are 54 covered bridges in New Hampshire and a number of them are just south of Keene.
For example, driving southwest down Route 10 you’ll be close to the Denman Thompson Bridge, the Slate Bridge, and the Coombs Bridge.
A little further east is the Sawyers Crossing Bridge and the Carlton Bridge. And if you’re really a covered bridge enthusiast, The Ashuelot Bridge near Winchester is a stunner.
Explore Peterborough New Hampshire
Another 30-minute drive east of Keene is the quaint town of Peterborough NH.
This is the town on which Thornton Wilder based his play “Our Town” in 1938. The main attraction in Peterborough is its walkable downtown with independent merchants, restaurants, antique stores, and two museums.
At the eastern edge of Peterborough is Pack Monadnock, a perfect alternative to grander Monadnock, especially if you prefer to drive to the top of a mountain and take in the expansive views.
To learn more see: Top 10 Best Things to Do in Peterborough New Hampshire
Explore Brattleboro Vermont
In the other direction, driving west for 20-30 minutes is the town of Brattleboro Vermont.
Here you’ll find a bustling downtown full of creative stores, restaurants, and an outsized number of museums and other creative spaces given the small size of the town.
Outdoor enthusiasts will also appreciate the hiking, skiing, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities both in and near the town.
To learn more see: Top 16 Best Things to Do in Brattleboro Vermont
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.